Reviews

Howard Jones / One to One reviewed

Howard Jones / One to One reissue review

Superb reissue of a middling album

By the end of 1985, Howard Jones had released two hit albums with producer Rupert Hine at the helm, but chose to ditch the successful formula and make his third record with someone else. The record company planted the seed of change and while initially sceptical, Jones was eventually seduced by the suggestion of legendary producer Arif Mardin, who had of course worked with many great artists, such as Aretha Franklin and The Bees Gees and in then more recent times had co-produced Scritti Politti‘s 1985 album Cupid & Psyche 85 and Culture Club‘s 1986 long-player From Luxury to Heartache.

Coincidence or otherwise, the partnership resulted in an album – One to One – that disastrously failed to deliver ANY top 30 singles in the UK (all nine ‘HoJo’ singles up to that point were at least top 20 hits in Britain, with six of them going top 10). It effectively ended Jones’ career as a hit-making pop star in the UK, although he enjoyed relative chart success in America for a few more years.

Curiously, the same desire to ‘move on’ afflicted both Nik Kershaw and Paul Young who did EXACTLY the same thing. Ditched original producers after their first two albums in the early/mid-eighties and then immediately struggled commercially, with their third (both of which were also released in 1986).

In the sleeve notes for the new One to One reissue Jones downplays this aspect to a degree, claiming that he wasn’t keeping an eye on the pop charts: “I was on the road touring the album and playing arenas, having a great time. I was judging the period by how things were going live, more than the record.”

With hindsight, he also suggests that ‘All I Want’ was perhaps not the right selection for the critical first UK single, and thinks the pacy ‘You Know I Love You… Don’t You?’ would have been a better choice to launch the album, pointing out that the latter “did well” in America when it was released there (it was the first single Stateside and peaked at #17). We will never know what difference this switch might have made, but when issued as the second single in Britain ‘You Know I Love You… Don’t You?’ didn’t ‘do well’ at all, stalling outside the top 40 (#43). The third and final single, ‘A Little Bit Of Snow’, was a total flop (#70) although Jones lays the blame squarely with WEA Records, saying “the label had lost interest” (there was no video, which rather supports this claim).


In the USA, ‘You Know I Love You…Don’t You?’ was the first single and had different artwork

The album eventually went gold (actually matching Dream into Action) but for this writer I’m afraid it was ‘guilty as charged’, because I was one of those fans who bought the first two records (and The 12″ Album) and then without chart hits to grab my attention, I rather lost interest and didn’t buy One to One at the time (I was probably busy with Pet Shop Boys and a-ha). So this reissue is a good opportunity to see both what I missed, and also to dig into the remixes, B-sides, demos and various unreleased tracks. To be blunt, I’ve always assumed the album wasn’t very good, but is that actually the reality?

I can understand why the record company wanted to go with ‘All I Want’ as the first single. It may be mid-paced, but aurally it has more of a lineage back to the sound of the first two albums and it bounces along quite nicely, even if it takes an age to get to the first chorus (and doesn’t scream ‘killer first single’).  ‘You Know I Love You… Don’t You?’, on the other hand, is a bit of a racket, frankly. There’s far too much going on. Howard had invested in a £60k Fairlight CMI and he was determined to get his money’s worth! But the sampled brass doesn’t sound great (and is overused), there is Pet Shop Boys/Art of Noise-type orchestra stabs all over the place along as well as hammond organ and a rather inappropriate ‘rawk’ guitar solo. It’s a big kitchen-sink arrangement propping up a rather ordinary song; the shouty verses aren’t very melodic at all.

Elsewhere, once you get past overcooked sampling/intro nonsense, ‘The Balance of Love’ sounds great (with a lyric that adopts a Christie Malry attitude to love), as does ‘Where Are We Going?’ which definitely betrays the Art of Noise / Fairlight influence at the start. ‘Don’t Want To Fight Anymore’ is a microcosm of the whole album; unnecessary messing around  at the beginning, but then 30 seconds in it sounds pretty good, in a classic 80s synthpop type of a way. But *that* sampled brass is back to sprinkle unwanted cheese on the chorus and in terms of melody/lyrical hooks there’s a sense that HoJo just isn’t quite nailing it, in the way that he did with ‘New Song’, ‘What Is Love’ and ‘Look Mama’. The sax solo is also bit incongruous.

‘Will You Still Be There’ is a lighter-aloft big ballad which more or less does the job while ‘Good Luck, Bad Luck’ is purposeful enough, albeit with a pretty banal chorus that feels ‘first draft’ rather than finished article. ‘Give Me Strength’ is actually really good and benefits from a minimal arrangement and quite a memorable chorus melody, but the focus that resulted in the inventive arrangement that lifted ‘Like To Get To Know You Well’ isn’t repeated here and production-wise it’s all rather glossy and baggy, a bit like when Paul McCartney ‘does’ reggae (see ‘Too Many People’ from Flowers in the Dirt).

