Billy Mackenzie – Satellite Life: Recordings (1995-1996) review

21 02 2022

Satellite Life: Recordings (1995-1996) is a 3 CD set from Billy Mackenzie, released by Cherry Red on 22 April 2022, re-assembling past recordings with plenty of previously unreleased songs.

Hailing from Dundee, Scotland, Billy Mackenzie formed The Associates with Alan Rankine and the band enjoyed huge critical acclaim, chart success and cult status but the pair parted company in 1983 and Billy continued to record, for a while as The Associates and also in collaboration with other musicians, as well as releasing music as a solo artist.

Around 1994, Billy met Steve Aungle. The pair sparked off each other, prompting a purple patch for making new music. Some recordings appeared on two posthumous albums, Beyond The Sun (1997) and Eurocentric (2001). A couple more surfaced on Auchtermatic (2004).

However, Steve had long felt that the recordings hadn’t been presented or sequenced appropriately and in conjunction with Cherry Red, he has curated this new triple-CD collection, which re-assembles past recordings with previously unreleased songs, including collaborations with Dennis Wheatley and Laurence Jay Cedar, who also contribute to the CD booklet notes.

Disc one in the three CD set is titled Winter Academy, and mainly features songs from Beyond The Sun and Eurocentric. This first disc is Billy at his most melancholic, with mainly down-tempo songs. It’s perfectly sequenced, with stripped back arrangements for the early songs such as the majestic Sing That Song Again, highlighting the pure magic of Billy’s vocals. Winter Academy is the Beyond The Sun mix, not the Transmission Impossible version. An ice-cold arrangement chills, with a diamond sharp vocal performance that sits so well with the strings.

Billy’s version of Wild Is The Wind is a great companion piece to David Bowie’s take on the song. They are both classic recordings, and although I’ve lived with Bowie’s version for much longer, the held note towards the end blows my mind every single time I hear Billy perform this standard.

“Like a leaf clings
To the tree
Oh my darling,
Cling to me”

Another cover is Sparks Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth, with just piano, violin and vocals. When The World Was Young features Steve Aungle on piano, and Billy on vocals. The sixties influenced layered backing vocals make the track sound so much richer, and it’s a highlight of this first disc.

Two previously unreleased songs sit in the middle of disc one. Tallahatchie Pass is a Mackenzie/Aungle composition, and is a 70s sounding arrangement. I wonder if this song is a reference to Billie Joe McAllister and the Tallahatchie Bridge referenced in Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billie Joe? Tallahatchie Pass is a fine song, and offers us a style not really heard from Billy before, as a tantalising hint of what might have been.

Also previously unreleased is the dark cover of Randy Newman’s Baltimore, recorded with Dennis Wheatley. This is my favourite of the “new” tracks on this disc. The beatless, discordant and reverb drenched strings and vocals deliver an absolute classic, that could have easily been included on one of Billy’s studio albums. The arrangement reminds me of the mood of Bomb The Bass’s Winter In July (minus the beats, of course). Heavenly!

“Oh, Baltimore
Ain’t it hard just to live, just to live”

I was not surprised to see Nocturne VII and Beyond The Sun appear on this compilation, and Return To Love dials in the electronica of the second disc, Consenting Holograms.

The tempo increases for disc two. Opening with Beyond The Sun‘s manic, Middle Eastern flavoured 3 Gypsies In A Restaurant and Eurocentric‘s Falling Out With The Future, the synths are bubbling and the beats are pumping. No torch songs here.

Put This Right was recorded and written with Laurence Jay Cedar, and features a Giorgio Moroder inspired synth-fest backing, and a fine vocal from Mr MacKenzie. The unreleased tracks are a revelation! A second Laurence Jay Cedar track follows, with Diamanda. A more experimental dance track than Put This Right, with acid synths and cold soundscapes providing the perfect backing to an insistently catchy song that burrows into your brain. Disc two is made to play loud!

Hornophobic always reminds me of the Rankine / Associates Sulk era, and has aged particularly well, remaining one of Billy’s best later period pieces.

