DISCOGRAPHY - LP's / CD's
B.E.F. BEFBA01 released 06Sep2005/06Feb2006 in the UK
Ninthwave NW 10033-2 US in Sep2005
Hands up to heaven
These are some of the things we can surmise from the twenty-year-long career of Heaven 17:
This is my psychogeographical map of the universe inhabited by Heaven 17, a place where electronics is harnessed to the service of great dance music. Heaven 17 are drenched in the heritage of popular music, but their music goes beyond mere mimesis. They are rooted in the history of north American black music and European pop ballad, but with each song they mint something utterly new and frequently ravishing. Basslines that snap ankles. Brass charts that start fires. Vocals that can make a grown man swoon. And arrangements that compare with the best of Detroit or Dusseldorf.
From their very first statement, '(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang', this has always been music that is engaged, combative, literate and clever without being cynically post-modern. Art with a heart and going at a toasty bpm lick. After the late great Billy MacKenzie, Glenn Gregory is the finest white crooner of his generation, with a voice that could handle the trickiest turns of a Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin or Cole Porter classic. (I'm assuming you of course caught that steal from Cole's 'Well, Did You Evah?' on 'Teddy Bear'.) Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware were, we now know, the brains behind The Human League, and their work in Heaven 17 is, in my opinionated opinion, second only to Kraftwerk's sublime mix of Mozart and Motown. Indeed, it would be a difficult choice between Heaven 17's 'I'm Your Money' and Kraftwerk's 'Computer Love' for the Number One slot in my desert island disc top ten.
Welcome to Action Town - twinned with Mahagonny...
There's just one coordinate missing from that map, and probably the most unlikely of all: Kurt Weill. Reviewing Heaven 17's career, something kept nagging away in the background. From 'Groove Thang' to 'Before After', this has been class entertainment that wanted to dress up and go dancing, but it wasn't scared to tell you how it voted, either. It didn't rant or proselytize, but credited the listener with the intelligence to catch its allusions, brilliant wordplay and dark humour. If Kurt Weill had a polyphonic synth, his opera 'The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny', that caustic allegory of the ills of capitalism, might have ended with 'Sunset Now' or 'The Big Dipper'.
And so too with 'Before After', their first studio album since 1996's 'Bigger Than America' and the funniest Zen koan ever to appear in the title of a pop record. This is their most dance-oriented album to date, with (what I take to be) sly jokes about trance and Ibiza rave, rakish tilts of the titfer to Sly Stone and George Clinton, ambient dub rumbles and just possibly a fond kiss blown to Rose Royce too. It is also their most romantic album ever. These are 21st century songs for swinging lovers.
Even though I suspect there's an incredibly obscure Yes joke in here (the reversed keyboard decay on 'Together'; is that a reference to 'Fragile' or what?) and an almost throwaway quote of a famous Blue Oyster Cult song, 'Before After' is definitely an album for this millennium. Impeccably, impossibly, well crafted, musically literate to the point of impertinence, but driven by passion and perhaps even lust, this is, as Thomas Stearns memorably said, so elegant, so intelligent. And you can dance yourself into Accident & Emergency to it.
- John Gill, Andalucia, the 21st century
Remark from Martyn Ware : These liner notes are written by John Gill ,journalist, novelist and a long time fan of H17 and HL - in fact he did our first ever interview in 1978 for 'Sounds' magazine (for which a certain Glenn Gregory did the photos!)
Available sound clips:
For some sound samples of these new songs please go to the page Multimedia/Sound clips/WMA-Soundclips and see section "Heaven 17 live in Tienen".
...i got my hands on 'before after' and it sounds great. stand out tracks include 'are you ready' (a bit like chicane), 'im gonna make you...' (classic h17, think 'who'll stop the rain' only BIGGER!), 'into the blue' and 'freedom from love' are down tempo tracks that wouldn't sound out of place on a moby or air album. 'hands up to heaven' sounds the obvious choice for the first single. its very 'now'. a bit like the french disco stuff . . . starlight, mojo, spiller etc. a version of 'dont fear the reaper' is on it to and makes interesting listening as glenn's voice sounds very similar to the original by blue oyster cult.
See a detailed review of BEFORE/AFTER by Volker Büttner at www.bloom.de written in German
Text on promo release by HART Media Ltd
Electro Pop pioneers Heaven 17 release their first album in 8 years on 6th February. Entitled ‘Before After‘, ths a‘bum takes the band back to their roots with strong melodies, disco beats and electro sound combined to make this their strongest album since ‘Penthouse & Pavement and ‘Luxury Gap‘. Fronted by the charismatic Glenn Gregory, alongside the other original members Martyn Ware and lan Craig Marsh, Heaven 17 have pioneered British synthesizer Pop since the 1980s. This fabulous return to form, featuring BilIle Godfrey and the legendary Angle Brown on vocals, will really blow you away!
Text on another promo release
There is a strong argument that Heaven 17 created the musical landscape we live in today. As founclers of the Human League Martyn Ware & lan Marsh are responsible for "Being BoiIed the first great British synth Pop single. As the British Electnc Foundation they showed how weil Motown and Kraftwerk could mix. Finally as Heaven 17 they gifted us with "Temptation", "Penthouse & Pavement, "Come Live With Me", "Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry" & of course "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang". "Before After" takes the band back to their roots with strong melodies & dance beats making this their strongest album since "Penthouse & Pavement".
|Promo cards by Ninthwave|