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Archive for the ‘The Human League’ Category

Virgin Records Celebrates “40 Years of Disruptions” with New Compilation, Picture Discs

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Virgin 40Virgin Records, one of England’s most iconic labels, turns 40 this year – and they’re celebrating with a new compilation full of hits from their storied existence.

The Virgin label was largely the brainchild of one young businessman named Richard Branson. The London-born Branson began his career selling records by mail order and later opening a shop on Oxford Street. The Virgin label was blessed with early success thanks to a willingness to sign acts that major U.K. labels were keen to dismiss. This netted them a smash hit with their very first release, Mike Oldfield’s captivating instrumental “Tubular Bells,” as well as a place in cultural history as the label who’d ultimately made the strongest commitment to punk band The Sex Pistols, after EMI and A&M each dropped the band. (It was Virgin who’d pressed the commercial version of their No. 2 hit “God Save The Queen” as well as their sole studio album, Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols.)

The decades to come found Virgin succeeding with all sorts of genres: MTV-ready pop/rock (Culture Club, The Human League, The Spice Girls), groundbreaking alt-rock and New Wave (Simple Minds, XTC), multi-generational rock (Genesis and its two most famous frontmen, Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins; The Rolling Stones, for a time) hip-hop and dance (Soul II Soul, Neneh Cherry, Daft Punk, Massive Attack) and more, all the way up to the present (recent critical and commercial hits include tracks by Swedish House Mafia, Emili Sandé and CHVRCHES).

Branson would ultimately sell Virgin to EMI in 1992 to keep other parts of his business empire afloat; the iconoclastic entrepreneur found success in everything from air travel to publishing to music festivals (Europe’s V Festival) to record stores (the late Virgin Megastores) to mobile phones to…well, even more interesting stuff (Branson plans to be aboard the inaugural Virgin Galactic flight – a commercial space trip – this year.) The label continues to exist, now of course under the Universal Music Group family.

Virgin Records: 40 Years of Disruptions plans to honor the label’s indomitable spirit across two discs, along with a bonus EP of current Virgin artists covering some classic tracks, including cuts by John Lennon, Peter Gabriel, Massive Attack and others. The set is in stores today, amid a swath of exhibitions in honor of the label around the U.K. area. The label is also selling a handful of their most beloved titles, including singles and albums, as limited edition vinyl titles (many of which are picture discs). The full list is available at Universal’s Uvinyl page.

As always, you can check out the track list and buy the set after the jump.

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Release Round-Up: Week of April 3

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Johnny Cash, Bootleg IV: The Soul of Truth (Columbia/Legacy)

Three complete gospel albums – one of which was never released – and a heap of unreleased material make this one to look out for if you like The Man in Black at his sacred best.

Morrissey, Viva Hate: Deluxe Edition (Liberty/EMI)

If you can call it that, an expanded edition of Moz’s debut album, remastered with one bonus track, one edited track and one excised track.

Elvis Costello & The Imposters, The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook!!! (Hip-O/UMe)

The standalone CD and DVD contents of that box set that everyone rightfully hated, including Costello himself.

Doris Day, With a Smile and a Song (Turner Classic Movies/Sony Masterworks)

Just in time for the legend’s birthday! A two-disc set of highlights personally selected by Day, devoted equally to her songs in film and on standalone albums.

fIREHOSE, lowFLOWs”: The Columbia Anthology 1991-1993 (Columbia/Legacy)

Mike Watt’s late ’80s/early ’90s punk trio’s last two albums, with a heap of B-sides and rarities, in honor of fIREHOSE’s reunion tour.

The Human League, Dare: Deluxe Edition (Virgin/EMI)

Don’t you want this expanded edition of the British synthpop band’s breakthrough album?

The Smiths, The Smiths Hatful of Hollow / Meat is Murder The Queen is Dead The World Won’t Listen Louder Than Bombs Strangeways, Here We Come / “Rank” (Sire/Rhino)

The remasters released in that mega box set last year are now available on their own.

Written by Mike Duquette

April 3, 2012 at 08:35

Keep Feeling Fascination: Human League’s “Dare” Gets Expanded

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“You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar when I met you…” As patently false as the subject matter behind The Human League’s hypnotic “Don’t You Want Me” is, it was a massive, out-of-nowhere smash for a band that came out of a troubling state of flux with a renewed energy unlike few others. The fruits of that period, the 1981 album Dare, is coming back into U.K. stores this spring as a deluxe title with a host of non-LP goodies over two discs.

The Human League started out as an avant-garde all-male group anchored around Martyn Ware, Craig Marsh, Philip Adrian Wright and Phil Oakey. Their first single, 1978’s “Being Boiled” was a surprise Top 10 U.K. hit, but subsequent works did not find the same audience. Amid weakening support from the band’s label Virgin Records and clashes over the band’s sonic direction, the band broke apart, with Ware and Marsh forming Heaven 17 and Oakey and Wright left to do something – anything – for the League’s winter 1980 tour of Europe.

Against all odds, the duo recruited synth player Ian Burden to flesh out the group’s live sound and found Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall, a pair of untrained best friends spending a night out at the Crazy Daisy Nightclub in Sheffield, to provide vocals for the group. (Sulley and Catherall, both teenagers, needed parental permission to embark on the tour.) Despite the skepticism of initial reviews, things worked out well enough for the quintet to continue as a band in the studio; first single “Boys and Girls” was a moderate success; upon moving to a new studio (away from recording sessions by Heaven 17) and adding guitarist Jo Callis of The Rezillos to the lineup, the first single from those sessions, “Love Action (I Believe in Love)” was a Top 10 hit.

But The Human League really went into the stratosphere with a track that Oakey initially hated. The fictional tale of a musical Svengali whose protegée decides to move on from him professionally and romantically was so disliked by Oakey, he dumped it onto the end of the Dare LP. But “Don’t You Want Me” was the band’s first and only chart-topper for Christmas of 1981 and became a major hit across the globe.

The deluxe edition of Dare features the 2002 remaster of the original album and various, newly-remastered 12″ remixes and instrumentals on the first disc. The bonus disc, meanwhile, collects nearly all of the material on stopgap album Fascination!, which featured a handful of just as successful non-LP singles in “Mirror Man” and “(Keep Feeling) Fascination.”

Don’t you want this, baby? If so, March 26 is the day to get it. Hit the jump to check a pre-order link and track annotations.

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Written by Mike Duquette

January 27, 2012 at 07:57