The classic pop division of Cherry Red Records have recently released this trio of classic Kim Wilde albums, spanning her self-titled debut album from 1981, Select from 1982 and Catch as Catch Can from 1983.
Now, I know this page is called the Progressive Aspect, but, and I will stand by this statement, there is plenty that can be taken away by well-written and well-produced pop music, and I shall delve into what these three albums do, and how successful they are, as we go along.
As is Cherry Red’s wont, when it comes to remastering and reissuing, they are the go-to label for this, and whilst these albums are being released on limited edition vinyl (without all the bonus material) as stats prove that CDs are still continuing to outsell vinyl (and why not – they are the best format to listen to music on) the CD deluxe packages includes sleeve notes, bonus tracks and a DVD in each pack that rounds up the relevant promo videos and TV performances from each era (you don’t get that on Sp*tify or ‘bloody vinyl’).
I won’t be discussing the DVDs here as I was sent the promo downloads, which did make it easier to review as I could get my ears round these on the daily commute.
Other than Kids in America, I didn’t know much about Kim’s early career (only knowing the later material she released towards the end of the ’80s/early ’90s, which was her most successful period in the UK) and diving into these albums showcases the finest slice of early 1980s pop music.
As the daughter of 1960s superstar Marty Wilde, Kim was the first of a generation of musicians following in their parents’ footsteps (see also Sam Brown, Alisha’s Attic and Chesney Hawkes) and working with producer and composer Ricky Wilde (also her brother) they forged a creative partnership that continues to this day.
Also, Kim was the most successful British female singer throughout the 1980s, testament to the work put in on this debut, and which was followed through her career.
With a crack line up of musicians, including (incongruously) the line-up of the Enid (more progressive than I first realised) from that period, Kim’s self-titled debut hit the top three in the UK charts, driven by the success of Kids in America, which is a solid gold pop classic if ever there was one, the other singles were Chequered Love, and album opener Water on Glass, which pretty much sets out the albums stall in one track.
Superb production from Ricky Wilde and a smart contemporary synth-driven sound, this blends the finest elements of new wave, the moody synth sound that was sweeping the charts, mixed with Kim’s emotive and assured vocals made this a superb debut. Being a family affair with Marty and Ricky writing together, you get Marty’s pop sensibilities and knack for writing a catchy hit married with Ricky’s sure-footed production and performance technique, which meant this debut had the best of both worlds.
The nous of writing a timeless classic that fits perfectly into the contemporary music scene is a skill that is much admired, and this works throughout the album. From the shimmering new wave synth-pop of Tuning In Tuning On, with its sharp synth-driven beat and stabs of guitar, and Kim’s spoken word pieces sound incredibly Numanesque, whilst the jaunty reggae of 2-6-5-8-0 belies the seedy story of adverts in the back of newspapers for dubious services.
Boys meanwhile has a sharp synth sound, again mixing great guitar work with the electronic sound of that period, and like Walking on Glass is a close cousin to Kids in America, there’s obviously no doubt that Marty and Ricky had a formula and ideas as to how they wanted this whole album to sound, and it flows as such. More than just a collection of strong pop songs, it had a lot of care and thought put into it.
I’ve said elsewhere that there’s a musical connection when family works together (see The Kinks, the Beach Boys, Waterson:Carthy) and this comes across here as well, Kim, Marty and Ricky know exactly what sound they were going for, and what would best fit Kim’s formidable voice, and on this debut they pull it off with charm and style.
As this is a remaster, there is also a bonus disc of new remixes, which I would dip into sporadically, as I’m not sure six versions of Kids in America is something you need to listen to in one sitting, good as they are. It’s interesting how the different remixers take the essence of the song and adapt it (in the best tradition of all ’80’ 12″ remixes), and again there are three remixes of Chequered Love and Water on Glass. What I would have liked is a remix of Tuning In Tuning On, which is by far the strongest track in this entire collection and which foreshadows the direction of the next album.
1982’s Select pretty much picks up where Tuning In Tuning On left off, and is very much one of the superb synth-pop albums of its era, I would certainly put this up there with both the Human League’s Dare, Ultravox’s Vienna and John Foxx’s The Garden.
Unashamedly moving towards the synth-pop sound, the songwriting team of Marty and Ricky had developed into more sophisticated songs, writing in the third person, and with some wonderfully evocative images in tracks like Wendy Sadd, or indeed the slightly darker Child Come Away with its sinister overtones, all set to quite dramatic music.
