The Blow Monkeys: Animal Magic SDLX RM – UK – 4xCD 
- Digging Your Scene
- Animal Magic
- Wicked Ways
- Sweet Murder
- Aeroplane City Lovesong
- I Nearly Died Laughing
- Don’t Be Scared Of Me
- Burn The Rich
- I Backed A Winner (in You)
- Forbidden Fruit
- Heaven Is A Place I’m Moving To
- Guess I Love Her Now (Demo)
- Forbidden Fruit (Demo)
- Animal Magic (Demo)
- Wicked Ways (Demo)
- I Nearly Died Laughing (Demo)
- Sweet Murder (Demo)
- Wicked Ways (Single Edit)
- Digging Your Scene (Single Edit)
- My America
- The Optimist
- Walking The Bluebeat
- Digging Your Scene (Scat Mix)
- Aeroplane City Lovesong (Alternative Recording)
- Man From Russia (Remix)
- Digging Your Scene (Instrumental)
- Wicked Ways (Instrumental)
- Sweet Murder (Single Version)
- Sweet Murder (Sweet Beat Version)
- Forbidden Fruit (12″ Version)
- Digging Your Scene (Digging Your Remix)
- Digging Your Scene (12” Mastermind Remix)
- Digging Your Scene (U.S. Mix)
- Wicked Ways (Wick-Ed-It Version)
- Digging Your Scene (Long Version)
- Wicked Ways (Long Version)
- Digging Your Scene (Phil Harding Remix)
- Don’t Be Scared Of Me (Extended Version)
- Superfly (Long Version)
- Don’t Be Scared Of Me (Mix)
- Sweet Murder (Extended Version)
- Digging Your Scene (Longer Mix)
- Sweet Murder (Murderess Dub Version)
- Sweet Murder (feat. Eek-A-Mouse)
- Digging Your Scene (Pete Wilson Mix)
- Aeroplane City Lovesong (Pete Wilson Remix)
Last month I finally ordered the Blow Monkeys’s DLX RM of “Animal Magic” in its slightly-sprawling-and-we-like-it-that-way 4xCD edition that was packed with bonus materials that didn’t even contain a live CD, yet still managed to provide hours of listening pleasure. Our approval of the delightful original 1986 album has been previously extolled, so apart from noting, sadly, that the opening two notes to the hit “Digging Your Scene’ that sparked off the album suffers from an unnecessary fade in applied to the track [grrrr], we’ll move on to the other three discs as the focus of this posting.
DEMOS AND MIXES AND B-SIDES, OH MY
Disc two opened with a program of six demos, with the first being the never fully recorded “Guess I Love Her Now” which felt like a transitional song from the first album period linking “Limping For A Generation” to the glossier “Animal Magic” era. The smoky soul of the cut was linked to the later era by the presence of rich femme BVs here. The demo of “Forbidden Fruit” was surprisingly close to the finished mark, but the demo gets my approval for having the lush fretless bass of Mick Anker prominent in the mix this time. Dr. Robert’s vocal was another difference, with dramatically different phrasing and heavier effects on them with filtering and echo altering their attack.
The lack of string arrangements also meant that the demo of the title track also gave that fretless bass some more spotlight, and how can that be anything but a good thing? The demo of “Wicked Ways” stepped a step back from the rococo excess of the album mix to offer these ears something very attractive. Its lushness, simply avoiding the over the top excess of the final version.
Anker’s bass was foundational in the Memphis Soul of “I Nearly Died Laughing” while Dr. Robert’s fey delivery contrasted with the blunt lyric. It was telling that the graceful coda was in place even for the demo here. The demo of “Sweet Murder” was a real treasure with the long track luxuriating for a full 8:00 minutes here! The expanded arrangement making of this a 12″ mix before the fact! The conga percussion and muted horns blending with the psychedelic wah-wah of Dr. Robert’s guitar into a zesty flourish of a soul song. Dr. Robert was enunciating his phrasing in a far more staccato vein as the drums and percussion were setting the paces here.
