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HEAVEN 17 Reissues EMI (2006)

Hard to imagine that there's a huge market for these remastered early eighties releases from Sheffield's Heaven 17.

Having split from the original line-up of the Human League, Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware recruited vocalist Glenn Gregory and hit pay-dirt with their first single - (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang. A sideswipe at Ronald Reagan, it was promptly banned by the BBC which generated considerable interest in their debut album Penthouse And Pavement (1981) and helped it break into the top 20.

Listening to it again now, the Human League roots are particularly evident and while it's beautifully produced, it's very much dated by the synth-dominated sound of the period.

The remastered album includes several BEF tracks and a couple of 12" tracks. *** Heaven 17

By 1983 and the release of The Luxury Gap, Heaven 17 had established a regular chart niche for themselves and a more commercial sound.

The single Temptation with superb vocals by Carole Kenyon was a classic of the genre and sounds just as fresh today as it did then. It's an album packed with excellent tracks and was a successful marriage of sumptuous pop hooks and the political comment of their debut. It also yielded the singles Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry, Come Live With Me, and Let Me Go and made a minor impact on the charts Stateside.

It was, and remains, a very fine album. Bonus tracks include extended and 12" versions. ****

The follow-up How Men Are was released only a year later in 1984, but already the Heaven 17 star was on the wane. The band's creative juices were beginning to run dry and the album sounds undistinguished from many others of the genre.

It all sounds a bit like, well, Wham or ABC but without the killer hooks. On the back of past glories it struggled to number 12 in the UK charts but neither of the singles Sunset Now or This Is Mine managed to crack the top 20. It's the weakest of these three re-releases and for fans only.

There's the obligatory bonus tracks, but frankly none of them (on any of the albums) are there on merit. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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