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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...I Know A Place...Where Everything's Alright..." - Hats by THE BLUE NILE (2012 2CD Remaster)
*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 2012 2CD REISSUE ***

I can't be rational about "Hats" - few who love THE BLUE NILE can be. But little will prepare fans for this beautifully remastered reissue of their 1989 masterpiece - sonically up there with the very best 2012 has to offer. Here are the finite details...

Released Monday 19 November 2012 in the UK -...
Published on 2 Mar 2008 by Mark Barry

versus
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly disappointing ....
This is a welcome re-release. The record has been sensitively remastered and sounds more powerful than ever. The artwork has also been reproduced well but, as with the reissue of A Walk Across The Rooftops, the new photos are predominantly of the band in America - an odd choice for a band and an album so redolent of Scotland. Perhaps a clue as to the marketing strategy...
Published on 24 Nov 2012 by Siward Atkins


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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...I Know A Place...Where Everything's Alright..." - Hats by THE BLUE NILE (2012 2CD Remaster), 2 Mar 2008
By 
Mark Barry "Mark Barry" (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Hats (Audio CD)
*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 2012 2CD REISSUE ***

I can't be rational about "Hats" - few who love THE BLUE NILE can be. But little will prepare fans for this beautifully remastered reissue of their 1989 masterpiece - sonically up there with the very best 2012 has to offer. Here are the finite details...

Released Monday 19 November 2012 in the UK - Virgin/Linn Records LKHCDR 2 (5099901730029) breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (38:48 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 7 are their second album "Hats" - released October 1989 on LP, MC and CD in the UK on Linn Records LKH 2. The first CD issue carried with it a single page inlay with virtually no details and sound quality that was good rather than great. This is the first remaster of the album - handled by Calum Malcolm (a member of the original line-up and long-time Producer for the group) along with Band members Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell (US customers should use the barcode number provided above to get the right issue when searching on Amazon.com).

Like the other title in this reissue campaign (their debut "A Walk Across The Rooftops" from 1984) - the remaster is again breathtaking. The danger would have been to amp everything up - but it's not like that. It's subtle, clean and beautifully realized. "Hats" was put out initially on Linn Records - Linn were (and still are) a high-end turntable manufacturer - and audio quality is their 'thing'. Well those initial production values have served this subtle remaster well - because the detail now is fantastic.

As the echoed drums of "Over The Hillside" fade in with that synth and drums - the smack is immediate - 'so' sweet. It continues with the album's first hit "The Downtown Lights" (later covered by Rod Stewart and Annie Lennox) - when the guitars begin to crescendo towards its six and half minute end - it's so much more powerful. But then comes the album's first real moment of magic - the hurting yet gorgeously romantic "Let's Go Out Tonight" - a song I've seen people cry to when I was at their live gigs. The slow trumpet and acoustic sounds swirl around the room - "...why don't you say...what's so wrong tonight..." - beautifully done - a song that was old now made new again (lyrics from it title this review).

The kick out of the bopping "Headlights On The Parade" is again amplified - especially the bass and walls of synth-counter-melodies that arrive when Buchanan sings the chorus. But then comes the two album sleepers which in my opinion benefit the most from this sonic upgrade - "From A Late Night Train" and "Seven A.M." - their ethereal and aching nature suddenly feel more poignant than ever - so deftly handled. And last - probably everyone's favourite - the impossibly gorgeous "Saturday Night". By now my stroke-addled eyes are bloodied and the cheeks puffy - I'm mush for this song. I fell in love with my wife and partner of 23 years to this melody - walking down streets with my Sony Discman singing "...an ordinary girl...can make the world alright...meet me outside the cherry lights...you and I walk away..." I defy the hardest of hearts not to be moved by it.

But again (like "A Walk Across The Rooftops") the packaging and bonus disc are a combination of missed opportunities and genuine discoveries. The minimalist gatefold card digipak is pretty for sure (the internal flaps are the plain blue colour of the sleeve too) - but the 16-page booklet is fluffy and vague rather than being informative. There's a series of colour photos from the time - but with no history - no liner notes - no lyrics - no input from the band - not even any real info on the 'bonus' stuff (the last page literally). Frankly - an acknowledged masterpiece like "Hats" deserved a little more effort than this. But things improve a lot with some shocking new discoveries on the 'bonus disc'...

Disc 2 - Bonus Disc (33:19 minutes):
Exclusions first - the 'Bob Clearmountain Remix' of "Headlights On The Parade" and the beautiful duet with Rickie Lee Jones on "Easter Parade" (both tracks on the 12's and CD singles of 1990) are missing. The non-album track "Halfway To Paradise" and the Edit of "Saturday Night" that were on varying CD singles are both AWOL too. But what is on here is surprisingly good...

Track 2 is "Christmas" - a Previously Unreleased five-minute studio song. There's no annotation as to where it came from and its hissy - but its also pretty - lyrically festive as the title suggests. But if I'm to be honest - I don't think it's as good as the previously unreleased track "St. Catherine's Day" on the "Walk" reissue (which sounds suspiciously like an outtake from the "Hats" period - perhaps put on there to bolster up proceedings). Having said that - and having lived with it a day or two now - it's gently growing on me. Fans will make up their own mind of course...

