Collection of Spandau Ballet at their 80's prime
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 03/30/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The name of the prison that held Rudolf Hess and a very artistic style of dance somehow don't work in the same sentence. I mean, Spandau and Ballet, yeah? Nevertheless, at the height of the New Romantic phase that hit pop music in the early 80's, that was the name of the British group with Tony Hadley and the Kray brothers. This collection takes their singles from 1980 up to 1984, and was released before their politically conscious Through The Barricades album.The quick-paced and exceptional "To Cut A Long Story Short" defines their sound, computerized New Wave synths, pneumatic drums, and Hadley's resonant vocals. This was their debut single, scraping the UK Top Five, and along with MTV exposure, paved their way to a decent run on the charts for the next couple of years. The followup singles were "The Freeze" with similar sound to Missing Persons' "Walking In LA," and the more tempered "Musclebound," featuring a diluted Village People-like chorus."Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)" is another danceable tune, but whose abrupt burst of horns and insistent bass lean towards funky soul. One of the better songs here, and it deserved its #3 peak. The thing about SB was this. They'd have a strong opening single, and then chartwise, the followups wouldn't measure up, although not in the case of their first album.Two things then happened. They turned to the production team of Tony Swain and Steve Jolley, who had yet to turn Bananarama into stars. The danceable "Lifeline" was their first single under them, which made it to #7, and saw a more polished, mainstream sound while still maintaining the New Wave synths. Hadley's vocals grew richer, as evidenced by this song and the organ-dominated "Communication."Another was the band molding Tony Hadley into an 80's crooner, as exemplified by the dreamy sound and accompanying sighing vocals on their UK #1 ballad "True," which is the song the US generally associates with them.The more upbeat "Gold," a #2 UK hit, with its dreamy synths and insistent drumming, continued their newfound second wind, which also included "Only When You Leave," with the guitar figuring more in their sound, and the more suave "I'll Fly For You" and "Round And Round."This collection represents the domination of dance-oriented synth pop that ruled the airwaves at the time, as well as why Spandau Ballet was an influential force in the Second British Invasion."