Various Artists

Produced by Trevor Horn

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The producer-centered career-overview CD set has a good enough history (as anyone who owns Back to Mono would agree), but it's always nice to see obvious candidates finally get their due, and there's no question that Trevor Horn deserves it. Conceived as a companion to a celebratory concert covering a quarter-century of hits, Produced by Trevor Horn's two discs have an understandable focus on the first ten years of his career, beginning with his epochal hit as part of the Buggles, "Video Killed the Radio Star," in retrospect as simultaneously futuristic and nostalgic as prime Kraftwerk. To say that he helped own the '80s, particularly in Europe but with plenty of American and other worldwide hits, would be an understatement -- among the many numbers featured are ABC's "Poison Arrow" and "The Look of Love," Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax" and "Two Tribes," Yes' "Owner of a Lonely Heart," Seal's "Crazy" and much more besides. Later work was more sporadic in terms of commercial profile but the choices for the compilation are interesting in that light -- work with Kirsty MacColl and, semi-notoriously, Belle & Sebastian goes unmentioned, but efforts for Shane MacGowan "You're the One," a duet with Máire Brennan of Clannad, the Frames, LeAnn Rimes and Lisa Stansfield get a nod, as well as the worldwide monster hit of t.A.T.u.'s "All the Things She Said."

Sequenced in a non-chronological fashion throughout, Produced by Trevor Horn's great appeal lies in how clearly it prioritizes the sonic continuities throughout his work -- a detailed, "widescreen" production that quite literally sounds sonically rich, even at its calmest, on such lovely and lower-key songs as Dollar's "Give Me Back My Heart," a legendary early hit for Horn that never made it to America. Echo and reverb can suggest vast distances, singers often sound like they have a perfect spotlight focused on them, and while a lot goes on in the songs very little sounds cluttered. But the underrated element in Horn's work is his love of rhythm -- drawing on everything from obsessive industrial/disco punch to hard rock slams to funk and breakbeat experiments (his work with the Art of Noise and even Malcolm McLaren's "Buffalo Girls" shows how he was quicker on the draw than most of his contemporaries, in the U.K. or elsewhere), he has a better ear than most for how a beat will sound, especially on the radio. Liner notes include brief reflections on each song by Horn as well as a brief biographical overview including more insights from the man himself.

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