I discovered last night that the newly released 25th anniversary remaster of Kim Wilde’s Close album was streaming on Spotify. As I said on Twitter, this makes me incredibly happy. I had heard about the upcoming remaster earlier this year and was mildly interested, but it sounded like it was not going to get a US release, so inevitably, it fell off my radar. To find all 31 tracks streaming was a great way to end yesterday.
Close is one of those albums that I really loved when it came out in 1988. To be honest, 1988 was one of my favorite years of the 80s for music. A lot of that has to do with where I was in my life at that point – I WAS 15, and they say that the music you love when you’re 15 will be the music you love forever. I had purchased Wilde’s previous album, Another Step, based on the strength of her US #1 cover of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and its follow up that decidedly did not hit #1, “Say You Really Want Me.” That album, on the whole, is a bit of a disappointment. The songwriting is subpar and the production extremely dated. It also suffered from an overabundance of ballads – almost the entire second side consists of slow songs. Granted, the entirety of side one were the upbeat fast songs. This kind of sequencing always kind of bothers me and is truly the only disappointing thing about Cher’s new album as she followed a similar pattern for Closer To The Truth. There are a few solid songs on Another Step, but it is one of those albums that is inexplicably less than the sum of its parts.
I bought Close on a Saturday morning at K-Mart, picking up Bananarama’s WOW! album in the same purchase. Can you imagine K-Mart carrying either of these albums now, especially Wilde’s which didn’t even have a US Top 40 single? Times have changed, that’s for sure. I didn’t buy it completely unheard though, as I had seen the video for “You Came” on Night Tracks or some such program and had really loved it.
“You Came” is one of my favorite Kim Wilde songs – such a perfect pop song. I also love it because it is my favorite example of a song that sounds dirty based on the title, but isn’t. Seriously, with a title like that, how could anyone think anything else? I remember listening to that song in my junior year of high school and and how I had gained so much confidence in from a year prior. The line “Cuz in the space of a year/I’ve watched the old me disappear” rung a little bit true, although it was certainly an overstatement. At the time, I credited it to a friend of mine who had helped me to realize that I was actually much more well-liked than I thought. For the first time in my life, I was going to go to the Homecoming Dance that year – without a date, of course – but just going was a big deal for me. Songs like “You Came” with their big declarations of “can’t live without you, you’re the best thing to happen to me, etc.” really appealed to me then. To be honest, they appeal to me now as well, although I like to think that I’m a little more realistic in my expectations from the real world. (EDIT: Thanks to my friend Randy, I’ve learned that the song was written by Kim’s brother about the birth of his child, which makes me feel like even more of a perv for associating something sexual with the song.)
Close has in spades what Another Step lacked – and that’s consistency and balance. I’m fond of saying that when Kim Wilde is good, she is very very good, but when she is bad, she is horrid. She has plenty of shit albums and an amazing number of crap songs – especially from the early 80s. But Close and Love Moves, which contains my favorite Kim Wilde son “It’s Here”, are notable exceptions. The songs on Close run the gamut from late 80s R&B to lush ballads to upbeat dance songs, but they all have the common thread of being solid pop songs. There really isn’t a bad song in the bunch, and amazingly, they sound just as fresh 25 years later. I’m not so naive as to think that they could get on the radio today, especially when they couldn’t get on US radio in the 80s, but to me, they don’t sound as dated as other, better remembered 80s songs. Songs like “Four Letter Word” and “Never Trust A Stranger” retain their pop hooks even with the passage of time.
The remaster expands the original album with some B-sides and the single edits of its four singles. The second disc is full of remixes and dub versions of those same singles. Many of these I have never heard before and while they are not the radically altered remixes that we all got used to in the mid to late 90s, they are pleasant and good alternate takes on the songs. Say what you will, but I really do miss a good old-fashioned extended version of a song. Does the average fan really need all these mixes? One could argue “no”, but I really think that remasters are not for the casual fan anyway. If anything, they’re a reward to the die hard fans that continue to follow the artist after all these years. While I’m far from a die hard Kim Wilde fan, I do love the Close album so this deluxe edition is a fitting tribute to one of my favorite pop albums. I have the opportunity to buy just the mp3s on Amazon for a whole $10 less than the physical product which normally would be a no brainer for me. But something about these reissues makes me feel compelled to buy the physical product, something that I’ve not felt in quite some time.
The fact that so many albums from my youth are getting the remaster/deluxe edition treatment could make me feel old, but oddly, it doesn’t. Rather, it reminds me that even though some days I feel like I’m 81 instead of 41, there’s still a 15 year-old in me singing along to “You Came.”