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Thirty Thousand Feet Over China / The Passions
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2008 digitally remastered and expanded edition of their sophomore album featuring five bonus tracks: single versions of 'I Radiate', 'Some Fun', 'War Song' and 'Don't Talk to Me (I'm Shy)' plus a live version of 'The Square'. The Passions were one of the most critically respected Pop groups of the '80s, best known for their huge hit single 'I'm in Love with a German Film Star', among the most distinctive, atmospheric records of the era. Label mates with the likes of the Cure and Associates, the group's original studio albums have never before been re-released. This is the band's most commercially successful album, originally released on Polydor Records in 1981. The package has been assembled with completely unpublished photographs from the band's own archive, alongside the memories of all four original members, and a breakdown of the rationale and recording of each and every track. Cherry Red.
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If you're a fan of the following groups, you're likely to enjoy The Passions: Dislocation Dance, Martha And The Muffins, The Cyclones, The Photos, Mari Wilson & The Wilsations, Altered Images; Bette Bright.
11. I Radiate
12. Some Fun
13. War Song
14. Don't Talk To Me (I'm Shy)
15. The Square (live version)
Now let's cross our fingers that Cherry Red will make the follow-up LP, "Sanctuary", available on CD, with bonus tracks such as the 12" mix of the song "Sanctuary", because my vinyl 12" single is sounding pretty worn right about now.
Even though this is a really good album, it should be said that the production on Thirty Thousand Feet Over China is pretty terrible. The audio quality sounds very much like a low-fi demo recording. The midrange is massively overpowering and shrill while the other instruments sound thin. I’m not sure if this was intentional or if the producer was just deaf, but it’s probably one of the worst sounding recordings made in 1981 for a band on a major label.
Most people know the UK chart hit ‘I’m In Love with a German Film Star’. It’s an atmospheric song with a soothing vocal performance by the talented Barbara Gogan. The band at this time was primarily based around dreamy guitars with the bass and drums used more to help fill things out slightly. But the band can partly be blamed for alienating their newfound following by releasing the bizarre and experimental song ‘Skin Deep’ as their next single. I think it’s a great song but it’s built around echo effects and limited vocals, and was best left as an album track or even a B side. Instead, they should have followed it up with ‘Someone Special’. This dreamy track has washing rhythm guitars and subtle new wave drumming that could have likely hit the right chord with the buying public. After ‘Skin Deep’ failed, the band tried a second release of the more poppy pre-German Film Star single ‘The Swimmer’. It was re-packaged in a different sleeve with a different B side, though still didn’t help them recover from the commercial suicide of ‘Skin Deep’. And while The Passions could make a pleasantly dreamy song, they could also be very catchy. Their quirky and frantic track ‘Bachelor Girls’ is my favorite song on the album.
The CD is augmented with a number of bonus tracks, which were B sides of the various singles. ‘War Song’ is pretty bland, though ‘I Radiate’ is another of the upbeat and catchy songs, and was the B side of the ‘Skin Deep’ 7” single. Perhaps the single would have fared better had they swapped the A and B sides. ‘(Don’t Talk To Me) I’m Shy’ was the B side to German Film Star and is a claustrophobic, experimental song that harkens back to their debut album.
The mastering on this CD issue is spotty but it does sound better than the early 90’s reissue on the Great Expectations label. All songs, with the exception of the B side ‘Some Fun’, were drawn from original studio master tapes; ‘Some Fun’ is from vinyl. Unfortunately, the excellent B side ‘I Radiate’ is in mono for some reason instead of stereo, as it is on the vinyl. Cherry Red had claimed for some time to be making an effort the re-release on CD The Passions’ other 2 albums, though it has not yet happened. I do hope it does eventually because their album Sanctuary is my favorite and deserves to be heard in its entirety. The Passions could have had a long and productive career had the public and their record label given them more than a fleeting opportunity. Their entire back catalog deserves to be re-released and re-discovered.