Sharoma Thompson Twins Albums

Albums

For years Arista never seemed keen on a complete reissue series of the Thompson Twins albums with the correct bonus tracks, and instead saw fit to issue a constant stream of spurious compilations. In response to this, myself and other TT fans went about creating our own 'remasters' from vinyl and tape sources. These predate any official reissues by a good few years. Starting in 2008, Edsel Records gained the rights to reissue some TT material from SonyBMG, and consequently, a large chunk of the 'Twins albums are back in print after many years of being unavailable.

This page mixes fan creations, official reissues and original releases. Each are titled accordingly and reviewed separately. In the case of fan remasters the original album tracklistings are on the left, and any bonus tracks that fans or myself have compiled are listed on the right.

A Product Of... Participation [1981] - (fan remaster [2004])

A Product Of... Participation

Original Album

  1. When I See You
  2. Politics
  3. Slave Trade
  4. Could Be Her... Could Be You
  5. Make Believe
  6. Don't Go Away
  7. The Price
  8. Animal Laugh (Oumma Aularesso)
  9. Anything Is Good Enough
  10. A Product Of...
  11. Perfect Game
  12. Vendredi Saint

Bonus Tracks

12 inch mixes

  1. Oumma Aularesso (Animal Laugh)
  2. Make Believe

The First Sessions

  1. A Product Of...
  2. The Price
  3. Could Be Her... Could Be You
  4. Oumma Aularesso (Animal Laugh)

Early Related Works

  • TOM BAILEY: Weather Station
  • THE BLANKETS: Modern Plumbing

Info

This is a custom CD compiled and produced by Derek Donovan. It is far superior in sound quality to a version Tony Charman and I originally made, and was kindly sent to me with wonderful professional artwork:

Review

The Thompson Twins, as anyone familiar with the tale will know, were a radically different outfit to what they later became when they crossed the Atlantic to become the pop music giants of 1984. A seven member lineup knocked out this offering. A rather unique blend of percussion led African music, chanting, furious beats and energetic playing, mostly on traditional instruments. Yes, there's guitars, drums, and no synths. It's a very enjoyable listen, and quite similar to Talking Heads' output up to 1980; the African percussion used on Fear Of Music and Remain In Light (probably one of my all time favourite albums), and the sparse simple production of '77 and More Songs...'. Vendredi Saint also calls to mind Dead Can Dance's 'Saldek' from their Into The Labyrinth album. Comparisons with XTC should be avoided, since the press regularly fell back on this back in the day.

Included in this version is the radio session this early lineup did for the BBC, which has been released by Strange Fruit on vinyl as an EP in the mid '80s but never on CD. This CD is essential for any Thompson Twins fan.

Set [1982] - (fan remaster [2004])

Set

Original Album

  1. In The Name Of Love
  2. Living In Europe
  3. Bouncing
  4. Tok Tok
  5. Good Gosh
  6. The Rowe
  7. Runaway
  8. Another Fantasy
  9. Fool's Gold
  10. Crazy Dog
  11. Blind

Bonus Tracks

Runaway 2x7 inch single

  1. Runaway (Single Remix)
  2. Open Your Eyes
  3. Living In Europe (Live)
  4. Make Believe (Live)

Info

This is a custom collection since, at the time, the album was long out of print. This is a vinyl-to-CD conversion, commonly known as a 'needledrop transfer'. The bonus tracks are taken from the Runaway single, and the live songs are a great representation of the energy of the pre-trio Thompson Twins.[1]

Review

Once again, the Thompson Twins released this album with the same creative flames burning as the first. It's a quite similar, though perhaps stronger album. Despite the reliance on traditional instruments, we see the first hints of the sound that would propel the Twins to the dizzying heights of Live Aid, endless US tours and stadium concerts. In The Name Of Love is Tom Bailey casting off the shackles of the guitar and embracing the cold harsh synth. It's electronic and you can dance to it. And the Americans did, and loved it. From here the 'Twins dropped a few hundred band members (well, a few anyway) and condensed to Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway. It was now time to quick step and side kick.

[1] The live sets with the pre-1983 'Twins were apparently something spectacular, and at one stage or another included musicians who would later join other famous bands. To quote from Wikipedia's article on the Thompson Twins:

The Twins' live band was also a spawning ground for future stars. Felicia (Michele) Collins plays guitar as the only remaining charter member of Paul Shaffer's CBS Orchestra on The Late Show with David Letterman. Roger O'Donnell and Boris Bransby-Williams both joined The Cure. Carrie Booth, keyboards, played with Shakespeare's Sister. Other notable musicians included Andrew and Mark Heyward-Chaplin on bass guitar.

Second review (November 2006)

You know what? I love this album. I like it more and more each time I hear it, and that's the vinyl to CD transfer I made myself. What a properly mastered CD of this material would sound like I can only dream, but for now let's concentrate on why I like Set so much. It's frenetic. It's "out there". It's a band doing whatever the hell they like. Ignore the first track, because we all know the story behind it. It's not that it's a bad song per se, it just obviously doesn't fit with the rest of the album, almost in the same way a certain Human League song sits uneasily at the end of a certain Human League album. Anyway, Living In Europe. What a song. True, the live version is superior. The magic of the early Thompson Twins band was never truly captured on vinyl, but Set comes very close. Living In Europe is simply great. It's got everything a TT track should have: explosive percussive segments and a killer chorus that you just want to scream along to. Bouncing follows, which steps up the pace another notch. It's wild, mad music. Very fast, very silly and a touch angry. Did they care? I doubt it. The first album went nowhere, and neither did this. So what the heck, let's just bang out our setlist and see what happens. The result is great. More wonderful drum work, vocal chants echoing in and out of both channels, liberal use of synths and a tune you just have to get up and move around to. The magic of Tom Bailey's songwriting is already present here. "Bouncing like a ball!" The song is infectiously good fun. It doesn't stop there, either. The African theme of the first album returns, with Tok Tok, an experimental piece based primarily on tribal drumming and incoherent chants. It establishes the mood perfectly. This is a heavily percussive album. It's all about the rhythm and the clanking and banging whatever implement comes to hand. I might venture to say that I love Set as much as I love Remain In Light. Now that's a compliment! Tok Tok segues perfectly into Good Gosh; Joe Leeway's tour de force. A strong vocal performance from him in this corker of a song. Set is bristling with the energy and the magic that made their next two albums such wonderful pieces of music. What makes it even more unique is the lack of any creative restraint. It's the very sound of artistic freedom. Yet nor is it mired in experimental dirge. These are songs that are catchier than any of today's pop music. You'll be echoing Joe's cry of "Good Gosh!" without realising it. The Rowe quietly concludes side one. It's a strong track, but it'll take you a few listens to really appreciate. It builds slowly, but when it reaches its zenith you'll appreciate every note. Besides, it prepares the mood for the album's finest moment, the opener of side two.

