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(Track listing follows.) As an album, "Bananarama" is a solid accomplishment, and proves that Keren, Sara and Siobhan's songwriting skills had matured since "Deep Sea Skiving." "Cruel Summer" would have been a better title for this collection of (mostly) socially-conscious themes and beach-friendly sounds. Not all is doom and gloom, but this is far and away the most thought-provoking album from the group to date. The Jolley & Swain production, generally upbeat and slightly whimsical, offers a contrast to lyrics about alienation, injustice and loss. It's a balancing act, and not every listener will find the contrast appealing.
Along with "Cruel Summer," this album produced hits like "Rough Justice," "Hot Line To Heaven" and "Robert DeNiro's Waiting," and this deluxe three disc set includes album/single and extended versions of them all. It also includes a non-lp track, "The Wild Life," in single, instrumental, extended and dub versions. The remainder of "bonus" tracks on discs one and two are b-sides, dub versions, and remixes. Of these, "Cairo," "Push!" and "Live Now" are especially notable. The 1989 "Swing Beat" remixes of "Cruel Summer" were produced by Stock Aitken Waterman over five years after the original version debuted, and in this reviewer's opinion they don't add much value to this collection.
The dvd in the set is one of the better compilations to come with these deluxe reissues, with seven promotional music videos, and four additional appearances on the BBC. And like the other Bananarama packages, the discs all come in a small hardcover book that also includes song lyrics, release notes, chart data, original album/single art, and an informative essay by reissue producer Tom Parker. Be aware that some collectors have reported problems with split disc sleeves, and small amounts of adhesive on the edges of discs that make it difficult to remove them from the sleeves. My set does have the split bottoms on the sleeves, but only the lower edge of each disc protrudes slightly.
As an essential early release from Bananarama, the original 1983 album is highly recommended to new listeners and casual fans. This deluxe collection adds such great supplemental material to the package (including six previously unreleased cuts) that it's a recommended buy for Bananafans and completists alike.
DISC ONE: Cruel Summer 3:35, Rough Justice 5:04, King Of The Jungle 3:26, Dream Baby 3:08, Link 1:30, Hot Line To Heaven 7:16, State I'm In 2:45, Robert DeNiro's Waiting 3:42, Through A Child's Eyes 3:39, plus bonus tracks The Wild Life 3:54, Cairo 3:46, Push! 4:08, Live Now 3:05, Cruel Summer (12" version) 4:55, Robert DeNiro's Waiting (extended version) 5:42, Rough Justice (extended version) 5:20, The Wild Life (extended version) 6:23, Cruel Summer ('89 swing beat dub) 5:17
DISC TWO: Cruel Summer ('89 swing beat version) 3:21, Robert DeNiro's Waiting (7" version) 3:29, Rough Justice (7" version) 3:38, Hot Line To Heaven (7" version) 3:45, The Wild Life (7" version) 3:17, Cruel Summer (cruel dub) 3:27, Rough Justice (original 12" mix) 6:40, King Of The Jungle (unsegued version) 3:18, Dream Baby (unsegued version) 3:09, Push! (extended version) 5:55, State I'm In (extended version) 4:37, The Wild Life (dub version) 7:04, Cruel Summer (summer dub) 5:13, State I'm In (instrumental) 3:07, The Wild Life (instrumental) 4:06, Cruel Summer ('89 swing beat instrumental) 5:02
DISC THREE (dvd): Cruel Summer, Robert DeNiro's Waiting, Rough Justice, Hot Line To Heaven, State I'm In, The Wild Life, Cruel Summer '89, Cruel Summer (On "Top Of The Pops"), Robert DeNiro's Waiting (on "The Russell Harty Show"), Rough Justice (on "Top Of The Pops"), Michael Row The Boat Ashore (on "Saturday Superstore")