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Review / Love & Hate: A Compact Introduction to Act

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I have a confession to make. I didn’t buy Act’s one and only album Laughter, Tears and Rage at the time (1988). A strange thing to do (or not to do), since I was a big fan of anything ZTT and I did pick up their first single, Snobbery & Decay, in ’cabaret-cassette’ guise. Thinking back, that was probably more to do with keeping my ZTT cassette single collection up-to-date that any massive desire to investigate the new ‘group’ formed by Propaganda’s Claudia Brücken and Scottish musician/songwriter Thomas Leer. As it happens, three out of the four tracks on that tape make an appearance on Love & Hate – A Compact Introduction to Act, a new two-CD set from Salvo/Union Square and ZTT.

Act have already been reissued for the 21st Century back in 2004, when the album was expanded comprehensively for the now out-of-print three-CD set which bore the same name as the original album. This was before the current ZTT ‘curator’ Ian Peel started working with the label and that release was certainly at odds with Peel’s recent archival strategy of relative restraint and themed releases (Frankie’s SexMix, Zambient One). The goal back in 2004 appeared to be to empty the archive completely, which is almost what they did (at least one track on Love & Hate is new-to-CD).

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28-year old ‘Cabaret-Cassette’ of Snobbery & Decay (bought at Our Price).

So the approach here is very much an artistic one. To look at the album from a new angle. As the sleeve notes remind us, what constitutes ‘the album’ is rather vague anyway, because the original CD had 14 tracks, the cassette had 12 and the humble vinyl made do with just ten. Would the true Laughter Tears and Rage please stand up?

The first disc of the new release is a self-styled ‘Director’s Cut’ of the album which includes all the tracks on the CD and a few more for good measure, jumbled up in a new running order. Whether all the mixes are identical is another matter, but apparently this is an actual track listing (or “album sequence”) compiled by ZTT Creative Director Paul Morley on 12 February 1988. So there you go. Morley’s original notes are included too where he characteristically describes the album as “a soundtrack to an imaginary film” and “an adventure in idealism and escapism”.

The second CD on Love & Hate is dubbed ‘Emotional 12” Versions’ and contains various mixes including the ‘Naked Civil Servant’ version of Snobbery & Decay. Despite its title there are some seven-inch mixes here, including Winner ’88 which I believe is the first time this track has appeared on CD.

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I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy the music, and after one listen it appeared that Stephen Lipson was propping up some average sounding songs with his layered and sometimes fussy production style, but perseverance was rewarded. With a running time of over 72 minutes it naturally struggles to be really consistent and some of the horn sounds are painfully cheesy (Gestures, I Can’t Escape From You) but the electro-funk of Body Electric is superb, the John Barry melancholy of Bloodrush beguiling, and the cover of I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You is much better than the the lounge bar version of The Smiths’ Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now that was rightfully left off the original LP or cassette editions of Laughter, Tears and Rage.

Morley’s sequence was an interesting exercise that ultimately fails as a cohesive album and of course he would have known that it was never going to be feasible for a vinyl record. It seems at the time THREE compromises were made on MC, CD and LP. But if you’re going to reissue the album, his historical diary entry is a valid enough exercise in re-examination.

What Love & Hate does very well is to re-present the album, and the artist, intelligently and beautifully. The packaging and design is extremely appealing, bolstered by some amazing unseen photos of Claudia and Thomas by Patrick Litchfield. This release from Salvo is another example of how music is really enhanced when packaged well and presented with care. You simply don’t get that from a streaming playlist or a pile of MP3s dumped into your iTunes playlist and at less than £10 this is great value.

Act: Love & Hate – A Compact Introduction is out now.


Act: Love & Hate – A Compact Introduction (2CD)

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29 responses to Review / Love & Hate: A Compact Introduction to Act

  1. Tim Barton says:

    Getting mine in a bundle together with the Commotions box and Procol Harum deluxe from Amazon Japan. Put together, the total price is very reasonable, but I’m forced to wait a bit. It’ll be worth it, of course!

  2. Orig80'saddict says:

    I really wasn’t familiar with the album myself. I love Claudia from Propaganda so I gave it a try. I am really enjoying it. Winner is actually one of my favorites, and I’m surprised that hadn’t been released on CD before.

    • Neil says:

      The 7 inch of Winner ’88 appeared on The Organisation Of Pop (Tokyo Edition) and the Extended version was on Laughter, Tears and Rage (The Anthology).

  3. Straker says:

    Bought the 3 disc megaset on release so I will probably wait for a price drop on this although the Claudia Brucken completist in me is desperate to buy this now! Met her at a signing a few years back and I’m pleased to report she is utterly delightful, friendly and was pleased to have some real rarities to autograph.

  4. Steve Marine says:

    I’m one of the idiots who failed to buy the 3-disc set, so I’m deliriously happy this is being released. :)

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Me too.

      • William K says:

        I love Claudia and Propaganda but I also did not buy the 3 disc set when it was released. I did not know it was out of print until it was mentioned here a few weeks back, so I did a quick search and found a used copy on amazon Germany for £28. The cardboard slipcase is a bit worn and there were a few teeth missing on the cd trays, but overall I was delighted to get hold of it at a reasonable price, so thank you Superdeluxeedition for drawing my attention to it.