Quite why the first two albums are commercially ignored is a mystery to me. There's so much to immerse yourself in. Lightweight they certainly are not. And Runaway, oh! what a song you are. It's wistful, it's beautiful. From the opening drum smash to the settling in of the song, it moves you along on a mysterious journey; quite where we are running away to, I don't know, but I want to do it again and again. The drumming is once again excellent, pulsating in the background ensuring the rhythm marches ever onward. This is exactly what an album should be. A musical journey from start to finish; a twisting and turning of different styles melded into one. As Runaway ends, the pace begins to pick up for the final third of the album. Another Fantasy takes a minute or so to really get going, but when it does it's as energetic as the opening tracks of the album, but swathed in a darkness that haunts the final tracks of the album. Fool's Gold reveals some excellent production and more percussive excellence, as well as being another catchy melody. Crazy Dog is the Thompson's Tomorrow Never Knows. It's almost as if the band were tripping when they recorded it. It descends deeper and deeper into the psyche, with Bailey's wild yearnings perfectly at home. It's a hidden classic. Turn it up loud, turn off the lights and it'll frighten you. Blind concludes perfectly; the perfect sister to Crazy Dog, it fades away peacefully at the end after a relatively upbeat beginning. "Down down down down down..." Set is such an exceptional musical journey that its running time of 41 minutes is over before you know it. Make the most of it, because the unique sound of this big band was soon washed away with the clean, clinical precision of the electronic knob-twiddling of Alex Sadkin. A different flavour of brilliance.

A Product Of... / Set [2008 reissue]

A Product Of... / Set

Disc One

A Product Of... album

  1. When I See You
  2. Politics
  3. Slave Trade
  4. Could Be Her... Could Be You
  5. Make Believe
  6. Don't Go Away
  7. The Price
  8. Animal Laugh (Oumma Aularesso)
  9. Anything Is Good Enough
  10. A Product Of...
  11. Perfect Game
  12. Vendredi Saint

Bonus tracks

  1. Squares And Triangles
  2. Could Be Her...Could Be You [original version]
  3. Weather Station [by Tom Bailey]
  4. Modern Plumbing [by The Blankets]
  5. She's In Love With Mystery
  6. Fast Food
  7. Food Style
  8. Oumma Aularesso (Animal Laugh) [special re-mixed extended version]
  9. A Dub Product
  10. Make Believe (Let's Pretend) [extended version]
  11. Lama Sabach Tani

Disc One

Set album

  1. In The Name Of Love
  2. Living In Europe
  3. Bouncing
  4. Tok Tok
  5. Good Gosh
  6. The Rowe
  7. Runaway
  8. Another Fantasy
  9. Fool's Gold
  10. Crazy Dog
  11. Blind

Bonus tracks

  1. In The Name Of Love [12 inch Dance Extension]
  2. In The Beginning
  3. Coastline
  4. Open Your Eye
  5. Runaway [extended remix]
  6. Bouncing [extended remix]
  7. In The Name Of Love [Big Value Version / New Super Synthesized Version]
  8. Living In Europe [live at Hammersmith Palais]

Background

This is the fourth reissue of 2008, and the last one I acquired. Edsel made claims about sourcing all tracks from original master tapes, but as we found out from their Into The Gap reissue, this was most certainly not the case. I don't mind if vinyl sources are used, but I have a few conditions. Firstly, they should explain why they couldn't locate the master tape. Secondly, they should hunt down the very best vinyl copy they can find, and provide details about the contributor. Thirdly, they should do a very good job of recording it and explain how they went about it. There's other reissues sourced from vinyl out there, and one method of transferring the music that leaps to mind is the CEDAR process.

Review

Compiling both early albums into a single set makes sense and I fully understand the motives behind Edsel's decision. These two are unlikely to be fast sellers, lacking any presence in the public consciousness. Thankfully, this is no cheapening exercise; like its three brothers, this collection is brimming with period bonus tracks. Anything less would have rendered the whole project utterly pointless. The people buying this will have already heard it and almost all the tracks before. Firstly, though, I am curious as to why CD TEXT has not been enabled for these reissues since Edsel used it on their Blancmange ones. Like those, and unlike the other three TT ones, the booklet is standard and not a fold out, which I prefer. The liner notes are excellent this time, giving us a very thorough biography of the band's early days; probably the most concise and detailed one yet. The artwork is also worthy of note, featuring correct usage of font and design in the style of both album sleeves and many period photograhs and shots of studio notes on the master tapes. Which brings us to the mastering itself. Did they source the master tapes for this release or rely on vinyl transfers? A mixture of both, I think. It's irrelevant anyway when the mastering itself varies in quality throughout the two discs. All of A Product Of sounds excellent, and the bonus tracks are likewise very good; here I can tolerate a dip in quality since these are a very obscure tracks recorded on a shoestring. Considering this, the sound is perfectly acceptable. The difference between She's In Love With Mystery and versions I've heard previously was quite striking, although I am not sure why (maybe it was slower?). For disc two, however, the sound quality is a disappointment. The Set albums begins with what sounds like some minor crackle and hiss, and then the ears are overwhelmed by what is a very unbalanced sound. Extremely harsh high end makes this album sound very treble happy. I don't like it all, as it kills any warmth the album possesses. I am not sure of any explanation as to the poor quality, but I find it a great shame since Set is perhaps my favourite 'Twins album and my own CD transcription, whilst decent, does have audible vinyl noise (since the source record was secondhand when I bought it). On the bright side, new details in the music can be discerned (perhaps thanks to such an emphasis on the high end) and, well, it's pretty clear. It is, in the end, badly sounding. It's too loud and too harsh. As for the bonus tracks, well they sound better. In The Beginning is actually a version new to me, and I like it a lot. Coastline, another favourite of mine, is also great and an improvement in sound over the album proper. The remainder of the disc, with the exception of the live track, sounds a bit harsh again. It's ironic that noted on one of the photographs of studio documents are the words "no Dolby" in ink. If you are still curious as to the sound of Set, then try to imagine the excess of sibilance on a cassette tape recorded with no Dolby noise reduction. Despite all this, unlike statements from reviewers I have read on Amazon, actual vinyl noise and hiss aren't overly audible.

