Swing Out Sister: Blue Mood, Breakout And Beyond box-set review

22 06 2022

Swing Out Sister: Blue Mood, Breakout And Beyond – The Early Years Part 1 is an 8CD Box Set released by Cherry Red on July 29 2022.

Swing Out Sister - Blue Mood, Breakout & Beyond album cover

The collection contains Swing Out Sister’s ‘Early Years’, collecting the albums from 1985 – 1992 and on discs 5 to 8: B-Sides, 7” mixes, remixes and rare versions.

The albums included are It’s Better To Travel (1987), Kaleidoscope World (1989), Get In Touch With Yourself (1992) and Live At The Jazz Cafe (1993).

The booklet contains a full track annotation and rare memorabilia with illustrations by Corinne Drewery and sleeve notes by SDE writer Paul Sinclair, who has spoken to band members current and past.

Disc one is the bands debut, It’s Better To Travel. Opening with their signature song, Breakout, followed by my favourite Swing Out Sister track, Twilight World. The song contains so many of my favourite elements of the 80s – subtle percussion, iconic synths, real strings and a lovely mid-pace, caught between a 7″ and a 12″ arrangement. Adding Corinne’s instantly recognisable jazz-tinged vocals to the mix equals pop-heaven.

Swing Out Sister - It's Better To Travel

The album is a mix of up-tempo tracks and pop ballads. Surrender and Fooled By A Smile are superb singles, instantly transporting me back to a time of 4 TV channels, Top Of The Pops, Night Network and extended 12″ vinyl remixes. Album producer Paul O’Duffy cut his teeth in the club remix field, before moving on to the first albums by Hipsway and Curiosity Killed the Cat, and so was perfectly qualified to add pop, jazz and dance layers to this album.

Communion has always remained a personal favourite, with its lightness of touch and warm, late-night chorus, plus the percussion influenced by 80s Go-go rhythms from the USA. The slightly discordant switch in tempo just past the half-way mark, and the guitar on the outro section always hits the spot.

It’s Better To Travel is one of my favourite 80s vinyl albums, and well worth tracking down if you don’t own a copy.

Disc two contains Kaleidoscope World, with producer Paul O’Duffy remaining on board for this and the bands third album. Kaleidoscope World has more of a 60s feel, and a slightly wider musical palette. There also appears to have been a more extensive recording budget, with guest appearances from the likes of guitarists Vini Reilly (the Durutti Column, Pauline Murray) and Phil Palmer (Dire Straits, George Michael, David Sylvian) plus arrangements by Richard Niles and the legendary Jimmy Webb.

Swing Out Sister - Kaleidoscope World

You On My Mind continues in a similar vein to the debut album, but there is a definite switch away from synths to acoustic instruments, which suits the 60s mood that pervades many of the songs, such as Heart for Hire.

The synths do make a slight return on Waiting Game, whilst Precious Words has a touch of the lounge-music of The Girl From Ipanema.

The widescreen, adventurous pop arrangement of Masquerade is a revelation, and is my favourite track on the album.

There is a clear progression evident on Kaleidoscope World and the addition of new styles and fresh musicians definitely adds variety and new flavours to the mix.

On the band’s third album, Get In Touch With Yourself from 1992, Luís Jardim (known for his work with ZTT bands, and a fine percussionist) appears more prominently to replace the recently departed founding member Martin Jackson. The guest musicians list is shorter on album number three, giving a slightly less adventurous feel. Get In Touch With Yourself is still a good pop album, and contains one of their finest singles, Am I The Same Girl?, a rare Swing Out Sister cover version.

Swing Out Sister - Get In Touch With Yourself

Everyday Crime contains some delicious Shaft style guitar and an updating of the SOS template. Understand is a pop/Soul track that has stood the test of time, with some rich backing vocals.

Don’t Say The Word has an addictive drum pattern and Love Child feels like it was influenced by the rolling percussion and deep strings of Massive Attack’s Blue Lines album from the previous year.

Live At The Jazz Cafe was recorded in December 1992, and features a 10 piece band. You On My Mind works particularly well in a live setting, as does the jazzier, extended live take of Surrender. No surprises for my picking Twilight World as my favourite from the live album. The jazz-tinged arrangement shines a fresh light on this interesting reworking of such a wonderful song.

The remaining discs in the box-set collect remixes, single edits and b-sides. You want 7 mixes of Twilight World, you got it!

On the final disc (b-sides and edits) lie some gems. Coney Island Man is a lyric free, Burt Bacharach inspired piece. The Swing Out Sister cover of the classic Windmills of Your Mind is a piano and vocals version, recorded live for a radio station. Taxi Town harks back to the first album, with a heavier use of electronics. A slow-burning experimental piece, its unlike anything else released by the band.

This boxset brings together everything you need from this era of Swing Out Sisters career, and along with the informative sleeve-notes, makes this a must buy for fans of 80s and early 90s pop music.

