Toyah 
WARRIOR ROCK 
Safari

It’s a DOUBLE live album that you can play all in one go! Maybe I’m dreaming. Oh go on, hoot all you like but even with the drawback of Toyah's alarming Top Of The Pops performance still clear in my mind I can safely predict many hours with this to company in my little room. Green light, let’s go…

It's going to make Safari an absolute fortune, the main reason for if existence I should imagine, because that's what all live albums, except bootlegs, are for. Bloated foul smelling things purchased in hotheaded moments, played once and then thrown out two years later. The lot of the live album is not a happy one. But this... this one is different.

It’s released at a curious time in relation to the career step the live album generally represents in most bands' traditional schedules, especially so recently after "Anthem" and "The Changeling". But it does offer alternative versions of many songs that were forged in certain situations (steeped in stillness), and the live experience brings a certain transformation. Such as...

‘Good Morning Universe’ (hello old fart!). It sounds great, a frisky little nothing that . bids us enter and keeps us well entertained. Where once slop washed over the heads of the, listener, there now exists a freshness and a vital step; definitely not the things of which live albums are normally made. Straight away I am up on my haunches, eager to investigate. 

A jaunty ‘Warrior Rock’ and a reasonable ‘Danced’ . A vastly improved ‘Jungles OfJupiter’ and a stunning ‘Castaways’. that was always in the realms of dodgy before. And so it goes on! Indeed only a ramshackle "’Thunder In The Mountains’ dribbles through and draws a grimace, the rest just coasts along and builds in power as a celebration of joy, the four sides flying by. 

What is a mystery to me, and one which has festered over the last couple of years, is the curious role that guitarist Joel Bogen has in this band. The most stalwart of aides to Toyah, he is capable of startling work but onstage, as this album shows with an accurate portrayal of their sound, he is slowly drifting away from our ears. 

Instead of cutting or soaring (as of old), embellishing both strident and smooth passages alike with his invigorations, he now seems content to go ping. I can't understand it. He is, or was, as much a part of Toyah as Toyah herself, but with strangely drum/keyboard dominated sound mixes, the strength is sapped. Next tour he'll stand there minus guitar looking extremely silly. Snap out of it boy. Be Loud. BeProud, etc.

Anyway, there's always the brilliant Willcox vocal staircase for us to enjoy. A cackle and a whoop. A snarl and a sigh. Don’t let her pass you by. There's so much there, but everywhere people pour scorn. 

Toyah has a distinctive voice, an unmistakeable fact I would say: a voice rich in capabilities, although a trifle short of emotion in her latest material. The tension jaw that squeezes sharp breaths and the full throttle howl are there to relish. And it won't go away. 

On ‘Brave New World’, beautifully infested with echo, she booms away, and then cuts back. On ‘Angel And Me’ it’s a potent yearning in magnificent surroundings (with the pimple on the angel’s nose being the wholly unnecessary backing vocals that come over just a little too Sound Of Music for my liking) and in ‘I Want To Be Free’’ it’s the central core of a slipshod but unavoidable melee.

‘Ieya’ naturally leads things out and tug, tug, tug… you sense the end. I attended the tour this was recorded on and it remains as something much more than short range nostalgia fodder. It s an alternative "Greatest Hits” from the last two years in the Toyah  reign. Even the drum solo (whoops!) is short and leads into a song, so you can nip out top the loo and return just in time for ‘War Boys’.

None of that sneering either, you know you like them really. Tapping your feet as you knit. It's a rare little beast and that’s more than enough for me. 

Mumble, mumble, mumble…

Mick Mercer
Melody Maker 1982