mercredi 26 août 2009

Something's going on with pop/dance UK maestro Alan Connor

I first got to hear of Alan Connor I think when I searched on the net for more 7th Heaven remixes. They (Jon Dixon and Andy Wetson, formerly in Almighty Associates producers' team) mix dance, hi-nrg and post PWL influences into their work, just like they did for Almighty remixes, and I wanted to keep an eye on their works. That led me to Now the rain has gone, Alan Connor's 2007 big club hit. Initially a guitar-led breezier fresh pop song, their remix (and Liberty City Records' Electric Allstars remix either) made it a perfect dance/pop anthem. I bought me these tracks on and saw there even was a full album, After midnight, with a nice cover art. After a quick listen, I bought it, ready to fall into Alan's musical world.

The album started with the original version of Now the rain has gone and built up stronger with a piece of modern disco perfection named Too much too little followed by his catchy breakthrough club hit (Get it) On the track, then another disco dance perfect song Walking away. All first four tracks could've been lead singles to launch this album, not that the rest of the songs was not good, but they were more growers than instant hits, although still disco influenced pop, sometimes with a bit of rock, sometimes of funk, even with a cover version of Bowie's Fashion too.
The following hit was a new recording, a cover version of Bryan Ferry's Dance away, all completed with a set of dance remixes by 7th Heaven, Electric Allstars, Shanghai Surprize, Julian Marsh and a load more. Then again, my heart melted completely and I hoped this new 2008 release meant a brand new full length release was on its way, despite the fact Mr. Connor was on an independant label, Liberty City (I previously talked about for Sean Ensign's post).
It took time, Alan making us wait by being featured on dance singles by Mike Melange, 2008's Let your love flow and current I love the sunshine, but here it is : I've got Something going on in my hands (I've bought it physical this time!) and this 13 tracks CD album is a perfect combination of past hit singles and new future ones.

It starts with the new Mike Melange collaboration, remixed by Pete Tong's protege Beltek (real name : Martin Bijelić). I love the sunshine is a perfect summer anthem, all fresh and breezy, laidback house with a nice vocal chorus and spanish guitars. Sun went down follows and speeds up the rhythm for another great sunny dance number. Previous Mike Melange's single, Let your love flow, appears next in its 7th Heaven radio mix, like 11 out of 13 of the album's tracks. This one has a repetitive but extremely catchy linedance rhythm with hi-nrg influenced dance arrangements à la Almighty. Then comes No mistaking love and it sounds like what Stock Aitken & Waterman should produce nowadays if they were still making records together. It has got the PWL synthés influenced sound, drumrolls, a catchy chorus and nice female backing vocals. I already like it a lot and that makes me think it could become a further single.
The album's tracklisting alternate new songs with previous club hit singles and it's time on track #5 for the 7th Heaven radio edit of Now the rain has gone, still fresh and new to the ears. Dance away and (Get it) On the track are not far away, both again in their 7th Heaven radio mix form but new songs that are soon-to-come single hits are next with two very good tracks written by Alan Connor with longtime writing partner Darren Fox : Something going on and I'll be waiting. The album title track is very catchy with, then again, Stock Aitken & Waterman influences, with an hypnotic speed rhythm, multiple layers of synthés, a chorus that gets into your brain and never leaves, and nice keyboard melodic lines over it all. SINGLE ALERT! for sure. I'll be waiting is of the same fabric, but with a harder sound, less old-school influenced, but with a chorus to die for : It may even be a surer single and I already can hear the usual Liberty City remixers' working on it... It may be hard to believe it, after this pop/dance perfection, but believe me, the best is yet to come !
Walking away has been remixed by 7th Heaven and sounds now like a Giorgio Moroder-esque uplifting disco-dance anthem that screams out to be released on the dancefloor all around to world to make people scream and sweat, while dancin' and dancin' like crazy to its pulsating beats. Shall I point out this winner is another Connor co-written original song ? I could have nearly said Alan didn't need to do cover versions to have a hit in his hand when track #11 starts and my mind goes WOW!, my mouth goes OOO! and my feets just goes dancing... Heart is just the Pet Shop Boys song I love the best in all their recordings and even if I was anxious of what Alan could have done with it, after listening to half of it, I feel releaved : Good job has been done, still with mixing help from 7th Heaven guys (who can't do no wrong I'm pretty sure now!). Their version wins the challenge of staying truthful to the original song but updating it and making it sound incredibly actual. There's a trumpet at the end that shines through the dancing beats and it even doesn't sound odd. I want it to become a further single for sure, just for the pleasure to hear Shanghai Surprise, Electric Allstars and co. create new mixes of it too. Could this CD be a Greatest Hits Collection instead of just a simple album ? I'm dreaming of it (fingers crossed).
Sadly, I'm less convinced (but that's the first time while listening to Alan's new CD) with the following B!TC# (You got it). The verses sound OK, but I don't like the arrangements (although 7th Heaven is still on duty on this one), the pre-chorus is repetively boring and the spelling B-I-T-C-H chorus really lame. Maybe I've been hardly letdown by it for I was expecting too much of a song named with Bitch sung by a modern hi-energy maestro. I would've loved a campier disco-divo number surely... The CD ends with a 7th Heaven fully produced Human League cover version of Love action (I believe in love) where Alan's voice really sounds like Philip Oakey to my ears : a nice modernization but maybe less personal or too much under the influence of the original band. That makes me double happier that Alan succeeded in taking Neil Tennant's influence apart from his Heart version.

All in all, this CD is nevertheless a must-have because, like I said it previously, it sounds more like a Best Of than just an album. Nearly all the songs have been or could be hit singles - in the club! ...Sorry guys but the sales charts are so boring (at 80%) nowadays... The only real bad thing I would dare to say of it is... I don't like the cover art AT ALL!
I've read on the booklet (where I am very proud and honoured to personally appear in Alan's Thankyou's!!! Did he know I would post a great review for it?) that he worked himself on the album design & concept so I'm all the more sorry to say that but the photo that's been chosen is not the best one (he looks so much sexier on the double-paged and backside silver one), the title font looks like neon from away but no more from near, and the featured black & white singles title lines ruin it more. I know he's on a small label but it wouldn't have cost a lot more to make it look less cheap. And after the beautifully drawn After midnight cover art, I was expecting another piece of art. But I must be the one complaining about a cover art that, for the download market, looks like a pin's.
I would have loved to see all lyrics included in the booklet too but it's good enough to have six of them already. I even consider now buying me his first album on CD either, even if I already bought it digitally, because Alan's albums could become, in a couple of years, high priced collectors.

Now if you want to make yourself an opinion, go find more at his page (
here) and then buy his stuff at the Liberty City store.

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