Yazoo – Four Pieces (Mute/BMG)
Vinyl / CD (Three Pieces)
26 October 2018
9 / 10
Legendary synth-pop duo release extensive box set.
Without Yazoo there may have been no Erasure. Without Yazoo we might not have witnessed arguably one of the greatest singing voices the UK has ever produced. In eighteen short months, Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet recorded two albums, had one tour and then disappeared as quickly as they had appeared. Four Pieces released as a four-album vinyl box set and, Three Pieces the 3cd equivalent, brings together both their albums with selected remixes and much sought-after sessions from John Peel and Kid Jensen celebrating this iconic and influential duo.
In the wake of Vince’s departure from Depeche Mode, he joined forces with ex-punk band member Alison Moyet and offered Mute head honcho Daniel Miller the track Only You. Previously intended as a Depeche Mode track which they turned down (ironically, their first post Clarke single was the similarly themed See You), it became as classic a track as you could possibly imagine. Simple synth backing with ‘that’ voice slowly took the song to number 2 in the charts held back only by 1982 Eurovision winner Nicole with A Little Peace and set the scene for the history that was to follow.
Their debut album Upstairs At Eric’s, opened with Don’t Go the duo’s second single which had recently climbed to number 3 in the UK charts. An out and out pop single, it maybe hinted at what might come from Clarke in later years as it’s infectious synth riff and catchy chorus was difficult to shake free. Moyet’s bluesy vocals were allowed to shine as her voice roared to the point of distortion at times, a complete contrast to the subtle beauty of Only You.
With the release of You And Me Both came the news that Yazoo were calling it a day. The between albums single The Other Side Of Love, lacked some cohesiveness and is missing from Four Pieces but the duo’s fourth and official final single, Nobody’s Diary quickly put the record (sorry) straight. It was, once more, classic pop. Alison was again allowed to display her raw vocals and Clarke’s backing was slightly more involved than ever before.
Interestingly, this second album followed a similar track listing path to its predecessor – starting with an up-tempo hit, it then moved on to delicacy with Softly Over, upbeat pop (Sweet Thing) and then the heart-breaking Mr Blue, you get the picture. There were several possible singles including Walk Away From Love but the star of the album maybe went to Ode To Boy. Another very simple production with voice, light percussion and varied synth effects it holds the listener in complete awe from start to end. On BBC Radio 1’s Round Table programme, Midge Ure of Ultravox accused Mute of being ‘deaf’ by not releasing it as a final single, although it had already appeared as the b-side to The Other Side Of Love. Ode To Boy would also be re-recorded by Moyet for her album Essex.
With Four Pieces comes a collection of eight remixes, some old, some new, and by no means exhaustive. Don’t Go features twice and wild, funny, abrasive State Farm (originally the Nobody’s Diary b-side) gets a well-deserved outing with the Madhouse Mix Edit. Situation also has two versions provided by Richard X and Youth and the brand-new Minute Taker Remix of Winter Kills truly send shivers down your spine.
The final contribution to Four Pieces are the John Peel and Kid Jensen sessions from 1982. Containing tracks from Upstairs At Eric’s, their only album at the time, they have become something of a rarity and provide a further insight into the workings of Yazoo. The atmospheric In Your Room appears in both sets and Situation, the track that would be released as a posthumous Yazoo single with the Francois Kevorkian remix, is quite breath-taking.
Four Pieces is by no means exhaustive and there may be some mixes and remixes that fans are aggrieved at not being included but, almost everything is here is one shape or another. Yazoo were an enigma, a short career perhaps but an act that to this day continue to be a source of influence, just ask James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem or Anohni of Antony And The Johnsons and they will undoubtedly testify.
Yazoo are an indispensable part of pop history and Four Pieces testifies the fact with a fitting tribute to a quite unique act.
Published on Louder Than War 24/10/18 - here.
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