After all the 80s wizardry and production it’s rather a relief to get to the voice-and-piano melancholy of A Little Bit Of Snow. It’s doesn’t quite develop into the classic you’re hoping it might be, but it’s a heartfelt performance nonetheless. Releasing this as a single was pure madness, and tantamount to career vandalism. If the perpetrator was ever identified he or she should be made to do the equivalent of music industry community service (e.g. work with an X-Factor runner up, or try and relaunch The Reynolds Girls’ career).

The CD version of One to One always ended with the re-recorded ‘Phil Collins’ version of ‘No One Is To Blame’, which made some kind of sense, I suppose, although being from a different era, the quality of this composition does rather blow a few raspberries in the direction of some of the more workmanlike songs on One to One.

Over 30 years on, you have to wonder if the pairing with Arif Mardin was the right move. Jones’ success and record company budgets in the eighties certainly allowed him the opportunity to work with the then 60-year old producer, and it was clearly an exciting experience for the then 31-year old singer-songwriter, but did we really want a Howard Jones album to sound more ‘grown up’, like some kind of R&B record? Not really, and while it doesn’t actually sound like that at all, it’s a little confused. An unhappy mesh of UK synth-pop and soulful America production nous. I mean, despite the players undoubted talents, did anyone listen to Human’s Lib or Dream into Action and think “what this needs is Steve Ferrone drumming live on it and Nile Rodgers playing guitar” (both men contribute to One to One).

In the reissue sleeve notes, Howard acknowledges that the album cost more than £300k to make, and the first two cost “hardly anything” to record. That tells you all you need to know. Money rarely makes albums better. And there’s a hint of friction when Jones admits “I very much wanted to keep control of the record. I sometimes look back at One to One and think ‘I could have let Arif have more say about it than I did’. I don’t know what difference that would have made, given I had programmed everything for it myself.”

While bringing the Fairlight to the table wasn’t a bad idea, Jones could have probably benefitted from a producer that properly understood how to make the technology integral to the songwriting and arrangements –  a Trevor Horn or a Chris Hughes, for example. As it was, the revolutionary sampling workstation appears to have been deployed more for sprinkling faux brass and sound effects and quirky intros. Indeed, for One to One follow-up Cross That Line (released in 1989) Jones did employ the services of Chris Hughes and other Tears For Fears ‘backroom boys’ Ian Stanley and Ross Cullum.

In summary, I was hoping to discover some kind of lost classic, but I can see why One to One failed to catch the public’s imagination at the time. There just aren’t any really strong singles on the album and Howard’s clever lyrical turn of phrase, melodic invention and DIY synth-pop spirit, which was in abundance on the first two records, rather deserted him for the third album.

Howard Jones / One to One 3CD+DVD reissue

But while the album disappoints, Cherry Red have put together a spectacular reissue. Here we will focus on the 3CD+DVD edition which has an ENORMOUS amount of bonus material – it’s hard to see how fans would not be satisfied with what’s on offer here, especially at the price. All the B-sides, remixes, instrumentals and 12-inch bonus tracks (notably, the orchestral versions of ‘Hunger For The Flesh’ and ‘Hide and Seek’) appear to be present and correct and there’s a wealth of unreleased early mixes, ‘ruff’ mixes and demos to contend with. The reissue spotlights some excellent B-sides. ‘Roll Right Up’ and ‘Dig This Well Deep’ are fantastic and probably deserved a place on the album. Both were produced by Jones on his own, which rather supports the Arif-Mardin-wasn’t-needed hypothesis!

The second CD has most of the premium bonus content but I have to be honest and say that CD 3 is a little hard going, with quite a few ‘instrumental demos’. In an era where fans are always complaining about omissions on reissues, I’m loathe to moan about too much content, but do we really need three work-in-progress versions of middling album track ‘Good Luck, Bad Luck’ ( ‘early version’,  ‘demo’ and ‘instrumental demo’)? Similarly, this set offers three unheard versions of ‘Will You Still Be There’ and four extra versions of ‘All I Want’. If you love the album you’ll be in heaven and I have to say it has been very intelligently curated because there’s not one single occasion where you get two versions of the same track in succession. Despite my reservations with CD 3, you should still opt for the four-disc version, because a) it’s cheap and b) the DVD is great and includes performances from Wogan, Top of the Pops, an interview on Saturday Superstore (which will take you back) and a couple of promo videos, including the expensive-looking video for ‘You Know I Love You Don’t You?’

The only significant piece of content this set is missing is a 5.1 mix, but from my interview with Howard last year, it seems they may come separately at some point.

SDE had reservations about those very expensive super deluxe sets for Human’s Lib and Dream Into Action but this ‘top of the range’ One to One variant is all but faultless. Beautifully packaged in an easy to store 10-panel digipack, with wonderful interviews and track-by-track annotations from Howard in the booklet (via Anil Prasad interviews), the bonus material is massively generous for the price point. If there’s such a thing as being ‘too good’ for the album in question then this could be the case, but you know, despite what I say above, I’m rather pleased they’ve done it. Apply this format to Your-Favourite-Album (Hounds of Love, Born in the USA, Remain in LightSign O The Times etc.) and you’d be over the moon. Cherry Red aren’t here to judge the artistic merits of the album, just assess the commercial viability and then put out the best reissue they can. Job done.