In conclusion, it's hard to recommend a flawed product. I am amazed that these tracks ever saw the light of day on official CDs, but what with the poor sound on disc two and other minor faults, I am left feeling a bit disappointed. I liked Edsel's Blancmange discs a lot. They were very warm and balanced in sound, and all tracks were sourced from master tapes. For the four 'Twins albums, one is left with the impression that tracks were thrown together from a variety of sources in a haphazard way. There's a lot to recommend about them, but I can't help feeling disappointed that they weren't "perfect". Back to this release; well, in its favour the presentation and packaging is pretty much faultless. The liner notes are very informative and the selection of bonus tracks is excellent, showing that the compilers did indeed go to great lengths to make the right selection. However, since I find Set quite fatiguing to listen to, I must warn potential buyers. I for one will be sticking with my own needledrop whenever I need a session of 1982 Thompson Twins. [Note: fans wishing to hear the tracks from the radio session EP will have to hunt down a copy of Derek Donovan's version of A Product Of (see above).]

Quick Step And Side Kick [1983] - (fan remaster [2004])

Quick Step And Side Kick

Original Album

  1. Love On Your Side
  2. Lies
  3. If You Were Here
  4. Judy Do
  5. Tears
  6. Watching
  7. We Are Detective
  8. Kamikaze
  9. Love Lies Bleeding
  10. All Fall Out

Bonus Tracks

Present on Superfecta 2004 reissue

  1. Lucky Day
  2. Love On Your Side (Rap Boy Rap)
  3. Lies (Bigger & Better)
  4. We Are Detective (More Clues)

'Side Kicks' companion disc

Alternate mixes and b-sides

  1. Lies (Single Remix)
  2. Beach Culture
  3. Love On Your Side (No Talkin')
  4. Love On Your Back
  5. Lucky Day (Space Mix)

Bonus remixes from original double play cassette

[The song it's a remix of]
  1. Love Lies Fierce [Love Lies Bleeding]
  2. Long Beach Culture [Instrumental]
  3. Lies (No Talkin')
  4. Rap Boy Rap [Love On Your Side]
  5. Frozen In Time [Kamikaze]
  6. Fallen Out [All Fall Out]

Watching 12 inch single

  1. Watching (You Watching Me)
  2. Dancersaurus (Even Large Reptiles Have Emotional Problems)

Info

The original UK tape version was double play and had a whole side of remixes. These, along with some other additions of mine, are present on a CD myself and Tony Charman made entitled 'Side Kicks', which is a companion disc to the original album. As well as the 2004 reissue of the album, there is also a 20-bit Japanese remaster from the '90s; the sound quality on that particular reissue is excellent.

When Quick Step And Side Kick was originally released in the US, the track listing was altered and the album was retitled to just 'Side Kicks'. The 2004 American reissue restores both the proper name and track listing. I have used the Side Kicks name for the remix disc, since it seems suitable. The track listing on the original Side Kicks was:

  1. Love On Your Side
  2. Tears
  3. Lies
  4. We Are Detective
  5. Love Lies Bleeding
  6. Watching
  7. If You Were Here
  8. Kamikaze
  9. Judy Do
  10. All Fall Out

It's not sure why the record company did this. One theory is that the aim was to have all the dancey and upbeat songs on one side, and the more atmospheric and slower songs on the other.

The 2004 remaster: a mixed blessing

There appear to be minor sound quality/level issues on the bonus tracks of the 2004 Superfecta reissue. If you compare the version of Lucky Day with the version found on The Greatest Hits from 2003 the output seems to fluctuate slightly. Thankfully, the album tracks themselves appear to be unaffected, although annoyingly Love On Your Side fades out prematurely! The Rap Boy Rap mix also seems to be mastered quite atrociously. Also, why the 7 inch version of Lucky Day was chosen when the 12 inch mix of We Are Detective was is a mystery to me. The 12 inch mix of Lucky Day (the 'Space Mix') would have sat nicely alongside its 'More Clues' brother, as would Long Beach Culture, too. There's space enough on the CD. Don't get me started on the lack of the six bonus tracks originally included with the album in 1983. The 2004 remaster should be avoided in favour of the 2008 double disc version (see below).

The 2007 Collection

Please see the Compilations page for more information on the full collection of Quick Step & Side Kick.

Review

One of the best albums of the 1980s, and along with Into The Gap the best the Thompson Twins ever did. Although electronic pop music had been around for over two years thanks to pioneers like the Human League, Ultravox and of course, Kraftwerk, the 'Twins album came along and somehow perfected it, changed it, repackaged it. This album was a complete departure from their previous sound. It's full of danceable tunes, catchy melodies, strong vocal performances and the production is outstanding in its clarity and scope.

