Record Review: Peter Murphy – Composition Boxed Set

Alfa Records | JAPAN | CD/Book/VHS | 1989 | ALZB-3

Alfa Records | JAPAN | CD/Book/VHS | 1989 | ALZB-3

Peter Murphy: Composition JAPAN CD/Book/VHS [1989]

CD

  1. Final Solution (Club Mix)
  2. Final Solution (Full Version)
  3. The Answer Is Clear (Version)
  4. Final Solution (Third & Final Mix)
  5. Canvas Beauty (Up Version)
  6. Blue Heart (Seven Inch Version)
  7. Tale Of The Tongue (ext. ver.)
  8. Should The World Fail To Fall Apart (Version)
  9. Confessions (Remix)
  10. Jemal (Version Two)
  11. I’ve Got A Miniature Secret Camera
  12. Fun Time (In Cabaret)
  13. The Line Between The Devil’s Teeth (And That Which Cannot Be Repeat) (12″ Remix)
  14. A Strange Kind Of Love (Version II)

VHS

  1. Final Solution
  2. All Night Long
  3. Cuts You Up

This little package was quite the coup back in its day. The Japanese Alfa label licensed most of Peter Murphy’s single masters to issue them in a core dump of most of the remixes that surrounded his first three solo albums. Then they added a VHS tape of three music videos and finally, they capped off the package with a thick book of photos of the gaunt one on tour in Japan. I happened across this shortly after it was released in the used bins [!] at Park Avenue CD in Central Florida. While it was a hefty $35 used, the Japanese package as new was noted and passed up as it hovered around the $100 price tag at the time. This was priced more to my comfort zone! The downside, was that the  binding in the photo book, being “perfect” binding, had pages coming loose from the binding. Not a deal-breaker for me since I don’t think that I gave the book more than a cursory glance. The CD, strangely enough, was contained within a slim-line jewel box with no insert. I ignored the VHS tape as well. The CD was the prize in this package.

It contained most of Murphy’s many remixes during the vital first-three-albums phase of his solo career. I got the same feeling listening to Peter Murphy as I did listening to Bauhaus. The first album hit with incredible impact, which got duller with each subsequent release. While the last consecutive Bauhaus album [“Burning From The Inside”] is by no means poor, it is weak tea next to “In The Flat Field!” Similarly, “Should The World Fail To Fall Apart” is an artistic colossus to me, while he skirted the pedestrian by the time “Deep” was issued. I stopped buying Peter Murphy solo albums when “Holy Smoke” was issued, based on the videos that had filtered onto 120 Minutes. When I relented a decade later and bought a copy of “Holy Smoke,” it was just as bad as I had feared, so it didn’t last long in the Record Cell.

peter murphy - finalsolutionUK122A

The CD has all of the tracks to be found on all issued of his fun cover of Pere Ubu’s “Final Solution.” The first album is aided considerably by Murphy’s choice of collaborators, namely 4-AD’s Ivo Watts-Russell and John Fryer, who mix most of this material. The “Third & Final Mix” is the killer version that has what sound like train samples roaring through the beatbox in the bold intro. The song has been ripped apart and stitched back together with impunity.  The seven inch version of “Blue Heart” is included here but not the 5:45 12″ version. This is one of the finest tracks on the “Should The World Fail To Fall Apart” album. I especially like the fretless guitar by Erkan Ogur but the rhythm track on the cut is kind of “familiar” to me. Murphy poached Billy MacKenzie’s 1984 Associates lineup to become his solo backing band, and “Blue Heart” has a similar staccato rhythm bed to “Schampout” from the “Perhaps” album.

peter murphy - tale of the tongueUK12AThe real standout here, and a transitional single from the experimental art rock of the “Should The World Fail To Fall Apart” to the more conventional suave stylings of the following “Love Hysteria” album was the “Tale OF The Tongue” single. Hugh Jones produced this sparkling number, which is represented here in its 12″ mix. The 7″ version remains on vinyl only, and remains a missed opportunity for this collection. As this disc is 75:07, there probably wasn’t room for it any way. All of the B-sides from that 12″ are here, though. Remixes all of “Should the World…” album tracks given the Ivo/Fryer remix touch. The remix of that album’s title track is seriously excellent; I can’t decide if I like the version mix or the album mix better. It rules my world either way.

Tracks 11-14 on the disc wrap up the rather paltry selection of rarities that are associated with Murphy’s following two albums. There are a pair each of cuts associated with “Love Hysteria” and “Deep.” “I’ve Got A Miniature Secret Camera” is the only B-side that Murphy offered up in this period, from the “All Night Long” 12″ [though I used to own it on a picture CD single]. “Fun Time [In cabaret]” is a cocktail jazz version of the Iggy Pop classic that appears on Murphy’s second album in a more traditional version; also from the same single. There were no B-sides from “Deep;” only the pair of mixes that close out the disc.

Given that I didn’t have any of the vinyl associate with “Should The World Fail To Fall Apart,” getting this disc was a true bounty that almost wrapped up everything a Peter Murphy fan could ask for at the time of release. Since I think that’s his best album, “Composition” functioned for many years as an indispensable companion piece that was mandatory listening. In 2011, Cherry Pop re-issued the brilliant first album as a 2xCD DLX RM edition that has much of this material. At least, all of the cuts relating to the mother album. If there is a lack of “Composition” in your own Record Cell, then the Cherry Pop DLX RM should be in your sights. The first album showed that Murphy had an experimental, art-rock itch to scratch, and he scratched it well, only to wander towards the mainstream with increasing vigor moving forward.

– 30 –

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2 Responses to Record Review: Peter Murphy – Composition Boxed Set

  1. chas_m says:

    I remember I reviewed “Holy Smoke” for an Orlando paper (probably The Weekly) and liked a little bit of it but not the whole. It sounds like I need to seek out the DLX RM on the first album, the best available on the second and third, and “Compositions” and I’ll be set for my PM needs.

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  2. Echorich says:

    I love the first three Murphy albums. As much as I agree with the heights which Murphy attempted to scale with Should The World Fail To Fall Apart (one of the great album titles I have to say), it has always been Love Hysteria that is dearest to me. Two songs in particular on Love Hysteria and Deep are standards of any Murphy playlist for me – Dragnets Drag and Crystal Wrists. The former, from Love Hysteria, flirts with the dadaist leanings of his work. The latter, from Deep, is my favorite Murphy song of his solo catalogue. Crystal Wrists is dark, flirts with Bowie and Murphy’s delivery is just so engaging. Live Crystal Wrists was the centerpiece of 3 tours as I remember, the Deep and Holy Smoke Tours and his 2008 US Tour which promoted little but was the spark that lit the flame of his most recent album Nine.
    I agree that Murphy became more “accessible” (a term that needs the context in that his only claim to success in America is making the Modern Rock Charts) with Love Hysteria and Deep but they are very complete albums for me and have always been high on my listening chart. Part of what makes them more “mainstream” is his work with Paul Statham (he of B-Movie fame) who went on in the 90’s and 00’s to become a master of chart pop (intelligent in very many cases) in the UK. But their work on Holy Smoke definitely saw the expiration of the collaboration as the record reeks of intended chart reaching. By the time of Cascade his role was much less up front and Murphy was moving toward more “remote” sounds coming from the Middle East. The best track for me on Holy Smoke is Low Room which is a wicked song when performed live.

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