Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Lost Gem of the 80s #13: Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder - st (1985)

Consider the year, 1985. The Human League were one of the hottest bands in the world with several top 10 hits under their belt and were pioneers of the synth-pop sound that epitomized the early 80s. One would think that a collaboration between lead singer Philip Oakey and legendary disco architect Giorgio Moroder (producer for Donna Summer, Oscar winner for Flashdance and Midnight Express) would birth some cutting edge dance and club music. Instead, it produced a good, lost Human League album.

There is virtually no difference in style between this self-titled cd and the hits the League were churning out at the time. The only remotely noticeable one is the absence of HL back-up singers Susan and Joanne. However, some songs on the album do feature female backing vocals that could easily be interchangeable with theirs. One noticeable voice on “Be My Lover Now” is the unmistakable E.G. Daly. You’d know her from acting in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Valley Girl, and also the soundtracks to Breakfast Club and Better Off Dead (she’s the singer at the school dance). Philip’s baritone is at its usual peak. What a cool, strange instrument that voice is. Dare I say, it sounds a little like if Johnny Cash were British and used synthesizers?

This album sparked no hits at the time and has been out of print and long forgotten until a few months ago when it was reissued with bonus tracks in a new cleaned up mix. If it is known at all, it’s for being the home of “(Together In) Electric Dreams” from the film of the same name, a sort of cult classic and the song the League close out every live show with. It appears on most HL greatest hits packages, even though it is not “officially” an HL track, so it’s easy to assume it was theirs all along. It’s a great song that endures to this day.

Human League are like the Hall & Oates of synth pop. There is no mistaking their pop sensibility and the hits from back in the day are still beloved and strong. The question is whether listeners discount them as being relics of the past, or momentary genius’s that added much to the pop canon. I tend to be one of the latter and love them both more today than ever. While Phil and Giorgio’s collabo isn’t essential, it is a much appreciated missing piece for those with a soft spot for the HL sound. The songs are great and familiar, just as all great pop music should be. If you have an ear that's tuned to synth-pop and are adventurous enough to look beyond the hits, you'll love it.

The Nugget - "Goodbye Bad Times". Of all the singles, it holds up the best.

1 comment:

Marilyn said...

I've always loved Human League - their sound is so distinctive and unmistakable. Just hearing their music floods me with memories of our fun and crazy lives back then. Thanks for capturing the moments, Jon. Love you, Mom