Personnel: Andy Piercy (vocals, bass instrument); John Russell (guitar, background vocals); Peter Banks (keyboards, background vocals); Pete King (drums, percussion); Ivor Twidell (drums).
One-hit wonders in the States, having marched toward the top of the chart in 1983 with "Der Kommissar," After the Fire actually had a long and colorful history whose antecedents stretched back over a decade by the time of that hit. Multiple shifts in lineups and serious alterations in their sound dogged their career, but by 1979 the pieces were all coming together. Radio Sessions 1979-1981 finds the band readying for success, staging live concerts on a now annual basis for the BBC. The ultimate genre bender, ATF deftly melded the over the top keyboard extravagance of the likes of ELP against the edginess and aggression of punk and the pop sensibilities of the then fast-rising new wave. It was a potent combination on record, but it was even more impressive on-stage, as the group amply illustrates on the surprisingly incendiary "Joy," the angular "Suspended Animation," the compulsive "Can You Face It," and the kick-up-your-heels "Life in the City." Nor could maturity dampen their spark, as the 1981 set finds the remarkable "Dancing in the Shadows" sashaying into a more urban style, while "Sailing Ship" disembarks close to the same territory that U2 would soon claim as their own. This material may be unfamiliar to American audiences, but regardless, it's ATF at their best. ~ Dave Thompson