Kim Wilde and Wendy James, much like Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde, and Poly Styrene before them, and Shirley Manson, Miley Cyrus, and Charli XCX later on, run in an elite pack of rock and roll’s sexiest, most powerful, and badass lead singers. At first, they came to break your heart, kick your ass, and penetrate your earholes; now they’re back to finish the job with a deluxe stack of premium reissues that also includes landmark albums by Neneh Cherry and Republica.
Kim Wilde • The RAK Era Cherry Pop Expanded Editions
Green thumb aficionados may be shocked to hear that one of the UK’s most beloved gardeners, noted author, and host of BBC’s Garden Invaders, used to be a pop star; just as new wavers and pop purists might be gobsmacked to discover the iconic singer behind hits like “Kids in America” and “Chequered Love” not only has a “View From A Hill”, she’s landscaping it too. These mysteries, and others, are explored in detail with three new Kim Wilde reissues: Kim Wilde (1981), Select (1982), and Catch as Catch Can (1983).
For years, Cherry Red Records’ Cherry Pop imprint has done a bang-up job of keeping Kim Wilde’s discography in print. Her first three albums, originally released on RAK Records, came out just before the dawn of the CD; for ages, only Catch as Catch Can was available on CD as a pricey Japanese import until the expanded re-releases began in 2009. The new series further ups the ante by adding more tracks, plus a DVD filled with promo videos, TV appearances and more. The Kim Wilde reissue even features a “Shower Scene” version of the ‘Chequered Love’ video that survived for decades sitting on a VHS tape in Kim’s personal collection. In the single-take scene, Kim “takes one for the team” by lip syncing through an entire run of the song, fully clothed while in the shower (in the iconic outfit from the album cover no less). We’re not sure if the spritz was ticklish or just outright freezing, but Kim holds back the giggles several times while trying her best to look sexy and sultry while getting drenched — and let’s just say, in the verses where she gets the sexy back, she nails it. In the song’s original clip, you’ll see the rest of the band gets soaked too, so turnabout is fair play.
Since Kim’s first two albums preceded the 12-inch singles boom that went mainstream in the subsequent years, the 2020 reissues of Kim Wilde and Select take the very bold step of each introducing a full disc — respectively called the 19:81 and 19:82 Mixes — imagining what her extended dance versions may have sounded like using the source tapes and the remixing styles of the era. The results are utterly fantastic; revisionist history never sounded so good. The Catch album features a few 19:83 re-imagined mixes in addition to official dance versions by Nile Rodgers and Ricky Wilde. One highlight is a previously unreleased track from the original sessions, ‘Rain On’, that features a huge pop chorus, giving hints to the mainstream direction that her career would soon take on subsequent albums leading up to her smash cover of ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (on 1986’s Another Step). One box set highlight doesn’t even feature Kim’s vocals; I assumed the ‘Kids in America Popfidelty Allstars Instrumental’ would be a filler track; but it is in fact, quite killer.
All three titles are anchored by new editorial from Marcel Rijs, taking readers through the white knuckle highs and lows of Kim’s wild ride during the RAK Records era. I had no idea her father, Marty Wilde, was a pop star on his own, and how Kim’s records were a family collaboration with her dad and brother Ricky. Marcel’s insightful essays are buoyed by press images, photo outtakes, handwritten lyrics, and other Kim Wilde memorabilia.
Prior to owning these, most of my Kim Wilde collection came in the form of low fidelity cassettes. The much-needed sonic upgrade of these new issues will help longtime fans appreciate the incredible music Team Wilde created at the dawn of the 1980s, and with any luck, expose new generations to their new wave classics. Kim’s music came at a pivotal time in my life when MTV was the gateway between mainstream pop radio and the edgier artists to be found left of the dial on college radio. She was “just dangerous enough” to expand my palate beyond current faves at the time (ABBA, Laura Branigan and Quarterflash) to seek out the likes of Kate Bush, Lene Lovich, Danielle Dax and Propaganda — setting the stage for Transvision Vamp (see below).
