Sometimes it’s better to remember events as your memory paints a picture, not to relive those memories in today’s skin. Like every decade, there were highs and lows, in the Seventies perhaps one of those highs might have been David Bowie and the many reinventions that this artist tried and as for the lows, well maybe that single that comes around like a revolving door at Christmas time. But even that memory is becoming more acceptable with age, as its wearing edges are becoming more like a part of the wallpaper. Hazel Dean Poole, from the Chelmsford boro’ in Essex, started her career in the seventies signed to Decca Records, releasing singles-of-the pop/soul genre, participating in A Song for Europe in 1976, coming in at a lowly 8th placing, out of 12! Releasing The Sound Of Bacharach and David in 1981, released only promotionally to radio stations, this title was self-explanatory, but released only promotionally? Apparently for them “to use the songs to pad out their programming“, so they could avoid paying royalties. So it’s pretty clear this was going to be a slow burner!
Changing tack, it wasn’t until she decided to release her first dance single in 1983, now as Hazell Dean, that she found her true calling. “Searchin’ (I Gotta Find A Man)” not unsurprisingly became somewhat big on the gay scene, a legacy that follows her today. Playing to that gay scene with her particular brand of Hi-NRG dance music, unlike her Song for Europe experience this was to prove more fruitful and Hazell was to find that this success would bloom in the eighties, as collars loosened and the whole music scene became brighter and more accepting in this new decade of perceived wealth and prosperity. New Romantics would pump up the BPM and make dance music the thing of the moment. Following this initial minor success, she was to join with Stock/Aiken/Waterman and the rest, as they say, is history.
As an early part of this winning stable of artists, all playing to a similar audience, Hazell would release a series of singles between the years of 1984 & 1988, of which this was the first long-playing release in 1984 (excusing the earlier BaD issue in ’81). More a singles artist, she didn’t achieve UK album chart placing until the follow-up album of Always in 1988, nor since. But turn to singles and this record provided two top-twenty hit singles and another two that found their way into the top 100. ‘Searchin’ (I Gotta Find A Man)‘ the second track here, reached number 76 in 1983, but reissued a year later, it became
a number 6 placing and went on to to also prove successful in the US and Australia. You can certainly hear the SAW production values evident in this track and lyrically/musically can move liquidly between the sexes, proving a hit on the dance floor. The album’s opener ‘Back In My Arms‘, would, however, prove less successful and does seem somewhat of an anomaly as this contains all the hallmarks of a SAW production, although admittedly without the star quality that brought its successor to a such heady heights.
As an album, this works as singles fare, even with those tracks that went unreleased, as any of these could have found themselves in this position. but as an album less so. It’s the kind of release that you might press play at the start of an evening and have played throughout, maybe on repeat, or until your guests leave. However, as a reissued Deluxe edition this finds a new place, with a number of bonus versions added, as well as tracks that didn’t find themselves on the original release. For example 1983’s ‘Evergreen‘ (b/w ‘Jealous Love‘) that found minor success in that year and its successor ‘Stay In My Life‘, numbers it’s difficult to equate exactly why they were initially omitted. And listening to the latter, it’s hard to explain why Hazell didn’t find herself following contemporaries like Elaine Page, working in musicals. Quite a hefty amount of additional numbers find themselves on this first disc, both ‘alternate versions’ and, as mentioned, those ‘nearly dids’.
But then we come to the second disc made available with this re-issued release, and here is where it gets interesting. To commence is a new version of the album’s title track ‘Heart First‘, remixed by Dutch producer/songwriter/remixer – Matt Pop. Putting a new take on this track, Matt has dragged this number, not so much kicking and screaming I’m sure, into the 21st Century. And this is where my introduction comes in, as admittedly the earlier part of this album is somewhat like that Christmas song stuck in the revolving door, not quite having yet been granted wallpaper status, instead, sounding like someone dragging fingernails down a blackboard. All of the versions offered here have had a new sheen put on their toe-curling 80’s blandness and brought each of these numbers, waxed and polished into the new century, I’m only sorry that our Dutch contributor didn’t have more of a contributing factor, although the original album’s track 8. “No Fool (For Love)“, has been given that twist with what is called a Dubajoker Mix. This additional disc proves this releases saving grace, and if your hips require some shaking and those pants are in need of some swinging, certainly worth a punt.