Mari Wilson: Showpeople [Footlights Edition] 
DISC 1 – Showpeople
1. Wonderful To Be With
2. The End Of The Affair
3. One Day Is A Lifetime
4. Doctor Love
5. Remember Me
6. Cry Me A River
7. Just What I Always Wanted
8. This Time Tomorrow
9. Are You There [With Another Girl]
10. I May Be Wrong
12. This Is It?
1. Love Man
2. If That’s What You Want
3. Dance Card
4. She’s Had Enough Of You
5. Beat The Beat
7. Baby It’s True
8. You Look So Good
9. Baby It’s True [discotheque arrangement]
10. Ecstasy [demo version]
11. Rave [live excerpt]
12. Just What I Always Wanted [UK 12″ version]
13. Woe, Woe, Woe
14. Beware Boyfriend
15. It’s Happening
16. Cry Me A River [smootch mix]
2. Tu No Me Llores
3. One Day Is A Lifetime [alternative version]
4. Baby It’s True [live]
5. Beat The Beat [live]
6. Love Man [live]
7. The End Of The Affair [live]
8. Dance Card [live]
9. Ain’t That Peculiar
10. The Maximum Damage
11. Use Him
12. Ain’t That Peculiar [extended version]
13. Let’s Make This Last
14. Just What I Always Wanted [US 12″ remix]
15. Let’s Make This Last [a bit longer loop 1]
16. Let’s Make This Last [a bit longer loop 2]
1. Just What I Always Wanted [US 12″ instrumental]
2. Would You Dance With A Stranger?
3. Dialogue: Ruth’s Bedroom/Jazz Break
4. Love & Learn
5. Let Me Dream
6. What’s Going On?
7. Stop & Start
8. The Rhythm 
9. I’m Happy Just To Dance With You
10. The Rhythm [club mix]
11. Let’s Make This Last [CD mix]
12. The Rhythm [beats]
13. Got To Be You
14. My Funny Valentine [instrumental]
15. Out Of The Blue
16. Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps
17. Hits & Misses
DVD – Live Sight + Sound 1983
2. Baby It’s True
3. Love Man
4. Are You There [with another girl]
5. Beware Boyfriend
6. Introducing the Band
7. Just What I Always Wanted
8. Beat The Beat
9. Cry Me A River
10. Doctor Love
This BSOG® had its origins in:
a) my ridiculously large collection of Mari Wilson
b) my complete dismay in the ability of record labels to ever release her classic “Showpeople” album on CD!
Mari was most active from 1980-1985 with the vast bulk of her material for The Compact Organization appearing in 1981-84. Nevertheless, at the time, there existed five Mari Wilson CDs and none of these was “Showpeople.” They are all variant compilations of that material which include cuts from [or the whole shebang] “Showpeople” as well as the numerous b-sides and non-LP singles that book ended that 1983 LP release. All in random playlists. 2010 bought a Japanese kami edition of “Showpeople” but even it is compromised by substitute mixes not on the original 1983 Compact Records album. Is this a conspiracy?! It must be for the Japanese labels to fail in accurately replicating the original album, since as we all know, this is what the Japanese labels excel at!
Her career seemingly stopped in 1985 but picked up again six years later with her second album, “The Rhythm Romance,” in 1991. But after buying 4/5 of these compilations, I skipped over the 2007 one, “The Platinum Collection,” because is failed to offer me anything I didn’t have in earlier, digital forms. The completist in me will probably compel me to pick this up cheaply, if possible, in the future. But the completist in my also compels me to make projects like this one in advance of that act!
Mari Wilson, for those not in the know, specialized in retro-1959-63 UK pre-Beatles pop recreated by the fertile mind of one Tot Taylor; mad genius and svengali of The Compact Organization, a shadowy yet aesthetically pure label that largely consisted of Mr. Taylor performing all of the direction/songwriting/production under various guises. Noms-du-musique such as liner note maven Rex Luxore, frantically busy songwriter Teddy Johns, not to mention reclusive label head Mr. Clark Mono were the norm. The earlier Mari Wilson productions sound uncannily accurate in their Joe Meek-era productions, with little or no added kitsch at first. As the storyline of Mari Wilson developed, it became a theatrical presentation with multiple characters sharing the stage with Mari, complete with skits and dialogue. This has gratefully been captured in the DVD that accompanies this set; a 1983 BBC episode of Sight & Sound, which featured the then-novel stereo simulcast capability of BBC radio presenting the soundtrack in delightful stereo. The entire effect is not unlike what Tracey Ullman was doing around the same time, only with better songs, presentation and singing.