Quick Step And Side Kick [2008 reissue]

Quick Step And Side Kick

Disc One

The album

  1. Love On Your Side
  2. Lies
  3. If You Were Here
  4. Judy Do
  5. Tears
  6. Watching
  7. We Are Detective
  8. Kamikaze
  9. Love Lies Bleeding
  10. All Fall Out

The Cassette Remixes

  1. Love Lies Fierce [Love Lies Bleeding]
  2. Long Beach Culture [Instrumental]
  3. No Talkin' - Dub [Lies]
  4. Rap Boy Rap [Love On Your Side]
  5. Frozen In Time [Kamikaze]
  6. Fallen Out [All Fall Out]

Disc Two

The b-sides and the 12 inch mixes

  1. Lies [Single remix]
  2. Love On Your Back
  3. Lucky Day
  4. Dancersaurus
  5. Lies (Bigger And Better) [12 inch version]
  6. Beach Culture
  7. Love On Your Side (No Talkin') [12 inch version]
  8. We Are Detective (More Clues) [12 inch version]
  9. Lucky Day (Space Mix)
  10. Watching (You Watching Me) [12 inch version]
  11. Dancersaurus (Even Large Reptiles Have Emotional Problems) [12 inch version]

Background

Okay, so it finally arrived. In 1983 we had the cassette version, with those famous six remix tracks. We then had lots of 7 and 12 inch singles with all those extended versions, dubs, remixes and b-sides. In 1997 had a Japanese CD with excellent sound quality and no bonus tracks, followed by an American reissue in 2004 with poor sound quality and four bonus tracks. We've also had compilations over the years that gather some of the tracks from this wonderful era. The fan response? Make them ourselves. There was my okay effort using the tape and vinyls as a source, and then there was Derek Donovan's wonderful collection from 2007 that offered up absolutely everything from the best possible sources a fan could find. Finally, in 2008, Edsel Records purchased the rights to everything (I presume) from Arista's parent company SonyBMG and tentatively issued a deluxe 2 disc version. The response has been impressive. To quote from a spokesperson at Edsel: "They have exceeded everybody's expectations for this type of re-issue." Well, that's great. TT fans rejoice. And my opinion on this 2 disc set? Read on.

Review

It did seem too good to be true. For years I've been a Thompson Twins fanatic, and gave up hope of proper reissues a long time ago. The 2004 debacles were the final nail in the coffin as far as I was concerned, and as for the tape remixes, I assumed the master tapes must have been long since forgotten about, otherwise they'd have been used by now. It seems there are people out there who read the hundreds of reviews of this album that litter the web. Every one of those has one thing in common, and that is the desire to see those tape mixes again. After all, most of us first heard the album with them attached. In fact, you could even argue they are part of the album itself! Anyway, here they are, neatly slotted on disc one straight after the album itself, and that's where you'd want them. The album tracks themselves are all present and correct. No premature fading or edits here, thankfully. Disc two is not perfect. Missing are the (7 inch) single mixes of Love On Your Side[*], We Are Detective[*] and Watching. There's 23 minutes of space left on the CD, so why aren't they present? There was also perhaps little need to include both versions of Dancersaurus - the edited version is identical to the extended version bar a piano section at the end. Love On Your Back is also a different version than the one found on the Hold Me Now compilation, and the Space Mix of Lucky Day differs from my 12 inch vinyl in that it has a cold ending rather than a fade. As for the sound quality, I think it is pretty much faultless. The tape remixes are very clean sounding, with a slight amount of hiss. The whole package doesn't succumb to modern loudness-based mastering either, probably because of the potential market. The packaging is enjoyable, with memorabilia and reasonably extensive liner notes gracing the booklet. In conclusion, I think this reissue is a fine attempt. Not perfect, but I recommend it over any other. For hardcore fans, the bootleg 'Collection' is the definitive issue.

[*] These can be found on the 2003 Greatest Hits compilation. The single mix of Watching remains, as of 2008, unreleased on CD.

Into The Gap [1984] - (fan remaster [2004])

Into The Gap

Original Album

  1. Doctor! Doctor!
  2. You Take Me Up
  3. Day After Day
  4. Sister Of Mercy
  5. No Peace For The Wicked
  6. The Gap
  7. Hold Me Now
  8. Storm On The Sea
  9. Who Can Stop The Rain

'Out Of The Gap' companion disc

Bonus remixes from original double play cassette

[The song it's a remix of]
  1. Leopard Ray [Instrumental]
  2. Doctor! Doctor! (12 Inch Version)
  3. Panic Station [Day After Day]
  4. (Machines Take Me Over) - Down Tools [You Take Me Up]
  5. Hold Me Now (12 Inch Version)
  6. Funeral Dance [No Peace For The Wicked]
  7. Compass Points [The Gap]
  8. Still Water [Storm On The Sea]

Alternate mixes and b-sides

  1. Hold Me Now (Early Demo)
  2. Let Loving Start (12 Inch Version)
  3. Sister Of Mercy (Single Version)
  4. Passion Planet
  5. Storm On The Sea (Thunderstorm Version)

Info

The original UK tape version was double play and had a whole side of remixes. On the 'Out Of The Gap' companion disc I have added these as well as a few other choice cuts. The Into The Gap era has many alternate versions of songs, mixes, remixes, edits, etc, so choosing the best ones has meant many are left off. For example, the 12 inch version of Sister Of Mercy since I prefer the 7 inch version, and the mixes of the Doctor! Doctor! b-side, Nurse Shark, which isn't really worth it. All 49 Into The Gap era songs I have compiled on an mp3 disc. There is a full index here. The 'Twins also called their late 1984 support tour for the album, 'Out Of The Gap'.

('Still Water' is not to be confused with 'Still Waters', a track on the Close To The Bone album.)

