Compilation albums are more ubiquitous than ever. Strange, since single downloads have become the preferred option for music shoppers online. But then that might have something to do with it: the fact that we do tend to get drawn to particular songs rather than full albums these days, even when it comes to taking a trip down memory lane.
It’s no surprise, then, that Warner Music has taken to releasing a batch of compilations that celebrate the remixed single under the banner of ‘12 Inch Dance’. Yet, where retro compilations can often fall foul of being merely slapped-together collections of obvious hits (if I have to hear Tainted Love one more time…), the ‘12 Inch Dance’ series appears to have been very carefully curated, with consideration toward the more obscure songs of each era and genre, or at least very rare versions of records we’re more familiar with the 7-inch versions of.
First off the rank is 80s Synth Pop, whose first five tracks alone in a three-disc set, give you an immediate idea of how awesome these clever collections are. Track 01: Duran Duran’s Planet Earth (the Night Version). Track 02: Spandau Ballet’s To Cut A Long Story Short (in a blissfully extended 12-inch I’ve not come across before). Track 03: New Order’s Thieves Like Us (also a rare remixed cut). Track 04: Ultravox’s All Stood Still. And track 05: Talking Heads’ Slippery People (a longer live take). Did I mention the word ‘awesome’?
Following these is an eclectic selection of artists and songs that run the gamut of indie pop right through to club/dance. From Aztec Camera to Simply Red (loving the Cutback Mix of Money’s Too Tight To Mention), Echo & The Bunnymen to A-ha, Bronski Beat to Bananarama.
If you’re a fan of contemporary electronic but want to go back to the genre’s roots – when there were actually lyrics in the mixes, the 80s Synth Pop collection is for you.
Next up is Australian 80s Pop – a batch of original 12” mixes by the very credible likes of Icehouse, Hunters & Collectors, Models, Dragon and Split Enz (well, alright, Split Enz are officially from New Zealand, but I’m happy they’ve been included here).
It’s an absolute treat hearing songs I used to hear at school socials – and sometimes play, since I used to DJ at those gigs every now and again. Pseudo Echo’s A Beat For You (Extended), Eurogliders’ Can’t Wait To See You (the camply subtitled Moshi Moshi Mix), and Do Re Mi’s Idiot Grin being just three of the 37 gems in total.
If you like the vibe of those Australia Day playlists you hear during skyworks, but desire a different, extended take on such tracks, you’ll find joy in the Australian 80s Pop collection.
Third off the rank is 90s Club, a three-disc set that sits somewhere between those Central Station doof-doof records you heard blaring from record stores in the 90s, and the more recent likes of Ministry of Sound compilations. Featured are: Daft Punk, Happy Mondays, New Order, William Orbit and Goldie on the more ‘serious’ end of dance, and Pet Shop Boys, Deee-Lite, Utah Sains and D-Mob on the more commercial crossover side of things.
Throw in the likes of Tori Amos’ Professional Widow (that awesome club mix by Armand van Helden) and Moloko’s Sing It Back (the Boris Musical Mix), and you’ve got great taste and value here.
But my favourite of a very impressive array of yesteryear delights is the simply titled Indie collection where everything from Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart to EMF’s Unbelievable, Mansun’s Wide Open Space to Air’s Sexy Boy, Starsailor’s Good Souls to Dubstar’s Not So Manic Now, get the fully extended treatment. Throw in some Fun Lovin’ Criminals, a little Lily Allen, Radiohead, Athlete, Hard-Fi and Bat For Lashes, and you’ll wonder why some indie puritans don’t realise there’s great dance music being made by alternative artists.
As far as I’m concerned, the ‘12 Inch Dance’ series could replace all those previous 80s and 90s compilations I spent my pay cheques on as a teen and twenty-something. Do away with your ‘101 Songs To Do Housework To’ collections, and invest in this seriously good stuff. Antonino Tati
The ‘12 Inch Dance’ series is available from good record stores, physical and online, through Warner Music.