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6 Degrees Entertainment

Title - 'The Albums 1991-1997' [4CD]
Artist - Stiff Little Fingers

For those not in the know, Stiff Little Fingers are a punk rock band from Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Formed in 1977, at the height of "the troubles", they started out as a schoolboy band called Highway Star (named after the Deep Purple song), doing rock covers, until they discovered punk.

They split up after six years and four albums, although they reformed five years later, in 1987, but despite major personnel changes they are still touring and recording today.

In 2014 the band released their tenth studio album and a world tour followed its release.

Jake Burns, their lead singer, is the only member to have been with the band during all its incarnations, but in March 2006, original bass guitarist Ali McMordie rejoined them following the departure of The Jam bass player Bruce Foxton after fifteen years.

I've been a fan of SLF since I was introduced to them, via a vinyl album in a house that I was taking refuge within from my parents! Hiding out that afternoon, the teenage lad put on the album that contained both 'Alternative Ulster' and 'Tin Soldiers' and my brain just exploded with the new raw sound!

Luckily for me, and all fans of SLF, Captain Oi! and Cherry Red Records have just released a wonderous 4CD clamshell box that covers the albums issued by these punk legends released between 1991 and 1997.

Disc One - Flags & Emblems

1. '(It's a) Long Way to Paradise (From Here)'
2. 'Stand Up and Shout'
3. 'Each Dollar a Bullet'
4. 'The 'Cosh'
5. 'Beirut Moon'
6. 'The Game of Life'
7. 'Human Shield'
8. 'Johnny 7'
9. 'Die and Burn'
10. 'No Surrender'
11. 'The 'Cosh' (Remix) - Bonus Track
12. '(It's a) Long Way to Paradise (From Here)' (Demo) - Bonus Track
13. 'Stand Up and Shout' (Demo) - Bonus Track

Entitled, of course, The Albums 1991-1997, Disc One is the band's comeback studio album, Flags & Emblems. It was the first to feature ex-Jam bassist Bruce Foxton and includes the single 'Beirut Moon'.

The album represents a kinda midway resting point of an era for the band, to my mind. I actually love it, but it's not the old school vibe of the band that first got me hooked, that's for sure.

That said, it contains a fair few great tracks that are, in my humble opinion, among the best put out by SLF in any era. Add to that this new version also now contains three "bonus" tracks and, well, it's as complete a recording now as it ever was.

Disc Two - Pure Fingers Live (St. Patrix 1993)
1. 'Go for It'
2. 'Nobody's Hero'
3. 'At the Edge'
4. 'No Surrender'
5. 'Love of the Common People'
6. 'What If I Want More'
7. 'Fly the Flag'
8. 'Piccadilly Circus'
9. 'Wasted Life'
10. 'When the Stars Fall from the Sky'
11. 'Road to Kingdom Come'
12. 'Stand Up and Shout'
13. 'Smithers Jones'
14. 'Barbed Wire Love'
15. '(It's a) Long Way to Paradise'
16. 'Gotta Gettaway'
17. 'Suspect Device'
18. 'Walk Tall'
19. 'Tin Soldiers'
20. 'Alternative Ulster'
21. 'Johnny Was' - Bonus Track

The band's yearly St. Patrick's Day show at Glasgow's Barrowlands is always sold out and Disc Two features one of the first they ever did.

Furthermore, Pure Fingers Live (St. Patrix 1993) is also the last release to feature original guitarist Henry Cluney.

A veritable greatest hits compilation of 21 songs - the "bonus" one being the last track, 'Johnny Was', the set list contains a mixture of old favorites from the original incarnation of the band along with newer tracks from when the band reformed.

Disc Three - Get A Life
1. 'Get a Life'
2. 'Can't Believe in You'
3. 'The Road to Kingdom Come'
4. 'Walk Away'
5. 'No Laughing Matter'
6. 'Harp'
7. 'Forensic Evidence'
8. 'Baby Blue (What Have They Been Telling You?)'
9. 'I Want You'
10. 'The Night That the Wall Came Down'
11. 'Cold'
12. 'When the Stars Fall from the Sky'
13. 'What If I Want More?'
14. 'Silver Lining (Unplugged)'
15. 'Listen (Unplugged)'
16. 'Wasted Life (Unplugged)'

1994's Get A Life album is Disc Three and saw the band down to a trio of Jake Burns, Bruce Foxton and Dolphin Taylor.

Including the singles 'Harp' and 'Can't Believe In You' the songs are very varied, ranging from the grunge influenced to melodical ballads like 'I Want You'.

The title song 'Get a Life' includes one of their best Gaelic-rock guitar riffs that I've heard in a long time (or since), but fans brought up on Inflammable Material will find it hard to accept, given the overall tone of the album.

That said, Get A Life does actually contain some of their very best political songs: 'Harp', 'Baby Blue' and 'When the Stars Fall from the Sky', being just three of them.

It also now contains three "bonus" tracks and as much as I've heard the other ones listened on here for the albums noted above, these unplugged ones are new to me (and therefore maybe to you also).

Disc Four - Tinderbox

1. 'You Never Hear the One That Hits You'
2. '(I Could Be) Happy Yesterday'
3. 'Tinderbox'
4. 'Dead of Night'
5. 'The Message'
6. 'My Ever Changing Moral Stance'
7. 'Hurricane'
8. 'You Can Move Mountains'
9. 'A River Flowing'
10. 'You Don't Believe in Me'
11. 'In Your Hand'
12. 'Dust in My Eye'
13. 'No Barriers'
14. 'Roaring Boys (Parts 1 & 2)'

The final disc is 1997's Tinderbox album, now restored to it's original sleeve.

Ok, being totally honest here, SLF were always more comfortable writing political lyrics rather than relationship songs and this album is, weirdly, made up nearly entirely of the latter!

Not their best work for me for even the songs that show potential are undermined by Burns' inability to actually write "genuine" love songs.

The second part of 'Roaring Boys' is interesting within its punk uproar version complete with more Gaelic music, but unfortunately the song falls apart based on the overall weakness of the verses.

Indeed, the lyrics on this album are clichéd and, overall, the music is rather bland - which, as I'm sure you are all more than aware by now, just wasn't/isn't something you expect(ed) from SLF.

Vocalist Jake Burns has provided liner notes covering this period in the band's career whilst the booklet contains rare clippings and memorabilia as well as pictures of all relevant releases.

4CD Box-Set Purchase Link