The new Kim Wilde expanded gatefold wallet editions, out January 31 in the UK and available globally by import, are available for preorder at your local record store, or via Amazon. Beeline to Cherry Red’s online store to claim a limited edition postcard with your order.
One side note, these DVDs are coded PAL “All Region”, so they may not work on all DVD players in the States. They did not play on my component system, but played fine on my computer.
For further listening, check out expanded editions of Teases and Dares, Another Step, and Close while they’re still in print. Kim’s rocking latest, Here Come The Aliens, is available everywhere. Her voice has not aged or weathered a bit, just like Wendy James of Transvision Vamp…
Transvision Vamp • I Want Your Love (aka: Vampbox)
When the first vinyl copy of Pop Art, heralding the arrival of Transvision Vamp, landed in the new releases stack at my college radio station, we didn’t know what to make of it. They looked like the sexy sidekicks of Lords of the New Church, but the packaging was so slick, the graphics so polished, it had to be a pop album. When we spun it in the production booth, jaws hit the floor. It was just edgy enough to be considered alternative, yet every track on the album was destined to be a smash hit on radio. Sadly, in less time than it took most of us to graduate, the band soared to the heights of fame and glory only to crash and burn into oblivion. I Want Your Love, a lush new 6CD/1DVD box set (out now), empties the Vamp Vault and gives Transvision Vamp’s pitch perfect, albeit brief discography, its proper place in pop culture history.
This is the latest deluxe reissue from Edsel, the people behind exquisitely packaged box sets for Dead or Alive (Sophisticated Boombox), Debbie Gibson (We Could Be Together) and Blancmange (The Blanc Tapes). Except for the last one, these 12x12x1-inch box sets were designed to display with your best vinyl records instead nesting on the CD rack. People who have given up on buying physical product may not care about this, but baby I don’t care; Vampbox is aimed at collectors (and once you’re done here, be sure to read Paul Sinclair’s excellent commentary on CD collecting over at Super Deluxe Edition). Streamers will have to wait for it’s not yet available online. If and when that happens, Spotify, Tidal and the like can’t capture the essential elements of this box: the sonic upgrade of the recordings; the gorgeous 58-page book filled with photos, editorial, and memorabilia; and a DVD containing the band’s 10 promo videos and some odd but fascinating rarities.
The DVD, which for the record (compared to the Wilde discs) was compatible with my clearly dated DVD player, provides a brief but memorable romp through the band’s 10 official promo clips, plus a truly odd, fascinating, and utterly essential 15 minutes of infamy montage of archive scaps. We’re talking lo-fi, often wobbly and discolored footage, likely sourced from dusty VHS, that mixes concert excerpts and camcorder vignettes shot backstage and in the studio. Throughout outtakes from an interview Wendy James tries to give to her publicist, she cracks herself up while providing some ah-ha! insights into where the band stood going into their final album. As the consummate vamp in her videos and music, it’s a delight to see her break the 4th wall and have fun. No matter how grainy this footage is, interviewee James is more exquisite than even her most glamourous videos and press pictures — she appears to have dropped to Earth straight from an Andy Warhol daydream, which is apropos because Andy Warhol is dead.
The music is why we’re here; Edsel did a gangbuster job on the selection, sequencing, and sonic upgrade. The tracks sound heavenly, and now all of the remixes and b-sides that have been so hard to track down all these years are neatly bundled together. Prior to this set’s arrival (I picked up mine for $80 USD on Amazon), I had already owned the original pressings of all three albums. The upgrade is well worth it, and in fact, for the first time in my fandom, I am now really, really into the Little Magnets album, a disc I bought on day one but rarely listened to. I guess sometimes it takes 29 years for an album to truly find you.