The One to One reissue is released this Friday (31 January 2020).

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Howard Jones

One to One - 3CD+DVD

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One to One - blue vinyl LP

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Howard Jones

One to One - 2CD

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One to One 3CD+DVD

DISC ONE: CD
1. YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU… DON’T YOU?
2. THE BALANCE OF LOVE (GIVE AND TAKE)
3. ALL I WANT
4. WHERE ARE WE GOING?
5. DON’T WANT TO FIGHT ANYMORE
6. STEP INTO THESE SHOES
7. WILL YOU STILL BE THERE?
8. GOOD LUCK, BAD LUCK
9. GIVE ME STRENGTH
10. LITTLE BIT OF SNOW
11. NO ONE IS TO BLAME (SINGLE MIX)
12. ROLL RIGHT UP
13. DIG THIS WELL DEEP
14. LET IT FLOW
15. WILL YOU STILL BE THERE? (NEW VERSION)
16. DON’T WANT TO FIGHT ANYMORE (12″ MIX) *

* PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

DISC TWO: CD

1. ALL I WANT (EXTENDED VERSION)
2. YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU… DON’T YOU? (DANCE IN
THE FIELDS MIX)
3. HUNGER FOR THE FLESH (ORCHESTRAL VERSION)
4. HIDE & SEEK (ORCHESTRAL VERSION)
5. ASSAULT & BATTERY (LIVE AT THE TOWER
THEATRE, PHILADELPHIA) *
6. CONDITIONING (LIVE AT THE TOWER THEATRE,
PHILADELPHIA)
7. YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU… DON’T YOU? (LIVE AT
THE NEC, BIRMINGHAM) **
8. ALL I WANT (EDIT OF LP VERSION) **
9. LITTLE BIT OF SNOW (PIANO AND VOCAL
VERSION) *
10. WILL YOU STILL BE THERE? (ALTERNATIVE
SHORT VERSION)*
11. THE BALANCE OF LOVE (GIVE & TAKE) (RUFF
MIX) *
12. DON’T WANT TO FIGHT ANYMORE (EARLY MIX) *
13. GOOD LUCK, BAD LUCK (EARLY VERSION) *
14. YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU… DON’T YOU?
(INSTRUMENTAL)

* PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
** PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED DIGITALLY

DISC THREE: CD

1. YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU…DON’T YOU? (INSTRUMENTAL DEMO) *
2. THE BALANCE OF LOVE (GIVE & TAKE) (INSTRUMENTAL) *
3. ALL I WANT (DEMO) *
4. WHERE ARE WE GOING? (EARLY INSTRUMENTAL VERSION) *
5. DON’T WANT TO FIGHT ANYMORE (RUFF MIX) *
6. STEP INTO THESE SHOES (EARLY VERSION) *
7. WILL YOU STILL BE THERE? (ALTERNATIVE LONG VERSION) *
8. GOOD LUCK, BAD LUCK (DEMO) *
9. GIVE ME STRENGTH (EARLY VOCAL VERSION) *
10. ROLL RIGHT UP (EARLY VERSION) *
11. WILL YOU STILL BE THERE? (INSTRUMENTAL) *
12. ALL I WANT (INSTRUMENTAL) *
13. STEP INTO THESE SHOES (INSTRUMENTAL) *
14. GOOD LUCK, BAD LUCK (INSTRUMENTAL DEMO) *

* PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

DISC FOUR: DVD
1. ALL I WANT (WOGAN 24/09/1986)
2. ALL I WANT (TOP OF THE POPS 09/10/1986)
3. INTERVIEW PART 1 INCLUDING YOU KNOW I LOVE… DON’T YOU? PROMO VIDEO (SATURDAY SUPERSTORE 18/10/1986)
4. INTERVIEW PART 2 (SATURDAY SUPERSTORE 18/10/1986)
5. ALL I WANT (ROLAND RAT SHOW 18/10/1986)
6. ALL I WANT (SHORT VERSION) (PROMO VIDEO)
7. ALL I WANT (LONG VERSION) (PROMO VIDEO)
8. YOU KNOW I LOVE… DON’T YOU? (PROMO VIDEO)

One to One 2CD edition

DISC ONE
1. YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU… DON’T YOU?
2. THE BALANCE OF LOVE (GIVE AND TAKE)
3. ALL I WANT
4. WHERE ARE WE GOING?
5. DON’T WANT TO FIGHT ANYMORE
6. STEP INTO THESE SHOES
7. WILL YOU STILL BE THERE?
8. GOOD LUCK, BAD LUCK
9. GIVE ME STRENGTH
10. LITTLE BIT OF SNOW
11. NO ONE IS TO BLAME (SINGLE MIX)
12. ROLL RIGHT UP
13. DIG THIS WELL DEEP
14. LET IT FLOW
15. WILL YOU STILL BE THERE? (NEW VERSION)
16. DON’T WANT TO FIGHT ANYMORE (12″ MIX) *

* PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

DISC TWO
1. ALL I WANT (EXTENDED VERSION)
2. YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU… DON’T YOU? (DANCE IN
THE FIELDS MIX)
3. HUNGER FOR THE FLESH (ORCHESTRAL VERSION)
4. HIDE & SEEK (ORCHESTRAL VERSION)
5. ASSAULT & BATTERY (LIVE AT THE TOWER
THEATRE, PHILADELPHIA) *
6. CONDITIONING (LIVE AT THE TOWER THEATRE,
PHILADELPHIA)
7. YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU… DON’T YOU? (LIVE AT
THE NEC, BIRMINGHAM) **
8. ALL I WANT (EDIT OF LP VERSION) **
9. LITTLE BIT OF SNOW (PIANO AND VOCAL
VERSION) *
10. WILL YOU STILL BE THERE? (ALTERNATIVE
SHORT VERSION)*
11. THE BALANCE OF LOVE (GIVE & TAKE) (RUFF
MIX) *
12. DON’T WANT TO FIGHT ANYMORE (EARLY MIX) *
13. GOOD LUCK, BAD LUCK (EARLY VERSION) *
14. YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU… DON’T YOU?
(INSTRUMENTAL)

* PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
** PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED DIGITALLY

36 responses to Howard Jones / One to One reviewed

  1. Don says:

    So here’s a question that has been bugging me since this album was released in 1986: what exactly is going on in the photo on the cover? There are THREE hands in the picture. My assumption is that the hand on his head is from a person standing behind him, who is responsible for that black semi-human shaped blob above his head. Is that his wife Jan?

    Seriously, I have examined this photo over and over, and it makes no sense.

    Having said that, I’m looking forward to diving into this new set.

  2. Dan S says:

    Is it just me or has the “All I Want” promo video been re-edited to show a bit more Howard and a bit less other stuff? It looks like raw footage before the “computer graphics” effects were added. Not a complaint, mind you. It’s a very thorough reissue!

  3. John Doyle says:

    Very nice review. I remember eagerly awaiting One to One, and I remember the confused disappointment after a few listens! But I think it ages well – solid pop melodies & chord progressions, and a more consistent production than the subsequent Cross That Line (though that album had stronger individual tracks). The One to One B-sides are gems and I agree outclass some of the album tracks. Looking forward to hearing the 2CD remaster.

  4. Jules(Rules) says:

    “In the USA, ‘You Know I Love You…Don’t You?’ was the first single and had different artwork”

    … and a typeface eerily similar to that of Tears for Fears’ “The Hurting”.

  5. Paul T says:

    Thought “You Know I Love You .. Don’t You?” was great, shoulda been first single, particularly liked the 12″ version (Dance In The Fields). Hope my copy arrives soon

  6. DiscoDave2000 says:

    Interesting thread about the 1986 “growing up” albums. I will say I see the connection, but that some of these albums are real joys to my ears especially Big Country’s The Seer, ABC’s Alphabet City, Nik Kershaw’s Radio Musicola (when will that get the deluxe treatment?), and China Crisis’ What Price Paradise (ditto). HoJo’s One To One , OMD’s Pacific Age, D2′ Notorious, and Human League’s Crash were definitely harder listens for me.

  7. Mark Armstrong says:

    Fantastic review Paul, I read it in the time I spent waiting for my computer to wake up at work. I remember my mate was a massive Howard Jones fan at the time and whilst I loved the first two LPs, everything from One to One just sounded safe and over produced. He took some stick giving this one the double thumbs up and rabidly collecting the singles in every format he could lay his hands on !

  8. Quante says:

    This a great set of comments on what the heck happened to Young, Kershaw and Jones et al.

    Christian’s views on bands he liked in that period aren’t dissimilar to my own and how the old guard got swept away – it always happens, and it’s the rare few bands and artists that survive changing tastes.

    I also liked the piece by Stephen K including his closing thought:

    It’s not that artists should stay in their safe zones. It’s not that artists shouldn’t strive to grow artistically and explore other sounds. But if you’re great at one sound, don’t release an album where you’re trying your hand at another sound where there are many, many artists doing the same.

    My take on this is:

    Certain acts are interesting because they get ‘better’ with the evolution of their music. There’s a reason why Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Kate Bush, Marvin Gaye and others are revered by so many. Their music just connects with the soul – it’s highly emotional.

    Other acts suit the winning formula that has connected them to their fans and are smart enough to stick to it by and large. Step forward Status Quo, who once they found their niche, stuck to it for many years – they went downhill quickly after we’re in the army now.

