Title - 'Hand Cut: The Definitive Edition'
Artist - Bucks Fizz
For those not in the know here in the States, Bucks Fizz is an English pop group which achieved success in the 1980s, most notably for winning the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest with the song 'Making Your Mind Up.'
The group was formed in January 1981 specifically for the contest and comprised four vocalists: Bobby G, Cheryl Baker, Mike Nolan and Jay Aston. They achieved instant attention with the dance routine which accompanied the song, involving a skirt-rip.
The group went on to have a successful career around the world (albeit largely; and weirdly ignored here in the States), while the UK remained their biggest market, where they had three #1 singles and became one of the top-selling groups of the 1980s.
And thankfully for all us BF lovers, Cherry Red Records (UK) have just released all four (4) of the original Bucks Fizz albums - Bucks Fizz, Are You Ready?, Hand Cut and I Hear Talk - as Definitive Edition 2-CD collections. Combining the original album - now fully remastered from the original master tapes - with all the B-Sides from the 7" singles, together with extended mixes and rarities associated with the original album, having all these together in one place has just never happened before. Well, unless you had the original LP, all the 7" singles and 12' singles released along with it from back in the day, of course!
The first track (which was also the second single released off this third album from 1983) is the frenetic pop beauty, 'Run For Your Life,' which, sadly, only managed to reach #14 on the UK Singles Chart at that time. Trust me, it deserved a much higher place, compared to the other songs that made up the 13 singles above it! If you get a chance to watch the video they made for it, check it out, as it shows the band are still having fun, and still enjoying what they are doing. [BTW, did you also buy the fabulous 10" Picture Disc that was out at the time?!] Next up is the wonderful reggae-tinged flow of '10,9,8,7,6,5,4' - which was later covered by another Eurovision-winning group, Herreys - before we get both the stunning, for my money, ABBAesque 'I Do It All For You' and the Jay Aston-sung ballad, complete with theatrical sobbing ending, 'Where The Ending Starts.'
As I'm sure all true Bucks Fizz fans will know, Hand Cut was the band trying to take themselves a little more seriously musically. Realizing that their fans were now slightly older, they had made a move for a more adult market - a factor which would remain for the rest of the group's recording career - but that move didn't work out as well as they had hoped. Suddenly their pop fun lyrically sensibility had hardened, their Eurovision music sense had waned with the audience they once had, and so they were fighting harder to stay afloat in the market.
The Bobby G-sung 'Surrender Your Heart' is next and is followed by the first single from the album, one of the most brilliant BF tracks ever created, 'If You Can't Stand the Heat.' It actually went on to become their fourth consecutive top ten hit in the UK chart and is backed by the Mike Nolan-sung, static techno beats of 'I'd Like To Say I Love You.' Talking of favorite BF songs ever, they ran a poll a few years back now that asked for such an answer from their fans, and, weirdly or not, this very same song, 'I'd Like To Say I Love You,' was voted as the group's all-time best song!
Up next is an interesting gem for all BF fans, and that's long after the last BF album came out - Writing On The Wall (1986) - their record company, RCA made one last attempt to revive fortunes by releasing a single taken from this very same album, Hand Cut. That song is the next track, 'You Love, Love,' but the Cheryl Baker-sung ballad, most people say, somewhat predictably, failed to chart and remains the group's last ever UK "single" release. The mid-tempo lushness of 'Shot Me Through The Heart' is next, with the original album rounding out with the tinny jaunt of the Jay Aston-sung, 'Running Out Of Time.'
This album, much like all their albums, is honestly, chock full of greatness, especially (or maybe only) if you are a Bucks Fizz fan to begin with, of course. Anyway, back on track and with nearly three hours of hits, hard-to-find tracks and extended mixes, the first disc of two continues on with a set of bonus B-Sides and 12" Mixes.
A delightful thing to have all under one roof, now we really get to see what's under the hood of this band. I mean, B-Sides are made that way as they are meant to be never as good, never as polished, never inclusive of even a note of a hit chorus ... aren't they? Well, think again, because from the off, the vibrant, powerhaus 'Stepping Out' (the B-side of 'If You Can't Stand The Heat') is the first of the seven tracks on the first disc. Next up are two 'If You Can't Stand The Heat' versions (12" Version and Early Version), the latter simply just a quieter, less frantic mix, but fun to hear, nonetheless, and then comes a veritable ten minute version of 'Run For Your Life (2008 Extended Version).' The first disc is then rounded out by stuttery, and yet newly-created Extended Remix of ‘Running Out Of Time’ (remixed and produced by Dean Murphy), and, finally, two GREAT live versions of 'Twentieth Century Hero' and the Chris DeBurgh hit, 'Don't Pay The Ferryman.'
Compiled, collated and produced by long-standing Bucks Fizz experts Fat Dog Productions, it is still hard for me to realize that there were only two (2) singles released from this wonderful album, the group's third studio album and one that only reached #17 the UK Albums Chart. But, the memory will always play tricks on you as we get older, and so the fact that their first single of of it still got into the Top 10 is enough for them to smile broadly back then, one assumes!
Containing all the relevant found and remixed tracks from the acclaimed Lost Masters series, making this the definitive version of this album, the second disc found here on Hand Cut: The Definitive Edition contains all the Post Hand Cut Material (as they have termed it) released between this album and the fourth studio album, I Hear Talk. To show you what they mean, we begin with a 'Live Medley,' which contains covered extracts from such hit singles as: Pinball Wizard, Hot Stuff, Do Ya Think I'm Sexy, Knock On Wood and the Status Quo classic, Rockin' All Over The World. It's quite a long medley, in truth, and I've actually seen them do it live (back around 1982, in Watford, UK), and so it was a delightful time capsule back to that very same time period for me.
Moving on and we next get two versions of 'When We Were Young' in a 7" Mix and an Extended Club Mix, before a hard-edged sonic stunner in 'When The Love Has Gone.' The comes a pair of 'London Town's, and whereas the first one, the 7" Mix is exactly what you would expect to hear, the 'London Town (Extended Club Mix)' is actually really great! How was this never a single? Hang on, wasn't it a single? I'm sure it was? No? OK, well, moving on and we next get the jaunty synth pop of 'Identity,' before running into two cuts of 'Rules Of The Game' - a normal, once assumes 7" Mix and a 12" Mix).
The sultry Bobby G-sung 'When We Were at War' is next, features Cheryl Baker doing some of her best harmonious backing vocals to date, and that's followed by a 2012 Extended Remix of the same song. This second disc is then rounded out by four (4), yep, count 'em, four (4) versions of the fist-pumpin' dancefloor smash 'Oh Suzanne.' A track that only first ever appeared on their Greatest Hits album in 1983, here we get the Original Version, the Jay Aston Version, and Extended Version and, finally, a Cheryl vs Jay "remix version," that seems to have come out of nowhere for this release.