“Just walk, walk through your TVs
No room for deep thought, or heat-seeking missiles”

Fear Is My Bride features a touching vocal and an addictive chorus. Sadly, I wonder about the source material for this song (and to some extent, the vocal on Eurocentric), as the audio quality falls a little below the standard of the other tracks, but for the chorus alone, Fear Is My Bride deserves its inclusion.

14th Century Nightlife works well with another of the unreleased tracks, another lyric-less piece, the jittery Consenting Holograms Have More Fun.

Following on from the cover of Eurythmics Here Comes The Rain Again comes Eurocentric, propelled by a four to the floor kick-drum and an interesting vocal arrangement. We can only wonder how all of these previously unreleased songs would have developed over time, had Billy still been with us.

Mysterious Lover is sadly very much of its time, so not one of my favourites from the Consenting Holograms disc. Return To Love 2 is a previously unheard version of the Eurocentric track, and is a much brighter, and at times, lighter take on the song.

Give Me Time (remix) is a 9 minute exploration of the Beyond The Sun track, that also appears in it’s original form on disc 3 of this collection. The arrangement stretches and is almost a dub mix at times, with echoed percussion and deep-cut basslines. The last three minutes of this remix are a dream, with the music built around a Mackenzie harmony. Drop those depth charges baby! The original is still the definitive take, but this remix is worth returning to, and sounds so beautiful in the magical early hours.

Disc Three: Liberty Lounge includes six previously unreleased recordings, and rounds the collection off with some of Mackenzie’s more pop orientated material. Tomorrow People is a timeless piece of twisted pop-music. Possibly inspired by the early 70s UK television show, this would have made a great single, and would still sound good on the radio today. Release it to the airwaves, Cherry Red!

The Mountains That You Climb, with its whistle intro and deep strings, has a nostalgic 1960s feel. Hearing Billy’s vocals accompanied by Rhodes piano sends shivers. This song would have been the centrepiece of any future Billy Mackenzie album, in an alternative reality. The way he hold’s the vocal line before the chorus, is a Mackenzie trademark, built to tug on the heart-strings. I love the production (by White Label), and it soon became one of my favourites on the collection.

The quality does not drop with the next unreleased song, McArthur’s Son, another White Label production, benefiting from a fuller band line-up. Sounding like an out-take from a classic mid 70s album, I would have loved to have heard further recordings with this more organic style, so unlike any other songs we have heard graced with those angelic pipes. A genuine lost Mackenzie classic.

Reminding me of Bowie’s Lodger, Eurocentric‘s Liberty Lounge did not initially connect with me until I heard it on this compilation, which shows how this reimagining / sympathetic sequencing has done wonders for the material. There are no major audio improvements that I am aware of with the previously released tracks, but so many of the songs work so much better in this new environment.

We go back to Beyond The Sun for the next four tracks, and they are all killer, no filler, especially the Roxy Music art-rock of Sour Jewel and the aching Theme From Shaft meets Massive Attack influenced At The Edge Of The World. This song really highlights the raw emotion of Billy’s vocals. The album’s title track is from the Transmission Impossible album, and is another one that only really hit hard on this compilation.

A new version of a Beyond The Sun track is the next previously unheard songs. 14 Mirrors 2 strips back the instrumentation, with Billy accompanied by Steve Aungle on piano, giving this take a new, timeless appeal. Auchtermatic‘s Velvet whet’s your palette for the final two previously unreleased tracks.

Your Own Fire is a collaboration with Stiv Lestar, and sadly suffers compared to the other songs, sounding like it might have been sourced from a cassette master. Nonetheless Your Own Fire has an interesting arrangement, almost sounding like Billy backed by a rough and ready garage band.

The album ends with Von Hamburg, a haunting Mackenzie/Aungle composed piano and strings finale that is a fitting conclusion to a collection put together with so much love and respect.

I must admit to feeling a little worried about this compilation prior to hearing it, and whilst the audio quality dips on three of the songs, I agree with the inclusion of all of the unreleased material, which offers hints of what was possibly still to come from Billy, and definitely enhances his reputation as one of our most gifted singer / songwriters. Everyone marvels at his voice but don’t always give credit for his writing. Also bear in mind the timescale of these recordings – with so much quality to be heard, and such a wide musical vocabulary, all in the space of just two years, making this collection all the more remarkable, and a pure joy to listen to.

