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Nik Kershaw / “The Riddle” 2CD expanded deluxe edition

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There’s two big differences in how Nik Kershaw approached The Riddle – his second album of 1984 – and his debut Human Racing. The first difference is that he was no longer writing songs trying to get a record deal, and the second is that he had very little time to put The Riddle together “two weeks to write and demo nine of the tracks” is how he puts it in the booklet included with Universal’s new two-CD deluxe edition.

Unfortunately, having to turnaround the album so quickly did take its toll somewhat on the quality of the songs. Know How starts well enough with lots of funky slap bass and a melodic verse melody, but wimps out totally with a non-existent chorus (“It’s easy when you know how“) and then rather outstays its welcome, lasting for almost five minutes.

You Might at least benefits from an injection of pace, starting purposefully with rocky guitar chords, but is a bit of a one trick pony, with the whole song centred almost entirely around the list of things ‘you might be’ (but you’re not!).

Mid-paced album tracks like Wild Horses, Easy and Roses are all fine, but come and go without fully engaging your interest. Only the City Of Angels, with its female backing singers and decent chorus sticks its head above the parapet of averageness.

Save The Whale is a moody and enigmatic closer, but ultimately The Riddle is propped up by three strong singles. The title track was the lead 45 (released only a few months after the last single from the previous album), and reached number three in the UK charts in November 1984. Two more singles Wide Boy, and album highlight Don Quixote, followed it into the top ten.

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Ultimately, The Riddle doesn’t match the excellence of the Human Racing album that preceded it. The album tracks simply don’t give the singles as much of a run for their money. Human Racing boasted songs like Shame On You, Gone To Pieces, and Faces – all strong enough to be singles, and tracks like Bogart and Cloak and Dagger, while a little silly, had an inventiveness and spirit of fun, completely lacking in tracks like You Might and Know How.

This new expanded two-CD set delivers a great sounding version of the album and provides a bonus disc of 12-inch remixes, a couple of B-sides and mostly unheard live material. A few of the Human Racing singles had two 12-inch remixes when originally issued, but when it came to the 45s from The Riddle, one remix-per-single was your lot. Only Don Quixote is a really great reworking running to 8.44 – Wide Boy and The Riddle are a bit perfunctory.

There are no seven-inch remixes included here, and Kershaw (who put this together for Universal) has rather churlishly refused to include the 12-inch remix of Wild Horses that MCA put on the B-side of future 12-inch single When A Heart Beats because he hadn’t authorised it (and didn’t like it) at the time. You can read his comments around this here.

Nik has re-recorded a few new vocals for the previously unreleased Live from Hammersmith Odeon tracks, but left off the track Progress, which was an official B-side, and from the same Hammersmith gig. If you want this song you need to seek out the 1993 Music Club compilation The Best Of Nik Kershaw.

This new ‘Remastered Expanded Edition’ of The Riddle is definitely worth picking up, but the passing of thirty years hasn’t changed the relationship between the first two albums. Human Racing is the album that The Riddle wants to be, but isn’t.

Full track listing below:


CD 1  – The Riddle (remastered)

  • 1. Don Quixote
  • 2. Know How
  • 3. You Might
  • 4. Wild Horses
  • 5. Easy
  • 6. The Riddle
  • 7. City Of Angels
  • 8. Roses
  • 9. Wide Boy
  • 10. Save The Whale

CD 2 – Bonus Disc

  • 1. Roses – Live At Hammersmith Odeon, December 31st 1984
  • 2. The Riddle –Extended 12” Remix
  • 3. Know How – Live At Hammersmith Odeon, December 31st 1984
  • 4. Don Quixote – Extended 12” Remix
  • 5. City Of Angels – Live At Hammersmith Odeon, December 31st 1984
  • 6. So Quiet (B-Side)
  • 7. Wild Horses – Live At Hammersmith Odeon, December 31st 1984
  • 8. Wide Boy – Extended 12” Remix
  • 9. You Might – Live At Hammersmith Odeon, December 31st 1984
  • 10. Don’t Lie – (B-Side)
  • 11. Save The Whale – Live At Hammersmith Odeon, December 31st 1984

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14 responses to Nik Kershaw / “The Riddle” 2CD expanded deluxe edition

  1. Greg says:

    I really hope Universal keep up their remastering of Nik’s back catalogue because the next album would be Radio Musicola which, in my opinion, is the album that The Riddle could have been if he’d been given the time to develop the songs and would be a worthy follow up to the great Human Racing!

