Monday, December 19, 2022

The Keys - Unlocked (1981-1983) (2021, Flash Bang)

It never ceases to amaze me how far a record label will go to suppress or outright kill-off the memory of an artist formerly on their roster that stiffed (or more currently, one that's been "cancelled" due to public scorn or outrage).  Back in 1981, despite London's Keys releasing a gob-smackingly fantastic power pop album, produced by Joe Jackson no less, with backing by A&M Records, the four protagonists I'm about to introduce you to were so ill-promoted that even if the burgeoning new wave movement never transpired this band still probably wouldn't have caught a break. 

Whatever errors or missteps that were made concerning the band's one-and-done '81 LP, The Keys Album, the dozen songs absorbing it's grooves (not to mention a few primo b-sides) were in no way, shape or form a detriment. Admittedly, the Key's fusion of power pop with jangly and harmony-laden specks of Brit-invasion (some undeniable Beatle-isms to be certain) may have sounded dated when held up to the likes of A Flock of Seagulls or Gary Numan. But in place of state-of-the-art accoutrements Keys fans were bejeweled with out-and-out pristine three minute surges, including such flawless singles as "I Don't Wanna Cry," and "Greasy Money." Trouser Press magazine had this to impart:

This overlooked gem of a pop album was criminally ignored in England and never released in the States. The four Keys may wear their influences (mainly the Beatles and their producer, Joe Jackson) a bit too much on their sleeves — several of the songs sound unfortunately like outtakes from Joe’s Look Sharp! — but their knack for pretty melodies, close harmonies and intelligent lyrics make the overall sound original and fresh.

Ultimately, in the several decades that ensued after the band's tenure, the only arguments that befell The Keys Album revolved around it's sheer scarcity (primarily a UK import, with scant US copies pressed) and the fact that it never (to this day in fact) made the CD/digital migration, despite consistent requests from the small, but fervent fanbase the Keys accrued.  Ironically, the conversation was never really about whether additional material existed, but in 2021 devotees such as myself were in for a colossal treat. 

The Keys Unlocked (1981-1983) was a limited edition, vinyl-only proposition that was limited to 600 copies, and was said to have been "withdrawn" within a week due to "publishing issues," per Discogs.  I've seen two separate record labels credited with the album's release, Flash Bang, and Rollin Records, with only the later having an online presence, yet with no mention of this record whatsoever.  I managed to obtain files of the whole thing which I'm offering below in both MP3 and lossless FLAC.

One would assume the songs on Unlocked were demos written and recorded for a follow-up album that never was. The vast majority of what's here is evidence that The Keys Album was no one-off fluke, with the uber-melodic "Don't Do That" and "Confidence" ranking alongside the finest of the band's jaw-dropping first blush.  Sonically, the Keys' overarching inclinations on their second batch of songs were considerably richer an fuller, countering the often tinny and treble-ridden sound Joe Jackson was wont to emphasize. So much so that "I'm Not Satisfied" and "Tongue Tied" were muscular enough to compete on FM radio, had the Keys been fortunate to realize such a scenario. Nonetheless, there's still plenty of leaner songs on Unlocked that would have fit in like a glove on their debut. The Keys were simply a phenomenally talented and prodigious band whose songs rivaled The Records, Wreckless Eric, and arguably even Nick Lowe. It's a travesty that their catalog has been languishing on scarce, overpriced vinyl and not in an official digital medium, but I'm doing my damnedest to rectify that. Enjoy.

01. I Gotta Gun
02. Crying Out for Love
03. Who Bit Who
04. Tongue Tied
05. Girl Friday
06. Don't Do That
07. Confidence
08. Talk About Love
09. Daddy Was a Spy
10. Way With Words
11. I'm Not Satisfied
12. Ain't Got the Time

MP3  or  FLAC


heartsofstone said...

Thanks so much for resurrecting this gem.

Josef Kloiber said...

I love Power Pop ! Thank you for this unknown and very expensive recording. Great !

badactorinky2016 said...

Anybody got a working link to The Keys Album (1981)?

Jim H. said...

great stuff, thanks much! that first, and only, Keys album is a real gem too!!!!!

Mark B. said...

Take a look here:

Mark B. said...

And thanks for this previously-unknown-to-me followup! What an amazing holiday treat!

Unknown said...

Thank you for the FLAC option on many of the posts this year. I've had a great Xmas morning playing this one a couple of times so far, and will be listening to some of these tunes for the rest of my years, I expect. It's every bit as good or better than the debut. For some reason, the FLAC files would not play for me, which I think is probably due to having an older music player without updated codecs. In case anyone else has this problem with the FLAC download, I put the files in Format Factory and converted them to WAV files to get them to play. it was only a problem with this one, the other FLAC downloads played immediately. Thanks again, Spavid, and Happy Holidays.

jonder said...

Thank you Spavid for this holiday share, and to Mark B for the link to the first LP.

badactorinky2016 said...

Has anyone managed to d/l The Keys - The Keys Album (1981) from ? I keep getting an html file rather than the RAR it points to. Apparently, Frank does *not* want to share a a file with me!

Help appreciated.

Mr. Nez said...

Thank You!! was lucky enough to grab a copy of their first LP off discogs a couple years ago, and was unable to move fast enough to get a copy of this release when it almost came out. weird what happened to this release.

Also, do you feel that the first LP has a weird mix? its a little like a nit too much treble or it sounds like its coming off a TV.. even my LP sounds like that... This songs kind of have it to - but I realize they are very unfinished (but still great!)

Thanks again!!