TREVOR HORN is one of only a small handful of record producers who shouldn't feel awkward at being described as a genius. With a legacy in sound creation that has stretched beyond a generation - but which defined one decade in particular, the 80s - he has been responsible for a significant number of brilliantly executed songs; unforgettable in the way that so many other comparible, but lesser, efforts weren't.
There are songs on this excellent 2cd collection that do to some extent, although not entirely, rely on a person's musical tastes. For example, DOLLAR were not exactly high on my appreciation index in 1981-2 but I can still honestly say that their 'sound', under Horn's auspices, was a considerable leap ahead of the typical fodder of the day. And any man who could make a SPANDAU BALLET song (the idiotically coined 'Instinction') attractive enough for this reviewer to purchase in 1981 must have had at least one toe, or lobe, dipped firmly in the cosmic talent pool. Yes, taste does play a part.
But what about the songs that transcend such things and are simply classics in their own right? It's true you have to start off with a good piece of music, but Horn was a trained musician himself and worked very hard to refine his 'craft' over a number of years (in fact, one of his former writing partners, the criminally underrated BRUCE WOOLLEY, has some fascinating insights of the early days in the sleevenotes to his excellent 1979 Camera Club album re-issue, see review).
VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR is, of course, the one we've all heard before which bears many of the trademark techniques (wide, spatial soundscape, heavy synthesizers, multi-tracked vocals) he would would later develop and augment, most noticeably in the brilliant RELAX by FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD. But what really stands out is the quality, the sheer class of the finished article. Not to mention the strings; Horn knew how to perfectly integrate an orchestra into the mix, creating in the process some beautifully striking effects, as featured on songs by ABC, PROPAGANDA, PET SHOP BOYS and others.
THE BEST (of the best)
ALL OF MY HEART by ABC (1982)
DAS TESTAMENT DES Dr MABUSE by PROPAGANDA (1984)
SLAVE TO THE RHYTHM by GRACE JONES (1985)
CRAZY by SEAL (1990)
OWNER OF A LONELY HEART by YES (1983)
ALL THE THINGS SHE SAID by (who?) tATu (2003)
RELAX by (who else?) FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD (1983)
LIVING IN THE PLASTIC AGE by BUGGLES (1980)
One song sadly missing from these tracklistings - which would have been conspicuous by its absense, had anyone actually heard it - is SAVE US by PHILIP JAP. It (along with classic first album by German electo-synth outfit PROPAGANDA, see review) shows Horn at his most pure in style, with everything he does best thrown into sharp relief. Perhaps we may get to hear Philip Jap on another future compilation. Whatever the case, here for all to see or, rather, hear is pretty much the essential Trevor Horn, former Buggle and, yes, genius 'Record Producer'. Yet how archaic that title sounds now. Conversely, his legacy has resulted in many priceless artefacts.
VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED