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Discotronic "discotronic" (UK)

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Standing At The Crossroads (Expanded Edition) [Digitally Remastered) by Evelyn Thomas (2015-12-16)
Standing At The Crossroads (Expanded Edition) [Digitally Remastered) by Evelyn Thomas (2015-12-16)
Offered by Smaller World Future
Price: £127.96

4.0 out of 5 stars Very good reissue despite annoying gaps in Reflections Suite medley, 13 Aug. 2016
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Evelyn Thomas's fourth and final album, originally released by Record Shack in 1986, gets the expanded reissue treatment by Essential Media Group. Ian Levine produced the album in his usual style of Hi-NRG with disco and Northern Soul influences.

Sound quality is very good - no evidence of vinyl rips or brickwalling when I listened through a decent stereo at loud volume. Four bonus tracks are added to make this a very tempting purchase. Well-known remix producer John Morales, half of the classic remix team M&M, is behind the extended dance mixes for Standing At The Crossroads (track 1) and Cold Shoulder (track 9).

Only one error spoils the listening experience - tracks 5, 6, 7 and 8 (grouped as the Reflections Suite on the album when it first came out) now have annoying gaps between them when they should be segued as a continuous medley. Such gaps can be removed if you import the album to your computer but when heard on a stereo, the pauses between these tracks are an irritation. It leaves the impression of a CDR that was recorded without turning off the setting that automatically inserts one-second gaps between songs.

All Twelve Inches
All Twelve Inches

4.0 out of 5 stars Good collection of extended versions, 20 Feb. 2016
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This review is from: All Twelve Inches (Audio CD)
A brilliant way of obtaining many of the 12-inch versions of The Stranglers' singles.

While I'm not a fan of all of the songs, an attempt to gather all these 12-inchers on CD doesn't deserve anything less than four stars. It was released in 1992 so is a little on the quiet side by modern expectations of volume levels, but at least these are all pristine digital versions.

The 12-inch mixes here are almost all extended versions without any club-friendly additional production. No big-name remixers were brought in to overhaul the songs except for club DJ Judge Jules whose gently-reworked 'Indie Pendence Version' of Sweet Smell Of Success is featured. The 1990 12-inch vinyl and US CD single of Sweet Smell Of Success also contained a Strangled House Mix running 5mins 17 secs - but for some reason this is not included despite this compilation having more than 7 minutes of free space at the end. Maybe the label felt it deviated too far from the original feel of the song?

All of the versions are very respectful to the originals - on the one hand, this means they sometimes aren't as exciting as they could have been, but it also means purists and hardcore fans of the group won't have reason to freak out.

Skin Deep was also given a US dance re-edit by the DJ promo service Hot Tracks, which isn't included here (and nor was it expected to be). It's a shame that the Strangled House Mix of Sweet Smell Of Success wasn't added, though.

80's Revolution Disco Pop
80's Revolution Disco Pop

5.0 out of 5 stars More great 80s gems on this series from Germany, 20 Feb. 2016
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This second volume in this series from Germany continues its trend of compiling assorted 80s 12-inch versions, some of them familiar to UK audiences, and some less so.

It's the less usual choices that give appeal to this series. On this edition, the gems on Disc 1 are Celebrate The Nun ' Will You Be There', Jermaine Stewart 'Get Lucky', Roxette 'Neverending Love', Johnny Hates Jazz 'I Don't Want To Be A Hero' (which wasn't included as a bonus track on the most recent album reissue) and Glass Tiger 'Don't Forget Me' (though they chose the B-side mix rather than the A-side).

Disc 2's gems are Al Corley 'Square Rooms' (he played Steven Carrington in Dynasty, this is one of the singles from his album), Boys From Brazil 'Hot Stuff' (a Hi-NRG cover of Donna Summer, sung in Jimmy Somerville falsetto style, on CD at last), Animotion 'Obsession' (in very good sound quality at last) and Pebbles 'Girlfriend' (this is the extended version not the dance remix, it's been on CD before but not remastered, a proper expanded reissue of her album is long overdue although the MCA catalogue seems to be in state of dormancy).

A couple of the tracks (Hazell Dean and Brother Beyond) are also on PWL-themed reissues, so they are less sought-after than they might otherwise have been.

Sound quality is very good and there are no errors or glitches.

The Studio Albums: 1985-1998
The Studio Albums: 1985-1998
Price: £27.66

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nicely-presented journey through Jaki's career, 17 Feb. 2016
We are taken on an enjoyable journey through Jaki's career - and through the evolution of the soul/R&B scene in general - with this nicely-presented box set of albums. Each CD is in a card wallet, the CD artwork is designed to look like miniature records and there's a 40-page booklet included.

