Album Review – 12″/80s

Various Artists -’12″/80s Chilled.’ (Commercial Marketing)
Various Artists -’12″/80s New Wave.’ (Commercial Marketing)

Originally finding favour on the disco and reggae scenes in the 1970s, by the 1980s 12″ singles were pretty ubiquitous for most releases. It gave rise to multi-formatting, which was seized upon by indie labels and majors alike as a way to sell as many copies of the same single to eager punters, rather than simply different picture sleeves or different coloured vinyl. [ By the mid-1990s meant that punters were often feeling like they had to have both CD singles, with a varying quality of extra tracks]. There was an art to the 12″ single, and the 12″/80s series has been running for the best part of a decade now, gathering together a wide variety of releases from the decade in an often long-unavailable mix for the public. These were for clubs and homes, being too long for radio play in most cases.

12 80s chilled

Of the two releases, …Chilled is perhaps the better of the two. ‘Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s ‘Extended Souvenir’ is even better than the original, Culture Club’s ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me’ is rendered even better with added toasting and David Sylvian turns up twice, fronting Japan with their cover of ‘I Second That Emotion’ and collaborating with Ryuichi Sakamoto on ‘Forbidden Colours. There are examples of how 12″ mixes could overegg the pudding – the six minute version of Aha’s ‘Hunting High And Low’ messes around with the structure of the song, to the extent that it misplaces the drama of the original. What still astounds years later is the (mashup? medley?) of ‘Tainted Dub/Where Did Our Love Go?’ as Soft Cell combine not one but two classic soul numbers into a piece over nine minutes long. (****)

New Wave has it’s moments, too. I have found the original version of Classix Nouveaux’s ‘Is It A Dream’ to be horrifically shrill, and yet the 12″ version here reveals an underlying beauty. The eight minute version of UB40’s ‘The Earth Dies Screaming’ reminds us that UB40 were much better writing their own songs and had quite an edge, before they decided to spend the majority of their career turning out one limp cover version after another. Much as I admire Grace Jones, her take on Joy Divison’s ‘She’s Lost Control’ can really only have the redeeming feature that it probably provided royalties for Ian Curtis’ family. But then again, when The Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘ the Beat’s Twist & Crawl’ appear here too, in glorious long-form, anything can be forgiven. (***1/2)

Given that most people will be familiar with songs in edited shorter format, it may be play with how you remember these songs. But these two compilations are well worth checking out.

12″/80s Chilled and 12″/80s New Wave are out now on Commercial Marketing

Album Review – David Sylvian


David Sylvian -‘A Victim Of Stars 1982-2012’ (EMI)

Like Green Gartside, Elvis Costello or David Byrne (to pick three names), David Sylvian is one of a handful of artists who rose to fame in the late 1970s (in his case, fronting Japan) and who has continued to make vastly original music on his own terms, making quantum leaps over the decades. In Sylvian’s case, a similar comparison might also be made to that of Talk Talk; both acts produced music that at one point could turn up on ‘Hits of the 80s’-type compilations, but progressed to show a pastoral side, incorporating jazz and ambient sounds, and even touching on modern classical.

On a simple level, it could be said that this album is a compilation of Sylvian’s work over the last thirty years once Japan had split up, up to the present day. But it’s a fascinating journey listening to how he has evolved over that time, with that gorgeous tenor voice still in place. The 2CD compilation starts of with a remix of ‘Ghosts’, Japan’s biggest hit (still astonishing even now to think that this piece of music oculd have been a bone fide hit ) which is sympathetic to the original (to the point of being barely indistinguishable, to these ears, at any rate) and concludes with the one new track ‘Gravity.’

Along the way of course, there’s a number of highlights that everyone should hear. His collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamato ‘Forbidden Colours.’ ‘Let The Happiness In.’ ‘Pop Song.’ ‘Jean The Birdman.’ The exquisite ‘I Surrender’ (all nine minutes of it) from 1999’s Dead Bees On A Cake.

It’s not all easy on the ear, by any means -‘The Only Daughter’ is a wonderful but challenging piece of music (‘song’ suggests that these are clinging to a conventional template, which he has done progressively less and less over the last thirty-five years). But it’s worth being challenged by. And it’s worth reminding yourself of one of the most orginal talents, collaborators and singers that Britain has ever produced.


A Victim Of Stars 1982-2012 is released on EMI on February 27.