“Sometimes to create, one must first destroy“.
I’m not sure who first said that, but I’m guessing that my Google search which suggests that it originated from Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’ is somewhat wide of the mark. It would appear that, whomever said it, however, Alison Moyet was paying attention. One of the first things we learn from the sleeve notes of the deluxe Alf re-issue is that just a few short years ago, the much admired and quite remarkable singer set about quite literally performing a hatchet job on her gold discs while burning her diaries and dumping her old stage clothes in bin liners for the junkyard. Quite simply, Alison Moyet has only ever only cared about the future, and gives short thrift to trinkets or mementos of former glories. Now, I understand the clothes, and fair enough with the gold discs, but surely ‘Nobody’s Diary’ should suffer this fate. Sorry. I won’t book myself in at The Fringe just yet…
Listening back to Alf now, despite its post Yazoo “pop” feel, it’s interesting just how grown up it sounds. Clearly, Moyet was never going to be one for the nation’s teeny boppers, and while these days the rather commercial AOR of singles ‘Love Resurrection‘ and ‘All Cried Out‘ can be heard on a daily basis just by switching on practically any local FM radio station at any given time, the truth is that most of the treasures herein lie in the non-single album tracks. ‘For You Only‘, for instance, begins like a precursor to Bryan Ferry‘s ‘Slave To Love‘ hit a year later and holds an irresistible sway over the listener, whereas things take a deeper, darker turn on album closer ‘Where Hides Sleep’, which is arguably Alf‘s zenith and showcases perfectly the vocal talents on offer. Like an awful lot of eighties albums though, it occasionally falls down due to an over saturated production from Steve Jolley and Tony Swain (Spandau Ballet, Bananarama). For the most part though, Moyet’s delivery is strong enough to render those missteps relatively inconsequential.
Three years down the line, Raindancing largely continued the MOR pop thing, but with a different producer, Jimmy Iovine (U2, Simple Minds, Patti Smith). The resulting effect was an album of tunes that would fit more comfortably in stadiums than merely upstairs at Eric’s, such was the magnitude of the compositions. That said, Raindancing is the first inkling of Moyet showing her more playful side, with the joyful, accordion led ‘Without You‘ being an itchy, twitchy standout, as is the tragically overlooked duet with David Freeman from The Lover Speaks, ‘Sleep Like Breathing‘. This one, more than any, signalled a change in direction for Moyet, and whilst the two following albums would not prove quite as commercially successful for her, there is a strong case to be argued that they should be regarded as the key works of her career to date.
1991’s Hoodoo is an altogether different beast. Opener ‘Footsteps‘ seems to draw initially from the likes of Massive Attack, but also from show tunes and the Madchester sound, though the album encompasses many other genres along the way. Moyet herself describes Hoodoo as “an anger album. There is anger and aggression to the songs“, and cites Elvis Costello as a major role model due to his unwillingness to be pigeonholed. The overall effect is that, 25 years later, it still sounds as fresh as a daisy. Those who only know here for the chart bothering smoothness of her earlier works will be somewhat bewildered at the depth of emotion displayed on the likes of the tortured ‘This House‘, whereas the modern blues of ‘Rise‘ could well have been the template for KT Tunstall‘s ‘Black Horse And The Cherry Tree‘. There is a clear nod to The Eurythmics on the brilliant ‘My Right A.R.M‘, and above all, Hoodoo stands as a testament to just what you can achieve when you are left to your own devices.
Always the chameleon, Moyet employed the services of Lightning Seeds man Ian Broudie for 1994’s ‘Essex‘, and the resultant tracks are once again hard to file in one specific category, sporadically calling to mind acts as diverse as The Triffids (‘Falling‘), the formerly mentioned Seeds themselves, Deacon Blue and Clannad (‘Take Of Me‘). The compositions here are mostly lighter than that of Hoodoo, but no less impressive.
All of these albums come beautifully packaged, hard-backed with informative booklets and bonus discs featuring non-album single releases, extended mixes, demos and live versions. It’s a comprehensive collection and conclusive proof of why Alison Moyet has long been regarded as something of a national treasure. These albums are not always perfect, but in Hoodoo, at least, she created one bona fide masterpiece.
Alison Moyet’s deluxe re-issues are out now on BMG Modest!.