Various Artists

Can't Start Dancin'

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Unleashed in the lead-up to the second Stiff Records package tour in 1978, Can't Start Dancin' was originally made available through the U.K. music paper Sounds, to introduce readers to the five acts that would soon be packing the theaters: Lene Lovich, Jona Lewie, Rachel Sweet, Mickey Jupp and, returning from the first Stiff tour, Wreckless Eric. Add on the otherwise unavailable A- and B-sides of Ian Dury's first single, and a couple of tracks from Stiff hopefuls-in-waiting, the Rumour, and the 16-track album would have been nigh on irresistible, even if it hadn't been given away all but free of charge. A neat mix of album highlights and the occasional previously unreleased track (Sweet's "I'll Watch the News," Lovich's "Monkey Talk"), Can't Start Dancin' was one of a slew of attention-grabbing gimmicks unveiled during the run-up to the tour -- others included both color vinyl and picture disc releases for each of the featured acts' albums, individual covers of the tour anthem, Devo's "Be Stiff," and so forth. But none let the listener get close to precisely what would be transpiring on those stages, as the album runs from sharp country-rock to updated pub boogie, from madcap keyboard virtuosity to Transylvanian art rock, and onto Wreckless' homely odes to sordid mundanity. As usual with the best-loved Stiff compilations, there's nothing here that the modern, CD-era collectors won't already own in a bunch of other permutations. But the original artifact still holds its own, a snapshot of a most exciting moment in modern rock history.

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