First we have the Peel session from Virginia Astley, Kate St. John and Nicky Holland, known collectively as The Ravishing Beauties. This was recorded 14 April 1982 by Chris Lycett and broadcast on the BBC's John Peel show 29 April 1982. Percussion was provided by Ben Hoffnung. The Ravishing Beauties were formed when Astley's label-mate Troy Tate (more on him below) invited her to support The Teardrop Explodes over the winter of 1981-2. She called on two university friends for support. This appears to be a different dub of the session than that recently presented by our friend TreeTopClub, so you can choose which you like best.
Following this the group made a studio recording of "Futility" (based on a Wilfred Owen poem) before internal pressures forced a split. This version of the song was released only on the New Musical Express compilation cassette Mighty Reel in 1982. How it relates to the version on the Promise Nothing album is a matter of conjecture, but it seems they are mixes of the same session.
"Le Song (A Day, A Night)" b/w "A Winter's Tale" was a Japanese single released in January 1986. Despite the gap in time, the b-side dates back to the era of The Ravishing Beauties. Even more astounding, the a-side was used for a TV coffee advert! In the same year "Charm" was also released as a single only in Japan and used to promote the Honda Accord. (We provide a shot of the cover, above, as proof!) This conjures up a strange image of an alternate earth in which fey English singers saturate our television sets, enticing us to buy products with their tales of dead children and lost love.
In 1981 Les Disques Du Crépuscule had the idea to compile various artists doing covers of songs from classic films. Astley and film-maker Jean-Paul Goude got together under the name The Dream Makers and chose the Philippe Sarde composition "La Chanson D'Helene" from the 1970 film "Les choses de la vie". However the album Moving Soundtracks was not released at the time, so "Helen's Song" ended up on the 1986 double LP re-issue of From Brussels With Love, a compilation with so many different release versions it might make your head spin. Oh yes, do check out that film, by the way, which is a slow burner but has some excellent characterisations and a great car crash scene. There are no lyrics in the film, so it appears Astley made them up herself.
"Second Chance" is the sole Astley composition on the 1989 David A. Stewart (yes, Eurythmics) soundtrack for Lily Was Here. That's a film we haven't seen but we must admit this is not the strongest song in the Astley repertoire.
The remainder of the tracks are songs by other artists on which Astley provides vocals. The first of these is the 1982 Troy Tate single "Lifeline". Linked only by their releases on Why Fi Records, this release also includes Josephine Wells on the b-side "Kamikaze". It's a minor addition to the canon, but we wouldn't want it to be overlooked entirely.
More pleasant is "Now The Night Comes Stealing In", a duet with Kate St. John for her 1995 album Indescribable Night. Finally we have two collaborations with Silent Poets, "Don't Break The Silence" from 1998 and "I Will Miss This Holy Garden" from the following year.
Add all this together with the other available files and you have a bounty of Astley material. Please do not forget to run out and buy From Gardens Where We Feel Secure. Though mostly instrumental it is a superlative work.
-- The Second Chameleon
01 Arctic Death (3:18)
02 Futility (3:12)
03 We Will Meet Them Again (3:53)
04 No Need To Cry (2:56)
05 Futility (3:26)
06 Le Song (A Day, A Night) (3:44)
07 A Winter's Tale (2:05)
08 The Dream Makers: Helen's Song (2:31)
09 Second Chance (4:11)
10 Troy Tate: Lifeline (Hold On To That) (4:47)
11 Kate St. John: Now The Night Comes Stealing In (2:57)
12 Silent Poets: Don't Break The Silence (5:26)
13 Silent Poets: I Will Miss This Holy Garden (5:06)