The Eurythmics' studio collection is remastered and reissued, and the results help make their case as something more than just an MTV new wave anomaly.
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
1">"I could give you a history. Could you ever listen in to me?"
-- Eurythmics, "I Could Give You (A Mirror)"
MTV came into my family's home in 1983, and my world was suddenly cracked open. The precocious two year-old channel exposed me to things I had only heard rumors about: Music television overflowing with sex, rock & roll, new wave, and Martha Quinn. Among the hallmark videos of the time are Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" and "Here Comes the Rain Again". Annie Lennox, both androgynous and sexual all at once, thoroughly confused my raging Midwestern teenage hormones. I knew what I was seeing was somehow relevant to my coming of age, but had no idea how I was supposed to react to this female creature with the shock of orange cropped hair above piercing eyes, wrapped in a tailored suit and tie. And bubbling behind this image were disturbing, sterile beats propelled by the blend-into-the-background persona of production mastermind Dave Stewart.
| Referenced Albums|
All titles released in the US on 15 November 2005 and in the UK on 14 November 2005.
Taking its cue from Hollywood's talent for turning a profit by double- and triple-dipping on a single DVD title, the music business has realized there is a market for reissues. And Eurythmics is the latest band to benefit from this approach. But reissue projects rarely seem to get it right. While often exhaustive, they are also overwhelming, forcing listeners to wade through droning extended mixes, scratchy demos, and all other kinds of tripe imaginable stretched over multiple discs. At the other end of the spectrum are companies like Warner Bros. and Sony: releasing remasters of Van Halen's Diamond Dave era albums and four of The The's albums, respectively, void of any extra nuggets to entice the collector. The Eurythmics' catalog, though, shows just how you do a reissue: Flawlessly remaster the albums and add a handful of quality tracks spread over a single disc.
Skipping the pseudo-soundtrack 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother), Stewart has immaculately remastered the Eurythmics' eight proper studio albums, from 1981's In the Garden through their 1999 post-script effort, Peace. Each album contains an extra four to seven tracks -- some extended versions, some live versions, some unreleased tracks and cover songs, all engaging.
From the ashes of both their personal relationship and their previous band, a trio called The Tourists with Peet Combes, Stewart and Lennox formed Eurythmics in 1980. The duo's first album arrived a year later as In the Garden. Supported by Blondie drummer Clem Burke and Can's Hölgar Czukay (credited on French horn, brass, and "Thai stringed instrument"), In the Garden is a guitar-heavy post-punk collection unlike anything else in their oeuvre. While often derided as not up to par with their subsequent work, there is much to be found in the sonic layers of Stewart's guitar work. Songs like "English Summer", "She's Invisible Now", and "Never Gonna Cry Again" are solid numbers that fit perfectly within the context of their contemporaries. The single "Belinda" marked the first of many "name" songs the band would produce throughout the band's life. ("Jennifer", "Adrian", and "Sylvia" would soon follow.) The bonus tracks here are a couple of b-sides taken from a pair of seven-inch releases from the era, and some live cuts originally found on the Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) "This is the House" twelve-inch release. As a side curiosity, the original cover and album photos seem to capture Lennox channeling Jamie Lee Curtis.
Taking a giant leap forward, the two Eurythmics releases of 1983, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) in January and Touch in November, helped define both new wave and MTV. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) opens with Stewart's quirky, sparse synthpop beats and organic grunts as perfect counterpoint to Lennox's sterile vocals on the second-time-around hit "Love is a Stranger". Keeping things interesting from the opener through the title track, the first six songs of the album are simply remarkable.
The Tourists' big hit was a cover of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want to be with You", and it was the first hint at Stewart and Lennox's particular talent for interpreting others' work. It continued with Eurythmics' cover of Isaac Hayes and David Porter's classic "Wrap It Up" as a proper track on Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This). Establishing a trend for the remaining reissue albums, the last bonus track is also a cover -- here, a previously unreleased version of Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love". Similar to the way Devo deconstructed the songs they remade, Stewart tends to strip bare much of the orchestration found on the originals, allowing Lennox's powerful vocals claim the song as their own.
Eurythmics didn't miss a beat with their follow up album, as Touch kept them on new wave's cutting-edge. Carrying on the innovations of its predecessor, Touch opens with the melodramatic orchestration of "Here Comes the Rain Again" and moves seamlessly into the electronic soul of "Regrets". The "Who's That Girl?" b-sides among the extras illustrate their experimental side with "You Take Some Lentils and You Take Some Rice" and "ABC (Freeform)". The previously unreleased, acoustic live cut of "Here Comes the Rain Again" showcases Stewart's guitar arrangement and Lennox's voice, and their interpretation of David Bowie and John Lennon's "Fame" is better than Bowie's 1990 remix of his own song.
