Thanks to the legal powers that be at Cherry Red Records wrangling the red tape necessary to license Bram Tchaikovsky’s three classic power pop albums, ‘Strange Man, Changed Man’ (1979); ‘The Russians Are Coming’ (1980); and ‘Funland’(1981), from three different record labels, we now have a nicely packaged box set with original colourful Soviet propaganda-inspired artwork, bonus tracks, and a well-written booklet by Alan Robinson containing interviews with guitarist/vocalist Peter Bramall (a.k.a. Bram Tchaikovsky) and long-time musical partner Micky Broadbent.

Bram’s post-Motors band, named after himself, helped to create the power pop template that survives intact today. In their case, however, the addition of such layered New Wave Everly Brothers vocals and the manic drums from 1970’s pub rock set them apart from other bands of this era and genre. Their harmonies were antithetical to punk and put them much closer to ELO and their American touring mates the Cars.
There is a lot of material in this set, and none of it is weak by any means, but considering how little the band’s sound changed there is sometimes little diversity across three albums’ worth of material plus extra tracks. There are occasional deviations from power pop, such as the hard-rocking covers of the Monkees’ ‘I’m a Believer’, Denny Randell and Sandy Linzer’s ‘Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache’, the standard ‘Goodnight Ladies (Lullaby of Broadway)’, rockabilly guitar here and there, and a hint of country on ‘Lady from the USA’.

The biggest American hit off their great debut, ‘Girl of My Dreams’ was written by Ronnie Thomas, formerly with the Heavy Metal Kids. ‘Girl of My Dreams’, featuring Mike Oldfield on, yes, tubular bells, is a power pop romantic classic now, chosen for compilations like Rhino Records’ ‘DIY: UK Pop II (1978-79)’, although most listeners are unaware that the subject, an American girl named Judy, is really an inflatable sex doll advertised in the back of a 70’s porn magazine. One assumes that Ronnie and Andy Summers, who wrote ‘Be My Girl – Sally’ about the same topic for the Police, were perusing the same “gentlemen’s literature” at the time.

The choice of using Soviet visual artifacts from the Cold War on their albums during the Cold War caused them to change the title of their second album ‘The Russians Are Coming’ to ‘Pressure’ in the U.S., where people were still concerned that the Russians might well be coming at any moment. Despite a slightly harder sound and good songs (‘Mr. President,’ ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘Used to Be My Used to Be”), surprisingly there were no hits on ‘The Russians Are Coming’ or ‘Funland’. Taken as a whole body of work, though, it’s hard to imagine that the band weren’t more widely popular.

Bram Tchaikovsky enjoyed early chart and touring success in America, but their career suffered due to being shuffled from label to label and each label’s own incompetent business and promotional choices. After ‘Funland ‘ Bramall retired from music entirely for years, opening and running a top of the line studio in Lincolnshire that he eventually sold. He and Micky Broadbent still play small live shows together, most happily at their local pub. Hopefully this box set will help them achieve more acknowledgement for so many incredible songs.

Track Listing:

Disc 1: ‘Strange Man, Changed Man’

1. Robber
2. Strange Man, Changed Man
3. Lonely Dancer
4. I’m the One That’s Leaving
5. Girl of My Dreams
6. Bloodline
7. Nobody Knows
8. Lady from the USA
9. I’m A Believer
10. Sarah Smiles
11. Turn On the Light
12. Goodnight Ladies (Lullaby of Broadway)
13. Rock and Roll Cabaret
14. (Who Wants to Be a) Criminal?
15. Girl of My Dream (US Promo Single Version)
16. Sarah Smiles (Single Version)
17. Turn On the Light (Single Version)
18. Bloodline (Single Version)

Disc 2: The Russians Are Coming

1. Let’s Dance
2. Mr. President
3. Missfortune
4. Hollywood Nightmare
5. Pressure
6. The Russians Are Coming
7. Heartache
8. Letter from the U.S.A.
9. Can’t Give You Reasons
10. Jeux Sans Frontieres
11. New York Paranoia
12. Come Back
13. Amelia
14. Let’s Dance (Single Version)
15. Rock And Roll Cabaret (Single Version)
16. Mr. President (French Version)
17. Robber (Live)
18. Whiskey and Wine (Live)

Disc 3: Funland

1. Stand and Deliver
2. Shall We Dance?
3. Heart of Stone
4. Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache
5. Model Girl
6. Why Does My Mother Phone Me?
7. Used to Be My Used to Be
8. Soul Surrender
9. Together My Love
10. Miracle Cure
11. Egyptian Mummies
12. Shall We Dance? (Single Version)
13. Solid Ball of Rock

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