Record Review: Various Artists “Hit It. Dance + Contemporary Music” US Promo CD

WB various - hit-it promo CD cover art
Warner Bros. | USP | CD | 1987 | PRO-CD-2753

Various Artists: Hit It. Dance + Contemporary Music Warner Bros. Records – USP – CD [1987]

  1. Atlantic Starr: One Lover At A Time [7″ mix] 4:02
  2. Nick Kamen: Each Time You Break My Heart [Radio Mix] 4:01
  3. Erasure: Sometimes [7″ mix] 3:39
  4. Depeche Mode: Strangelove [single version] 3:47
  5. Kraftwerk: Sex Object [7″ edit] 3:57
  6. Club Noveau: Why You Treat Me So Bad [7″ mix] 3:44
  7. Atlantic Starr: One Lover At A Time [extended version] 8:02
  8. Nick Kamen: Each Time You Break My Heart [extended version] 8:35
  9. Erasure: Sometimes [extended Razormaid US mix] 7:31
  10. Depeche Mode: Strangelove [Blind Mix] 6:10
  11. Kraftwerk: Sex Object [Razormaid US Mix] 7:41
  12. Club Noveau: Why You Treat Me So Bad [Club Mix] 7:50

This was an interesting promo CD that I probably bought after seeing an ad in an eyeball-straining Goldmine Magazine dealer ad. It probably mentioned that it had an otherwise unavailable 7″ and 12″ mix of Kraftwerk’s “Sex Object” and that would have set me right off. While I had a muted response to their divisive “Electric Cafe” album of 1986 [I was down on side one], the track “Sex Object” was one of the two songs on it I thought were very successful. So I sent off for this CD at a price of around $20, if I recall correctly. The time frame for this would have been not more than a year after this was released by Warner Bros. in 1987.

wow, does that conceit ever come home to roost on this compilation!Listening to it now, the pairing of mid-80s R+B and the tail end of the New Music era made for strange bedfellows. But only in one sense of the word. All of this music was made on synthesizers as the New Wave techniques spread through the mainstream wildly by the mid-80s. We’ve talked about how there was only a degree of separation between the likes of Taylor Dayne and The Human League by this time, and wow – does that conceit ever come home to roost on this album!

The first two tracks are what passed for R+B in the 1987 window. All synthetic and pulling Freestyle tropes from the early Madonna playbook. Nick Kamen was even produced by Madonna with her posse onboard attempting to turn the model into a chart star, but in America it didn’t happen. He’s probably still best known for his Levis ad in the UK and he died earlier this year. The first track on here of note was Erasure’s “Sometimes,” though I would not really embrace the band until I heard “Wild” being playing in-store.

depeche mode strangelove cover artI was all over “Strangelove” by Depeche Mode. I normally bought everything by the quartet from 1984 onward, so I had the UK CD5 of this single, but this was the sturdy , original 7″ version. Nothing special. Far more exciting was the prospect of the 7″ edit of “Sex Object” by Kraftwerk via the editing block of Joseph Watt of Razormaid. It appeared that “Sex Object” had been considered for single release by Warner Bros. or else why would this track be on this disc? Watt brought in more foreign language sound bites up front in the mix intro and managed to make a memorable four minutes from the nearly seven minute album track. I loved the intro with the synthetic strings and synthetic percussion taking us out. This was such a fascinating song for Kraftwerk as it was not really a good “fit” for their “brand.”  Which is what made it to entrancing to me.

erasure sometimes US cover artThe conceit of the promo album was that 7″ and 12″ mixes of the same tracks made it up. So each of the six songs was contained in both song formats. Years later when I started collecting Erasure, I usually bought the German Intercord CD5s of their singles since they were first to market. So that meant that I never had the US 12″ mix of “Sometimes” since the Rico Conning remix as re-edited by Joseph Watt anywhere else, since I never bought records for Erasure; only CDs.

This was a fantastic remix of the kind that really blew up the original song and made it larger than life in every way. Mixes like this were the reason why we were bitten by the 12″ bug in the first place. All of the sonic details hidden in the song were expanded upon and given a dose of spotlight for at least a few bars in this mix that never bored in nearly eight minutes. All of the aspects of the mix were altered here, with radical shifts in EQ to make for maximum rhythmic impact and novelty factor. And the stomping, glammy beat was accentuated by all of the pulse gating applied to the song’s elements, including the vocals! The dubby attack almost threatened to take the mix off the rail at the end as the entire mix shuddered with the reverb until the drop to the bass driven coda.

depeche mode strangelove US cover artI love all of the various mixes of “Strangelove” and one day should compile a disc called “Strangelove: The Motion Picture” with as many of them as I can find. The Blind Mix was by Daniel Miller and Rico Conning and was the 2nd UK 12″ A-side but included in the US 12″ package with several mixes. The intro here was like an alien insect loop for a bar before the more familiar tune began. The beat was harder than ever here with cold, precise blasts of white noise playing against the cicada-like percussion. The mix was thinner and more streamlined, and might be the least of the “Strangelove” mixes I’d heard. Once the “Bomb The Bass” mixes dropped, that was it for me. The strange thing was that I never bought records for Depeche Mode post 1985, so I only heard this mix on this compilation.

