After reading Peter Hook's New Order bio, hearing this collection of tracks produced by members of the band is like uncovering a time capsule from the early 80's, and one can almost revisualize the atmosphere in the studio at the time thanks to Hook's painstakingly constructed timelines throughout his book.
Lord only knows how the people at Factory Benelux managed to secure the cooperation of the original New Order lineup in order to make this three disc set happen. Factory Benelux did license and release many of these tracks in their original run, but maybe this was their way of paying tribute to label founder Annik Honore after her death in 2014.
The liner notes (which are worth the price by themselves -- painstakingly detailed and filled with entertaining stories) imply that they took on these jobs to allow for experimentation outside of the boundaries of New Order. Experimentation here not only meant taking sounds that worked so well on New Order records and bringing them to other people's records. It also meant messing around in the studio and making mistakes on their friend's records that they'd be reluctant to do with their own music.
The collection is a microcosm of New Order itself -- together but separate. Disc 1 is dominated by Bernard Sumner's work. It's mostly him trying to land a big New York club hit via various takes on the hard electro sound of "Confusion". The cool, club-ready sounds are there, and the slick production couldn't have been better for the time. That extra spark of inspiration that made New Order songs into classics are missing through. Sometimes it's because the attempt to copy a specific song's aura is too blatant. Paul Haig's "The Only Truth" is a perfectly serviceable dance rock tune, but it's not "Love Vigilantes", and it's trying too hard to be "Love Vigilantes" to not suffer by the comparison.
Disc 2 is dominated by Steve Morris' work, which turns out to be the most timeless stuff on here. 52nd Street's "Can't Afford (To Let You Go) is the electro funk stomper with a strong whiff of "Let The Music Play" that basically trumps all of Barney's attempts to produce the same. In more recent productions such as his remix of Section 25's "Another Hilltop", and original productions and remixes for Factory Floor and Ladytron's Helen Marnie, he settles into a streamlined club pop formula that could fill floors equally well in the 90's, 00's and 10's.
Disc 3 is the most heterogeneous of the bunch, with Peter Hook's experiments in rhythm, the lone Ian Curtis/Rob Gretton production pairing (!), and the amazing "Video 5-8-6" that I'm thrilled to finally own on CD instead of in bootleg form (yes, I know it received its first official release a few years ago).
The full collection, spanning over thirty years of Be Music productions, offers a cutting room floor version of New Order as they evolved over the same time period, that is, if New Order had retreated from big rock star tours and singles entirely and decided to focus solely on their favourite club scene of the moment.