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“NOW” and Then: U.K. Compilation Series Celebrates Three Decades in Three Discs

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Now 30 YearsWhen I was heavily ensconced in a retail job, I had the task of stocking new music and movie releases and sharing the new releases with the rest of the store on Tuesday morning. Without fail, every time a NOW That’s What I Call Music! compilation came out, someone would marvel how many such compilations existed, prompting me to tell my co-workers that they should check out the NOW series as it originated in the U.K., back in 1983, where they were double albums and released with slightly more frequency to the point where the 84th volume hit stores in March (as opposed to the single-disc 47th volume that streeted in the U.S. last Tuesday).

Of course, here at The Second Disc, I’m surrounded by record collectors and pop enthusiasts, so this illumination is nothing new. (That’s one of many reasons why I’m a lot happier editing these pages, I’ll tell you that!) But anyway, the point is that NOW That’s What I Call Music is indeed celebrating 30 years – and its doing so with a new, triple-disc compilation of highlights from its lengthy run.

NOW That’s What I Call 30 Years features an interesting, semi-chronological hodgepodge of pop cuts from the ’80s, ’90s, ’00s and today, from Michael Jackson to Madonna, Take That to the Spice Girls, Adele to PSY. It’s disappointingly centered on the traditional pop scene on both sides of the Atlantic, thereby ignoring some of the R&B and rock-infused diversity that the NOW series was often known for (Radiohead appeared on at least one volume, for cryin’ out loud). As such, it’s a very, very patchy portrait of pop, passing a good chunk of the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. (Also, a considerably more minor quibble, but what’s up with the 20th Century-Fox meets Pink Floyd cover art?)

But NOW are one of the best – and one of the only – games in town as far as anthologizing pop music for the masses, so NOW That’s What I Call 30 Years might be a set for your collection when it’s released May 27 in England. Hit the jump to check out the full track list and order your copy off Amazon.

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Never Gonna Give You Up: Iconic Pop Production Team Stock Aitken Waterman Celebrated with New Box Set

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It may have been the “flavor of the month” as European ’80s pop went, but the distinctive sounds of Stock Aitken Waterman and the PWL label was one heck of a flavor, earning a rather generous compilation/box set treatment, Pete Waterman Presents The Hit Factory: Soundtrack to a Generation  in the U.K. this summer.

Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman began working for Waterman’s PWL production company in 1984, specializing in Hi-NRG dance music by U.K. pop artists like Hazell Dean and Dead or Alive; the latter group’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” produced by the SAW team, was a No. 1 hit in the U.K. and peaked at No. 11 in the States, the first step in solidifying the team’s popularity.

When they attracted the attention of girl group Bananarama, however, things really started to take off. The SAW/PWL collective turned into England’s equivalent of the Motown assembly line, with an array of fresh-faced young talent performing peppy originals and synthed-up covers of pop classics. Several of the artists, including Rick Astley and Kylie Minogue, enjoyed major international success.

While the mainstream press usually dismissed their works as fluff, those who came of age among ’80s and ’90s pop charts do love what they heard, and have been well-suited by the odd wave of nostalgia for that sound in the form of reissues and compilations (Cherry Pop has overseen expansions of many PWL albums in recent years, along with this compilation from longtime SAW partner and engineer/mixer Phil Harding).

A PWL “Hit Factory Live” Concert to be held in London next month will feature a good amount of the artists on this new set, which will be available from Sony in the U.K. as a double-disc compilation or a triple-disc box set with a bonus CD of rare and unreleased dance mixes. Both sets will be released in England on July 9, two days ahead of the anticipated live event.

Hit the jump to take a look at all the hits on The Hit Factory!

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Written by Mike Duquette

June 12, 2012 at 11:20

Cherry Pop Laces Up Dancing Shoes with Compilation of Rare ’80s, Motown Mixes

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Cherry Pop Records has a major treat next week for British club junkies of the ’80s: a double-disc set of rare and unreleased remixes by noted engineer Phil Harding.