    Every generation of artists gets wowed and probably knocked by the new superstar – imagine how the contemporaries of Stevie Wonder must have felt when he hit his stride in the early seventies. They must have known they were seeing a genius in his prime. Even at the top of the tree, Michael Jackson must have had the shock of his life when he was preening over the mega stardom of Thriller, and then Prince came up and took that genre of pop forward a quantum leap. Jackson may have sold lots of records, but Prince was IT.

    Paul Young cocked up by wanting to be a writer. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the songs were decidedly average. Having cracked England with a Marvin Gaye song and America with a Hall and Oates tune, why the heck would you not maintain a winning formula for the next album?

    Trying to be more mature and adult sounding ( whatever that means) probably did for Howard Jones. Who knows! Sometimes you just get bored of an artist as others fill the void. There’s many acts who I’ve liked and bought and yet at some point the desire to buy and listen to the new album just doesn’t quite happen. It can be a mistake, but it is almost natural that the desire for something different and new means the established acts miss out.

    I’ve seen Nick Kershaw and Paul Young (in Los Pacaminos) in Hall 2 at The Sage in recent times. They both look like they are having a great time, and as with Howard, have had a full career in the music industry, no doubt with disappointment and struggles along the way. That’s a real achievement. In the meantime I saw Nadine Shah live for the first time this week – young, energetic, exciting and enjoying herself. I hope her star ascends for some time, but it is a very crowded scene to maintain a following and develop a lasting career.

  9. Don says:

    Excellent review, thanks Paul! I can’t think of much to say, except that this album never impressed me either. If Howard was going for a more “mature” sound maybe he shouldn’t have churned out dodgy double-entendres like “You’ve got the socket, and I’ve got the plug!”, which would have made more sense on a Poison or Def Leppard album.

  10. the real mike says:

    I think largely all due to documented shift that happened on the 14th July 1985 when everyone woke up and found they quite liked stadium rock/pop and HoJo, Nik, PY, Duran etc foundered. Interestingly Spandau tried to bridge that gap and toughen up their sound, a la TFF and Barricades I think was the most successful LP of the early 80s heroes era.

    One to One is a definitely the best researched, priced reissue for many months, shame is that as highlighted in the review the songs are not as strong as albums, 1, 2 and 4. I suspect HoJo’s time on the road in the US over that time dulled his writing edge?

  11. Ian Smith says:

    Interesting review Paul, especially all the “tricky third album” stuff. Possibly unrelated, but I recall Clannad doing something similar a year later with their album Sirius, going over to America to record it and losing their ‘sound” completely. Artists often have an ambition to “move on” but it doesn’t always work.

  12. AdrianW says:

    I’m looking forward to revisiting this album. I did purchase the dtox re-release but I’m afraid a few songs in I found the sound quality rather lacking, sounding thin and I pretty much never returned to it. I hope this time around things do sound better.

  13. ... says:

    sadly, i waited too long to get the 2-cd 1-dvd version of HUMANS LIB…will have to content myself with just the 1 disc version. I did manage to score a copy of DREAMING INTO ACTION, and pre-ordered ONE TO ONE…i only ever owned the US “ACTION REPLAY”…didnt own or even hear any of the complete albums until i was stationed in berlin in the late 90’s…have always enjoyed him…i did skip CROSS THAT LINE, but then bought IN THE RUNNING…as much as i understand that artists must grow, I alway shudder when electronic, keyboard artists completely turn away from them…”real instruments” do not make a “real artist”

    • MelodicMusicIsTheBestMusic says:

      Well currently both Humans Lib and Dream Into Action 2CD +DVD combo are out of stock at cherry red records and most other places or if they are around they are very expensive, I actually phoned Cherry Red just before Christmas asking whether they planned to print another run of them but couldn’t get a definitive answer from the person on the phone but said to them they would be daft not to as they would sell them as some people maybe still haven’t got them yet.
      I totally disagree with your comments on real instruments do not make a real artists because they DO and they enhance the capabilities of the artists and show they are not just stuck in one kind of sound check out Howard’s “Ordinary Heroes” album where the songs are more piano based but are still very strong and mature in their content.
      Another prime example of an artist using more real instruments and becoming more organic in their sound is David Knopfler younger brother to Mark, now his first 5 albums were ok here and there but with typical 80’s sound with electronic drums but by album number 6 in 1993 ‘The Giver” everything changed for the better and subsequent albums very much benefited from this more mature organic real instruments sound along with the great songwriting that started from the beginning it only got better and better, massive highlight in 2001’s “Wishbones’ a gem of an album with some cracking good songs on it.

  14. Stephen K says:

    I really enjoyed the first two singles off the album, though I understand that “You Know I Love You… Don’t You?” doesn’t quite have the traditional Howard Jones sound. Though, it does sound unique. It might not be the only overblown production out there, but 30 years on, it doesn’t sound derivative of anything else.

