Absolutely the Best...Live!

Heaven 17

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Absolutely the Best...Live! Review

by Joe Silva

For all the admonishment synth pop bands of the early '80s received for lacking warmth or having affinities to disco, Heaven 17 received little in the way of critical celebration for doing just the opposite. Perhaps the most soulful and instrumentally appealing of their genre, Messrs. Glenn Gregory, Ian Craig Marsh, and Martyn Ware never took their show on the road apart from the odd TV appearance. So after 19 as musicians, the band decided to accept an opening slot on the 1999 Erasure tour to support their Bigger Than America album. As a result, Heaven 17 wound up playing to over a million people. The resulting live album features both updated and true-to-the-original versions of the songs that built their career. But while the new adaptations of their material are impressive ("Fascist Groove Thang" in particular), the fidelity of the album overall is poor enough to detract from the skillful re-working of the tunes. Unlike his vocal contemporary Phil Oakey of chart-toppers the Human League, vocalist Gregory's pipes are heard to be in fine form alongside backup singers Angie Brown and Billie Godfrey. The enhanced CD contains video footage of three songs ("Let's All Make a Bomb," "Do I Believe," "Play to Win") that show the band playing on a small club-sized stage, which may account for the thinly mixed sound.

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