It must have seemed a little strange back in 1985, when Phil Oakey, already well established as the frontman of The Human League, recorded an album with electronic producer and mastermind Giorgio Moroder. After the success of Together in Electric Dreams, released the preceding year from the film Electric Dreams (previously covered here) they decided – or were persuaded – to create a full album.
It kicks off with something of a bang, with the huge drums and orchestral hits of Why Must the Show Go On. It’s a great, catchy, pop song – very much stuck in the 1980s, but somehow different enough from The Human League‘s recent output to stand apart somewhat. It morphs into a slightly strange short instrumental called In Transit before a very uncomfortable segue into the single Goodbye Bad Times.
This was the second single, and the one which really launched the album (there was a long gap between the first and this one, presumably while they went away to record the album). It’s a competent song, but you can’t help but feel it’s a little bit forced – Phil Oakey has said before that the album was recorded extremely quickly, and you have to wonder whether it shows in a couple of places.
The pace doesn’t slow with Brand New Love (Take a Chance), which after another awkward segue seems to be playing at several hundred beats per minute. It does have some particularly nice elements though, with some great lyrics from Oakey and a lovely bass part.
With another clunky jump, Valerie is upon us. It has one of the best melodies on this release, with some slightly odd watery backing noises, and in a sense works extremely well, although even if the singles had performed less badly, I can’t see them ever considering this as one. This is a short and frantic album, and that ends Side A already.
Side B opens with Now, presumably an homage to the compilation series of the same name. At this time, with a couple of decades’ experience in the music industry, Moroder clearly knew how to craft a pop song. This is firmly bedded in the eighties, as you might expect, but as with everything else here, it’s a catchy little thing too.
Then comes the moment we’ve all been waiting for – Together in Electric Dreams is finally upon us, and for the first time on this album it comes without being mixed into its neighbours. It’s essentially just the original single version, but it would be churlish to complain – this is an exceptional song which is now regularly performed by The Human League as though it’s one of theirs. And rightly so.
Final single Be My Lover Now follows. It’s a good song, although again it feels a little rushed. The second and third singles were basically flops, and in retrospect the reasons should be clear – while some songs feel a little rushed, they are good, but really most people were only ever going to buy this album for the first thing they had heard.
Then we’re onto the final track already, the slightly daft but extremely catchy Shake it Up. You really could blink and miss this album, and I suspect the annals of music history have, for the most part, long since forgotten about it. But for all its failings, what it doesn’t lack is great, catchy songs, and at only half an hour in duration, you really have nothing to lose by giving it a go.
There’s a lovely 2003 remaster of this album which includes most of the tracks off the singles, and is well worth tracking down.