    As for 1986 seeing some artists flop on their third albums… this wasn’t just the bad luck of the third time out. I think 80’s pop artists were (quite wrongly!) taking heed of the backlash against synthesizer albums (like early Human League) and wanted to legitimize their sound with less sequencers and more live instruments. The result was nearly always dull, plodding stuff. Pet Shop Boys wisely avoided missteps by always having an ear turned toward the club. Human League surprisingly went for the Jam & Lewis hitmaking duo that served Janet Jackson well but came out with an off-sounding ridiculous of-the-moment clunker of an album (despite the respectable “Human” single). So… purposefully pursuing a hit didn’t mean you were going to get one. But for the rest of the 80’s crowd, can you pinpoint the moment that each group released their “grown-up” album? Duran Duran’s Notorious, China Crisis’ What Price Paradise, ABC’s Alphabet City… for Depeche Mode, it was Songs of Faith and Devotion, an album or tour that sought to jettison the drum machine for live drums… fair enough, I guess they consider themselves a “rock” band now, but my what a plummet in the captivating sonics of their drum sound. Not sure what happened with OMD’s The Pacific Age (it sounds a bit stodgy but not for lack of synthesizers), except perhaps not enough band involvement. A-Ha had their 4th and 5th album, certainly more guitar-driven affairs. It’s not that these bands lost their creativity or their musicianship, but by – I don’t know, not trying to sound dated?? – by dropping the utilization of synthesizers, instruments that can sound like anything, they embraced “real instruments” often, and instead sounded like something very specific… specifically, weaker, less invigorated versions of Bryan Adams (insert popular pop/rock crossover artist name)? They didn’t “rock” enough to be rock bands. And we already had guitar pop bands. I feel these visionaries of 80’s pop were trying to move into a niche that had already been filled decades ago. The sound of some of these albums has aged well, given some distance, and especially if the artist later returned to form or got really good at this type of “grown up” sound. But at the time, it was a case of “this A-Ha/China Crisis/Paul Young album isn’t very synthpop, is it? Guess next time around I’ll pick up the new Pet Shop Boys album instead”. Simple Minds’ Street Fighting Years? Whatever semblance of synth inspiration was lingering around Once Upon a Time was replaced by… a timeless classic? But maybe I want my albums to sound of a specific era. What’s next after Tears for Fear’s world-shattering Songs From the Big Chair? The inordinately well-crafted but very “safely mature” sounding Seeds of Love.

    Oh, and anyone listen to Nitzer Ebb? What happens when the epitome of electronic body music goes for the rock sounds of the album Big Hit? Nothing much. Nothing much.

    It’s not that artists should stay in their safe zones. It’s not that artists shouldn’t strive to grow artistically and explore other sounds. But if you’re great at one sound, don’t release an album where you’re trying your hand at another sound where there are many, many artists doing the same thing better than you.

  15. dazzler says:

    One On One was the first record ever I got on compact disc (for my 18th bithday). Hojo was the first artist I collected all the singles of (I only missed New Song but found it a few years later in a second hand store). So I was really into Howards music and lyrics. I wasn’t disappointed with One On One, but it was clear that this set of tracks was a different game than the previous albums. I recognised the songs as more mature in the way they were composed and more complex in the way they were arranged. You know I Love You Don’t You should have been the first single in my opinion. I think Paul Sinclair is a bit too hard on that song in his review (a very interesting read though). All I Want would have been an excellent follow-up single and Will You Still Be There sounds like the obvious (ballad) third one (in some countries it was). Other favourite tracks are The Balance Of Love, Give Me Strength and Little Bit Of Snow. The minor ones in my opinion are Don’t Want To Fight Anymore, Step In These Shoes and Good Luck Bad Luck. I agree with Paul that two of the b-sides are outstanding: Roll Right Up and Dig This Well Deep. I was going for the 2CD edition because I’m not interested in an overkill of demo’s, instrumentals and rough cuts. But after the price drop I cancelled my pre-order and turned it into the 3CD+DVD set. I already bought the 2CD+DVD formats if the previous albums. The video collections are always a nice bonus. Glad to purchase finally my first CD in an updated format.

  16. DJ Salinger says:

    Accurate assessment, Paul. It had a rushed feel to it, which is inevitable considering his relentless schedule at that time. I felt much the same disappointment in ’86 about OMD’s ‘Pacific Age’, Frankie’s ‘Liverpool’ and the Human League’s ‘Crash’, among others. All sounded compromised and misdirected in their own way, yet still had their moments.

    And ‘One to One’ does have its moments. ‘Little Bit Of Snow’ suggests that keeping it simple is sometimes a good thing, though you’re right, it was commercial suicide to issue this as the third single from a struggling LP. HoJo was still able to fill the Royal Albert Hall at this point, but who was buying the records?

    He took his time with follow-up ‘Cross That Line’ and it was worth it – a much superior album, only by then the pop landscape had utterly changed and few were listening, which is a shame.

    Have ordered this because, with inherent flaws accepted, it really is an excellent value reissue package. And for any of you coulrophobes out there, it’s also reassuringly Jed-free. (I think…)

  17. Eric Generic says:

    Being a Hojo nut at the time, I bought it on the day of release. Seems I was in a minority of not especially liking Dream Into Action, I felt it strayed too far from what made Human’s Lib so great. One To One, for all its faults and commercial failure, at least sounded (to me) like a move on the right direction.

