BBC Radio 2 DJ Sara Cox currently presents Saturday night show Sounds of the 80s where she plays the best music from the decade that’s known for bad haircuts, bizarre fashion and plenty of great music. In partnership with Warner Music, Radio 2 is releasing new 2-CD compilation Sounds of the 80s featuring contemporary artists taking on classic 80s hits.
It’s become something of the norm for artists to put their own twists on classic songs and 37 artists have participated in this album. The first disc kicks off with Sam Smith’s emotive interpretation of Whitney Houston’s classic How Will I Know. Smith’s version follows the oft-tread trend of reworking an uptempo classic into a quivering ballad and it actually works well in most part thanks to his incredible voice.
The second disc is the stronger of the two with a live version of Bon Jovi’s Lay Your Hands On Me performed by Dolly Parton and Richie Sambora proving to be an early highlight. Other highlights include Will Young’s take on Womack & Womack’s Teardrops, The Overtones’ feel-good version of Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, and Lisa Stansfield’s soulful take on The Style Council’s classic You’re The Best Thing.
Elsewhere across the release there are some real gems. Birdy’s near acoustic version of Madonna’s Lucky Star is pretty beautiful, The Shires strip back Islands in the Stream turning it into a country ballad, and Kylie Minogue transforms Kim Carnes’ Bette Davis Eyes into a euphoric floorfiller.
As is to be expected with any compilation there are some odd moments. Christina Perri’s version of the Cher classic If I Could Turn Back Time is one of the collection’s low points and we didn’t much care for Ward Thomas’ country twist on Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror. Kaiser Chiefs’ take on The Clash classic Should I Stay Or Should I Go left us a bit cold too.
Sounds of the 80s has some great versions of classic tracks on it. As with any compilation it’s a real mixed bag and how much you like the album will depend on how much you like the artists that have participated. Be warned that there are a few too many 80s uptempo classics turned into miserable ballads but there are also plenty of gems on there too.