Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Three KIM WILDE reissues on CHERRY POP!

There are two things I thought of when British Pop vocalist Kim Wilde scored her first U.S. hit in 1981 with "Kids In America":
1. Hey, this is a cool song!
2. What a total babe!
Yes, in that order. I've always been a music geek and I have a tendency to listen to the TUNE before even paying attention to what the lyrics are or what the artist looks like. And remember, back in '81, you didn't have easy access to videos and such. Sure, MTV launched in August of that year, but not many folks had cable at that time.
So, the only real option I had was to concentrate on the music, which is the most important thing, right?
(But I gotta admit that Kim was second only to Debbie Harry in the 'rockin' sex kitten' category!)
Though Kim's reign in the upper regions of the U.S. charts only lasted for that one glorious single, she continued to release some fine POP singles and albums in the UK, Europe, Japan and beyond and all of them are worthy additions to any of you looking to build up your Power Pop, New Wave, Pop/Rock, Girl Pop or '80s collections.
Nearly 30 years after she debuted, the fine folks at Cherry Pop have released digitally remastered and expanded editions of Kim's first three albums and they look and sound great! Each release has an extensive booklet featuring info, lyrics, song comments from Marty and Ricky Wilde (Kim's dad and brother, who wrote most of the tunes), pictures of single sleeves and more. The packaging is wonderful, to be honest: nothing extravagant, mind you, but very tasteful and informative. Certainly worth the price of replacing your old vinyl LPs!
Released in 1981, KIM WILDE is the album most music fans are familiar with, mainly because it contains the aforementioned hit "Kids In America". While much of the album tends to lean heavily towards the same musical formula that made that song a hit, there are a few songs that break away from the early Blondie influences of "Kids...".
"Everything We Know" has a lovely melody that glides upon a Police-like Reggae rhythm while the playful "26580" ups the Reggae BPM to a Ska beat, adding a horn section and an instantly catchy chorus.
"Tuning In Tuning On" is New Wave for Acid lovers, it's Psychedelic swirls spinning around Kim's seemingly innocently coos.
"Chequered Love" takes the "Kids... " formula and adds equally catchy hooks throughout, making it equally delightful as the hit, if not more so.
"You'll Never Be So Wrong" is an absolutely wonderful Pop song that doesn't stray too far from the formula, but stands out as a great lost gem.
As for the bonus tracks, "Shane" and "Boys" are just as good as anything on the album (especially the latter). The Single Edit of "Water On Glass" is not that different from the album version, but is a welcome addition for us completists!

After the success of the Kim Wilde album, there were were only two directions that the Wilde clan could go: either record a carbon copy of the debut album or take Kim forward, embracing modern technology and wrap her Pop tunes in synthesized clothing. Thankfully, they chose the latter since they'd already taken the "Kids..." formula as far as it could go without it becoming boring and cliche-ridden.
With Select, Kim Wilde jumped head first into the future without losing any of the charm that made her self titled album such a success. While still upbeat and energetic, electronic keyboards dominate the album and the the guitar presence is toned down. Retaining the use of live drums and bass, the songs bounce along with glee, and while the production is a bit dated, it stands out as an under appreciated gem in the annals of New Wave music.
Kim's voice, while not having a huge range, is very distinctive and her vocals dominate all of her albums, so no matter what instruments you lay down, it's always going to sound like a KIM WILDE record! And from the moment she starts singing on album opener "Ego", Select is definitely a Kim Wilde record!
Though the album has fewer outstanding singles than her debut, Select is actually a better album as a whole. The hooks are more subtle and the album, overall, has a more confident quality to it.
"View From A Bridge" is most certainly a product of the '80s, but has a simplistic chorus that sticks in your head.
"Ego" sounds like Midge Ure-era Ultravox if they had been influenced by '60s girl groups.
"Words Fell Down", "Can You Come Over" and "Chaos At The Airport"sound like they could have been written for her debut but reworked into perfect little synth pop nuggets.
"Just A Feeling" is an elegant electronic pop gem that vaguely recalls some of 10cc's late '70s/early '80s recordings.
The album's centerpiece is most definitely "Cambodia", a 7+ minute opus that is broken into two halves: the moody and melodic Part One and the pulsating mostly instrumental Part Two (Reprise). It was a daring song then, yet it still sounds wonderful 25+ years later.
Of the five bonus tracks, they are all worthwhile Pop tunes although the chorus of "Bitter Is Better" sounds like a rewrite of "Kids In America". The single version of "Cambodia" is included, which is essentially Part One of the full length album version.

With even more electronics, Catch As Catch Can finds Kim Wilde and company at a crossroads: should we make a Pop album or a Dance album? The end result was a mixture of both, and would serve as a transitional album for the Pop vixen. Moving even further into the electronic realm, the live drums were replaced by programmed drums and keyboards had kicked the guitar to the curb and had taken over. Still, Kim's voice sounds more passionate and confident on the album, as if she was finally comfortable in being Kim Wilde, the Pop vocalist.
"Love Blonde" is a cheeky '80s rewrite of the Peggy Lee classic "Fever" and Kim feels comfortable biting into this lighthearted slice of Pop.
"Dream Sequence" is a nice slice of Psychedelic synth pop that would have fit as the album's opener with it's long, atmospheric opening.
"Dancing In The Dark" (NOT the Springsteen tune) and "Shoot To Disable" are, to be honest, worth skipping. The less said, the better.
The original album's three closing songs ("Can You Hear It", "Sparks" and "Sing It Out For Love" are the three best tracks on the album, which is strange since they seem to be buried at the end! What's up wid dat?
Of the five bonus tracks, "Back Street Driver" is a great Pop tune that recalls the spirit and vibe of the first two albums and is practically worth the price of this CD alone. There are also two bonus versions of "Love Blonde" and....er.... "Dancing In The Dark".
Overall, Catch As Catch Can is certainly a worthwhile release that deserves your attention, but is made even sweeter by the bonus tracks. Shame about three versions of "Dancing In The Dark", though! Well, I must admit that the Nile Rodgers remix is certainly better than the album version!

So, there you have it: three more reasons why Cherry Pop is a labels that you need to start collecting right away! And for you Kim Wilde fans out there, if you don't have these, buy them now. Not tomorrow, not next Friday... NOW!

And I still think Kim Wilde is a total babe!

Dancing in the dark,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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