It's curious to think that Everything But The Girl were ever thought of as dance affiliates (thanks to just one remix of a song that started life as an acoustic song anyway). It's also equally curious to learn that throughout their career, they did not stick to one style either. This was their first album - when pretty much the influence du jour was smoky cosmopolitan jazz-tinged bossanova grooves, in line with a few other [London-based] bands and artists around at the time during those stylistically confused days of the early 80s (I think first and foremost of the lovely eclectic jazz popsters Weekend - led by Simon Booth, who actually guests on this album along with a few other luminaries). If there is an overriding earlier influence that shaped this album, however, then it has to be the music of Stan Getz and Astrid Gilberto.....with a bit of Cole Porter thrown into the mix (they made their debut with a cover of "Night and Day").
"Eden" is a delight from start to finish - ravishingly melodic and with a clean uncluttered production.... every song is a perfect bite-sized urban vignette sung sweetly by either Tracey or Ben in their own understated but detached way. There's no excessively emotional outpourings here - just perfect introspection done with style and finesse. It's hard to pick out any favourites because I have owned this record on tape ever since its first release in 1984 - having it see me through my student years at university right up to my oncoming middle age....and still I do not get tired of listening to it, and still it sounds fresh to this day. Obviously, the relative brevity of this album - twelve concise songs in barely 35 minutes - would be seen as a bit of a swizz now in this age of over-long CD epics and mass repackaging with bonus tracks etc.... but this album is so good it really does leave you wanting more.
It does what it sets out to do with the minimum of fuss and bother, and the tunes simply speak for themselves. There's some bossanova numbers here (the single Each and Every One, I Must Confess), some acoustic ballads (Fascination, Tender Blue, Soft Touch), a jazz-flecked instrumental (Crabwalk), some pert 60s pop (Another Bridge), some vintage country-folk balladry (The Dustbowl) ..... everything but the loud electric guitars if you like (though they did turn all Smiths jangle-poppy on their next album Love Not Money - which again, confounded people's expectations). If I was to pick one song that I keep going back to, it would have to be the bittersweet domestic melodrama of track 3 "Tender Blue" wherein a gorgeous duet between Ben and Tracey keeps the song idling along nicely care of an almost lullaby-like arrangement. But this is not to say that the other 11 tracks are not worthy - because they are just as high quality.
If your only experience of EBTG is their ropey dance stuff of the 90s, or their big hit cover versions (Paul Simon and Rod Stewart), then do yourself a favour and get this first record of theirs - this is where it all began for Tracey and Ben, and it's a good a start as you're going to find. A great little album and a classic in my book.
N.B. For those who love Tracey Thorn's voice, you could do no worse than to also get seek out her first solo [mini] album "A Distant Shore" which was issued in 1982 - it serves as a nice minimalist prequel to the songs on this album - great tunes aplenty too and a lovely guitar/voice version of the Velvet's "Femme Fatale" thrown in for good measure too.