Each album consists of a mix of ballads, soul, funk and dance. It's a formula she has clearly stuck to over the years.

The sound quality and remastering is very good, and there are no glitches or errors. As this is a studio albums set, there are no 12" (or indeed 7") mixes included as bonus tracks or on a bonus disc.

Heaven Knows (1985, No 48 in UK album charts) is 80s soul/funk and includes the singles Heaven Knows (a ballad), the duet Could It Be I’m Falling in Love (with David Grant, reaching No 5) and Round & Round (No 9). There's more of an electro-funk sound to the tracks The Facts of Love, What’s The Name Of Your Game and You’re Mine, the last of those incorporating rock guitar.

For the second album Breaking Away (1986, No 25 in UK charts), there was a more urgent, dance/club-oriented sound introduced. It included the singles Set Me Free (No 7), Step Right Up (No 15), Breaking Away (No 16) and Still In Love (No 83), plus Mated (No 20), another duet with David Grant. Among other tracks of note is the juddering electro-funk of the uptempo, freestyle-flavoured Luv 2 Much.

From Now On (1989) included the out-and-out electro/freestyle track Provocative. It also has a version of I Want To Thank You, which was later (in 1994) a hit for Robin S. The earlier version by Jaki was unusual in bringing in an external producer (Mantronik), and is very different, a slinky electro-funk interpretation, more gospel-like, sung in a high, almost whispery key. The title track reached No 73, while the only other single, The Better Part of Me, peaked at No 79.

Real Life (1994) follows the usual mix of tempos and styles but incorporates some house/garage piano in the production. A cover of Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody works really well (and was a club hit at the time as well as reaching No 44 in the UK charts, her highest placing since 1986). However, a cover of Joyce Sims’ Come Into My Life, at around the same tempo, is rather anaemic by comparison with the original, as is a cover of Meli’sa Morgan’s Do Me Baby. The earlier songs Breaking Away and Set Me Free are both given an update with a more 90s production but nothing too radical. The other UK singles were the ballad You Can Count On Me (No 62) and the dance track Absolute E Sensual (No 69).

Hold On (1995) has that same update of Breaking Away on it, plus a Eurodance cover of Vanessa Williams’ Save The Best For Last that works surprisingly well in spite of its fast tempo.

Rhythm Of Life (1996) does include the two bonus tracks from its Japan release - unlike the Real Life album which here has just three of the six Japan bonus tracks.

My Life (1998) is the most recent of the albums here and so has the most contemporary R&B sound. It includes Jaki's interpretations of ABC's The Look Of Love and Julia Fordham's Happy Ever After, although (in my view) they are nowhere near as good as the originals.

Worth adding that one of her albums - Don’t Keep Me Waiting from 1997 on US label Lightyear Entertainment - is not featured, so presumably the rights to that one eluded the compilers.

All in all, this is a very attractive set. The absence of extended versions from the various singles doesn't feel too glaring when listening to these as a succession of albums, but it is something of a missed opportunity considering the current market for expanded editions and 80s remixes.

Disco Pop Vol. 01
Disco Pop Vol. 01
Price: £20.26

5.0 out of 5 stars Very good set including some retro rarities, 13 Feb. 2016
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This review is from: Disco Pop Vol. 01 (Audio CD)
This retro compilation, released in Germany in 2012, makes enjoyable listening and has some really good tracks on it, including unusual artists/songs that aren't normally seen on the huge array of 80s compilations.

That's largely because it's German-made - pop hits and club hits were different over there from what we had in the UK, and so track selections will vary from those on British compilations.

It's particularly nice to see Pia Zadora 'Let's Dance Tonight' (first time I've ever seen this extended version on a CD), Mysterious Art 'Das Omen', Split Mirrors 'The Right Time', Deborah Sasson 'Passion and Pain', Glass Tiger 'Someday' and Camouflage 'Love Is A Shield.' I already had Mysterious Art and Deborah Sasson on their original CDs but it's still great to get them here on this remastered two-disc set.

The sound quality and 32-bit remastering is excellent.

Warehouse Raves 2
Warehouse Raves 2

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Diverse mix of styles from the musical melting-pot of the rave era, 7 Feb. 2016
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This review is from: Warehouse Raves 2 (Audio CD)
There were eight volumes in this series from UK label Rumour Records in the early 90s and this was one I had on a double album back in the day. I'm finally upgrading to CD after seeing it on here for less than a fiver.

