Unfortunately, the Waves’ first big hit pretty much turned out to be its last. Even though they would continue to record some fine music (their Waves album is vastly underrated), they would soon be steamrolled on the charts by cro-mags like Guns ‘N’ Roses, Motley Crue, and Poison as pop music took a decidedly aggressive turn towards nerf metal. Somewhere along the way, the band’s excellent two Canadian albums became obscure footnotes in Waves’ history. Thanks to Ralph Alfonso, a long-time champion of the band and the personable boss at Bongo Beat, these long-lost albums have been revived on CD for the first time. The two albums fit comfortably on one disc, the remastered tracks overseen by Kimberley Rew and released in observance of the 20th anniversary of the band’s first album.
Katrina and the Waves’ The Original Recordings 1983-1984
The Original Recordings 1983-1984 collects ten songs each from 1983’s Walking On Sunshine album and 1984’s Katrina and the Waves 2, updating the sound for the digital age from the best tapes possible but otherwise leaving the songs raw and unadorned. Capitol cherry-picked the best songs from these two Canadian albums, originally released by Attic Records, having the band re-record them for its American debut. These original versions are fantastic, however, with an immediacy and vibrancy that eludes the better-known Capitol versions. The Original Recordings 1983-1984 includes four previously unreleased bonus tracks, a 24-page booklet with exhaustive historical notes on the band, band interviews and more pictures than you can shake a stick at. A DVD accompanies this 20th anniversary release, featuring the 25-minute Live At Shepperton Film Studios video, documenting a 1983 “live-in-the-studio” performance of many of the band’s best songs and also includes the original live concert video for “Walking On Sunshine.”
Of the unreleased bonus tracks, “That’s Just The Woman In Me” is a slow-paced, soulful Stax-inspired tear-jerker magnificently belted out by Ms. Leskanich. The band’s version of the classic “River Deep, Mountain High” leaves other covers of the song in its wake, evoking the spirit of Ike & Tina Turner’s hit, reinterpreting it as a revved-up rocker with wicked fretwork courtesy of Mr. Rew. A reverent, by-the-numbers cover of Buddy Holly’s “Heartbeat” leads into an early live performance of “Walking On Sunshine,” a wonderful version of one of the decade’s best-known songs, the band’s spirit and onstage energy amplified and framed by the echo and spaciousness of the live recording. The band’s best songs are those written by Rew, whose deft hand at pop songwriting is easily the equal of such acclaimed tunesmiths as Marshall Crenshaw or Matthew Sweet.
The Reverend’s Bottom Line
If they are only remembered for one song, the forever-frozen-in-time “Walking On Sunshine,” Katrina and the Waves have achieved a degree of musical immortality. After listening to The Original Recordings 1983-1984, however, I’d say that it’s time for music lovers to rediscover one of the finest pop/rock outfits that the ‘80s had to offer. With bands like Hot Hot Heat and other ‘80s-era revivalists garnering critical acclaim and radio airplay these days, perhaps it’s time to take another look at the recorded legacy of Katrina and the Waves and finally provide the band the respect it has earned. (Bongo Beat Records, released October 21st, 2003)
Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™