Some versions of the album feature an alternate tracklisting:

  1. Doctor! Doctor!
  2. You Take Me Up
  3. Hold Me Now
  4. Day After Day
  5. No Peace For The Wicked (incorrectly titled as 'No Rest For The Wicked' on some issues)
  6. The Gap
  7. Sister Of Mercy
  8. Storm On The Sea
  9. Who Can Stop The Rain

Review

Into The Gap was a phenomenal success, and supported by hit singles that somehow seemed to climb higher in the charts each time, it brought the Thompson Twins world acclaim in a very short space of time. By the summer of 1984 every teenager in America had probably heard of them, and the album apparently sold over five million units. There's no surprise why. The sound warms up on Quick Step', adds a new level of creativity to the music. It's a tad more serious. There's now ballads and hints of eastern music, yet it combines to create some extremely catchy tunes. Just like its predecessor no two songs are alike. From here the Twins had nowhere to go. In two albums they'd already reached the top. It was a question of keeping the ball rolling or falling back into pop music obscurity.

2004 reissue of the album:

A reissue of this album was released in 2004 but was quickly withdrawn. It contained, bizarrely, two bonus tracks from the Here's To Future Days bonus EP. The sound was also rather loud.

Into The Gap [2008 reissue]

Into The Gap

Disc One

The album

  1. Doctor! Doctor!
  2. You Take Me Up
  3. Day After Day
  4. Sister Of Mercy
  5. No Peace For The Wicked
  6. The Gap
  7. Hold Me Now
  8. Storm On The Sea
  9. Who Can Stop The Rain

The Cassette Remixes

  1. Leopard Ray
  2. Doctor! Doctor! [12 inch version]
  3. Panic Station [Day After Day]
  4. Down Tools
  5. Hold Me Now [12 inch version]
  6. Funeral Dance [No Peace For The Wicked]

Disc Two

The Cassette Remixes continued

  1. Compass Points [The Gap]
  2. Still Water [Storm On The Sea]

The b-sides and the 12 inch mixes

  1. You Take Me Up (Machines Take Me Over) [12 inch version]
  2. Sister Of Mercy [12 inch version]
  3. Let Loving Start [12 inch version]
  4. You Take Me Up (High Plains Mixer) [US 12 inch remix]
  5. Nurse Shark
  6. Passion Planet
  7. You Take Me Up [instrumental remix]
  8. Out Of The Gap [Megamix extended version]

Background

As with Quick Step', Into The Gap has been plagued by inferior reissues over the years. The 2004 version was instantly deleted, and rightly so, because it contained simply stupid choices for bonus tracks and obviously became an embarassment to the company that issued it. ITG was also originally issued with tape remixes and a whole host of different versions; many more in fact than the Quick Step' era. To compile them all would probably fill at least three entire CDs, so the essentials are all that's needed (and by essential I mean every single and extended version, all the b-sides and the tape remixes). So, how does the second part of Edsel's TT reissue campaign compare to the first? Read on.

Review

I don't know how I feel about splitting the cassette mixes up. Perhaps it might have been wiser to have them all on disc two, and mix the other rarities between discs? But the cassette mixes themselves are a joy to hear again. My own versions were from such an old and worn out tape that they were almost unlistenable. The ITG ones are even more exciting than the Quick Step' ones. Perhaps ending disc one with the awesome-ness of Funeral Dance was a good move after all. The album itself and all the cassette remixes sound excellent, but once we hit track 3 on disc two the sound quality takes a serious dive. I don't know whether it's a production or mastering error, or what, but it's terrible. Lots of static and noise, and the problems follow over into the next track. Thankfully Let Loving Start onwards is okay again, but there is no excuse for such a blunder. Hopefully Edsel will acknowledge this mistake and recall/replace all initial copies. The choice of rarities is pretty good. All the standard b-sides and extended versions are present (including Passion Planet, a wonderful song), bar the early embryonic version of Hold Me Now and the dub mix of Sister Of Mercy (both found on 2003's Greatest Hits), and despite its atrocious sound quality, the Machines Take Me Over mix of You Take Me Up is here too. Once the sound has been fixed on that track and the 12 inch version of Sister Of Mercy, this set will also be a worthy addition to your collection. The artwork and liner notes are in the same vein as Quick Step' and I'm told Here's To Future Days is to follow. Recommended? No, not until the error in sound quality has been rectified. I'll keep you posted on this.

Fixed

Okay, Edsel fixed the problems with the second disc. I was one of the last fans to find out about this. Anyway, if you have a defective disc two (as indicated by my review above) then e-mail Edsel and they'll mail out a free replacement. Excellent customer service there, I must say. But then again, mistakes like this should never happen in the first place. Thankfully, I can now recommend this reissue for purchase. Hopefully all the remaining unsold faulty copies have been recalled by now. Be wary of picking one up used, though; not sure how long Edsel's free offer will last.

Here's To Future Days [1985] - (fan remaster [2004])

Here's To Future Days

Original Album

  1. Don't Mess With Doctor Dream
  2. Lay Your Hands On Me
  3. Future Days
  4. Roll Over [appeared on US version only]
  5. You Killed The Clown
  6. Revolution
  7. King For A Day
  8. Love Is The Law
  9. Emperor's Clothes (Part 1)
  10. Tokyo
  11. Breakaway

Bonus tracks

  1. The Fourth Sunday [instrumental b-side]

From the bonus EP that came with the album

[The song it's a remix of]
  1. Shoot Out [Dr. Dream']
  2. Alice [Lay Your Hands']
  3. Heavens Above! [Future Days]
  4. The Kiss [Tokyo]
  5. Desert Dancers [Breakaway]

Info

The Vinyl to CD conversion and tracklisting by Robin Sharrock. This is a custom collection that was put together before any official reissue of the album. The original UK tape and some vinyl versions were double play/two disc sets with a whole side of remixes. These are presented in this version, as well as the withdrawn album version of Roll Over that didn't appear on the UK release of the album. The US version of the album did feature Roll Over (despite the band not wanting it to, the record company insisted) and thus the tracklisting was as follows (also, Breakaway was not on the LP and was a cassette-only bonus track):

  1. Don't Mess With Doctor Dream
  2. Lay Your Hands On Me
  3. Future Days
  4. Roll Over
  5. Revolution
  6. King For A Day
  7. Love Is The Law
  8. Emperor's Clothes (Part 1)
  9. Tokyo
  10. You Killed The Clown
  11. Breakaway

Review

This album was delayed somewhat by the strains of fame and fortune Into The Gap had brought upon the band. By the time it finally arrived momentum was lost, and despite it being a strong album, it wasn't as good. It doesn't fit together like the previous two albums as one flow of work, rather a haphazard collection of good, but not brilliant, songs. Despite being a good laugh, a cover of the Beatles' Revolution was perhaps ill advised. However, the two final tracks on the bonus EP of remixes, The Kiss and Desert Dancers, are superb in their extended forms. Desert Dancers especially is very well done.

