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Girlschool - 'The Bronze Years' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/db/ad/fa/3542_girlschoolthebronzeyears_1368055449.jpg Hot

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Girlschool have continued to release some great albums to this day, but it all started here.

Commercially – definitely – and possibly artistically too (although that’s more open to debate) Girlschool’s formative years with Bronze Records were the most successful of their lengthy career. After one single ‘Take It All Away’ on Cherry Red – certainly ironic given that over thirty years later this package is now released on one of Cherry Red’s imprints – Kim McAuliffe, Enid Williams, Kelly Johnson and Denise Dufort signed to Bronze in 1979 and the next four years saw the band deliver four chart albums and singles, as well as see their dalliance with Motörhead reach No.5 in the UK singles chart.

Two singles (‘Emergency’ and ‘Nothing To Lose’) prefaced ‘Demolition’, the band’s first album which breached the Top Thirty in the summer of 1980. Both ‘Demolition’ and its April 1981 Top 5 follow-up ‘Hit And Run’ are both highly regarded to this day and there’s very little to choose between them. Some prefer the raw ‘newness’ of the debut, for others it was just a trial run before the band hit their stride with their second outing, but the fact remains that both are five-out-of-five albums. OK, so ‘Baby Doll’ on the first album screamed ‘filler’ and ‘Yeah Right’ from ‘Hit And Run’ should never, ever, have seen the light of day (and certainly not have been released as a single – it stiffed!) but everything else the band did at that time oozed class.

Released in 1982, the band’s third LP ‘Screaming Blue Murder’ saw Williams replaced by Gil Weston and is the sound of a band in transition. They were still a great live act but as an album ‘Screaming Blue Murder’ is very much the runt of the litter. It retains a certain charm to this day, but charm alone a good album doth not make, as Shakespeare might have said; aside from the title track and the two cuts that had already appeared on the ‘Wildlife’ EP (‘Wildlife’ itself and the wonderful ‘Don’t Call It Love’; the non-album cut included on this CD ‘Don’t Stop’ made up the running order) there’s little to get excited about, to be honest. And everyone knew it.

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A rethink was required, which firstly led the band to the ‘1 2 3 4 Rock ‘N’ Roll’ single, put out in August 1983 and so loathed by the band that they’d walked away from it, leaving label manager Gerry Bron and his mates to complete the recording; hardly an auspicious start. October however saw the release of their fourth and final Bronze LP, ‘Play Dirty’. By this time the metal world had moved on considerably and the ramshackle rock ‘n’ roll of days gone by were being erased by the slick, swish sound of Sheffield’s favourite pyromaniacs. The band hooked up with Slade’s Noddy Holder and Jim Lea and deliberately aimed for a sound not a million miles away from Def Leppard, resulting in an album which divided the fans down the middle. The songs, the performances and the vocal harmonies in particular are superb, but it was so far removed from its predecessors – and much more Los Angeles than London – that it struggled to make any headway and for the first time Girlschool saw an album fail to crack the Top 30, stalling as it did at No.66. Neither single from the album (covers of ‘20th Century Boy’ and the breathtaking ‘Burning In The Heat’) charted either and the band packed their bags for America and a disastrous liaison with Mercury Records. Despite never bothering the charts again Girlschool have continued to release some great albums to this day, but it all started here; and if you don’t possess these albums then you can either hang your head in shame OR rectify the situation by snapping up ‘The Bronze Years’. Now.

John Tucker

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