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on 24 November 2012
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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on 25 April 2012
I had heard a lot about how good the Blue Nile were, but had only ever heard one thing by them on the radio. So I gambled on this album. And I'm so glad I did - after a few listens it became one of my all-time favourites. It's hard to describe it to anyone who hasn't fallen under its spell - but if you can imagine an auditory space bounded by Tim Buckley (soaring voice but cracking with heartbreak), Scot Walker (the voice most like Paul Buchanan's, I think), "Low"-era David Bowie (synth-driven angst-expressing voice) and 80's John Martyn (he was a big fan of the Blue Nile, and the instrumentation on his 80's albums is very similar)that wil give you a rough idea of this album. Add to that mix an idea of being in an indeterminate but very specific location which could be Glasgow,or could be some American city. there are lots of references to the landscape/cityscape in the album. The Glasgow thing gets me, as my wife and daughters have lived there, so I feel as if the songs are referencing the places I know from visiting them (there's a song on the album called "Headlights on the Parade" which I initially thought was about a New York style Easter parade until it suddenly clicked that there's a main street three blocks up from them in Glasgow called "Alexandra Parade")..

And just a few comments on some of the individual songs, each of which I would give 5 star rating to. "Let's go out tonight" is - to me - an almost ubearably painfully familiar description of desperately trying to do something to salvage a folding relationship. Maybe if we went out and had some fun things would get better...but you know that when it's got to the point where you're suggesting that, it WON'T get better. "From a late night train" is another of those songs which looks outside the singer/writer to the externals of newspapers stacked up in the rain, the little towns rolling by, but only to refect the innner pain of "I know it's over now, but I can't let go..." .However, the hidden punch of this album is its last track which brings in a completely unexected note of hope. After all the loss and pain and desperate trying to keep things together of the previous 6 tracks, the final track (7)"Saturday Night" celebrates the transformative power of love and the way in which "an ordinary girl" can be loved and that way makes the world alright.

If there ever was an album that EVERYONE should own, to reflect the infinite complexities of trying to love people other than themselves,this is it.

alan jones
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on 29 December 2002
I kind of wonder if the title "Hats" wasn't something of a typo. In my universe this album should have been called "Hits", because when I first heard it in September it smacked me right across the jaw, but in a beautiful way.
There is no simple way to describe the music of the Blue Nile. It is electronic (on this showing at least), and it betrays various influences, among them:
Ricky Lee Jones, Chuck e Weiss, Brian Eno, Joy Division, Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra, Kraftwerk, Tom Leonard, Norman Foster, Edward Gaitens, Alasdair Gray, Modigliani, Lissitzky, Jock Stein, Billy Connolly, and surely a touch of Sibelius.
Anyway, I hope to hear more Blue Nile soon. This is brave music, not fitting rock or electronic cliches or paradigms, in its time and in its place it reaches out, and how.
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on 26 February 2002
'Hats' and any of the other albums by this fantastic Scottish band should be in your collection. On average, they produce a record every six or seven years but boy, are they worth the wait.....
Paul Buchanan must have had a tough life. He writes songs about love and loss that can cut you in half....and he is blessed with exactly the right voice to deliver them. The musical arrangements are often sparse but always exactly right for the songs.
This is beautiful music...melodic and full of emotion. In 'Let's go out tonight' they have probably produced the most moving end of the love affair song ever written.
Buy this record and see if you can resist buying the other two......!
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VINE VOICEon 1 February 2004
Enigmatic Scottish band The Blue Nile have released three albums in 20 years.This band know how to take their time , but when the results are as stunning as this album then you know it,s been time well spent.
The phrase "classic" or "not a bad track on it" is all too often bandied about when albums are reviewed or talked about but i am aware of very few albums where not a note is out of place, where every lyric or nuance seems to fit perfectly into the scheme of things."Hats" is such an album."Hats" is perfect.
The Blue Nile are evocative mood magicians.When Paul Buchanan sings about rain lashed streets, empty neon lit bars or trains crawling out of stations late at night the pictures flicker instantly into your mind.No band has ever made the small things seem to matter so much How "An ordinary girl can make the world alright"Allied to their lush transcendental wall of strings and synths this is heart stopping stuff, a quiet genius is at work here.
"Hats" is essentially a concept album about love and the constant clashes and conceits it puts us through."Over the Hillside" starts procedings off in a plaintative mood.The voice is world weary ,resigned.Some sort of relationship is ending and he can,t even dredge up the energy to care.It,s set to funereal keyboards and measured guitars and drums.
"The Downtown Lights" is a goosebump/spine tingler of a pop song.When Buchanan sings "Sometimes i walk away whem all i really want to do is love and hold you right" and shimmering keyboards cascade in wide screen its like someones got hold of your heart and given it a quick squeeze."How do i know you feel it?" he implores as walls of hearbreak sound ebb and floe like the churning of his guts as he realises the person he,s with does,nt love him anymore.Superlatives can,t do this song justice but i had to try.
Serene ballad "Lets go out tonight" is about two lovers sat at home trying desperately to re-kindle what was once so special.Theres a point in this song when Buchanans voice almost breaks as he trys desperately to articulate, but it,s all too much again.Another sublime moment.
On "Headlights on the Parade" the trademark washes of sound are more to the fore as he faces the choice of finishing/staying in a relationship while a lonely trumpet and piano carry the mood on "From a late night train" Once again "It,s over now/ but i can,t let go"
"Seven A.M." almost gets funky and sounds a little out of place at first buts it,s the signifier for the albums story arc as he prepares to try again and give love another shot.So does closing track "Saturday Night" a colossal number with a life affirming chorus and triumphant belief in our ability to love again and the excitement that promise can bring.Yes, we,re back to that "ordinary girl".
Words, as i intimated earlier really cannot do justice to this music.For me this album lies unchallenged as the greatest ever made.It,s that good.Any talk of it not dating well is utter tripe. Music this moving,cinematic and well human will never date.
There are,nt enough stars in the sky to give this album.
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on 28 October 2009
Every couple of years I get the CD back out and drive along and rekindle my love for every song on the album- although Downtown lights must be my favourite.

