Tag: Kim Wilde (Page 1 of 2)

MUSIK MUSIC MUSIQUE 2.0 1981: The Rise Of Synth Pop

1981 is the year covered by the second instalment of Cherry Red’s ‘Musik Music Musique’ series.

1980 was something of a transition year for the synth as it knocked on the door of the mainstream charts but by 1981, it was more or less let in with welcome arms. From the same team behind the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ compendiums and the most excellent ‘Electrical Language’ boxed set, ‘Musik Music Musique 2.0 1981 – The Rise Of Synth Pop’ presents rarities alongside hits and key album tracks from what many consider the best year in music and one that contributes the most to the legacy of electronic music in its wider acceptance and impact.

Featuring HEAVEN 17  with ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’, OMD with ‘Souvenir’ and the eponymous single by VISAGE, these songs are iconic 1981 canon that need no further discussion. Meanwhile the longevity of magnificent album tracks such as ‘Frustration’ by SOFT CELL and ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ by ULTRAVOX can be summed by the fact that they have featured in 21st Century live sets alongside their parent acts’ hits.

Although not quite as celebrated, ‘You Were There’ from pastoral second John Foxx long player ‘The Garden’ captures the move from stark JG Ballard imagery to something almost romantic. DEVO are represented by the LinnDrum driven ‘Through Being Cool’, the opener of the ‘New Traditionalists’ album which comes as a statement that the mainstream was their next target; the Akron quintet were one of the many acts signed by Virgin Records as the label focussed on a synth focussed takeover that ultimately shaped the sonic landscape of 1981.

Then there’s TEARS FOR FEARS’ promising debut ‘Suffer The Children’ in its original synthier single recording and The Blitz Club favourite ‘Bostich’ from quirky Swiss pioneers YELLO. Another Blitz staple ‘No GDM’ from GINA X PERFORMANCE gets included despite being of 1978 vintage due to its first UK single release in 1981. The use of synth came in all sorts of shapes and FASHIØN presented a funkier take with ‘Move Øn’ while the track’s producer Zeus B Held took a more typically offbeat kosmische approach on his own ‘Cowboy On The Beach’.

Pivotal releases by JAPAN with the ‘The Art Of Parties’ (here in the more metallic ‘Tin Drum’ album version) and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS ‘(It’s Not Me) Talking’ highlight those bands’ then-potential for mainstream success. But in the battle of the New Romantic boy bands, the sitar tinged DURAN DURAN B-side ‘Khanada’ easily blows away the SPANDAU BALLET album track ‘Reformation’ in an ominous sign as to who would crack it biggest worldwide.

The great lost band of this era, B-MOVIE issued the first of several versions of ‘Nowhere Girl’ in December 1980 on Dead Good Records and its inclusion showcases the song’s promise which was then more fully realised on the 1982 Some Bizzare single produced by the late Steve Brown although sadly, this was still not a hit.

The best and most synth flavoured pop hits from the period’s feisty females like Kim Wilde and Toyah are appropriate inclusions, as is Hazel O’Connor’s largely forgotten SPARKS homage ‘(Cover Plus) We’re All Grown Up’. But the less said about racist novelty records such as ‘Japanese Boy’ by Aneka, the better… the actual nation of Japan though is correctly represented by their most notable electronic exponents YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA with ‘Cue’ from ‘BGM’, the first release to feature the Roland TR808 Rhythm Composer.

With these type of boxed sets, it’s the less familiar tracks that are always the most interesting. As the best looking member of TANGERINE DREAM, Peter Baumann had a crack at the single charts with the catchy Robert Palmer produced ‘Repeat, Repeat’ while former Gary Numan backing band DRAMATIS are represented by ‘Lady DJ’ although its epic A side ‘Ex Luna Scientia’ would have equally merited inclusion. But BEASTS IN CAGES who later became HARD CORPS stand out with the stark dystopia of ‘Sandcastles’.

The one that “should-have-been-a-pop-hit” is the ABBA-esque ‘I Can’t Hold On’ by Natasha England and it’s a shame that her career is remembered for a lame opportunistic cover of ‘Iko Iko’ rather than this, but the delightful ‘Twelfth House’ demonstrates again how under-rated Tony Mansfield’s NEW MUSIK were, and this with a B-side!

