BEF (British Electric Foundation) was formed originally by Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh (no longer part of the set up) when they left The Human League. This was a side project in effect which spawned three interesting albums. Two went under the banner of ‘Music Of Quality And Distinction‘ with various guest singers covering classic songs. ‘Dark‘ continues this series, though as the name suggests it’s a lot more deep and laid back. The deluxe version has a bonus disc of instrumentals too and it’s worth buying this edition. I’ve commented on some of the highlights of this collection and that’s not detracting from the one’s I’ve not mentioned.
The album kicks off with a cracking performance by Kim Wilde, I’ve tweeted this already but I do believe this has to be her best ever vocals. The song in question is ‘Every Time I See You I Go Wild‘, such a sultry rendition a great way to allure you into this album. Not giving you time to settle we hear Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside sing a superb take on ‘Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time‘. The next song which grabs me is a slowed down cover of Blondie’s ‘Picture This‘, sung beautifully by Kate Jackson, with such passion. Erasure’s Andy Bell had a monumental task in my opinion to cover a Kate Bush song, ‘Breathing‘ in this case. But to my pleasant surprise he changed it and gave it a whole new life. You could imagine this being sung in some lavishly produced London musical.
If you hadn’t read the sleeve you’d not know Iggy Pop’s track ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog‘ was actually sung as if through a megaphone by Boy George. It been tormented and strangled in such away that it’s become something hypnotic and thus grabs your attention. Previous singer on a BEF album, Sandie Shaw comes up trumps again with a splendid recital of ‘Just Walk In My Shoes‘, where she turns the back the clock of time, belying her age. Glenn Gregory sings on the 80’s classic ‘Party Fears Two‘, which has been galvanised into a superb ballad with basically Martyn playing a grand piano as support. For me the stand out track is Bronski Beat’s debut single ‘Smalltown Boy‘ which is similar in format to their 12″ version. It starts slowly with amazing vocals of Billie Godfrey. Then the song slowly builds up as does her voice into a crescendo of sound that has you totally captivated. If you listen carefully you can get a feel of the Scissor Sisters sound in the way this song has been arranged.
It’s been 22 years since the second instalment but the wait has most definitely been worth it. The only track I reserve judgement on is Maxim’s take on ‘The Day Before You Came’ which was a bit too similar to the version recorded by Blancmange. As ever great production by Martyn which we all take for granted sometimes. With this he’s been able to secure the vocal talents from all the excellent performers on the disc. This bodes well for the forthcoming live shows in Sheffield and London. Essential listening for a stowaway 9/10.