  5. omar says:

    I love Claudia and bought everything from Propaganda, Act as well her solo stuff. I must say her collaboration with Thomas Leer was far more adventurous as compared to Onetwo. Yes, I have the 3cd Laughter,Tears & Rage as well as the 2004 expanded single disc version and now Love & Hate. A couple of things could’ve been added this time around in my opinion…. A Friendly Warning (12″), Snobbery & Decay (Ext. For Stephanie Beecham) and Absolutely Immune (7″). Then this collection would be 100% perfect.

    • Neil says:

      I’m sorry but that A Friendly Warning (12″ Version) is utter garbage and sounds like it was mixed by an amateur though i do agree it was rather odd not including Snobbery & Decay (Ext. For Stephanie Beecham). I can confirm that the mix of I Can’t Escape From You on disc 1 is the unique version of the 7″ mix which could only be found on the CD single which was good news.

      • omar says:

        I agree that A Friendly Warning (12″) was crappy sounding, like a worn out vinyl record. Ext. for Stephanie Beecham is the best mix of S&D. I think there’s still a few more mixes of S&D that have yet to appear on cd.

  6. trash says:

    As another Claudia Brucken fan and a Thomas Leer fan I always felt that this was not the best work from either of them. My votes would go to:
    – ‘Love: and a Million other Things’ for Claudia (a close contender with A Secret Wish of course)
    – ‘Scale of Ten’ for Thomas

    However the ACT album has enough high points to make it worthwhile. I still prefer the LP version as it is less ‘sprawling’ and starts with one of their best tracks, ‘Absolutely Immune’.
    I bought the 3 CD set at the time but I also bought this set and to be honest this is probably a better collection as an intro to ACT as it does not contain too much ‘fat’ – just a wisely chosen selection.

  7. Darren says:

    I bought the 3CD set at the time, but I am not an expert on this group. Can someone who is advise if this new set is has anything essential on it that wasn’t in the 3CD set?

  8. I did buy the album and some of the singles at the time and loved the decadent, widescreen sound of Brucken and Leer. I also purchased the 3CD set, but it was poorly packaged, nothing more than the original CD insert really and there was way, way too much padding. With Ian Peels excellent curating of the ZTT catalogue I had hoped the album would be revisited and so it is here and a grand job he has done. This set has more focus than the 3CD set and his restrained approach makes for a more satisfying all round package. Excellent!

  9. Mike says:

    I have both sets, great album, great band. Shame all the Moonlighting promo mixes of Snobbery arent available yet. I await the 4cd set in 2026!

  10. Jerome says:

    @Darren The only track on this that’s not on the 3CD set (apart from some shorter edits) is the “full whammy” mix of Chance – although a version of it did appear on The Art of the 12″ volume 2.

    My only quibbles are having Chance twice on the album in short succession, and no CD single mix of Snobbery & Decay. Otherwise, gorgeous.

  11. Michael says:

    Its not as good as Laughter, Tears & Rage despite most, but not all, of the album being included here. That extended version of I Can’t Escape From You is pretty cool.

  12. Eric says:

    Any repeat of vinyl rips, as per the Act track/remix included on The Art Of The 12″ Vol.3?

  13. Paul Sinclair says:

    Ian Peel has been in touch with SDE to say that he would have loved to include the promo 12″ Moonlighting Mixes of Snobbery & Decay on this set but at the current time the master tapes cannot be found. They’re not at ZTT, apparently. They did not want to include them as vinyl rips.

  14. peter m says:

    I once flicked thru Stephanie beacham’s autobiography in
    my local library, just to see if ACT were mentioned.
    As they weren’t, I guess they didn’t make much of an
    impression on her!

  15. Pughie says:

    I’ve been a fan since day one,loved Act and why they didn’t get the chart success they deserved is beyond me. Even Claudia was bemused by its lack of success at the time,she told me a few years ago when I was lucky enough to meet her for a 2nd time.
    Sadly I missed her performing my fav track Absolutely Immune with Thomas at her solo gig at The Scala a few years ago,but was delighted that Andy Bell (Erasure) joined her to duet instead as Erasure are also a massive part of my life.

    http://www.erasure4rum.com

  16. The Herbie from Mastermind ‘Moonlighting’ mixes don’t really deserve their semi-legendary status, I have them on 12″, and they are really quite disappointing – dull percussive workouts that don’t go anywhere. I can see why ZTT didn’t make more use of them at the time. It’s odd that you mention the cassette, as that does actually have an ‘unreleased on CD’ extended mix of Snobbery, albeit one that only has a tiny difference from the usual 12″. Normally, that mix has a long build up, then a pause, then the 7″ minus a few seconds of orchestral intro. The tape is a few seconds longer, as it has the build up, then the full 7″ including the orchestral bit… not really all that important, but us ZTT obsessives love a bit of trivia! The most interesting thing to me about this set (as I also have the 3CD one) is the hint in the sleevenotes that this isn’t the bottom of the barrel for Act, as there’s a 100 minute / 60 minute epic track by Act still in the vaults (alongside the original Chance 12″, which has an unclearable Abba sample and is unlikely ever to make it onto any digital formats) which Id love to hear.

  17. David T says:

    I just received my copy of this cd collection a few days ago, and like others here, I’m quite pleased, albeit a bit confused….since there was a “massive 3 cd” version of ACT’s debut recording…why didn’t Salvo take the challenge (and an easy one I’m sure) to remaster that collection and re release it in new packaging, new liner notes and pictures?
    btw…I’m also a huge Canadian fan of Claudia Brucken and her numerous musical projects!!!

  18. Mark J says:

    I recently became aware of and purchased this 2 cd set. I love it, but I do really with they had included the original album version of Gestures instead of the alternate version.

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