Jimmy Somerville

For a Friend: The Best of Bronski Beat, The Communards & Jimmy Somerville

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With 34 tracks spanning from 1984 their debut single "Smalltown Boy" to his 2009 covers album Suddenly Last Summer, For a Friend: The Best of Bronski Beat, the Communards and Jimmy Somerville is the most extensive and representative of the three all-encompassing retrospectives of the Scottish falsetto-voiced '80s pop icon. A pioneering figure on the gay pop scene for over 25 years, this two-CD collection highlights just how groundbreaking and revolutionary both his uncompromising lyrical themes and Hi-NRG dance-pop sound was. Seven tracks appear from his two-year stint in synth pop trio Bronski Beat, including their anthemic tale of anti-gay prejudice, "Why?," their Marc Almond-featuring medley of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" and John Leyton's "Johnny Remember Me," and two tracks from their remix album, Hundreds and Thousands ("Run from Love" and "Hard Rain"), while 12 inclusions stem from Somerville's two albums recorded with Richard Coles as part of the Communards, including his only chart-topper, a gloriously uplifting cover version of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' "Don't Leave Me This Way," and their pulsating, bass-led version of the Jackson 5's "Never Can Say Goodbye." Although the 14 solo tracks included might not be as familiar as his '80s heyday collaborative efforts, the driving melodic pop of "Heartbeat," the AIDS-addressing "Read My Lips (Enough Is Enough)," and the Serge Gainsbourg-sampling "Lay Down" are just as well-crafted examples of polished dance-pop, while 2000s reworkings of the Doors' "People Are Strange" and Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" show he's still capable of providing his own unique, high-pitched take on timeless classics. There are a few notable omissions, such as his reggae-based interpretation of Millie Jackson's "Hurt So Good," one of his biggest solo hits, while the title is slightly misleading considering that nothing from Bronski Beat's two post-Somerville releases make the cut. However, in allowing fans to revisit their '80s disco days while perhaps discovering his lesser-known but equally infectious more contemporary output, For a Friend is still undeniably the most essential compilation of Somerville's esteemed career.

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