The rather fraught ‘Wonderlust’ by THE FALLOUT CLUB captures the late Trevor Herion in fine form on a Thomas Dolby produced number with a dramatic Spaghetti Western flavour that is lushly sculpted with electronics. Over a more sedate rhythm box mantra, ‘Love Moves In Strange Ways’ from BLUE ZOO swirls with a not entirely dissimilar mood.

Mute Records founder Daniel Miller was breaking through with his productions for DEPECHE MODE in 1981, but representation on ‘Musik Music Musique 2.0’ comes via the colder austere of ‘Science Fiction’ by Alan Burnham. ‘West End’ by Thomas Leer adds some jazzy freeform synth soloing to the vocal free backdrop, while ‘Surface Tension’ from ANALYSIS is an appealing instrumental.

The strangely accessible weirdness of CHRIS & COSEY’s ‘This Is Me’, MYSTERY PLANE’s ‘Something To Prove’ and the gritty ‘Brix’ from PORTION CONTROL will delight those more into the leftfield, while AK-47’s ‘Stop! Dance!’, the work of Simon Leonard (later of I START COUNTING and KOMPUTER fame) is another DIY experiment in that aesthetic vein.

Some tracks are interesting but not essential like Richard Bone’s ‘Alien Girl’ which comes over like an amusing pub singer SILICON TEENS, Johnny Warman’s appealing robopop on ‘Will You Dance With Me?’ and the synth dressed New Wave of ‘Close-Up’ by THOSE FRENCH GIRLS. For something more typically artschool, there’s the timpani laden ‘Taboos’ by THE PASSAGE and SECOND LAYER’s screechy ‘In Bits’.

More surprising is Swedish songstress Virna Lindt with her ‘Young & Hip’ which oddly combines showtune theatrics with blippy synth and ska! The set ends rather fittingly with Cherry Red’s very own EYELESS IN GAZA with the abstract atmospherics of ‘The Eyes Of Beautiful Losers’ although they too would eventually produce their own rousing synthpop statement ‘Sunbursts In’ in 1984.

Outside of the music, the booklet is a bit disappointing with the photos of OMD, TEARS FOR FEARS, HEAVEN 17, B-MOVIE and a glam-bouffanted Kim Wilde all coming from the wrong eras. And while the liner notes provide helpful information on the lesser known acts, clangers such as stating Toyah’s ‘Thunder In The Mountains’ was from the album ‘The Changeling’ when it was a standalone 45, “GONG’s Mike Hewlett” and “memorable sleeve designs by Malcolm Garrett’s Altered IMaGes” do not help those who wish to discover the origins of those accumulated gems.

But these quibbles aside, overall ‘Musik Music Musique 2.0’ is a good collection, although with fewer rare jewels compared with the first 1980 volume which perhaps points to the fact that those who had the shine to breakthrough actually did… 40 years on though, many of those hit making acts (or variations of) are still performing live in some form.

Was 1981 the most important year in synth as far becoming ubiquitous in the mainstream and hitting the top of the charts internationally? With VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ becoming a West German No1 in Spring 1981 through to SOFT CELL taking the summer topspot in the UK and culminating in THE HUMAN LEAGUE eventually taking ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ to No1 in the US, the sound of synth had done its job. Setting the scene for 1982 and 1983, further editions of ‘Musik Music Musique’ are planned.


‘Musik Music Musique 2.0 1981 – The Rise Of Synth Pop’ is released on 15th October 2021 as a 3CD boxed set

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/musik-music-musique-2-0-the-rise-of-synth-pop-3cd-clamshell-box/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th October 2021

Fly – Songs Inspired By The Film Eddie The Eagle

‘Eddie The Eagle’ is a biopic by ‘X-Men: First Class’ director Matthew Vaughn about Eddie Edwards, who represented Team GB in ski-jumping at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

It was the same Olympics which inspired the Disney film ‘Cool Runnings’ about Jamaica’s first bobsleigh team entry!