Joseph Watt began the extended remix of “Sex Object” with arid samples of “Ja…Nein” ping-ponging back and forth back in the stereo spectrum. Then the same in Japanese. As with the 7′ edit, this mix of “Sex Object” was fully multi-lingual. The slap bass samples were always a problematic aspect of Kraftwerk, beginning with “Tour De France” in 1984. But the manipulated bass samples used to construct a “solo” made a kind of sense when juxtaposed against the synthetic cellos and strings later in the song. Apart from the rhythm, everything melodic in this song seems to be “string” textures and given the emotional vulnerability that the song was espousing. it may have been the right decision.

The coda dropped out all of the string patches and samples for a minute of beat and mutli lingual vocals. I actually have the Razormaid issue A-12 [also from 1987] which has what was called there the “Tiergartenstrasse Mix” by Watt, but with the penchant the Razormaid crew have for re-remixing many tracks, I need to actually play mine to see if there are mix differences.

The liner notes contained a crossword puzzle that people were supposed to solve and send back to WB to win one of 12 CD players

With the packaging listing a contest to win one of 12 CD players, we can see that the format was still seen as something exotic in 1987. The various 12″ mixes on the then exotic CD format were rare birds for their time, and with the eye of Kraftwerk collectors [I can’t play in that $andbox any more…] always on this one for the unreleased commercially “Sex Object” remixes, this disc still manages to change hands for a solid two to three figures. Thank goodness I found this one relatively early and when money was more plentiful. I still find it surprising that there were not even any white labels of the title that made it out into the wilds.

-30-

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7 Responses to Record Review: Various Artists “Hit It. Dance + Contemporary Music” US Promo CD

  1. Tim says:

    Strangelove is peak 80’s Depeche Mode. It distills all of the post Vince Clarke ambition and band career trajectory into one fantastic track. Music for the Masses is a hot mess of an album, a very unfocused collection of tracks supplemented by things that would otherwise be b-side noodlings. They dipped their toe in the water and said we want to be commerically big but we want to be kinda sorta pervy, too, if that’s okay with you. Strangelove was the template that all of Violater and a chunk of Songs of Faith & Devotion was incubated from.

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    • Echorich says:

      Tim you are right on. Music For The Masses is Depeche Mode going for their chance at Big Music. The fact that it contains Strangelove, Behind The Wheel and the magnificent Never Let Me Down, makes it indispensable. They were even pretty obvious with the album art and symbol being the public address horns, broadcasting their “leap forward.”

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      • postpunkmonk says:

        Echorich – Good point with “Music For the Masses” as being Depeche Mode’s stab at “Big Music.” They managed to do it more successfully than most, by that reckoning. Sometimes, it’s the least likely students in the back of the classroom that come through.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – Really? From “Strangelove” to “Songs Of Faith + Devotion?” Everything I’ve heard from SOFAD never managed to get the slightest bit of interest from me whereas I’m all about the “Strangelove.” “Violator” I can see threads of continuity with, but not SOFAD. But then, I’ve maybe heard only the singles from that one [which I can’t remember].

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      • Tim says:

        The thread in my opinion is their bringing their perviness more to the front, not so much musical texture but the attitude. SOFAD sadly brought in Dave Gahan’s passive agressiveness but it still has a dirtier feel than say, A Broken Frame, which is rather dark but still sounds shiny or even Black Celebration, which for all of it’s moodiness is just a bit too produced and calculated. BC is still a fine DM album and I’d rate it as more consistent in its tone and offering than MFTM.

        MFTM has two outliers that don’t really belong with the rest in my opinion, Behind the Wheel and Strangelove. Wheel is just too up for the rest of the album and Strangelove is its own beast, it doesn’t really fit on MFTM and it would sound out of place on Violater, but it’s the band discovering what they can get away with and that influenced their next two albums. It should have been a stand alone single not on either album but between them

        Then the material after SOFAD goes in a different direction I think, and it’s because the band is on the Dave Gahan drug and alcohol joyride (for better or worse).

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  2. negative1ne says:

    Hi Mr. Monk,

    I took several years to locate a copy of this. It showed up on Ebay, but was always around $60 so I would end up losing out. Well, thanks to discogs, I got it for about half that price. As a Kraftwerk collector, I remember seeing a listing for the razormaid mix, and edit that was only found on this compilation. I am a big fan of early Depeche Mode, and Erasure also, so those tracks really added to the value.

    I have no idea who any of the other bands are, and have not listened to those tracks. So it is an odd pairing. However, it does reflect the music of that era. Music for the masses was the last album that I thought was OK from Depeche Mode, and as much as I like Strangelove, and all the mixes, I disliked ‘never let me down again’ (ironically which is what they did), and the guitar emphasis on that. Although they brought me back with their classic sound in ‘behind the wheel’.

    Well, i’m sure we can talk about depeche mode in their own release thread. so i’ll end it on that.
    music for masses, was indeed that.

    later
    -1

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      netative1ne – I also have the Razormaid issue with the remix, but that 7″ edit was the gold prize here. It’s hard to believe that there was not a promo 7″ at least. But if there was, it would cost you $150 at least. So there’s that to be thankful for.

      Liked by 1 person

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