Stylus Music released a third volume in their soft metal series in autumn 1989. As always, it relied on television advertising to push sales with the rose motif repeated on the sleeve, this time yellow. In this instance, the CD booklet featuring “18 More Soft Metal Tracks” had full colour photographs of Cutting Crew, Mammoth, Bryan Adams, Bad English, Gary Moore, T’Pau, Meat Loaf, REO Speedwagon (the last two making their third successive appearance) alongside the covers of Soft Metal: It Ain’t Heavy and Precious Metal.
Like happened so often with previous compilations, Queen were track 1, A Kind Of Magic. As Ashley Abram explained to me, this looks to have began in 1984 when he was putting Now That’s What I Call Music II together: “Now 1 had cleared big names like Rod Stewart and Genesis and coupled them successfully with current pop acts and we felt it was important to do this for the follow-up. We managed to get David Bowie and Eurythmics who’d refused permission for the first one and ended up striking a deal with Queen on the agreement that they would appear in the TV ad and be the first track on the album.”
After Queen, Soft Metal: It Takes Your Breath Away is frontloaded with familiar staples like Cutting Crew – (I Just) Died In Your Arms, John Waite – Missing You, Mr Mister – Kyrie, Bryan Adams – Summer Of ’69. Track 6 sees the introduction of Bad English (not to be confused with Broken English) who consisted of three Journey members – keyboardist Jonathan Cain, guitarist Neal Schon and drummer Dean Castronovo along with singer John Waite and bassist Ricky Phillips. Forget Me Not is polished rock with some excellent drumming and lovely guitar patterns. Lighters in the air for Poison’s intricate slowburner Every Rose Has Its Thorn and then Toto’s uplifting Rosanna plus REO Speedwagon’s epic power ballad Can’t Fight This Feeling. The band performed the song at Live Aid; they were introduced by Chevy Chase, mentioning that the song was the current US #1 single.
But back to the real world: Mr Mister’s second LP was one that’s only clicked with me in recent years. I now truly believe that it’s a a brilliant synthesis of AOR and new wave and agree with the comparisons towards The Cars – Heartbeat City. I love the soaring vocals and synth melodies along with the cinematic qualities of the title track. The three singles all appear on the second side. The version of Kyrie on this compilation seems to be an early fade of the album mix – you can tell them apart like so: the single edit of the song (which was also used for the video version) ends with the a cappella phrase “Kýrie, eléison, down the road that I must travel”, while the album version simply fades out. You’ll need to pick up the Now This Is Music 5 – Volume 1 CD. “It reaches into where I cannot hide.”
Berlin act as a bridge for the more esoteric selections. Vixen’s Cryin’ is a key work in the glam metal genre and was produced by Richard Marx. Meanwhile W.A.S.P. showed a new-found maturity in 1989 with their fourth LP The Headless Children. Forever Free is about a female friend of Blackie Lawless who died in a road accident. From fields to hills, Gary Moore’s Wild Frontier is his strongest era with the windswept Over The Hills And Far Away a magnificent example of a rock legend. Next comes Meat Loaf with the gospel gang anthem Modern Girl. Lovely piano start. The ultra obscure Wasch! drop Play For Your Life (a 90 second mess) with Mammoth’s Bad Times now coming across as almost plaintive. But it’s back to the heavy-hitters for the closing two numbers: Spandau Ballet’s arresting True and the album version of T’Pau’s China In Your Hand. “The curse of a vivid mind.”
Gary Moore – Over The Hills And Far Away
Mr Mister – Kyrie
Lest we forget
Bad English – Forget Me Not