Ms. Pigalle. The left field chanteuse of ZTT records. When ZTT erupted with their high-tech Trevor Horn crafted sound with the debuts of Art Of Noise, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Propaganda in the ’83-’84 period, no one might have predicted that the label would sign a French disciple of Edith Piaf. By 1985, the label was attempting to branch out from their métier of highly produced, widescreen techno pop. Avant Garde minimalist Andrew Poppy had been signed to the label, and ZTT celebrated its recent, gold-plated past and looked forward to its future by releasing a compilation album featuring rare cuts by its stable of artists.
Notable to those who could look past the unreleased FGTH and Propaganda material, were cuts by Instinct, who proffered NWOBJP stylings and Anne Pigalle, who did the same through a French filter with the aid of her keyboardist, Nick Plytas. Nick had begun his career with Roogolator and had distinguished himself with tasteful ivories on records by Lene Lovich, Snatch, Joan Armatrading and Heaven 17, among others. Alas, the two tracks by Instinct on this album were all that was ever released by them. Ms. Pigalle fared better with a handful of singles and her album, “Everything Could Be So Perfect…”
One is immediately struck by the minimalism of the package design, such a strong volte-face from the typical XL ZTT packaging overkill of the time. There are no quotes from Roland Barthes or reams of tiny details to get lost in. Just a field of blue, a photo and the artist/title. The album was produced by ZTT Theam member and percussionist to the stars Luis Jardim, but not before Mr. Trevor C. Horn managed to get his hands on the boards for a single track, “Why Does It Have To Be This Way…”
The tracks are sung in a mixture of French and heavily accented English that serves the somewhat beat-jazz influenced material well. While some cuts are fatalistic piano ballads, others, like “Intermission [The Gods Are Bored]” are fuller expressions of the ZTT kitchen sink aesthetic, now aligned to the New Wave Of British Jazz Pop. The first single was “Hé Stranger” and the 12″ single of it was more typically a product of ZTT, at least from a packaging standpoint.
The de riguer 12″ A-side remix by Trevor Horn was augmented with “Stranger [than fiction]” and “Hé Stranger [Plight Return], two alternative mixes. There was also a single non-LP B-side, “Johnny.” The second single was for the track that Horn produced, “Why Does It Have To Be This Way…”
In lieu of an extended remix of the A-side, there were no less than three B-sides. “Faut-il Vraiment Que Ce Soit Comme Ca” was simply the French language version of the A-side, but there was also “Why Does It Have To Be This Way… [piano version] and “Like We Do,” a non-LP B-side.
The album was a release that I never ever saw on vinyl, in spite of keeping an eye peeled for it. I finally found the German CD of this in the early 90s. A quick jaunt to Discogs.com reveals that this album was re-issued last year in Japan by ZTT with all of the 12″ bonus tracks appended to double the running order! Yes! But the only dealer I can find that is selling this right now is on GEMM and the asking price is $62… no! So it looks like I’ll be making do with digital remasters from my vinyl going forward.
There’s nothing you could find that Anne released from 1985 all the way until 2003, when she released a pair of EPs called “Amerotic I & II.” These are available only from Ms. Pigalle in person or from her website, so interested parties should not rest on any laurels if they have an interest.
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