Monday, January 24, 2011

Howard Jones [w/ Rupert Hine]: Human's Lib

The two finest recordings by Howard Jones, Human's Lib and Dream Into Action.

As a kid I had the pleasure of seeing English artist Howard Jones, the opener, and English-Scottish duo Eurythmics live. These were two of the most impressive newcomers of the day. The year was 1984. It was a great year for music. For some odd reason, my aunt took me to see both Eurythmics and Howard Jones live in the Boston Common and it was a massive crowd walled-in by a makeshift fence. Jones bounced up and down the narrow, outdoor aisles with joyful abandon. He also sported a mime in chains named Jed for a period if I recall correctly. It was all weird, but it was the '80s and it was part of his visual gimmick at the time. Strip away the weird and you still had two of the most accomplished recording classics in music history by Howard Jones. Eurythmics were touring to support their sophomore effort Touch [1983], while Howard Jones was touring for his debut, Human's Lib [1984]. Dream Into Action [1985] followed. We'll save Touch for another day.

Human's Lib, produced by Rupert Hine, was a moody, electronic, pop masterpiece. Jones mixes it up throughout the recording with energized uptempo numbers like New Song and Pearl In The Shell, but capably slips into more somber, pensive numbers like What Is Love?, Don't Always Look At The Rain or Hide And Seek with relative ease. While these were some of Jones' bigger singles on the disc, the remainder of the disc is equally classic from the strange, science fiction sounds of Conditioning to the Halloween eeriness of the title track to the danceable social commentary of Equality and the pensive Hunt The Self. It's a ten track classic and one that literally spun the laser in my CD player out of alignment it was played so often.

Human's Lib was produced by Rupert Hine, the genius behind a slough of wonderful recordings by British band The Fixx, who fared more favorably in the United States than they did in their own UK. The late Colin Thurston, who died in 2007, was on production behind the classic New Song. Thurston's hand can be found on Duran Duran's classic self-titled debut [1981], Talk Talk's The Party's Over [1982] as well as The Human League's Reproduction [1979]. Thurston's work is brief, but Duran Duran's debut is arguably one of the best of their often vilified career. This is a perfect example of just how connected the music business really is.

Ultimately though, the bulk of the production chores were handled by Producer Rupert Hine. Hine has created some wonderful recordings through the years including Howard Jones two best, Human's Lib and Dream Into Action [1985]. Hine put the polish on Shuttered Room [1981], Reach The Beach [1983], Phantoms [1984], Walkabout [1986] and Ink [1990] essentially defining the undeniable sound of The Fixx for ten years. Hine also worked with Bob Geldof, Rush, Stevie Nicks, Thompson Twins on Close To The Bone [1987], Tina Turner for Private Dancer [1984] [with Cy Curnin on Better Be Good To Me], Break Every Rule [1986] and Foreign Affair [1989] and others. He's worked with actress Katey Sagal and even actress Milla Jovovich [Resident Evil] on The Divine Comedy [1994]. Apart from his own solo projects including Thinkman and Quantum Jump, Hine delivered some of his own music and vocals for the classic '80s film and soundtrack Better Off Dead starring John Cusack. The soundtrack includes Hine's duet with Cy Curnin [The Fixx] on With One Look and his own ballad Arrested By You.

Howard Jones and Hine combined to create to great effect one of the masterpieces of the 1980s in Human's Lib and nearly duplicated the magic with Dream Into Action. These are arguably the ones to own from Jones relatively fine career. Hines is another story and his wealth of productions are worthy of investigation.

Jones' own recording label Dtox has graced music fans finally with Remastered editions of both Human's Lib and Dream Into Action available exclusively through his own site. Things can only get better indeed, because he's offering a Limited Edition package for both discs coupled with a bonus CD of lives songs from the period. I know. Right!?

In the '90s Jones took his act on the road and went acoustic for a period. He was fine, but the tour really lacked the gifted heart that I believe Jones delivers through his knack for electronica [and that's no slight of his talent unplugged]. So I had been pleading for these two original releases to be issued for years with state-of-the-art remastering so that I could truly absorb and enjoy these compositions in all of their detailed splendor and audio glory. The time has finally arrived. You won't be disappointed.

Throughout his career Jones has generated some amazing pop singles including You Know I Love You... Don't You?, Everlasting Love and The Prisoner. His more contemporary have been spotty, but have their moments. There is a wonderful The Very Best Of Howard Jones collection that also comes complete with a second CD of some of his very best b-sides. This is a definitive collection for a fan of the singles and comes highly recommended on sheer audio quality alone.

After sounding like a Six Degrees piece, if I had to choose the classics, a recording so in touch and in tune with the pulse of one's creative soul and simply overflowing with perfection, Howard Jones' Human's Lib is most assuredly the indispensable keeper with Dream Into Action a close second. For the money, you can't go wrong with the Limited Edition packaging of both with the bonus CD. It's a beautiful thing. Howard Jones plans on giving One To One and Cross That Line a similar treatment in 2011. That's great news for fans, but if that desert island was in eye shot, Human's Lib is the one to grab for your castaway stay.

Howard Jones Discography:
Human's Lib [1984] *
The 12" Album [1984]
Dream Into Action [1985] *
12"ers Vol 2 [1985]
Action Replay [1986]
One To One [1986]
Cross That Line [1989]
In The Running [1991]
The Best Of Howard Jones [1993]
Working In The Backroom [1994]
Live Acoustic America [1996]
Angels & Lovers [1997]
People [1998]
Perform.00 [2000]
Perform.01 [2000]
Pefawm [2000]
Metamorphisis [2000]
The Peaceful Tour Live [2002]
The Very Best Of Howard Jones [2003] *
Revolution Of The Heart [2005] * [for something new]
Revolution Remixed & Surrounded [2007]
Live In Birken Head [2007]
Ordinary Heroes [2009]


le0pard13 said...

I love these in-depth looks of yours at music artists I'm only vaguely familiar with, SFF. It really makes for some fine discoveries for me. Keep 'em coming, my friend. Thanks.

SFF said...

Thanks L13. Who knows why I do these little music asides, but they give me pleasure. : )

Plus, you and I have a thing for music. Thanks my friend.