If you only know them from their massive 1986 hit singles “(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight” and “I’ve Been In Love Before,” Cutting Crew has a surprise in store for you. With Nick Van Eede, who has been the chief singer and songwriter for the British band since its 80s beginning, spearheading the project, Cutting Crew has re-recorded not only their well-known hits, but also some impressive deep cuts from throughout their long career. And these new recordings come complete with orchestral backing on the new album Ransomed Healed Restored Forgiven.
Van Eede spoke to American Songwriter recently and said that, because of his personal taste, he felt comfortable transforming his catalog with help from philharmonics from both Prague and Slovenia. “If you and I took a drive today and put the radio on, I probably wouldn’t have much rock on but maybe some classical music,” Van Eede says.
In addition to the clear-cut song choices, Van Eede says it was important that he get to showcase some of the band’s lesser-known work. “Obviously, the record company wanted to have ‘(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight’ and ‘I’ve Been In Love Before,’ and probably ‘One For The Mockingbird,’ of which I had no problem. But the rest was me trying to show them which ones, over six albums, would work best. And I think we chose them pretty well. Obviously, there’s many that you wish you’d done. But I’m happy with the oddballs.”
Van Eede sometimes directed the arrangers based on location cues in the songs. “There’s a song called ‘Berlin In Winter,’ which is about the fall of the Wall and this lad being sequestered to build the wall,” he says. “So I said Russian, and they said, ‘OK, we’ll make that a little Shostakovich.’ ‘No Problem Child’ was about my daughter and that was very English, so we said let’s do it like (Ralph) Vaughn Williams.”
One of the standouts on the album is “Everything But My Pride.” As heard on Cutting Crew’s second album (1989’s The Scattering), the song was filled with synths and sequencers. On Ransomed Healed Restored Forgiven, Van Eede sings with very little but an swirl of strings behind him, and the results are stirring. On top of that, serendipity provided the chance for him to work with an old friend on the recording.
“We were recording the vocals of ‘Everything But My Pride,’ and right before I was invited to a birthday party,” Van Eede remembers. “My wife said, ‘There’s a girl over there who wants to say hello. She said she thinks she knows you from the old days.’ I went over to her and she said, ‘My name is Jackie Rawe.’ She was the girl who laid down the backing vocals on the original record back in the 80s. And she lives about two miles from where I live. We grabbed her and I said, ‘You won’t believe this but we’re recording this song again after 33 years. Would you like to sing on it?’ That’s her on the record and she did a great job.”
Van Eede found that the process of rerecording the songs brought back a lot of old memories, including those of his original Cutting Crew collaborator, guitarist Kevin MacMichael, who passed away in 2002. Van Eede credits MacMichael with the much of the melodic intrigue in the songs. “When we wrote, it would be me singing, ‘I keep looking for something I can get.’ Kevin would then go (mimics guitar notes from song.) All those motifs, that’s Kevin. So I think if he was still alive now, he would be very proud of that.”
Van Eede also says the passing of time has deepened the meaning of certain songs. “‘No Problem Child’ always was a very personal song,” he says. “It’s a song about when my daughter’s mom left when she was only three years old. If I did one thing right in my life, it was my daughter Lauryn. We’re the best of friends.”
“All the American managers at the time were saying, ‘Come on, move up to LA.’ Career-wise, I probably should have done that. But I just said, ‘Fuck it.’ And we have a spectacular relationship. If you’re a Dad, you’ll know how very important that is. I wrote it when she was younger, but to sing it again after all these years knowing that she’s still my best pal, that was pretty emotional.”
Singling a special orchestral version of the band’s #1 hit “(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight,” which closes out the album, also choked Van Eede up. “There were a lot of tissues on the floor doing that,” he says. “It might have been sloppy. But the lyrics brought on a whole different dimension, when you think about dying. Since I wrote that song, I lost Kevin, my guitarist. I lost my brother and I lost my Dad.”
Speaking of singing, Van Eede hits those high notes from all those years ago with no sweat. He credits an extended hiatus for his pipes. “When Kevin died, there was a four or five-year period where I pretended I could be a manager,” he says. “And I stopped singing for about five years. I was living in the Caribbean. Of course, I wasn’t a very good manager, but I was quite good at drinking rum. And then I came to my senses and said, come on, start singing again. Maybe that little gap in the middle helped.”
Just as Van Eede’s voice has held up, so has his songwriting, as the orchestral arrangements prove. “I’ve done many gigs unplugged, so I know that these tunes work,” he says. “You can peel these songs right back and they still work. I’m proud that it stands up. Almost 20 years of songwriting there.”
Now Nick Van Eede is excited to see how Cutting Crew fans will react to this celebration of the work they’ve done over the years. “I was nervous,” he admits. “I just recorded a video clip talking about ‘Broadcast.’ And I end by saying, ‘I’ll soon reap the rewards or the wrath of the fans.’ But the response has been magnificent.”
PRE-ORDER / PRE-SAVE : HTTPS://FFM.TO/CUTTINGCREW