Artist: British Electric Foundation
Title: Music Of Quality And Distinction Volume 3
Genre: Synth Pop
Release Date: 7th July 2013
Label: Wall of Sound
When Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh was kicked out of THE HUMAN LEAGUE after 2 albums, they decided to create the BRITISH ELECTRIC FOUNDATION, an artistic concept entitled them to produce a lot of different things in all kind of arts. One of which happened to be HEAVEN 17 and which will represent most of their times for 3 decades. But Martyn used the B.E.F. Label to produce other artists: Tina Turner's come back hit, 'Private Dancer', and Terence Trent d'Arby's debut and mass selling album 'Introducing The Hardline According to TTDA' as well as some collaboration with Sheffield partners ABC. B.E.F. also released 2 albums of classic covers in the 80's and it was in 2005 that Ware announced a 3rd volume, entitled DARK, would be released... "soon". 8 years after this announcement, the album is finally here and a small tour is currently happening in UK, with both Ware and some of this album's guests... while touring with HEAVEN 17 too (Reflection Of Darkness is one of the partners of the forthcoming show in Paris with WAITING FOR WORDS at the cult club "Le Bus Palladium", November 10th ). Another set of 80's artists who happen to be more active than ever in their career.
So, back to 'Dark - Music Of Quality And Distinction Volume 3'! The album opens up with Stevie Wonder's 'Every Time I See You I Go Wild', sung by Kim Wilde, and let's face it... it's the best title sung by Kim I've listened to since decades! The song sets the mood of the album as it was promised by Martyn Ware when he announced it 8 years ago: Dark and minimal. Kim's voice is stunning and the production proves that Ware still sounds very contemporary. Green Gartside from cult act Scritti Politti follows up on the mike for a cover of 'Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time', originally by the Delphonics (it appears in "Jackie Brown"). Ware definitely kept the original rhythm and blues / soul spirit, just bringing enough electronic to it to make it sound more contemporary. The next guest is a blast from the past: Sarah Jane Morris who once was popular when part of The Communards and most of all with 'Don't Leave Me This Way' (she's the vocalist in duet with Jimmy). She first recorded her version of 'I Don't Want To Know About Evil', a song by John Martyn, on her 2000 album, 'Fallen Angel'. Of course, the Ware treatment to it turns it into a tortured electronic blues very emotional.
A stunning piece follows with 'Picture This' (Blondie) sung by Kate Jackson, who was member of another Sheffield act, The Long Blondes and now more focused on paintings, although still touring with her Kate Jackson Group. Martyn turned the danceable Blondie's hit in a soft orchestral version absolutely fantastic, one of the highlights of this album. Another long-time friend appears next: Andy Bell, covering 'Breathing' from Kate Bush - delicate, intimate and stunning performance by Bell. Obviously, Heaven 17's partner in crime, Glenn Gregory, appears on two songs. First one is 'It Was A Very Good Year', made famous by Franck Sinatra in the 60's... and more recently by Robbie Williams - one more evidence that Glenn Gregory is purely and simply one of the best voices in pop music since decades. The electronic treatment to it manages to keep the original spirit of the song, when past meets contemporary. The second one is the major hit of The Associates, 'Party Fear Two'. On this one, Ware turns things upside down. While Sinatra's was turned into electronic, this synth pop / new wave classic is on the opposite turned into a piano soulful song that once again emphasizes Glenn's marvellous voice.
Boy George makes also two surprising appearances: For Iggy Pop's 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' you must be a hard-core fan of George to recognize his voice here! He starts singing in a low tune to end up in an aggressive way we are not really used to listen from him... and it works damn well! The atmosphere is respectful of the original and doesn't bring any revolution to it. 2nd George song is a cover of Lou Reed: 'Make Up' from his cult album 'Transformer'. No big revolution either on that one as Ware "only" emphasizes the "cabaret" feel to it. David J Roch is invited to perform on a Bill Wither classic, 'Same Love', another highlight of this album. Ware turns this soul classic in a dancey "Moroder-alike" track full of arpeggiated bass lines, with a melancholic feel that Pet Shop Boys wouldn't deny. I didn't really know about Roch before but his voice sounds just fabulous. More anecdotic is the Beach Boys cover of 'God Only Knows', sung by Shingai Shoniwa (from the band The Noisettes)... hard to compete with this one after Bowie's outstanding version a while ago.
Polly Scattergood follows on the Julee Cruise's 'The Look Of Love', a beautiful and soft trip where Polly delicately whispers to your ears. Another Heaven 17's partner in crime, Billie Godfrey, sings with Genn and Martyn since many years. And this one is THE climax of the album, THE masterpiece: 'Smalltown Boy' (yes, the one from Bronski Beat), divided in two parts. First one is piano / vocal oriented. Billie's voice is incredible and I challenge anyone not to have goose bump while listening to it. After a bit more than 4 minutes (and some splendid high vocal notes), the song takes a sudden electro direction - without a doubt one of the best cover ever of this classic. To sum it up, this is a great, great album. You soon forget you're listening to a cover album to be honest as it's very coherent and in most of the case, radically different from the originals. Martyn Ware proves he is still a very impressive and up to date producer. Let's hope now he will work with Glenn on a new Heaven 17, rather sooner than later!
Note: a 2 CD version signed by Martyn Ware is available exclusively through B.E.F website
01. Every Time I See You I Go Wild (Kim Wilde)
02. Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time (Green Gartside)
03. JUST Don't Wanna Know (Sarah Jane Morris)
04. Picture This (Kate Jackson)
05. Breathing (Andy Bell)
06. It Was A Very Good Year (Glenn Gregory)
07. I Wanna Be Your Dog (Boy George)
08. Same Love (David J Roch)
09. God Only Knows (Shingai Shoniwa)
10. Make Up (Boy George)
11. Just Walk In My Shoes (Sandie Shaw)
12. The Look Of Love (Polly Scattergood)
13. Party Fears Two (Glenn Gregory)
14. Smalltown Boy (Billie Godfrey)
15. The Day Before You Came (Maxim) - BONUS TRACK
16. Copilot To Pilot (Kelly Barnes) - BONUS TRACK
CD2 (Deluxe edition only)
Martyn Ware: Production and instruments
Vocals: Guests on each songs
Total: 9.7 / 10