‘Retro’ series debuts bits of before hard-to-get past

By Greg Dunlap

Do you have any Christmas money left? Are you looking for a way to spend it? Well, thanks to Enigma/Restless Records, you have over thirty brand new CDs to choose from as the company debuts its Retro series.

The series’ purpose is to re-discover and re-release previously out of print or domestically unavailiable recordings by influential artists from the ‘60s and ’70s. The bands being re-released range from the folk rock of Tim Buckley to the acid rock guitars of the Amboy Dukes and Alice Cooper to the black comedy of Lenny Bruce to the buzzsaw guitar of seminal punk bands like Stiff Little Fingers and the Buzzcocks.

Engima/Restless debuted Retro late last year with the first three albums by British punk forefathers Wire. The records “Pink Flag,” “Chairs Missing” and “154” are often cited by bands as diversified as R.E.M., Big Black and Henry Rollins as being a major influence on their work. As a matter of fact, all of these bands have recorded covers of Wire songs.

All three of the early Wire records were previously available in America only as imports. With the new series, Enigma/Restless has allowed the consumer to find these records in all formats at domestic prices. The label also put together “On Returning,” a “greatest hits” collection which compiled tracks from all three of the records.

Another exciting release on Enigma/Restless Retro was “Product,” a boxed set of three CD’s or 5 LP’s by the Buzzcocks. The box contains all four of the Buzzcocks’ studio LP’s, the “Parts 1-3” EP, and previously un-released live and studio tracks.

Also included in the box is a sixteen page full color booklet with rare photos, promo posters and liner notes by Jon Savage. The cover art for the box is taken from the original packaging that came with the Buzzcocks’ first album, “Another Music in a Different Kitchen.” In England, the album was originally released in a “Product” record bag.

Enigma/Restless is supposed to release the albums individually sometime later in the year, but for now they are only available in the box. It will be interesting to see if the label will release its own versions of “Singles Going Steady” or “A Different Kind of Tension,” both of which are currently available domestically on I.R.S. Records.

The four albums by Stiff Little Fingers in the series, “Inflammable Materials,” “Hanx!,” “Nobody’s Heroes” and “Go For It” were all previously available on Chrysalis records in America, but have been out of print for quite some time. Stiff Little Fingers came out of Ireland in the mid-‘70s right around the time of punk rock’s beginnings.

When U2 started out, they were known to cover some Stiff Little Fingers songs, as well as “Mannequin” by Wire. SLF has also been covered by Naked Raygun, who included a live version of “Suspect Device” on their LP “Jettison.”

SLF’s final studio record, “Now Then…,” has not yet been slated for release although it is available as an import.

These punk pioneers are not the only acts on the bill. Enigma/Restless has also begun to release past artists in the Bizarre/Straight/DiscReet back catalogue. Folk rocker Tim Buckley is one of these. In the late ’60s, Tim Buckley was one of the original signings to Elektra/Asylum when Jac Holzman began looking for new talent. Holzman also signed such other influential bands as Love and the MC5 around the same time. Enigma/Restless has released Buckley’s last album, “Greetings from L.A.” as part of the Retro series.

Another one of these releases from Bizarre/Straight/DiscReet is comic Lenny Bruce. The “Live at Berkley” record was the first time that an entire concert by Bruce was presented unedited and in its entirety. The performance was taken near the end of Bruce’s life when his addiction to heroin was taking over his life more and more.

These are not by any means all the releases in the catalogue, but they are some of the most interesting. Congratulations to Enigma/Restless Retro for returning a bit of the past to the present. Here’s hoping that this dedication to excellence continues throughout the rest of the series.