Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Former Buggles/Yes man Trevor Horn returns with a collection of 12 hits from the ‘80s lovingly reimagined with The Sarm Orchestra and a variety of guest vocalists. As evidenced by his storied production career, Horn has an ear for hits and his choices for this collection are nothing short of impeccable. Hits from Bowie, Duran, Joe Jackson, Tears for Fears and Bruce Springsteen, to name a few, crop up here. The choices offer their share of daring: He doesn’t always go for the obvious, choosing Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” (with Seal) over “Let’s Dance” or anything he tracked during his renaissance in the early part of that decade. Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” comes alive once more thanks to an ace performance from Gabrielle Aplin that will make you forget the first 16 billion times you heard the song or the 80,000 lackluster covers which already exist. Here, she and Horn find the tune’s true romance and hint of desperation, probing what may be the Boss’s original intentions, which were (predictably) buried under layers of overproduction and the bombast endemic to the era. For some, this serves as an introduction to exciting new voices, including British songstress Rumer who, inexplicably, has yet to break wide in the North American market. Her breathtaking performance of Grace Jones’ “Slave to the Rhythm” highlights that tune’s inner beauty and the surprising intricacies of its melodic and harmonic structures. Matt Cardle’s “The Power of Love (Frankie Goes to Hollywood)” retains the sturm und drang of the original without over-egging the pudding and without the vocalist drowning in a daft musical setting that swallows the composition’s inherent beauty and honest earnestness. Tony Hadley’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It” finds new life also, the vocalist heightening (if you can imagine) the original’s drama without becoming melodramatic. Meanwhile, “Girls on Film,” a favorite Duran Duran track despite arguably being one of the Birmingham troupe’s weakest early hits, sounds positively brilliant in the hands of All Saints. Kerr and Horn transform “Brothers in Arms” into a folk ballad from another century, making us believe that it’s one of those songs that’s always existed and not one that emerged at the height of MTV and other excess. Credit Mark Knopfler’s steady hand as a composer, sure, but credit these two for capturing a magnificent performance. Robbie Williams, forever an enigma to the American market, gives a positively gripping take on “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” That may be one of the more obvious choices here (one wonders what Peter Gabriel might have done with “Shout”) but it’s a fantastic choice to lead into the album and easily one of the most memorable here. Horn was, of course, no longer a member of Yes when he produced the group’s 1983 mega-selling 90125 and the equally-mega hit “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” The transformation here, from dramatic prog-pop number to lush orchestral piece isn’t just dramatic; it’s faithful in unexpected ways, even some which may surpass the original’s greatness. A-Ha’s “Take On Me” becomes a gentle lull, something perhaps more appropriate to airing in the Anglican church than on the stages of stadiums throughout Europe. It loses none of its majesty in this transformation and strikes the listener as all the lovelier for it. As for other pieces that transcend the originals, Steve Hogarth’s appearance on Joe Jackson’s greatest song, “Different for Girls” is positively revelatory. This collection is powerful enough that one momentarily has hope for a flagging music industry, a fleeting belief that hit songs of substance could once more be ubiquitous on the radio dial. That may never happen, but damn if we don’t believe, with the purest parts of our hearts, that it could while winding our way through this collection. It’s rare to find an album anymore that exhilarates from end to end the way this one does and rarer still to find a producer such as Horn capable of taking seemingly disparate threads and tying them together so seamlessly, with grace and ease. While one is tempted to wonder what he might do with another collection like this, here’s also hoping that taste dictates leaving a brilliant moment alone, to stand on its own as a singular and celebratory event.