Needle on the Record: 80s stars Pet Shop Boys, Soft Cell and Rick Astley

Pet Shop Boys collaborate with Soft Cell 

They’re two of the most iconic bands of the 1980s and now they’ve released a collaboration. Pet Shop Boys have teamed up with Soft Cell for Purple Zone a new track that harks back to the sounds of their classic hits.

Soft Cell feature singer Marc Almond and musician Dave Ball, while Pet Shop Boys are Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, and their new collaboration is a camp, disco infused and easy to sing along to tune.

Both bands first came to our attention in the early 1980s and have continued making music through the decades, Soft Cell’s new album Happiness Not Included is set to be released in early May. It’s the band’s sixth album in their long career.

Rick Astley’s debut album celebrates 35th anniversary with deluxe release

Back in 1987 Rick Astley burst onto the music scene with a string of hit singles including Never Gonna Give You Up, Together Forever, When I Fall in Love, It Would Take a Strong Strong Man, My Arms Keep missing You and Whenever You Need Somebody.

Most of the tracks featured on Astley’s debut album Whenever You Need Somebody, which was written and produced by production team Stock, Aitken and Waterman. The trio of songwriters dominated the charts in the late 80’s creating hits for Astley, Mel & Kim, Bannanarama, Kylie Minogue and later Jason Donovan, Sonia, Donna Summer, Lonnie Gordon, Brotherhood Beyond and many others.

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the album’s release a new edition with feature a remastered version of the original album, plus b-sides, remixes and instrumental versions.

Astley shared his excitement about the new edition of the album that changed his life.

“Whenever I sing these songs or even hear them on the radio, it brings back so many great memories. It makes me appreciate how lucky I was to have met all the people I worked with around making that first record. Never Gonna Give You Up was big enough to let me travel the world – which, for a 21-year-old from Newton-le-Willows, was mind-blowing. I’m still reaping the benefits from that today.”

The release will also include some new recordings of his classic hits labeled as “reimagined versions” and “pianoforte versions.

After the huge success of his debut album Astley made a follow up with the Stock, Aitken and Waterman team, Hold Me In Your Arms came out in 1988 and alongside the title track generated more hits with She Wants To Dance With Me, Take Me To Your Heart, alongside a cover of The Temptations’ ‘Aint To Proud To Beg.

The new version of the album is out 6th May. Take a look at the remastered video for Together Forever. Yes kids, in the 80’s double breasted suits and polo necks were cool.  

Aldous Harding shares her new album ‘Warm Chris’ 

Aldous Harding | Warm Chris | ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

On her fourth album, and third in a row produced by collaborator John Parish, Aldous Harding explores new sounds and themes, and is as intriguing as ever.

Opening track Ennui, a song that features a meandering saxophone, a thudding repetitive piano and warm vocals, feels like the opening of a musical, a sign that Harding in going to take us on a journey. We fall into Tick Tock, a groove filled guitar jaunt that oozes classic Beck vibes, it’s a lot of fun. The brass section is front and centre on Fever as we move into slower territory, but the funk vibes remain.

The title track Warm Chris returns to the sounds that Harding explored on her debut album, gently plucked strings, and delicate vocals, but with unexpected jabs of electric guitar. While the folk sounds that marked a lot of her previous work are still a strong element, it’s like we’re skirting around the edges, bumping into unexpected genres and sounds.

Passion Babe sees Harding exploring a different character with her voice, but the track is somewhat annoying and it’s the one that might have you reaching for the skip button. She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain, is not the traditional sing-a-long, but a storytelling journey which sees Harding taking on a country twang. The song has a gorgeous chorus, and the piano notes and plucked banjo strings are so precise., as the song continues more instruments enter the scene and build a moving atmosphere.

The musical journey continues with Staring at Henry Moore, which has an almost tropical flavour, Bubbles begins as a down-tempo number that then seems to stop and restart as a different song, it has elements of jazz that appear fleetingly before being replaced by a harp and familiar folk motifs, keeping the listener on their toes. Album closer Leathery Whip is filled with gospel organ, and many different voices, it might be the Muppets, and it nicely closes out the record. Aldous Harding is one of the most intriguing people I’ve ever met, and her musical exploration continues to take us to unexpected places, while still remaining totally in her odd world.