There was always a jazzy edge to the proceedings, courtesy of Mari’s large 11-piece band that included trumpet, flugelhorn and a string section. Disc 1 consists of the 1983 “Showpeople” album, presented as a discreet CD here for the first and apparently only time. Only three of Mari’s singles were taken from this album: “Wonderful,” “Cry Me A River,” and the UK top 10 hit “Just What I Always Wanted.” The album, like many of the non-LP single A-sides, was not produced by Tot Taylor, but instead by Tony Mansfield, the resident technopop genius of the group New Musik. His productions differ from Taylor’s in that state of the art studio technology was used freely to make the sound updated and Radio One friendly for the era. By contrast, Taylor’s productions often sound like lost 60’s sides! No more is this apparent than on the big hit “Just What I Always Wanted,” with its 1983 drum machines and effects. “Wonderful,” in contrast represents a middle road approach, and ends up sounding not unlike a modern Joe Meek production courtesy of its Theremin-like keyboards.
Her single of “Cry Me A River,” a cover of the venerable Julie London torch song, existed in two distinct forms: the LP version had been produced by Andrew Powell [his only Mari credit] and it featured a rich, string-laden production that sounds a bit expensive to say the least. In a Quixotic move, this was not released on the single! Instead, that featured a stripped down piano and string only version of the song as produced by Taylor. This is called the “Smootch Mix” on the 12” single, but it was also present, if not named as such, on the 7” version. Another paradox of the LP of “Showpeople,” was that the song “Ecstasy” appears on it in a Tony Mansfield production. Every other occurrence of the song on compilations and reissue CDs features the double-time Tot Taylor demo version instead, with the exception of the mind-bogglingly rare French Mari CD, “Cry Me A River.” It was from this French CD that the Powell production of “Cry Me A River” and Mansfield’s “Ecstasy” were sourced for this CD. Tot Taylor, who presumably controls the Compact masters, obviously prefers his productions!
Disc 2 consisted largely of five non-LP singles that predated the “Showpeople” album: “Love Man” (1980), “Dance Card” (1982), “Beat The Beat” (1982), “Baby It’s True” (1982) and “Beware Boyfriend” (1982). In addition, two LP sides are also present here, the chart hits “Just What I Always Wanted” and “Cry Me A River;” both from the album “Showpeople.” These non-LP tracks are almost a tour de force that renders the very successful album staid in comparison! The “Love Man” single in particular, sports a B-side that sounds for all the world like a freeze-dried tune from 1959, sans the merest hint of irony. A frantic rhythm section drives Dance Card and “Beat The Beat” is perhaps my favorite Mari single. Not only is the A-side enhanced by an honest-to-goodness clapping beat, but the backing vocals are pure sunshine. The B-side, “Glamourpuss,” is nothing less than the acme of The Compact Organization aesthetic. A jazzy sax intro leads into a spoken band intro hosted by the urbane Hank B. Hive whereby he delivers the smarm with a trowel. Yes, life was once that good! The net result was slinky faux-jazz that created a world in four minutes and transported the listener there.
“Baby It’s True” sported a throbbing James Jamerson bass line and was the subject of the first Mari twelve inch version. The discotheque arrangement of “Baby It’s True,” mirrored the version that the Wilsations began each concert with. Over the bass line rondo, Hank B. Hive’s intro spiel set the mood and the mood was hot! The flipside of “Just What I Always Wanted,” “Woe, Woe, Woe,” featured a skit after the songs’ fadeout with sassy banter between Hank and Mari as they listened to the playback of the B-side. This theatricality combined with strong music made for a powerful package not like any other group’s records.