The songs don't seem to age at all in my eyes and I know they will always be around.

I put one song on an xbox game of my sons (who is 16 and loves hiphop), yes you've guessed it he is now a fan! What more can I say, the very fact that Paul now shares a stage with Peter Gabriel speaks volumes regarding the sheer talents of Pauls vocals and songwriting.
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The Blue Nile continue to delight and frustrate in equal measure.

"Hats" is the Blue Nile's masterpiece and in my top ten albums of all time. Like a lot the best bands, there's a real sense of place in the Blue Nile's music. Every track on this has strong west central Scotland vibes. For me the Blue Nile are the archetypal studio boffin band whose sound, although not immediately apparent, has much in common with other, more electronic studio boffin groups like Kraftwerk, Sun Electric and Basic Channel. I think it's an attention to detail thing. On "Hats" Paul Buchanan et al essentially take the romantic ballad song format and boil it down into an ambient album. There's no need to do a U2/Coldplay and hire Brian Eno because the ambience is there already.

So, if I was putting together the "Hats" bonus disc, my tracklisting, and I suspect a lot of other people's too, would be:

Downtown Lights 7"
The Wires are Down
Halfway to Paradise
Headlights on the Parade (Bob Clearmountain mix)
Easter Parade w/Rickie Lee Jones
Saturday Night (Edit)
Our Lives
...plus anything else the group and/or record company see fit to include.

You see, back in the 1980s there were a lot of people who only bought ALBUMS and missed out on the (above) b-sides, me included, and only later - when said b-sides were long out of print - regretting that they hadn't bought the singles. Surely, that's what these deluxe re-issues are for?

So what DO we get on disc 2? Only one of my selections and, to be honest, probably my least desired one of the bunch (relatively speaking). In fact a mere 6 tracks that would have fitted, along with the original album, on a single disc. Green, the Blue Nile are not. But what we also get is the opportunity to hear the Blue Nile's minimalist tinkering. Subtly different versions of three of the tracks from CD1 - I suspect there might be yet more of these versions still lurking unheard in the vaults, after all Hats took something like 5 years to record. Then there's the unrealeased song "Christmas": think Chris Rea's "Driving Home for Christmas" minimised, but maybe not quite minimised enough for the Blue Nile to have released it at the time, slightly too cheesy to be 100% cool but still a worthy addition to the catalogue. Then, there's a strong live version of "Headlights on the Parade"...and that's it. Over, and leaving me wanting more!

So what of the remaster? Well I think the original CD was okay, but this has been redone by Calum Malcolm the original engineer and (genius) producer of, inter alia, Paddy McAloon's I Trawl The Megahertz, so I was expecting it to be good. And it is good. From a non-technical point of view: I'm hearing things I didn't here on the previous edition but nothing that sounds jarring or out of place. So job done there.

The packaging? Well BN weren't really about packaging - I suppose their LPs (the first two anyway) were kind of presented like new age albums. "Hats" re-issue expands a good deal on the original artwork: it's the obligatory fold out digipack with a booklet of what are, roughly, period photos but no blurb (thankfully). Oh, and matt rather than gloss finish.

And that's that. Am I satisfied? Not entirely. Do I want more? Yes. Is it worth re-buying as a fan? Probably, but don't feel you're missing out by sticking with the original (put it on your Christmas list). Should newcomers to the Blue Nile's music buy this edition? Definitely, what uninitiated person would want to sit through three bonus discs of demo versions anyway?

Enjoy (and keep your fingers crossed that there's a b-sides compilation in the pipeline).
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on 21 July 2009
My ex-wife bought me this when it was first released to prepare me for her leaving me. I was too thick to get the message because the music is so good. I got lost in it and woke up to her having gone and taken the CD with her. I had to buy another (over 10 years down the line) just to see if I could get the message. No, but it is still great music.
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on 27 March 2000
This was the album where the Blue Nile really hit form. The first album was perhaps a little uncertain and the last was a little too placid. This one is perfect.
It's been said before, but this is a very visual album. The songs are pinpoints of light in a background of darkness; headlights on parades, city lights at night, the neon and the cigarettes, rented rooms and rented cars, the crowded streets, the empty bars...absorbing, haunting music, suffused with a gorgeous sadness. Beyond beautiful.
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on 12 October 2000
With 'Hats' Blue Nile have made one of the best albums of the 80's. All songs have such an amazing beauty, it is almost unbelievable. With no exception! Likewise: production standards on this record are very high: it sure sounds fantastic! It is not purely an album about lost loves and loneliness in my opinion: me and my girl have listened to this album maybe a hundred times or more and is gives you a feeling of comfort and safety too. It does not matter which state you are in: 'Hats' will give everyone all they could ever ask for, musically, of course ... By the way: check out 'a walk across the rooftops' too. I prefer this one slightly over that one but it still is among top 10 eighties music. Like no other! Buy it.
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