Fresh tracks – download these ones 

KPD – Disco’s Revenge while you dance to this track you can also hear about the history of disco and house music Working Men’s Club – Widow It sounds like Depeche Mode crossed with New Order, and that can only be a good thing Runaway Mornings – Take Me Home great vocals in this slice of indie goodness  Logic 1000 – Rush this kicks off with a beat you’ve heard a million times before, but soon morphs into a delightful mix of electronic sounds Black Midi – Love Story yes, it’s a laid back indie version of the Taylor Swift song with a country vibe and healthy does of 80’s sax sounds Luke Steele – Pool of Love first solo release from the front man of Sleepy Jackson and Empire of the Sun, it’s laid back, psychedelic, and dreamy Disclosure – Waterfall perfect pop Royksopp – featuring Astrid S – Breathe new tunes from Royksopp are coming thick and fast, here’s another fine offering Harvey Sutherland featuring DāM-FunK – Feeling of Love (India Jordan Remix) feel good vibes for the last days of summer.

!!! share ‘Here’s What I Need to Know’

!!! (it’s pronounced Chk Chk Chk) have shared their second single off their forthcoming ninth studio album Let It Be Blue out May 6, 2022.

The band say Here’s What I Need To Know is about the moment when you know a relationship is finished- either because you’re over it, or you realize the other person is.

Take a listen to their latest tune. 

Koffee delivers an impressive debut album

Koffee | Gifted | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

The first album from Koffee, aka Mikayla Simpson, is a tight pop-album that is filled with reggae and dancehall sounds. She’s tipped to be reggae’s next breakout star and has been rumoured to be working with Rhianna on her forthcoming reggae album.

It kicks off with x10, a series of praises and affirmations to start a new day over samples of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, but we quickly launch into series of smooth tunes, each clocking in at perfect pop lengths of just two and half to three minutes each.

Lonely is punchy, while filled with trickling piano notes, a smooth chorus of backing vocals, and a solid reggae vibe. Runaway s filled with subtle electronic sounds, but the dancehall vibes are at the fore, and the production is pristine. Where I’m From has a dramatic opening, sounding like an epic disco tune is about to arrive, but Koffee dives into a fast flow while a bumbling bass fills out the track, and swirling gospel vocals build in the background.

If you like this collection check out her 2019 EP Rapture, that won best reggae album at the Grammys. The first time a woman has taken home the award.

Grace Sanders releases double a-side anymore / nothing 

Perth musician Grace Sanders has a double a-side release with anymore / nothing. The first tune is a rocking tune filled with bleeps, swirls, a solid beat and rocking guitars. It’s a little reminiscent of the sound of Garbage. The flip side is very different, it begins with a harsh droning sound before slipping into smooth RnB vibe with vocoder vocals. Stream the tracks now.

Cowboy Junkies covers collection is sublime 

Cowboy Junkies | Songs of the Recollection | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Canadian band Cowboy Junkies have spent over three decades releasing delicious bluesy albums that never grow old, you just can’t own too many Cowboy Junkies records. It’s the music of backroads and lost highways.

Much of the band’s success extends from their classic album The Trinity Sessions, a beautiful record that included many interpretations of songs by other artists including Lou Reed, Waylon Jennings and Patsy Cline. The band are equally acclaimed for their own work as their interpretations of other writers songs.

This new album is an intriguing mix of the expected and the surprising. It opens up with a warm and inviting take on David Bowie’s Five Years, but when they launch into Gram Parson’s Ooh Las Vegas the magic really kicks in full throttle. It’s filled with swirling guitars, the songs repetitive country motif fighting through layers of vocals and a thumping drum beat. This is the recording to blast loudly with the windows down as you drive into the Sin City.

Other highlights include a brilliant version of Neil Young’s Don’t Let It Bring You Down, that is much heavier than most takes on the tune, there’s also a angelic version of Young’s Love in Mind. An unexpected Bob Dylan tune is his 2020 lullaby-esque I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself to You 

There’s a laid back version of Seventeen Seconds by The Cure and a haunting cover of Marathon by the late Vic Chesnutt, who the band had previously collaborated with. A great album, completely faultless.    

Graeme Watson

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