Wednesday, July 29, 2020

CD Odyssey Disc 1392: Eurythmics

This next band was one of the few “pop” bands that it was OK to like if you were a metalhead in the eighties. We slagged Michael Jackson, and we slagged Madonna. Hell, we even slagged U2. But we didn’t slag the Eurythmics. They were just too cool.

Disc 1392 is…. Sweet Dreams Are Made of This…
Artist: Eurythmics

Year of Release: 1983

What’s up with the Cover? This is a very uninspiring album cover. That tiny picture of a masked Annie Lennox holding the heart in a gloved hand – that should be the album cover, not whatever is up with all the various sized bars of colour.

How I Came To Know It: This album was pretty huge when I was a teenager, so that was my original exposure. Sheila owned it for years on tape and probably bought it on CD in those early days before my CD buying habits swamped hers like a tsunami. Or maybe I bought it for her, sweet guy that I am.

How It Stacks Up: I have five Eurythmics albums. I had six, but I got rid of “Be Yourself Tonight” after I reviewed it back at Disc 719. That was March, 2015…feels so long ago…

But I digress. “Sweet Dreams” is the best of the lot. Number one! As this is my final Eurythmics review, here is a recap:

  1. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This): 5 stars (reviewed right here)
  2. Savage: 4 stars (reviewed at Disc 222)
  3. We Too Are One: 3 stars (reviewed at Disc 543)
  4. Revenge:  3 stars (reviewed at Disc 118)
  5. Touch: 3 stars (reviewed at Disc 570)
  6. Be Yourself Tonight: 2 stars (reviewed at Disc 719)
Ratings: 5 stars

When I first heard this record back in the eighties, I remember thinking how it was unlike anything else I’d ever heard before. “Sweet Dreams” has elements of New Wave, soul, rock, jazz, and techno but it is something altogether its own. Listening to it almost forty years later it still sounds as fresh and innovative as the day the Eurythmics released it. They would go on to make many wonderful records (see albums 1-5 above) but for my money, their signature achievement is “Sweet Dreams”.

From the opening fuzzed out synths and drum beat of “Love is a Stranger”, this record warns you it is going to ride an edge of nervous excitement. Against this backdrop of throbbing artificiality, Annie Lennox’s voice floats in sweet and strong; a balm against the angular cut of the rest of the production and arrangement. The Eurythmics would have gotten famous on the strength of Lennox’s voice alone, but by combining it with so much modern effect they created something greater. Love is a stranger, but it is a stranger you hope will meet you on a train, wearing just an overcoat and hat.

Much of the album is an exploration of mood. “Jennifer” with her green eyes, and dress of deepest purple, is a romantic mystery that remains absent and unsolved. The album’s masterpiece title track, “Sweet Dreams” oozes sex; the kind that finds its wellspring in the mind, and then slips out into the world. Hearing the synth-driven urgency, you can practically see the milling throng on a busy city street, each with their own secret desires, finally given voice by Lennox. Both “Sweet Dreams” and “Jennifer” that not only express longing, but also show the many faces longing can have.

Even when they play it straight, like the funky “Wrap It Up”, the syncopation and arrangement adds an element of unearthliness that pushes the song to a new level. “Wrap It Up” also features Dave Stewart laying down some sweet guitar licks, as if to show he could do that on every song, if he weren’t too busy making things appealing in more interesting ways.

While the record has an upbeat vibe, the Eurythmics take to their chosen topics seriously. Lennox falls into the pocket of every song and emerges personifying the emotion or character being highlighted. On “Somebody Told Me” the song is menacing and accusatory, as a woman confronts her unfaithful lover. Lennox sounds equal parts hurt and angry, and the fuzzy riff and insistent bass drum underscore her cocktail of disappointment.

It's not easy to use all that production and layered sound and not come off sounding artificial. The Eurythmics do it by transcending that artificiality, finding the perfect tension between our hearts and our heads, then building beautiful music there.

Best tracks: They are all good, but I particularly like: Love is a Stranger, Wrap It Up, I Could Give You (A Mirror), Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Jennifer, Somebody Told Me

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