I’m not sure that Mute Records ever really did a particularly good job of milking the catalogue of Yazoo. With two great albums – a number one and a number two, and a whole string of hugely significant hit singles, it wasn’t until the 1990s that they started trying to revisit their catalogue, and even then it was in a messy, disjointed fashion.
After the remixes of Situation and State Farm in 1990, there was then a series of CD reissues in 1996, and finally the first Yazoo best of Only Yazoo, fifteen years ago this week in 1999. Beautifully packaged, and accompanied by remixes of the three megahits, it was pretty successful. But was it actually any good?
Only Yazoo opens with the debut single and number two hit Only You, grabbing the listener from the start. It then jumps forward to the fantastic Ode to Boy from You and Me Both (1983, reviewed here). Then comes the one single from that album, the brilliant Nobody’s Diary.
Then Midnight and Goodbye ’70s, both from Upstairs at Eric’s (1982) follow. This compilation marked the first time that many of these tracks had seen a decent digital mastering, and although it’s now overshadowed by the rather better box set In Your Room (2008), the improvement in sound quality was marked.
Every compilation has its notable omissions and odd inclusions, but it’s rare that the compilers have so few singles to choose from. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that there are so many album tracks on here. What is perhaps surprising is that one of the five original singles, the non-album track The Other Side of Love, is not on here, and neither is François Kevorkian‘s 1990 version of Situation, both of which would have been welcome.
Meanwhile, the inclusion of some tracks, such as Anyone and Mr Blue, a couple of the less interesting tracks from You and Me Both, is a little puzzling. But slap bang in the middle is Don’t Go, so everything is OK. Then come Tuesday and the lovely Winter Kills from Upstairs at Eric’s, and the main chunk of the album is over already.
Every compilation should have its special, unique selling points, and on this release they’re all clustered towards the end. State Farm, only ever before heard as the b-side to The Other Side of Love is an extremely welcome inclusion, and while the reissued CD release of Upstairs at Eric’s also had François Kevorkian‘s original US 12″ mix of Situation is always worth hearing, so it’s good to have it here too.
There are then new remixes of Don’t Go, by Todd Terry, Situation, by Club 69, and finally Only You, by Richard Stannard. Perhaps slightly surprisingly, Yazoo always seem to remix well, although the three selected here aren’t really among the finest examples. Don’t Go just sounds like another Todd Terry track, which seems a little unfair – although he did prove that the main riff still has the beginnings of a very good dance track.
As with a lot of Peter Rauhofer‘s mixes, his version of Situation is a pretty poor effort unfortunately – in the long run it boils down to nearly nine minutes of over-extended house beats and not a whole lot else. And the new mix of Only You on the end, while pleasant enough on every level, just seems a little unnecessary – it’s basically the same as the original but with a few extra strings. Well, if that was all it needed, couldn’t they have just reissued the original?
So Only Yazoo may be a little disjointed, but it did mark the first time that the record company really gave their back catalogue the honour it deserved. These days you could skip it and jump to the better and more complete In Your Room, but in 1999, this was the essential Yazoo collection.
You can still find Only Yazoo at all major retailers, such as here.