Finally being given the treatment it so richly deserves, the back catalogue of Jimmy Somerville's major label releases from the 80's and 90's have been remastered, repackaged and re-released in deluxe format. This includes his debut album and EP with Bronski Beat "The Age Of Consent / Hundreds And Thousands", the two albums he recorded with Richard Coles as Communards, their self titled debut "Communards" and "Red" the album on this page as well as his first two solo recordings "Read My Lips" & "Dare To Love".
Although they only recorded two albums the footprint that Communards left on pop charts all over the world is undeniable. The musical majesty and sheer talent of Richard Coles and Jimmy Somerville might seem like an unlikely combination on paper, the classically trained keyboard virtuoso and the former front-man for one of the 80's most controversial pop groups, but boy what a combo they were. Having already stamped their manifesto by not taking a backward step and spreading the messages of love and non-conformist political views via their debut album in 1986, their second album "Red", is a much more consistent set of tunes. With the worldwide success of their gender bending duet (featuring Sarah Jane Morris singing the low parts) of the classic Harold Melvin tune (via Thelma Houston's inspired 70's disco version) "Don't Leave Me This Way" behind them, Richard and Jimmy had nothing more to prove to their critics. They could make hit songs, now they could do what they pleased in the studio such as the addition of horns and strings that could be afforded with the larger recording budgets given by major labels to successful acts for example. They also enlisted the hands of one of the most successful producers of pop music, Stephen Hague. The extra touches show in the production of this album giving it a much warmer sound than the first album which was produced mainly by Mike Thorne.
Containing two of my favourite Communards tracks, "Tomorrow" and their glorious cover of "Never Can Say Goodbye" the 2012 reissue is a very welcome addition to their catalogue for many reasons. Amongst the bonus content in this expanded 2cd edition are many tracks that make their digital debut here. The legendary Shep Pettibone Extended Mix of "Never Can Say Goodbye" appears here in the ultra rare 11 minute plus USA promo version as well as it's b sides, San Paulo Dub and Instrumental. These tracks have obviously been taken from a clean vinyl record source. I have no problem with a good needle drop and it's a shame that the master tapes of this incredible tour-de-force 12" single could not be located. I'm happy to have it all the same.
The major draw for fans is the 8 song live set on disc two. Recorded at the Paris Olympia in late 1987, these tracks were previously only available as the b-sides of the three "For A Friend" 12 inch singles released in 1988. Officially released live performances by Communards are few in number and these tracks really give you an idea of how good the band were by 1987. The live cuts are a huge bonus and sound nice and clear with no apparent vinyl distortion or crackles so I'm guessing the tapes for these tracks were found. If they are from a vinyl source you can't tell. As a side note there is also a dvd that's still available of a show from West Germany in 1986 "Fullhouse [DVD]" highlighting their first album. It's worth checking out and as far as I know, the only official live video document of the band.
If you're a Jimmy Somerville fan, this new edition of "Red" is a must for your collection. Great packaging including a nice slipcase, expanded booklet and the remaster of the album proper is a job well done. If you're a new or casual fan and let's face it, not everyone likes Jimmy's unique falsetto voice, check out the awesome compilation released a few years back, "The Very Best of Jimmy Somerville" but make sure you get the 2cd edition if you can, it's worth it for the extra disc of extended mixes.
"Tell Me Why, Is It So, I Don't Wanna Let You Go..."
This is a great re-release; no one gets the feeling of being giddily in love quite like Jimmy Somerville - you almost get butterflies just listening to it. He has something quite specifically gay, I think, which can be soul-searching (as in the moving For A Friend or C minor) or political (I've now understood the lyrics of Hold On Tight thanks to the brilliant booklet) or sheer disco. In the latter category, Never Can Say Goodbye still seems to me one of the greatest dance tracks ever, with this Communards version outstripping the original by Gloria Gaynor, good though that one is too. As I say, the presentation is very appealing, with a substantial new interview with Jimmy, all the lyrics, some very good shots of him with Richard Coles, and some small reproductions of the singles covers from 1987 - ah, how it takes you back! The extras are very extensive, with a number of completely different songs originally released as B sides, or not at all, and a live set on the second CD in which you get Jimmy wowing a Paris audience with a few words of French and some superlative singing. The versions of So Cold The Night and Don't Leave Me This Way, in particular, seem just as good as the studio versions from the first Communards album, with some great phrasing and changes in the live context and a slightly faster tempo in Don't Leave ... It seems very unbuttoned and going with the moment, as you can see in some of the live appearances on youtube as well. Heavens Above is another stand-out moment. And to top it all, you finally get to own the album with a red cover rather than the white - apparently the red had a very short availability on release, and I never even questioned the white ... which now pops up on the reverse of the insert, in case you need a total immersion in the original experience.
If there was ever a band (and at nearly 11 people by the end of the journey) then a band this really is. I know Cole and Sommerfield tend to take all the plaudis and rightly so in many instances (song writing, musician ship, vocals) but Sarah jane Morris and the rest do need to be there rather than make up the numbers.
Much better as a live group the additinal Storm paris collection really is the highlight of this Delux edtion with some wonderful sleeve notes this brings the best of the Communards to the Digital world
oh and thre really is more to love than Boy meets girl. An anthem if ever there was one