Blondie: Greatest Hits – Sound and Vision

Blondie - Greatest HitsSynopsis: US CD/DVD version. Best Of Sight And Sound features 20 tracks on the audio disc including all the usual suspects, but also has the sought-after mash-up ‘Rapture Riders’ which is a mix of the Doors ‘Riders on the Storm’ and Blondie’s ‘Rapture.’ Other highlights include two previously unreleased remixes of ‘In The Flesh’ (Remix) and ‘Good Boys’ (Blow Up Remix).. The bonus DVD NTSC/Region 0) is the same as the Greatest Video Hits DVD, but instead of ‘The Hardest Part’ video, includes the ‘Good Boys’ video. This US version also includes a bonus music video to the aforementioned ‘Rapture Riders’ song that is unavailable on any pther pressing! EMI. 2006.

***********************************************************************

Blondie: Greatest Hits – Sound and Vision 7.5

eyelights: Debbie Harry.
eyesores: the cheapness of the videos. the half-hearted performances.

Blondie has seemed pretty much omnipresent for me. Having grown up in the late ’70s and early ’80s, pictures of frontwoman Deborah Harry were everywhere. I probably also heard their music without knowing it, in malls on and passing car radios.

But I was also too young to ride the wave: by the time that I got into music and watched the daily music video countdown on my local station, Blondie wasn’t much of a figure. In fact, their last studio album came out in 1982 – by then, Duran Duran was all the rage.

Strangely enough, I was never really interested in exploring Blondie. Despite their monster success with their albums ‘Parallel Lines’ and ‘Eat to the Beat’ and their respective singles,  it would take years before my interest was piqued and I would bother to give them a shot.

That shot, was their 1999 comeback album ‘No Exit’. Frankly, I was underwhelmed. It found it neither catchy nor exciting. And their experiments with reggae-ish sounds really didn’t do anything for me. The best part were the hidden live tracks at the end, featuring a few of their old hits.

It took multiple viewing of the various Ramones documentaries (their peers, so there were interviews with Blondie band members), a terrific cover of “Call Me” by Porn, and the phenomenal graphic novel ‘Phonogram, vol. 2’, for me to resurrect any form of interest in the band.

Recently, due to the closure of a local CD shop, I got the chance to pick up a few special edition Blondie CDs for peanuts. I pounced: I figured that it was a golden opportunity to get to know a band that had a significant impact on the pop-rock landscape of the ’70s and ’80s.

This particular set is a compilation CD and DVD combo that includes many of Blondie’s hit singles on the CD and videos for many of the same tracks on the DVD (except in chronological order). This is the North American version, which excludes two videos but adds the mashup “Rapture Riders”.

(Nota bene: I subjectively rated the songs and videos separately, in the following format: song/video)

