British Electric Foundation Returns

Andy Bell, Kim Wilde, Sarah Jane Morris and Boy George contribute to DARK.

Andy Bell, Kim Wilde, Sarah Jane Morris and Boy George contribute to DARK.

The British Electric Foundation has returned with their fourth album. It’s not often this band release music, but it’s always worth the wait.

‘Dark – Music of Quality and Distinction Volume Three’ sees maestro Martin Ware bringing in some of the biggest singers in the business to record covers tunes. The theme is a focus on songs that are normally presented in an upbeat way being given a more serious treatment – hence the title ‘Dark’.

The BEF project was started by electronic music masterminds Martin Ware and Ian Craig Marsh after they left The Human League. They put out a cassette only release called ‘Music for Stowaways’ in 1980.

Two years later they brought together a collection of singers to record electronic versions of well known songs. The first volume of ‘Music of Quality and Distinction’ featured Tina Turner singing ‘Ball of Confusion’ – a recording that lead to the second wave of the singer’s career. Martin Ware would go to produce her massive comeback single ‘Let’s Stay Together’.

Also on the first edition was Billy Mackenzie from The Associates, Bernie Nolan singing ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ – a Hi-NRG template that Kim Wilde would later mimic for one of her biggest hit, plus there was Glenn Gregory taking on ‘Witchita Lineman’ and Sandy Shaw knocking out ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’.

Ware and Marsh would team up with Glenn Gregory to form the band Heaven 17 and have a string of hits in the early 80’s with tunes including ‘Temptation’, ‘We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thing’ and ‘Penthouse and Pavement’.

A decade would pass before volume two of the series arrived. The second installment had songs from Terrence Trent D’Arby, Chaka Khan, and Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside. Tina Turner returned for the second installment recording ‘A Change is Going to Come’ and Billy Mackenzie recorded ‘Free’.

Now in their fourth decade Martin Ware has called on some of his favourite artists to record dark versions of well known songs and it’s jammed packed with interesting takes on well known songs.

Kim Wilde kicks things off with a moody version of ‘Every Time I See You I Go Wild’, a song written by Stevie Wonder but originally recorded by JJ Barnes. The British singer, who’ll be touring Australia later this year, appears in the first video for the compilation. Wilde slips into some skin tight PVC and show’s that in her 50’s she still damn hot!

Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside takes on the Delphonic’s ‘Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time’ and Sarah Jane Morris – (best remembered for her ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ collaboration with The Communards), covers folk artist John Martyn’s tune ‘Don’t Want To Know’.

Kate Jackson turns in a sweet version of Blondie’s ‘Picture This’, and Erasure’s Andy Bell shows of his powerful voice on the Kate Bush song ‘Breathing’.

One of the low points of the album is Glenn Gregory singing ‘It Was A Very Good Year’. The Frank Sinatra song seems oddly out of place, but the Heaven 17 front man is superb on a cover of The Associates ‘Party Fears Two’. It’s a great tribute to singer Billy Mackenzie who appeared on the first two installments and passed away in 1997.

Boy George also provides two tracks, while he was tapped to perform the Lou Read song ‘Make Up’ he also did an impromptu recording of the Iggy Pop and The Stooges track ‘I Want a Dog’.

The legendary Sandie Shaw, now her late 60’s, returns again and provides a Gladys Knight and the Pips track ‘Just Walk In My Shoes’. Billie Godfrey takes Bronski Beat’s gay anthem ‘Smalltown Boy’ and retells it from a girls perspective and lesser known Russian singer Maxim gives a very camp rendition of ABBA’s ‘The Day Before You Came’.

A limited edition version of the CD comes with a bonus disc of instrumental versions of all the tracks, which is worth seekingĀ  out.

British Electric Foundation‘s ‘Dark: MQD3’ is available now on Wall of Sound.

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