Buy Swing Out Sister: Blue Mood, Breakout And Beyond – The Early Years Part 1 from Amazon

DISC ONE
ITS BETTER TO TRAVEL
Breakout
Twilight World (Superb, Superb, Mix)
After Hours
Blue Mood
Surrender
Fooled By A Smile
Communion
It’s Not Enough
Theme (From – ‘It’s Better To Travel’)

DISC TWO
KALEIDOSCOPE WORLD
You On My Mind
Where In The World?
Forever Blue
Heart For Hire
Tainted
Waiting Game
Precious Words
Masquerade
Between Strangers
The Kaleidoscope Affair
Precious Words – Instrumental
Forever Blue – String Mix
Masquerade – Instrumental

DISC THREE
GET IN TOUCH WITH YOURSELF
Get In Touch With Yourself
Am I The Same Girl?
Incomplete Without You
Everyday Crime
Circulate
Who Let the Love Out?
Understand
Notgonnachange
Don’t Say The Word
Love Child
Everyday Crime – Instrumental

DISC FOUR

LIVE AT THE JAZZ CAFE
Get In Touch With Yourself
You On My Mind
Surrender
Everyday Crime
Twilight World
Circulate
Am I The Same Girl?
Breakout
Notgonnachange
Who Let the Love Out / Expansions / Coney Island Man / Wives & Lovers?

DISC FIVE
MIXES
Blue Mood – Dubbed-Up Version
Blue Mood – Growler Mix
Breakout- A New Rockin’ Version
Breakout – NAD Mix
Breakout – Horny Version
Breakout – Carnival Mix
Fooled By A Smile – Ralph Mix
Fooled By A Smile – TV Mix
Breakout – American Instrumental Mix
Communion – Instrumental
Fooled By A Smile – Phi Phi Mix
Twilight World – Remix

DISC SIX

MORE MIXES
Twilight World – The World Travel Mix
Twilight World – Vocal Dub
Twilight World – Classical Dub
Twilight World – Instrumental
Twilight World – Beat Your Sister Dub
Surrender – Stuff Gun Mix
Surrender – Pop Stand Remix
Surrender – Roadrunner Mix
Precious Words – Orchestral Mix
Waiting Game – Extended Version
Waiting Game – Remix Edit
Waiting Game – Ultimix
Waiting Game – Dub

DISC SEVEN:

EVEN MORE MIXES
Where In The World? – Bongo Fury Mix
Where In The World? – Radical Mix
You On My Mind – Extended Version
Precious Words – Earth Bound Mix
Am I The Same Girl – Bubba’s Version
Notgonnachange – Classic Club
Notgonnachange – Classic Song Mix
Notgonnachange – Mix Of Drama
Notgonnachange – Dashi I Mix
Notgonnachange – O’Duffy’s 7-inch Mix
Notgonnachange – New Jack Swing Out Mix
Am I The Same Girl – Instrumental

DISC EIGHT:

B-SIDES / EDITS
Wake Me When It’s Over – B-Side
Dirty Money – B-Side
Who’s To Blame – B-Side
Another Lost Weekend – B-Side
Fever – B-Side
Coney Island Man – B-Side
Taxi Town – B-Side
Windmills Of Your Mind – ‘Where In The World’ Bonus Track
Spirit Moves – B-Side
I Can Hear You But Can’t See
Alone – Notgonnachange Bonus Track
Surrender – 7-inch Version
Twilight World – Single Edit
Notgonnachange – Edit
Circulate – Live Version (Japanese Single)

Buy Swing Out Sister: Blue Mood, Breakout And Beyond – The Early Years Part 1 from Amazon





The Vapors – Waiting For The Weekend: The United Artist & Liberty Recordings review

14 07 2021

The Vapors are releasing a 76 track deluxe 4CD clamshell box set containing the band’s first two studio albums New Clear Days and Magnets along with B-sides & single versions. The set also includes two discs of previously unreleased demos, rough mixes, alternative and live versions, including the band’s performance at The Rainbow, supporting The Jam on their Setting Sons tour in December 1979.

The material has been mastered from the original master tapes retrieved from the EMI Archives, and still sounds crisp and powerful.

The first disc contains The Vapors debut album New Clear Days from 1980. Containing the band’s signature track Turning Japanese, the album is much more than the massive hit single. Cold War captures perfectly the post-punk influenced new wave sound of 1979 / 1980.

My favourite track on the album is the nuclear paranoia riddled Bunkers.

“I went down the road to see the end of the movie
‘Cause I really like the part where the heroine dies
She takes away so many million secrets
But she tells just a few before she closes her eyes”

The agitated bass-line and wonderful drums and percussion backbeat drives this frenetic album highlight. Waiting For The Weekend and the album closer Letter From Hiro also serve as powerful statements.

The remainder of disc one collects the remaining tracks released during this period, including the single Prisoners, b-side Here Comes The Judge (Live), a single edit of News At Ten, a shortened edit of Turning Japanese and the first of three previously unreleased tracks, Move (Demo), which has a guitar sound reminiscent of the style of John McGeoch, who was a member of Magazine around this time.