Based on true events, the film stars Taron Egerton as Eddie Edwards and Hugh Jackman as Edwards’ fictional trainer.

Whereas ‘Cool Runnings’ had artists performing cover versions for the soundtrack, ‘Fly – Songs Inspired by the film Eddie The Eagle’ differs in having a collection of original songs curated by Gary Barlow, each recorded by British artists who are now usually seen frequenting retrospective events such as Rewind, Here & Now and Let’s Rock.

So, a concept album based around the legend of a bespectacled plasterer, featuring contributions from members of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, SOFT CELL, SPANDAU BALLET, ULTRAVOX, ERASURE and OMD, in collaboration with a member of TAKE THAT? On paper, this is a terrible idea!

But Gary Barlow has long been an admirer of ULTRAVOX in particular; his 2010 interpolation of ‘Vienna’ for the track ‘Eight Letters’ on TAKE THAT’s Stuart Price produced album ‘Progress’ resulted in the rather unusual writing credit of Barlow / Donald / Orange / Owen / Williams / Ure / Cross / Cann / Currie. The TAKE THAT track ‘Love Love’ for the film ‘X-Men: First Class’ also indicated Barlow’s interest in electro forms.

The era in which ‘Eddie The Eagle’ reigned has been symbolised by both aspiration and fighting against the odds, and that comes across in the song titles.

As a side note, it is interesting how with the political climate that existed during this time, this project has gathered musicians whose politics cover the whole colour spectrum, from the Jeremy Corbyn supporting Martyn Ware to the self-confessed Tory boy Tony Hadley. While some say politics should be kept separate from music, many would argue music is an artistic reflection of the incumbent environment. So what of the music?

Holly Johnson’s ‘Ascension’ is typically epic, recalling a steadily building uptempo reboot of ‘The Power Of Love’, while ‘Out Of The Sky’ sees Marc Almond tackling his most overtly electro number for many years. Having previously shared a stage with Gary Barlow and earned some extra royalties too, Midge Ure’s ‘Touching Hearts & Skies’ stands quite ably within the concept as a tune reminiscent of ULTRAVOX’s classic synth rock.

Having found success outside of OMD with the first incarnation of ATOMIC KITTEN including a No1 in ‘Whole Again’, Andy McCluskey has a proven pedigree in mainstream pop spheres. He does a good job in co-writing with Barlow on ‘Thrill Me’, which is sung by the film’s two stars.

Taron Egerton won ‘The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year’ while at RADA and Hugh Jackman of course appeared in the musical epic ‘Les Misérables’; so their combined capabilities in the vocal department stop the song from becoming an ironic novelty. According to McCluskey, Egerton and Jackman’s vocals were recorded without his knowledge! Unsurprisingly ‘Thrill Me’ does sound like ‘Sugar Tax’ era OMD, crossed with imperial ‘Everything Changes’ phase TAKE THAT. Who’d have thunk it eh?

Nik Kershaw is another with a songwriting career outside of his own, penning ‘The One & Only’ for Chesney Hawkes back in 1991; ‘The Sky’s The Limit’ is an archetypical MTV friendly ballad that could have been made back then, with hints of A-HA and SAVAGE GARDEN.

One of the songs not part of the original ‘Fly’ concept is HEAVEN 17’s ‘Pray’; previously released by Messrs Ware and Gregory in 2014, it’s a terrific hybrid of the early avant phase of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ‘Young Americans’ era Bowie. This slice of prime electronic soul is a stand-out on the collection and proof that the Sheffield masters still have it.

But members of the HEAVEN 17 crew do contribute to the energetically synthy engine room of Kim Wilde’s ‘Without Your Love’. It’s an enjoyable homage to her earlier sound, co-written by Glenn Gregory and live H17 keyboardist Berenice Scott in collaboration with Barlow.

Tony Hadley does his overblown Foghorn party piece on ‘Moment’ and Spandau fans will be more than happy with the end result, others perhaps not so.