  2. Mike says:

    Actually always preferred the riddle as album as you might, easy and roses are as good as lp tracks got in 84. Progress is from summer 84 gigs not from the hammersmith 311284 show as a note. I still appear to be the only person angry about the revocals, i wish someone would explain why that is acceptable!

    • Simon says:

      Over a year down the line Mike but I agree adding new vocals is at the very least a bit of a cop-out. Fans love artists and their imperfections.

    • Catweazle says:

      I always liked ‘The Riddle’ more than ‘Human Racing’, in fact I think Nik got better with each album until and including ‘Fifteen Minutes’. Hope we’ll get expanded re-issues of ‘Radio Musicola’ and ‘The Works’ soon …

  3. shingouz says:

    I have to admit that I’ve always found The Riddle a superior album to Human Racing. It’s less gimmicky, has a smoother, more natural sounding production and great songwriting. It more subtle, less ‘in you face’ than its predecessor.
    Also, the two B-sides (So quiet and Don’t Lie) are amazing songs too.

  4. Marko says:

    Agree with Paul. Human Racing is far superior than ‘The Riddle’. For me, only three tracks from ‘The Riddle’ stood the test of time: The Riddle, Wide Boy & Save The Whale. On ‘Human Racing’ my favourite track is ‘Faces’. But there is so much good tracks: Bogart, Shame On You, W0uldn’t It Be Good, Human Racing, I Won’t Let The Sun…Human Racing is simply Nik best album.

  5. Eric says:

    I always preferred the Riddle album at the time, as it didn’t sound like it was trying so hard. Human Racing does sound like a batch of songs written to get a deal, for better and sometimes worse. A few of the HR album tracks felt too forced, but the reissue did allow some readjustment of my original feelings towards it, it’s a great record. The Riddle has a warmer feel, and like others above I enjoy most of the non-singles as well (Roses is fantastic, Wild Horses and City of Angels not far behind…Save The Whale is stunning, etc etc!).

    I decided not to buy this reissue, because of the misgivings about sound quality and tape deterioration. The original CD sounds fine anyway, so it comes down to parting with a tenner for something arguably inferior to what already exists – although copies of said original CD can be expensive, it’s true.

    • Garry Clayton says:

      If you only concern is sound quality I can tell you (apart from my concern of Progress missing) this album benefits from the current remastering and sounds fantastic.

  6. JJ says:

    i bought it – and i still like the album – but it really annoys me that while there are people who are still happy to support physical music and get excited about a 30 year old reissue (i do !) – then make them EXCELLENT – put the 7″ mixes on etc…. These reissues are for fans – make them worthwhile…
    Have a look at the recent Edsel re-issues (Belinda / Suede / Deacon Blue) – that’s how to give the fan everything……

  7. Mike F says:

    I also prefer The Riddle as an album to Human Racing. Considering how rushed it appears to have been I think it is very cohesive. It also doesn’t include Drum Talk which is a low point on Human Racing for me.

  8. NeilKelly says:

    I bought this re-issue but it could’ve and should’ve been so much better. 21 tracks with various 12’s, 7’s and b sides missing. Some live tracks re-recorded some not. Live / mix / live / mix etc track ordering. Dear oh dear. Think whatever the quality he should’ve redone all vocals and kept all originals too giving us the best of what’s out there and making sure this is the last ever release for this album. The Bananarama discs blow this away at the exact same price!

  9. Garry Clayton says:

    This falls into the unfinished cat as does Tears for Fears ‘The Hurting’. Ive always believed when an artist releases new material is should be theirs any success after that is down to the music buying public , so when it comes to reissues like this consideration to the fans and in these cases vinyl buying public should be taken into account. Mr Kershaw may not be happy with ‘Progress’ but us who bought his a-side probably listened to the b-side. The same with ‘Saxophones as Opiates’ on ‘The Hurting’ boxset. The artist may complain that they are crap or shoved as a b-side by some AR man but we still listened to them. Anything less is an insult to the music buying public.

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