The opening Ego sets the pace here, all scathing put-downs to an ex amid powerful synth sounds – Girl Power before Girl Power existed. In fact, there is a lot more drama throughout the album, with Chaos at the Airport transposing the dramatic disaster movie format into a 4-minute pop song (reminiscent, oddly, of ELO’s early ’80s sound) whilst the big hit here was Cambodia, a shimmering and brooding slower-paced piece of storytelling. The sophisticated producction, use of synths and mixing in guitar sporadically is something that works so well.
In fact, in a rarity for what was ostensibly a 1980s pop record, Cambodia even gets a reprise (about as long as the original version) which is a driving instrumental electronic piece that could happily sit next any Jean Michel Jarre or Vangelis from this era, and is quite a bold move to make.
Select is a bold and ambitious album, mixing the more traditional love song fare of Take Me Tonight and Can You Come Over with the more dramatic set pieces like View from A Bridge, Action City and, indeed, Cambodia. This juxtaposition of styles, textures and themes is what makes Select such a beguiling and interesting album. Kim’s voice is superb throughout and developing as she matures, particularly on tracks like Cambodia and Child Come Away, which are a departure from the pure pop of the debut.
Some artists would struggle with shifts like this, but Kim takes it all in her stride, and as a result, this is an absolutely brilliant album where the songs, the production, the style and the performances come together to create great art, and I am incredibly surprised I have never heard this before.
This re-issue includes the Japanese only single Bitter is Better, unreleased track He Will be There and an instrumental version of Bitter is Better. Over on disc two we’ve got some interesting album outakes, like the original cut of Words Fell Down, the demo of Action City and a few other mixes, all of which show how the album was shaped. As Select was released prior to the 12″ single era, several new mixes have been created exclusively for this reissue, including an extended version of Cambodia by Matt Pop and a different version by Luke Mornay (and with instrumental versions it means there are four mixes of Cambodia here). There are also three versions of View From a Bridge and two of Child Come Away, which again seem a tad excessive, and is maybe one for the completists to dip and dive into.
1993’s Catch as Catch Can is the third release in this series, and was the last album Kim released on the RAK label before moving to MCA. Other than the atypical single, the ’20s swing style Love Blonde, the rest of the album picked up pretty much where Select left off.
By this album, Kim’s sound had been tightly defined, and Ricky and Marty had struck gold in their writing partnership. The sound was evolving again from Select whilst still mining that rich electro-pop vein that had worked so well.
Other than the left-field Love Blonde, the storytelling aspect of the songs is to the fore with the wonderful House of Salome and Back Street Joe, and Ricky was pushing the musical boundaries on tracks like the 6-minute plus Dream Sequence, whilst songwriting legend Nicky Chinn (working with Paul Gurvitz) wrote the single Dancing in the Dark.
This is a strong follow up to Select and showcases how Kim had developed as an artist, and I think a huge part of what kept her sound consistent and maintained focus was the close musical partnership she has with Ricky, who had such an influence in her sound and was more than happy to be sat in the control room as musical director and producer, allowing Kim the sound and style she needed to shine.
As per the other re-issues, we have a second disc of alternatives, and it is far more balanced, including more alternative versions and debut/rough mixes of the album tracks. This was the first of Kim’s albums to receive 12″ mixes, which are included here, along with a couple of new mixes, and unlike the first two releases, this gets the balance right.
This run of albums is incredibly strong for a new artist and I think a lot of this is down to the fact that Kim is part of an incredibly strong family unit that collaborated successfully and worked as a partnership that identified her strengths as a vocalist and performer (and believe me she is bloody good, as listening to these albums proves). The songwriting team refined their sound and matured with each album, progressing and evolving throughout.
It’s a testament to these albums that Kim is still recording and touring, and more importantly, working closely with brother Ricky (and his children) to make music, and it’s good to see the ‘family business’ still going strong.
These are three prime examples of classic ’80 synth-pop which have more going on than the one-hit wonders of the era, and are really worth having a deep dive into.
