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Chart Chat Album Review : So80S Presents ZTT – Various Artists (28.04.14)

Chart Chat Album Review : So80S Presents ZTT  – Various Artists (28.04.14)

The 12″ really came to prominence in the 1980’s, and few labels used it to their advantage more than ZTT who famously kept ‘Two Tribes’ at the top of the chart by constantly issuing new 12″ mixes as its run continued.  Label mates Propaganda and Art Of Noise were no strangers to the remix, and some of their tracks are included here too.  Things brings together Blank & Jones updated take on some of the labels hits while also tackling less familiar tracks such as ‘Black Night White Light’ and ‘San Jose’.  The result is over two hours of music, and if you get past the initial thought of “not more Frankie remixes surely!” then as a fan you will enjoy this collection.  One final note – I opted to purchase the download which at £7.99 was a good £10 cheaper than the CD edition.

All songs are by Frankie Goes To Hollywood except where stated.

Relax (Blank & Jones So80S Reconstruction)

Starting with biggest challenge, ‘Relax’ has already been remixed probably more times than the other tracks included here.  As with the other reconstructions, only the multi parts fromthe original Trevor Horn sessions have been used and the result is a mix which would not have sounded out of place on the original 12″.  This approach for me works much better than those over the years who have attempted to turn it into a completely different song.  This retains the high energy backing track, although the first two minutes ease in gently. Equally there is no dramatic climax at the end of the songs

Rage Hard (Blank & Jones So80S Reconstruction)

This starts with the bold statement “It is of course Frankie.  And Frankie only” before the listener is asked by the original female voice to “move with me inside the strange world of the 12″”.  It is almost two minutes in before the familiar bassline starts to kick in and the remaining nine minutes see the main song interspersed with further dialogue from the same actress.  It ends with exactly the same statement as it started before disappearing off into the ether.

Two Tribes (Blank & Jones So80S Reconstruction)

Starting with the Ronald Reagan impressions which graced so many of the original remixes, the tempo is quickly increased in a way that is very different to the ‘Relax’ reconstruction which chooses to build slowly.  The main chorus has kicked in by the time we reach two minutes, although this continues to be interspersed with the original Patrick Allen narrations which themselves had originally been featured in the British Government’s ‘Protect & Survive series.  As with ‘Relax’, using the original tracks means this stays very faithful to the original although for me the Annihilation Mix remains the definitive version.

Duel – Propaganda (Blank & Jones So80S Reconstruction)

Unlike the Frankie tracks we have come across so far there are no bells, whistles or narrations in this Propaganda reconstruction as the track stays as an instrumental for the first six minutes until Claudia Brucken’s distinctive vocals kick in.  Although it spent 12 weeks on the chart, it never got above no.21 which now seems strange for a track which has stood the test of time and was even covered recently by Sophie Ellis-Bextor.  I might have been tempted to shave a couple of minutes off of this version as twelve minutes is a challenge despite the quality of the underlying song.

San Jose (Blank & Jones So80S Reconstruction)

Despite the background protestations of what sounds like Ped proclaiming that this is a “bag of sh***” and a “sh** song”, Holly does actually sing this very well. I’m not entirely sure why the original cover made it on to the ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ album as for me it never really fitted in.  It’s not a song which easily lends itself to any kind of reconstruction or remix, and in effect this is little more than an extended version of the original release.  That said I quite like the fact that it stands out a bit from the others and is a track which rarely features on the bands remix compilations.

Warriors Of The Wasteland (Blank & Jones So80S Reconstruction)

It starts with the proclamation “This isn’t a matter of life and death.  It’s more important than that” which is an adaptation of a famous quote from the former Liverpool manager Bill Shankley.  What makes this reconstruction interesting is that it seems to have dispensed with both the unnaturally slow start to the original and Nash’s guitar solo which was omitted from the 7″ edit of the single.  While it gets up to full tempo reasonably quickly, the final two minutes do seem a bit drawn out and I would have perhaps chosen to fade down before it went through the eleven minute barrier.

