|Main Index Page||General Ratings Page||Rock Chronology Page||Song Search Page||New Additions||Message Board|
[page in the process of being converted from MP3 status to full status]
|Main Category:||Pop Rock|
|Also applicable:||Funk/R'n'B, Synth Pop|
|Starting Period:||The Divided Eighties|
|Also active in:||--------|
Disclaimer: this page is not written from the point of view of a Eurythmics fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Eurythmics fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.
For reading convenience, please open the reader comments section in a parallel browser window.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1981
Overall rating = 13
Either a lost gem of post-Roxy Europop or just another George folly. You decide.Best song: REVENGE
Track listing: 1) English Summer; 2) Belinda; 3) Take Me To Your Heart; 4) She's Invisible Now; 5) Your Time Will Come; 6) Caveman Head; 7) Never Gonna Cry Again; 8) All The Young (People Of Today); 9) Sing-Sing; 10) Revenge.
Every now and then, I'm bound to get a little zen-like revelation when least expecting it. You probably know what I'm talking about. Getting it on, listening for some time, then BOOM - "isn't this just great? How come nobody told me before? How come I'm the first to get that conclusion? Who's right and who's crazy - me or the world?" In The Garden, for me, assuredly makes the Top 10 of such revelations, and if there's at least one person in this world whom I can take with me when I go, that should probably make me square with the Lord, or, rather, with the Lady, since we all know that Annie Lennox is an angel come down from Heaven and you'd better start getting converted now or face the fuckin' fury.Technically, In The Garden was a "shy", experimental, and mostly unnoticed - or even slammed - debut for Eurythmics, recorded in Germany shortly after the breakup of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart's first band, the Tourists. Although the golden years of Krautrock were over, in the early Eighties, Germany was still the #1 country to experiment and innovate, and it comes as no particular surprise that there are as many as two Can members - Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit - to assist them in the proceedings. (Unfortunately, Liebezeit's drumming is only present on a few tracks; fortunately, the rest is backed up by Blondie drummer Clem Burke, a pretty mean drummin' machine in his own rights). In addition, engineering, co-producing and overseeing the results is Connie Plank, one of Deutschland's leading superheroes of electronic and all other kinds of technologies, an Uebermensch if there ever was one. A fresh start by two already somewhat seasoned artists, assisted by giants of experimental rock - this could only be one of two things: tremendously disappointing failure or crash-banging artistic success. My materialistic brain cells are in total agreement with my idealistic spirit particles - choice number two. In The Garden is, hands down, the most innovative and less-than-formulaic record in the duo's entire catalog - and, at the same time, one that never fails when it comes to memorable melodies and compelling moods. Fans of the band's later, commercially successful work, often dismiss it due to complete incompatibility with the "classic" sound, and, while this is not entirely true - it just couldn't be - it is true enough to maybe make those who have already given this band a chance with 'Sweet Dreams', and consequently rejected it, eventually reopen the case one last time. In order to do that, though, George has to take the dragon by the horns (yep, a real dragon is supposed to have horns) and make a futile attempt to describe the overall sound of the record. How does one do it? "Ethereal synth-pop" would probably conjure pictures of the Pet Shop Boys, but that wouldn't be true at all; keyboards are prominent, for sure, but this is a very guitar-heavy album, and, as slick and "artificial" as it may sound, it's probably the most humane-sounding and vivacious Eurythmics record. "Electronic soul-rock" would rightly indicate the album's complete dependence on Annie's deep, dreamy, hypnotic singing style, attenuated by clever double- and multi-tracking of the vocals, but wouldn't quite stress just how different it is from her later style - that harsh, "androgynous", overtly feminist tone. She does not position herself as the "strong type" on this record, being a little more effeminate than usual, but sometimes this only makes her stronger in the long run, and never caricaturesque, as it occasionally happens on later records. Formally, this is a restrained, "cold" singing style, but it is never devoid of true emotion. Perhaps "atmospheric avantgarde pop"? This seems closer, but then the word "atmospheric" may mislead. There's a lot of atmosphere here, for sure, as the music owes a lot to old Krautrock as well as contemporary New Age influences, but then the compositions are never "static" like your average New Age stuff. Stewart's guitar is usually at the forefront, locking into possibly repetitive, but vigorous and energetic grooves; and when it's the synthesizer that carries the melody, there are usually several layers of sound, with