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The Hit Factory - The Soundtrack To A Missed Opportunity
on 20 July 2012
Deluxe editions of albums are now relatively common, but a deluxe edition of a back catalogue compilation is something I've not encountered before. The PWL/Stock-Aitken-Waterman production sound dominated the charts in the latter half of the 80s and there's a wealth of released and rare material to pick from. Sadly, the deluxe edition follows the conventional route of new releases and adds a bonus disc - which seems like a missed opportunity. Casual listeners will be catered for with the standard two disc release, whereas the deluxe edition could have worked harder in terms of offering up the rarer tracks and mixes. And ultimately that's what most people buying this deluxe edition want - along with liner notes and decent artwork (for a deluxe edition CD it feels remarkably cheap with no booklet and all the credits underneath each disc).
CDs 1 and 2 offer a 39 track retrospective, the third such outing in 12 years. A lot of the same tracks are dragged out again, and it's questionable how many people really needed `I'd rather Jack' after its inclusion twice on the `Gold' compilation. Similarly Steps - who were neither signed to PWL or produced by S/A/W - notch up two appearances. Bafflingly, Lonnie Gordon also has two cuts across these CDs - the same as Bananarama and Hazell Dean - despite the fact that `Beyond Your Wildest Dreams' never bothered the Top 40. Donna Summer's work is missing in action, presumably because of her recent passing. A track by Loveland and a pointless megamix also pad out the first two discs, meaning that CD rarities like Carol Hitchcock, Sequal, and Dolly Dots are absent. One pleasant surprise is that Kylie's version of `Better the Devil' is absent in favour of `Hand On Your Heart' - but sadly not the video mix, which has yet to make it on to a CD release. We know from the iTunes and Cherry Pop releases that there's plenty of alternative single mixes out there, it just isn't making the cut.
CD 3 is where it gets interesting. Because of their studio process S/A/W often started with the extended version and trimmed it down to create the single edit. So a disc of extended mixes really plays to their strengths. You may not be familiar with all the tracks, but the production is classic Hit Factory. `Looking good diving', which would later become Neneh Cherry's `Buffalo Stance' is also a fascinating listen. The Billy the Fish mix of Kylie's `What Do I Have To Do' is a treat.
Ultimately I would have been happy with a 3CD set that had one disc of alternative hit single mixes - Donna Summer's `Love About To Change My Heart', to name but one - and two discs of rarities and extended mixes. I don't know how that would have affected the overall sales of this edition - but I do know that I'm more frustrated at what's missing rather than happy with what's included. Not enough to deter me from buying it though!