Reviews

Bronksi Beat / Communards reissues

Bronski Beat / Communards 2CD Deluxe EditionsBronski Beat‘s The Age Of Consent – an ’80s classic – has recently been reissued as a 2CD deluxe edition. In fact Edsel Records have traced a path through the early career of Jimmy Sommerville by also reissuing the two Communards studio albums at the same time and, in a second wave, (coming soon) – his first two solo albums.

All the releases come with an extra disc and bonus tracks are also appended to the albums on the first CD, allowing for a generous amount of extra material – remixes, B-sides, demos and live tracks.

The 2CD jewel cases come with an outer slip case, but still can’t match the luxurious case-bound book presentation of the recent Everything But The Girl reissues (also 2CD) from the same label. A nice touch is that when placed together on a shelf, the spines of the slip cases form a picture of Sommerville. At least the first three releases (reviewed here) show 60% of the man – presumably the picture is completed with the reissue of 1989’s Read My Lips and 1995’s Dare To Love at the end of this month!

Bronski Beat / Communards 2CD Deluxe Editions

A picture emerges... the three 2CD deluxe editions together

Back to Age Of Consent, and anyone of a certain age in 1984 (particularly in the UK) will remember the chart impact of singles Smalltown Boy and Why? The band took its name from keyboard player Steve Bronksi, who along with Larry Steinbachek (also keyboards) and Sommerville, composed all of the original material. Openly gay, the trio wrote about issues that affected them, largely sexuality and politics – the title of the record and the listing of the literal age of consent for lawful homosexual relationships in different countries across the world on the sleeve notes (including a gay legal advice helpline phone number), was testament to that.

None of this seemed a big deal at the time – the public knew a good song when they heard it – and Smalltown Boy and Why both hit the UK top ten, as did the I Feel Love medley with Marc Almond from Soft Cell. The third single Ain’t Necessarily So peaked at number 13.

This sustained single success made The Age Of Consent a hit album when released in October 1984, and a remix variant called Hundreds and Thousands would consolidate this success in 1985. Sommerville had left by this point and it features what would have been their next single (Run From Love b/w Hard Rain) as well as new mixes of songs from The Age Of Consent (the CD version included a few extra songs).

Bronski Beat / Communards 2CD Deluxe Editions

This new reissue of puts The Age Of Consent on disc one with bonus tracks, and Hundreds and Thousands on disc two with bonus tracks. It’s a logical enough approach and overall it is very comprehensive, but the plain fact is that not everything will fit on two CDs and ‘hard choices’ – as politicians like to say – have had to be made. Probably the most controversial omission is the standard nine-minute twelve-inch mix of Smalltown Boy, along with the standard twelve-inch of Why? It is likely that because they have appeared on CD before (including as bonus tracks on the original CD in the 1980s) they have been denied entry to this deluxe reissue. Harsh.

What we do get is the seven-inch edit of Smalltown Boy and the second twelve-inch remix of Why?, along with twelve inch remixes of the other two singles. Red Dance, the B-side to one of the Ain’t Necessarily So twelve inches, ends the first CD.

Bronski Beat / Communards 2CD Deluxe Editions

Spot the difference - original 80s CD left, reissue right

Hundreds of Thousands obviously has further (different) mixes of Why? and Smalltown Boy which is another point in favour of the ‘defence’ of leaving out the standard remixes. Although, technically, nothing on this reissue is previously unreleased, there are some real curiosities on the second disc, including a demo version of Consent album track Screaming (originally on an NME ‘raging spool’ cassette) and the promo-only radio version Run From Love. Further B-sides make up the back end of disc two with Cadillac Car appearing in its shorter 3:54 seven-inch version rather than the seven minute version from the Why? twelve-inch. This was one of the bonus tracks on the original CD/Cassette version of Hundreds of Thousands, as was Infatuation/Memories (taken from B-side of original Smalltown Boy twelve-inch) which is also absent from this deluxe reissue (so is the seven-inch B-side Memories).

Only a three-disc reissue could have been totally comprehensive and this deluxe release (with its excellent 24-page booklet featuring a new interview with Jimmy Sommerville) is light years ahead of previous bodged reissue. While we still mourn for the loss of the standard Smalltown Boy twelve-inch it’s hard not to conclude that this has been put together with intelligence (the sleeve notes reveal that Heiko Bollman from the German Jimmy Sommerville fan club helped with bonus track selection).

