Required listening: Swing Out Sister’s ‘Private View’

It’s been 25 years now since Swing Out Sister unleashed a pop confection, “Breakout,” which became their biggest hit in the U.S. Although started as a trio, the group’s been a duo since their second album, and the music has evolved, but the cornerstones have always been there – strong songs that fit well in a variety of formats, musical ambition that always yields results, and an itch to play around with music, something that comes into vision with their latest release, “Private View.”Originally released to fans directly and recorded as the results of the volcanic eruptions in Iceland that forced the duo to cancel concerts, the recordings mark the results of rehearsals prior to the concerts.  The group tends to like to play with arrangements and put a new sheen on their catalogue.

The “Private View” release then has a bit of a jazzy feel, something seen on previous live albums, as they riff with the music more and have some fun with the tunes.  That said, the tunes themselves are still certainly there and in good form. Seen above is “You On My Mind,” which came out originally as the lead single to their second album, “Kaleidoscope World,” in 1989, evolves nicely.

Their initial hit, “Breakout,” is featured in a laid-back arrangement that’s very similar to the version that appeared as a bonus track on their most recent release of new material, 2009’s “Beautiful Mess.” (I had the thrill of interviewing Corinne Drewery at the time of that release, which can be seen here – it was among the most enjoyable interviews I’ve ever had.)

They remade their remake, as it were, of their 1994 track “La La (Means I Love You)” from “The Living Return.”  It’s more breezy and loose than the original, and is quite enjoyable.

Their albums have always had a cinematic quality (even carrying musical signatures and themes throughout tracks on an album, giving them an unusually strong cohesiveness), while their live albums have roamed more.  Both have strong qualities to them and show the strength of the material the group’s generated over the years.  “Private View” is well worth the investment.

If you need an additional nudge, “Private View” in CD form comes with a bonus live DVD.

Additional listening

Just about everything in their catalogue could fall into this category; my iPod has more than 100 tracks from the group at this point.  I really started to get into them in 1994 (I was all of 12), when VH-1 was heavily playing “La La (Means I Love You).” Above is the original version.

Three years later I saw them perform “Somewhere in the World” on NBC4; randomly they popped up.  Corinne Drewery’s voice is impossible to misplace, and the album this came from, “Shapes and Patterns,” became the first album I ever bought digitally a few years later, when iTunes first debuted. (I had previously bought it on cassette and CD; I still break this album out from time to time.)

A few years later, while working at a mall, Corinne’s voice started to echo down the hall as one of the channels they played had a couple of new SOS songs on the list, including “Through the Sky,” above, from “Somewhere Deep in the Night.”

And finally, you can’t go wrong with the classic ’80s tune, which remains an infectious joy more than 25 years later.

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