Eurythmics' high profile progression continued on 1985's Be Yourself Tonight. While it does contain some genuinely exceptional songs, the album as a whole comes off a bit overrated in retrospect. A string of guests help out here, including Michael Kamen, Stevie Wonder, and Elvis Costello. But it is Lennox going toe-to-toe (and holding her own) with Aretha Franklin on "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves", a gospel inflected soul duet that has since become a feminist anthem, that serves as the centerpiece and defines the album. Also contained in this set is "Would I Lie to You", "There Must be an Angel (Playing with My Heart)", and "It's Alright (Baby's Coming Back)". The bonus tracks include two covers -- Francoise Hardy's "Tous Les Garcons et Les Filles" and an exceptional run through of The Doors' "Hello I Love You".
Evolution and Dissolution
The real revelation among the reissues is Revenge, which stands out and stands up to repeated listens almost twenty years after its initial release in 1986. With the return of Burke behind the drum kit for all ten tracks, and kicked off by the propulsive "Missionary Man", Revenge is a well-crafted and cohesive album. There is a claustrophobic air about the album that runs counter to the immediacy of its pop leanings, providing an edge to the collection -- the listener is never quite sure where Stewart and Lennox are going to take them next. The industrial bent of "Missionary Man" gives way to Jimmy "Z" Zavala's saxophone on "Thorn in My Side" which, in turn, reveals the pop and soul blending of "When Tomorrow Comes" and opens up to the synth-driven, fed-up lover proclamation, "The Last Time". Cutting through the darker moments are some genuinely positive and life-affirming sentiments on "The Miracle of Love" and "Take Your Pain Away". The extras here shine as well. An interesting synth-heavy extended mix of "Thorn in My Side", a previously unreleased live acoustic version of "When Tomorrow Comes", and the rarely heard "Revenge 2" from the soundtrack to the film Rooftops are all worthy inclusions. The curious two-minute deconstruction of Mary Well's "My Guy" finds Lennox's synth-treated vocals mixed in an underwater current.
A year later, Savage appeared. Where Burke's drumming colored Revenge with organic pop-rock, Savage marked a return to the experimental sounds of Eurythmics' MTV-defining signature moments -- although with less consistent results. Songs like "Beethoven (I Love to Listen To)", "I've Got a Lover (Back in Japan)", and "Do You Want to Break Up?" show the electronic bent of the album from the very beginning. Using a Synclavier Stewart purchased from Buffy Saint-Marie, the album is sample-heavy but barren sounding. Recorded during a particularly strained point in their working relationship, for the first time, Stewart recorded the music alone and forwarded the tapes to Lennox to craft the lyrics. This could explain the disjointed and sanitary feel of the album. Ironically, the cover chosen to close the reissue is an equally disorganized reading of Lennon and McCartney's "Come Together".
Evidenced by tracks like "You Hurt Me (And I Hate You)", Eurythmics were falling completely apart by the time the ironically titled We Too Are One was completed and released in 1989. Jimmy Iovine was brought in to broker peace as much as produce the album, as Stewart and Lennox were barely speaking at the time. The outstanding duet "(My My) Baby's Gonna Cry" is another track that points to the pending dissolution of the band, but with a pop hook that does its job. The album as a whole also shines like a road sign to where Lennox would be headed three years later with her solo debut, Diva. The bonus tracks here are the weakest of the entire reissue collection, with only the Smiths' cover, "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me", to recommend it. With We Too Are One, Eurythmics quietly fell apart and walked away.
Ten years on, with the solo careers of both Stewart and Lennox running to standstill, they came together to create Peace. With a noble theme and honorable intent (the band donated all the proceeds and merchandising from their supporting tour to Greenpeace), the much older Eurythmics crafted a decidedly average, adult-contemporary album. If it weren't for the singles, there would be little to distinguish one track from the next here. Admittedly, "17 Again" is a clever look back at the journey so far. The self-referential lines like "Sweet dreams are made of anything / That gets you in the scene," and the wholesale lifting of the original's chorus to take the song out serve almost as resignations to the past's unrecoverable brilliance. Competent and professional but unfortunately bland, Peace finds Stewart and Lennox wrestling with middle age instead of with each other and music conventions as they did at their peak. Where albums like Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) and Touch should be played now to fully realize their impact and continued relevance, Peace is an album you put on, open a bottle of red wine, and muse with your significant other about the glories of days gone by.
In all, the reissues are well-conceived, and the years since their original release informs the light in which they are now viewed. Revenge, and In the Garden to a lesser extent, benefits the most -- revealing qualities largely overlooked upon the original release. To say the importance of Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) and Touch are merely solidified with the reissues does a disservice to their significance and undercuts the value of these landmark albums. Chinks in the armor of the previously hailed Be Yourself Tonight are exposed, while the late career sounds of a band falling apart still sound like a band falling apart. And the mild and indistinguishable sounds of Peace mark the complacency of a comfortable relationship.
There was clearly far more to Eurythmics than just those early era-defining videos. Stewart and Lennox worked together on eight proper albums, dabbled in Northern soul and R&B, contributed to various charity projects, and created a striking visual identity that remains iconic to this day.