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Not many big hits, but a few surprises!
on 9 March 2011
The 80s Compilation market is a minefield - a lack of variety, re-recorded versions, poor sound quality among the pitfalls - but Demon Music Groups' "100 Hits" series have been the pick of the bunch in recent times.
Hot on the heels on their "Electric Eighties" collection, comes yet another round-up of 80s material, and obviously by this point the cupboard is likely to be looking bare. With most of the recognisable chart hits of the decade already featured on previous volumes ("80s Dance", "80s Pop", "80s #1s", and so on), there had to come a day when Demon would either have to find a way of recycling the same material for the umpteenth time, or raid the vaults (mostly those of Warner Music, by the looks of it) for those lesser-known, obscure singles which have yet to be over-used on these kind of box sets. Thankfully, for the more 80s obssessed fans among us, they have chosen the latter option.
"100 Hits - 80s Rewind", then, is a resolutely odd fish. Guaranteed to split opinion more than any other 80s collection, even. Because by and large, there are precious few "hits" among these 100 songs, squeezed as ever onto 5 CDs in a sturdy multi-disc jewel case. Instead, casual observers and music buyers will feel underwhelmed by the selection offered. A lot of the era's biggest names appear (again) - Frankie Goes To Hollywood, a-ha, Simply Red, Howard Jones, New Order - but the tracks featured here are not the best-known; instead of Relax or Two Tribes we get Welcome To The Pleasuredome, instead of Take on Me we get Touchy! and You Are The One...and so on. Depending on your personal perspective, this is either refreshing or disappointing. Several of the artists featured also have more than one track included, so don't expect 100 different hit-makers either.
Disc 1's highlights are an edited mix of Moments In Love by The Art of Noise, plus a welcome appearance for Tracie's Give It Some Emotion. Not-so-obvious choices from The Beat and Debbie Gibson are also good to see. However, the Aztec Camera track was only just used on the "Electric Eighties" collection (albeit in a longer mix), while the Frankie track is the 5.08 Video Mix (aka The Escape Act mix), not the actual 7" version which is a shame. Likewise, the Bronski Beat/Marc Almond collaboration is the full 8.21 version, somewhat surprisingly.
Disc 2 is very Soul/Hip-Hop oriented, with a good cross-section of rarely-included tracks by Young MC, Cookie Crew, Ten City, 49ers and 808 State. Mint Juleps' excellent cover of Every Kinda People is another major plus point. It may be also be the first time a Break Machine track has turned up on one of the "100 Hits" series, and long overdue it is too.
Disc 3 focuses on the rockier end of the chart spectrum; Foreigner's superb That Was Yesterday gets a chance in the absence of the over-compiled I Want To Know What Love is or Waiting For A Girl Like You. Other excellent near-hits like Sailing and TV Dinners add to the disc's quality, while a 7" edit of Sisters Of Mercy's brilliant Dominion is its best moment (not even the band's own Greatest Hits bothered with a shorter version of the song). A real rarity in the shape of Stan Campbell's sublime 1987 hit-that-should-have-been Years Go By quite possibly marks the apex of the whole series (copies of his album go for daft prices, if you can actually find one). We've Got A Fuzzbox.. also turn up on this CD (hurrah!), but sadly the version of Chris Rea's On The Beach is the same endlessly-used remake from 1988's New Light Through Old Windows, and neither the hit 7" edit nor the 1986 original.
Disc 4 is a bit on the naff side (if I say so myself!) but veteran 80s chartwatchers will marvel at the inclusion of delights such as Jesse Rae's Over The Sea, Screaming Blue Messiah's Top 30 hit I Wanna Be A Flinstone, the novelty hit of summer '85 - My Toot Toot by Denise Lasalle, plus Ryan Paris' guilty pleasure Dolce Vita (which does sound suspiciously like a later remix and not the 1983 original). A quirky cover of Bruce Springsteen's Dancing In The Dark by Big Daddy (which went top 20 in 1985) is another rarity in the world of 80s compilations. Matt Bianco's Wap Bam Boogie is, again, the full album version so anyone hoping for the 7" mix will be in for a let-down.
Disc 5 begins with a brace of pure pop before taking some strange turns via Everything But The Girl, Bad Manners and Chicago, then concludes with the weirdest piece of sequencing known to man - Leo Sayer's evocative synth ballad Orchard Road is followed by the Cookie Crew, Young MC, umm..Foreigner and then...err...The Jesus & Mary Chain. Bizarre doesn't come close!
So, overall this is either an absolute gem of a 5-disc set (if you own a lot of the other 80s compilations out there, both from the 100 Hits stable or any others), or a load of flops and obscure rubbish that were hardly genuine hits (if you are a casual purchaser looking for that definitive boxset of 80s classics). Only you can decide!
(PS. Some copies appear to have a fault with "Welcome To The Pleasuredome" so you might want to check if yours is affected.)