Second review (May 2006)

Following an e-mail from Alex from Italy, I've decided to re-evaluate this album. I am sticking to my original conclusion that this album marked the slowing down of the TT rollercoaster, but my previous brief summary didn't do the album justice at all. It's important when commenting on music albums to try and view them as a standalone product, even though comparisons with a band's previous or future work are impossible to avoid most of the time. So anyway, here are some more thoughts (please forgive the ambiguity!):

I sat down with my huge set of Panasonic headphones, and plugged them into my Sony MZ-RH10. If I was going to let Here's To Future Days present its case to me, I'd use the direct vinyl to MiniDisc copy I made in 2002. Once again, I am struck by the album's lack of allure. Quick Step' has the futuristic industrial theme. Technology, machines, computers; almost like a much more poppier version of Kraftwerk's Computer World. Into The Gap is of course buried in eastern charms and west coast sunshine. HTFD doesn't really have a theme musically. It's what I've always said it was: a collection of solid songs, and mediocre ones. Alex made some perfectly valid comments about the album's huge success worldwide. It sold amazingly well in most countries, and produced a string of chart hits and supporting tours were often completely sold out. That's all true, and the album also marked a very curious phenomenon, one that has happened to a few other bands as well as the 'Twins: the loss of a UK fanbase and the continuation and strengthening of the US one. The UK is very fond of ditching bands once they've been allowed their big hits. Today, you'd be hard pressed to find a Thompson Twins fan in the UK, yet in the US they are still extremely prevelant. Most of my correspondence is from the US. This may be because of the cancelled UK tour for HTFD, or it may be because the album was weaker than Into The Gap and released at the height of the backlash against the new wave electro bands (it was around this time that the Human League's popularity in the UK waned dramatically yet they managed a number 1 US hit). Either way, HTFD will always mark the beginning of the end for the Thompson Twins. Close To The Bone marks it better musically, but the decline was there: Tom's health problems, the cancelled tour, Joe quitting. True, HTFD was a huge success and produced many chart hits. Lay Your Hands On Me, despite being territory well traversed by the 'Twins, is still a beautiful song. I'm fond of most of the songs. It's certainly a far stronger album than Big Trash, and a few notches above Close To The Bone, but it just doesn't have the sunshine charm of Into The Gap. That 'Summer of '84' feeling. HTFD is also perhaps too slickly produced. Into The Gap was the trademark 'Twins sound: complex layered production that hit a nerve with the record buying public. HTFD is the 'Twins trying to tailor their sound to what they think the public might want to hear. Every fan I've known has agreed that the pre-mix of King For A Day is superior to the album version. The fact that Madonna producer Nile Rodgers was employed is proof of the 'Twins desire to stay contemporary. They didn't make a truly different and enthralling record again until 1991's Queer. They were at their strongest when they cut their own path instead of trying to follow a worn one already. HTFD is well and truly the latter.

That said, the album is an evolution for the band in many ways. Quick Step' is purely electronic. It's a very cold sound, even if the music itself has warmth. The electronics, the cling-clang effects. Classic early new wave electro. Into The Gap adds more organic sounds to the mix (in may ways it is the perfect combination of the two styles). HTFD goes a step further towards a 'rock' sound (much like the Human League with their track 'The Lebanon') with more guitar, and it has that typical mid '80s 'rock' sound. This is where my personal preference takes over. Some bands are just better with purely electronic sounds, and I think the moment the 'Twins tried to cross the boundary into mainstream middle-of-the-road rock, their appeal was totally lost. I don't much care for rock, or that whole stadium sound that people remember the '80s for. It's boring to me. Quick Step' and ITG had a futuristic feel to them, and it's ironic that 'Here's To Future Days' sounds exactly of its time. Don't get me wrong, it's a great album. It just isn't as good as the previous two!

Here's To Future Days [2008 reissue]

Here's To Future Days

Disc One

The album

  1. Don't Mess With Doctor Dream
  2. Lay Your Hands On Me
  3. Future Days
  4. You Killed The Clown
  5. Revolution
  6. King For A Day
  7. Love Is The Law
  8. Emperor's Clothes (Part 1)
  9. Tokyo
  10. Breakaway

Bonus track

  1. Roll Over

The Cassette / EP Remixes

  1. Shoot Out [Dr. Dream']
  2. Alice [Lay Your Hands']
  3. Heavens Above! [Future Days]
  4. The Kiss [Tokyo]
  5. Desert Dancers [Breakaway]

Disc Two

The b-sides and the 12 inch mixes

  1. Lay Your Hands On Me [original Alex Sadkin + Tom Bailey remix]
  2. The Lewis Carol (Adventures In Wonderland)
  3. Lay Your Hands On Me [US remix]
  4. Lay Your Hands On Me [extended Nile Rodgers + Tom Bailey remix]
  5. Roll Over Again [12 inch version]
  6. Fools In Paradise [12 inch version]
  7. Don't Mess With Doctor Dream (Smackattack!) [12 inch version]
  8. Very Big Business [12 inch version]
  9. King For A Day [extended mix]
  10. Rollunder [extended]
  11. The Fourth Sunday
  12. Revolution [12 inch remix]

