So how do you come up with a best-of album for a musical entity you’ve never heard of? It’s ironic, really, that the one song that 10cc alumni Kevin Godley & Lol Creme are best remembered for…is a new song that was recorded for this 1985 album. And that song’s recognition may in fact spring more from its then-striking B&W video than anything, though “Cry” continually pops up on “best of the 80s” compilations no matter where you go. (In their native Britain, Godley & Creme are much better known for two well-regarded albums, L and Consequences.)
In fact, The History Mix (and to date, for the record, there’s never been a Volume II) does make history – but not for Godley & Creme or their quirky brand of pop. Along with Yes’ 90125, this album is one of the first appearances of the production team of Trevor Horn and J.J. Jeczalik – a duo which was – with the addition of Anne Dudley, Gary Langan and Paul Morley – about to become known as the Art Of Noise at around the same time. The first track on History Mix is actually an Art Of Noise-esque medley of Godley & Creme tunes, with a healthy helping of Godley & Creme-era 10cc numbers thrown in for good measure – “I’m Not In Love”, “Minestrone” and “Rubber Bullets”, with little bits and pieces of a few others. It’s a joyfully raucous remix in which even the smallest snippet of a song is fair game and nothing is sacred – to be quite honest, it’s one of my favorite things Art Of Noise ever did. To say nothing of Godley & Creme. It’s also just about twenty minutes long, so pack a lunch.
Two tracks later, “Expanding The Business” is a similar bit of business, though it lacks the lovingly self-referential oomph of “Wet Rubber Soup”, despite referencing more material. And maybe that points up the simple beauty of “Wet Rubber Soup” – after a few minutes, you finally clue into the fact that you’re hearing chunks and samples of only four or five songs. By upping the number of songs referenced, “Expanding The Business” is a bit too much business, becoming a little confusing.
In between them, however, is that apparently immortal slice of ’80s pop we call “Cry”. It is a really good song, and though it’s loaded down with novelty effects of the time – the guitar is flanged like crazy through the whole song – it stands the test of time and deserves the recognition it’s gotten. Until the end, where, instead of, oh, bringing in someone to do one little guest vocal, the guys pull a Roy Wood and pitch their own voices way up for the ascending scale that closes the song. Maybe it’s just me, but it sounds kinda silly.
But where “Cry” makes the cut and earns a kind of musical immortality, many of the other individual songs on The History Mix fall flat. They rely heavily on just as many sonic stylings of the ’80s, but so much so that they’re actually eminently forgettable. The one exception is “An Englishman In New York” (not the song by the same name that Sting later made famous). It’s a bizarre commentary on American assimilation and commercialization of all those cultures that make up those big melting pot of ours. On one hand, it’s the most gimmicky song on the whole album – well, okay, that’s a bit of a tough call on such a gimmicky album – but somehow it’s the most timeless, and not just because of the subject matter at hand.
This best-of collection is a bizarre mix, and even if I’m not impressed with all of the new material, I like how a lot of the duo’s older material is intertwined into something that somehow is new. It’s hard to really recommend the whole album on that basis, but some of it’s worth hearing.
Oh, and ironically, Lol Creme later joined Art Of Noise. Coincidence?
- Medley: Wet Rubber Soup (18:52)
- Cry (3:55)
- Medley: Expanding The Business / The "Dare You" Man / Humdrum Boys In
Paris / Mountain Tension (17:03)
- Light Me Up (4:30)
- An Englishman In New York (5:52)
- Save A Mountain For Me (3:34)
- Golden Boy (5:48)
Released by: Polydor
Release date: 1985
Total running time: 59:43