Record Review: Blondie – Blonde And Beyond

Chrysalis | US | CD | 1993 | F2 21990

Blondie: Blonde + Beyond US CD [1993]

  1. Underground Girl
  2. English Boys
  3. Sunday Girl (French Version)
  4. Susie And Jeffrey
  5. Shayla
  6. Denis
  7. X Offender
  8. Poets Problem
  9. Scenery
  10. Picture This
  11. Angels On The Balcony
  12. Once I Had A Love
  13. I’m Gonna Love You Too
  14. Island Of Lost Souls
  15. Call Me (Spanish Version)
  16. Heart Of Glass (Disco Version)
  17. Ring Of Fire (Live)
  18. Bang A Gong (Get It On) (Live)
  19. Heroes (Live)

Things were pretty quiet on the Blondie front by 1993 when this unexpected compilation made a welcome appearance. The band had been mothballed since 1982. Deborah Harry only released solo albums and single by that time. There had been a few compilations of note over the years. 1981 had brought the consolidating success of “The Best Of Blondie” with a third of the cuts being #1 US singles. “Once More Into The Bleach” was a program of Deborah Harry solo singles and post-modern remixes of older solo and band material. and 1991’s “Complete Picture: The Best of Deborah Harry and Blondie” consolidated singles from both camps. That seemed to be everything one might have expected by then, so the appearance of “Blonde And Beyond” certainly got noticed.

What this compilation consisted of was a program of over half of the tracks rarities and the rest a mix of singles and deep cuts. I bought it for the rarities, with three never having been released in any previous form. Right off the top the opening salvo here was “Underground Girl,” a duet between Ms. Harry and one of the members of Blondie that made a convincing case that they were shooting for an Iggy + The Stooges vibe. The cut was dated 1976 and probably dates from the Alan Betrock demo sessions that predated their signing to Private Stock Records. The booklet showed writer and producer credits unknown, but thankfully someone still saw fit to release it. It was definitely a walk on the wild side for this band. It took some chutzpah to lead off with such a track here.

“Sunday Girl [French Version]” was one of two foreign language versions here. Singing in a different language made for a very different vibe on Ms. Harry’s vocals. The French take being more demure than the brassier English language version. I had “Susie And Jeffrey” from the B-side of “The Tide is High” previously, and the girl group/snuff rock pastiche was obviously a B-side from the album sessions. The lyrics seem kind of muddled or obscure to these ears.

I was happy to see some love going for “Shayla,” one of my favorite “Eat The The Beat” deep cuts. The borderline country weeper given some not entirely inappropriate guitar twang was always a soaringly emotional number. Following the stunning perfection of “Union City Blue,” “Shayla” always tended to slightly suffer by comparison, and it really had nothing to be ashamed about. It’s one of Blondie’s most emotive ballads.

Following a pair of pre-superstardom singles in “Denis” and “X Offender,” “Poets Problem” was a B-side from their “[I’m Always Touched By Your] Presence Dear” EP. The Jimmy Destri number boldly included a cocaine reference in the chorus of this one. This was followed by another previously unheard track, “Scenery.” It was yet another one with no credits, but this was a far more together number of yearning pop with the whiff of classic Blondie to it.

Two more deep cuts followed and then it was time for the bait the Chrysalis knowingly set this trap with; “Once I Had A Love,” the legendary early version of “Heart Of Glass” with slightly different lyrics and minus the injection of disco DNA that made the hit heard ‘round the world. The rhythm guitar hook was still there, though, and while the rhythms were less sleek than the hit version, that alone gave it a whiff of even early disco that would have led to its informal name of “the disco song” among the band. This was a less eerie, more straightforward version without the title that would take it to the top. Instead of “soon turned out, had a heart of glass” Debbie sang “soon turned out, to be a thing of the past” instead.

Two more conventional tracks followed and then the album ended on a quintet of rarities. The Spanish version of “Call Me” [released in The States on Salsoul instead of Chrysalis] showed that the band had a firm grasp on the marketplace for this world conquering single that was number one everywhere. Having it in Spanish could not have hurt. The disco version of “Heart Of Glass” was added to the later pressings of “Parallel Lines” so it was only a rarity by the books. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the original LP mix.

The disc ended out with a trio of live covers all mixed together with segues to form a suite of tunes. The unique arrangement of Johnny Cash’s sturdy “Ring Of Fire” was originally on the “Roadie” OST that many of a certain age will remember from the cutout bins. The “Band A Gong” cover I first thought was from the same recording as used for the “Picture This: Live” album [Dallas and Philadelphia shows] but it hailed from a different Boston performance on that same “Eat To The Beat” US tour. This had never seen the light of day previously. Finally, I had the UK “Atomic” 12” by 1993 for its live cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” as recorded on their Parallel Lines UK tour. This made it one of the first covers of that song, and possibly the best, since it had the secret ingredient that no other “Heroes” cover could claim: their pal Robert Fripp guesting on guitar!

This was a strange compilation. I guess with all of the rarities and less of the straight hits, this was pitched directly to fans like myself, who already had the albums and wanted more in a Blondie-less universe. It goes without saying that the discographical information inside the booklet was just the sort of data that project coordinator Vinny Vero loved to lavish on projects under his watch. Also, the unreleased tracks certainly pointed in his direction, thought executive producer Bruce Harris and compilation producer Dan Loggins got top billing here [and they mixed the unreleased tracks, too]. Over the years, many of these tracks filtered out as bonus tracks on DLX RMs and new compilations from the band. I appreciated them all right here the first time out.

This was the third EMI CD that I could thank Vinny Vero for, following his US stewardship of the Ultravox/Midge Ure compilation “If I Was: The Best Of Midge Ure + Ultravox” and the Bow Wow Wow “Girl Bites Dog” compilation of the same year. 1993 marked the time when I really took notice of what the right person in charge of a reissue could achieve and Sir Vero set the bar admirably high.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

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3 Responses to Record Review: Blondie – Blonde And Beyond

  1. Taffy says:

    I came somewhat late to the CD era (1990) so when this came out I was still searching for titles I owned on vinyl to rebuy on those silvery discs. This compilation was a nifty mix of obscurities, b-sides and unreleased stuff which I was most excited to own. Great music and packaging made this a must-buy.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – yeah, the packaging was great. The great discographical info with lots of color pix new to me. I also neglected to mention the sharp liner notes by Trouser Press publisher/editor Ira Robbins. They offered a clear-eyed appraisal of the band’s trajectory from the perspective of a fan and critic who saw it all happen in close proximity.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Echorich says:

    Shayla and Picture This are the two Blondie songs that never get their due. But they are both career moments for Blondie, in my book.

    Liked by 1 person

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