|HOPE IN A DARKENED HEART
The key personnel on Hope In A Darkened Heart were: Virginia Astley (vocals), Ryuichi Sakamoto (producer, arranger, musician), David Sylvian (vocals), Mo Foster (musician), Anne Stephenson (musician), Jo Wells (musician), Tony Phillips (recording engineer), Steve 'Syco' Williams (assistant recording engineer) and Masaki Sekijima (programmer).
Six of the tracks on the album were recorded at Wool Hall, Somerset and AIR Studios, London. The exceptions being 'Love's A Lonely Place To Be' and 'A Summer Long Since Passed', two tracks that had been added at the request of WEA's Rob Dickins. These were recorded/remixed at Good Earth Studios, London alongside the addition of 'Darkness Has Reached Its End'.
Ryuichi had spent most of the flight from Japan listening to Virginia's demos on cassette in order to plan out his arrangements.
Ryuichi performed and recorded the base instrumentals for all six of the main tracks on the album. That division of labour allowed Virginia to focus on lyrics and to record her vocals in the final week at the studio.
Virginia later recalled the tight time schedule that they had for the album: "There was only a limited time that Ryuichi was free to work, he only had three weeks. So we could only do what we could in three weeks. So it wasn't really very long at all."
"I was reasonably happy. It wasn't really the kind of way I would do things but then I suppose that's the thing with working with somebody else. That they add something else to it.I kind of feel that it was interesting and he is an excellent musician. And it was nice to have somebody else kind of making the decisions. It was a good experience."
'Darkness Has Reached Its End' was previously released as a single in November 1985. The children on backing vocals are three of Virginia's nieces: Aminta Townshend, Zelda & Layla Astley.
'A Summer Long Since Passed' is a 1986 re-recording of the track originally featured as the B-side to the 12" release of the 1983 single Love's A Lonely Place To Be and also on Virginia's debut album From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, also released in 1983.
'Some Small Hope' features a duet between Virginia and David Sylvian. The backing track for the composition was sequenced on the Fairlight 3, the synth pad from the Prophet 5 and the 'woodwind' (shakuhachi flute) sections originating from the Emulator II. A recording was also made of Ryuichi scratching the strings of the piano with his fingers in the studio, the sound being captured by engineer Tony Phillips.
'Some Small Hope' was chosen as the opening track on Hope In A Darkened Heart and was released as a single in February 1987.
'Tree Top Club' was based on Virginia's childhood memories, penned as an 'open letter' to Virginia's twin sister Alison. The theme of the song was inspired by a tree top club formed by Virginia's older brothers. During a pre-song talk at the 1985 Riverside performance, Virginia explained how both her and twin sister Alison were never allowed in because they didn't have the required passports! 'Tree Top Club' had previously featured in live performances since 1984. A demo version of the track also appeared on the 1984 compilation cassette Dreams And Desires.
'Charm' was originally titled 'The Great Love'.
During the AIR Studios sessions, Virginia was joined by two of her closest friends, Jo Wells and Anne Stephenson, for the overdubbing of clarinet onto 'I'm Sorry' and violin onto 'A Father'. Anne also overdubbed violin parts onto 'Charm' while Jo provided clarinet onto 'Tree Top Club'.
The strings arrangements for 'A Father' and 'Charm' had been written by Virginia's father, film and television composer, Edwin 'Ted' Astley.
The track 'I'm Sorry' features overdubbed fretless bass guitar via Mo Foster.
'Love's A Lonely Place To Be' is a remixed version of the single released in 1983.
Virginia had been pregnant at the time of recording Hope In A Darkened Heart. Post-album release, she subsequently took a long break from her own music to raise her daughter, Florence, returning in 1991 with the All Shall Be Well album (which also features singing by a young Florence).
Ryuichi Sakamoto came to prominence as part of Japanese technopop outfit Yellow Magic Orchestra, who scored a UK chart hit in 1978 with 'Computer Game'. He has also carved out a career as a solo musician, composer, producer and actor. He starred alongside David Bowie in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) and also composed the film's soundtrack.
David Sylvian is a singer and musician better known as frontman and principal songwriter of the band Japan. He had also worked with Ryuichi Sakamoto previously.
Mo Foster is a multi-instrumental musician, producer, composer, solo artist and author. Foster has toured, recorded, and performed with dozens of artists, including Jeff Beck, Phil Collins, Ringo Starr, Joan Armatrading, Gerry Rafferty, Brian May, Scott Walker, Van Morrison, Heaven 17 and the London Symphony Orchestra.
In the 1980s, The Wool Hall was converted into a recording studio by Tears for Fears, who used it to record their 1985 album Songs from the Big Chair. In 1986 the studio was opened for use by other artists. The studio was subsequently used by acts including The Smiths, Annie Lennox, Joni Mitchell, The Pretenders, David Sylvian, Sisters of Mercy and Paul Weller.
Good Earth Studios was based in Dean Street, London under the control of producer Tony Visconti, who bought the studio in 1977. Acts such as David Bowie, T. Rex, Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy recorded and produced here under Visconti. Today, the premises is known as Dean Street Studios.
Some of the tracks on Hope In A Darkened Heart later featured on Japanese TV adverts. 'A Father' was used for a 1987 ad for Japanese airline ANA. Meanwhile, 'Le Song (A Day, A Night)' (which featured as a bonus track on CD releases of the album) was recorded specifically for a Japanese TV ad for instant coffee.
During the AIR Studios sessions, Duran Duran were busy recording their Notorious album in the adjoining studio.
'A Summer Long Since Passed' was titled 'A Summer Long Since Past' when it appeared on the album From Gardens Where We Feel Secure.