Various Artists – Gary Crowley’s Lost 80s Vol. 2 (Edsel / Demon Music)
These compilations, curated by former Radio One DJ (now with BBC Radio London) Gary Crowley are always such fun. It’s a fascinating listen, especially as my tastes and Gary’s don’t necessarily overlap that much, but the happy result of this ‘issue’ is that Lost 80s Vol. 2 has opened my eyes to bands I would hitherto have ignored. For example, I never thought I would ever hear the words “The Blow Monkeys have always been a class act” emanating from anyone’s lips, yet that’s how Crowley describes them in the accompanying booklet here. I laughed when I read that. And then I listened to ‘Forbidden Fruit’ and realised it’s actually a great tune that’s at least ten times better than I remembered.
Crowley seems to like that ’80s jazzy coffee shop vibe, so on disc one, you have the likes of Swing Out Sister‘s ‘Blue Mood‘ and Working Week‘s splendid 1984 single ‘Venceremos‘ – featuring both Tracey Thorn and Robert Wyatt on a highly effective shared vocal – which has given me a newfound appreciation of the genre.
I was, at first, confused by the inclusion of ‘Keep Moving’, the title track of Madness’s 1984 album, given that the long-player was a number 6 hit, but I guess when you consider that it plummeted without trace very quickly after that, and nobody ever really talks about it in terms of classic Madness, I suppose it’s fair game. I loved hearing it again anyway, especially as it’s my personal favourite album of theirs. Also great to see Nick Heyward acknowledged as a special kind of songwriter, with two top-notch compositions (‘Cafe Canada‘ and ‘When It Started To Begin’) included on this four-disc set.
It’s not all established hitmakers here though – there are a number of acts who criminally failed to make the UK Top 40, such as the absolute gem ‘Take Me To The Fire‘ by the excellent This Island Earth. A truly baffling ‘miss’, that one, as was Win’s ‘You’ve Got The Power’ (“sounding like the bastard children of T. Rex and Funkadelic” is Crowley’s spot-on description here), although if I recall correctly there was some kind of ‘ chart controversy’ at the time that prevented it hurtling towards the top end of the hit parade.
Elsewhere you’ll find Kurtis Blow‘s groundbreaking classic rap track ‘The Breaks‘, whose seven minutes plus are so infectious that they seem to pass by in an instant, the woefully underrated Animal Nightlife with the brilliant ’83 Dennis Bovell remix of ‘Native Boy‘ and ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ by the always wonderful Monochrome Set, surely the epitome of a band who should have been huge but never were, yet still continue to make fabulous music to this day.
I don’t love every track here – on a 65 track CD, that’s hardly surprising- but there are no complete ‘duffers’ either; I could happily listen to any one of these discs on repeat during a long car journey, without having to skip any track, and Crowley deserves the utmost credit for that.
What’s most pleasing though, is that now I’ve been inspired to go out and search for albums not only by obscure and long-forgotten acts like Ellen Foley, Medium Medium and Pressure Point, it’s also made me curious to check out further material by several bands that I would have baulked at the idea of as an eighties child. Thank you for smacking my teenage snobbery’s bottom, Gary.
And how the hell did I fail to realise at the time that ‘Blue‘ by Fine Young Cannibals was an effective mauling of the Tory party? It’s not exactly subtle, is it? Still, I shall be playing that one a lot more from here on, now I know that! Great stuff!
Gary Crowley’s Lost 80s Vol. 2 is out now through Edsel / Demon Music.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.