Pre-order Billy MacKenzie – Satellite Life: Recordings (1995-1996) at Amazon

Pre-order Billy MacKenzie – Satellite Life: Recordings (1995-1996) at Burning Shed

Disc One: Winter Academy

  1. Sing That Song Again
  2. Winter Academy
  3. Wild Is The Wind
  4. Blue It Is
  5. The Soul That Sighs
  6. Mother Earth
  7. And This She Knows
  8. When The World Was Young
  9. Tallahatchie Pass *
  10. Baltimore *
  11. Nocturne VII
  12. Beyond The Sun
  13. Return To Love

Disc Two: Consenting Holograms

  1. 3 Gypsies In A Restaurant
  2. Falling Out With The Future
  3. Put This Right *
  4. Diamanda *
  5. Hornophobic
  6. 14th Century Nightlife
  7. Consenting Holograms Have More Fun *
  8. Fear Is My Bride *
  9. Here Comes The Rain Again
  10. Eurocentric *
  11. Mysterious Lover *
  12. Return To Love 2 *
  13. Give Me Time (remix) *

Disc Three: Liberty Lounge

  1. Tomorrow People *
  2. The Mountains That You Climb *
  3. McArthur’s Son *
  4. Liberty Lounge
  5. Sour Jewel
  6. 14 Mirrors
  7. Give Me Time
  8. At The Edge Of The World
  9. Satellite Life
  10. 14 Mirrors 2 *
  11. Velvet
  12. Your Own Fire *
  13. Von Hamburg *

    * previously unissued




News: The Associates Perhaps 2 CD re-mastered re-issue

21 11 2019

35 years after its original release Cherry Red are releasing a 2 CD digipak edition of The Associates third studio album Perhaps plus related bonus tracks. The album has been re-mastered from the original master tapes.

The previous CD release was part of a double-pack featuring The Glamour Chase, from 2002. This new Cherry Red edition is the first CD release featuring an expanded track-listing.

Originally released in February 1985 after exhaustive recording sessions, Billy Mackenzie finally followed up the 1982 Associates album Sulk with this 10 track offering. The album featured four different producers, Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware, Martin Rushent, Dave Allen and Greg Walsh.

Disc One features the 10 original album tracks plus four instrumentals that were included on the original cassette release of the album. These bonus tracks are appearing on CD for the first time.

Disc Two features all the related bonus tracks for which master tapes still exist. This includes the extended versions of singles Those First Impressions, Waiting For The Loveboat and the wonderful single Take Me To The Girl, plus single versions of Waiting For The Loveboat, Breakfast and Take Me To The Girl. Other tracks include 7” and 12” b-sides.

Housed in a digipak containing a 20 page page booklet, a UK discography and extensive sleeve-notes written by Andy Davis.


Available for pre-order now.

Disc One: Perhaps + Bonus Tracks

  1. Those First Impressions
  2. Waiting For The Loveboat
  3. Perhaps (Dave Allen Remix)
  4. Schampout
  5. Helicopter Helicopter
  6. Breakfast
  7. Thirteen Feelings
  8. The Stranger In Your Voice
  9. The Best Of You
    (Billy Mackenzie & Dave Allan Remix)
  10. Don’t Give Me That I Told You So Look
  11. Perhaps (Instrumental) (Bonus Track) *
  12. Breakfast Alone (Instrumental) (Bonus Track) *
  13. Thirteen Feelings (Instrumental) (Bonus Track) *
  14. The Stranger In Your Voice (Instrumental) (Bonus Track) *

Disc Two: Bonus Tracks

  1. Those First Impressions (Extended Version) *
  2. Waiting For The Loveboat (Single Version)
  3. Waiting For The Loveboat (Extended Version) *
  4. Waiting For The Loveboat (Slight Return)
  5. Perhaps Perhaps *
  6. Schampout (Edit) *
  7. Breakfast (Single Version)
  8. Breakfast (Edit)
  9. Kites
  10. Take Me To The Girl (Single Version)
  11. Take Me To The Girl (12” Mix) *
  12. Take Me To The Girl (Instrumental) *
  13. The Girl That Took Me *
  • appearing on CD for the first time

Buy The Associates Perhaps 2-CD on Amazon








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