Top 20 Remix Albums featuring Bronchi Beat, Madonna, Howard Jones, Propaganda and The LeagueRanked! Our Top 20 Rundown Of The Best Remix Albums

While the motives of record labels were often called into question, remix albums were certainly affordable and offered something different for the music consumer, as our latest countdown reveals… Words by Barry Page

In the early 80s, savvy record labels were well aware of the proliferating popularity of the 12-inch remix – a phenomenon that originated in the disco era – and realised they could create entire albums on a tight budget using previously released material, and often with little artist involvement. For many consumers and critics the remix album was just a stopgap release – or worse still an opportunistic money-grabbing exercise – but more often than not these mid-priced collections allowed artists to present their work in a very different light. Some even turned the format into a veritable art form. Covering the period 1981 to 1990, we’ve picked out a decade’s worth of these pocket money-friendly delights.


By the time Go West had collected their British Breakthrough Act award at the BRITs in February 1986 it’d been almost 12 months since the release of their hit-packed debut album, while follow-up Dancing On The Couch was another year away. In the interim, Chrysalis released this double LP of odds and sods, which collected remixes, non-album cuts – including One Way Street, their contribution to the Rocky IV soundtrack – and live tracks such as Ball Of Confusion, which saw backing vocalists Carol Kenyon and Sylvia Mason-James taking the lead on the Motown classic.


Testament to their work ethic, Eurythmics recorded and mixed Touch, the quickfire follow-up to breakthrough album Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), in just three weeks, and by spring 1984 the duo had five Top 10 hits. RCA capitalised on their popularity with companion LP Touch Dance, which comprised newly-commissioned vocal and instrumental remixes by then-hot producers François Kevorkian and John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez. The much-overlooked LP was unusual in that it reworked tracks which weren’t hit singles, though Annie and Dave reportedly didn’t approve of the release.


Ostensibly released to buy FYC time following the huge transatlantic success of The Raw And The Cooked and its attendant singles, this album rounded up an array of interesting interpretations of some of their hits. Featuring the London-born rapper, the ‘Monie Love Remix’ of She Drives Me Crazy was indicative of the creativity on offer, but some reviewers were left unimpressed: “The Cannibals have written some pristine pop songs in their time,” wrote Record Mirror, “none of which could possibly be improved by nailing loud n’ tinny drum machine bits onto either end.”


Upon reuniting with esteemed hitmakers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and former members of The Time – who under Prince’s tutelage had helped to develop the Minneapolis funk-rock sound – debonair vocalist Alexander O’Neal racked up a number of hits in the mid-80s, reaching a high-water mark with classic concept album Hearsay. Companion set All Mixed Up mopped up period remixes, but also included exclusive takes such as the ‘House Mix ‘of Fake. The album was particularly appealing to club DJs since it largely eliminated the intermittent party chat permeating its counterpart’s grooves.


Featuring contemporary new versions of Blondie hits by hip producers such as Coldcut, Ben Liebrand and Shep Pettibone, this Shakespeare-punning double album received a mixed response, but it was an essential purchase for Debbie Harry fans since it also collected a number of period remixes spanning her then entire solo career, including contributions to the Scarface and Krush Groove soundtracks. Very much a low-key release, it bombed amidst the Christmas rush, but Blondie’s label persevered with the concept, and 1995’s Beautiful: The Remix Album spawned several successful singles. 


Following Jimmy Somerville’s acrimonious departure from Bronski Beat, his former bandmates were left to pick up the pieces, some of which would appear on this collection. Released mere weeks before their Hit That Perfect Beat single with new singer John Foster, the set featured remixes of tracks on landmark album The Age Of Consent, as well as extended versions of Run From Love and Hard Rain, the two proposed sides of an unreleased single. The cassette and CD formats included selected B-sides and I Feel Love, their hit duet with Marc Almond. 


Taking a leaf out of brother Michael’s book, Janet Jackson released seven singles from Control, the hit album she’d recorded with Jam and Lewis. Its companion remix LP collected many of the singles’ extended versions, with highlights including the 10-minute, jazz-infused ‘Cool Summer Mix (Part Two)’ of Nasty, which featured the trumpet skills of Herb Alpert. Record Mirror were certainly impressed, writing: “There is more room for the keyboards and horns, and there is more room to improvise on the basic theme and to take it in directions the original did not have space for.”


Astute businessmen as well as excellent musicians, Spandau Ballet had it written into their contract that Chrysalis would pick up the bill for their singles remixes as well as their promotional videos, but by 1985 relations with the label had soured. Islington’s finest eventually jumped ship to Sony, leaving their disgruntled former employers to cash in with the band at their commercial peak, first with the best-selling Singles Collection, and a year later with the similarly unapproved The Twelve Inch Mixes, which does a fine job of collecting the majority of their extended reboots.

12 THE B-52s: PARTY MIX! (1981)

In buying time before the release of their third studio album, The B-52s accidentally became the originators of the remix album phenomenon, easily beating the likes of Soft Cell and The Human League to the punch. A record that recognised the proliferating popularity of the extended dance mix in addition to enhancing the Athens-based band’s good-time party credentials, Party Mix! did exactly what it said on the tin, segueing three songs from each of their first two albums to form two irresistible medleys, replete with playful overdubs that amplified the fun factor.


With his videos gaining heavy rotation on the fledgling MTV channel, Billy Idol became a huge star in the United States, but across the Atlantic UK record buyers were slower to latch on to his talents, and big sellers such as White Wedding and Rebel Yell took a few years to attain hit status. 1985’s Vital Idol was an album that cashed in on his new-found domestic popularity, and largely rounded up previously released remixes, such as the stunning ‘Shotgun Mix’ of White Wedding, which neatly segued the two disparate parts of the classic single.