Communards

With the two Communards records things are a little more straightforward, and there is more room for bonus tracks given that we are dealing with one record per double CD. The debut Communards manages to include on the deluxe release both versions of the limited ‘Son Of Gotham City Mix’ of Don’t Leave Me This Way (22 minutes in total!) along with the ’87 single version of You Are My World and many other remixes. Excellent B-sides such as Never No More and Walls Come Tumbling Down enhance the package although a dreaded ‘Multimix’ towards the end feels like an unwanted house guest spilling wine on your carpet.

The band had used Bronski Beat producer Mike Thorne for the first album, but as soon as you hear Tomorrow – the first track on second album Red – it is clear that legendary producer Stephen Hague has dropped in for more than just a cup of tea. A more commercial radio-friendly sound is evident and second single Never Can Say Goodbye would be another massive hit. There are loads of remixes on this deluxe, including a very Pet Shop Boys sounding ‘Jalapeno Mix’ of There’s More To Love.. and a fantastically overblown Tomorrow (Extended 12″ Version) by Stephen Lipson (no wonder it sounds like Liverpool-era Frankie Goes To Hollywood!). The second disc includes the new-to-CD live set known as Storm Paris, only previously issued across a number of vinyl twelve-inch singles.

These releases are an audio feast for fans who bought (or enjoyed) the Bronski Beat records and followed Sommerville’s career from that band, to his partnership with Richard Coles in the Communards. 54 bonus tracks across four albums (counting Hundreds and Thousands as a separate record) should satisfy virtually everyone, the only thing missing is any video content.

The Age of Consent, Communards and Red 2CD Deluxe Editions are out now.

Order links:

You might also like…

22 responses to Bronksi Beat / Communards reissues

  1. Ron says:

    Very nice review sir! Pity that I only know some of the hits, yet I might check out some of his stuff.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Thanks. The album tracks on Age of Consent have a certain ‘Soft Cell’ feeling to them. Not surprising since the producer Mike Thorne had worked with Soft Cell.

  2. Eric says:

    Phew! These reissues have had me a mite confused, with all the “what’s on and what’s not” shenanigans; so far I’ve held off getting any of them until more reviews (like yours) appear with enough information to help make a decision. I’m STILL slightly tempted to just get the original Hundreds & Thousands CD, because some of its content is missing.

    Anyhow…a few minor errors in your (otherwise excellent) piece; It Ain’t Necessarily So hit #13, and Tomorrow was the first single from “Red” (Never Can Say Goodbye was the second, much bigger, hit). Apparently the versions of the singles from “Communards” are their 7″ forms, and not the proper album mixes as per the previous releases, although I can’t confirm this obviously, not owning it yet. A similar fate befell the Blancmange deluxe reissues in 2008, when the likes of Waves, Day Before You Came and Lose Your Love featured single mixes at the expense of the originals anywhere on the discs.

    Love the inclusion of pics, as ever – interesting how they’ve modified the Age Of Consent sleeve…hmmm, not sure it’s better though!

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Hundreds & Thousands has two tracks which you ‘need’ – Infatuation/Memories – 7:08 and the longer version of Cadillac Car. The previous reissue of Age of Consent has the short ‘Memories’ on it and the original CD issue of The Age Of Consent has both of the Original 12″ versions of Smalltown Boy and Why. That’s almost everything, although I think their are a few things like the ‘cake’ mix of I Feel Love Medley and an instrumental version of the Fruit mix. Thanks for pointing out the errors, will correct.

      • Eric says:

        Right, off to find an original/previous edition of Hundreds & Thousands on CD, in addition to this then! Cheers for the very helpful info :)

        PS. One of the amazon reviews mentions a sound issue with some of the AoC extended mixes; a heavier reverb/bass sound compared to the earlier releases…the dreaded phrase “vinyl rip” even rears its head! Since nobody else has picked up on this (either fans who have bought it, or reviews such as yours), I suppose I need not be too alarmed.