minimalistic synths in the background to provide the otherworldliness and "active" melody-carrying ones in the foreground to provide the punch. Sometimes they can spice this further up with acoustic guitars, flutes, and whatnot, but the production never ever becomes overbearing because the sound is meant to be thick and dense. It's not just some dance music (although many of the tracks are quite danceable); it's new generation music that takes equal advantage of the New Wave advances in technology and the traditional pop hook. Above all this we have the pristine vocal melodies, sung by an angel. (You do realize it's not just any garden out there, don't you?) So to hell with three-word descriptions. Better still, pool them all and that'll give you something to think about. Individual highlights on here include tracks one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten, and if I could find a way to praise the pauses in between tracks without making it look ironic (as in, "the best thing about this album are between-track pauses"), I probably would, too. I know, I know, by now you're probably dying to hear my opinion on all of them, or at least that's what I'm supposed to make myself believe by writing five completely insubstantial introductory paragraphs. So here's some obliging my illusions. 'English Summer' - dark verses, light chorus. The way she sings, you'd think she were melancholically giving out a list of all the evils of the world - if you didn't know English, that is. Then: 'there's nothing like an English summer'. Not the Ray Davies way, no. Not the music-hall. This is more Gothic, if this is more like anything. This is friggin' unusual, and beautiful. There's wonderful sonic depth to it. 'Belinda' - lighter, faster, toe-tappier, driven by Dave's uninterrupted, a little Brian Eno-ish (think 'Needle In The Camel's Eye') guitar riffage, Annie not showing off at all, singing something that, without this riff, would sound like a lullaby, but then 'Belinda' is obviously a babe rather than a baby ('Belinda he won't deceive you' and so on). A rather "basic" pop tune, but a perfect pop tune all the same - replete with an ideal vignette at the end, when Annie overdubs herself triumphantly vibratoing opera-style over the main melody. 'Take Me To Your Heart' - simplistic synth riff worthy of Kraftwerk memorability, desperate pleading vocals, repetitive chorus that is really repetitive by right, not because somebody didn't have the time or the will to think of a second line. Take me to your heart, why don't you take me to your heart. Simple as that. 'She's Invisible Now' - character sympathizing. Echoes of good old Brit-pop in here this time, throw out the synthesizers, get in some real harpsichord, here's a Kinks song for you, but we already have enough Kinks songs, give me something a bit colder than that, something more detached and far away. Angels are looking down at you from far away, after all. The keyboard ripples in between verses are gorgeous, that's what synthesizers were invented for in the first place. Pete Townshend knew that on Quadrophenia, Plank and the boys/girls are reviving it here. Skip 'Your Time Will Come' (pretty good, but no time to come for everything), straightforward to the terrific guitar rocker 'Caveman Head'. Not being in the game, I have little idea how the title relates to the lyrics ('I am very beautiful, I could be so successful' - is this inspired by looking at a prehistoric skull or what?), but I couldn't care less as long as I have the impeccable quartet of "inobtrusive whistling synth line/three-note wimpy-sounding guitar riff/grungy feedback in the background/Annie's mechanic singing" going on. If I didn't make myself clear, that's "sci-fi" plus "pop rock" plus "avantgarde" plus "ethereal" in one four-minute package. Okay, there's no 'character development', as they say about movies, after about fifteen seconds into the song, but I don't have one single idea about how they could develop it further without ruining it in the first place. Quiet end-of-the-world desperation I'm-gonna-quit-you-but-I-don't-know-how pop rocker 'Never Gonna Cry Again'. Of course, "desperation" only implied, but "implied desperation" sure beats "fake desperation". That heart-breaking ringing guitar line that many a performer could die for even if it's so goddamn simple. The ominous, faux-anthemic 'All The Young People Of Today' - sounds like the best Nico song Nico never ever wrote. Like a gentler, better produced 'All Tomorrow's Parties' with Annie singing it to the happy benefit of all the legions of Nico-haters in the world. Then again, the lyrics aren't really morose or sad. They're contemplative. This was written by angels in the sky, remember. Not exactly fallen angels, but presumably angels who wouldn't mind a little falling now and then. Okay, that says little about the song. How about that: slow, catchy, full of angry guitar noise to make it, well, full, and featuring the dreamiest, most utterly paradisiac (nice word I've just invented) utterance of the song title on the entire record. Skip the cute slight 'Sing-Sing' (in French, too! How Audrey Hepburn-esque of her), concentrate all fire on the biggest present. 