The expanded version of second album Magnets from 1981 opens with single Jimmie Jones, followed by the Bowie influenced, more experimental sound of Spiders, which showed that the band’s musical vocabulary was expanding. Spiders should have been a hit single, it was made for the airwaves of 1980.

Isolated Case is a Banshee’s influenced, post-punk slice of pop, and has aged well. Live At The Marquee has an interesting, intelligent arrangement and a killer, speed infused 60s pop chorus.

“But we’re alive at the marquee”

Its a real shame that the lack of record company promotion harmed the prospects of Magnets, as it has a much more varied sound than the debut, and deserved to be heard by more people. Maybe that time is now?

I have a lot of love for Daylight Titans, with it’s Banshees meets The Comsat Angels flavour.

“But what hurts me is I never get the time
To say or do even half of what I’m feeling”

Can’t Talk Anymore adds some Dave Edmunds / Nick Lowe pop sensibility to a dark lyric. The haunting title track Magnets closes the original album running order, with a slow-burning arrangement and a powerful mantra to close the song.

The motorcade is never-ending…”

B-side Galleries For Guns and the single / remixes, plus an archive interview with Dave Fenton, complete disc two.

Disc Three is New Clear Days (Alternative Versions). Containing demos, alternative versions and rough mixes of the songs from the album. One of the highlights is Turning Japanese (Alternative Version), which has added synths and percussion and sounds like it could be from slightly later than 1980. Its interesting to hear, but the original is still the best! Another highlight is the spirited Letter From Hiro (Rough Mix).

Just as interesting is the final disc, which comprises Magnets (Alternative Versions) & Live At The Rainbow 03/12/1979.

This disc contains two previously unreleased songs. A studio cut of Secret Noise, which probably would have been more suited to the debut album, and a live version of Caroline recorded at The Rainbow in 1979. The Rainbow show highlights the band before they were successful. Its strange hearing a live performance of Turning Japanese with no roar during the iconic intro.

The Vapors – Waiting For The Weekend: The United Artist & Liberty Recordings is a great way to collect the recordings from the first incarnation of the band, and its also a good opportunity for a timely reappraisal of the band’s second album, Magnets.

The Vapors reformed in 2016 and in 2020 released their excellent third album studio album Together, that included a career highlight in Girl from the Factory. So hopefully lots more to come from this great band.

Buy The Vapors – Waiting For The Weekend: The United Artist & Liberty Recordings 4 CD Boxset

Disc One: New Clear Days (Expanded Version)

Spring Collection
Turning Japanese
Cold War
America
Trains
Bunkers
News At Ten
Somehow
Sixty Second Interval
Waiting For The Weekend
Letter From Hiro

Bonus Tracks

Prisoners
Sunstroke
Here Comes The Judge (Live)
News At Ten (Single Version)
Wasted
Talk Talk
Waiting For The Weekend (Single Version)
Billy
Turning Japanese (Edit)
Move (Demo)

Disc Two: Magnets (Expanded Version)

Jimmie Jones
Spiders
Isolated Case
Civic Hall
Live At The Marquee
Daylight Titans
Johnny’s In Love (Again)
Can’t Talk Anymore
Lenina
Silver Machines
Magnets

Bonus Tracks

Galleries For Guns
Jimmie Jones (Single Version)
Daylight Titans (Single Version)
Spiders (Single Version)
Interview With Dave Fenton

Disc Three: New Clear Days (Alternative Versions)

Spring Collection (Demo)
Turning Japanese (Alternative Version)
Cold War (Rough Mix)
America (Demo)
Trains (Rough Mix)
Bunkers (Demo)
News At Ten (Alternative Version)
Somehow (Instrumental)
Sixty Second Interval (Demo)
Waiting For The Weekend (Demo)
Letter From Hiro (Rough Mix)
Turning Japanese (Edit) (Demo)
Prisoners (Demo)
Wasted (Rough Mix)
Spring Collection (Rough Mix)
Turning Japanese (Alternative Extended Mix)
Cold War (Rough Mix Edit)
America (Instrumental)
Waiting For The Weekend (Rough Mix)
Cold War (Alternative Rough Mix)
Turning Japanese (Instrumental)

Disc Four: Magnets Alternative Versions & Live At The Rainbow 03/12/1979

Jimmie Jones (Rough Mix)
Civic Hall (Rough Mix)
Live At The Marquee (Rough Mix)
Johnny’s In Love (Again) (Rough Mix)
Galleries For Guns (Rough Mix)
Secret Noise
Galleries For Guns (Alternative Rough Mix)

Live At The Rainbow 03/12/1979

Caroline
Somehow
Bunkers
Sunstroke
Cold War
Waiting For The Weekend
Sixty Second Interval
Spring Collection
Turning Japanese
America
Prisoners

Buy The Vapors – Waiting For The Weekend: The United Artist & Liberty Recordings 4 CD Boxset








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