Monday, March 23, 2015

Howard Jones - Dream Into Action

Today (March 23rd) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Dream Into Action, the second studio album from Howard Jones. This 1985 release went to number 20 in Germany, number 19 in Switzerland, number 2 in the UK and number 1 in Sweden. Here in the US, it spent forty-five weeks on the Billboard Album charts with a peak spot of 10.

The UK and the US vinyl listings differ slightly in content and playing order. Since the US playing order is the one I am most familiar, I will be going with that for the review. Note that the CD version included all songs from both releases (fourteen total tracks) with the UK vinyl order followed by the two tracks substituted on the US vinyl.

Side one begins with "Things Can Only Get Better". As the second single, it climbed to number 21 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, number 13 in Italy, number 11 in Australia, number 10 on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 6 in the UK, and number 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Jones does some fantastic synth and keyboard work on this one. Its up-tempo energy and positive outlook made it a dance floor favorite back in the day.

The fourth single, "Life In One Day", peaked at number 36 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, number 33 in Australia, number 27 in Tialy, number 19 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 14 in the UK. I like the little "whistling" melody that starts this one and the Caribbean-style percussion rhythm throughout. Together, they put me in a great mood whenever I hear them.

The original, stripped down version of "No One Is To Blame" is next. A re-recorded version, from the Action Replay album, was released as a single in late 1985 where it hit number 21 in Italy, number 20 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, number 16 in the UK, number 9 in Australia, and number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

The mid-tempo title track "Dream Into Action" makes me think of a cyber-tech fantasy, thanks again to Jones' synth mastery.

"Like To Get to Know You Well", the bouncy lead single, first appeared in the UK on The 12" Album. It hit number 56 in Germany, number 49 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 16 in Australia, number 15 in Italy and number 4 in the UK. Here, Jones expresses a key to a successful relationship is communication and building common bonds.

"Assault and Battery" opens with a lovely piano refrain before the pounding synths kick in.

Side two opens with "Look Mama", a song addressed to a domineering parent. As the third single, it reached number 24 in Germany, number 20 in Australia, number 10 in the UK and number 6 in Italy. I always found it interesting how Jones pronounced "mama" here; I always hear an "r" in there at the end.

"Bounce Right Back" is a very danceable tune with an infectious steady beat. Jones even delivers a bit of a rap on the verses. The lyrics warn of words coming back to bite you.

"Elegy", appropriately, has a more somber and spiritual vibe to it.

"Is There a Difference?" is up next.

Computers were on the rise by the mid-80's, and people outside of the scope of programmers were starting to see them effect everyday lives. "Automaton" is a frantic number that taps into that concept with a sci-fi spin.

The closing track is "Hunger For the Flesh", a moody and moving piece. Jones' lyrics are pure poetry here.

The other two tracks that were on the UK version are “Specialty”, a celebration of uniqueness, and “Why Look For the Key”.

As noted earlier, I was very familiar with Dream Into Action. I owned a copy of this album on cassette, bought during the summer of 1985 when I was working my first co-op job (between my sophomore and junior years of college) and living in New Jersey. I played it a ton, both in my car and on my portable boom box stereo; I think it is a solid record from start to finish. I got a chance to hear a number of these songs live back around 2000 or so when he was touring along with the Human League and Culture Club for an "80's Rewind" tour. It was a fantastic show. Today, I still have a good number of the tracks in my digital library thanks to a Howard Jones greatest hits CD.

For more from Howard Jones, click here.

1 comment:

Mark said...

The track switch from my original vinyl to CD replacement has always bothered me. Still, a fun album. I've pulled it off the shelves for today's commute.

The CD was featured in the 19th post on The CD Project almost 4½ years ago(!):