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Review: Alison Moyet Special Editions

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Alison Moyet, one of Britain’s finest vocalists, releases new deluxe album sets.

Alison’s careers breaks down neatly into three sections, Yazoo, The Sony Years and the freedom years! But it’s the deluxe reissues of her first four albums we’re looking at today…

Alison’s first album, Alf was a monster hit and was written mostly by herself with the Jolley & Swain partnership [of Bananarama fame] who would also produce.

Listening to Alf now, it still holds up. As with any Alison Moyet record you expect amazing vocals and you definitely get that here, the quality of the song-writing is high and the production hasn’t dated, it’s still a classic album and is only enhanced by the extra tracks included on this deluxe edition. Just about everything from this era is there, including the non album hit single That Ole Devil Called Love – no less that three times. One omission is the 7” version of All Cried Out, although it is represented by the album and remix versions.

Long time fans will be overjoyed with this edition as it contains many versions and mixes that have only ever been available on vinyl from the time of release.

Alison has made no secret of the fact she did not have a good time recording her second album, Raindancing. She started to clash with the record company on her musical direction, they wanted more of the same hit-making formula, she wanted to be herself and she would eventually get the artistic freedom she craved to spectacular effect.

It does show on Raindancing that this was not a happy time. It’s not that it’s a bad album, it’s just not very ‘Moyet’ in places. Having said that, it does contain the almighty Is This Love and the beautiful Ordinary Girl which both show Alison at her best.

Ordinary Girl will be of interest to Stock Aitken Waterman/PWL fans as it was remixed at one point by Pete Hammond, although don’t expect a big disco stomper in the style of Dead or Alive! It’s the first time this mix has been on CD though and it’s worth a listen. Other highlights on the Raindancing extras are a demo of You and Me which is better than some of the released tracks on the album. Also great are the live tracks and the original version of This House which would be re-worked for the next album, which neatly brings us to Hoodoo.

Hoodoo is now seen as a modern classic that slightly under-performed. Although lead single It Won’t Be Long was nominated for a Grammy, the album went under the radar of many.  Had Hoodoo sold as well as Alf and Raindancing then it would be being discussed in all those Top 100 Albums type articles. As it is, this deluxe edition is a great opportunity to revisit this magnificent album.  It’s as dark and as angry as Marc Almond at his best but still keeps a pop edge. This is the sound of someone’s heart being torn apart and poured out, it has intricate melodies and poetic, dense lyrics that are a million miles away from Invisible. It would be worth buying Hoodoo even without the extra tracks, but they are well chosen and do enhance the piece. There are five previously unreleased live tracks and a completely unreleased song.  It is said that Hoodoo was under-promoted and not supported at the time of release so it’s great to see it getting the love it deserves here.

Hoodoo brought Alison kicking and screaming into the 90s and was followed up by Essex, the title of which is a nod to her roots in Basildon. There’s a bit of a Brit Pop vibe to this album and the remixes of Whispering Your Name were on constant rotation in the clubs at the time and the memorable Dawn French video was never off MTV. That single, as fantastic as it is, is not really representative of the album however, and was an indication of the behind the scenes troubles of the time. The record company wanted a pure pop album and she initially presented something very different, the record company insisted some tracks be re-written and produced to be more commercial and that would lead to Alison leaving and not releasing anything for another eight years. You can clearly hear this when you listen to the album version of Whispering Your Name next to the single version.

That does leave a bit of a stain on Essex, which is a shame as it’s glorious! If Hoodoo was an anger album, then Essex sounds much more carefree, there are still stories of hard times in the lyrics but set to a happier beat. Again, this deluxe edition only adds to an already impressive album although there are some frustrations too. Essex was released when Alison was at her most prolific, there were four singles and all were extensively remixed, she also recorded extra tracks for the Singles album released soon after Essex and collaborated with other people. This means there just isn’t room on two discs to include everything. Ode To Boy suffers badly as none of its remixes are featured. However, the Vince Clarke remix of Whispering Your Name is here and is still fantastic, as is the acoustic version of Dorothy and There Are Worse Things I Could Do.

Moyet fans will be beside themselves with these four reissues. The content, packaging and sound are all fantastic and although there are a few things missing, all the essentials are there.

If you’re new to Alison Moyet and want to dip your toe in, get Hoodoo or Essex if you want something a bit more pop. Once you’re hooked, treat yourself to Hometime and you’ll never look back.

GT gives the Alison Moyet Deluxe Reissues 5/5

Words Darren Howard

Released on 25 November 2016, available at amazon.co.uk

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