The second Hits Album was released on 1 April 1985. Over the years it’s been referred to as Hits 2, Hits 2: The Album and The Hits Album 2. For the sake of convenience I’ll go with the third option.
Unlike 1984, Now decided on an alternative course of action to mark the first quarter of the year. Nothing. Instead we got a 20 track double LP of extended versions in late May. This was called Now Dance – The 12″ Mixes and will be reviewed in due course. I guess that EMI were licking their wounds after losing the Christmas battle to Hits and decided to change their strategy once they got wind of a second Hits volume being planned for spring 1985. However that did not mean that the field was clear for CBS as Chrysalis entered the market with Out Now! in mid-May. More about that short-lived venture next week.
The Hits Album 2 is probably my favourite in the series. It’s a comprehensive round-up of the season’s top tunes with relatively few omissions. It contains four number ones ranging from the good (Philip Bailey and Phil Collins, Dead or Alive) to the bad (Foreigner) and the ugly (Jim Diamond). The only omission is Barbara Dickson and Elaine Paige’s I Know Him So Well [which was snapped up by Telstar for their end of year compilation].
You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) kicks off the proceedings with a bang and is quickly followed by three classics – Howard Jones’ Things Can Only Get Better [perfect for the youth club’s post-table quiz disco], King’s pure pop of Love And Pride with Nik Kershaw’s catchy sixth single Wide Boy. New Edition’s Mr Telephone Man is the only misstep on the first side and even that carries a certain youthful charm. Two shambling groovers are due on next – A New England from Kirsty MacColl and Strawberry Switchblade’s addictive Since Yesterday.
Flip the record over and we’re in soul and easy funk territory. You get a top-drawer Prince number [the reissued 1999] and the smooth Solid from Ashford and Simpson. James Ingram and the Dazz Band whip up the dancefloor with Yah Mo B There and Let It All Blow while the aforementioned Easy Lover has never sounded better in these surroundings. Effortlessly fitting in the mix is Chaka Khan’s This Is My Night and the cut-up / stall / re-start Close (To The Edit) from ZTT heroes The Art of Noise.
Almost inevitably the second record does not live up to the quality of the first two sides. The rock doesn’t quite hit the mark [Chicago, Mick Jagger], Alison Moyet’s Ole Devil is still old hat while the two pedestrian chart-toppers don’t help either. However there are great sounds to be found. Most notable on Side 3 are Amii Stewart’s absolutely lush Friends and the noble Nightshift from The Commodores.
Side 4 ups the tempo with another mixed bag of mostly joyous tunes. There’s a great boogie sound from Little Benny and The Masters, yet another clever Matt Bianco single, an effective beard-rock tune from ZZ Top and the sleeping giant of forgotten chart pop – Big Sound Authority. If you haven’t heard or cannot remember the storming new wave of This House (Is Where Your Love Stands) then you’re in for a treat. It has only been compiled on CD once – Teldec’s Cocktail Hour and Cool Emotions back in 1985. And how could I forget Stephen Duffy and his wistful synth-pop winner Kiss Me. And if that wasn’t enough we end on a surprise – a decent Shakin’ Stevens tune. If you don’t dig Breaking Up My Heart then you haven’t got one.
Big Sound Authority – This House (Is Where Your Love Stands)
Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday
Art of Noise – Close (To The Edit)
Amii Stewart – Friends
Lest we forget
King – Love and Pride
Missing tracks and other thoughts
There’s not a lot missing here. I have a few ideas but I think they’d have fitted better on Out Now!
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – The Power Of Love. A little dated but would have been another number one to boast about.
Grandmaster Melle Mel and The Furious Five – Step Off. Part 1 being a candidate for the soul side.
Bryan Adams – Run To You and Don Henley’s Boys Of Summer would have easily fitted in with the other rock action.
Wham! – Everything She Wants. Another quality track that had its own lease of life in early 1985 and is certainly more appropriate than the seasonal Last Christmas.
Sarah Brightman and Paul Miles Kingston – Pie Jesu. This would have been a new release as Hits 2 went to press. It wasn’t comped until 1990 and is a very nice tune. Looking back on it now I think that Telstar should have obtained it for their Greatest Hits of 1985 as they had no problem including Sarah Brightman’s Phantom Of The Opera on the 1986 edition.