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Formed in Edinburgh in 1979, the Associates comprised vocalist Billy Mackenzie and multi-instrumentalist Alan Rankine. Built on an eclectic mix of influences and interests ranging from art-rock to glam and disco, the group debuted with a manic cover of David Bowie's "Boys Keep Swinging". Early on, Mackenzie's voice was often favourably compared to Scott Walker, and the Associates released a series of singles that explored a continually diverse array of styles and textures all of which are covered on "Singles", a 28-track, double CD compilation, which features the pick of their single releases from MCA, Situation 2, Virgin, WEA and EMI. It's housed in a deluxe package with many rare photos and new liner notes.
The career of the eccentric, extraordinary Scottish art-poppers The Associates can be read as a lesson in what matters about pop music.
For a start, this singles collection tells us how little things like "credibility" and "authenticity" matter, since the moment the band abandoned theirobscureelectronicafor the pop ecstasy of 1982's "Sulk" was the moment their blatant but latent genius finally flowered.
At the same time it demonstrates how important it is to stay true to artistic instincts. The ramshackle electro-dirge of 1981's "Tell Me Easter's On A Friday" will always be more fascinating than something as super-processed and blatantly commercial as 1984's vile attempt at soul, "Those First Impressions". And the fact it failed is proof that the British record buying public has rather better taste than many journalists would have us believe.
Singles also reminds us of how there is little lonelier in pop than a truly great voice in search of a truly great song, as David MacAlmont knows well. To say Billy McKenzie had a great voice would be to understate. His voice was so spectacular, so emotional and soaring, that it alone could make the listener feel the thrill of being alive. It is one of pop's greatest secrets.
What McKenzie did not have in his career was a wealth of great songs. The best were the most successful, the deranged melodic overdrive of "Party Fears Two" and the vicious, addictive "Country Club". These songs remain as incredible and enthralling as they ever did and pop would be much the poorer without them.
Elsewhere there is the wonderfully sinister stomp of "White Car In Germany" and the velvety melancholy of "Breakfast", but sadly little McKenzie wrote after 1984 was good enough for that voice (that voice!). The result is a collection that is a mix of extraordinary highs and the occasional low.
McKenzie tragically died by his own hand in 1997 but there is more life in these songs than most people ever live. Thank you Billy. --Jaime Gill
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Top Customer Reviews
Not everyone will have Popera, which was an earlier Associates retrospective that is now sadly unavailable, but 'singles' is a worthy replacement, where popera failed on poor sleeve notes, 'Singles' is a joy to behold, carefully,thoughtfully and lovingly put together. Sure there will be the pedantic souls out there that bemoan the single-edit nature of this track and that track, but that should only serve to feed the curiousity of anyone who hasn't got the original albums to go seek them out and discover even more just how wonderful this band, and in particular this singer were (and still are).
The songs I would like to have seen included are 'In windows all' and the original of 'Even dogs in the wild' (not the poor by comparison remix version. In fact the latter does point to a glaring omission in the Associates back catalogue, that being the original version of 'The Affectionate Punch' (The one with Billy and Alan Rankine on the circuit track in the pouring rain) It's the great lost associates album (Which used to be the glamour chase before it finally got a long overdue release). Hopefully one day the master tapes will surface and we will finally get a CD release of the superior version of this album, instead of the inferior remix version that was released on Fiction.Read more ›
I recall the soaring vocals on a couple of singles by the Associates, back when they were released but bought other music and did other things. One of the wonderments of Amazon and buying online is that you can research and recall music that you missed and, generally, buy it very cheaply indeed.
Many best-of's exist for many artists and it is often just a few clicks before a cheap CD pops through the letterbox. However, when this beautifully shot and packaged CD came up, it was more expensive than many compilations I've bought, but seemed to offer something special. I knew of a couple of the names of those singles and the odd song that was covered by Billy but that was about it.
After owning it for 18 months, it is still one of my most played and my favourite on it, an "unauthorised" Bowie cover, is Boys Keep Swinging, which opens the first disc. I found the Associates to have a quite heavy and involved backing, which I still enjoyed but here, Billy MacKenzie breaks free and all the glory of his beautiful, gracious voice truly shines.
I feel that 'Singles' to be complete enough, for me at least, not to need to go in search of other compilations of either The Associates, nor Billy MacKenzie. True, that does not make me a true fan but a fan of music I am and that this still holds a front row in my collection makes it special, indeed.
The first disc has been released before- most of it found on Double Hipness, The Affectionate Punch, 4th Drawer Down & Sulk- though A/Punch isn't on CD at present, so it's a bonus to have the title track & A from that release (though the 1990 compilation Popera lists other single releases from A-Punch original/remixed: Even Dogs in the Wild!!!! (the 1982 remix of A Matter of Gender opens the second side). The first disc doesn't offer much not found on the 4th/Sulk reissues of 2000, the rarities here being restricted to the great cover of Kites (under their 39, Lyon Street pseudonym) & the poor Ice Cream Factory single. I'd wait for a reissue of The Affectionate Punch and pick up the budget-priced 4th Drawer Down and Sulk instead (really, you should have them anyway at this point in time!). It must be added that all the versions here are the single edits, which spoil things a bit...
The second disc, after Gender, hits a trio of great post-Rankine singles: Breakfast, Those First Impressions, & Waiting for the Loveboat. Then again, Perhaps was reissued a few years ago with The Glamour Chase, so what's the point? (Take Me to the Girl, that shoddy cover of Heart of Glass & Country Boy was also on Perhaps/Glamour) & why are we missing the Yello-collaboration The Rhythm Divine- which made the Popera-set????? The singles from Wild & Lonely are great, even with the wrong production, though the inclusion of the remixed Loveboat is unnecessary and takes the space that could have been given to something else. Baby & Colours Will Come are about the best tracks on Outernational, which ought to be reissued too...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fast delivery and a brilliant price too. Loved this band in the 80's/90's and it's great to hear all these songs again now. What a voice.......Published 5 months ago by Fairy Mary666
Bought for one song in particular (party Fears 2 - alone worth the price). Rest pretty mediocre.Published 23 months ago by C. Byrne