OAKEY AND MORODER REVIEWS
Billboard July 1985
Electronic pop has yielded significant ground to other rock and pop styles during the past year, but this collaboration between the Human League vocalist and the pioneering techno-pop producer could easily rise above that downward trend, thanks to Moroder's typically vivid orchestrations and sweeping production. Oakey's vocals prove more disciplined, meshing comfortably with his partner's intricate settings. Emphasis on uptempo romantic songs should also buttress CHR options with club prospects.
Rolling Stone July 1985
IN THIS CONSUMER WORLD, WE HAVE designer jeans, watches, polo shirts, chocolates. With the release of this nominal collaboration between Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder, you can add a new category to the list: designer dance music. Moroder is the couturier who cuts the cloth and whose name confers instant glamour upon the garment; Oakey is the sharp-looking commercial endorser whose celebrity imprimatur lends it sex appeal. As perfect a match as this may have seemeed – Euro-disco superstar producer meets the voice of the Human League – this LP is a largely hollow program of rote dancefloor manipulations whose chief utility may be to aerobics classes.
The five pieces on the first side are strung together to achieve an artificial coherence, but they have only beats-per-minute and bleeping-synthesizer effects in common. Moroder’s speeding train rolls past, one empty boxcar after another. Oakey has contributed lyrics that flaunt meaningless catch phrases (“You gotta take a chance on love”) and non sequiturs (“There’s a feeling in the air/You sense it in the undertow”) and the shoehorned stiff-sounding vocals into music that was already recorded before he put pencil to paper. It is almost fatuous to talk of how they “worked together”, since Oakey spent only one week writing lyrics to Moroder’s demo tapes, then went to Germany for two days to record vocals.
Of Oakey’s rhymes sound contrived and even comical – “Valerie, Valerie, Valerie, you’re getting me down/Do you think that it’s ness-ess-air-ee to move into town?” – Moroder is no less guilty of musical cliché. Of course, they weren’t clichés when he was inventing them with Donna Summer in the mid-Seventies, but the strategies he employs here – the Daffy Duck synthesizer spuonks, the squiggly percussive that richochet from channel to channel, the hypnotizing thump of programmed drums – are now the trademarks of an exhausted genre. Granted, much of the second side seems a little more, uh, human. Oakey is animated and invigorating on “Now”, “Together In Electric Dreams” actually sounds like it might mean something and “Be My Lover Now” is a genuinely compelling dance track. But the LP returns to form with “Shake It Up”, a dreary disco exercise with a deadening sense of automatic celebration. You can close your eyes and imagine the mirrored ball, the flashing lights, the chest-rattling volume of the music – and the empty dance floor.
This 1985 album sounds exactly what you would expect if you took Moroder, whose trademark sound was ridiculed in the late 70s in exactly the same way as that of Stock, Aitken and Waterman was ridiculed in the late 80s (although while Moroder came back into favour, I don't see the same thing happening with SAW), and Philip Oakey, vocalist with the Human League. The album sounds like The Human League produced by Moroder. Which, for me at least, makes it well worth a listen.
First up is "Why Must The Show Go On" which is competent if unadventurous synth-pop. This segues into "In Transit" (listed as a separate track on the CD booklet but part of track 1 on the CD) which in turns runs into "Good-Bye Bad Times". This track was released as a single back in June of 1985 and, although it failed to do much, Scottish readers will know it in its instrumental form as the theme music to the political TV programme "Left, Right And Centre".
Straight into the next track without a join, and by now the relentless beat is beginning to get a little annoying. "Brand New Love (Take A Chance)" is similar to the first track in that although it doesn't have anything wrong with it, there's little memorable about it. Sure, it's got loads of Moroder trademark sounds, but they're plastered all over every other track on this album too. The link between this track and "Valerie" is at least rather more interesting than the others due to the difference in tempo. "Valerie" is a rather better song but again, not exactly inspiring.
"Now" is a definite improvement. The relentless hypnotic thumping is replaced by a rather more determined beat and the sounds are rather less typically Moroderish (although synth crashes still abound).
The opening strains of "Together In Electric Dreams" and 1,000 mid 80s computer geeks shed a wistful tear Peter Frampton does the guitar solo, Oakey wears his Judge Dredd t-shirt in the video and zap it's 1985 again. Definitely my favourite track on the album, I believe that in the UK at least it saved the film it was the title track to from being a complete flop - although it did nothing in the cinemas the success of the single in the charts (#3) led to the film doing well on video.
From there you can only really go down - "Be My Lover Now" would make a decent Crash era Human League song but the female backing vocals spoil the effect by being in tune, something Susanne and Joanne would never have managed.
"Shake It Up" is an improvement though, having the same more determined sound as "Now" and allowing Oakey to use the lower end of his range a bit.
Overall a decent album but not a classic by any means. If you like the Human League chances are you'll like this, but even then the endless thump-thump-thump will still get on your nerves eventually.
www.remembertheeighties.com June 2004 new
For eighties purists the
partnership of Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder is a marriage made in
heaven. Moroder’s robotic, thumping landscapes were always a perfect foil
for the lush melodies he provided for his vocalists. His style is
instantly recognizable on eighties classics such as 'Love Kills',
featuring Freddie Mercury, and the soaring 'Never Ending Story', a career
boost for ex-Kajagoogoo singer Limahl.
Extremely ace Italian production wizard Moroder had his first hit in the 70s, but as Human League horsetail vocalist Oakey never did any other solo stuff and got equal crediting when the two did this, we can include it. And it's so worthy of inclusion, giving that Moroder's skilful pinkiework on the techno-ivories and faders combined with Oakey's brilliant voice of floorboard monotony produced a genuine classic of the decade, albeit as a soundtrack to a really crap film. "Together In Electric Dreams" ("I only knew you for a while, I never saw your smile") made a deserved No.3 in '84 as Moroder's multi-octave flumes gave Oakey ample space to croak a stunning vocal in his own unique way. It was also frighteningly simple pop, the sort that many of the era's stars who tried too hard to be clever would have killed to have written. Exquisite.