Howard Jones – Best 1983-2017 (Cherry Red Records)
3 x CD
28 July 2017
8 / 10
Electro singer songwriter releases career retrospective. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates reviews.
In amongst the eyeliner of Oakey, Le Bon and The Boy and, the unnaturally white teeth of Michael and Ridgeley, a tall jumper wearing keyboard player with spikey hair appeared on the scene in 1983. With a keyboard (or two) and a mime artist called Jed, Howard Jones gave us one of the most refreshing and uplifting songs of the era in New Song. Despite being accused of stealing a riff from Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill (ironic as they would later share the same live bill), is sparkled like a little gem in the charts and unknowingly marked the beginnings of a career that continues to this day.
New Song was pop perfection, it had everything – an instantly recognisable intro, catchy verses, simple but effective chorus and, a bank of Ooh-Ooh-Oooh’s that were shouted with glee. Far from being a one hit wonder, Jones had the songwriting finesse to carry things on over the next three years amassing ten Top 40 hits nine of which appeared in the Top 20. He was, and as Best confirms, still is, one of the finest pop writers of the last thirty years.
His secret is quite simple, no-nonsense, addictive pop that everyone can remember but perhaps more interestingly is that he has clearly matured with his audience. He hasn’t tried to remain a bouncy hit-seeking artist opting instead to allow his music to grow at the same pace as his fan base. Sure, he can still write a great pop song but he can also pen adult songs being true to himself.
His second single and biggest hit to date (a number 2 hit) went from the pop prowess of his debut to the slow, synth-swept beauty of What Is Love? It still had a rousing chorus but is showed that Jones wasn’t a one-trick pony and when the beautiful No One Is To Blame and brass powered Pearl In The Shell emerged from his double platinum selling Human’s Lib album, it was clear he was a name and talent to be reckoned with.
Best is an expansive and exhaustive collection put together by the man himself and when the hits slowly dried up he continued to produce some fine music. Little Bit Of Snow gives us some beautiful piano playing, the instrument he self-taught himself from the age of seven and, You’re The Buddha really does beg the question why it wasn’t a hit.
Disc two leaves the Jones hits behind bit shows how his work has grown with him. Lift Me Up is prime example, the catchy chorus and addictive verses leading up to it are still there but, its adult pop, with a mature feel and it sits wonderfully. City Song is fabulous in its cinematic glory and can be imagined accompanying the latest filmic blockbuster, and Just Look At You Now picks up a bouncy pace with a subtle beat.
Perhaps, for the uninitiated, a chronological listing may have been preferred but that’s really splitting hairs and the inclusion of a third cd featuring acoustic and electric live versions of eight tracks confirms the versatility of a songwriter who has never really lost his way. Check back his CV and you’ll notice songwriting credits for Sugababes and his inclusion in several music organisations including a Director of the Featured Artists Coalition formed to protect the rights of musicians.
Best does exactly what is says on the sleeve and represents the true art of writing good, solid and likeable pop. A well thought out collection and a worthy addition to any pop collection.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog and you can follow him on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.