    As others have alluded to, late 1986 was just a car crash for so many mid-80s acts, and I expect a lot of factors contributed to the album’s lack of UK success. It just wasn’t the sound the public wanted anymore. WEA could have chosen different singles (Step Into These Shoes, Will You Be There), but I don’t know if it would have changed anything.

    It was certainly a stronger album than either the Paul Young or Nik Kershaw efforts released in the subsequent fortnight (One To One was 13/10/86, Between Two Fires 20/10 and Radio Musicola 27/10). It would have been interesting to hear Howard’s thoughts about it in more detail, because there’s a good album in there and I think he had the right idea with what he was trying to achieve, but if he wants to downplay the whole era than I suppose that’s his choice.

    EG.

  18. MelodicMusisIsTheBestMusic says:

    Great thoughts on this album Paul, I totally agree with what you say about this album I was never a fan of it apart from the last 2 songs, I personally think that it took another few albums before Howard found his mojo again as the next 2 albums after this ‘Cross That Line”, In The Running” were better but not perfect.
    I prefer his 7th album 1998’s “People” that IS a good album some strong songs on there and also 2005’s “Revolution Of The Heart” back to his electronic roots also the follow up 2009’s “Ordinary Heroes” is classy piano based singer songwriter stuff a cracking album that one.
    Would love Howard to work with Rupert Hine again just once more time he is such a good producer but like Howard other artists at that time only used his services a couple of times Re: Rush, Chris De Burgh, Anthony Phillips but with The Fixx he produced their first 4 albums.
    Howard Jones is without any doubt still standing tall above all his other contemporaries of the time in the 80’s and continues to tour a produce good quality albums to this day.

  19. Don says:

    This album might be my biggest musical disappointment ever. Humans’ Lib and Dream Into Action blew my tiny little mind, and I was expecting huge things from Jones’ third album. Boy, was I let down. I bought the tape, listened to it once, and never went back. Apart from “You Know I Love You”, which I (charitably) added to my best-of playlist, I haven’t heard a note from any of the other songs in over 30 years. But despite all that animus, I’m looking forward to adding this SDE to my collection and revisiting it with a hopefully open mind and ear. Howard Jones is a GIGANTIC part of my teenage years, and I’d like to reconnect with that magic again.

  20. Trash says:

    I only discovered this album much later (despite being a pretty big Howard Jones fan at the time). The release somehow passed me by.
    However I really enjoy 75% of it and it actually contains a couple of my favourite Jones songs:
    You Know I Love You
    Good Luck, Bad Luck

    I definitely play it as much as ‘the big two’.
    But as a music journalist once wrote (I believe when reviewing Low by Bowie) “One man’s nirvana is another man’s nap” :-)

    As for Radio Musicola – that is by far and away my favourite Nik Kershaw album. I never get tired of listening to it!

  21. madman says:

    Not a Howard Jones fan, but this was an excellent review Paul. Well done!

  22. Ken.e says:

    I was disappointed in the album when it came out. I was a big fan of HJ and bought everything that came out on vinyl. Collected the b-sides and 12inch versions on carefully assembled cassettes and saw him live.
    I fell off the rails with this album although I did play it a lot. I just picked up Graceland and Press to Play about a month prior and both were in heavy rotation for me. I did play it a lot as I said but found myself trying to like a few of the tracks and wishing a different production was used.
    Still a few great hits and overall an okay album. I am looking forward to getting my expended version in the post.

  23. Chris Squires says:

    As you say Paul, guilty as charged.
    I, like millions of others, bought Human Racing, The Riddle, No Parlez, The Secret of Association, Human’s Lib and Dream into Action and all of the many associated 12″ singles of each of those 6 albums. I was really into all three artists.

    The three 3rd albums Between Two Fires, Radio Musicola and One to One were all, incidentally, released the same week, between the 13th and 20th October 1986.

    You’d have thought that it would have been a momentous week. Three artists that had seen me through 16 to 18 years old and had rarely been off the turntable or my first CD player.

    I bought Radio Musicola, disappointed and I lost interest in Nik Kershaw. I bought Between Two Fires, disappointed but I persevered, bought the singles and got through to the next album Other Voices almost 4 years later. For some reason I didn’t even get One to One, I don’t even remember any of the singles. Howard lost out and I couldn’t even tell you why.

    I don’t even just think it was the three 3rd albums. I think the time had just moved on. That “Golden” era of 1983 to 1985 for so many artists had just moved on. Through the Barricades, Raindancing, Notorious, From Luxury to Heartache, Pleasure One, The Pacific Age all very difficult albums for artists I had loved and all were 1986 (Raindancing was early 1987).
    That time had gone. I realize that maybe it was that the time had just gone for me with University, moving out, stupid too-young engagements and so on. But all of these albums were disappointments of one kind or another. Critically or by sales so it couldn’t have just been me. What happened?

