Various Artists ’12”/80s New Wave/12”/80s Chilled’ (Universal Music)

Two massive collections of 12-inch remixes from the 1980s – and there’s plenty of tasty stuff as well as the odd clanger

Guilty musical pleasures. I’ll freely admit to my love of New Order’s not particularly acclaimed ‘Brotherhood’ album, but here’s my dirty secret – I bloody love 12-inch remixes from acts that used to blow the doors off the Top 10 with alarming regularity back in the 1980s.

Imagine my joy when this little lot landed on my doormat. Two box sets, six CDs, 70 tracks. Take your pick from ‘New Wave’ or ‘Chilled’. The accompanying bumpf claims these albums feature “iconic big hitters and cult club classics”. To be blunt, you’d be hard pushed to pick out the cult club classics, but the iconic big hitters are wall to wall.

I initially discovered this stuff through Altered Images. There was the skyscraper-sized teen crush on Clare Grogan, obviously, but they were the first new wave band that felt like mine – the trilling guitars, the skipping basslines, the four-to-the-floor drumming. I’d snaffle everything they released and the 12s were a revelation. They sounded a little like the singles, but they were longer, with different bits. How clever was that? Then I realised everyone was at it. It was quite something when I discovered house music, I can tell you. 

So anyway, Altered Images were, of course, produced by the late great Martin Rushent. It goes without saying his offerings here – AI’s ‘I Could Be Happy’ and The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’ from the sensational ‘Love And Dancing’ – are as good as it gets.

For many of these artists, no longer was it good enough to release a single, you had to have a remix for no other reason that you had to have a remix. Strange as it might seem, though, not much of this stuff got played out. Remixes were aimed at clubs, but the crowd who went out dancing to Top 10 hits wanted the straightforward singles. They wanted the versions they knew. As for the cool kids, they wouldn’t touch this lot with your bargepole. These remixes were pure indulgence, plain and simple. And what an indulgence.

There’s a raft of shoo-ins, mostly tracks by folk who knew what they were doing kit-wise. Soft Cell’s delicious 10-minute ‘Tainted Love’/‘Where Did Our Love Go’ mash-up and Yazoo’s joyous ‘The Other Side Of Love’. Thomas Dolby’s thrumming ‘She Blinded Me With Science’, OMD’s haunting ‘Extended Souvenir’ and The Art Of Noise’s glorious ‘Love Beat’. Frankie’s storming ‘Young Person’s Guide Into The 12-Inch Mix’ of ‘Rage Hard’ and Japan’s rip-roaring ‘European Sun’. Oh, and a bit of New Order is always welcome.

There are surprises too. Disc Three of ‘New Wave’ is a belter, getting all dubby with Grace Jones’ excellent cover of Joy Division’s ‘She’s Lost Control’ and Fun Boy Three’s delightful revamp of ‘The Telephone Always Rings’. Then there are the acts you’ve forgotten about, like Fashion and electro-folkers It’s Immaterial, and the songs that have slipped your mind, such as Aztec Camera’s juddery ‘All I Need Is Everything’ remix and Tears For Fears’ banging US version of ‘Shout’. Plus, of course, the stuff you’ve never heard before. Soft Cell’s nine-minute northern soul treatment of ‘Where The Heart Is’ is corking, as is Heaven 17’s electro overhaul of ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’.

But where there’s bangers, there’s also clangers. Simple Minds don’t cut up at all well and neither do A-Ha, with ‘Hunting High And Low’ sounding preposterously overblown. Disc Three of ‘Chilled’ is the weakest of the whole set, quite the stinker in fact, thanks in no small part to the inclusion of both Chris Rea and Bryan Ferry. What they’re doing here is anyone’s guess. Fortunately, the real howlers are few and far between, which is no mean feat over 70 tracks.

Cynical old boot that I am, I know this is a stone-cold major label cash-in. I know this is Universal taking full advantage of their vast back catalogue of tunes that many of these artists will never see a bean from ever again. But even with that in mind, there’s no question that these are still both enormously enjoyable collections. 

Confession over. I feel so much better for getting that off my chest.

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