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Reopening the Hit Factory,
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This review is from: Gold (Audio CD)
Following the massive Live Aid concert in 1985, British pop arguably lost it's way. The charts were full of old men like Phil Collins and Dire Straits. Something new was needed; something that teens could relate to. Something to save pop from itself. Enter writers and producers Matt Stock, Mike Aitken and Pete Waterman. Together these three would dominate the UK charts until the end of the decade, selling millions of records, and creating what they called `the sound of a bright young Britain'.
Stock, Aitken & Waterman (or SAW as I shall now refer to them) scored initial hits with the likes of Hazell Dean, Sinitta, Divine and Dead Or Alive, along with reviving Bananarama's career. But they really began to hit the big time in 1987 with the arrival of Rick Astley, and Mel & Kim who's first three singles (two of which are included on this set) are prime examples of SAW's best work.
The trio also got one over on the more snobbish club DJ's with the excellent 70's funk pastiche "Roadblock", and who can forget the brilliant "I'd Rather Jack" by the Reynolds Girls. Only a one-hit wonder, but what a hit!
1988 saw Kylie Minogue join the Hit Factory (as SAW's set-up was known) with the mighty "I Should Be So Lucky, a slice of pure pop genius which signalled the start of an extraordinary run of hits for the Kylster. She was later joined by her `Neighbours' co-star Jason Donovan, whilst rubbish groups like Brother Beyond and Big Fun saw some of the SAW magic rub off on them. They also worked with Cliff Richard, Donna Summer and even the much maligned Sigue Sigue Sputnik. There were also a number of charity records for a variety of causes. But 1988 also saw SAW begin to sow the seeds of their own destruction. They hit upon `the formula', which led to critics accusing them of being lazy and making the same record over and over again, albeit with different singers.
By the early 90's it was all going wrong, with many artists quitting over what they saw as an increasingly dictatorial regime. The trio eventually tore themselves apart with endless arguments over money and where it was all going. It was the end of an era as pop once again lost it's way and became dominated in the 90's by boy bands and their dreary ballads.
Despite some of the rubbish of their latter period, Stock, Aitken & Waterman do deserve a sensibly compiled anthology of their career. This three CD set is sadly not it. Here you get two discs of hits, and one of 12" mixes, but none of their lesser known gems. Hopefully someone will compile a more rounded set in the future.
Still, this album is far better than the messy and disappointing "Hit Factory - Best Of" collections that were around in the late 80's. The third disc of 12" extended mixes is particularly fine; SAW 12"er's were always worth checking out - as a former DJ, Pete Waterman knew what worked on the dance floor (do listen out for his FGTH "Two Tribes" spoof on the Divine track!), but the absence of any Mel & Kim from this section beggars belief.
The insert booklet is very disappointing. No liner notes or photos, just endless publishing credits so no points there. Altogether this set receives three stars, one for each disc, but nothing for the booklet and nothing for the non-appearance of a Mel & Kim 12" mix.
So until the definitive anthology set arrives, stick this in the CD player, turn up the volume and loose yourself in some of the most fun packed and glorious British pop of the 80's.