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Everything But The Girl was formed in 1982 by Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt. The pair met by coincidence at Hull University in the autumn of 1981. Both had already had early acclaimed starts in their teens on the UK post-punk independent scene - Tracey with her indie minimal girl group, the Marine Girls (1980-1983, later name-checked as one of Kurt Cobain’s favourite bands); Ben with more experimental solo folk-jazz recordings featuring alt-folk icon, Robert Wyatt (1981-1983). All the recordings were released by London independent, Cherry Red. Merging their respective early non-rock influences their first release was a stark acoustic cover of Cole Porter’s ‘Night and Day’ (1982) on Cherry Red. Originally intended as a last-minute B-side to two originals, it unintentionally threw the pair into the burgeoning London jazz-pop scene.
• Each then released acclaimed minimalistic solo albums that topped the UK Indie Charts - Tracey’s ‘A Distant Shore’ (1982) and Ben’s ‘North Marine Drive’ (1983) before they pooled songs for the Everything But The Girl debut, ‘Eden’, recorded with producer RobinMillar in the summer of 1983, but not released due to contractual issues involved in their move to Blanco Y Negro/WEA until May 1984.It spawned a Top 40 hit (‘Each And Every One’) and went on to sell 500,000 copies.
• Edsel is proud to release the duo’s first four albums in beautifully presented 2 CD casebound books, put together with the full involvement of Ben and Tracey, and each one featuring a newly-written note by the couple, and all the lyrics. ‘Eden’ features seventeen bonus tracks: 8 non-album single A- and B-sides (including hits “Mine and “Native Land”), 5 previously unreleased home demos and 4 contemporary previously unreleased BBC radio session recordings, personally selected by Ben.
|| ||Each And Every One|
|| ||Tender Blue|
|| ||Another Bridge|
|| ||The Spice Of Life|
|| ||The Dustbowl|
|| ||Even So|
|| ||Frost And Fire|
|| ||I Must Confess|
|| ||Soft Touch|
|| ||Laugh You Out The House|
|| ||Never Could Have Been Worse|
|| ||Gun Cupboard Love|
|| ||Easy As Sin|
|| ||Native Land|
|| ||Riverbed Dry|
|| ||Don't You Go|
|| ||Each And Every One (Home Demos – 1983)|
|| ||Bittersweet (Home Demos – 1983)|
|| ||Even So (Home Demos – 1983)|
|| ||Frost And Fire (Home Demos – 1983)|
|| ||Soft Touch (Home Demos – 1983)|
|| ||Another Bridge (BBC Recording Sessions – 1984)|
|| ||Easy As Sin (BBC Recording Sessions – 1984)|
|| ||Riverbed Dry (BBC Recording Sessions – 1984)|
|| ||Never Could Have Been Worse (BBC Recording Sessions – 1984)|
Thirteen years on from their last studio outing, Everything But The Girl’s first four albums have been dusted down, polished up and augmented with B-sides, demons and radio sessions. Having favoured a more electronic approach in the late-Nineties, it’s a pleasant surprise to be reminded of the classic pop nous they have even on their first release, ‘Eden’. With its bossa nova flourishes and Tracey Thorn’s beautifully emotive vocals, it’s that rarest of beasts – a record made in the Eighties which doesn’t instantly sound like an ‘Eighties album’.
Ben Watt and Thorn and Thorn were always wonderfully adept at character studies centred around kitchen sink dramas, elevating tired tales of troubled love with lyrical gems like: “She’s such a sweet girl, free from the taints of this world / Think that’s a compliment? Don’t be so full of sentiment”. While the duo would go on to craft the sweeping ballad ‘Come On Home’ on the Mike Hedges-produced ‘Baby, The Stars Shine Bright’ and deliver the beautifully simplistic, and criminally underrated ‘The Night I Heard Caruso Sing’ on 1988’s ‘Idlewild’, ‘Eden’ is a fine snapshot of why this band’s pre-Todd Terry-tinkering output deserves something of a reappraisal. While these albums remain dear to those who were there from the start, these expanded editions are a fine way to get acquainted.
