Music Reviews

[amazon asin=B00FRYJMPI&template=ink19-top]

Various artists

The Organization of Pop: Music From the First Thirty Years of ZTT Records

ZTT Records

Time capsule time! Set your flux capacitor for the heart of the Reagan era, and let’s visit this astonishingly eclectic collection of hits and should-have-been hits from ZTT, Trevor Horn’s famed music factory. Here you’ll find more than a few famous artists, some complete with their actual hits (Grace Jones’ “Slave to the Music,” Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax,” “Two Tribes”). Then there’s a bunch of never-heard-ofs (The Frames’ “Star Star,” Adamski’s Thing’s “Piccadilly Circus”), and some genuine surprises, which would be THE Tom Jones wailing like James Brown and even a Shane McGowan track. Each track is a winner and it’s hard to classify them without just making lists, so I’ll point out highlights.

The ’80s were the nursery of the remix days. At first there were AM and FM cuts of different lengths, then Radio and Club versions of dancing disco, and finally electronics gave producers, such as Horn, more good music mix ideas. At this point collectors were overwhelmed; how many copies of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” do you need? In my case it was about four, but then I’m a bit of a hoarder. Here we get the “New York” remix; no matter how you slice this tune, it still has one of the best bass lines ever recorded. ACT’s “Snobbery and Decay” slides into the rhythm of heavy post-disco dance music mixed with samples of Kander Ebb’s “Cabaret.” It’s a paean to trickle-down economics and that big party at the end of the century. While rather long at ten minutes, you can close your eyes and feel the disco biscuits and capital gains kicking in.

Art of Noise gets three of its squeaky tracks in the mix. “Beat Box” is their most accessible. They also teamed up with early rapper Rakim on “Metaforce,” which begins as a slow piano interlude, and then strings swell and there’s a gradual build into a romantic melody with some effective rap. Nasty Rox Inc. takes a much rougher and street-oriented angle on “Escape From New York” complete with gunfire and black frustration with the system. Not everything here is urban / dance-oriented. Lee Griffiths calms us down with “Sweet Baby James” and Shane MacGowan teams up with Sinead O’Connor in a sweet love ballad, “Haunted.” Weird that all these styles flow into a perfect storm of music if you track this collection in order.

808 States replicates a mid-career Pet Shop Boys sound, but with added bird calls and a lonely jazz saxophone. I give band points to Das Psycho Rangers with their “Homage to the Blessed,” and “The Framed” gives us a soul-wrenching broken-heart rocker tune. I can go on and on, but this collection lumps together almost every innovative sound style from the decade where the baby boomers all grew up and got jobs, but still snuck out to go dancing. I’d almost go so far as to say there are no bad cuts here. I recommend this for commuting or backing up a small gathering of friends — friends of a certain age, of course.

ZTT Records


Recently on Ink 19...

New Music Now 009: Sleepyhead

New Music Now 009: Sleepyhead

Features

Join us for a new edition of New Music Now, with our special musical guest, Sleepyhead. All three members of the band are school teachers, so you didn’t hear it from us, but there might be a pop quiz about their album New Alchemy after the show.

Joana Pimenta

Joana Pimenta

Interviews

Back in 2018, Lily and Generoso selected Adirley Queirós’s Once There Was Brasilia as a top ten film. That feature’s cinematographer, Joana Pimenta, has now co-directed with Queirós one of the most expansive political films we’ve seen this year, Dry Ground Burning. Lily and Generoso interviewed Pimenta at AFI Fest earlier this month.

%d bloggers like this: