Shakespears Sister: Cosmic Dancer

 

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Format: CD

Label: SF Records

Country: US

Year: 2011

Price paid: $11.98

Purchased at: Amazon

 

‘When you think the night has seen your mind… that inside you’re twisted and unkind…’

There are certain artists who’s voices transcend their context. Crooning warbles so luscious that I’d listen to them read the ingredients off the back of a cereal box or sing about paint drying for hours of end. Enya and Siouxsie are two that spring to mind. Siobhan Fahey certainly makes it onto this short but sweet list; her rich seductive voice evokes images of dark city streets shiny with rain, cold dark ocean depths, and brooding forests thick with moss.

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I must admit I prefer my Shakespears Sister (not a misspelling, look it up) with Marcella Detroit, as I felt she was the perfect lilting counterpoint to Siobhan’s sulky nature, but its been twenty-one years since the split so I should really just get over it and move on. ‘Cosmic Dancer’ is their fifth studio album (the third sans-Detroit), a glorious expression of what the evolved face of New Wave looks like in the 21st century.

 

shakespears_cosmicdancer2It’s primarily a cover album, but so precise were the decisions for song inclusion and subtle the mastery of their execution that the experience is truly unique. It festers and bubbles with leisurely acoustic grace. Songs include ‘Baby It’s You’ (the Shirelles, the Beatles), ‘Dancing Barefoot’ (Patti Smith), ‘Wish You Were Here’ (Pink Floyd), ‘My World Is Empty Without You’ (the Supremes), and ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ (the Velvet Underground, also covered masterfully by the Primitives back in 1989.)

 

The CD art is basically a showcase for Fahey’s sultry pouty beauty; no objections here. What a long winding road from the ditant perky BananaramaWorld she has traveled…

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Bananarama: The Greatest Hits Collection (LaserDisc)

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Format: LaserDisc
Label: Polygram Music Video
Country: US
Year: 1988
Price paid: $10 (including ship.)
Purchased at: eBay

 

It seems like everyone is back into collecting vinyl these days, it’s hot and rising prices reflect its new-found trendy status. But what about the lowly crap that nobody cares about? Especially that stuff that’s unique to the format? Say you’re a Bowie fan. If you’re a collector you may have all his albums on vinyl, and if a competist you might go for all the singles, magazines he’s on the cover of, etc. But would you think to track down his LaserDiscs?

Sure, they’re pretty much useless. But they’re nice looking objects, large (the same size as a 12” vinyl), and have artwork unique to the format. Many were released in Japan too, as the format really took off there… and is still big with videophiles. Very few people bought them in the US compared to VHS, but man, the companies sure did try… and marketed the hell out of them. Consumers that did invest in the format have either thrown them in the trash or dropped them off at the Goodwill long ago. Only a matter of time until the relative rarity of the format begins to turn the heads of the music accumulator…

One of the rare acts to not only survive the great mid-80’s New Wave die-off, but thrive as a slick pop vocal act. Under the wing of their masters Stock Aitken Waterman they tore up the late 80’s charts around the world. The ‘Greatest Hits‘ collection alone went gold in the US and Canada, triple platinum in the UK. This was due in no small part I’d wager due to their videos, which got heavy rotation on the video stations at the time.

Not too surprising then that collections of their videos would be made available for purchase. The straight-up audio ‘Greatest Hits’ has many track variations depending on format and location released; I was unable to research track variations in the video releases, but I’m sure those exist as well. This US Laser Disc contains the following tracks, with a total running time of 38:48:

  • Multimix consisting of ‘Cruel Summer’, ‘Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)’, ‘Shy Boy’, ‘Robert De Niro’s Waiting’, and ‘Really Saying Something’
  • Venus
  • More Than Physical
  • I Heard a Rumour
  • Love in the First Degree
  • Mr. Sleaze
  • I Can’t Help It
  • I Want You Back
  • Love, Truth, and Honesty

The sleeve design is uninspired to say the least. I know they wanted it to differ from the standard vinyl issue to avoid confusion, as both are roughly the same size, but they didn’t even try.

Bananarama: The Greatest Hits Collection

Format: LP

Label: London/PolyGram

Country: US

Year: 1988

Price paid: $2.50

 

Most people roll their eyes at the mere mention of Bananarama, but stick with me on this one. I used to be one of those ‘too cool’ music snobs, but I softened to the group when I found out that my then girlfriend, who was a hard-as-nails scene goth, liked them. I think a lot of the bias comes from the fact that they aren’t a ‘band’ as such, merely vocalists, akin to the girl groups of the 60s. And I’m fine with that. They have a long history; check out this early song that shows a different face before the the Venus-era scrubbed-clean Stock Aitken Waterman period:

 

For me the real fun started when Siobhan Fahey (the blonde as pictured below) left the group. She formed Shakespears Sister, which certainly took the weird up a notch, while still retaining the pop attitude.

The true retail value on this one is a bit of a mystery. Logic dictates that, being such a huge chart-topper in the US, a greatest hits collection wouldn’t have much value. But in doing research it appears that the US release is fairly rare. UK/European versions (with the same artwork) can be found on eBay and Gemm for under ten bucks, but it appears that the LP didn’t get wide release here in America.

Why? Well my guess is that, 1988 being the beginning of the Golden Age of the CD, the push was really towards selling little shiny discs; perhaps since the group were so mainstream the label did think that a vinyl release was merited? Vinyl sales in Europe and the UK remained strong up until the 90s; this would explain the relative commonness of those versions. Just a guess. My example is one of those ‘gold stamp on the label’ promo copies as well, which only strengthens the ‘did not get wide release’ theory. Included is a photo glossy of the group!