10 THE CURE: MIXED UP (1990)

Burned out in the aftermath of the gloomy introspection that was 1989’s Disintegration album, Robert Smith was keen to work on something lighter, and turned to The Cure’s back catalogue as a way of maintaining career momentum. Whilst Mixed Up included previously released extended mixes, there was one new track in Never Enough, as well as a smattering of contemporary new remixes. In the case of A Forest and The Walk, these had to be reconstructed as, according to Smith, the master tapes languishing in Fiction Records’ utility room had disappeared.


Twelve months on from achieving their commercial breakthrough with the single Sometimes, Erasure released this companion to hit album The Circus. With its nine tracks spread across two 45rpm-playing 12-inch singles – thus rendering the set ineligible for the charts – The Two Ring Circus included six new remixes. But the real draw came in the form of the orchestral re-recordings of If I Could, Spiralling and My Heart… So Blue. Substituting synths for strings, these stark new arrangements by Andrew Poppy highlighted both the strength and vulnerability in Andy Bell’s octave-spanning vocals.


Inspired by King Tubby and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, the Jamaican record producers who’d pioneered the art of dubbing, UB40 decided to cut this instrumental version of sophomore album Present Arms. Indicative of their popularity at the time it sold well, but as Ali Campbell later told MusicRadar, not all record buyers were receptive to the sonic detour: “People started returning the album in droves, complaining that there was something wrong with it. They were walking into record shops saying, ‘Half the instruments are missing and there are weird echoes all over the place.’”


Having kept the spirit of disco alive in the early 80s with hits like Body Talk and Just An Illusion, Imagination reached their critical and commercial peak with this innovative album, which had an enticing price point of just £2.99. Stemming from a request from legendary DJ Larry Levan to remix one of their tracks, producers Jolley and Swain were subsequently commissioned to create an entire album of new remixes. Utilising an array of experimental studio techniques – swinging microphones over loudspeakers, for example – the tracks were given a fresh and fun makeover. 


This set of so-called “disturbdances” was the result of ZTT Records co-founder Paul Morley’s desire to craft a version of Propaganda’s debut album that aligned with his musical tastes. “I wanted them to be the kind of group that would go on tour with Depeche Mode or Cabaret Voltaire,” he told writer Andrew Harrison. Although panned by Smash Hits and Record Mirror, Melody Maker felt it was an “inspired introduction” to the band’s “complex beauty”, and there was another fan in filmmaker John Hughes, who used the track Abuse in teen drama Some Kind Of Wonderful.


“I don’t wanna be hip and cool,” sang Howard Jones, but the outlandishly-coiffed pop philosopher was very much in vogue in the mid-80s and scored several memorable hits, four of which were included in extended form on this mid-priced set. Its release coincided with a major UK tour in December 1984, and included the trilingual ‘International Mix’ of standalone single Like To Get To Know You Well, and two exclusives in early live favourite Always Asking Questions and a re-recording of breakthrough hit New Song originally intended for debut album Human’s Lib.


Literally riding high on the back of the success of Tainted Love and its parent album, Soft Cell reunited with producer Mike Thorne to cut this record in New York, whose nightclubs were continuing to rattle with ecstasy pills. In thrall to these psychedelics, the duo increased the BPMs, reworking material both from Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret and their earliest singles, as well as throwing in another Northern Soul cover in Melinda Marx’s 1965 single What. Marc Almond felt the opportunity to fully embrace US club culture was missed, but the LP was a critical and commercial success.


Described by Smash Hits as a “daft mishmash of crashing drums, stupid sound effects and insanely catchy tunes”, this inexpensive set rounded up extended versions of the four hits from debut album Please – including the incredible ‘Full Horror’ mix of Suburbia – and classic B-sides Paninaro and In The Night, the latter of which was adopted as the theme tune to the BBC’s The Clothes Show. Other volumes of Disco would follow, but it’s the original that remains both the definitive PSBs remix album and one of the finest examples of its ilk.


Originally pencilled in for a 1986 release but delayed to allow further promotion of the True Blue album, this huge-selling release from the Material Girl skilfully sequenced new remixes of tracks from her first three studio albums to form one continuous club-friendly groove. There was also an exclusive new song in Spotlight, which had originally been touted as a follow-up to Holiday. Madonna was so enamoured with the Shep Pettibone remix of Into The Groove that she performed this version in concert. Where’s the party? It’s right here on this groundbreaking album.


Following up the gargantuan success of Dare proved to be somewhat problematic for The Human League. However, this mid-priced collection of largely instrumental versions of Dare-period songs – including attendant B-side Hard Times – alleviated some of the pressure.

This was no ordinary remix LP, though, and to label it a mere career stopgap would be doing it a disservice. A major feat of editing and engineering, the album was the brainchild of League knob-twiddler Martin Rushent, inspired by the mixing skills and turntable mastery of Grandmaster Flash.

Read More: Human League Albums – The Complete Guide

A labour of love for the self-confessed workaholic, the project was completed the hard way. With samplers still in their infancy, the tracks were painstakingly assembled from more than 2,600 edits, while the stuttering vocal effects were created using an innovative technique that involved using a custom-made ruler to cut sections of the Dare multitrack and glueing them back together.

Released under The League Unlimited Orchestra – a nod to Barry White’s backing group – Love And Dancing was a success, and has since drawn a host of admirers, including Phil Oakey. From Rushent with love, it’s one of the greatest electronic albums ever made. 

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