Various Artists

Sounds Of The 80s Vol 2

BBC Radio2

(Sony Music)

This is the second double-album of contemporary artists taking on well-known 80s songs and in some cases adding their own freshness. I say some because not every inclusion has any merit. Fans of the artists included will of course have to get a copy of this to keep their collections complete, so it’s smart marketing. But also the listener is almost bound over 36 cuts to hear an artist they have hitherto not taken on board and maybe a song or two they are not familiar with. From memory, back then I liked Kid Creole, Was Not Was, Don Henley, Imagination, Fashion, Material and though not an original, the playing of Stevie Ray this is a pretty safe zone for me, I am not going to hear many personal favourites murdered. Purple Rain seems to survive in spirit in Mike Scott’s version with The Waterboys, but it’s from way back.

To be fair to all, perhaps I should run through all the tracks, as we did with Bob Harris’ splendid country sessions set a few weeks ago ……

James Bay I’m On Fire – too close to the phrasing of the Springsteen version, just softening the sound doesn’t take the number anywhere new. If you like his voice, this is essential to you

Stereophonics The Boys Of Summer – acoustic take of the Don Henley busted dream saga. Jones does nothing new with the phrasing. The key suits him, this time

SEAL Owner Of A Lonely Heart – hmm, the Trevor Horn connection. His voice sounds fantastic but nothing much new is brought to the party, to be frank. The bass player is in the pocket

James Morrison Red Red Wine – ah yes the Neil Diamond sing turned into stodge by UB40. The reggae tempo is kept, dammit. Pleasant if you are a JM fan but unadventurous. Shame he didn’t try a Prince song like Raspberry Beret….

Ronan Keating Another Day In Paradise – I am tempted to say that Keating and Collins deserve each other. Oh, I did

Jamie Cullum Everybody Wants To Rule The World – can the jazz pixie be relied upon to do something fresh ? Yes, of course! He turns the 12 note chug into something closer to Bill Withers. His voice sound terrific and though this ain’t jazz enough, it is at least far from a xerox

The Feeling Road To Nowhere – voices only at the start, aping Isley Jasper Isley before lapsing into a carbon copy, same tempo and all

Foxes Ain’t Nobody – slightly gospel with the piano but once again carbon copy phrasing. On a song that is great for improvisation and freewheeling. An opportunity lost

Ella Henderson This Woman’s Work – trying the Bush songbook is brave but this doesn’t get beyond being soothing

Will Young How Will I Know – a patchy performer, sometimes he sounds inspired, sometimes mechanical and too showbiz. Young takes this at a solemn pace and tries to add his own touch. One of the better inclusions for effort, but too quasi-church for me

Tom Odell Dancing In The Dark – sombre piano and an uninspiring performance, all the punch taken out of it

Manic Street Preachers Feels Like Heaven – a more meaty electric group sound here and a radio-friendly production. The chugging guitar isn’t a bad touch but this is overall a tad safe. These guys were once a bit wild…

Guy Garvey Let’s Dance – the Elbow man goes acoustic. Made me want to dance….away from the speakers…really weary delivery

Jamie Woon Sledgehammer – the Gabriel original was a stab in the Wilson Pickett direction put though glossy contemporary production. Acoustic guitar replaces all that BUT nothing new is done with the phrasing

Gabrielle Aplin Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – breathy delivery over twiddly acoustic guitars. Sounds more solemn than fun

Katie Melua Heartbreaker – not the Zep song. Tremelo’d electric guitar and that voice. Somehow this just works as the spirit of the song survives into a new setting. A highlight here, for sure

All Saints Like A Prayer – a kind of baroque setting with a pattering beat. Care has been taken with the vocal but the song was never that deep to merit this

Rae Morris Sweet Dreams – straight acoustic piano version with all the busy rhythms removed. The voice has quality but I didn’t find this moving

Kodaline Billie Jean – again kinda brave to try Jacko territory. A soft piano take that eases towards that awful ‘Take Me To Church’ bloke. Over-anguished

Jack Savoretti All Night Long – Lionel number put into a folkier style with well-recorded guitars and that gritty voice bringing something a little different to the tune. Listenable

Charlie Puth Through The Fire – piano intro to a song I don’t know that well. A bit of a grower and no attempt to mimic C Khan. Not bad at all

Hurts I Keep Forgettin’ – a shot at the Michael McDonald with cod Steely Dan backing. Sounds stuck in the 80s production-wise with an average vocal

Leona Lewis Time After Time – a bit cabaret. Trouble is, once you have heard Miles Davis play the back off this tune, that’s it

Corinne Bailey Rae Sign Your Name – flute-intro’d shot at the T T Darby hit which keeps that awful click track tempo. A good voice can’t save it

Izzy Bizu Teardrops – one of the greatest soul numbers of that era. Exact copy of the original vocal phrasing. Karaoke…

Lemar Once In A Lifetime – arguably one of our best singers, still – he doesn’t try to be David Byrne, he puts himself into the song into this weird number and pulls it off. Congratulations, Lemar. Shame more of the artists on this release didn’t really get the brief as well as you did

Tom Chaplin Baby Can I Hold You – stately acoustic tempo and a sorrowful vocal. Respectful. Too respectful

Turin Brakes Wonderful Life – a truly quality ensemble with a harmonics-strewn reading of the late Colin Vearncomb tune. A good performance but not by any stretch of the imagination any kind of reinvention

LeAnn Rimes I’m On Fire – Hammond and brush drumming start to this second shot at the Springsteen song, LeAnn delivers a soulful vocal but it’s not world-shattering as a version

MIKA Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes – irredeemably camp. As we would expect. Absolutely nothing fresh here

Shaun Escoffery & Andreya Triana Here Comes The Rain – this song is full of space, as I have found playing it lately and a gift to improvisation. This has an ethereal setting and this great singer takes it steady. As the tune rolls, he and Triana start to mine the soul element and sing it out. Could have been grittier, to be honest and it may well be if he does the song live?

Nell Bryden Don’t Dream It’s Over – such an interesting artist, Bryden. Her voice sounds magical on this BUT if only she had put in a touch of her own phrasing. These aren’t hymns, for ***** sake !!

Stevie McRorie All Through The Night – sounds so sincere, but so dull. Sorry, Stevie

Waterboys Purple Rain – Scott used to play this live, I believe just because he liked the song. The spoken start works nicely.

Steve Mason Borderline – countrified take on the Madonna song and a pleasant listen. The song was never that great, though

The Shires & Ward Thomas Everywhere a bit obvious, this crew doing a C McVie song. It’s a live crowd-pleaser but give me their own material anyday..

That’s it then – some highlights but overall too respectful of the original familiar versions. There again, I remember Living Colour turning Burning Of The Midnight Lamp into dub reggae and Jimi playing the back off Bob’s All Along The Watchtower, throwing three perfect guitar solo’s into the middle, one after the other. This sort of project needs people like Nikka Costa and Beck to put some fire into things.

Pete Sargeant

BBC Radio 2


BBC Radio 2’s Sounds of The 80’s Volume 2 is out now on Sony Music. 

(BTW we would like to thank Turin Brakes and Shaun Escoffery for their social media contribution to our site traffic. It all helps spread the word, for everybody – PS)