  3. Malc says:

    I remember the original Communards debut CD album having longer (12″?) versions of the single releases tucked away in the track list. This re-issue appears to have shorter (7″?) versions, so I guess this is a reissue of the vinyl album rather than the CD album. So a bit disappointed with that especially when the extensive sleeve notes talk about how the singles were visioned & produced as long dance tracks and then edited down to radio/album versions. But all in all, a great set of re-issues…

  4. Tom says:

    Great review (as usual). One question – the “Don’t Leave Me This Way [Son Of Gotham City Mix] [Part 3]” on CD2 starts abruptly. Is that how it has always sounded or is it supposed to be played with the other part(s)?

  5. Simon says:

    Worth noting that the cover art for Age Of Consent is a shoddy reproduction or even recreation of the original; the latter had translucent grey letters through which the colored shapes could be seen – the new one has solid white letters with the contrast blown out to such an extent that the black outlines of the letterforms are badly affected – this is true both of the booklet cover and the slip case. Odd decision, particularly since the disc itself appears to replicate the original artwork. The two Communards albums fare much better in this regard.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Not sure I’d describe it as ‘shoddy’ although I did notice the difference. I definitely preferred ‘Bronski’ at the top and ‘Beat’ at the bottom. Don’t really understand why they changed that.
      They’ve got the colours right. The triangle is pink. It looks orange on the reissue in the late 1990s.

  6. Edward says:

    Maybe I did not listen good enough but the commuards disc1/track 14 – son of gotham city mix mentions : incorporates sanctified.
    BUT sanctified was incorporated in th gotham city mix (not the Son of gotham city mix). unfortunately, this seems to be an typo. The original cd release (London 828016.2) had don’t leave me this way running 6:26 (this remaster 4:51).Also, track 3 (disenchanted) on the original cd 6:13 (now 4.14). Track 5 , So cold the night, original cd 6:48, this remaster 5.45. Track 6 , you are my world, original cd 8:01, now 4.30.

  7. Lazlo Nibble says:

    The original Age of Consent LP and the original US CD have “BRONSKI BEAT” across both the top and bottom, and the text outside the colored shapes is gray. Edsel’s is the first version I’ve seen that blows out the text to pure white, but the weirdness with the letterforms — where the black lines over the colored shapes are actually “inside” the letters they’re part of — is common to all the versions…it’s just a lot more obvious when they letters are white rather than gray. (I’m painfully familiar w.the quirks of this cover design, having recreated it from scratch in Photoshop…twice. :)

    Malc is correct about the longer versions that appeared on the original Communards CD issue. But it’s not like any of these titles were screaming for a sound quality upgrade, so finally getting the LP version on CD kind of like getting EVEN MORE bonus tracks.

    In re: “Son Of Gotham City Mix (Part 3)”, the number of 12″s issued off the Communards albums would do ZTT proud, as would the amount of work needed to sort it all out properly. There was never a “part anything” of the Son of Gotham City Mix on the original 12″s, it’s its own distinct mix, and IIRC it was longer than either of the “Son Of…” mixes that appear on the Edsel issue. It does start pretty abruptly though (lots of “pew pew” noises, for lack of a better description). The same mix appears as the plain old “Gotham City Mix” on the US 12″, whereas the Gotham City Mix on the first UK 12″ was split across the sides as Part 1 and Part 2, one of which may be the “Part 1″ on Edsel’s version. It’s messy.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Agree about doing ZTT proud. I actually had a UK cassette single of the Gotham City Mix (which I seem to have carelessly lost over the years). I *think* it had the whole 22 minutes sequenced as one long mix, which I’m not sure happened on any of the 12-inch vinyl issues. I’m not sure why Edsel didn’t do this with the reissue.

  8. Simon says:

    While I’m nitpicking cover artwork, the cover on the primary initial release of Red was actually white (the back cover of the new booklet replicates it). The red cover was a limited edition variant released simultaneously, with the lettering in a raised emboss, and lacking the linen texture present (for the first time?) on the reissue. Nothing wrong with the new one per se, although I’ve a bias toward “definitive” reissues replicating the original artwork precisely.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      I do like the red version actually, but here what you’re saying. The could have done the outer slipcase in white I suppose as a nod to both.

  9. Ally says:

    Sadly, the “Son Of Gotham City Mix (Part 3)” of “Don’t Leave Me This Way” does include the first 3 minutes of the 13:00 US 12″ mix. Neither CD has 3 minutes of extra space. I believe this full version has not been released on CD.

