CD Review: The Bangles - Ladies And Gentlemen...The Bangles!

A killer compilation of the early years of this great '80s pop group.
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The Bangles hit their commercial stride in the mid 1980s with a string of hit singles including "Manic Monday," "Walk Like An Egyptian" and "Eternal Flame." While much of the airwaves was dominated by big haired rock bands, The Bangles were making smart, 60s-inspired pop with jangly guitars and killer harmonies. The group's success was not overnight however. The group formed in 1981 as The Bangs and was comprised of longtime members Susanna Hoffs and Debbi and Vicki Peterson. The group released a single and, later, an EP, before finally releasing a full-length album, All Over The Place, in 1984. The single and EP are long since out of print, but are now available on an excellent new compilation Ladies And Gentlemen...The Bangles.

Initially available as a download, Ladies And Gentlemen compiles the group's early recordings as The Bangs, features their self-titled EP in its entirety and also includes demos, live tracks and rarities. Most of these tracks include original bassist Annette Zilinskas. Surf guitar meets punk energy on the instrumental opener "Bitchen Summer/Speedway," one of three Bangs tracks included. The group's debut single "Getting Out Of Hand" follows. Sung by Hoffs, it showcases the groups 60s influences with its jangly guitars and tight harmonies. The song was later reworked as a commercial for Los Angeles magazine No Mag, The song, appropriately titled "No Mag Commercial," is also included here.

Hoffs handles lead vocals on "The Real World," from the band's self-titled EP. Fans only familiar with the groups more synth-oriented music may be surprised at the guitar-intensive nature of these tracks. Hoffs gives a strong vocal and the harmonies from the Peterson sisters really drive the song. For those needing further convincing, check out the hard driving "Want You." Sung by Vicki Peterson, it shows the group to be formidable rockers. Debbi Peterson sings "I'm In Line," which could serve at the group's musical ode to the Beatle's "Taxman" with its staccato riff, big harmonies and blistering solo.

Four demos are included on the compilation. These include strong covers of the Turtles' "Outside Chance" and Paul Revere & The Raiders' "Steppin' Out." Both sound as if they could have been recorded in the mid 1960s. A ferocious live version of Love's "7 & 7 Is" shows the group's prowess as a live band as well. This track and "Tell Me" feature bassist Michael Steele, who would, of course, be part of the most successful lineup of the band. A very garage rock "The Rock And Roll Alternative Program Theme Song" closes out the proceedings in fine fashion.

For fans of the band, these tracks make up an important part of their early history and paint a vivid picture of who their influences were. Highly recommended for anyone who likes 60s-inspired rock or just good pop music in general.