A-Ha – “Hunting High And Low – The Early Alternate Mixes” (2019)

ahahuntingrsdA-Ha was Mrs. Life In The Vinyl Lane’s first favorite band and is still probably in her Top 3 (and maybe still #1), and we all know what an impact your first favorite band has on your musical life – you never ever forget them.  So when I saw there would be a Record Store Day release of early alternate mixes of their seminal album Hunting High And Low I knew I needed to be on the lookout for a copy.  Frankly I didn’t expect it to be that hard to find, even though the edition size was fairly small (2,450 copies… not 2,500 mind you, 2,450…) for such an iconic band, but we struck out locally.  Fortunately, however, Al Gore invented the internets I and was able to secure a copy for pretty much the retail price online via Discogs.  Thanks Al!

I’m not an expert on the A-Ha catalog.  Certainly I know the mega-hits from Hunting High And Low (“Take On Me” and “The Sun Always Shines On TV”) because, well, if you watched MTV at all in 1985-86 you couldn’t miss these videos – “Take On Me” in particular seemed to be played about once an hour for six months straight.  I also don’t have nearly enough experience with this record to hear the differences between the studio version and these alternate takes, though Holly certainly could.  What I can tell you is that this thing sounds perfect – no cracking, no hissing, pure sonic clarity.  In fact I’d say it’s probably one of the 10 best sounding records I own.  So if you’re interested, have no fear – these “early” takes are fully produced and sound tremendous.

a-ha – “Hits South America” (2016)

a-hahitssouthamericaI picked this RSD release up because Holly is both a big a-ha fan and likes live recordings. We’ve got a few other live a-ha albums, and while I’m generally ambivalent about the band, I’ve got to say that their live stuff always sounds great.

These five tracks were recorded in Brazil on the band’s 1981 South America tour, and apparently are all previously unreleased.  And let me tell you, the recording quality is outstanding, and this version of “Manhattan Skyline” is making me think I need to take a deeper listen to the a-ha catalog.  “Hunting High and Low” is also excellent with its combination acoustic guitar and strings opening.  The producer hit it out of the park here, striking the perfect balance between the vocals and music, with richness and depth to the sound.

My only complaint with Hits South America is the length – it’s a five song EP, and I feel like it could have easily been extended to a full length album that would have been outstanding.  I’m not sure why they chose this shorter format, though I’m glad that these songs were able to see some type of release.  This one is well worth the purchase if you’re an a-ha fan.

a-ha – “Twelve Inch Club” (1986)

a-ha12inchclubThis was another record I picked up at The Record Museum while visiting Hong Kong a few weeks ago.  I bought it primarily because Holly is a big fan of a-ha and I knew she’d think it was pretty cool, which turned out to be correct.

The four song EP Twelve Inch Club was one of two 12″ records released in 1986 only in Japan and featuring songs from a-ha’s mega-hit LP Hunting High and Low.  It appears, though, that the mixes may be different than the originals, as “Train of Thought” and “The Sun Always Shines on TV” are both credited as “(Steve Thompson Mix),” while “And You Tell Me” is a demo version.  The fourth track is a dub version of “Train of Thought.”  Interestingly the jacket cover appears to be a near copy of the band’s 1985 12″ Train of Thought.  The OBI strip on the bottom of Twelve Inch Club advertises the dates and locations of a-ha’s Japan shows scheduled for July 1986.

The two Steve Thompson mixes are both considerably longer than the originals, with each coming in at over seven minutes and including some long music-only interludes.  The demo version of “And You Tell Me” is almost identical in length to the original, and I’m not familiar enough with the a-ha catalog to be able to tell you how it differs from the album version.  The dub version of “Train of Thought” is a straight-up dance track, and an awfully good one at that.

Twelve Inch Club probably only appeals to the hard core a-ha fan, but if that’s you then you’re going to enjoy the extended versions of these tracks.

International Party Mix

It’s that time of year again.  Time for the 16th Annual Post-Holiday Holiday part at the Life in the Vinyl Lane house.  We put on this shindig every January and invite our friends over to eat and drink their fill.  And, as we’ve done for the last 10 or so years, we also made an official party CD as a give away for those who stop by.  This year we’re going with a sort of travel theme to the festivities, so the 16 artists on the CD are all from different countries.  Here’s what we put together:

1.  “Pale Green Ghost” – John Grant (USA)
2.  “Storm” – Django Django (Scotland)
3.  “Iso Pasi” – Lama (Finland)
4.  “Amidinine” – Bombino (Niger)
5.  “Don’t Mess” – Juvelen (Sweden)
6.  “Feel Like You Should” – Shiny Darkly (Denmark)
7.  “Hand of Law” – Radio Birdman (Australia)
8.  “Egu Szot Se Szoij” – Sarolta Zalatnay (Hungary)
9.  “Gleipnir” – Skálmöld (Iceland)
10.  “Dynamite” – Jamiroquai (England)
11.  “Manhattan Skyline” – A-ha (Norway)
12.  “Wenu Wenu” – Omar Souleyman (Syria)
13.  “Top of the World” – Shonen Knife (Japan)
14.  “Mission a Paris” – Gruppo Sportivo (Netherlands)
15.  “O mundo é já aqui” – OVO (Portugal)
16.  “Someone Says” – Casino Royale (Italy)

We think it’s a pretty cool mix, so we’re excited to hear what our guests think.

But for now, I have to get back to some serious party prep.