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Miscellaneous - Profile

  by Paul Waller

published: 23 / 2 / 2014

Miscellaneous - Profile


Paul Waller reflects on three new albums, 'The Organisation of Pop', 'The Art of the 12 Inch, Volume Three' and latest Frankie Goes To Hollywood compilation 'Frankie Said', released to coincide with seminal label ZTT's 30th anniversary

I used to be quite suspicious of these types of compilations. So many were just cash cows for struggling record companies desperately clinging onto the public’s purse strings, draining as many pennies from our pockets as they could. More fool us for buying them up when we ourselves appeared to be clinging to the feint waft of nostalgia, bringing us back to a time period before the mortgage and the kids and the utility bills slowly stunk up our dreams. Well, those days it would seem are now mostly behind us, as the collector wised up. At some point during the last decade the majority of labels wised up as well and realised that if some thought, care and attention to detail and dare I say it…love for the product was delivered then we wouldn’t mind paying through the nose for a 10 LP set or a lavishly packaged CD box filled with rare recordings that have been compiled with passion for the music within the fully liner noted package. Whilst nowhere near a complete discography, ZTT has once again thrown it’s pennies into the wishing well and released a trio of albums that not so much document a time and place but they document an idea, a crazy fucking idea that will always produce incredible art or unlistenable nonsense. It’s a simple idea, the notion to go further, to attempt the unattemptable and to push the unpushable. In the booklet that accompanies ‘The Organisation of Pop’, Paul Morley writes that “To copy others is necessary, to copy oneself is pathetic." That motto is clearly evident when putting on this double CD. Listening to the Art of Noise’s ‘Close (To the Edit)’ today is on par to listening to a sound recording of the big bang as far as sampling history goes. It’s a monumental moment in musical history. Others had done it before of course and the AON were not the first, but they took the idea and ran with it without sacrificing melody or art in any way. It’s the perfect theme tune for what was at the time of its formation the perfect record label. The album is split into two. CD one features the chart movers and big hitters like Seal, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Tom Jones all filed under ‘The Action Series’. Another highlight is Propaganda’s ‘Dr Mabuse’ that I hadn’t heard in an age, plus the ever dependable Grace Jones opens up proceedings. It’s what you expect from the label - bonkers pop with will stick with you for life. What may be of real interest though to those who already know the above would be ‘The Incidental Series’ CD that collects some of the less instant acts on ZTT. Personally I could have done without the tepid Sexus and dishwater safe Public Demand but this was the 90s, a time when pop music was off the boil and ZTT were as well. If it wasn’t for 808 State and Kirsty MacColl keeping things fresh here Paul Morley’s words would appear hyperbolic and based on nothing more than a handful of ridiculously special records. Restoring the faith then is the third instalment of 'The Art Of The 12”'. Now this truly was where the production team at ZTT came into a league of their own. And whilst there are a few products of their time amongst these top shelf contenders (I don’t think I will ever want to listen to a seven minute remix of Frankie’s ‘Watching the Wildlife’ ever again.), the ratio is much more successful for hits rather than misses. Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Via Vagabond and Propaganda receive some particularly successful remix treatment here and M’s ‘Pop Muzik’ is transformed into something else entirely. It is cheeky and different. Once again boundaries get pushed and feathers may have gotten ruffled, but it’s worth it just to see what can happen when these bonkers studio bods get their hands on pop stars. This brings us onto the ZTT money making machine that is Frankie Goes to Hollywood and their latest compilation 'Frankie Said'. Surely anyone that cares would already have the band's back catalogue by now. Two albums is not a huge cow to keep extracting milk from especially when the second half of that cow is the disappointing ‘Liverpool’ album from 1986. Still, I’m game. I myself already have four of the band’s compilation albums; although I am sure there are more but when Frankie Says I tend to listen so… let’s do this… Well, the good news is, well, for once, rather very good indeed. is the perfect accompaniment to anyone that owns those two original albums. This compilation is full of remixes and alternate cuts that still sound fresh today. Well, it would if it wasn’t for the now dated bass sound pumping out of the speakers. Better still is the DVD that comes along with it that contains the band's videos, Top Of The Pops performances and other collected malarkey. All that’s missing is the brilliant car crash TV that was VH1’s short lived ‘Band’s Reunited’ programme. I have to admit that as a fan I finally feel like somebody other than the band cares. But let this be the end of it. Any more Frankie compilation CDs and I probably won’t buy it. Probably…

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