If you’re a British pop junkie who came of age in the ’80s, you’re doubtlessly familiar with three names: Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman. The trio of producers hit it big with Hi-NRG pop, all clean beats and shimmering synths, from Bananarama’s “Venus” to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” All told, the trio racked up over 100 Top 40 hits in their native country – an impressive number in any year.

But one lesser-known name is arguably just as essential to the team and their famed PWL Studios: Phil Harding. A mixing engineer who’d worked with everyone from The Clash to Matt Bianco by 1984, the importance of Harding’s engineering skills was obvious from his work on the first major SAW hit, Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record).”

Harding, who’d later work with Depeche Mode, Erasure and the Pet Shop Boys, wrote his own account of his work in the record industry, PWL – From the Factory Floor, in 2009, releasing it in a limited run through Cherry Red’s book arm. Now, as a greatly expanded edition of that book arrives in U.K. shops, Cherry Pop has produced a double-disc set of some of Harding’s rarest mixes for U.K. acts and legacy groups.

There’s no shortage of hits on Phil Harding Club Mixes of the ’80s, including remixes of “You Spin Me Round,” ABC’s “When Smokey Sings” and cuts by Five Star, Holly Johnson and Godley & Creme. But the nectar for collectors is multitudinous: four unreleased tracks and mixes by Rick Astley, including an unused 12″ mix of “Never Gonna Give You Up,” are included. Jimmy Ruffin, elder brother of Temptations member David and solo artist in his own right (“What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”), has two latter-day tracks on here, only one of which has ever been released, and never on CD until this set.

Most humorously for Motown fans is the inclusion of three of Harding’s then-contemporary remixes of classic Motown singles, including The Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” (While the breakbeat-heavy mixes can’t hold much of a candle to the originals, their quirky charm and collectibility doubtlessly appeal themselves to someone out there!)

The set and the expanded book (both of which can be ordered together through Cherry Pop) are out Monday, November 14 in U.K. shops. Hit the jump for a full track breakdown!

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Written by Mike Duquette

November 10, 2011 at 17:38

News Roundup: Back from Hiatus Edition, Part 1

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Well! After a fun weekend of sun and Easter candy, it’s back to tracking the catalogue world at The Second Disc. A hearty thank-you to Joe for his contributions over the weekend, and a welcome back to our loyal readers.

A few release nuggets came through the pipeline over the weekend, so let’s clean house by getting some of them out of the way. More to come before the end of the day, so stick around!

  • NME reported that a new Oasis compilation would see a U.K. release on June 14. Time Flies 1994-2009 will compile nearly all the band’s singles in their native land along with two bonus discs – a live CD of the band’s last concert and a DVD featuring all the music videos with audio commentary.
  • So successful were the announcements of two deluxe Rick Astley titles that Edsel has planned another for May 3. This new set features both Free and Body & Soul, Astley’s third and fourth LPs, with bonus tracks and new liner notes.
  • Eagle-eyed ICE poster Alan noted in the latest issue of Guitar World a bit about the long-planned Legacy Edition of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble’s Couldn’t Stand the Weather (1984). It’s said to include eight outtakes (four previously unreleased) and a bonus live disc recorded at a CBS Records convention in Hawaii in 1984. It’s slated for April 27, per the magazine – a close release date (considering the lack of official announcement) but a welcome one!

The track lists and cover art for Time Flies and the Free/Body & Soul sets are after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

April 6, 2010 at 16:22

Never Gonna Give You Up. No, Really.

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In a move that proves that any reissue is possible, or at least probable, the Edsel label has set an April 13 release date for expanded reissues of Rick Astley’s Whenever You Need Somebody and Hold Me in Your Arms. Yes, you are reading this right. You are also reading correctly that each reissue will be two discs with expanded liner notes by Pete Waterman Entertainment, Ltd. expert Tom Parker.

More info is here, here and here and a detailed tracklisting for each is after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

March 20, 2010 at 00:27

Posted in News, Reissues, Rick Astley