The often under rated Howard Jones delivers the enjoyable modern schaffel stomp of ‘Eagle Will Fly Again’, while the blue-eyed soul offerings from ABC and GO WEST will satisfy their existing fans. However, Paul Young appears to have lost his voice on the vintage widescreen AOR of ‘People Like You’. Meanwhile on the autotuned ‘Fly’, Andy Bell actually starts to sound more like Tony Hadley than Alison Moyet!

Like with the music from back in the day, some of it is brilliant, some of it is likeable and some of it you’d rather not hear again.

But that in an essence, is why music derived from this period still resonates today… it was about songs and melodies, not tuneless dance excursions or ultra-fast talking supposedly passing for vocals. ‘Fly – Songs Inspired By The Film Eddie The Eagle’ is an interesting curio as a “Where Are They Now?” snapshot. Whatever your tastes, there is a good reason why all of the artists featured on this album still have a career performing.


‘Fly – Songs Inspired by the film Eddie The Eagle’ is released as a CD and download by Universal Music Enterprises

http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/eddie-the-eagle

https://www.facebook.com/EddieTheEagleMovie/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th March 2016

BEF Live At Shepherds Bush Empire

BEF finally played the first of two special concerts featuring an impressive line-up of guest vocalists to celebrate the three volume high-tech covers series ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ and in particular, the latest release subtitled ‘Dark’.

Announced on stage by its musical director Martyn Ware as “the last ever BEF concerts”, the production company made its live debut as part of a dual weekender with its most successful subsidiary HEAVEN 17 in Autumn 2011.

Taking place at The Roundhouse in London, it was a gloriously ambitious outing which included the likes of Sandie Shaw, Boy George, Kim Wilde and Midge Ure. Tonight’s show was in the slightly more intimate confines of Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

It provided an opportunity to showcase a number of songs that had not been aired at the last BEF show. It is always to their credit that the BEF / HEAVEN 17 umbrella always give value for money to their loyal followers by varying setlists, something which other acts from the Synth Britannia era who still tour could learn from.

Naturally, Glenn Gregory opened proceedings with a song that could be seen as 2013’s electronic music scene theme tune ‘It Was a Very Good Year’.

With its eerie HUMAN LEAGUE meets THE FUGEES breakbeat arrangement, it was a fine opening that reflected Martyn Ware’s electronic roots with his love of contemporary soul and classic songwriting.

But there were surprises from the off…

First guest Andy Bell from ERASURE gave an emotive rendition of QUEEN’s ‘Love Of My Life’ in addition to his contribution to the impressively diverse ‘Dark’, KATE BUSH’s ‘Breathing’.  Then one of the ‘Dark’ album’s best numbers ‘Don’t Wanna Know’ got its premiere courtesy of COMMUNARDS singer Sarah Jane-Morris.

The contrast of her deep blues with the blippy electronics came over like a darker gothic version of YAZOO. Slightly more laid back but no less dramatic, her version of ‘Family Affair’ also highlighted the funkier standpoints of the BEF sound.

HEAVEN 17’s contemporaries SCRITTI POLITTI’s Green Gartside and PROPAGANDA’s Claudia Brücken took their turns on the stage with Green reprising his raspy tones on ‘Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time’ and ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You’. Meanwhile Claudia (who didn’t actually appear on the ‘Dark’ album as she was recording her own covers LP ‘The Lost Are Found’) gave a beautifully Germanic edged realisation of ‘The Look of Love’ that recalled ‘Felt Mountain’ era GOLDFRAPP and a finger-clickin’ good ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’.

But there were a trio of amazingly heartfelt performances; first Glenn Gregory performed ‘Party Fears Two’ which he first sung at this very same venue in 2007 for the Billy Mackenzie 50th Birthday Tribute Concert.

It was a fitting remembrance of the late vocalist from THE ASSOCIATES who sang on Volumes 1 and 2. Trained undertaker and singer/songwriter David J Roch gave his Moroder-esque spacey disco take of Bill Withers’ ‘Same Love’, one of the stand-out tracks on ‘Dark’.

However, the biggest surprise of the evening came when regular HEAVEN 17 / BEF live band member Berenice Scott stepped out from behind her keyboards for a dazzling cinematic rendition of BLONDIE’s ‘Picture This’.