'Revenge' is the best song ever written about revenge, period. Why? Because, the way it looks to me from this perspective, it's so much fun to hear a lady sing "revenge!" with a mysterious and graciously royal shade to her voice than "REVENGE!" with just a pissed-off one (no offense to Patti Smith, whose tune I also like a lot). 'It has to be dangerous, it has to be refined, it has to be skilful - you need to take your time'. The shit hits the fan at the very end - but this is one spoiler that I will leave unspoiled. To quote a popular classic, 'I've said too much - I haven't said enough'. Why In The Garden has never been praised as one of the ultimate pop albums of the decade is anybody's guess. Mine is that respectable art critics just wouldn't want to bother unearthing stuff by that shitty mainstream synth-pop outfit, even if the chick sorta kinda sing good and duet with Aretha and all, and at the end of the day it is always the respectable art critics that have their final laugh. Well - up yours, respectable art critics of the Eighties! You just go on sitting there slobbering all over The River, which, for all of its sprawl, doesn't have a dozenth part of this record's freshness and inventiveness. So I'll just keep on slobbering over In The Garden instead. We'll see who outslobbers who in the end.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1983
Overall rating = 11
...are made of synthesized materials, but you can get over it.Best song: LOVE IS A STRANGER
Track listing: 1) Love Is A Stranger; 2) I've Got An Angel; 3) Wrap It Up; 4) I Could Give You (A Mirror); 5) The Walk; 6) Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This); 7) Jennifer; 8) This Is The House; 9) Somebody Told Me; 10) This City Never Sleeps.
The rule of the "footnote" is over and here comes commercial success: the Eurythmics as they are known, loved, and hated by the bulk of the Eighties' generation and the way you could always perceive them through the media as the undisputed king and queen of glossy Eighties synth-pop. The style has been reworked rather radically indeed. Deep, brooding atmospherics and elements of the ethereal are mostly out. Pools of mystical haziness, so it seems, won't get you to the top and besides, Annie is obviously not at the heights of her vocal powers when she's drowning in one of those pools: one asset of the Eurythmics' career post-1981 is that you can now fully assess the power and the tremendous rush of her aggressive, occasionally masculine-aggressive singing. I mean, let's face it, for all of the beauty and transcendence of her singing on In The Garden, anyone could do it with a bit of luck, but not anybody could be beautiful and transcendent on one song and then harsh and aggressive on the next - and it is on Sweet Dreams that you first get the chance to assess Annie's range and overall talents the way they should be.However, that is also where the list of improvements comes to an end. Because already the next significant change is a tremendous drop in guitar frequency. Guitars were quite significant on Garden, adding new dimensions and expanding old ones, so to speak, and it was their interaction with keyboards and vocals that gave the album its hallucinatory sheen. Now, as "guitar bands are on their way out" once again, with just the keyboards in tow, the message is clear: this is an album oriented at people who have no time to sort out the two, carefully allocate guitars in one ear, keyboards in the other, marry them at will and earn themselves a nice spiritual reward. This album is oriented at people who want themselves catchy keyboard music so that they can be the best on their block in breakdancing. Drum machines, pulsating synth beats, robotic keyboard riffs, you name it, we got it. After all, who are we to blame for wanting to make money when the Beatles wanted the same. At the same time, Dave Stewart is not as stupid as to wipe out every trace of "artsiness" from the music. Synth-pop, sure enough, but what are these flutes and these brass sections doing on some of the numbers? One good thing about the arrangements is that most of them are still interesting, unlike, say, on Madonna's brand of synth-pop. Or even on Depeche Mode's, for that matter, because with Dave Stewart, you never really know what he might be throwing in the pot to grab your attention - whereas with DM you know for sure that you won't get much bar the usual keyboard stew, no matter how imaginative and unpredictable it might turn out. This is why, after all these years, the title track to the album is still a moody masterpiece - although, from my limited point of view, I have to say a couple more verses couldn't hurt: there's way more repetition of the chorus than necessary, which, in turn, can't help but arouse the nagging feeling that the song is so goddamn catchy only because it's so goddamn repetitive. At the very least, though, that's a beautiful chorus, even if the lyrics are somewhat off the wall (the 'seven seas' cliche just doesn't go anywhere, and not rhyming the last line wasn't a good move), delivered by Annie with the classic cold merciless intonation. What really brings the song over the top, though, are Annie's moans and wails in between these verses. And I don't even happen to remember the epochal video to the song, which is said to be singlehandedly responsible for its enormous success (to narrow the reasons even further, I think it's Annie's haircut - and hair colour - that might have been responsible in the end). The other big hit, 'Love Is A Stranger', is also excellent, with a very typical Sixties-style pop/soul melody disguised as a groundbreaking electronic classic - check out the verse melody especially, it's so much of a Herman's Hermits pastiche or something like that. Of course, the mood of the song is no Sixties. It's a little Seventies-ish instead, a mixture of innocent romantic cliches with an overall melancholic and maybe even decadent feeling (I could easily see Annie dueting with Bryan Ferry on that one) - and a good mixture, considering how blissfully she gets that transition from the purr of 'I want you, I want you so, it's an obsession' to the angry 'it wrenches you up and you're left like a ZOMBIIIEEEE!' climax, and back again. These two are quite obviously danceable: they were made to become hits, and so they had to be danceable. But it would be somewhat more difficult - and somewhat more puzzling - if you were to dance to 'Jennifer', one of the few songs that still preserves the spirit of In The Garden. Not only is Annie singing in much the same ethereal tone as she used to, there's a bigger than usual guitar participation on the song as well, culminating in a grandiose overwhelming blast at the last minute. I have never understood exactly why Jennifer got to be underneath the water, but if it's the same Jennifer that Styx were singing about, then okay. (Me, I like imagining that they intentionally substituted 'Jennifer' for 'Ophelia', in which case everything fits in so neatly). It's a little bit less memorable than the average Garden song - outtake, mayhaps? - but it works very well in the context of this album, giving us a relaxed romantic heavenly interlude in between 'Sweet Dreams' and... and... Oh blimey. I haven't yet mentioned the uncomfortable sides of the album. 'This Is The House' blows chunks and chips, exactly like its Latin followup on the next album. Maybe it's just the inner Latin music hater in me, but for some reason every Latin-tinged song that Eurythmics ever did has always sounded cheesy to me, particularly when Annie says 'esta es la casa' in that dippy Spanish accent. I'm not sure if Stewart and Annie were the first ones to merge Latin elements with electronica or if they were already riding somebody's coattails at the time, but the fact remains that it sounds dumb anyway. Annie Lennox and Hispanic matters don't go hand in hand, and that's that. Nor am I all that mighty tremendously content with the rest of the "power-punching" numbers on here. Annie is in good vocal shape, but she is mostly used as one of the ingredients of these songs, rarely their main attraction - and since most of the other ingredients usually sound something like "choom ch-ch-boom" and "swoosh swoosh whang!", much of this stuff is, yes, you guessed it, dated. 'Wrap It Up' is an old R'n'B cover that sounds fun the first time but sort of annoying the next minute; and while the choruses of 'I Could Give You A Mirror' and 'The Walk' are semi-decent, I can never really remember how these particular songs go, nor their particular "emotional designations". I do like 'Somebody Told Me', a song that continues their favourite lyrical subject of jealousy and revenge and has Annie assuming a whole wide range of attitudes - from the worried and hurried 'somebody told me, somebody told me!' rasp to the pissed-off, threatening rap of 'I never wanna see your pretty face again!'. Short and wedged somewhere near the end, it's quite liable to be missed, but I don't think it should be. Although it could be due to interference from the second best song on the album, and one that could have also fit on Garden with a little further elaboration - 'This City Never Sleeps'. Artsiness rears its ugly head on here again, with Dave and Annie trying to paint this bleak, unnerving picture of either a dark foggy metropolis or their own dark foggy inner worlds or both at the same time. It's a lengthy mood piece, full of weird vocal effects (of special note are the 'in the city!' backing vocals and the looped 'ah-huh ah-huh ah-huh ah-huh' thing from Annie on the fourth minute), wild - but minimalistic - guitar passages, and cling-clanging industrial noises. And it's wonderfully effective, although if you tried dancing to it, you'd probably look like George Bush on a bicycle. Whatever one might say, in 1983 nothing else really sounded quite like Sweet Dreams. Fifty percent commercial, fifty percent aspiring to something other than making money; exceptional vocalist, surreal lyrics, dumb synthesizer ringtones, annoying Latin influences, and moody Kraftwerk-inspired soundscapes. One thing you couldn't accuse them of is lack of creativity. The bottomline, then, is that not all the melodies are strong, and that in their search for "accessibility" they have, as paradoxal as it may sound, become less accessible. Well, at least I definitely think that In The Garden is way more accessible. But then Annie's hair wasn't orange on In The Garden, and where was that friggin' suit?
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1983
Overall rating = 11
Certainly deeper than what the title - or, for that matter, the album cover - suggests.Best song: NO FEAR NO HATE NO PAIN
Track listing: 1) Here Comes The Rain Again; 2) Regrets; 3) Right By Your Side; 4) Cool Blue; 5) Who's That Girl; 6) The First Cut; 7) Aqua; 8) No Fear No Hate No Pain; 9) Paint A Rumour.
A whoppin' three hit singles for the band here, forever ensuring that Eurythmics would be remembered as a major emblem of the Eighties rather than a one-hit, one-red-hair-suit-and-tie wonder. However, this time around the album had not yielded an instantly recognizable classic like 'Sweet Dreams', which brings us to the bad news: the formula of Sweet Dreams is repeated to a tee, with all of its constituents simply regurgitated in a different sequence - everything, that is, except for the much uglier album cover (so sue me, it doesn't exactly work wonders for my aesthetic nerve to see Annie Lennox try and look like a weight-lifting clone of Ziggy Stardust, not to mention that Ziggy never looked too good in the first place himself).Namely, you have the expected stack of top 10 material synth-pop; the expected one or two "R'n'B for the synth age" compositions; the expected suckass Latin-coloured number; the expected bits of icy romantic bliss; and the expected prolonged, modern-day-psychedelic closing piece. Dave Stewart was now in control - he sensed fame and fortune, and he was not about to blow it. But it's the last thing on my mind to blame him, really. For Eurythmics as a creative entity, from now on there would be no moving forward, but for Eurythmics as tasteful formula-makers, the floodgates were open. And regardless of whether we want to consider albums like Touch dated or not, they certainly stand up to repeated listenings. Now let's do the song-by-song routine because I'm all out of generalisations, unless you want me to start making lowbrow remarks on those muscles again. 'Here Comes The Rain Again' is a hit single that became a hit single because it had no choice but to become a hit single - look at that title, it's like George friggin' Harrison or something. It immediately sets a slightly heavier, darker tone for the album - indeed, I think that the dominating singing style here is in a low voice rather than in a high one, which, atmospherically, echoes In The Garden, although musically they're obviously quite different. That vocal melody is quite fabulous - there's just the right proportion between romance and melancholia, so you don't get drowned in the sap and you don't get chased by the darkness. And yet that girl, she sure does scare me at times. Certainly I would be scared shitless to find myself as her romantic partner. She wild, man. She gorgeous 'n' wild and scary. Don't let that pretty pretty synth interlude between verses dupe you - no-one fools 'round with Annie Lennox. You just wait until she dives into your ocean, she'll drain it right on the spot. Still don't believe me? Check out 'Regrets'. 'I've got a delicate mind, I've got a delicate nature, my fist collides with your furniture'. Ouch. My furniture isn't of much value, of course, but I'm a guessin' the furniture is just the first step for the lady. The next one is: 'I'm a hungry Mohican, I got a razorblade smile'. Again, this musically timid electronic R'n'B concoction, maybe fit for one of those endless Prince outtake records, wouldn't amount to much of anything if not for Annie's hidden - in fact, not really hidden - menace. It's the first time she gets to sounding so gritty and masculine - far from the last, too. But apart from this burning desire to show 'em suckers what real women are made of, there's not much in store here. 'Right By Your Side' is the obligatory Southern Hemisphere send-up. Again, if you're inclined, take it, it's yours. I intensely dislike the band's Latin and Caribbean excursions; this one is not quite as obnoxious as 'This Is The House', but simply does not fit in at all with Annie's personality. Sell it to Madonna if you like. 'Cool Blue' took a while to get into. It's actually pretty adventurous for such a straightforward disco tune. There's the "deep mystic" verse, the revved-up "generic singalong" chorus, the hard-to-take 'how could she fall for a boy like that?' nasal refrain that's so ugly it can't help but get under your skin, and the instrumental section which is basically "set up a groove and do crazy adventurous things for a couple minutes". The basslines - I love the basslines here. It's like the bass is spitting angry insults at you, one by one, while the guitars try to make feeble retorts. The only weak point is there's no massive central hook for the song to acquire proper staying power. It still reads like a series of cool disconnected fragments to me. 'Who's That Girl': again, I went from despising the song to loving it. The slow, sagging, adult-poppy verse, I think, is what got me down - it sounded like Sade but without all the smokey lounge jazz trimmings that can magically turn boredom into class. But the focus of the song, of course, is not the verse but rather its seamless transition into the chorus, at which point a single note of desperation strikes and the song becomes more than just a pop ballad. In fact, this might just be the most sensitive and vulnerable piece on the album, and I confess to liking Annie more when she's vulnerable than when she's not - without a doubt, this proves that within this reviewer lies a hopeless male chauvinist, but then I've been raised on the Rolling Stones, too, so bear with me. Anyway, next time you listen to 'Who's That Girl', please take my advice and pay attention to the raspy guitar "solo" at the end of the song - more a buzzing drone than a solo - and tell me it ain't the acme of desperation out there. Now 'The First Cut', I've always loved loved loved. Isn't that woman magnificent when she's going for the "hidden menace" thing? The way she goes from soft and threatening to hard and threatening - like a, uh, rock maybe? - when she delivers the 'each impression will never be never be never be broken' line? Forget the lengthy instrumental passages and the chuggin' funky rhythms and the dancefloor craze and the cool / hip / not so cool / not so hip factor. Forget all that and just go for that never be never be never be broken thing. On second hand, don't forget all that, because it's all good, but it's the Cold Menace that adds the necessary pizzazz all the same. By the time 'Aqua' rolls along you know you're not going to get much outside the usual themes of desperate love, frustration, rejection, and jealousy, and you know you're gonna get it all through contrast - dark and light, fast and slow, deep and shallow, you know it, so maybe 'Aqua' will be a slightly lesser thing. But it's still good. 'Don't touch me, don't talk to me about it' - and then 'take me to a quiet place, throw me in the water'. There's definitely something between Annie and this water fetish. When she's not showing off her stronger side, she's being this mermaid-like thing, and mermaids, as you know, are scary things. You throw 'em in the water, they take you with them. First 'Jennifer', now this. The last two songs are the 'artsy' ones. 'No Fear No Hate No Pain' constructs an atmosphere akin to the ones initialised by Peter Gabriel on his third album - dark, doomy, psychologically destructive and impossible to describe in non-drum machine terms. Well, maybe it's possible to describe it in singing terms - it features Annie's best performance on the entire record. It is the album's big anthem, a song that is quite likely to turn an occasional Eurythmics admirer into a devoted Lennox worshipper. Finally, the seven-and-a-half-minute 'Paint A Rumour' is, uh, Roxy Music meets Depeche Mode, with the instrumental inventiveness of the former combined with the let-your-synth-do-most-of-the-job attitude of the latter. Dave really goes wild with his array of God-replacing electronic monsters on here. Too bad there's no guitar, but even without one the song is a hilarious paradise of electronic goofiness. And just for once, I think I can allow myself to finish a review without a goddamn generalisation. Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you what's better - Sweet Dreams or Touch. Well, just buy both. What good is your money if you can't spend it on Eurythmics albums, anyway?
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1985
Wow, this is good. It's pretty unadventurous, I'd say, as far as exploring new structures of songs and new types of sounds goes, but it's extremely solid in the terms of songwriting anyway. This is where Annie's R'n'B tendencies fully take over the synth-pop tendencies - which, of course, also explains the presence of guest stars such as Stevie Wonder and even Aretha Franklin, no less, on the record. Now you know how it goes: if you ain't got a great singing voice, you ain't truly fit for R'n'B, and if you ain't got enough vocal hooklines to back it up, your R'n'B is gonna stink. Neither is a problem here: Annie's singing only gets better with time, so much, in fact, that she's able to make an adequate counterpoint for Aretha on their duet, and the vocal hooks? Galore!Yeah, you could argue it's even more of a sellout than the previous two records, and it was also one of their most commercially successful, with four hit singles in a row. And it is, of course: there's next to no pretense at being even remotely 'deep' on here. Love songs, one after another, with only a half-dumb feminist anthem in between - and no weird atmospherics whatsoever, no true social comment, no scathing introspectivity. But, once again, don't look at it this way; take the 'serious' stuff from those who are more qualified to do 'serious' stuff, and leave the 'shallow', but musically brilliant stuff to those who are more qualified to do that. It's all a question of adequacy and fitness, see. Anyway, most of the songs here are good, and there's a pretty "live" feeling to them as well; synths are toned down to make more way for guitars (Dave employs a whole bunch of guitar effects here, too), the drums and bass are mostly real, and overall, while some elements of the production are enough to betray "mid-Eighties" to anybody, it's much more humane than your typical mid-Eighties synth-pop album. And even when the song is really dumb, like that feminist anthem 'Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves', it's still powerful enough and catchy enough to make you forget the message. (Not that I'm anti-feminist or something, I'm just not quite satisfied when a song's lyrics go like they're being read right out of a political manifesto without even changing the word order or something. 'Now this is a song to celebrate/The conscious liberation of the female state' - yeah, right, sisters. Just keep on jammin', will ya?). But that's just one of the highlights. 'Would I Lie To You' is an excellent album opener, giving you a first hint that you're in for a terrific ride. Everything clicks: the disco bassline, the metallic - but nowhere near generic metallic - guitar riffs, the funky robotic brass section, and the soaring vocals, all combines to make the song one of the finest examples of Eighties' white R'n'B. Throw in the catchiest chorus on Earth, of course. Some people spit venomous toadspittle when it comes to discussing Dave's solos on this record, and they're not all inspired, but more often than not I kinda like them, because rather than being all over the fretboard like some Malmsteen wannabe (in hair metal fashion), he prefers to play these ugly, sometimes pseudo-unprofessionally dissonant garage-like solos that don't fit in with the songs AT ALL but I really don't mind. Neither do Eddie Van Halen's solos, but I never found that a problem. Has anybody ever noticed how Annie's voice in the verses of 'There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)' sounds eerily like Geddy Lee's? 'No one on Earth could feel like thi-ee-e-e-e-ee-e-e-s...'. I realize it's not a compliment, but take a minute to dig into this: on one song she sounds like Geddy Lee, and on another song she - on par technically, and almost on par emotionally - duets with Aretha Franklin. If this isn't enough to quote Ms Lennox as one of the top female vocalists of the Eighties, I don't know what is. Oh, and that chorus of 'Angel'? Isn't it beautiful? And the Stevie Wonder harmonica solo? Especially the part where he perfectly replicates Annie's vocal lines? These three are the best songs on the album, but 'I Love You Like A Ball And Chain' comes close - a typical classic "powerfest" from Annie. Some like the girl more romantic, some like her more "masculine", take your pick; 'Ball And Chain' is a very strong argument, though, in favour of the latter. Oh, did I mention yet that, in true R'n'B fashion, many of these songs evolve into "grooves" halfway through? With no verses or choruses, just a flashy jammin' atmosphere and bombastic vocal gymnastics sections? They all rule. The hooks get a tiny bit weaker towards the end of the record ('Here Comes That Sinking Feeling' deserves to be mentioned, though, with Annie's breathtaking 'here it comes, here it comes again!' screams that are enough to, well, literally take the breath out of you), but essentially I'm just not mentioning all the songs cuz the formula's pretty non-diverse. If you love the first half, you'll at least like the second half anyway. So, on one hand, I still get a little sad when I remember that In The Garden used to have all the same hooks coupled with true innovation, on the other hand, I'm delighted to find such a tastefully recorded album right smack dab in the darkest era for mainstream pop music. This certainly deserves to be salvaged.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1986