As this quartet of deluxe reissues testifies, EBTG were never afraid to experiment. While their 1984 debut, Eden, melded a folk sensibility with jazz and bossa nova flavours, the duo embraced jangly guitar pop on the following year’s Love Not Money. By contrast, 1986’s Baby The Stars Shine Bright was an excursion in opulent orchestral pop and, by the time Idlewild appeared two years later, the pair expressed themselves via a more stripped-down but still eminently sophisticated sound that was by turns soulful and jazz-inflected.
These titles appeared as part of Rhino’s no-fills Original Album Series last year, but are better served here by Edsel, where each has been expanded to 2-CD set featuring sleevenotes by EBTG’s Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt. Significantly, the second disc in each set is packed with non-album singles, B-sides and previously unheard home demo versions, as well as radio broadcast performances.
Unlike the majority of bonus material that bolsters reissues packages, there’s little filler here; a case in point in Idlewild’s bonus CD, which contains EBTG’s lovely non-LP cover of Danny Whitten’s I Don’t Want To Talk About It, and almost stands up as an album in its own right.
Late last year, Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt’s cover of The xx’s Night Time showed that Everything but the Girl’s sound could still travel deep. This remastered four-album set, throwing in singles, demos, sessions, photos and liner notes, covers their reign as indie darlings of the ‘80s sophisti-pop scene.
The songs throughout feel slick but often oddly distant; but the radio sessions, particularly those around 1983’s Eden, give the songs room to breathe (Another Bridge is rougher and better against Thorn’s heavy, heady voice). Still, the fuller strings glow on 1986’s Baby The Stars Shine Bright, and 1988’s Idlewild properly shines.
Its presented here in original form (megahit cover I Don’t Want To Talk About It is on the extra disc) and you can see pastoral pleasures such as Oxford Street and Apron Strings preparing the way for The Sundays and The Field Mice.
Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt met on their first day at Hull University in 1981, after Watt – a fan of Thorn’s skeletal post-punk trio marine Girls – put out a message for her over the tannoy in the student bar. It was the beginning of a lifelong relationship that has since born three children and then albums, the first four of which are reissued this month with attendant B-sides and session tracks.
Naming themselves Everything But The Girl after the slogan of Hull furniture shop, the duo’s 1984 debut Eden (8/10) was an earnest attempt to pool their two sets of influences. Thorn brought the careworn croon and acoustic pop sensibility she’s honed on her maudlin 1982 solo debut, A Distant Shore. Watt, the son of 50’s bandleader Tommy Watt, channelled the experience of working with Robert Wyatt and jazz saxophonist Peter King into his deft arrangements. The result was a pensive but beautifully poised jazz-pop fusion, tending towards bossa nova at times – part Nick Drake, part Astrud Gilberto.
Eden pulled Everything But The Girl towards London’s burgeoning jazz-pop milieu – the pair both guested on The Style Council’s Café Bleu – but follow-up album Love Not Money (7/10) betrayed an uneasiness with that scene’s taste for champagne socialism. It abandoned Eden’s more rococo jazzy provincial jangle and lyrics about the struggle to square romantic ideals with financial realities in Thatcher’s Britain (“promises never paid for shoes”). Some of EBTG’s most undervalued moments are here, along with the occasional clunker.
1986’s Baby The Stars Shine Bright (5/10) flip-flopped again, shelving the politics and the guitars in favour of schmaltzy orchestral arrangements that do Thorn’s increasingly savvy song writing no great favours. Both “Cross My Heart” and “Little Hitler” are genuinely more enjoyable in their sketchy home demo incarnations.
