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CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW – Vardis ‘100 M.P.H.

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW – Vardis ‘100 M.P.H.
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Vardis – ‘100 M.P.H.’ (DISS067CDD)

Originally released on Logo Records, MOGO 4012, October 1980

Back in the day it certainly wasn’t the norm to open your account with a live album, but that’s exactly what Vardis did with the release of ‘100 M.P.H.’ in the second half of 1980. When asked why, guitarist / vocalist Steve Zodiac just shrugs. “We wanted to do it this way. Vardis had been playing the ‘100 M.P.H.’ set prior to the record deal for a couple of years and it just seemed the logical and fastest thing to do as I was writing new songs all the time. I never realised at the time that no-one had ever done a debut live album before. I just wanted to capture the essence of the sound and this seemed the best and simplest way to do it.”

Vardis – Zodiac, bassist Alan Selway and drummer Gary Pearson – were one of the hardest working bands of the NWOBHM, seemingly always on the road, and they already had two singles to their name (the ‘100 M.P.H.’ EP, and ‘If I Were King’) before they signed to Logo Records. After supporting Budgie (whose ‘If Swallowed, Do Not Induce Vomiting’ EP had introduced the band to a new generation of fans) on a lengthy UK tour in June/July they went back out on their own, taping a few shows as they went along. And from those tapes came ‘100 M.P.H.’.

The sleeve notes indicate that the album was put together from live recordings in July 1980 at Slough College, the Electric Ballroom in London, and the South Pier Pavilion in Lowestoft (although if you want to be picky, this final date was 1 August), and in its review in Sounds in 1980 ‘100 M.P.H.’ was described as “really just about one long guitar solo with bass, drums and vocals almost incidental… Three-piece Vardis have been captured in their element,” continued Geoff Barton in his four-star (out of five) appraisal, “and what you get is forty minutes of guitar-dominated thrashaboogie, like a Motörhead version of Love Sculpture’s ‘Sabre Dance’ on a continuous tape loop… Side one is a mess of magnificence, a volt-jolting six track selection: ‘Out Of The Way’, ‘Move Along’, ‘The Lion’s Share’, ‘Situation Negative’, ‘Destiny’ and ‘The Loser’. Familiarity with three tracks on the flip – ‘Let’s Go’, ‘100mph’ and ‘If I Were King’ – makes for a second half standout though, at least as far as these ears are concerned. ‘Let’s Go’’s lyrics are enticingly mindless; ‘100mph’ has come a long way since its Redball days as ‘perhaps the most terribly recorded song of all time’ [a reference to the original 1979 studio single version]; and ‘If I Were King’ is a riotously regal LP closer.” Writing in Record Mirror, Malcolm Dome also awarded the album a score of four-out-of-five: “…‘100 M.P.H.’ captures the sound of Vardis in a highly enjoyable fashion, speeding into action via ‘Out Of The Way’ and accelerating through the commercial ‘Move Along’ plus eight other ‘wall of deaf’ cuts, before the earthy majesty of ‘If I Were King’ shoots out of the speakers at the end of side two… Some may knock this album for having a one-dimensional approach and for a lack of technical perfection but to do that is to miss the point; Vardis,” Dome opined, “are a high-energy, gut-reaction band…”

Some people didn’t get it but a lot of fans did, and ‘100 M.P.H.’ actually made the lower reaches of the UK Album Charts, spending a week at No.52 in November 1980: not bad for a debut release, a live album no less, from a relatively unknown rock / metal band on an independent label.

“I always liked the overall simplicity of the album but we didn’t really think about the release as at the time as we were always out on the road,” says Zodiac now. “But it does still sound fresh and the energy in the sound is testament that something special was happening on those recordings. I’m also very pleased that the Dissonance re-issues have been done properly after so many dodgy bootleg versions have come out over the years. I personally don’t think good rock ‘n’ roll recordings ever sound dated, and I’m pleased to hear that people still feel that this one has stood the test of time.”

This Dissonance release adds two bonus tracks, ‘Too Many People’ and ‘Steamin’’, both recorded at the same time but which, for reasons of running time, didn’t appear on the original LP.

Click below to buy ‘100 M.P.H.’ on CD and vinyl…