Disc 3 was highlighted by the presence of “Born Lucky,” a live cassette given away with copies of the “Wonderful” 7” single. As superb as the records were, Mari Wilson & The Wilsations were all about live performance! Not for nothing did no less an aesthete than Mr. Bryan Ferry pick them to open for the Avalon tour in England in 1982! And these five cuts are corkers! With an 11-piece band, no corners were cut and no quarter was given. The live take of “Baby It’s True” captured most of Hank’s climactic intro to wonderful effect and the live version of “Beat The Beat” ended with “who wants to live in America” right on the meter, for an fantastic cold ending quite unlike the recording. Until I heard this, I had not connected the rhythm underpinning the song as having been lifted from West Side Story’s finest song, Bernstein and Sondheim’s sardonic masterpiece, “America.”
A couple more non-LP songs appeared here. “Ain’t That Peculiar” is a Tot Taylor production at his glossiest and most contemporary. It sounds as up to date as the Tony Mansfield sides but with a fundamentally superior arrangement. The 12” version came with a poster deemed “sumptuous” but the record as well seems to more than meet that standard. Mari’s only other single from 1984 appeared in a Tony Mansfield production. “Let’s Make This Last” sounded not a million miles away from the ZTT sound that dominated 1984 in the UK. The track appeared in three mixes that also owe something to ZTT overkill. The end result was as computerized as Trevor Horn’s productions sounded at the time, and the music is poorer for it. This was Mari’s weakest single as it lacked all of the charm that was heretofore present in her records in abundance. This exercise in digital stereo sound manipulation was a misstep that didn’t set the charts on fire.
Rounding out disc 3 was the unique US 12” remix of “Just What I Always Wanted.” As remixed by the once ubiquitous Ivan Ivan, it’s nowhere near the standard of the glorious UK 12” version of said track on disc 2. Disc 4 began with “Would You Dance With A Stranger,” Mari’s title tune to the Miranda Richardson film of the same name of 1985. This irony-free retro jazzpop was a clear blueprint for the direction Mari would head in her post-Compact career. By 1985, this single was all that The Compact Organization released with Mari’s name on it and the label folded soon afterward.
Disc 4 also featured five tracks that appeared on various obscure 1985 Compact compilations like “Do They Mean Us?” or “Pens, Guns & Riffs.” “Love & Learn” was slated to be a single and wow, does it show! This would have been a magnificent bow out for Mari on Compact. These cuts eventually appeared on the various Compact and Mari Wilson CDs that have been released in the UK and Japan since 1988. “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You” was a Beatles cover that would have utterly been at home on Mari’s second album, “The Rhythm Romance” in 1991. The mix of “Let’s Make This Last” taken from the 1992 “Just What I Always Wanted” CD compilation was a unique mix which I have dubbed the (CD mix). A good third of disc four consisted of non-LP cuts from the time of Mari’s second, straight jazzpop album of 1991, “The Rhythm Romance.” It featured the Latin stylings of Rumba Tres on several cuts and it attained a Latin flavored jazzpop blend not unlike early Matt Bianco. The last two tracks on disc 4 were a 2006 digital single available only on iTunes. “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” was the theme to the UK TV series “Coupling.” Cognoscenti may remember the Doris Day version from time immemorial [or the film “Strictly Ballroom”].
A word about the DVD included. This featured a vintage 1983 live TV concert on Sight & Sound rebroadcast in the late 90s courtesy of Ron “The Man” Kane, so let us all thank him profusely for providing the jewel in the crown of this BSOG. Fortunately, the original broadcast was simulcast in stereo on FM in 1983, thus the master sounds splendid. One wishes there were more as the program was faded out on “Doctor Love,” but them’s the breaks. I suspect that the program may have been cut short on rebroadcast due to additional advertising inserted into it or scheduling demands.
Finally, I quantified the details of the Mari Wilson collection [at the time] in a PDF that was added to the set as a 72 page PDF on one disc as a multimedia session that lovingly outlined the complete details of each release; filled to the brim with knowing period detail and simply amazing liner notes on every sleeve. It’s all here in a download of the PDF book which you may obtain by clicking on the image at left. Marvel at what I used to get up to when I had the free time. Sure, sure. It’s out of date with all of the relative deluge of new Mari Wilson material that’s been released since 2007, [sadly, none of which I have] but where else are you going to get such high-res images of those amazing covers? You’re welcome.
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