Walking On Sunshine 45 by Katrina And The Waves

January 30, 2012

Katrina And The Waves were a rock band formed in the U.K. consisting of vocalist Katrina Leskanich (born in Kansas), guitarist Kimberley Rew, bassist Vice de la Cruz, and drummer Alex Cooper.

Much of their work fell into the new wave or alternative rock vein. One of the exceptions was was the joyous rocker, “Walking On Sunshine.” Released as a single March 23, 1985, it reached number nine on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

It was a joyous and up-tempo rocker with a brass foundation. It was one of the most infectious singles of the mid-1980s and remains the crowning achievement of their career.

Katrina and The Waves 2 – 1984 by Katrina and The Waves

April 2, 2010

Katrina and The Waves 2 – 1984 is the last of four albums being reissued by guitarist/songwriter/vocalist Kimberley Rew in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the group’s biggest hit “Walking On Sunshine.”

Rew’s 1981 solo album, The Bible Of Bop, was brilliant in places but had an overall disjointed feel as he recorded with three different bands. The group’s first release, Shock Horror, found him sharing lead vocals with Katrina Leskanich. The sound was closer to his days with The Soft Boys and was a commercial failure. The bands 1983 album would find the group settling into their commercially successful pop/rock sound. Rew was now writing material specifically for Leskanich who had assumed lead vocal chores. This album saw the debut of “Walking On Sunshine” which would become a big hit in The United States and The U.K.

While their 1983 release was excellent in places and contained one of the catchiest hit singles of the 1980’s, Katrina and The Waves 2 is an overall better album. It may not contain one brilliant track but there are no lows and it is a consistently excellent album. The sound has a harder edge in places than their other releases. Rew’s signature guitar licks, Katrina’s powerful vocals, and a pounding percussion add up to a sound that was memorable and deserved more commercial success.

There are a number of superior tracks. “Do You Want Crying” and “Maniac House” are catchy hard rock. “Mexico” is the band at its smooth best. “The Game Of Love,” not to be confused with the old Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders hit song, contains an older rock ‘n’ roll sound and clever lyrics.

There are five bonus tracks. The most interesting are covers of “Wild Thing” and “River Deep, Mountain High.” They are both straight forward rock and serve as a vehicle for Leskanich’s powerful vocals.

Katrina and The Waves 2 – 1984 finds Katrina and The Waves at their best. While the group would make a comeback during the nineties, this release remains their most listenable.

1983 by Katrina and The Waves

April 2, 2010

Guitarists/vocalists Kimberley Rew and Katrina Leskanich, bassist Vince de la Cruz, and drummer Alex Cooper had banded together in late 1982 as The Waves. Their first release, Shock Horror, found them exploring a sound somewhere between Rew’s days with The Soft Boys and the infectious pop/rock which they would quickly move toward in their future. While the album was interesting, though, it was a commercial failure.

So what does a band do when its album does not sell well and they find themselves without a recording contract? They finance their next album themselves and sell it at their concerts. They wisely (or maybe it was luckily) included “Going Down To Liverpool” from their first album — The Bangles had recorded the song around this time, leading them to label deals — as well as re-recording much of their other material. The resulting album became a commercial success in North America and The U.K.

Kimberley Rew has reissued his solo album and three by Katrina and The Waves in celebration of the 25th anniversary of “Walking On Sunshine” becoming a big hit. 1983 is the best of the four as it finds them settling into a style and sound which was both catchy and popular.

While this reissue is titled 1983, it contains the ten tracks which comprised the American LP, Walking On Sunshine. I’m not sure if the tracks are the original Canadian versions or the re-recorded American releases or a combination of the two.

Rew had now decided to allow Leskanich to be the lead vocalist and he took to writing songs for her to sing. It was a wise decision as she blossomed into a powerful frontwoman for the band.

The heart of this release lay in tracks three through seven. Their take on “Going Down To Liverpool” is more subdued than the better known version by The Bangles, but even still it is a little more edgy. “Machine Gun Smith” has an older rock ‘n’ roll feel and contains some nice guitar work by Rew. “Walking On Sunshine” remains a classic, featuring a smooth vocal by Leskanich and catchy hooks that propelled the song into receiving massive radio airplay. Its brass arrangement pushes it over the top. It is one of those eternal songs which make you smile and want to get up and dance. Also, “Brown Eyed Son” is only a cut below their big hit. And “Que Te Quiero” is the album’s lost gem as Leskanich’s voice just soars.

Four bonus tracks are included. The oddest is the band’s instrumental version of the old surf hit, “Wipe Out.” If you are not the Surfaris, then it is best to stay away from this song. On the other hand, “I Want A Man” is frantic, excellent rock ‘n’ roll.

1983 presents Katrina and The Waves at their best. It’s nice to have it available again 25 years after its original release.

Shock Horror by The Waves

March 27, 2010

Shock Horror is the first album by the group that would become Katrina and The Waves — who’d go on to produce some excellent, if somewhat under-appreciated, music.

Songwriter, lead guitarist, and sometime vocalist Kimberley Rew is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the band’s hit “Waking On Sunshine” by re-releasing three of its albums plus his own long-out-of-print solo release. Each album has been remastered and issued with previously unreleased bonus tracks.

Rew formed The Waves during 1975 with sidekick drummer Alex Cooper. In 1977 they disbanded when Rew left to join Robyn Hitchcock and The Soft Boys. That in turn left Cooper free to join Mama’s Cookin’ which featured Katrina Leskanich and bassist Vince De La Cruz. After the demise of The Soft Boys, Cooper invited Rew to join Mama’s Cookin.’ He agreed but convinced everyone to change the name to that of his former group, The Waves.

Shock Horror catches Rew and thus the group in a transition period. The sound is a cross between The Soft Boys and the smooth sophisticated rock which would soon follow. Also at this point, Rew and Leskanich shared lead vocal duties. This would change in the near future, however, as Rew would write material with Katrina in mind as the vocalist.

While the album was not commercially successful, its lead song, “Going Down To Liverpool,” was recorded by The Bangles, helping the girl group obtain a major label recording contract. The Waves’ rendition is more somber but is interesting to compare it to the better known pop/rock version.

The gem of this album (and a true, unexpected surprise for me) is “Saturday Week” with Leskanich on lead vocals. I would call it jump/rock although the percussion foundation is right out of big-band, swing jazz. This lost up-tempo number is one of the best tracks they would produce. Other highlights include Rew’s signature jingly guitar on “Strolling On Air” and the frenetic “Brown Eyed Son.”

Shock Horror catches The Waves on the verge of finding their classic sound. While the albums which followed would be more consistent, there are still a few gems to be mined on this one.