The album’s two UK singles mixes followed. The single mix of “Wicked Ways” was edited from the 12″ remix, so it always played quite differently from the album version. The 7″ edit of “Digging Your Scene” had it’s intro unaffected by the gaffe that had faded in on the album version. A trio of B-sides followed.The smoky Soul Jazz of “My America” sure gave off a whiff of the debut album, rather than the glossier climes of “Animal Magic.” The jaunty bop of “The Optimist” seemed like an outlier to nowhere for the band, though knowing that Dr. Robert was an Elvis fan, certainly informed his delivery here. It was fascinating hearing how he came close to slapback-era rockabilly hiccups on the track.
In contrast, “Walking The Blue Beat” was a fully polished gem that sat comfortably in the world of “Animal Magic.” With eleven tracks making up the album, it was probably necessary to hold something back to keep the LP at the 44 minute mark, so this piano led song might have been the odd one out. The other thing that jumped out as being possibly incompatible was how the mix allowed Anker’s bass to lead the way. Never a bad thing in my perspective, but clearly at odds with the make-or-break pop ethos of Pete Wilson’s production. Since the band actually broke with “Animal Magic,” at least putting the bass in the tracks subordinate to the horns in the tracks was a successful is questionable gambit. Personally, I’m all about the bass and cherish all that I can get from Anker.
The “Digging Your Scene [Scat Mix]” was an extra track on the “Wicked Ways” UK 2×7″ double pack [also the 12″]. While all mixes of the track featured scatting my the Good Doctor, this one had an extended instrumental break at the song’s midpoint and the extended coda featured an extra dose of scatting. I remember being bowled over by the fact that the Blow Monkeys actually had the class to cover “Superfly” as the B-side to “Don’t Be Scared Of Me!” I had felt that Mayfield had been unfairly swept away by the mid-80s and having this supremely funky number resurrected was clearly a great thing. And it obviously led to the future linkup between Mayfield and the band on the great “Celebrate [The Day After You]” single the next year. Great scratcher percussion and congas led the way in the intro and the drop before the coda where the sax started burning on a solo as the song faded always made me want for more.
“Aeroplane City Love Song” has always been my go-to track for “Animal Magic,” and having an alternative take of the cut as here was a treat, even if I can understand that the take the used was the correct one for the album. The overdubbing of clean picking guitars in the intro shifted spotlight from the mighty electric leads but the martial drum pulse was an intriguing new complexion for this song. The biggest difference was the lack of the string section as the preponderance of guitars didn’t mesh as effectively with the horns. Though I appreciated the hot solo Howard reeled off before the song’s finale.
The single track I was happiest to have finally on the silver disc was the B-side to “Digging Your Scene.” It’s called “The Man From Russia [remix]” but let’s not kid ourselves; it’s a drastically different re-recording of the band’s early single, given new and expansive life here. The song was altogether more sumptuous in its new form, with a swooningly great vocal that pulled back from the somewhat camp, Anthony Newley-esqe delivery of the first version. Jeremy Green featured more great fretless bass and the BVs and strings conspired to make this one more grandiose than its predecessor. The instrumental middle eight was transformed from the droning minor key Eastern keys and sax motif to an expansive guitar solo that was all the more delightful for its brevity.
Finally, two instrumentals filled out the disc with the two lead singles rendered in instrumental form. The backing vocals remained on the “Digging Your Scene” instrumental as heard on various US promo 12″ers and the UK 10″ remix single of that release. Nothing to exotic. The same can’t be said for the concluding “Wicked Ways [Instrumental]” as mixed by John Morales, who also gave us the 7″ and 12″ long mixes of that single. Here we had shakers and clavinet remixed for a decidedly different cocktail in this instrumental remix that upped the funk quotient in the song. There were none of the backing vocals at all but extra timbales and Latin percussion breaks to win us over. With the BVs only appearing in the last seconds of the odd cold ending.
Next: …You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess
I’ve been waiting for you to get around to this, as I’ve had my copy for a while now and keep meaning to do a critical listen, but I’ve run into a problem: every time I play the original album, I am left so completely satisfied by this splendid record that I feel the need to move on to something else.
Consequently, I haven’t managed to explore discs 2-4 yet. Thankfully you have finally sherpa’d (yellow card for abusive verbing) into the weeds of these bonus discs, and I can now follow along.
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chasinvisctoria – Well, I hope you don’t mind waiting for part 2! Turns out I need to do some analytical listening and wave comparison in the Record Cell tonight to sort out exactly what the mixes on disc three are and where they can be traced back to! Even the helpful notes on this page are of little help to me! As your CD sherpa I can do no less!