Albums chart of the year 2017

It’s been a great year for reissues, so it’s no surprise to see a few on the 2017 top twenty. Here’s the full list:

  1. Depeche Mode – Spirit
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène 3 [number 21 in 2016]
  3. Saint Etienne – Home Counties
  4. David Bowie – Legacy [number 27 in 2016]
  5. Kraftwerk – 3-D Der Katalog
  6. Pet Shop Boys – Release [released in 2002]
  7. Goldfrapp – Silver Eye
  8. Erasure – World Be Gone
  9. The Human League – Anthology – A Very British Synthesizer Group [number 37 in 2016]
  10. Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife [released in 1999, number 89 in 2004, number 177 in 2005, number 83 in 2006]
  11. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon [released in 1973, number 34 in 2014, number 20 in 2015, number 42 in 2016]
  12. Pet Shop Boys – Fundamental [released in 2005, number 5 in 2006]
  13. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury
  14. New Order – Lost Sirens [released in 2013]
  15. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène Trilogy [number 40 in 2016]
  16. Pet Shop Boys – Yes [released in 2009, number 172 in 2015, number 171 in 2016]
  17. Dusty Springfield – Reputation [released in 1990, number 35 in 2016]
  18. C Duncan – The Midnight Sun [number 12 in 2016]
  19. Gorillaz – Humanz
  20. Pet Shop Boys – Elysium [number 2 in 2012, number 14 in 2013, number 179 in 2014, number 120 in 2016]
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Stowaway Awards 2018 – Nominations

Apart from the Best Track category, which will be awarded based on the “top tracks of 2017” that we listed here on the run-up to Christmas, there are just five other categories in this year’s all-important Stowaway Awards. Here are the nominees:

Best Album

  • Depeche Mode – Spirit
  • Erasure – World Be Gone
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury
  • Saint Etienne – Home Counties
  • Sparks – Hippopotamus

Best Reissue / Compilation

  • Liza Minnelli – Results
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury: B Sides & Bonus Material
  • Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife
  • Pet Shop Boys – Release
  • Pet Shop Boys – Yes

Best Artist

  • Depeche Mode
  • Erasure
  • Goldfrapp
  • Saint Etienne
  • Sparks

Best Live Act

  • Jean-Michel Jarre
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • múm

Outstanding Contribution

  • David Bowie
  • Vince Clarke
  • The Future Sound of London
  • Leftfield
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Erasure – Rain Plus

The non-charting single is a strange phenomenon that only really appeared in the mid-1990s. Remixes were growing in number, and in the US, the response was to make singles last longer and longer, while the UK put stringent limits on the number and duration of tracks that could be included.

Erasure had toyed with the concept a couple of years earlier, with the German and Czech-only single Rock Me Gently, released as a six-track chart-ineligible import in the UK for fans. With the Cowboy album, I suspect they realised that their days of chart domination were over – In My Arms appeared in the classically quiet first week of January, and then outside of Germany, Rain only ever appeared as the eleven-track collection that we’re listening to today – Rain Plus, which was released twenty years ago this week.

Rain is a peculiarly British song though, obsessing about the weather and the effect it might have on one’s demeanour. For the single, Al Stone remixed it and made it punchier, and it surely deserved to be a decent hit.

It would be difficult to believe that Erasure had any idea what they would get with BBE‘s remix of Cowboy‘s lead single In My Arms. Far from being full-on dance, it’s a soft, slightly cheesy pop version which honestly sounds just like anything else on the charts at the time – even the drums take heavy inspiration from Atomic Kitten.

This is an odd collection to say the least, and so the b-side is Erasure‘s attempt at the theme for Star Trek: First Contact. Inspired (that’s an understatement) by Robert Miles, it’s a brilliant piece of dreamy trance that sounds absolutely nothing like anything Erasure ever did before or since. This might be a bold statement, but I think it’s also one of their finest moments.

The tracks on this release do appear to have been sequenced at random, as the next track is a live version of Rain, amusingly picked at random by an audience member at a concert in San Francisco. We then travel to Oxford for two more live tracks, Sometimes and Love to Hate You. All pretty good, although you have to wonder exactly how and why these tracks were picked (most likely is that they were considering three CDs – one with the original version and a couple of other tracks, then a remix CD and a three-track live CD).

Then we’re into the remixes, starting with Jon of the Pleased Wimmin‘s take on the single, a pleasantly beatsy remake full of arpeggios and drum fills. Then John “OO” Fleming turns up with a slightly inexplicable but admittedly catchy vocal trance version of Sometimes, which seems to have been slightly uncomfortably sped up, but is still rather enjoyable.

Someone else taking inspiration from Robert Miles is Dekkard, whose Vocal mix of In My Arms brings a number of elements together. The completely off-beat loop of the vocal sample doesn’t really work, but in some ways this version has actually aged better than the previous ones. Commissioned for the US release of In My Arms earlier in the year, but then spurned in favour of some dreadful house mixes, it finally found its place on this slightly strange but enjoyable compilation single.

Erasure have never really done deep house, but I think the closest they come is with Blue Amazon‘s Twisted Circles remix of Rain, clocking in at just a touch under thirteen minutes in duration. It’s good, and takes influence from a lot of different places, but you have to wonder whether it got played much in clubs at the time. This lengthy excursion closes the single.

According to the track listing, anyway. There’s actually an instrumental version of First Contact hiding at the end, so you get to enjoy it all over again in its entirety, for no particularly obvious reason other than that it’s good.

Which is a reasonable summary of this single, actually. There’s no particular reason for it to exist, apart from a whole load of decent unreleased remixes and oddities lying around at the end of an album. So why not just throw them all together and call it a special “plus” single? I’m not sure I fully understand, but it’s a pretty good collection anyway – especially if you’re a completist.

The original Rain Plus single seems to have fallen out of print at some stage in the last two decades, but you should be able to find a second-hand copy if you poke around.