Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases, including Soft Cell, Ashford & Simpson and an Ace Records '80s compilation...
Soft Cell: The Singles: Keychains & Snowstorms
Back in harness for a one-off reunion gig at London’s O2 Arena at the end of the month, Soft Cell are the subject of a bewilderingly extensive new career retrospective 10 disc box set, Keychains & Snowstorms: The Soft Cell Story, featuring more than 130 tracks and 12 hours of music, across both CD and DVD, with newly-remastered 12” mixes, rare B-sides, previously unreleased demos and a treasure trove of additional material, ideal for completists. For everyone else, The Singles: Keychains & Snowstorms is set for release on September 28, and is a more concise single disc ‘best of’ housing the seminal duo’s finest singles, including Tainted Love, Say Hello Wave Goodbye, What! and much more. Moreover, in the process of sourcing material for the box set, keyboards wizard Dave Ball shared with vocalist Marc Almond two new pieces of music, which appear on The Singles: Keychains & Snowstorms, and not on the box set: Northern Lights, a typically uplifting celebration of their Northern Soul roots, and the as-yet unheard Guilty (Cos I Say You Are).
Ashford & Simpson: Love Will Fix It: The Warner Bros. Anthology 1973-1981
(Groove Line GLRCDXD 004)
Previously known largely as songwriters, primarily for Motown, the husband and wife team of Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson developed into an accomplished recording act in their own right, and this superb new compilation from Glasgow label Groove Line is a 3CD anthology that cherry picks the best material from their eight album tenure at Warner Brothers between 1973 and 1981. Newly-remastered from the original tapes, and housed in a deluxe digipack alongside a 28-page booklet, the collection bristles with excellent songs and first rate performances across pop, soul, R&B, disco and related genres. To pinpoint just three of the 47 recordings herein: Flashback and the title track were awesome offcuts from the Is It Still Good To Ya album but the album's towering work of genius is It Seems To Hang On, a joyous, lush, soulful, sinewy and melodic song that draws superb, perfectly matched vocals from the pair. Found A Cure, Bourgie Bourgie and Don’t Cost You Nothing are among other highlights, and the whole of disc 3 is turned over to 12” Disco Remixes, featuring hard to find expanded versions of Stay Free, One More Try and many more, closing with the previously unreleased instrumental reprise of Tried, Tested And Found True.
Various: Rockin’ In The USA: Hot 100 Hits Of The 80s
(Ace CDTOP 1526)
Although Britain and The USA listened to a lot of the same music in the 1980s, American acts tended to release more traditional, guitar-based rock material while British acts embraced newer technology, and went with synth-driven pop. This, of course, is a gross generalisation, but the truth is that while leading acts from both sides of The Atlantic prospered, many huge US hits were all but ignored in the UK, and vice versa. A sister series to Ace’s popular Golden Age Of American Rock ‘n’ Roll, Chartbusters USA and The Hit List, its new Rockin’ In The USA: Hot 100 Hits Of The 80s series launch set vividly illustrates the differences. All of the 23 songs on the album were US Hot 100 Hits, with all but one of them going Top 40 – but of the six that made any impression at all on the UK chart, only Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time and The Bangles’ Walking Down The Street breached the Top 40. Some of those who found favour on the other side of the pond, but not here, were actually British: Paul Carrack, former lead singer of Ace, and later of Mike & The Mechanics, had a US hit in 1983 with I Need You, a pleasing ballad penned by Nick Lowe; and London band The Outfield had eight hits in America without charting here, including the excellent Your Love, which sounds like a Sting track. Some Americans who did make the UK chart at other times missed out with excellent tracks here too, including Mr. Mister and their lively Is It Love and The Cars’ typically quirky You Might Think. More obscure, but also worth including, are Wet Willie lead singer Jimmy Hall’s only solo hit, I’m Happy That Love Has Found You, and Boston new wave band Face To Face’s 10-9-8.