Background

Having purchased the first two of Edsel's reissues upon release in early 2008, I waited until 2009 before picking up Here's To Future Days. I wasn't blown away by Edsel's tactics; True, they've put a lot of effort in: a reasonable marketing push (at least online), extensive well written liner notes, lots of pictures and a healthy smattering of bonus tracks. However, I was hoping that their presentation would have been a tad more professional; although very praiseworthy, there's an undercurrent of nostalgic condescension throughout the liner notes, as if the 'Twins were just a product of the '80s and these resissues are here to remind us of that. It's by no means intentional, but Rubik's cubes are mentioned. To my mind, an album reissue should set out to make the same statement originally intended. The fact that bonus tracks and artwork are present should only reinforce that statement, and since the 'Twins music is wonderful, their albums should be seen as timeless masterpieces and not kitsch products of the '80s. I do like the packaging of the reissues (it is in fact more than I ever hoped for) but had I been in charge I would have done it slightly differently. A booklet instead of a fold-out for a start, like Edsel's Blancmange reissues, also from 2008. I was hoping for a fresh, detailed, insight into the music and what they were trying to say, and not another summary of the Live Aid performance or their days as a big band. Perhaps Blake Bell, or, dare I say it, myself, should have written these liner notes, but then again they are a mass market product. Compromises have to be made, and that's my point. Edsel's resissues lean slightly more towards commercial gain than artistic integrity, but we should praise them for at least having the foresight to set about reissuing the albums in the first place. Another issue is sound quality. The sound of Edsel's reissues has been picked apart on numerous forums and channels, and so I am inclined to be even harsher when listening to Here's To Future Days, the third of their series of four.

Review

First then, the sound quality. I am no longer in the habit of ripping tracks to computer and analysing them with various software. Those days are behind me. I instead listen to all of my compact discs the old fashioned way, with a Marantz CD67SE CD player, big Castle speakers and a Denon amplifier. I cannot fault the sound quality at all on disc one, from the album tracks themselves right through all of the bonus EP tracks. It's punchy and detailed, not lacking in clarity in any way and free of any discernible hiss or background noise. I can also tell, by the readout of my graphic equalizer, that it has not been mastered with limiting to make it sound very loud. I am always thankful for that in these dark days of the CD format. Disc two likewise has flawless sound on all tracks, and many tracks there are. Secondly, the bonus tracks. Edsel really went to town here and there's at least a couple that I cannot remember having heard before. Perhaps there's one too many versions of Lay Your Hands On Me, but we can't fault them for that. Roll Over was a natural inclusion, but best of all there are extended mixes of all the singles too. It's a shame there are no 7 inch mixes, but once again two full CDs is plenty of material. The artwork is once again excellent. The liner notes differ from those in the first two reissues (thankfully) and go into a lot of detail about the album and the circumstances under which it was produced (a minor error is that Lay Your Hands On Me is apparently the album's opener!). All in all, an excellent reissue. Recommended? Yes. Definitely!

Close To The Bone [1987]

Close To The Bone

Original Album

  1. Follow Your Heart
  2. Bush Baby
  3. Get That Love
  4. Twentieth Century
  5. Long Goodbye
  6. Still Waters
  7. Savage Moon
  8. Gold Fever
  9. Dancing In Your Shoes
  10. Perfect Day
My signed LP

Info

The CD version of this long out-of-print album I picked up for just $5 Canadian. I also have the Get That Love CD single/EP from the same year.

Review

Like Here's To Future Days, this album is a reasonable to good collection of songs. By the time it was released the Thompson Twins now just consisted of Tom and Alannah, and increasingly disillusioned with the music industry they sought to just write music they wanted to, and not pander to any record company chief's oversized wallet. This attitude would epitomise wonderfully in the form of Babble six years later. The best tracks are probably Still Waters (remarkably well produced) and Perfect Day. Get That Love, despite its lightweight lyrics, is actually a very catchy and likeable tune. I also have a fondness for Long Goodbye.

Close To The Bone was produced by Rupert Hine, who also appeared on the Tom Tom Club's album of the same name. Weird eh?

Big Trash [1989]

Big Trash

Original Album

  1. Sugar Daddy
  2. Queen Of The USA
  3. Bombers In The Sky
  4. This Girl's On Fire
  5. T.V. On
  6. Big Trash
  7. Salvador Dali's Car
  8. Rock This Boat
  9. Dirty Summer's Day
  10. Love Jungle
  11. Wild

Info

As well as owning Big Trash on vinyl, I also own a copy on CD. Fellow fan Patrick Bellis provided me with a copy along with a very attractive 3 inch CD single of Sugar Daddy.

Review

The theme of Big Trash appears to be similar to OMD's Junk Culture, even down to the album's name and artwork. Alas, it is the weakest offering from the band. Big Trash is like Close To The Bone stripped of the interesting tracks: a dull, boring album lacking in innovation or any melodies that you will remember. The lyrics are also below par for the Thompson Twins. The title track, for example, sounds like a typical '80s stadium rock song when the chorus kicks in. The areas where the 'Twins were strongest were catchy melodies, electronic pop/dance and sensitive ballads. Big Trash fails to deliver any of these, or the innovative chaotics of the first two albums. Dirty Summer's Day sounds a bit like Love On Your Side slowed down, and shows some evidence of the complex and clean production of Quick Step', but the magic is missing. Thankfully, it returns fully in the next album. The Thompson Twins name was destined to end on a creative high note after all.

