80’s Hits Stripped Label: Sidewinder Music
There’s always been something really cool about hearing a stripped-down, acoustic version of a song you’re already familiar with, and, to be certain, this new compilation from Sidewinder Music delivers that in spades. 80’s Hits Stripped takes fifteen songs that were staples of MTV in the early ‘80s and re-imagines them in a slightly different – or, in some cases, dramatically different – arrangement.
The proceedings open with Rick Springfield doing his semi-ubiquitous “Jessie’s Girl,” but for all the times you’ve heard it over the years, including many, many live performances, this is a very nice, slightly bluesy arrangement that, even as a longtime fan, I’ve never heard before. It’s followed by Colin Hay, late of Men at Work, doing a spooky take on “Down Under,” one taken from his own acoustic collection, Man at Work. After that, it’s into the Outfield’s “Your Love,” which emerged as a B-side ages ago – around the time “For You” was a hit, if memory serves – but is extremely nice to find without doing a lot of searching. In fact, less than half of the tracks included here are exclusive, but, like the Outfield track, many of the songs that have been rounded up were on imports, B-sides, or rarities collections; it’s great to have them all in one place.
Berlin’s acoustic version of “The Metro,” formerly an iTunes exclusive, begins by sounding as though singer Terri Nunn is being backed by the Violent Femmes circa their self-titled debut, which is a reeeeeally good thing; unfortunately, she tries to wring more drama out of the song than her voice is capable of achieving, leaving the performance ultimately disappointing. Howard Jones doing “No One Is To Blame” just on piano sounds, frankly, not entirely unlike it did in the first place, and although Thomas Dolby’s stripped-down “She Blinded Me With Science” has a different feel, it’s still filled with keyboard samples, so it’s not what you’d really call “acoustic.”
While the entire disc makes for a very nice listen, beyond the aforementioned Springfield track, the other major highlights of ‘80s Hits Stripped are Asia’s “Heat of the Moment,” which is gorgeous, Jane Wiedlin’s take on “Our Lips Are Sealed” (if you’re wondering why Belinda isn’t singing, it’s because Belinda didn’t write it; Jane did), and a where-the-hell-have-these-guys-been version of “Promises, Promises” by Naked Eyes.
Of course, to listen to this compilation is to presume that a lot of these artists are simply chilling out and continuing to enjoy the fruits of what they did over 20 years ago, which simply isn’t true in all cases. If you’d like a nice companion piece, consider checking out a disc called This Is Not Retro: The Eighties up to Date, released by the website RememberTheEighties.com; it features new material from 19 artists best known for their work during the ‘80s, and it helps remind you that just because radio prefers the familiar, some of the folks from this era are still taking the time to write new songs.