    The 22-minute “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” made up of parts 1 and 2 sequenced together, is available on the London single-CD remaster, and as an mp3 from, for example, Amazon.com and iTunes US. Unfortunately part 1 is similar to, but not the same as, the 13:00 US 12″ mix.

    The Act Of Consent liner notes incorrectly state that “Infatuation / Memories” is included.

    Unfortunately the “Source” mix of the “I Feel Love” medley appears to be from a vinyl source.

  10. Peter Baboc says:

    Thanks Paul for your review.
    About the (Son of Gotham City mix), this shorter version appears on the MCD of For A Friend (LONCD 166 [UK] or 886 217-2 [DE]).
    Edsel releases here ‘nice price’ expanded editions with few possibilities (only two CD, no unreleased materials, sometimes no original recordings…). Heiko made the best possible selection : 42 tracks are for the first time on CD.

  11. Joey says:

    I kinda’ think you’re all missing the point. This is a series of re-issues that are really for the fans who have collected all of these tracks over the years on various formats but never had them all in a single release. There is nothing interesting to fans in having the 12″ remixes of Smalltown Boy and Why when you can find those on “The Very Best of Jimy Somerville” disc 2 release that included many of the 12″ versions from the LONX releases. This collection finally pulls together the b-sides and the LONXR 12″ versions that were never found on CD. The vinyl Communards album has never been released in CD form; that is the on many of us had and I am really glad that I get to listen to it again without the extended versions of the songs (although I like the extended versions). The Red album is finally re-issued; the Red cover was the US edition. It was never released here with a white cover. Like many early collectors, when I discovered the white cover, I fell in love with it because it made the album seem fresh to me. Finally, I am glad to have “I just want to let you know” without the pops from when I converted all of my 12″ albums to CD in the early 90’s!

    Glad that there is a review and that more people may discover the rest of what Jimmy was doing during the 80’s. I am looking forward to the two first solo album releases although there are fewer interesting remixes and b-sides by that time in his career. I think he was worn out by London Records not letting him do what he wanted to do. I met him in Dallas during a PA for “Dare to Love” and asked him about the next single. He told me it was “By Your Side” and that he liked the remixes better than the original track. I think “Manage the Damage” – post London Records – was where he felt more in control of what he was doing. Anyway, thanks for the write-up. I am extremely please with these deluxe editions. They have re-sparked my interest in listening to albums all the way through, beginning to end. Of course, I don’t get to turn the record over, but that is the digital age! It got me listening to Pet Shop Boys, Eurythmics, and Erasure albums front to back too. I miss those days!

  12. Charles Daraghy says:

    I was a total completist in the 80s with so many bands, globetrotting to get 12″ to collect the b-sides I discovered existed. One of my embarrassingly favorite stories to tell is about the day I *finally* got the Bronski 12″ with “potatoe fields” and “signs and wonders”. I mean, with a song title including ‘potatoe’ -what was i expecting? Dance ecstacy? I rush it home from NYC and throw it on the turntable, and, …never again did I ever spin that song.
    i was however really really glad to see on one of the previous bronski reissues ‘puit d’amour’ finally was included. I know the jonathan hellyer time wasnt too respected but do give ‘truthdare doubledare’ or even the incarnation after that , that put out the ‘rainbow nation’ album a try, they are all worthy bronski beat listens.

  13. Kosta says:

    I would have hapilly bought a 3 disc version of TAOC to have it really complete. Now I really can’t be bothered. Such a shame.

  14. Pingback:Bronski Beat / “Dance and Desire: Rarities and Videos”: new collection | superdeluxeedition

  15. Albert Lugtmeyer says:

    The ‘Edsel’ version is overall a fairly good sounding remaster. However, I don’t like what they did to the linn kickdrum on Smalltown Boy; it’s almost not there. The kick lost its punch and the sound is terrible. The version on ‘The Very Best Of Jimmy Somerville’ is better and has the punchy kick. The version on my ‘Age Of Consent’ vinyl has the nicest sounding linn kick to my ears. Punchy and present and in the mix just right. The ‘Hundreds & Thousands’ cd has some improvements over its original but I still much prefer the overall sound of the original. There have been several attempts to get the sound right but were still far from the immaculate version imho. Hope I will live to hear this version. Maybe one day the albums will be mastered just right by Mofi or Audio Fidelity or some other party with the skills to do the mastering properly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>