There's no 'acid house' on this volume, it's an eclectic mix of some of the other music that was played or released during the rave era. Most tracks on here are house, garage or electro. Whereas the LP had 15 tracks, the CD has 13 - omitting R.A.W 'R.A.W Groove (Breathless Mix)' and TOT 'What U R (Nude Mix)'.

Gil Scott-Heron's enduring 1974 soul/jazz-funk classic The Bottle makes an appearance; its steady beat enabling it to fit easily into disco, house and garage sets over the decades. Latin jazz artist Snowboy's foray into a club sound with 'Snowboy's House Of Latin' is also represented here.

There are also three Italian productions. AC Fax 'Eventide' is a largely instrumental piece of haunting electronica with sustained background chanting creating a moody atmosphere; it was lumped in with rave's New Beat sub-genre despite coming from Italy rather than Belgium. Droid 'Hipnosis' is one of the many instrumental, melodic 'space-synth' tracks to come out of Europe (there have been several recent compilations of this sound on ZYX); and then there's D.J. Lelewel 'House Machine' (Piano Dub Version) which has some vinyl noise in it (the only track to be obviously sourced from vinyl, the others sound digital and clean).

Another notable track is the brilliant cover of Tainted Love by Impedance, a superb and sleazy track in hip-house/electro style that updates this classic track into something amazingly different.

The entire album is just about okay as a listening experience. But because it represents the crazy melting-pot of the warehouse rave era, it is diverse and not very cohesive. The various styles included seem to have divided themselves up more rigidly since then. I had bought it chiefly to cherry-pick the contents for digital versions of Impedance, AC Fax and Droid.

Footloose [15th Anniversary Collectors' Edition]
Footloose [15th Anniversary Collectors' Edition]
Price: £3.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming as a special edition but includes Jellybean remix of Shalamar, 2 Feb. 2016
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This 15th Anniversary Collectors' Edition released in 1998 includes all nine songs from the original soundtrack album, along with four bonus tracks.

Back in the 80s, there were some great soundtracks and this is one of them. It's filled with foot-tapping numbers and spawned no fewer than five singles. Most of the songs are 80s pop-rock, with Shalamar and Deniece Williams being more R&B/dance-oriented.

The four bonus tracks are: Quiet Riot 'Metal Health (Bang Your Head)', John Cougar Mellencamp 'Hurts So Good', Foreigner 'Waiting for a Girl Like You' and Shalamar 'Dancing In The Sheets' (Extended 12" Remix by Jellybean).

I'm all for bonus tracks but this reissue clocks in at just 55 minutes 4 seconds, leaving almost 25 minutes of unused space on the CD. Adding Jellybean's 12" mixes of Deniece Williams and Bonnie Tyler would have absorbed some of that space and made this feel far more complete. Amazingly (considering this was the remix-laden world of the 80s) there wasn't a 12" mix of Kenny Loggins' title track Footloose (at least not one that we know about) - the US 12" promo contained the album version and, on the B-side, a 'Single Version' that was four seconds shorter!

It's very good value (at just £3.99 when I bought mine) and there was less emphasis on filling CDs to the brim with bonus material back in 1999 when this came out. But it doesn't really feel complete with so much unused space on it and so many absent 12" versions. However, at least we get the Jellybean remix of Shalamar in digital quality and that's something to be grateful for.

Naked: Expanded Edition (Jewel Case)
Naked: Expanded Edition (Jewel Case)
Price: £10.12

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New Wave band's first album reissued and expanded with six bonus mixes, 8 Dec. 2015
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This expanded reissue of Kissing The Pink’s debut album Naked is in New Wave style and transports the listener to Britain in the early 80s.

The group was formed mainly from music students sharing a house in north London and you get a real sense of that offbeat creativity on this album, with its experimental indie feel. It’s musically polished but often dark, weird and not at all commercial. And fascinating because of all that.

Nicely remastered, this new edition has seven bonus tracks, including six extended mixes and one B-side. The Last Film and Mr Blunt are very familiar to those of us who remember the music of the 80s - the first of those was the group’s biggest UK hit, getting to No 19. Its title is written on the CD back sleeve and the first page of the booklet as Last Film, losing its ‘The’, just as it does in official chart listings.

A detailed 14-page booklet contains artwork, a full discography, lyrics and interviews with band members.

Mention the group Kissing The Pink and most people would recall the name (which may be a sexual reference) and then cite later single Certain Things Are Likely as the biggest hit, although the group were by then known simply as KTP. Reworked by Phil Harding - who did many PWL remixes - that song was a US dance chart hit towards the end of the 80s. One of the mixes was in UK house style and very similar rhythmically to the sound of Mel & Kim.

