Record Review: Heaven 17 – Designing Heaven UK CD#1

WEA International | UK | CD5 | 1996 | WEA 078 CD1

WEA International | UK | CD5 | 1996 | WEA 078 CD1

Heaven 17: Designing Heaven UK CD 1/2 [1996]

  1. Designing Heaven (Radio Mix)
  2. Designing Heaven (Lloyd-Wright Mix – Motiv 8’s Radio Mix)
  3. Designing Heaven (Le Corbusier Mix – Motiv 8’s Dub 12)
  4. Designing Heaven (Trans European Heaven)
  5. Designing Heaven (Den Himmel Designen)

Last month an astonishing thing happened. One of my regular commenters [nick] sent me two Heaven 17 CD singles that I did not have! It’s always a great thing when CDs arrive in the mail that I did not first order and pay for, and some of the mixes here will help me complete that long-gestating Heaven 17 collection. I may have to build a 2nd volume of the “Civil Defence Box” eventually, but this is a risk that I am willing to take! So hats off to nick for actually tithing music to support PPM! How can I not discuss the first of these singles now that I have had time to listen to them?

“Designing Heaven” was the harbinger of the reformation of Heaven 17 in 1996. The band had entered a diffuse period, if not outright dissolution following their commercially lackluster “Teddybear, Duke + Psycho” album of 1988 that did nothing in business, except that it did catch my Monastic ear in a way that H17 had not in ages. But to no avail. The band were effectively on the scrapheap from 1989-1996. That they did come back was probably entirely due to the other CD that nick sent, which we won’t discuss today except to set the context for this release.

Virgin | UK | 12" | 1993 | VST 1446

The remix of “Temptation” that was issued to ride the “Higher + Higher” ‘best of’ album that Virgin managed the neat trick of matching the UK top 5 charting of the original version. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that this was the spark that re-lit the H17 franchise that saw the band signing with Anzilotti + Münzing following their flush with successful period where they got a boutique label [Eye of the Storm] to run. An album, “Bigger Than America,” was released in 1996 and “Designing Heaven” was the leadoff single. The songs seemed to be a conscious attempt to revisit the cascading climaxes of “Temptation” in a more thoughtful format. While “Temptation” was a conscious stab at writing about sex for the first time ever by Martyn Ware, this track sports more socially incisive lyrics that we’ve come to appreciate from the H17 point of view.

The Motiv-8 remixes were fairly typical of the period. The radio mix [which I had elsewhere] had the song recast in the mold they proffered the same year for the Club Mix of Pulp’s brilliant “Common People.” I have to say that “Designing Heaven” withstands the somewhat heavy handed “handbag” approach much more successfully than did the Pulp magnum opus. To their benefit here, the remixes don’t take long enough to bore with their textures, and make for reasonably pleasant listening. The dub 12 mix retains the backing and chorus vocals, but as for a dub mix, there’s no danger that it would be confused for an Adrian Sherwood mix! The dub effects and techniques are pretty tepid.

The one intriguing mix here that was new to me was Gregorio’s “Trans European Heaven,” which was a pretty successful downtempo recast of the track that worked pretty well for all of the heavy lifting done to take a euphoric pop tune like this into introspective territory. Sometimes, this gambit can be disastrous, but not here. In fact, some of the worst remixes I’ve ever heard attempt this unsuccessfully. And finally, the “Den Himmel Designen” german-language version [as translated by Glenn Gregory’s pal Claudia Brücken] was a real treat that I had only heard as a bonus track on the US edition of “Bigger Than America.” I passed on that CD. The cover was much like this single – a far cry from the original German CD with the Ray Smith watercolor that all great Heaven 17 albums have. So I’m pleased to have this mix in house now on this fine single. Now I need the second disc to this set. Rounding up all of the mixes of this era should be a priority since I am getting excitingly close to the bullseye. Many thanks to nick for generously sending this my way.

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About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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2 Responses to Record Review: Heaven 17 – Designing Heaven UK CD#1

  1. Echorich says:

    I waffle on my feelings for the wittily titled Motiv-8 remixes of Designing Heaven. Motiv-8’s “style” of remixing, trancey/handbag, hasn’t stood the test of time to my ears or feet for that matter.
    I usually prefer to listen to the Gregorio mix you nicely revealed as a successful attempt at downtempo and the Giorgio Moroder Subterranean mix that infuses some wonder “disco-isms” into the remix. As it builds, Moroder’s mix takes on a very disco/funk/trance effect that pulls me in every time I listen to it.
    The German version is also a must have. But when, oh when, will Martyn write and produce with Fräulein Brucken!?! Glenn can even fill some of the songs with his beautifully matured vocals as well.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Handbag mixes are aiming pretty low by my reckoning. Motiv-8’a work in the Record Cell all seem to be practically interchangeable to these ears. In retrospect, maybe I prefer the “Common People” mix*, which in the context of the time period, may be seen as yet a further layer of bitter irony on Cocker’s part.

      * – Even though on first listen it seems to be an abomination.

      Like

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