Kim Wilde (1981)
[All songs written by Marty & Ricky Wilde, except Falling Out, written by Ricky Wilde]
01. Water on Glass
02. Our Town
03. Everything We Know
04. Young Heroes
05. Kids in America
06. Chequered Love
07. 2 6 5 8 0
08. You’ll Never Be So Wrong
09. Falling Out
10. Tuning In Tuning On
13. Water on Glass (7″ version)
14. Tuning In Tuning On (7″ version)
01. Kids in America (Luke Mornay remix)
02. Chequered Love (Matt Pop extended version)
03. Water on Glass (Eddie Said & Luke Nutley extended version)
04. Kids in America (Popfidelity Allstars remix)
05. Chequered Love (Matt Pop alternative mix)
06. Water on Glass (Project K: Project Kim)
07. Kids in America (Neutrophic remix)
08. Kids in America (D-Bop’s Bright Lights remix)
09. Kids in America (Popfidelity Allstars instrumental)
10. Chequered Love (Matt Pop instrumental)
11. Water on Glass (Eddie Said & Luke Nutley instrumental)
12. Kids in America (Luke Mornay instrumental)
Kids in America
Kids in America (Top of the Pops)
Chequered Love (Top of the Pops)
Water on Glass (Top of the Pops)
Kids in America (Top of the Pops: TOTP’s Christmas Party)
Chequered Love (Unedited shower version) [Bonus footage]
Kim Wilde – Vocals
Ricky Wilde – Guitars, Keyboards, Backing Vocals, Producer
Steve Stewart – Guitars
Francis Lickerish – Guitars
Robert John Godfrey – Keyboards
Martin Russell – Bass
Chris North – Drums
James Stevenson – Guitars
Miffy Smith – Keyboards
Alan Cowley – Bass
Trevor Murrell – Drums
Jake Solo – Percussion
Luke Tunney – Trumpet
Gary Barnacle – Saxophone
[All tracks written by Ricky & Marty Wilde except Bitter is Better, by Masami Tsuchiya and Bill Crunchfield]
02. Words Fell Down
03. Action City
04. View From a Bridge
05. Just a Feeling
06. Chaos at the Airport
07. Take Me Tonight
08. Can You Come Over
09. Wendy Sadd
10. Cambodia + Reprise
11. Child Come Away
12. Bitter is Better
13. He Will Be There
14. Watching for Shapes
15. Just Another Guy
16. Bitter is Better (instrumental)
01. Ego (rough mix)
02. Words Fell Down (original mix)
03. Action City (instrumental demo)
04. Just a Feeling (rough mix)
05. Chaos at the Airport (rough mix)
06. Take Me Tonight (original mix)
07. Cambodia (Matt Pop extended version)
08. View From a Bridge (Luke Mornay remix)
09. Child Come Away (Matt Pop remix)
10. Cambodia (Luke Mornay Urbantronik mix)
11. View From a Bridge (RAW remix)
12. Child Come Away (Matt Pop instrumental)
13. Cambodia (Matt Pop instrumental)
14. View From a Bridge (Luke Mornay instrumental)
15. Cambodia (Luke Mornay Urbantronik instrumental)
View From a Bridge
Child Come Away
Cambodia (Top of the Pops)
View From a Bridge (Top of the Pops)
View From a Bridge (Nationwide Special: The British Rock & Pop Awards)
Catch as Catch Can (1983)
[All tracks written by Marty & Ricky Wilde except Dancing in the Dark, by Nicky Chinn & Paul Gurvitz]
01. House of Salome
02. Back street Joe
03. Stay awhile
04. Love blonde
05. Dream sequence
06. Dancing in the Dark
07. Shoot to Disable
08. Can You Hear It
10. Sing It Out For Love
11. Rain On
12. Back Seat Driver
13. Love Blonde (7″ version)
14. Dancing in the Dark (RAK mix)
15. Can You Hear It (7″ version)
16. Love Blonde (extended version)
17. Dancing in the Dark (Nile Rodgers extended version)
18. Dancing in the Dark (instrumental)
19. Dancing in the Dark (full instrumental)
01. House of Salome (rough mix)
02. Back Street Joe (rough mix)
03. Stay Awhile (rough mix)
04. Dream Sequence (instrumental demo)
05. Dancing in the Dark (rough mix)
06. Shoot to Disable (rough mix)
07. Can You Hear It (rough mix)
08. Sparks (rough mix)
09. Sing It Out For Love (rough mix)
10. Sail On (original version)
11. Shoot to Disable (original mix)
12. House of Salome (instrumental)
13. Dream Sequence (in reverse)
14. Love Blonde (Popfidelity Allstars special re-mix)
15. Sparks (extended edit)
16. Can You Hear It (Project K: Project Kim)
17. Love Blonde (Popfidelity Allstars instrumental)
Dancing in the Dark
Love Blonde (Top of the Pops – first performance)
Love Blonde (Top of the Pops – second performance)
Dancing in the Dark (Harty)
Dancing in the Dark (Crackerjack)
The Very Best of Kim Wilde – 1984 TV advert
Kim Wilde – Vocals, Prophet 5, Fairlight CMI, Emu Emulator II, Roland, Jupiter 8, Roland System 700
Ricky Wilde – Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Synclavier, Roland MC, Drum Programming, Production
Steve Byrd – Guitar
Mark Hayward Chaplin – Bass
Trevor Murrell – Drums
Gary Barnacle – Saxophone
Record Label: Cherry Red Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Dates of Release: 31st January 2020