    • christian says:

      Similarly, I was hugely into Humans Lib and bought all the variations of the first album’s 12 inch singles. I loved Eurythmics (still do) but not a note of the other ‘associated’ acts including Aha, Nik Kershaw, Paul Young, Thompson Twins.
      As and 14 year old in 1984 I was all about Bowie, The Jam, Queen, The Police, New Order, Iron Maiden, Roger Waters, Big Country, Marillion, Roxy Music, Peter Gabriel, Eurythmics, Simon And Garfunkel, The Incredible String Band (thanks dad), The Beatles, The Damned, old Dylan (not new) The Who (old etc), The Kinks (old…).
      My cool mates really took the piss out of my love for Howard Jones.

      I picked up the Like To Get To Know You Well 12 inch and remember something about it really grated with me. Same with Look Mama and while I tried and bought my copy of Dream Into Action on release day, I probably only played it a couple of times.

      June 1985, still just 14, I saw my first proper band, The Damned at the Hammersmith Palais. Having heard the early Mary Chain singles on John Peel, Psychocandy’s release in late 1985 was the turning point and remains my favourite and most played album to date. I started liking a lot more anarcho-punk, Crass and Conflict, fell in love with Hounds of Love as we all did, and heard the Velvet Underground for the first time, who I still consider the greatest band of all time. And of course by then, with this shift, The Tube had taken over as the place I heard new music.

      The upshot of this was that I have zero recollection of this Howard Jones album being released and I am listening to it for the first time ever as I type this.
      I think that as an artist his fan base had a strong male skew and really only hit kids born around the same time as me, 1970. And as such, his first misfire wiped out most of his fan base with most comments here echoing the opening ‘guilty as charged’.
      And 1985 was a turning point for music, with indie bands breaking through en masse, following an earlier breakthrough by The Smiths.
      Great ‘mature’ pop was still there but by 1986 (U2, Prince), for me, it was bands like The Housemartins and Pet Shop Boys that were leading the charge against a singles chart that was losing the sharp edge that saw post punk / new wave / new romantic / NWOBHM play such a big role in the UK charts.
      By 1987, ‘pop’ was all over for me with bands I despised like Bon Jovi, Five Star and Swing Out Sister being muted on Top Of The Pops while I waited for The Sisters of Mercy.

      Howard Jones was the very first high profile victim of this shift for me, and this album specifically. I had a mate who was a senior player his record label in the early 90s and I asked why his records still got released. He told m they were cheap to make requiring little cash from the label and they felt they owed him because he’d sold so many records in the mid 80s.

  24. MusicFan says:

    I love this album… the great thing about HoJo is that each album is unique and a special musical journey – but always with something to say. Each song on this album is faultless!

    This album works specifically well when listening on headphones as the sounds pop around all over the place! The 12inch version of You Know I love You is truly exceptional and Good Luck Bad Luck is awesome!

    I am pleased All I Want was the first single as it showed Howard had matured greatly.

    I remember radio supporting this album well. The radio session with Janice Long is great! I remember Simon Bates playing Little Bit Of Snow, but specifically saying not to expect to hear it on daytime radio – which was to be expected really.

    It also has to be said the bside bonus tracks are also fantastic.

    I hope Cross That Line gets the Cherry Red reissue treatment as that album is a masterpiece!!!

  25. James says:

    Nik, Paul and Howard – three ‘quiet’ gents who probably struggled to an extent with being hearthrobs, when Smash Hits was at it’s peak, and couldn’t wait to ‘grow up’ in a musical sense, forgetting along the way that a teenage audience can be most loyal, but only if they play the game and write great tunes.

  26. MüllerMüller says:

    Hallo Paul – how long is the „New“ 12inch mix of Donˋt Want To Fight Anymore? Is it a Nile Rogers Mix?
    Thank you

  27. John-Paul Sanders says:

    Cheers for a great insight from your point of view Paul. Whilst I personally really enjoyed this album on release it hasn’t necessarily aged as well as his first two and Cherry Red must be applauded for this top value package. You are correct – imagine your favourites getting this treatment – Duran Duran take note ! Not sure why but listening to this album got me into the debut Living in a Box cd – which I feel could also benefit from this treatment – a forgotten classic with a great vocalist in Richard Darbyshire.

  28. Mike the Fish says:

    This was the only HJ album I bought when it was new out. I had it on cassette and enjoyed it enough. Dipping into tracks recently it sounded very dated, and a bit kitchen sink-y. I remember All I Want from the time and that may have been what drew me to the album.

  29. Dave Butterfield says:

    I take your point about endless progressive demo versions of one song, surely the way to do this is how ABBA treated it with From a twinkling star…

    This way you get the flavour but the progression becomes more notable I think.

  30. Daneil says:

    The “Cross That Line” album was produced by Howard; with the singles “Everlasting Love” and “The Prisoner” being produced by Chris Hughes, Ian Stanley and Ross Cullum.

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