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Music Review: Katrina and The Waves – 1983

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Guitarists/vocalists Kimberley Rew and Katrina Leskanich, bassist Vince de la Cruz, and drummer Alex Cooper had banded together in late 1982 as The Waves. Their first release, Shock Horror, found them exploring a sound somewhere between Rew’s days with The Soft Boys and the infectious pop/rock which they would quickly move toward in their future. While the album was interesting, though, it was a commercial failure.

So what does a band do when its album does not sell well and they find themselves without a recording contract? They finance their next album themselves and sell it at their concerts. They wisely (or maybe it was luckily) included “Going Down To Liverpool” from their first album — The Bangles had recorded the song around this time, leading them to label deals — as well as re-recording much of their other material. The resulting album became a commercial success in North America and The U.K.

Kimberley Rew has reissued his solo album and three by Katrina and The Waves in celebration of the 25th anniversary of “Walking On Sunshine” becoming a big hit. 1983 is the best of the four as it finds them settling into a style and sound which was both catchy and popular.

While this reissue is titled 1983, it contains the ten tracks which comprised the American LP, Walking On Sunshine. I'm not sure if the tracks are the original Canadian versions or the re-recorded American releases or a combination of the two.

Rew had now decided to allow Leskanich to be the lead vocalist and he took to writing songs for her to sing. It was a wise decision as she blossomed into a powerful frontwoman for the band.

The heart of this release lay in tracks three through seven. Their take on “Going Down To Liverpool” is more subdued than the better known version by The Bangles, but even still it is a little more edgy. “Machine Gun Smith” has an older rock ‘n’ roll feel and contains some nice guitar work by Rew. “Walking On Sunshine” remains a classic, featuring a smooth vocal by Leskanich and catchy hooks that propelled the song into receiving massive radio airplay. Its brass arrangement pushes it over the top. It is one of those eternal songs which make you smile and want to get up and dance. Also, “Brown Eyed Son” is only a cut below their big hit. And “Que Te Quiero” is the album's lost gem as Leskanich’s voice just soars.

Four bonus tracks are included. The oddest is the band's instrumental version of the old surf hit, “Wipe Out.” If you are not the Surfaris, then it is best to stay away from this song. On the other hand, “I Want A Man" is frantic, excellent rock ‘n’ roll.

1983 presents Katrina and The Waves at their best. It's nice to have it available again 25 years after its original release.

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