Finally, 1988’s Idlewild (6/10) is the one album from this batch which sounds helplessly of its time, thanks to an excessive use of electric piano and vacuum-packed percussion. Pleasantly nostalgic in tone, it finds Everything but The girl drifting into a slick, adult-orientated pop comfort zone where they would remain until jolted back into relevancy by Todd Terry’s House remix of “Missing” in 1995. Idlewild’s bonus disc does, however, contain the band’s biggest hit of the 80’s, their undeniably lovely and thankfully electric piano-free version of Danny Whitten’s “I Don’t Want To Talk About It”.
After releasing promising solo albums, Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt pooled resources to become one of Britain’s best-loved duos with a succession of albums on Blanco Y Negro. The first four – originally released between 1984 and 1986 – are now being reissued as extensively expanded two-CD sets, each presented as a casebound book, with notes from the duo, full lyrics and a plethora of bonus tracks, including previously unissued demos and BBC sessions.
First album Eden was an instant success, a collection of breezy and enjoyable songs. The more direct sound of Love Not Money and the string-driven, retro Baby The Stars Shine Bright helped EBTG to solidify their support, while Idlewild catapulted them into the big time, thanks to the top three success of their version of Danny Whitten’s I Don’t Want To Think About It.
This Is Not Retro
EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL will have four of their classic 80s albums - 'Eden', 'Love Not Money', 'Baby The Stars Shine Bright' and 'Idlewild' - reissued on May 28th in very special expanded 2-CD editions contained in hardback-book style packages.
Following a reunion last fall, Brit sophisti-pop duo Everything But the Girl have announced plans to reissue some of their earliest albums as deluxe editions.
The act will deliver 1984's Eden, 1985's Love Not Money, 1986's Baby the Stars Shine Bright and 1988's Idlewild as double-CD/book sets on June 4 through the Edsel imprint. Tracklistings have yet to appear for any of the packages, but the second disc on each release is said to contain a mix of era-appropriate cuts culled from home recordings and BBC sessions.
The accompanying books, meanwhile, will feature lyrics, photos and notes submitted by band members Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt.
Despite the reissue campaign, Thorn and Watt haven't, however, announced any plans for any new material beyond their recent cover of the XX's "Night Time" for Thorn's EP of the same name.
The Daily Swarm
I will be copping the Eden reissue the day it comes out. For starters, anyway.
British indie pop duo Everything But the Girl will reissue four albums on June 4: 1984’s Eden, 1985’s Love Not Money, 1986’s Baby the Stars Shine Bright, and 1988’s Idlewild.
All four records will come as 2xCD book sets via Edsel, the second disc containing time-appropriate non-album cuts, unreleased home recordings, and BBC sessions. The accompanying books includes lyrics, photos, and notes from Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt on each album.
The Second Disc
Fans of U.K. sophisti-pop duo Everything But the Girl are justified in saying they miss them. They’re even justified in saying they miss Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt, who haven’t performed under the EBTG moniker since 2000, the same way the deserts miss the rain.
But all is not lost, thanks to the tireless efforts of Demon/Edsel (arguably the hardest-working U.K. reissue label in the game right now), who are working with Thorn and Watt in expanding the band’s first four albums (originally released on Blanco Y Negro Records) with a heaping helping of rare and unreleased material.
The expanded, two-disc editions of Eden (1984), Love Not Money (1985), Baby the Stars Shine Bright (1986) and Idlewild (1988), repackaged in casebound, book-style packaging with new liner notes from the duo and all original lyrics, will also feature bonus discs littered with excellent treats for hardcore fans, including single-only A and B-sides – many of them awesome covers of standards by Jimmy Webb, Irving Berlin and others, and most of which haven’t been in print for years – a total of 20 unreleased demos, live performances recorded by the BBC and other rarities, like the alternate version of Idlewild‘s “Apron Strings” that appeared in the John Hughes film She’s Having a Baby.
It remains to be seen if Demon will expand the remainder of the band’s catalogue, which would of course cover well beyond the band’s worldwide smash “Missing.” But for now, there’s plenty to look forward to when these four sets arrive in U.K. shops May 28.