The Secrets – Collection (2015)

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Spanning the years 1977-2003, the Secrets’ Collection, is an anthology of one of the greatest bands to emerge from Melbourne, Australia — or any corner of the world, for that matter.

The story of the Secrets actually starts with Ginger, which was the initial name of the band. Cemented by singer and keyboardist Peter Rechter, guitarist and singer Greg Heenan, bassist Don Ferries, drummer Marty Moyle and saxophonist Lee Trigg, the band produced a batch of top-grade tracks that kick the package into gear.

Grooving, gliding, and grinding with poise and polish, “Heartache,” “In the City,” and “She Won’t Dance in the Disco” portray Ginger in total disco mode, while an entirely different side of the band is exposed on the remaining numbers. “Anita” weighs in as a cool boogie pop rocker, and “I Found Out” slinks and struts to a fiercely funky vibe, pronounced by a Leon Russell-styled Southern drawl, honky-tonk piano fills, and grease-stained guitar licks.

When Ginger shed its moniker, personnel shifts and a change in musical direction occurred as well. Peter and Greg stayed in the band, joined by guitarist and singer Joe Mandica, and drummer Val Palladino. The Secrets made its vinyl debut in 1982 with Cryin,’ a four-song EP that found the guys revisiting some of the finest sounds of the past — most notably Buddy Holly, the Beatles, the Kinks, the Hollies, and the Small Faces — while still succeeding at slapping fresh tones and colors across the board.

Bright and bubbling rhythms, combined with an equally elated chorus complete “You Make Me Feel Pretty Good,” and the emotionally charged sentiment of the title cut of the record could easily masquerade as a long-lost John Lennon song. A punchy garage rock edge spills forth on “Woman,” and the sweeping shine of “More of Your Lovin'” stands as the absolute embodiment of pop perfection.

The Secrets soon encountered another line-up alteration, with Greg departing the fold. Ed Krumins stepped in on bass, and played on ace tunes like “This Time,” “All the Way,” and “Good Times Bad Times” that blossomed to the core with glowing vocals, divine harmonies, and sharp and structured arrangements. Shortly after these songs were laid to wax, Ed exited the Secrets and they were now a trio.

The band’s recordings during this period, 1984 and 1985, expertly fuse tidy new wave flashes (think the Cars and Squeeze) with traditional pop rock perceptions, while adding a few extra surprises to the equation. For instance, there’s the stuttering reggae shuffle of “Spooky Movie,” where the trance-inducing “Automatic” thuds and throbs to a heavy mechanical pitch, and “Every Little Thing” blends sweltering soul shadings with rocking bravado to arresting effects.

The Secrets went into hiding for two decades and, when they resurfaced in 2000, they were a duo featuring Peter and Graham McCoy on vocals, guitar, drums and bass. Maintaining the same diligent vision that showered the band with claps and cheers to begin with, Peter and Graham delivered excellent missives such as the country flavored “Don’t Come Any Closer,” and the bleeding pop of “I’m Not Cryin’.”

Dusting off the cobwebs, they also recorded a take of “Claudette Jones,” a song Rechter’s legendary 1960s band Peter and the Silhouettes scored a regional hit with. Clasping tight to the original version, the guys race and roar through “Claudette Jones” with the kind of spit, snarl and spirit reserved for the toughest and roughest garage bands on file.

Padded wall to wall with melodic singing, electrifying instrumentation and imaginative hooks, Collection is a power-pop delight. Quality songwriting, teamed with consistently on-target performances are assets any honest band aspires to, and the Secrets were blessed with these riches.

And if you haven’t already done so, be sure to cock your ears towards Tol-Puddle Martyrs, another iconic band Peter fronted in the ’60s that recently reunited and has since unleashed a string of utterly fantastic discs. The amazingly talented Joe Mandica can further be heard doing his thing with the Initiative, whose self-titled first album from 2013 ranks as pop pleasure incarnate.
Secrets are meant to be kept, but not in this case. Listen, love, and spread the good word about Collection so the Secrets, who are primed for rediscovery, will be let out of the bag!

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