Aussie pop diva Sammy Paul has finally released her 24 Hours album on Energize Records and it's got PWL inspiration all over it ! No surprise after all as the mastermind behind the whole project is Stock/Aitken/Waterman addict Peter Wilson, singer, writer & producer. He has written all the songs on the album with his T1 production partner Chris Richards and even if they have produced half of it, othe production talents are none but PWL gurus Pete Hammond, Dave Ford and Matt Pop. So this CD is a must-have for every Hit Factory forum member and every SAW maniac.
01 INSIDE OUT 3:30 9/10
The album starts with a haunting intro and an echoed vocoderized male voice. Sammy Paul soon takes the mic and starts the first of a dozen Peter Wilson/Chris Richards written songs that gets more powerful with every suceeding chorus. The productions duties have been shared by the T1 duo with mixers Argonaut and it gives a more trancey atmosphere to the track, which I like too. The bridge takes us into a nearly religious mood with a choir organ but then the beats re-appear and give us the final choruses back.
02 SUPERSONIC LOVER PETE HAMMOND RADIO MIX 3:24 10/10
Next track is the Pete Hammond original radio mix of Supersonic lover, a perfect upbeat PWL inspired pop song written by Peter Wilson and reproduced later on this CD by SAW fan DJ from the Netherlands Matt Pop. This version uses every Hit Factory studios music touches that made the PWL magic back in the 80's and it's a heavenly tribute song to this era. The full mix is called "sophisticated bang bang" and its rhythm and inspiration bring back Dead Or Alive's best PWL moments in memory. There are even vocal stuttering effects and Sammy Paul's vocals are diva-esque ; her vocal range reminds me of a mix between Hazell Dean and Nicki French. I think I'll never get bored of that single ! (Thanx Peter for the corrective info)
Next comes the first single that initiated the partnership between Peter Wilson and the aussie diva for Energize and although this was a song co-written and co-produced with Dave Ford by the T1 duo, the first version offered here is the Matt Pop radio remix, the original Dave Ford radio mix only appearing as last bonus track on second CD. In truth, it is this version that sounds more PWL-ish to me and that must be the one fans have chosen as their prefered one. The song itself is a pure diva anthem whose beat is galloping into hands-in-the-air disco heaven and that version is very more energetic and dancey than the original, less retro but less instant pop too.
04 10 SECONDS 3:14 5/10
10 Seconds is the first Wilson/Richards song they've produced alone and I must admit it is a lot less appealing than the three previous ones. The song itself is more of a mid-tempo and mixes R&B influences to synthetic effects, but with beautiful vocals by the lady.
05 GIMME ALL YOUR MONEY EXPLICIT RADIO MIX 3:45 8,5/10
The first time I've listened to that third single from the forthcoming album, it made me fear I wouldn't like it after all as there was a change of mood from the two first singles tht were very PWL sounding. Gimme all your money is a much more in-your-face attitude diva song and in the end, I've learned to like it :) I mean, it is a grower ...or is it the Almighty remix, over the T1 original production with some help & mix by Matt Pop, has helped me get more into it ? Maybe their usual galoping dance rhythm helped the song reach the upper state to become a pop anthem.
06 TWISTED 3:44 8/10
Another T1 produced track but one that fits better the bill for my 24 Hours album idea. Even if the sounds are darker and more synthpop, the rhythm is good, the verses upbeat and moving and the chorus, even though a lil' too rock for me, is nice and efficient. In fact, there's a guitar solo that really put this song into another direction but still can't put me off it so the song's really good :).
07 LOSE YOURSELF 3:34 8,5/10
Although Lose yourself is another Wilson/Richards song, it is this time produced and mixed by Matt Pop but while I was expecting another full PWL tribute, it starts all calm and moody like a big ballad before some added beats makes me think of Sandra Cretu in her Enigma period, but Sammy's voice isn't thin and still powerful on this one. I must admit I was deceived it wasn't another SAW sound remake but the ballad works for what it is and after all, Miss Paul wasn't maybe a die-hard fan of the PWL sounds and didn't intend to only sounds like a retro diva like that...
08 DREAM WITH ME 2:13 9/10
Proof with track #8, that is an acoustic ballad sung by her only with a guitar. Near the end, more symphonic synthés are added but it's already the end of this very short track where Sammy Paul showcases her melancholia through her beautiful voice. I'm shocked to really like it :) !
