John Foxx Album ReviewsJOHN FOXX, one time lead singer of 80's synth icons Ultravox, electronic music pioneer and established solo artist in his own right.
Ultravox : Ultravox !
Ha ! Ha! Ha!
Systems of Romance
The Golden Section
In Mysterious Ways
With Louis Gordon
The Pleasures of Electricity
John Foxx -- Metamatic
A review of Metamatic will apear here shortly
John Foxx -- The Garden
Track Listing :
Recorded at The Garden Studio, London and The Music Works. Virgin V2194
A year after Metamatic came The Garden, John Foxx’s second solo album. It marked a change in his sound away from the cutting electronic images to a more rounded approach with guitars and keyboards. The lyrics too, are more heartfelt and less angular.
The album starts with Europe After The Rain, a minor chart hit which also saw John appear on Top of the Pops ! Led by tinkling piano and John’s vocals this is a pretty good taster of what’s to come on the album. The emphasis is definately on the voice and the melody, and rather less on the metal beat that made Metamatic such a different LP.
Foxx is rejoined by ex-Ultravox member Robin Simon on guitar for Systems of Romance, which was also the title of Ultravox’s third album. Whether this song was written at the time and brought back for The Garden is open to debate, John has said that many songs in his repertoire are worked on over a period of years, so this may well be one of them. In any case, this is a powerful pop song, played with live drums [!] and a strong guitar line.
This is followed by When I Was A Man... and the single Dancing Like a Gun before the stand-out track Pater Noster. For the first few times I heard this track, my reaction was “What the hell was that all about ?”. Pater Noster is the Lord’s Prayer in latin set to a driving drum and synth beat. It sounds a hell of a mess to start with, but it subtly gets into your mind and works on you from within. Foxx was brought up a Catholic, but drifted away from his religion. Pater Noster marked a certain return and understanding of his faith, which grew with his interest in ecclesiastical architecture and culminating in the recording of Cathedral Oceans.
Night Suit, You Were There and Fusion/Fission follow, the last of these featuring some sharp sounding guitar from Robin Simon in a distinctively 80’s new wave sound, and excellent clipped vocals from Foxx. Walk Away is one of the strongest tracks on the album and has become one of the mainstays of John’s live set. Sounding uncannily like his earlier Ultravox work, it has a driving vocal and a memorable synth hook you can’t shake off.
This brings us to the last track of the album, the title track The Garden. This track, with its atmospheric bird song, and apprantly recorded in the open air weighs in at over seven minutes of beauty and sweeping vocal chords.
We’ve been sleeping in the garden
A wonderfully evocative track, and if you are lucky enough to own the limited edition vinyl version with “The Church” booklet of beautiful ecclesiastical photography, this has the atmosphere to round off the total package. The CD version repackaged in 1993 comes with six extra tracks, the best of these being The Lifting Sky, a B-side from The Golden Section sessions in 1983, which somehow evolved itself into the class "Your Dress". Listen to the two side by side and you'll see what I mean.
In all, this album shows a determined step away from the harsh metallic sounds of Metamatic and towards a more rounded musical style. To be sure, it didn’t please the fans who had grown to love Metamatic, but people move on, styles change and this marked part of the evolution in John’s style that would give us The Golden Section.
John Foxx -- The Golden Section
A review of The Golden Section will appear here shortly
John Foxx -- In Mysterious Ways
A review of In Mysterious Ways will appear here shortly
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