It turns out the group’s link to the world of PWL goes back a few years earlier to this first album from 1983. Pete Hammond, another mixer associated with Stock Aitken Waterman productions, was the remixer on the Extended Version of Mr Blunt - but don’t expect the jaunty Euro-pop sound of his later work for Kylie, Rick Astley, Bananarama, Sinitta and other PWL-associated acts.

This reissue could easily have stretched to a double disc had the compilers added some of the many other B-sides including Shine, Garden Parties, The Other Side Of Heaven, What Noise, Underage (instrumental and extended instrumental versions) and Water In My Eye (original and extended versions). Various demos that are confirmed to exist in an interview at www.jeffgrote.com/ktp/history/html would have helped to fill a second disc but this reissue is nonetheless very good and much appreciated.

Hot Shot
Hot Shot
Price: £12.27

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great to see this album get the deluxe treatment at last, 2 Dec. 2015
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This review is from: Hot Shot (Audio CD)
This long-awaited expanded reissue of Karen Young’s one and only album, originally released in 1978 and titled after her best-known single, will be essential for fans of the disco era.

Young’s assured vocal delivery - including her use of scatting (the improvisations usually found in jazz from earlier decades) - sometimes give the album the feel of an old-fashioned live concert performance. Some of the piano and brass seem to add to this occasional jazz flavour. But the drums, percussion, handclaps and strings firmly root the project in the late 70s.

Six bonus tracks fill the disc almost to capacity, including all the key versions from the West End Records sessions (except her later single Come-A-Runnin’ on that label in 1984). Two previously unreleased versions are included, giving this extra appeal.

Sound quality and mastering is excellent, and there are no audio glitches. There’s a comprehensive 16-page booklet packed with information (though the font is small). The back sleeve of the CD, and the CD itself, both incorrectly list the Hot Shot (12" Instrumental) as 'Jim Burgess 12" Disco Mix' for some reason but that's a minor thing that's not worth bothering about.

It's worth mentioning that there are several other Karen Young releases on other labels in the early 80s - these include the singles Dynamite, Deetour, Expressway To Your Heart, You Don’t Know What You Got, Hot For You (a Boystown/Hi-NRG club hit with pulsing bass and burbling synths), Eye On You and Change in Me.

Short versions of many of those later songs surfaced on the 1994 compilation The Best of Karen Young (now out of print and very expensive, but easily available digitally) so they would seem to exist in archives somewhere. Fingers crossed for a further compilation one day, before those tapes are lost forever.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 22, 2015 2:01 PM GMT

Demons To Diamonds
Demons To Diamonds
Price: £12.71

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as dynamic as Hearts and Knives but gets better with each listen, 20 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Demons To Diamonds (Audio CD)
Following the death of frontman Steve Strange comes this seemingly final Visage album assembled from some of the tracks the group had all been working on prior to his demise.

Whereas it's the synths that seem most prominent in Hearts and Knives, live classical sounds took over in Orchestral and now it’s the turn of the guitar to dominate in Demons to Diamonds.

This collection follows a similar pattern to Hearts and Knives in giving us four uptempo songs before slowing the pace. To me it doesn’t feel as dynamic or powerful as Hearts and Knives but it’s still very good. It’s just more of a grower that gets better each time you play it, making the album title seem particularly apt in that the songs seem more like diamonds with each listen.

There are a lot of cover versions on here, aside from the obvious Bowie classic Loving The Alien. Become was a song by Midge Ure (though he’s not mentioned in the credits), Aurora is an Adam Fielding track, Before You Win is adapted from John Graham’s Something New, and Your Skin Is My Sin is a retitled revamp of The Poison Within by Bottin (which also featured Steve Strange on vocals on this song). That doesn’t really change my view of the album but I’m not sure why it's so overly reliant on others’ material (perhaps Steve’s health wasn’t too good? Or maybe the intention was a covers album? It’s not clear).

Strongest songs in my view are Days Become Dark, Seven Deadly Sins and Your Skin is My Sin. I like Clubscene as well but I feel it would have been even better with a more sleazy, electronic sound, to suit its title and lyrics - perhaps this can be addressed by remixes if it’s chosen as a single. In fact, some electropop remixes would be a good idea in general - the CD single packages from Hearts and Knives were excellent.

All in all, an interesting project, but a departure from Hearts and Knives and you may have to give it a chance if you are more a fan of the band's synth-driven output. A bonus CDR with three extra tracks comes with the album if purchased directly from the Visage online store.

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