Toyah – Four More From Toyah – Expanded 12″ Neon Violet Vinyl Version: Album Review

The story continues – The latest triumphant installment in Cherry Red’s reissue series of Toyah’s Safari Records catalogue.

Release Date:  9th December 2022

Label: Cherry Red Records

Formats: Vinyl

And so the story continues.  Back in early 2021, we were pleased to review the deluxe reissue of Toyah’s second album, The Blue Meaning and then, last May, we raved over the combined CD/DVD repackaging of her seminal 1980 live album, Toyah! Toyah! Toyah!  Cherry Red has certainly been busy and, since we last paid a visit to Toyah-land a super-deluxe edition of her 1981 album, Anthem, has hit the racks, along with a CD version of her breakthrough February 1981 concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre – a recording that was previously only available in video formats.  And now, Toyah’s back again, this time with a delightful, expanded, 12” neon violet vinyl version of her third EP, Four More From Toyah.

Originally released in November 1981, the EP continued Toyah’s run of chart success, thanks this time to the popularity of lead track, Good Morning Universe.  The original EP climbed to No.14 in the UK singles chart; for 2022 viewers, it’s been expanded into a mini-album, with the addition of four further tracks, two of which receive a commercial release for the first time.

The original EP comprised the first material to be studio-recorded since drummer Nigel Glocker’s departure to join NWOBHM-ers, Saxon, and the line-up on display for the eight tracks in this package is: Toyah Willcox (vocals), Joel Bogen (guitar), Adrian Lee (keyboards), Phil Spalding (bass) and new drummer, Simon Phillips.  And the band sound rock-solid!  I was particularly impressed by the concrete foundation, often edging towards the funky side of things, that Phil and Simon laid down; and Toyah sings with a maturity that is only hinted at on her earlier recordings, without losing any of the sinister edge that could often make her vocal delivery such a chilling experience.

Side A of this new collection features the four tracks of the original EP, and it’s the ‘hit,’ Good Morning Universe that gets things underway.  Written by Toyah and guitarist Bogen, it’s a joyful affair, indeed.  A wonderful snatch of bass and drums from the new rhythm section provides the launch pad for a bright, lively tune.  I’d have to admit that, first time around, Adrian Lee’s eighties keyboard licks weren’t really up my street but, with hindsight, they certainly add a sparkle – I’d honestly forgotten what a great song Good Morning Universe really is!

Jungle noises provide the intro to Urban Tribesman, a full-band composition with lyrics that express the freedoms and potential of adolescence.  Phil and Simon are at their solid, funky best and Toyah provide a rip-roaring, unrestrained vocal, particularly as the song moves into its, somewhat disturbing, refrain of “Incestuous heroes come forth…”  We get a first taste of the dystopia that Toyah communicates so effectively on In The Fairground, a fascinating song that contrasts the doom and gloom of the verses with a light-as-air poppy chorus – and I love the slightly sinister fairground-y coda!

Side A, and the original EP, is brought to a close with The Furious Futures, an angry song with lyrics relating to poverty and deprivation that resonate as strongly today as they did at the time they were written.  My abiding memory of the early nineteen-eighties is of a period of relentless dark days in which hope and optimism were sparse commodities, and it’s disturbing to discover that those sentiments are back with us – but, at least we’ve got lots of appropriate songs to recall to provide a ready-made commentary for the gloom, as Toyah demonstrates here!

It’s perhaps on Side B of this new collection that things start to get particularly interesting.  The side’s opening track, Go Beserk – released here in recorded form for the first time – was originally used as the band’s stage entry music during their 1981 European Tour.  It’s scary, emotion-building stuff, full of fearful breathing, shrieks and dramatic cries of phrases like “My nails are growing!” “Let ‘em grow” and “Break out.”  Adrian’s keyboard drone increases in intensity to reach a crescendo, and it’s easy to imagine the excitement in the audience as the band make their entry onto the darkened stage.

Stand Proud was included as a free flexi-disc with early issues of the original EP and it was often used as the set opener by the band on their early-eighties tours.  It’s another slice of undiluted excitement; Toyah’s cry of “Ieya” harks back, of course, to an earlier incarnation of the band.  Simon’s drums provide a dominating rhythm as Toyah screams the primitive lyrics.  In contrast, the bright, bouncy Clapham Junction is Toyah at her poppy best although, having said that, lines like “I am a priestess and I like to bite” demonstrate that, even in a poppy mood, she was never the sweet little girl next door.  Clapham Junction is an out-take from the session that yielded Toyah’s Thunder in the Mountains single, embellished with a new drum part from Simon and revised lyrics and vocals from Toyah.

This short, enjoyable mini-collection is brought to its close with the inclusion of a 1982 re-recording of Toyah’s hit single, I Want to be Free.  Produced by Steve Lillywhite at Roundhouse Studios, this version (previously commercially unavailable) was used for the band’s performance at the 1982 British Rock and Pop Awards, when Toyah received the Best Female Singer award.  This take is heavier and more intense than the original hit single version, and it’s a lot of fun.

And – just a note about the album’s packaging. Cherry Red has, as usual, done a great job. The sleeve contains an out-take from the original EP photo session and all lyrics are reproduced on the album’s newly designed inner bag. early purchases of the album will include an exclusive postcard.

I thoroughly enjoyed this expanded version of Four More From Toyah, and I suspect that many At The Barrier visitors will do so too.  Try it – it’s well worth a spin…  And any viewers of the Toyah and Robert’s Sunday Lunch podcast will be well aware that Toyah remains the sheer force of nature that she was back in those heady – if also darkly depressing – days of 1981.  Toyah Willcox is a National Treasure.

Watch a 1981 TOTP clip of Toyah performing Good Morning Universe – the album’s opening track – here:

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