Second review (November 2006)

Deciding that enough time had elapsed since I last allowed Big Trash to try and impress me, I sat down to give it another listen. The production is certainly sleek. All tidy synthesized drum beats and lightweight guitars chiming in. It's certainly not dance-inflected as the two well-known albums are. It leans more towards the 'middle-of-the-road' soft rock sound of Close To The Bone, although it sounds more creative. Close To The Bone saw the band burnt out and running on empty, trying to write catchy chart-toppers (Get That Love, for example), whereas Big Trash is definitely the band turning their backs on chart stardom once and for all and simply seeing where their muse will take them. I can't deny it's a good effort, but the novelty of electronic synth-pop was long gone by 1989 and the sound of guitars just does not sit well on a (post 1982) Thompson Twins record. Reminding me constantly of the lesser numbers of Here's To Future Days and the Human League's The Lebanon, the conventional guitars come and go. It just doesn't work, and sounds decidely lame, like so many of those '80s acts. If I wanted to be bored to death by solid guitar chords I'd listen to Dire Straits. However, the trademark synth hooks of Bailey and Currie are present throughout. The production is clean, with lots of space. The lack of reverb and washy synth sounds will remind you of their Quick Step' sound, although once a song is over you'll find it hard to remember the melody. Sugar Daddy opens, attempting to impress as Love On Your Side did all those years ago with a chorus that'll stick in your head. It doesn't work quite as well. I don't really care for Alannah's vocal style here - it sounds a tad too much like the wimpish yelping of Clare Grogan of Altered Images. The next two tracks seem to amble along in the same aimless way, offering little of note. Things pick up with This Girl's On Fire, which is a decent enough number that abruptly fades away just as it really gets going. Although the band are allowing their creative juices to flow, they seem to be too tied down to a traditional rock arragement. It's not nearly chaotic enough. The songs are all very formulaic and totally predictable. Choruses and guitar solos, and than a fade to finish. Where are those extended percussion attacks that I so love from the previous 'Twins albums? I get the sense that if they'd really allowed their imaginations to run wild with Big Trash, it could have been another APO or Set. Inteads, it turns out to be another Close To The Bone.

T.V. On certainly has trappings of the Tom Tom Club sound, and is a stronger track than the previous ones. Sounding almost like Sunshine & Love from the Happy Mondays' final album, it's a decent number with clean percussive beats; far more of this is what the doctor ordered. If only they'd just allow it to run wild and not constrain it with those awful guitar solos. Where the song tries to break free the bland vision of the album tends to restrain it. Big Trash could have been so much more. The title track starts off seriously enough, almost like a song from Cabaret Voltaire's Code album, but like that offering it's just mundane. Tom's buried robotic vocals don't sound nearly as menacing as was probably intended, and the chorus "Big Trash, people paying hard cash" isn't much to get excited about. A synth solo, however, happily replaces any guitar invasions. Predictably enough, Salvador Dali's Car starts with a car sample. This was funny on a Madness track, but here it's just dull. The song is perhaps the weakest on the album, propelled along by an extremely weedy and repetitive drum machine reminiscent of every single song on Men At Work's Business As Usual album. It amazes me that a band so capable with percussion on previous releases is so unimaginative here. The less said about the lyrics, the better.

Rock This Boat has an odd appeal. It's a charming tune with a decent chorus and effective liberal use of the guitar. The same drum machine is still there, but thankfully it is often relegated to the background rhythm keeper. Some excellent (though probably processed) vocal harmonies are on offer in what is a decent enough tune and proof that Big Trash has lashings of potential. Dirty Summer's Day continues an upturn in style. Again, it's not a bad number at heart, although the execution still leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps stripped of the unnecessary instrumentation with the sheer computer blips brought to the fore it could be even better. The 'Twins work best for me when they assault your ears with electronic pulses, harsh drum beats and those lovely early '80s bips and bops. DSD sounds very much like a track from Cabaret Voltaire's The Crackdown, except it's trying to stick to convention. The Cabs had no illusions about chart success, even when they did flirt with mainstream sounds. Once again, Big Trash could have been so much better minimalised and made a tad darker, or dare I say, angrier?

Love Jungle, alas, picks up where Salvador Dali's Car left off. A decidely lacklustre offering with little of note. Instantly forgettable and with quite terrible lyrics ("We buy books for the way they look; Don't read 'em at all"). And yes, that silly little guitar is back. Wild concludes Big Trash in a very mediocre way. Melodious is not the word. Big Trash lives up to its name in the same way as The Clash's Cut The Crap does. I'll leave it to you to figure that one out. Thankfully, this wasn't the last album.

Queer [1991]

Queer

Original Album

  1. Come Inside
  2. Flower Girl
  3. My Funky Valentine
  4. Queer
  5. Groove On
  6. Strange Jane (Play With Me)
  7. Shake It Down
  8. Wind It Up
  9. Flesh And Blood
  10. The Invisible Man
  11. The Saint
  12. Come Inside (Feedback Max Remix)

Info

Three sealed copies of the Thompson Twins' final album were languishing in a large $2 section until I rescued them, sending out the two superfluous ones to fellow TT fans.

Review

An excellent album, and a true return to form following the disappointment of Big Trash. The songs are catchier and seem to show much more intelligence in terms of layering and production. Among the lightweight pop songs there are nods towards ambience (which is a hint of things to come), sparse electro beats, sampling, electro funk (Shake It Down) and even a ballad, Flesh And Blood. My Funky Valentine in particular is a very upbeat and catchy effort [1]. The title track starts off with some Cabaret Voltaire-esque sampling and veers into an excellent pulsating electro track. Strange Jane is also great-- it seems that in this final album the band are finally fully relaxed with their music. There's no pressure from record companies or any need to try and maintain a momentum in the charts. The band was seen as 'finished' many years ago. This album is probably the most consistent offering since Into The Gap, and is relaxed where that album is forced.

(Some) singles from this era were (I think) released under the Feedback Max moniker since by the early '90s the name Thompson Twins was distinctly uncool. I own Play With Me (Jane) on vinyl (which dates from 1992) and it's a good slab of early '90s techno. Nothing special, but far better than whatever Big Trash was trying to be. This, along with the album, is more of a stepping stone to the Babble experiment, of which I approve fully.

[1] Interestingly, the start of My Funky Valentine uses the same snippet from a BBC production of Shakespeare's King Lear as The Beatles' I Am The Walrus. The quote, from Act 4, Scene 6, goes "Sit you down, father; rest you" and is more complete in the Beatles song. And speaking of obscure samples buried deep within songs, the Feedback Max remix of Come Inside features a very short sample from Kraftwerk's The Robots.

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