Endearingly sung by “possibly the sexiest lady ever to have got behind a synthesizer”, the crowd was aghast with her vocal abilities; it came as such a surprise that it almost stole the show. The extremely modest Miss Scott though had actually ventured back to her keys before the lengthy song’s conclusion, so didn’t quite feel the full weight of applause that acknowledged her performance.

On the final stretch, The Swiss Family Wilde took to the stage with Kim joined by her niece Scarlett and brother Ricky for a Motown triple tribute. Beginning with the magnificent but little known Stevie Wonder composition ‘Every Time I See You I Go Wild’, the spine tingling industrial backdrop suited Ms Wilde’s vampish demeanour. Then it was a pair of Hitsville classics that featured on the first volume of ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ series ‘There’s A Ghost in My House’ and ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ which Kim had a hit with herself back in 1986.

With Tamla influences very much dominating this section of the show, it was appropriate that to finish was an extended workout of ‘Temptation’. Centred around the band’s two backing vocalists Billie Godfrey and Kelly Barnes, the pair had already demonstrated their power particularly on their respective interpretations of ‘Smalltown Boy’ and ‘Just Walk In My Shoes’. The spectacle of the pair engaged in a battle of the disco lung smiths was a wondrous delight

This evening of fun and frolics was a marvellous achievement on the part of Martyn Ware and the BEF band Asa Bennett, Julian Crampton and Berenice Scott for their abilities and professionalism in learning and playing so many songs for effectively a one-off event. It is a shame that there will be no more BEF events such as these but they are an extremely big logistical undertaking. But then again, for anyone who attended this or the Sheffield Academy show, or The Roundhouse back in 2011, these will be special memories to be cherished for a long time.


Setlist:

It Was A Very Good Year (featuring Glenn Gregory)

Breathing (featuring Andy Bell)

Love Of My Life (featuring Andy Bell)

Don’t Want to Know (featuring Sarah Jane Morris)

Family Affair (featuring Sarah Jane Morris)

Smalltown Boy (featuring Billie Godfrey)

Free (featuring Billie Godfrey)

Co-Pilot The Pilot (featuring Kelly Barnes)

Walk In My Shoes (featuring Kelly Barnes)

Party Fears Two (featuring Glenn Gregory)

Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time (featuring Green Gartside)

I Don’t Know Why I Love You (featuring Green Gartside)

Picture This (featuring Berenice Scott)

The Look Of Love (featuring Claudia Brücken)

These Boots Were Made For Walking (featuring Claudia Brücken)

Every Time I See You Go Wild (featuring Kim Wilde)

There’s A Ghost In My House (featuring Kim Wilde)

You Keep Me Hanging On (featuring Kim Wilde)

Boys Keep Swinging (featuring Glenn Gregory)

Temptation (featuring Glenn Gregory, Billie Godfrey and Kelly Barnes)


‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 3 – Dark’ is released by Wall Of Sound and available as a CD and download

‘Martyn Ware Presents…’ takes place as part of the Virgin 40 celebrations at London’s Koko on Monday 11th November 2013.

Material spanning his entire career will be performed including HEAVEN 17 and from his time as a founder member of THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Please visit  http://www.koko.uk.com/listings/martyn-ware-presents-heaven-17-11-11-2013 and http://www.virgin40.com/ for more details

http://www.britishelectricfoundation.com

http://www.facebook.com/BritishElectricFoundation/

http://www.heaven17.com/bef/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price
9th October 2013

BEF Featuring KIM WILDE Every Time I See You I Go Wild

The new video for BEF’s ‘Every Time I See You I Go Wild’ sees Kim Wilde turn into ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ for a battle against vampires and other forces of evil.

Directed by Paul D, it also sees cameos from BEF mainman Martyn Ware, Wall Of Sound supremo Mark Jones and post-punk music personality Mr Normall. It comes from the third volume of the ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ series and subtitled ‘Dark’,

The striking electronic cover of the Northern Soul favourite is best known in a version by JJ Barnes but was written by Stevie Wonder. However, it appears to have confused some of Kim Wilde’s fanbase, rather like earlier in the year when OMD released ‘Metroland’ to mixed responses from their followers who couldn’t understand why the band had recorded an electronic track influenced by KRAFTWERK!

