B.E.F. – Music of Quality and Distinction Vol. 3 – Dark

Heaven 17 never quite seem to have got the hang of the fact that the eighties finished a quarter of a century ago. Perhaps it’s because that’s when they had the bulk of their musical career, or perhaps they had such an impact at the time that their sound and the sound of the eighties are intrinsically linked. Either way, it would be remiss to review the third B.E.F. side-project without mentioning that particular decade.

The third volume of Music of Quality and Distinction opens with Ever Time I See You, I Go Wild! (Original Version), with a vocal by Kim Wilde from off of the 1980s. It’s actually a great opener – it’s a good song, and her vocal is particularly fantastic. But there’s something extremely 80s about it, and that’s a vein which never seems to die out on this album.

The theme this time is supposed to be “dark,” although it’s rather disputable – a handful of songs are downtempo renderings of pop originals, but that alone doesn’t make them particularly dark in tone. Some have big orchestration or guitar work – but still aren’t very dark. In fact, Just Walk in My Shoes with Sandie Shaw is positively cheery. I think it’s fair to say that the concept is a little flawed.

There are no fewer than sixteen tracks, spanning seventy minutes of music, and so inevitably it has its ups and downs. Highlights include Sarah Jane Morris‘s soulful delivery of Don’t Want to KnowGlenn Gregory‘s version of It Was a Very Good Year (again, not entirely “dark” though) and Shingai Shoniwa‘s version of God Only Knows, even if it seems to have become a Christmas song for some reason.

Other tracks are rather less explicable – Andy Bell‘s version of Breathing is typically theatrical, but the song is completely bonkers, as is Boy George‘s version of I Wanna Be Your Dog. On the whole, though, there aren’t any particular low points until Polly Scattergood and Maxim‘s dreary renditions of The Look of Love and The Day Before You Came respectively, both towards the end.

But neither is there anything entirely mindblowing here – the best track of the whole collection is Heaven 17‘s own version of Party Fears Two, originally released on their Naked as Advertised collection five years earlier. Of the three work-in-progress mixes from the tail end of Music from Stowaways to Dark a couple of years ago, Smalltown Boy received some minor tweaks and ended up as one of the highlights of this release; Co-Pilot to Pilot got slightly shorter and became an uninteresting album closer; and Trade Winds didn’t even make it onto the final album.

The three volumes of Music of Quality and Distinction, released respectively in 1982, 1991, and 2013, offer an intriguing snapshot of the music of the period. On volume 1, Tina TurnerPaula Yates, and even Gary Glitter were wailing their way through the classics to an enormous B.E.F. backing track. Ten years later, the backing was still huge but now no longer quite as contemporary, while Chaka Khan and Terence Trent d’Arby turned up to deliver the vocals (volumes 1 and 2 can be found reviewed here).

Somehow, though, despite a parliament of exceptional vocalists and some very competent production, volume 3 seems a bit of a disappointment. It’s a good enough listen, but there just doesn’t seem to be any particular reason for it to exist – for the most part, it’s not actually very “dark” (an unkind reviewer might even describe it as “dismal.”) It was clearly never going to chart, or launch anybody’s career, so it actually feels a little irrelevant too. If you can forget all of that, it’s by no means a bad album – just a slightly unfathomable one.

The third volume of Music of Quality and Distinction can be found at all major retailers.

Chart for stowaways – 12 April 2014

This year, the album charts have continually featured guest appearances from way back when, and this week’s is no exception. Here it is:

  1. Moby – Innocents
  2. B.E.F. – Music of Quality & Distinction, Vol. 3 – Dark
  3. Depeche Mode – Black Celebration
  4. The Future Sound of London – Dead Cities
  5. The Postal Service – Give Up
  6. Deep Forest – Deep Forest
  7. Enigma – The Screen Behind the Mirror
  8. Erasure – Wild!
  9. Depeche Mode – Some Great Reward
  10. Portishead – Dummy

Chart for stowaways – 5 April 2014

Here are this week’s top ten singles:

  1. Moby feat. Wayne Coyne – The Perfect Life
  2. Röyksopp feat. Susanne Sundfør – Running to the Sea
  3. The Human League – The Things That Dreams are Made of (Remixes)
  4. Moby feat. Cold Specks – A Case for Shame
  5. Jean Michel Jarre – Vintage
  6. Pet Shop Boys – Leaving
  7. Depeche Mode – Peace
  8. B.E.F. – Party Fears Two
  9. Moby feat. Mark Lanegan – The Lonely Night
  10. B.E.F. – Don’t Want to Know

Chart for stowaways – 29 March 2014

After a bit of a break while the album chart went a bit bonkers, it’s time for its return. It’s not a lot less bonkers:

  1. Moby – Innocents
  2. B.E.F. – Music of Quality & Distinction, Vol. 3: Dark
  3. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Organisation
  4. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Architecture and Morality
  5. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  6. Chicane – The Best of 1996-2008
  7. De La Soul – AOI: Bionix
  8. Deep Forest – Deep Forest
  9. Enigma – The Screen Behind the Mirror
  10. The Clarke and Ware Experiment – Pretentious

Chart for stowaways – 22 March 2014

Here are the next batch of singles:

  1. Moby with Wayne Coyne – The Perfect Life
  2. Röyksopp feat. Susanne Sundfør – Running to the Sea
  3. Moby with Cold Specks – A Case for Shame
  4. Moby with Mark Lanegan – The Lonely Night
  5. The Presets – Ghosts
  6. B.E.F. – Party Fears Two
  7. Depeche Mode – I Feel Loved
  8. Depeche Mode – Peace
  9. Alphabeat – Boyfriend
  10. Groove Armada – History

Live – August 2013

Five of the best gigs coming up in the next month or two:

Erasure

Just a couple of concerts over the summer, in Atlanta Georgia (America), a festival in Mexico, and part of the big B.E.F. concert in Sheffield in October.

Full list of dates at Songkick

Fuck Buttons

Excellent noodlers and definitely worth seeing live. After the Green Man festival this week, you can catch them from September in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Nottingham, Leeds, Norwich, Brighton, London, Paris, and Hamburg.

Full list of dates at Songkick

Gary Numan

He’s a pop star! With a pilot’s licence! And he’s back on the road in the USA and Canada from the end of August, and then the UK and Ireland from November.

Full list of dates at Songkick

Front Line Assembly

Touring Germany, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, and the UK this month, and well worth seeing live if you haven’t caught them before.

Full list of dates at Songkick

Peter Hook

Still unwilling to bury the hatchet with the rest of New Order, Hook is resolutely touring, with festivals over the summer, and then the UK, USA, and Canada in September, then back to the UK and Ireland through to the end of November.

Full list of dates at Songkick, split between him solo, and him with The Light.