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Cock Sparrer Box Set – The Albums 1978-87

Released by Captain Oi Records (a division of Cherry Red Records)

Box sets seem to be the ‘in thing’ at the moment, whether it be a ridiculously priced luxury re-issue, another dodgy compilation featuring the same tracks yet again, or as is the case here, something that has been put together with a loving attention to detail that presents good value for money. This is one in a series of box sets put together by Captain Oi that provides an extensive view of a band’s repertoire, proving extra tracks, along with a detailed and informative booklet, which I would recommend to anyone, be they avid collectors or someone looking for an introduction to the band.

One of three ‘punk’ bands signed by Decca, Cock Sparrer marked the crossover between punk and glam, not quite pub-rock or skinhead, more a boot-boy style band. It was really through the Oi albums of the late 70’s that they became an influence on the skinhead scene and through later releases one of the most popular bands in Street Punk.

Disc 1 – The Decca Years – This is where it all started, but when is an album not an album? In this case, when the record company (Decca) release a set of singles and demos, but only release that LP in Spain – having released a couple of singles, classics ‘Running Riot’ and ‘Chip on My Shoulder’, Sparrer were promptly dumped by Decca. What we have here is a collection of those recordings, which provide a real feel for Sparrer’s early influences, a touch of the blues and a nod to 60’s bands such as the Small Faces, covered here with ‘Watcha Gonna Do About It’, a version that makes the Pistols attempt sound like Brotherhood of Man. And the influences don’t stop there, a prime slab of 70’s rock in ‘Platinum Blonde’ and bluesy rocker ‘I Need a Witness’, with shades of early Stones. Although the Sparrer ‘sound’ has developed since these formative years, several songs still feature in the live set today.

Disc 2 – Shock Troops – Most people will know this album, as it’s this record that set the bar, although it was only really in latter years that this became recognised as the classic it’s seen as today. Kicking-off with ‘Where are They Now’, questioning the promises made by the early punk bands, then meandering through perennial set starter ‘Riot Squad’, it’s fair to say that every song on this album stands out – put it this way, I can’t think of many bands where the crowd knows the songs word for word. The actual album ends on ‘Out on an Island’, a break from the pace, a slower, poignant number, which evokes memories of the hysteria surrounding the Falklands War. During this time, the band also released a single, ‘England Belongs to Me’, which is featured as a bonus, along with the B-side tracks (thankfully ‘Argy Bargy’ didn’t take ‘Colonel Bogey’ as their band name). This song always raises the roof wherever being played in the world, because the crowd ‘gets’ the sentiment on which the song is based.

Disc 3 – Running Riot in ’84 – Although there are some great songs on here, it seems the band had by this point had run out of steam, maybe due to the aggro dogging the scene at the time. Overall this has a slightly 80’s rock feel, with tracks such as ‘Run With the Blind’ and ‘They Mean Murder’, standout tracks though are ‘Price Too High’ & ‘The Sun Says’, which on occasion grace the live set today. Due to the lack of available songs, the album ends on a couple of live tracks, ‘Running Riot’ and ‘Chip on My Shoulder’, apparently originally recorded for a mooted 12” release of ‘England Belongs to Me’ that didn’t materialise.

Disc 4 – Live and Loud! – Originally part of an ongoing series released by Link Records, this live recording combines the best of what is on the first 3 x discs in their live format. Much of this is still played live today, albeit they’ve had to double the length of the set! Originally released in 1987, this starts with an intro from Steve Whale of Business infamy and kicks in with the familiar strains of ‘Riot Squad’. From here on we get much of what appears on ‘Shock Troops’, interspersed with some of the older Decca period numbers, including a rare appearance of ‘We Love You’ and a smattering of ‘Running Riot in 84’. We also get a raucous blast of ‘White Riot’. This has most likely been recorded live in the studio in front of an invited audience, however, the quality of the songs shines through and are true to their form in a standard live concert hall environment.

http://captainoi.com

https://www.cherryred.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/cocksparreruk/

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