I got “High” with a little help from my friends…


The greatest band in the history of the world have just had their final (?) album given the deluxe treatment. 

I don’t need to tell you how much I love The Blue Nile. How important their music has been to me, and the part it’s played in getting me through this thing called life. How their second Long-Player, Hats, remains my all-time favourite album. You know, all that stuff I bang on about every so often across various parts of the internet.

My appreciation for The Blue Nile is something I’ve become associated with over the years, something I’ve even become synonymous with to a few people. And that’s good. I’m happy that my love of their music, and what it means to me, has led to others discovering The Blue Nile, and bringing it into their lives.

And so last week, I began to get asked the same question from a number of friends and fellow internet users….namely, “have you got the new Deluxe Edition of High yet?”.

Yes, the band’s fourth, most recent and – please God, say it ain’t so – their final opus, originally released in September 2004, has been issued as a special two-disc affair.

Except I’d completely forgotten it was due.

The horror!

(Shall I just hand in my “world’s so-called biggest Blue Nile fan” card right now, and be done with it?).

Anyway, once I’d been reminded of its existence, I still needed convincing. Because the lure of 32 minutes of bonus music apparently wasn’t enough of a draw. In an era where reissues and “Super Deluxe” editions of even the most fleeting 80s or 90s sensations can run to several discs’ worth of material, just over half-an-hour of previously unreleased stuff from The Blue felt very….minimal.

Yet isn’t that the point of The Blue Nile, the reason they inspire such devotion, and why their catalogue – comprising just a quartet of studio albums, all barely 40 minutes long, with no Best Ofs, no Live releases – has helped to create the mystique that endures even now?

More fool me for doubting that it would be worth it. It took the recommendations of trusted acquaintances before I did what I ought to have done, as a self-respecting Blue Nile nut, and just got the thing on the day of release. No faffing around.

Let them take you High-er. Four songs we’ve never heard before!

For the uninitiated, High was the group’s first release in 8 years. Peace At Last, its predecessor from June 1996, had arrived a mere 7 years after the legendary Hats. Each album had, by a quirk of fate perhaps not unconnected to the delays between them, been issued by a different label (Linn Records were kind-of subsumed by Virgin not long after their debut A Walk Across The Rooftops began to get noticed). The big-money move to Warner Brothers in the early 1990s ended in frustration when the people who signed them with promises of big things promptly left the company during a major upheaval in the middle of the decade.

By 2004, they had eventually landed in the care of Sanctuary Records, a popular home at the time for quality acts of a certain vintage. Although viewed in some quarters as a little underwhelming, after such a lengthy hiatus, High did in fact become the band’s highest-charting album when it debuted at #10. The Blue Nile in the actual Top 10!!

Peace At Last‘s #13 peak was possibly not helped by the lack of a lead single to remind the public that The Blue Nile were back and boasting a more organic, acoustic sound with more guitars and (what sounded like) real drums, rather than their trademark synths and machines. Happiness would eventually get its chance to heroically miss the Top 40 completely, but maybe all those boardroom shenanigans at Warner Brothers played a part in the label totally underselling the whole project.

Virgin kept at it with promo for Hats, releasing three singles (in separate years, no less) to maintain a profile and remind audiences that here was music worth checking out. There were songs on Peace At Last, the likes of Tomorrow Morning, Sentimental Man and God Bless You Kid, which could surely have served a similar purpose. Yes, we had the first ever tour to create a buzz in lieu of singles (and not being able to take up an unexpected offer to see them at the Royal Albert Hall due to my ill-health remains a major regret of mine), but the album vanished off the radar far too soon.




High, by contrast, was trailed by a proper single, I Would Never. To add extra enticement, the 3-track CD included the A and B side of their ultra-rare, ill-fated introductory 45 for the RSO label. I Love This Life, from 1981, was doomed from the moment RSO went bust shortly after its release. To have these historic recordings at long last was a huge deal, and meant the single remained on heavy rotation chez AFDPJ even when the album came out.

After the very adult-contemporary, acoustically-driven sensibilities of Peace At Last (which, although I played to death and still consider a beautiful album, was not in the same league as Hats or A Walk Across The Rooftops), High was notable for the return of a yes, minimal, approach that evoked those first two LPs. Overall, it was a seamless amalgamation of everything they’d done before; chiming keyboards and snaking basslines on some tracks, offset by the sophisticated arrangements from Peace At Last on others.

If there is a criticism of High, it would be the shortage of genuinely spine-tingling songs. Those moments where The Blue Nile soar into the ether, conjuring magic and delivering emotional bullseyes in their wake. We didn’t get a new Downtown Lights, Tinseltown In The Rain, Saturday Night….not even a Tomorrow Morning or Family Life.

It’s lovely, of course. This is The Blue Nile for goodness sake. But even the biggest fanboy (hi there!) can admit that while it’s consistent and often very beautiful, it’s not quite top-tier Nile. So, when news came of the bonus disc containing unreleased material from the sessions, it was tempting to assume that the bonus CD of High (Deluxe Edition) might merely offer up some pleasant but insubstantial out-takes that weren’t deemed good enough to be on an album that left many fans a teensy bit disappointed at the time.

Blimey, how wrong that would be!

Of the six extra tracks, two are elongated remixes of songs from the album; She Saw The World (originally granted a limited, promo release as a single in 2005) and Days Of Our Lives. These are less remixes than complete overhauls, the latter transformed into an example of electronic elegance that Kraftwerk would be proud of. Imagine if they’d taken this route in 2004, and gone all out gleaming electro on us. She Saw The World‘s makeover brings to mind prime Groove Armada, incredibly.

And we haven’t even mentioned the “new” songs yet.


Wasted – a groove-based meditation on city life, and not afraid to focus on the less glamorous aspects…in the same way that line in Days Of Our Lives about “wiping my bloody nose” came as such a surprise on the album proper. Arguably a stronger piece than at least half of High itself.

I – a yearning, almost pleading ballad that achieves something that was absent from High; that emotional kick to the stomach, a song and a performance from Paul Buchanan which goes off into the realms of alchemy. Another track which is far more impressive than anything on the main album.

Big Town – quite probably an attempt to write a single, with its distinctly commercial leanings. They should have used it, as this might have worked well as a launch for the album, as it fits thematically with the artwork and the overall atmosphere of the title song.

Here Come The Bluebirds – not related to Cardiff City FC, as far as I know, but a nice romantic closer in the Saturday Night vein.

The bonus disc may be only just over 32 minutes long, but put it this way; Hats was 37 minutes, and contained 7 tracks, and nobody – least of all yours truly – ever complains about that, do they? This is amazing music.

This is The Blue Nile. What else could it be.


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