Various Artists: Just Say Yes… US CD 
- Depeche Mode – Never Let Me Down Again (Remix) – 9:31
- Echo & The Bunnymen – Lips Like Sugar (12″ Mix) – 6:44
- The Mighty Lemon Drops – Out Of Hand (Extended Version) – 5:25
- James – Ya Ho – 3:31
- The Smiths – Work Is A Four-Letter Word – 2:45
- Figures On A Beach – No Stars – 4:40
- The Wild Swan – Young Manhood – 3:46
- Ice-T – Somebody Gotta Do It (Remix) – 3:27
- Ramones – I Wanna Live – 2:36
- The Replacements – 3:02
- Throwing Muses – A Feeling – 3:07
- Aztec Camera – How Men Are – 3:38
- The Casual Gods – Cherokee Chief – 4:30
- Erasure – Hideaway (Remix) – 7:12
Since we’ve been invoking this seminal Sire Winter Sampler left, right, and center in recent days, I thought we’d take a closer look at it for those who just joined in. Back when CDs still had a sheen of novelty, the labels all tried their hands at the mid-priced sampler game. Sire, being the label that birthed New Wave [Seymour Stein favored the description over the inflammatory rhetoric that was ‘punk rock’] had a better records at doing this sort of thing and they livened up the Winter doldrums for seven years with their “Just Say…” series. The first one got released in 1987 sporting the classic Bugs Bunny skatepunk cover that explicitly referenced the John Holmstrom cartoon illo for “Rockaway Beach” on the inner sleeve to “Rocket To Russia.” Inside were tastes of 14 bands not selling at the level of Madonna for the mother label. Hence, this sampler.
It helped that this comp was salted with rare remixes, but not the lead off Depeche Mode track. Fans of the band who were hip to newfangled CD singles and had access to imports [raises hand], already had the long, 9:31 extended remix of “Never Let Me Down Again” that popped up here. It’s still overlong to my ears, with little in the way of remixing for my tastes. Another 12″ mix came next for the appealing, but slight “Lips Like Sugar” single by Echo + The Bunnymen. It sounds weird hearing the band subjected to a typical ca. 1987 12″ mix with Pete de Freitas ironically replaced with beatbox. The sepulchral drama favored by the group had been dissipated for disco varilites by this time in their history. It’s not a compelling turn of events.
Next came The Mighty Lemon Drops, or ‘Echo + The Bunnymen, Jr.’ as some wags would maintain. [raises hand] The extended version of “Out Of Hand” included here only got a promo release on 12″ wax in America. The result is not quite adroit with the extension sounding arbitrary and perfunctory. But I still have the first two Mighty Lemon Drops albums, and took pains to catch them in concert as well! I was never that convinced by Manchester’s James. They never managed to raise my interest beyond the “Born Of Frustration” single, which had those riveting expression vocals that hooked me bad. “Ya Ho” is merely vague, acoustic pop rock. Pleasant and forgettable.
A rarity by The Smiths [“Work Is A Four Letter Word”] appeared here posthumously as the band had split probably between the scheduling of this track and the time it reached buyer’s hands, judging by the breathless liner notes assuring one and all that “mommy and daddy still love you Smiths’ fans.” Can’t say much about it since I am allergic to The Smiths and I have always skipped the track. When Figures On A Beach appeared next with “No Stars” it more than made up for the inclusion of Morrissey in the flow. “No Stars” is a paradoxically soaring post-breakup song. A rare bird, indeed, present here in the straight album cut, thought there was a commercial 12″ with remixes to plunder.
Wild Swans always seemed like and effort to clone The Smiths by Sire with a slightly less irritating singer, albeit inferior lyrics. “Young Manhood” was a missable track. If this album were a Monty Python episode, at this point John Cleese would have popped out of a window and said “and now for something completely different.” I have to hand it to Sire, they tried to sell Ice-T to the “alternative” crowd from day one, what with West Coast hip hop not having reached any kind of critical mass yet at this point in time. But Ice was moving forward. It was only a matter of time. The 12″ remix of “Somebody Gotta Do It” is really funny, but the inclusion of hop hop sticks out of this Brit-centric melánge top loaded with effete nancy boys [barring the US-based acts] like the quintessential sore thumb. Points for chutzpah, though.
Sire foundation act Ramones offered up a single from their then current “Halfway To Sanity.” The Daniel Rey production sounds a little lightweight given that the late period of The Ramones had begun in earnest eleven years into their career. They would have one more album and a live kiss off before parting the Sire mothership for their manager’s new label, Radioactive. The next album [“Brain Drain”] would have tough Bill Laswell production and “Mondo Bizarro” would feature the return of Ed Stasium behind the boards. Rey was not up to that league yet, though his co-writing with the band was a good presence moving forward from this period. The return of Rey to the producer’s chair for “Adios Amigos” allowed him to attain the necessary seasoning to get the Ramones sound down right.
I’ve never been anything but resistant to the charms of The Replacements, and the inclusion of “Can’t Hardly Wait,” didn’t change that scenario. Similarly, Throwing Muses were one album away from crossing that line in their sound where they stopped being repellent to me and actually began to draw me in. They weren’t quite there yet, though. “A Feeling” from “The Fat Skier” featured Kirsten Hersh warbling like a mosquito on the anti-hook chorus. Aztec Camera always had a songwriting rep that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. “How Men Are” sports a soporific Russ Titleman/Tommy LiPuma production that puts it in the same box as forgettable mid-period EBTG. Feh. I need a little more fiber than that in my music.
I loved, and I do mean, loved, the first Jerry Harrison solo album, “The Red + The Black” from 1981. So much so, that I was hesitant to sample the Harrison-led Casual Gods for years. “Cherokee Chief” is a great song from a very different proposition for Harrison. The Casual Gods were a step away from what Talking Heads were doing in their late period; thank goodness. I eventually bought all three Casual Gods albums and they’re worth the investment.
Finally, Erasure collectors have a reason to buy this disc since it sports a fine extended Phil Harding remix of “Hideaway” that appears nowhere else. It should have been a single in at least five territories if you ask me, but I guess that Mute had already pulled too many singles off of “The Circus” for the band’s comfort. Looking back at my assessment, it doesn’t seem like I had too much love for this comp. Which makes sense if you know how I came to buy it. It wasn’t until the second volume in this series, “Just Say Yo,” that I bit and bought while it was new, and the high quality sauce on that disc, and its follow up, “Just Say Mao,” got me thinking that maybe I had missed something on volume one, which hand not motivated me in stores; even at a $7.98 list. I would ride the “Just Say” train forward through volume six, but volume seven lost me when they included Sire cash cow supreme Madonna!
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