Track 6 is "The Wires Are Down" - a six-minute non-album song that turned on the 12" and 3" CD single of "The Downtown Lights" in 1989. The sound quality on that was always weedy - here its remastered form is an absolute revelation. Suddenly sounding all grown up - "The Wires Are Down" is a genuine bonus track now - and one of the highlights on Disc 2. But there's even better...

Although not stated as 'new' - Tracks 1, 3, 4 and 5 are previously unreleased versions. First up is "Seven A.M. - Live In The Studio". Fans will know that there was a non-album version on the 1990 "Saturday Night" CD single called "Seven A.M. (Live U.S.A.)" - this is NOT that track. "Live In The Studio" is a fully-fledged new version with fabulous sound quality. Track 5 is a "Live In Tennessee" version of "Headlights On The Parade" recorded with Larry Saltzman, Steve Gaboury and Nigel Thomas on some unknown date. Again - it is well recorded - and a good version with crowd appreciation at the end. But then comes the real prizes - two new versions of people's favourites - "Let's Go Out Tonight" and "Saturday Night". They're called "Vocal 2" in each case and offer early versions of the songs - the "Saturday Night" take in particular hears Buchanan go off into lyric rapping at the end and accentuates the strings throughout - it's properly gorgeous. Joyful surprises...

To sum up - the remaster of the original album is an absolute triumph - 10 out of 10. Ok - the side is let down somewhat by the bare-knuckles packaging and those sloppy omissions on Disc 2 - and it doesn't take a Mensa membership card to work out that the playing times of both discs could have been amalgamated into one (with more added on too) - and the second disc could have been a DVD featuring those rare videos - but - and I must reiterate this - what's on offer is superb - and worth the upgrade.

"Hats" has been name-checked by influential music-industry-types and world-famous musicians for decades now as their 'what to grab when the bomb drops' album - and I'm thrilled to say that this 2CD reissue of it does that affection genuinely proud. Melodious, sad and life affirming - "Hats" is a beautiful thing. And it's just been made better.

Now if we could just get those stroppy Scottish buggers to tour again...

PS: there is also a 2012 2CD Virgin/Linn DELUXE EDITION of "A Walk Across The Rooftops" - their debut album from 1984 - see separate review
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Words are not enough, 17 Jan 2005
This review is from: Hats (Audio CD)
I've known the Blue Nile since they've launched their second album, Hats. Other reviewers do a better job than me in singing the glories of this music so I'll content myself in stating bluntly the pure simple matter of fact: Hats is an absolute masterpiece of music.
To me, it is the best of all (just 4!) the Blue Nile albums and it is in that terrible list of "the 5 records to take to a desert island". Can music ever be so melankolic and at the same time so joyously happy? Can it sound so despairing and ultimately brimming with hope and enchantment? Yes, the Blue Nile answer yes with this album.
I'd like to end up this review with a three-sentence personal story: I once lend Hats to the woman I loved. I already knew by then that there was no hope. Hats did not moved her.
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Blue Nile - Frank Sinatra is alive and well and lives in Glasgow!, 25 Feb 2007
By 
Red on Black - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Hats (Audio CD)
There must be a case for personally hunting down and sticking pins into strange dolls if smart detective work can discover what madman wrote the official Amazon description on "Hats". This sublime album by an elusive bunch of Scottish Minstrels is one of the best British albums of any decade and a very rare gem. What it is not is "anthemic like U2" and neither does it "compare to Simply Red and Deacon Blue". Let us for the sake of goodwill extend the milk of human kindess and hope that the author of this heinous claptrap was successful in his or her GSCE Music exam since these comparisons are laughable and "Hats" deserves a whole better than these shoddy musical "bedmates". All Blue Nile albums are essentially markers in time and the yawning gaps between their production seems to grow ever longer. Yet the sparsity of their output over the years and a host of great albums cannot hide the fact that "Hats" is the masterpiece. Granted many will feel a warm glow when passing mention is made of "Tinseltown in the rain" and especially the summer atmospherics of Heat-wave. Equally when it comes to " Peace at last" amongst its vinyl grooves are to be found superb melodrama of "Family Life" and the exhilaration of "Body and Soul" but also if truth be told a couple of duffers. The same also true of "High" although "Stay close" should be the Scottish national anthem.

On "Hats" every song is perfect in every way. No real point in singling any out. What you should do is listen to them in key settings. Memories flood back of a cold frosty evening when the "Downtown lights" was playing on the headphones on top of the Empire State building in New York as your reviewer surveyed this remarkable expanse and the world suddenly made sense. Five minutes of wonderful memory remain firmly locked down never to be displaced. "From a late night train" is that song when your on your own, the darkness has descended and you want to be alone locked away with the music. The beauty of it is a rare delicacy, with the Buchanan vocal completely heart wrenching and the mood set by an achingly lonesome piano and synths. The opener "Over the Hillside" creeps up on you and then explodes while "Lets go out tonight" more than any song captures the reality of our ordinary love affairs and heartbreak. There is only one person this reviewer knows who dislikes this album and he drives a Subaru, supports Man U and thinks James Blunt is brilliant. What greater recommendation could you have to get "Hats"?