The gorgeous 58-page 12×12 booklet includes glamorous press pics, memorabilia, single and album artwork, lyrics, and 10-pages of in-depth editorial by Alan Robinson, based on new interviews with James and elusive co-founder Nick Christain Sayer who has all but disappeared from the pop culture planet since the band’s demise. Vamp bassist Dave Parsons wound up doing just fine, thank you for asking, having co-founded the band Bush; a rocket he rode through the rest of the 1990s.
Live tracks found on the previous reissues. Pop Life Re-Presents included four Andy Kershaw BBC sessions; Velveteen Re-Presents included two live cuts. Both of these 2-disc sets are now out of print and each one costs as much as this box set. Thankfully, completists can easily pick up those six tracks ala carte as MP3s (they are also streaming). The new DVD could have also used some live concert footage and/or TV appearances, but we guess the licensing would have likely been a nightmare, so they stuck to the studio stuff and go all-in in terms of completeness.
Once this box has you head over heels for James again, head to her official site to pre order her new album, Queen High Straight — due out May, 2020. In the meantime, her 2016 outing, The Price of the Ticket (an all-star collaboration with punk legends and one of our top albums of the year), and 2011’s charming I Came Here to Blow Minds are well worth tracking down — as is her first solo album, Now Ain’t The Time For Your Tears, penned for her by Elvis Costello.
Other notable reissues:
Republica • S/T (Super Deluxe Edition)
Samantha Marie Sprackling, aka Saffron, never achieved the name recognition of Kim Wilde or Wendy James, but she did make a brief, brilliant impact inside sports arenas, on the radio, in the movies, at the clubs, and on the global dance charts with her band, Republica. Boffo hits like ‘Ready to Go’ and drag staple ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ are essential elements of any 90’s alternative pop playlist (Elastica, Sleeper, Echobelly), and the success of their dance/punk sound paved the way for Goldfrapp and The Ting Tings in the following decade. The band is putting the finishing touches on their first album since 1998’s sophomore outing, Speed Ballads, by revisiting the well and expanding their 1996 self-titled debut to a rousing 3 discs.
This reissue plays like a party hosted by Saffron herself. In the self-penned liner notes, she walks you through every step of her hustle from rags to riches — often doing things in reverse of tradition: get label interest THEN find a band THEN write songs; not to mention, hail from the UK, but make it in America first. While the ill-fated Deconstruction label signed the band in England, RCA wooed them in the US and committed to making them a top priority. As both singles blew up just about everywhere around the world, and the band toured like hell to promote the self-titled album, the fact they were dropped as quickly is almost dizzying to conceive. Against the band’s wishes, RCA put out a greatest hits epitaph and for more than 20 years, it looked like that was the end of story. But now they are ready to go once more, and to prime fans for the new material, Cherry Red helps us appreciate just how great that first album was. Unlike the Kim Wilde era, by the time Republica came around, authorized and unauthorized remixes were the calling cards of most DJs, so there’s no shortage of dancefloor fillers to pack onto the bonus discs along with a few worthy random tracks. Buy it now from Cherry Red.
Neneh Cherry • Raw Like Sushi (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
If you really want to blow your mind, head to the wikipedia page for Neneh Cherry — it was there I learned more than 101 fascinating things I never knew about the iconic singer/rapper — in fact, everything I thought I knew about her all these years was wrong. We’re now more than 30 years past her worldwide breakthrough with the album, Raw Like Sushi, so it’s high time the set gets the deluxe reissue treatment. Out January 31, the 3-disc collection neatly packages the original album, and clusters a ton of remixes, including six for ‘Buffalo Stance’ and five for follow-up, ‘Manchild’. The set, complete with a 48-page booklet, arrives in both 3CD and 3LP heavyweight vinyl box sets, as well as in special edition alternative gold vinyl and digital formats.
While most people (myself included) primarily associate Cherry with her massive single, the album was a landmark connection between polished 80s pop and hip hop and the new underground dancefloor sound that was emerging including Inner City, Technotonic and Black Box. Arthur Baker and Massive Attack are among the icons contributing remixes on the bonus discs. Preorder though UDiscover or Amazon.