But this has to be expected when acts have careers spanning 30 years with periods of mainstream international success. This BEF recording actually takes Kim back to her synthesized beginnings with songs such as ‘Kids In America’, rather than huge sellers such as ‘You Came’ and ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’, a SUPREMES cover which has also been reworked by BEF!

Arranged by THE MODIFIED TOY ORCHESTRA’s Paul Duffy, ‘Every Time I See You I Go Wild’ features just Roland System 100, a marvellous user friendly synth that was the mainstay of early HUMAN LEAGUE, BEF and HEAVEN 17, courtesy of its esteemed operator Martyn Ware.

So what’s there not to like about an electronic Northern Soul cover… after all, one of the biggest selling singles of the Synth Britannia era happened to be one of those 😉


‘Every Time I See You I Go Wild’ is from the BEF album ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 3 – Dark’ and released as a single by Wall Of Sound on 19th August 2013

www.britishelectricfoundation.com

www.facebook.com/BritishElectricFoundation/

www.heaven17.com/bef/

https://www.kimwilde.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th July 2013

BEF Music Of Quality & Distinction Vol3 – Dark

The third volume in BRITISH ELECTRIC FOUNDATION’s ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ series has been long awaited.

Subtitled ‘Dark’, it was first announced back in 2007 and the majority of it was premiered at a special BEF weekend showcase at The Roundhouse in 2011.

‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Vol1’ was issued in 1982 to great fanfare, a sophisticated K-Tel album recorded under the musical directorship of Martyn Ware, then recently departed from THE HUMAN LEAGUE and soon to find fame as part of HEAVEN 17.

Featuring vocalists such as Tina Turner, Sandie Shaw, Paul Jones and Billy Mackenzie, it was a critical if not a commercial success but effectively revived the career of the Soul Siren born Anna Mae Bullock as well as kickstarting Ware’s impressive production portfolio which later encompassed ASSOCIATES and ERASURE.

1991 saw the release of ‘Music of Quality & Distinction Vol2’ which had much more of a mainstream soul vibe; Tina Turner and Billy Mackenzie returned while other notable vocalists included Chaka Khan, Billy Preston, Green Gartside and Terence Trent D’Arby whose massive selling debut ‘Introducing The Hardline…’ was produced by Ware.

The concept of ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 3 – Dark’ though is dark interpretations of perceivably upbeat songs.

The chilling, stark electronics and eerie soundtrack arrangements on several tracks have led to Ware producing some of his most distinctly industrialised work since his days with THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The tremendous opener ‘Every Time I See You I Go Wild’ is a case in point.

Using just a Roland System 100, instrumentally it could have come from ‘The Dignity Of Labour’ or ‘Reproduction’while Kim Wilde’s spirited vocal adds a human twist to what sounds like THE HUMAN LEAGUE meets DEPECHE MODE. There’s even a tongue-in-cheek reference to ‘Don’t You Want Me’ thrown into the metallic mix for good measure!

Another great fusion of soul mechanics is ‘Don’t Wanna Know’, a John Martyn cover voiced by former COMMUNARDS co-vocalist Sarah Jane Morris. Still sounding like a lower register Jimmy Sommerville, Morris’ bluesy tones contrast well with the synthesized backing. In a variation to the theme, Green Gartside adds his distinctive raspy touch on The Delfonics’ ‘Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time’ which absorbs the senses with its silky sonics and complimentary guitar textures.

Andy Bell provides one of the album’s standouts with his rendition of Kate Bush’s ‘Breathing’. A song that was never that upbeat in the first place, its narrative on the nuclear holocaust is given an even more disturbing counterpoint when Bell audibly recites scientific data on the effects of an attack.

