Wednesday, January 18, 2006

ABC's Alphabet City

I picked up the expanded remaster of ABC's 1987 LP Alphabet City this week. The follow up to the crazy, cartoon electro of How To Be A Zillionaire saw the band slimmed down to a duo - Martin Fry and Mark White. They jettisoned the cartoon imagery, enlisted Chic's Bernard Edwards to produce a couple of songs, and made a (slight) return to the sort of material that they broke through with. This album was the kind of thing fans were expecting after Lexicon Of Love - soulful pop with glittery production instead of the art rock of Beauty Stab. It has some nice songs on it, but it's not as consistently good as Lexicon. The big hit single was When Smokey Sings, one of the Bernard Edwards productions. The song is a Motown romp, a tribute to Smokey Robinson filtered through classic ABC sensibilities - those opening notes, the great arrangements, the sharpness of the melody and lyric. Much of the record suffers from the rather dated production values of the era, and it doesn't hold up as well for me as Lexicon. One nice thing about these reissues is that they've got the 12" remixes, several of which are pretty good, as well as the b-sides. The b-side of The Night You Murdered Love is a pure tribute to the sound of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis - THE hot production team of the day - called, fittingly enough, Minneapolis. I adore this song - it is pure pastiche with all of Jam & Lewis' trademark tricks, but it's such a great tribute to "the sound born in the city of Minneapolis". It is the reason I bought this remaster. The fact that I have called Minneapolis and it's twin city Saint Paul my home for the last 20 years could have something to do with it too I suppose...

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