Record Review: The Passions – Sanctuary DLX RM US CD [part 4]

The Passions were a trio by 1982

The Passions deserved much more than one-hit wonder status

[…continued form last post]

The B-side of “Africa Mine” was “I Feel Cheap,” which was as emotionally direct a song as possible but the production by Peter Wilson had room for sonic detail like the Eventide Harmonizer used on the drums for that ever popular “Low” Bowie drum sound. The urgent tempo lent credence to the desperation of the lyric and the anguish in Barbara Gogan’s voice.

“The Story” could not have been a bigger contrast to the upbeat euphoria of “Jump For Joy” as listeners flipped the single over and were rewarded with as left field a B-side as possible. Fat, cinematic orchestral synths kept the resilient rhythm of the song moving inexorably forward with the trio of repetitive chords. The song was shot through with atonal synth and guitar stabs that were all the better to foster that sense of dread that the song was all about. Ms. Gogan was in there, somewhere, but any vocals were absolutely swamped by the monolithic slabs of sound at the dark heart of the number. If anything, it reminded me of the sort of OMD B-sides like “Annex” that I absolutely treasure.

The “Sanctuary” single offered two B-sides. The 7″ version gave us “Tempting Fate” which was a euphoric love song that could not have been a lighter touch as the song’s samba rhythms lifted the lyrics aloft with aplomb. Meanwhile, the 12″ single offered ” Stop That Man,” which joined “The Story” as another dip into the soundtrack style. This time opting for a tentative melodramatic unease with no vocals at all.

Then the live EP [recorded at The Venue in London] included with copies of the “Africa Mine” 2×7″ rounded out the program of bonus material on offer here. “The Square” was a spare and ascetic slice of tense New Wave about a midnight rendezvous in the titular square hailing from “Thirty Thousand Feet Over China.” On “Why Me” the band offered a track from “Michael + Miranda” that was blistering in its feminist sentiment! Ms. Gogan pulled no lyrical punches as she laid down the law to anyone who would deign to give women the false binary choice of prostitute or wife.

The urgent motorik drums and minor key bass lines of “Snow” offered another fine cut of New Wave from “Michael + Miranda.” Finally, the band’s moment in the commercial sun came with a live take of “I’m In Love With A German Film Star.” The echoplex guitar hooks that the song was built on lent it an air of dub that was not dissuaded in the least by the pulsating bass line of David Agar. Ms. Gogan’s vocals were every bit as haunting/haunted as they were on the hit single version. Little did the band know when recording this live version that their career had peaked commercially and the end would be happening by 1983.

Albums like “Sanctuary” would have been the sort of title that I would have passionately boosted at the time of issue, had I only come into contact with it somehow. Apart from the fleeting joys of hearing “Africa Mine” on the 1982 college airwaves. That was my alpha and omega for the Passions for too many years. One of the reasons why I became the Post-Punk Monk in the 90s was to re-investigate all of the music that I was either dimly aware or ignorant of that passed me by for one reason or another during the New Wave period. Finally hearing The Associates in 1990 was a clarion call that I might get bigger musical thrills if I began ignoring the uninteresting present for some sonic archaeology instead.

Fortunately, salvation has come in the form of Rubellan Remasters, who bring us this canonically perfect reissue [sporting every last note that should be here] at a modest price for the caliber of the music on offer here.

communist purchase buttonUntil now, the most we could have heard from this album on the silver disc was half of its ten cuts on the 1995 CD reissue of the “Passion Plays” compilation that itself is selling for far more than the $13.99 that this fine disc will set you back. And finally, it’s worth mentioning that the music here was mastered from master tape sources with the utmost of care. The other night I listened to this CD on my AKG headphones while working and it was a sheer pleasure with full, luxurious dynamic range that Rubellan Remasters always strive for and champion. Thus far, this has been the reissue to top for 2019 for my ears.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

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6 Responses to Record Review: The Passions – Sanctuary DLX RM US CD [part 4]

  1. JT says:

    PSA – If you haven’t heard Barbara Gogan’s work with Hector Zazou, you ought to. She appeared as one of many guests on the legendary Sahara Blue disc, and then they did a whole record together, 1997’s Made on Earth. (And, on the topic, it’s hard to go wrong with any of Zazou’s records; readers of this blog might particularly love the guest-list – and the content – on his Songs from Cold Seas album).


    • postpunkmonk says:

      JT – i recently saw a copy of “Sahara Blue” in the Harvest Records used CD bins when I was browsing but broke. I need to head over there and buy that disc once I determine if it is the original pressing with Sylvian too. The Zazou/Gogan disc would also be mandatory. My friend Ron was way into Hector Zazou and he’s been one of those artists that I always intended to hear but it’s hard finding the goods down here.


      • JT says:

        Sylvian does vocals one track and a minor instrumental contribution to one other. So the version without him is equally worthwhile… and he’s replaced on the second pressing by Brandon Perry, so no complaints there. Zazou’s discog is long and complex, and every project has a different flavor to it. But I’ve never found any of his records to be without merit (I’ve heard about half of them).


        • postpunkmonk says:

          JT – I have sufficient pocket change to get that CD tomorrow so even if it is not the initial Sylvian copy… when will I ever see another one? I remember it having the correct cover, for what it’s worth. Hmm.. I see Zazou also worked on the Mimi Goese solo album, “Soak” on Luaka Bop. I was super impressed with Ms. Goese this year at the Big Ears festival. I had never given Hugo Largo [her old band] a spin but with the Opal Records connection I suppose it’s a given it would have been of interest. but… Sigh. After Eno worked with U2 you could not completely trust him any longer.


  2. slur says:

    For my tastes ‘Sanctuary’ is the weakest of the 3 Albums, the only highlight is ‘Love Is Essential’ which is a great new wave pop tune but miles away from any other Passions.
    When they lost Clive Timperley they lost their edge and became nearly forgettable besides the voice
    of Mrs. Gogan.
    The production is too glossy and the cover ruins whatever good intentions where left by then.
    A sad ending to a promising band.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      slur – Well, I’ve read that Timperley left the band because he could not stomach the politics that generated a great song like “Africa Mine” so don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Clive. I’ll have to disagree with about the merit of the album – I found it to be a last gasp of New Wave as it would soon be dumbing down to cross the Atlantic, but I will stand with you on the cover art. Why their management thought that a cover that looked as if it had been designed in 1918 was a valid response to the music inside was a supreme head scratcher.


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