Dr Mabuse – Propaganda (Blank & Jones So80S Reconstruction)

Opening up with the spoken intro “The man without shadow promises you the world / tell him your dreams and your fanatical needs / he’s buying them all / with cash” this is a great pop song.This was Propaganda’s debut hit, and their second biggest overall peaking at no.27 in 1984. In contrast to ‘Duel’, this lends itself much better to being an epic 12″ single and comes complete with some of the spoken narrations which defined the Frankie Goes To Hollywood remixes.  I much prefer this reconstruction to that of Duel’ though if you asked me to choose between the radio edits I would express my preference the other way round.

The Power Of Love (Blank & Jones So80S Reconstruction)

The slow but orchestral start to this version reminds us just what a thing of beauty this song was.  Trevor Horn’s production showed what is was capable of with a ballad following on from the more dance orientated feel to ‘Relax’ and ‘Two Tribes’.  The piano and strings build across the first few minutes until the familiar Holly Johnson opening of “I’ll protect you from the hooded claw / keep the vampires from your door” kicks in. The original 12″ version clock in at 9m 30s but this runs for almost two minutes longer than that. However it doesn’t feel forced, and if you allow yourself to be immersed in the track then time is really not an issue.  Beautiful and dramatic, this remains perhaps the bands most underrated moment.

Moments In Love – Art Of Noise (Blank & Jones So80S Reconstruction)

Originally released as a double a side with ‘Beat Box’, this fell short of the top forty instead peaking at no.51 in 1985.  It had followed on from their debut hit ‘Close (To The Edit)’ which had reached the top ten but the band would return to chart glory a year later with some help from Duane Eddy on his ‘Peter Gunn’ theme which peaked at no.8.  It’s a pleasant enough mellow track which takes me back to the 1980’s though it was never my favourite moment by them.

Black Night White Light (Blank & Jones So80S Reconstruction)

This was released as a teaser just ahead of the album coming out and it was what drew me into wanting to hear more. They have done a great job on a decent song which has very rarely had the remix treatment over the years.  This is one of six tracks to have originally appeared on the ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ album although it never got its own release as a single in the UK.  It now exists in an extended reconstructed version, and actually I prefer this to the original.

Watching The Wildlife (Blank & Jones So80S Reconstruction)

This was the bands final single and perhaps didn’t lend itself to the 12″ format as much as some of its predecessors. This reconstruction still features the narrative “In the coming age of automation where people eventually might work only ten or twenty hours a week man for the first time will be forced to confront himself with the true spiritual problems of living”  followed by the tongue in cheek comment “some people in Liverpool are only working 20 hours a week now”.  You feel the original single version has been stretched here, and it was perhaps at its best in its edited form.

A Dream Within A Dream – Propaganda (Blank & Jones So80S Reconstruction)

Never released as a single, this is the final Propaganda track on the album. It’s mean and moody, and perhaps more in line with Art Of Noise that with their more commercial singles ‘Duel’ and ‘Dr Mabuse’.  It runs for pretty much the same time as the nine minute original version which featured on the CD version of ‘A Secret Wish’ album (an eight minute take was to be found on the vinyl edition).  “Take this kiss upon the brow” chants the repetitive Claudia Brucken refrain, although for me the song never really goes anywhere.  I would have preferred them to try a reconstruction of their other single ‘p:Machinery’.

Welcome To The Pleasuredome (Blank & Jones So80S Reconstruction)

What better way to conclude proceedings than with a sixteen minute version of ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’.  After the opening narrative, we get a snatch of the opening line from ‘Ferry Across The Mersey’ as the customary animal noises play in the background.  What follows is a more straightforward version of the track with some subtle changes.  As the title suggests, it is a reconstruction and fans will recognise the constituent parts which make up this new version.  Can it really be almost thirty years since we heard this for the first time?  This sounds as good today as it did then.

Of course, fans will already own these tracks and doubtless many of the remixes which have been released over the years too. While there have been numerous attempts to bring the tracks up to date with new mixes, this has been a real labour of love for Blank & Jones who have been faithful to the originals when deriving new versions for this release.  I like most of what they have done here, and it is the best set of new mixes in many years.


Ian Anderson


28 April, 2014 - Posted by | ChartChat

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