The Best Of The Professionals (Captain Oi! AHOY CD 263)
Oh yes! My love for The Professionals is well documented throughout the web site. It was cemented during the era of second (or third?) wave punk bands, due to my utter frustration at all those punks who painted Anti-Pasti, GBH, etc. on their leather jackets, yet rarely was there a mention of The Professionals. Why did these spiky tops not embrace the originators, but instead favour the bastard children they inspired? I used to have a badge which stated simply Cook, Jones, Join The Professionals. I wore it with pride on my own leather jacket, and it would serve as a beacon for like minded souls at gigs and elsewhere: "The Professionals! They're great!", and even once at a bus stop: "Cook & Jones, eh? Saw 'em in The Greedy Bastards a few years back. What are they doing now?" A quick five minute potted history was met with a hearty "Thanks, I'll look out for that." I could only hope he did. My attempts to enlighten the population continued in many forms. I returned from shopping in Manchester one Saturday morning, quickly picked up the 'phone to call a mate to whom I'd been doing my best to sell the virtues of the band. "WH Smith in the Arndale have got I Didn't See It Coming reduced to £1.49, you must buy it." God bless him, he jumped on a bus into town and did just that. His verdict? The Sex Pistols with a change of name. Can't argue with that.
The Professionals stop-start history and lack of UK gigs hampered their progress, but they left an incredible musical legacy. It's that legacy that is celebrated on The Best Of The Professionals. The first five tracks are from 1980, and include two of the finest debut singles by any band. Just Another Dream and 1-2-3 still send a shiver down my spine. I can recall when I first heard them, where I bought the singles from, and how much hearing the Cook 'n' Jones sound honed to perfection really meant to me. I clearly remember listening to the Radio One Top 40 chart run down the second week after the release of 1-2-3. The previous week it sat at number 43 in the chart and I was waiting, fingers crossed, for the song to hit the Top 40. John Peel had already described it as a "chart bound sound" on his show, so I was hopeful. The run down was now up to the Top 30 and I was getting anxious. Then the DJ announced: "A new entry. In at number 27, One..." Yesssss! It's done it!. The DJ continued , "...Man Woman, Sheena Easton." What?!! One Man Woman, Sheena bleedin' Easton! What rubbish is that? I was crushed. 1-2-3 had peaked at number 43, and as a homage to this trauma, 43 is an ever present number on my National Lottery ticket each week. Like I said, I love The Professionals.
Kamikaze and Mods Skins Punks are brutal rockers, and it was criminal that due to internal band turmoil, these two did not see the light of day in any form until 1990. They display a ferociousness that no punk-by-numbers group could ever hope to emulate. The version of All The Way included here is also from this period and is a fine cut, featuring some down 'n' dirty licks and a dash of feedback thrown in the middle as Steve rips into his Les Paul.
Join The Professionals is the first track to feature the stable and definitive line up of Steve, Paul, Ray McVeigh, and Paul Myers. And what a start! It thunders along like an out of control train, with the new boys displaying their ability in spades. The twin guitar assault was a vital ingredient of their live shows and Join The Professionals shows why. Awesome. The remainder of the cuts are taken from I Didn't See It Coming, starting with the stunning The Magnificent, another all time favourite single. This one track seemed to sum up everything about the group. Power, melody, great lyrics, and a diversity of sound and pace. Although some fans prefer the production of the '80 material, citing the '81 cuts as being too tame, the songs on show here sound solid and powerful, and have been mastered for this release to obtain the best possible sound dynamics.
Little Boys In Blue, Payola, Madhouse and, of course, Kick Down The Doors, still bristle with excitement. The '81 version of Little Boys may not have the crude lyrics of the earlier version, but the production is crisper giving it the edge, whereas there is little to choose between the two versions of Kick Down The Doors that The Professionals recorded. This song is the most emotional Professionals song, and for reasons I'm unable to articulate, makes me feel moved and saddened. It was the emotion I felt from this song that inspired me to use it as the title for www.cookandjones.co.uk when I started the site back in '98.
Northern Slide and Crescendo drop the pace in favour of a steadier rock sound, built around Paul Cook's solid beat. The Professionals were not a one trick pony and these two tracks illustrate this while retaining the central twin guitar axis. Returning to my badge story, one of those respondents, who spotted the badge while I was propping up a Sheffield bar, replied without hesitation to my predictable question of "What's your favourite track?", with "Crescendo". He then struck a Steve air-guitar pose and, with eyes closed, knocked out a couple of imaginary chords. "It's great" he concluded, still clearly on planet-Professionals. Too Far To Fall closes the collection, like it did on I Didn't See It Coming, and rounds it off on a high. It moves with the urgency you would expect and is up with their best. The Professionals would, of course, themselves fall the following year, the group disintegrating in summer 1982.
The full story of the group, penned by myself, is contained in the booklet along with memorabilia I've provided. I'm immensely proud to be associated with the release. In line with all Captain Oi! CDs, it is well packaged with top class mastering. While I'm sure there will be those asking where Action Man is etc., remember this is a "Best Of", not a rarities collection. It is a 14 track killer CD that roars out of the speakers flattening all in its path; a quality product that breathes new life into The Professionals catalogue. Oh, and in case you missed it earlier, I love The Professionals.
by Phil Singleton
All material ©1998/2005 Philjens/www.cookandjones.co.uk All rights reserved.