  • 1. In the Flesh: Taken from their self-titled debut album, this is an okay, ’60s style ballad – nothing more. The video is a studio performance. It look like it was made for TV, but I can’t say for sure. The performance is okay for what it is. Debbie Harry looks tired, a bit worn, and the rest of the band are wearing suits – perhaps to evoke that ’60s vibe. 6.5/6.5
  • 2. Denis: Taken from their follow-up album, ‘Plastic Letters’, “Denis” is a cover of Randy and the Rainbows’ “Denise”. The song is lite and fun, punchy, catchy. This is another basic video. But, wow… Harry’s kind of sexy, here… fetching, glamourous. But it’s yet another poorly-staged performance, and Harry sometimes doesn’t even sing into the mic. 7.0/7.0
  • 3. Detroit 422: Another fun song. I basically didn’t notice the track much more than that because Debbie is such a badass rock goddess (in sleeveless leather jacket, leotard and knee-high stockings – all black) that I was slightly distracted. Yum. The video is just a stage production with cheap effects. It works, but it gets extra points for Debbie Harry. 7.0/7.5
  • 4. Picture This: From ‘Parallel Lines’, this song is nothing special: pop, with good vocals. The video is merely a stage performance with cheap effects. Weirdly, Debbie looks like she came out of a wind tunnel, with her hair all over the place. And she’s wearing an unflattering yellow dress. The rest of the band look like your average rock band. 6.5/6.5
  • 5. Hanging on the Telephone: The second single of the album, this is rockier, catchier. It sounds like Blondie finally came into their own, are über-confident. And yet… it’s a cover! The video shows the band coming out of a car, going to make-up, and then performing energetically on a black and white-striped set, reminiscent of ‘Parallel Lines’ album cover. 7.5/7.5
  • 6. Heart of Glass: Considering the last single, this sounds like a totally different band: disco, pop – not rock. It’s super catchy, though. The video starts with some night driving in front of The Ed Sullivan Theatre, Club 54, …etc. Then we’re treated to a band performance on a disco dance floor. Appropriately, Debbie has a more stylish, more glamourpuss, look. 8.0/7.0
  • 7. Dreaming: The first single from fourth album ‘Eat to the Beat’, “Dreaming” is an okay song. It might have been more potent at the time, but it feels thin now. The video is a live concert performance with fans in the rafters behind the band, bopping along. Deb looks really worn here. Success taking its toll, perhaps? 6.5/6.5
  • 8. The Hardest Part: The second North American single for the album, this song is more of a rock number, featuring greater guitar influences. The video set is white and all graffitied; they could be in an empty pool for all I know. The band is wearing white suits with black paint striped on them while Debbie is in a brown wig, stockings… and almost nothing else. 7.0/6.0
  • 9. Union City Blue: This was album’s second single in the UK. It’s OK, nothing more. The video starts with aerial shots of docks, …etc. The band performs outside in shipyards and then wind up dancing and clapping lamely at night by the waterfront. Meh. 6.5/4.0
  • 10. Atomic: The third single from ‘Eat to the Beat’, this track is EPIC pop with a superb guitar hook and synth lick. The video suggests a post-apocalyptic setting but mostly takes place in an old warehouse. It’s super DIY, and cheap-looking. Frankly, it kind of looks like a joke – especially with all the exaggeratedly stiff dancing. The song is awesome, though. 8.5/5.0
  • 11. The Tide is High: The first single from the band’s fifth album, ‘Autoamerican’, this is a slice of reggae-pop. F-in’ reggae-pop. Which went to #1. WTF. I didn’t know this, but it’s a cover of a Jamaican band. The video is shot in soft focus, and features freeze-framed pictures of Debbie and of the rest of the band. There’s some footage of them but it’s cheesy, low budget. 4.0/4.0
  • 12. Rapture: The second and last single for this album, “Rapture” is a soft dance-pop number featuring a lengthy rap by Debbie. Rap. Le sigh. The video is poorly-synched and shows the band mingling at a house party before going “outside” – with Debbie wandering about a set filled with Village People wannabes and other weirdos. Then she and the band follow a dancing black guy in a white tuxedo and top hat off the set. Interesting, but not great. 5.0/6.0
  • 13. Island of Lost Souls: The main single for the band’s final album of the ’80s’, ‘The Hunter’, this is a calypso-pop number – something I could do without. The video shows the band hanging about on a beach and in a huge Caribbean setting. Debbie is wearing all sorts of colourful dresses while the band is mock-playing horns outside. There’s also people dressed in white habits with masks on. It features better photography than the others, but it remains unsophisticated. 4.5/5.0
  • 14. Maria: The first single from Blondie’s comeback vehicle, ‘No Exit’, “Maria” is catchy, raucous and Harry’s voice is sultry – a fitting return. In the video, the band is playing in what looks like a NY loft apartment. Debbie’s mostly shown via a monitor, looking fetching and feisty. For some reason, ninja-like assassins spy on them and then one of the snipers attempts to kill her. I loved the bullet shot. 7.5/7.5
  • 15. Good Boys: The first single from ‘The Curse of Blondie’, this dancy number is super catchy and has a hooky chorus. Their best video of the lot, it’s a black and white affair, shot to look like an old-time film, complete with intertitles. It’s set in a circus, and it’s a tragic love story between a clown and one of the female performers. Meanwhile, Blondie is playing in disguise in insert shots. It’s fun and slick. 8.0/8.5
  • 16. Rapture Riders: This one is strange… It’s an unofficial mashup of Blondie’s “Rapture” and The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” which was approved by both bands after the fact. It’s okay, no more – and yet, surprisingly, it was a dance floor hit. Hmph. Similarly, the video is a mashup of historical footage of both bands in split screen. Overall, I’m not impressed. 4.5/3.0

When I sat down to watch these videos, I figured that it would be a good crash course into Blondie. It was. Now I’m realizing that I wrote off Blondie far too fast and for far too long. Granted, it’s not all superb, but there’s a certain something that makes you want to get more.

And I will.

I already have ‘Parallel Lines’ and ‘Eat to the Beat’ and plan to at least get their first two studio albums to get a better picture of the band. While I suspect that their key strength is Debbie Harry, I also get the impression that she is bolstered by the rest of the band.

Still, I must admit that Harry is one of the key factors for me; at her best, she is a force of nature, and her vocals range from sexy cooing to goosebump-inducing growls. The individuals in the rest of the band don’t stand out for me, although they have a knack for hooks that few bands of that era had.

Blondie, as an musical entity, is well worth checking out. And ‘Greatest Hits: Sound and Vision’ is a pretty good overview (although why the North American edition is truncated is beyond me). But, compilations are merely stepping stones: I will dig deeper. I most certainly will.

One way or another.

Date of viewing: February 2+3, 2014

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s