Blancmange is a perfect band for a compilation: it was only around for three albums, so there's not a lot of material to pick and choose from (meaning that many fan favorites will fall by the wayside), and all three albums are spotty enough that buying Second Helpings: The Best of Blancmange is a quick and neat way to get pretty much all of the high points. (That said, it would have been nice if the atmospheric instrumental "Sad Day" from 1982's Happy Families had made the cut.) The duo's three best singles, the propulsive "Blind Vision" (featuring Neil Arthur's most manic vocals), the boppy and Erasure-like "That's Love, That It Is" (the closest the duo ever got to a U.S. hit), and the hypnotic, Middle Eastern-flavored "Living on the Ceiling" (an '80s weekend radio staple even though it wasn't much of a hit at the time), are all present and accounted for, as are their other singles and a smattering of quality album tracks. A simple "all meat no filler" compilation, Second Helpings: The Best of Blancmange is just about all the Blancmange most people will ever need.
On his second solo album (following his first by nine years), bass player Victor Bailey is quick to acknowledge his heroes: "Graham Cracker," with its funky, plucked bass notes, is a tribute to Larry Graham, while "Continuum," a tune by Jaco Pastorius, Bailey's predecessor in Weather Report, is given a vocalese lyric written and sung by Bailey and turned into "Do You Know Who," which contains lines like "Boy when I first heard Jaco play/I've got to admit I was blown away."
…These 17 hymns and chants, dating from the 14th through the early-18th centuries, are sung in Greek, Romanian, Latin, and Italian, and are beautiful examples of early vocal music, sung as closely as possible to the way they were historically. The beauty of these pieces is powerful and striking, and the growing complexity of the melodies as the pieces move chronologically through the centuries is fascinating to follow…
Teamed with Rick Kemp, Prior turns in her best non-Steeleye Span folk-rock performance, with heavy amplification, crisp electric guitars, and accordion for support. Her airy vocals and the heavy electric sound make this a superb adjunct to the best rock sides by Steeleye (Commoner's Crown, etc.), although this stuff has more of a contemporary feel, relating to Prior's Steeleye Span work roughly the way Dylan's best '70s and '80s stuff relates to his '60s folk and folk-rock sides, with a definite rock beat and pop music feel. There's also a strong social consciousness at work, with topical songs dealing with unemployment and privation amid love songs and a very playful cover of "Who's Sorry Now". (Bruce Eder, AMG)