Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cutting Crew: Broadcast

Unfortunately I'm showing my age with my latest entry in what I hope will be the first in a series of retrospectives showcasing the best of the 80s CD classics.

iTunes is certainly an option, but being a fan of the best in audio-visual quality I prefer Blu-Ray films or Remastered CDs to the digital download as my weapon of choice. This applies to those things that I consider classic. I do download from time to time and more so than ever nowadays, but there are certain classic discs that must reside in the personal library. Call it the collection needed for that desert island if you will. I must feel them. I must touch them. I must leaf through the liner notes. I must be able to smell the artwork in all of its glory. It sounds like I have a problem. I don't know, perhaps. Call it old school, but liner notes and vintage classics [obviously subjective] are some of the wonderful things in this life.

To be honest, growth in my CD collection has slowed significantly and has essentially halted with the exception of the occasional remaster that is often unavailable in the United States, but is available by import only through the UK or Europe in general. Most of my CD collection has even lost value as far as ebay potential goes, but such is life.

A little nod to Lazy Thoughts Of A Baby Boomer who inspired me or reignited that fire in me to embrace my love of music for the random post here. Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic is almost exclusively science fiction for obvious reasons, but one cannot live by bread alone. The 80s is part of who I am, why not open it up a bit here?

For my first official look back at the classics of the 1980s I turn to Broadcast [1986] by Cutting Crew. My support is exclusively for Cutting Crew's Broadcast, which is hands down a classic from beginning to end. The original recording was remastered in 2010 and is the one recording by the band that is an absolute library must own. There isn't a bad selection in the collection. The obvious hits included (I Just) Died In Your Arms [US number one], One For The Mocking Bird [US top 40] and the gorgeous ballad I've Been In Love Before [US Top 10]. But to qualify for an entry on this blog you have to be classic from beginning to end [with the exception of maybe one track misstep] and Broadcast achieves this status.

The Cutting Crew is an English-based band led by singer/songwriter Nick Van Eede. The act followed-up Broadcast three years later with The Scattering [1989] also remastered in 2010. It's amazing how a band can lose its rhythm with the passage of just a few years. That recording, apart from Everything But My Pride, essentially a retread of I've Been In Love Before, is a lost opportunity and weak effort for the band. Somewhere between 1986 and 1989 the group lost its way and its knack for melody and formula for a good, old-fashioned, catchy, pop song.

This was followed by their third, straight-to-the-bargain-bin outing Compus Mentus [1992] and much later Grinning Souls [2006]. At this point, fans had scattered and again, Eede had lost his touch.

For one classic moment, the stars had aligned for the group, lightning was captured in a bottle and an unforgettable recording called Broadcast was realized forever. Broadcast is a wonderful selection of songs and is essential. Let's be clear and cut to the chase, Broadcast is the only recording worth repeat listening. The UK Remaster offers the following songs including several bonus tracks: Any Colour, One For The Mocking Bird, I've Been In Love Before, Life In A Dangerous Time, Fear Of Falling, (I Just) Died In Your Arms, Don't Look Back, Sahara, It Shouldn't Take Too Long, The Broadcast + (I Just) Died In Your Arms [12" Mix], I've Been In Love Before [Live In London], The Broadcast/ Any Colour [Live In USA], For The Longest Time [b-side to (I Just) Died In Your Arms].

Sahara is a ballad of spare beauty, but I cannot say enough about the classic production techniques of songs like this one as well as Any Colour, The Broadcast and Don't Look Back. Production always plays a key part in the resulting sound. Producers can make the difference- a kind of unsung hero and extension of the band for an outing. The producers were Steve Thompson, Terry Brown, John Jansen and Michael Barbiero and the final achievement, a rare feat with so many hands in the proverbial pot, was pop perfection.

If you're a fan of the best of 1980s music, Cutting Crew's Broadcast is a classic and ranks up there with the best of Tears For Fears in style a la vintage Songs From The Big Chair [1985]. There were a host of bands that arrived on the scene and whilst Cutting Crew never had that combination of talent, luck and management to pull off a lengthy career, the necessary ingredients were in place to cut a major classic. There was simply something about the period and the recording process of the day that generated something special. Broadcast is simply one of the best of 1986. You'll never tire of these dulcet pop tunes. Remember, this isn't about being a fan of the Cutting Crew or a follower of any of its members. It's really not. I have no idea what they are doing now, but this is about recognizing a classic recording that delivers on repeat play to this day. It's also by the Cutting Crew and they deserve credit for being in the right frame of mind with their talent, energy and ideas at just the right time. Why should a classic from the '80s be relegated to unimportant simply by virtue of its time of arrival? I know it's easy to shrug off bands that are reduced in importance or quickly boxed up as one-hit wonders by the music critics, but acts like Cutting Crew made some good music for a time and carved their place in '80s history. Thanks for the still special Broadcast.

BONUS TRACKS: It's also worth noting, the updated UK remaster addition features five exceptional bonus selections rounding out the classic Broadcast CD at 15 tracks. These bonus selections are also in keeping with the overall sound and style of the Broadcast-era Cutting Crew work. For The Longest Time is splendid as incorporated b-sides go and apart from a solid 12-inch version of (I Just) Died In Your Arms, the true highlights of the bonus selections are three exceptional live tracks from the period including I've Been In Love Before [Live In London], The Broadcast/ Any Colour [Live In The USA]. These live renditions offer three of the outing's finest songs a nice twist and energy apart from the studio. These numbers are one more reason why this is a must own for the pop library.

Cutting Crew Discography:
Broadcast [1986] *
The Scattering [1989]
Compus Mentis [1992]
The Best Of Cutting Crew [2003]
Grinning Souls [2006]

3 comments:

Will said...

I'm always down for some 80s music. Good music is good music no matter the period. I, of course, like I Would Die (In Your Arms). I don't think I've heard anything else from them (or if I have, I wouldn't know it was them).

I'm partial to Wang Chung myself. Cool review. I will have to check these dudes out (decades late. . .but so what!)

le0pard13 said...

An absolutely wonderful music post, Gordon. You made what my wife refers to as that 'nostalgia gene of mine to kick into gear. I was opening browser tabs to YouTube and bringing up some of those magnificent music videos of the era while savoring this piece. It's been more than a few months since I last purchased an audio CD, but I'll be on the lookout for those imports you cited.

I'm really glad you posted this, and that it's series you're planning. I look forward to more of these, my friend. Thanks for this (and the shout-out).

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Will.

Love Wang Chung. I highly recommend their NEW 2 Ep set available exclusively from their website.

Unfortunately Wang Chung's new versions of some their hits and an amazing NEW song called RENT FREE are exclusive to the website only.

I would prefer to purchase them from iTunes, but may break down soon and get them. I've listened to the samples [you can too] and the new stuff by Wang Chung is surprisingly very, very good. Give it a check Will.

L13.

Thanks my friend. Yes, the nostalgia gene runs strong in the family. It's a bit like the force. : )

Honestly Mike and Will, Broadcast is a strong collection of pop songs. The other wonderful point about these songs is they are NOT over produced. Often, 80s music can go just a tad too far, but these songs stand the test of time because they have blood running through the numbers.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Broadcast. Nothing more, but Broadcast is perfect.