While Bell’s distinctive timbre remains intact, on the orchestrated rock of ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, Boy George takes on a turn of deadpan and aggression that makes him almost unrecognisable! One of the stars of the BEF showcase at The Roundhouse, his onstage tale about going with Martyn Ware to see Gary Glitter in concert and getting the convicted felon’s autograph was priceless; “I don’t think it’s worth much money now” he quipped! That alone deserves a second track and appropriately enough, it is a near faithful ‘Make Up’ from Lou Reed’s ‘Transformer’. “We’re coming out…out of our closets” indeed!

Another thematic pairing comes with the return of the barefoot Queen of Pop, Sandie Shaw. After tackling ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ on ‘Vol1’, she gives it some Northern Soul welly on ‘Just Walk In My Shoes’, a tune written by one-time Motown signings The Lewis Sisters.

Meanwhile the Bacharach and David cover duties on ‘Dark’ go to the kooky Polly Scattergood who delivers a lovely ‘Felt Mountain’ era Goldfrapp styled performance of ‘The Look of Love’.

Trivia fact: ‘The Look Of Love’ (which featured in the original film version of ‘Casino Royale’) was beaten to the 1968 Oscar for Best Original Song by ‘Talk To The Animals’ from ‘Doctor Dolittle’!

‘Dark’ is a large collection of work, 16 songs in all and they appear to fall into three categories. As well as dark electronics, there are more contemporary dance assisted numbers and filmic ballads. Of the dancier numbers; melodramatic Sheffield newcomer David J Roch doing Bill Withers’ ‘Same Love’ is one of the big surprises with an emotive neo-acappella intro segueing into a meaty pulsing bassline, spacey whistles and haunting invader games.

HEAVEN 17 backing vocalist Billie Godfrey features on a similar but extended treatment of Bronski Beat’s ‘Smalltown Boy’ while Maxim aka Max Pokrovsky of the Moscow-based rock band Nogu Svelo! goes all campy Europop on an enjoyably over-the-top reading of ABBA’s ‘The Day Before You Came’; a virtual unknown before ‘Dark’… not anymore! The clarinet solo just sums up how gloriously loopy this rendition is!

The late Billy Mackenzie left this earth in 1997 and after his presence on the first two volumes, ‘Dark’ would not be complete without his legacy being represented.

This comes in the shape of a sparse, slowed down waltz rendition of ‘Party Fears Two’ by Glenn Gregory which first appeared on HEAVEN 17’s 08 versions compilation ‘Naked As Advertised’. An unexpected inclusion, this is an important centrepiece that sits well with the other songs in the compendium.

And Gregory almost steals the show with Frank Sinatra’s ‘It Was a Very Good Year’. Held together by a sampled drum loop and dressed with Ware’s bubbling synths, Gregory makes a perfect crooner in the tradition of Scott Walker, with echoes of his ‘Always Coming Back To You’ in the delivery. The 60 year old song itself takes on a magnificent dimension that will please any early HEAVEN 17 fan.

However, ‘God Only Knows’ and ‘Picture This’ performed respectively by Shingai Shinowa from The Noisettes and Kate Jackson from The Long Blondes are, while sweetly performed, possibly the two least essential items to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s ears on this album. But, such are the strengths of Ware’s curation and production that they are highly likely to be appeal to others. And this is one of the important selling points of ‘Dark’… there really is something for everyone.

Ending with new HEAVEN 17 backing vocalist Kelly Barnes on Teena Marie’s ‘Co-pilot To Pilot’, this is maybe the most incongruous item on the set with the backing track having been originally recorded for ‘Music of Quality & Distinction Vol2’.

Its Trans-Atlantic soul vintage is quite apparent, especially when belted out in that classic manner by the Macclesfield youngster.

Overall, ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 3 – Dark’ is a worthy adventure and Martyn Ware can pat himself on the back for realising his most challenging project to date. Whereas the first two volumes had record label support, ‘Dark’ has been self-funded, hence the time span of the work; Ware’s dedication, musical ear and co-ordinating abilities deserve recognition and reward.


‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 3 – Dark’ is released by Wall Of Sound on 27th May 2013 as a single CD, deluxe 2CD with bonus instrumental disc and download

http://britishelectricfoundation.com/

http://www.facebook.com/BritishElectricFoundation/

http://www.heaven17.com/bef/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price and Chi Ming Lai
21st May 2013

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