Paul Buchanan has one of the most fragile and beautiful voices. Some will recall a live Radio 1 concert from the Blue Nile broadcast many years ago when in silence before a song an audience member shouted to him on stage "don't be nervous". Buchanan laughed quietly and with shy modesty retorted that he had State Registered Nurses waiting in the wings. Blue Nile are that type of band; you want them to succeed but not too much in case everyone likes them. And yes it is all a bit selfish and precarious and it is true that they deserve success as big as a continent but its not going to happen which is part of their tragedy and also their appeal. One day the truth will out and we will recognise what we missed but until then stop what your doing and immediately download it. That is an order.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly disappointing ...., 24 Nov 2012
By 
Siward Atkins "Siward Atkins" (London, London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Hats (Audio CD)
This is a welcome re-release. The record has been sensitively remastered and sounds more powerful than ever. The artwork has also been reproduced well but, as with the reissue of A Walk Across The Rooftops, the new photos are predominantly of the band in America - an odd choice for a band and an album so redolent of Scotland. Perhaps a clue as to the marketing strategy behind the reissue. The only real problem is the bonus disc: apart from one unreleased track, "Christmas", and the b side "The Wires Are Down", Virgin have troubled us with 4 largely pointless alt or live versions of tracks already on the album but left off the b sides "Halfway to Paradise" and "Our Lives" and the outtakes "Young Club" and "Broadway In the Snow". Why give us rehashes of songs we already have instead of new ones? Particularly with a band whose fans are bound to long for new, hard to find material like this. It's always amazed me, the contempt with which the majors treat their punters.

So, a slight disappointment after so long. We'll just have to keep our fingers crossed for a rarities and b sides collection one day.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best music you never heard., 31 Aug 2003
This review is from: Hats (Audio CD)
This is one of those rare albums that you come across just once or twice in your lifetime where you can put it on and just sit back, listen to it all and not come across a bum song.
Yes, there are only seven tracks, but each one is pure heaven to listen to.
The first time I played it I thought it was okay, nothing to get worked up about. Then I played it again, and again, and now, seven years on I still play it regularly.
It's a wonderful piece of music that if you fall for, you will never be able to forget it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and sober company for lonely hearts at night, 28 Mar 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Hats (Audio CD)
Hats is a CD to listen to over and over again. The Blue Nile build up a strong visual urban landscape into which the listener is easily induced by the musical and narrative lyricism of the group. The setting they have in mind is probably their native Glasgow, but you can imagine yourself wandering alone around any metropolis late at night when you listen to this. There is an overpowering sense of loneliness and lost love throughout this CD. As an emotional experience, this is probably one of the strongest that you will have. My only regret is that The Blue Nile only turn out a new release once every 6 years on average! If you feel lonely, this CD serves as a great soulmate.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful heartbreak, 24 May 2007
By 
The War Baby (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hats (Audio CD)
If that fateful day ever came when I was forced to choose a handful of desert island discs, there's a good chance that Hats would be on the list. This is one of those records that has continually found its way onto the record player and, in more recent times, the CD player.

This guy has a voice to die for, and what made the first two albums so special was the odd instrumentation that supported it. Then there is the way that the songs just keep on building in emotional intensity until you think your senses are going to burst. And the lyrics, the wonderful way that snatches of imagery paint such real and heartbreaking pictures. A very, very special collection of songs indeed for when the lights are low and the stereo turned up.

Make sure to buy this album, or A Walk Across The Rooftops, if you are new to the band. The last two albums the band did were good, but started leaning far more heavily on conventional song structures and instrumentation - for me, the Blue Nile lost something as a result.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A guide to growing up, 8 Oct 2003
By 
Matt Sephton (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Hats (Audio CD)
"Hats" tells the tale of heartbreak, growing up and finding the right girl.
This fits beautifully in between the previous album "A Walk Across The Rooftops" which is a story of teenage infatuation and the discovery of dating. And before the most recent album "Peace At Last" which is a document of adulthood, marriage and happy ever after.
Words cannot describe how beautiful and thought provoking this album is. Forget about mainstream pop rock or indie. The three albums by the Blue Nile are all you will ever need.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbearable, 6 April 2003
This review is from: Hats (Audio CD)
I can't listen to this album any more. It just has too much emotional impact. Paul Buchanan's wonderful, sad, yearning voice; the songs of heartbreak, escape and love; the way, like on Kraftwerk's "Computer World", the electronic instruments manage to create a sensual, emotional soundscape... it all adds up to a recipe for tears.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breaks your heart. Puts it back together., 10 Aug 2004
This review is from: Hats (Audio CD)
A record that illustrates a landscape. Of headlights, hillsides, late night trains. Of beauty. Of questioning what you are, where you are and who you are with. Of melancholy. Of despair. And finally irrepressible hope.
A perfect collection of music.
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