09 THIS IS THE FUTURE 4:29 9,5/10
But it is time to go back to full pop/dance sounds with This is the future, that could easily be a further single to me. It has some more vocoderized vocals in the background and a full-on-vocal diva chorus that would do well too in an Almighty remix ! The original T1 production is good, trancey and then again inspired by synthpop a la Human League I feel. At times Sammy's voice is echoed and it really puts you in a trance, closing your eyes to fall into the depths of this track but it would really need a punchier mix if released as a single, but it has what it takes already ! NB : this one has been co-written by Sammy Paul with the Pete Wilson & Chris Richards.
Hold you in my arms, that comes next, could easily become a further single too, and this time the Matt Pop production brings back the beats and PWL inspiration, even though it recalls more of the 90's than the 80's. The arrangements are upbeat, poppy and sweet, with a chorus that, although repetitive, is moving and dreamy at the same time, with nice male backing vocals.
11 24 HOURS 3:45 10/10
But the track that screams to become the fourth single is the title track in its remix form that is included at track #10. From the first beat you recognize Pete Hammond's midas touch and the T1 original version that is included further the CD sounds very dissimilar in fact. Mr Mixmaster, once again, transforms every thing he mixes into a pure diamond, brilliant pop made to dance. I think Sammy's vocal range is a little bit too low-key on the verses but the chorus sounds just perfect ! It makes it feel like the Blue System songs, with raw vocals on verses and energetic lightful choruses :). I suspect my Hit Factory forum fellow members to be in need of the full extended mix but I, radio edits afficionado, am fully pleased with this !
Now comes the time for the bonuses with this Time Bandits cover version first unveiled on Peter Wilson's latest album Lazer light in this duet form, but this time it has been remixed by the same team who co-produced Inside out. This version (used on single) is still good (and shorter than the original which clocks at 5:03) but it erases the lightful 80's inspiration to add some coldwave/techno elements so it is well-balanced on Sammy's album and I really like it too. Shall I say Pete's vocal is still mixed upfront and Sammy sounds more like a background vocalist on choruses ;).
13 SUPERSONIC LOVER MATT POP RADIO MIX 3:30 9/10
The Matt Pop new production of Supersonic lover would have sounded nice and poppy enough if Pete Hammond's own version hadn't been made but compared to his, Matt's sounds tawdry compared to the perfect jewel that was at #2... But still 9/10 ;).
14 WHY SLEAZESISTERS RADIO MIX 3:22 9,5/10
The Pete Martine & James St James remix of first single's Why is less faulty as it takes the song into a darker clubby direction and even though the rhythm sounds like nearly industrial, it has a real new punch that gives an extra power to the song.
15 GIMME ALL YOUR MONEY ALMIGHTY EXPLICIT RADIO MIX 3:41 10/10
We stay on the discotheque's atmosphere with the Almighty remix of Gimme all your money and as I wrote earlier, this verson really gives the song what it missed to become a full diva anthem in my heart : I like it a lot !
16 24 HOURS T1 ORIGINAL VERSION 5:31 9/10
Last song on CD#1 of the album, the original version mixed by Chris Richards of the title track, and it really sounds SO different to the Pete Hammond remix on track #11 it is hard to believe it is the same song ...except the low-key vocals of the verses fit in better here, with the haunting and laid-back arrangements of the original version. That makes me think, if released in single, the remix should included re-recorded vocals at a higher key to match the new production better. That may be difficult to do... But as it is, the original is really good too ! Is it me or is my version on CD is cut just before the end. The digital tracklisting says 5:36 and the vocal cuts right after starting to fade out... ?
On the bonus CD#2 bought from the Energize site (http://www.energiserecords.com/#!sammy-paul-24-hours/c15rs), we have one more song, Love is beautiful, that was the Bside to Why and was featured on the Valentine's day compilation of the same name last year. It is a beautiful ballad written and produced like the rest by the T1 duo.
Other tracks are the Pete Hammond's Sophisticated bang bang mix and Matt Pop's extended master mix of Supersonic lover, Dave Ford's radio mix, Matt Pop's club mix and SleazeSisters' dub version of Why, Almighty's explicit club mix and dub of Gimme all your money, and Matt Pop's Road to Amsterdam mix of Endless road. A mixes' combinaison that must wet every PWL fan's pants after one single listen :)...
Most of it, this good album, produced and released independently, has enough PWL inspired pop music on it to make all of us SAW fans buy it and will make us wait 'til Peter Wilson's next album, Pulsation, scheduled for August, whose first single What goes around comes around, although produced and written by new mates Arve Furset & Elias Muri (A2E), sounds less retro but very up-to-date and extra-addictive. Plus, there's a full 13'43 London town in Oslo mix by Pete Hammond and a Matt Pop and Argonaut remix too... I hope a radio edit of Pete's mix will be included on the album XXX !