Basically Be Yourself Tonight Vol. 2: same range of styles (sort of a cross between gospel and synth-pop on the average), same solid level of melodies, same - relative - lack of adventurousness. I thought about rating it lower because it's such a stylistic carbon copy of its predecessor, but it's a carbon copy that works just as well as anything: you can't really hit an album like this below the belt when every single song is so well-written.Certainly not an album that begins with something as cool as 'Missionary Man', either. Sort of a soul-infested blues-rocker, all drenched in surprisingly "authentic" harmonica trills and solos, it finds Annie in ass-kickin' mood from the very beginning. It's her favourite type of ass-kickin' as well: not untamed screaming, but rather just a stern, cold vocal delivery that leaves you crumblin' in the dust anyway: 'my mother told me good my mother told me strong...' There's a message in the song as well, I believe, a strong anti-religious one (pretty surprisin' considering the exceedingly strong gospel influences of this song as well as many others in the band's catalog - but then again, maybe not), yet the lyrics don't really matter much, it's the drive that counts. There's also a lot of different lyrical messages in other parts of the album, but none of them matter much; by this time, Eurythmics lyrics are mostly riding tired old love and romance cliches. Then again, when was the last time you considered judging the band's lyrical skills? What matters is that it's essentially a great collection of soulful, well-arranged, and obviously sincere (at least on Annie's part) love songs. Again, it's amazing to see that at the very same time when synth-pop and electronically driven mass music in general were threatening the very existence of true soul in music, Eurythmics - who were actually among the first ones to start the entire shenanigan - were steadily going back to the world of real instruments and real, uncamouflaged, definitely non-post-modernist feelings. There are organs on here, violins, saxes, lots of guitars, of course, and the voice - the most sensual and humane female voice of 1986, I'd warrant that. Check out 'When Tomorrow Comes', for instance: like everything else on here, it's got a real catchy chorus, but I feel myself tightly drawn to the verses instead - just reveling in the lushness of Annie's articulation moving up and down and up and down through the verse's circular looping structure, so personal and so caring and so... well, you know. Goddammit she's a great singerine. Look, I feel very much irritated by the line 'you know you looked just like a baby fast asleep in this dangerous world' (a couple cliches plus it mainly respects her overdriven feminist stance as usual, heh heh), but every time she sings that I know that's the exact - and only - way to intone that phrase without it appearing totally corny. It's hard to explain. It's intuitive. Check it out yourself, you'll see what I mean. On at least two more occasions, Annie lets rip again - the rabble-rousin' 'Let's Go', where she finally lets out a few of those throaty roars to show everybody she can still rattle a wall or two, and the wall-of-sound rocker 'In This Town', a throwback to the rockin' style of Sweet Dreams and Touch, both qualify as pretty powerful, anthemic ditties. Maybe unspectacular, but while they're on, they're a lot of fun anyway. However, for the most part as usual she prefers to keep it down, with faster/slower, rhythmic/moody ballads (okay, "they" prefer to keep it down - so forgive me please for not mentioning Mr Dave Stewart as much as should have been necessary. Maybe he wrote every single one of these melodies, I dunno. Give him a big hug for that). The best hooks on the album, apart from 'Missionary Man', I think, can be found on: 'Thorn In My Side', which pulls along like a good Tom Petty shuffle with ABBA overtones (aren't those whoa-whoa-whoas kinda similar to Petty's style on 'The Waiting', eh?); the already mentioned 'When Tomorrow Comes'; and the album's most "modernistic", i.e. most synth-drenched, popster 'A Little Of You', which wouldn't be out of place on a Sade record were they to give it a little bit more of a jazzy feel. However, you probably won't drift away from this record without fondly remembering the passionate wail 'oh... we were so young!' on 'I Remember You', nor will you want to bypass the delicate dream-pop of 'The Miracle Of Love' with Annie's most tender delivery of all time - it's impossible to resist the song when she croons 'I'll show you something good...'. And I'm too tired to mention the other songs right now. Too bad they didn't have a major hit single off the album ('Missionary Man' did chart, but was a lesser success than most of their previous ones); this, of course, led to a lot of critical dismissal of Revenge as inferior to their previous stuff - because I guess that critics generally only listen to the hit singles anyway. Sit through the album once or twice and you'll know it's rubbish. One of their best, period.
READER COMMENTS SECTION