Saturday, September 27, 2014

Alphaville - Forever Young

Today (September 27th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Forever Young, the debut album from the German synthpop band Alphaville. The 1984 release spent fifteen weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 180. Around the world, it reached number 20 in Italy, number 16 in Austria, number 15 in Spain, number 4 in Switzerland, number 3 in Germany, and number 1 in Norway and Sweden.

The band consisted of Marian Gold on vocals, and Bernhard Lloyd and Frank Mertens on keyboards. Additional musicians included Ken Taylor on bass, Curt Cress on drums, string arrangements by Deutsche Opera, and a variety of backing singers.

Side one opens with the slower-tempo synth march of “A Victory of Love”. With a sterile vocal delivery that eventually evolves, it compares a relationship to a competitive campaign.

“Summer in Berlin” has a soothing vocal that rides the synth waves.

With a solid, mid-tempo beat, “Big in Japan” was certainly a big across the globe. As the first single, it hit number 67 in Australia and Canada, number 66 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 18 in Finland, number 13 in France, number 9 in Poland, number 8 in the UK, number 5 in the Netherlands and South Africa, number 4 in Austria and Ireland, number 3 in Italy and Norway, number 2 in Belgium and Spain, and number 1 in Brazil, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and on the US Billboard Dance chart. The lyrics reflect upon Western music acts who become very popular in the land of the rising sun.

“To Germany with Love” starts with some synth gymnastics, but then it settles in with a very strong bass groove and a very simple but effective lyric. The synths return for the bridge, backed by thundering percussion. I like the track a lot.

“Fallen Angel” reminds me quite a bit of a David Bowie kind of song, particularly in the vocal inflections on the verses.

Side two starts with the title track “Forever Young”. As the third single, it charted at number 98 in the UK, number 65 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 32 on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 18 in the Netherlands, number 17 in Austria, number 19 in the Netherlands, number 14 in Spain, number 13 in France, number 7 in South Africa, number 4 in Germany, number 3 in Italy, Norway and Switzerland, number 2 in Brazil, and number 1 in Sweden. The vocals on this anti-war song soar like an angelic chorus.

The gears then shift with “In the Mood”, a Latin-influenced dance track.

“Sounds Like a Melody” was released as the second single. It climbed to number 10 in Belgium and France, number 8 in the Netherlands, number 5 in Norway and Spain, number 4 in Switzerland, number 3 in Austria and Germany, number 2 in South Africa, and number 1 in Brazil, Italy and Sweden. The lyrics tell of a couple who fall in love while dancing.

Next up is “Lies”. The song shows a lot of American influence in it, both in the rhythm and the lyrics.

“The Jet Set”, the closing track, was also released as the fourth single. It hit number 42 in Italy, number 26 in Belgium, number 23 on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 17 in Sweden, number 13 in Switzerland, and number 11 in Germany. The song celebrates the excitement and uninhibited nature of young love. I like the catchy hook in its rhythm.

I knew of Alphaville only from the two singles that crossed over big here in the US. So, the rest of Forever Young was a new experience to me with this review. I have to say, had I encountered this album back in 1984 I would have been all over it. This was exactly the kind of new-wave music from Europe that I was devouring in the early 80’s. The compositions and the production value is top-notch.

No comments: