Essex

Alison Moyet

1994: Columbia 57448


  1. Falling
  2. And I Know
  3. Whispering Your Name
  4. Getting Into Something
  5. So Am I
  6. Satellite
  7. Ode to Boy
  8. Dorothy
  9. Another Living Day
  10. Boys Own
  11. Take of Me
     
  12. Ode to Boy II
  13. Whispering Your Name (Single Mix)

DAMN this woman is fantastic! And although it took me until 2001 to get around to tasting her 1994 Essex, I’m still reeling from the combination whammies.

Musically this is fascinating and at times seemingly aimless yet perfectly structured when you step back and look it all over. The scenarios she conjures in her lyrics are deliciously complicated, just terrific. How I went for so many years without hearing “Ode to Boy” I can’t even blame on U.S. radio’s copious flaws because I really should have backed through this side door into excellence so very long ago…. (And by the way I for one greatly prefer this version of “Ode to Boy” to the original Yaz recording—this one’s epiphanic.)

As soon as I heard the first minute or so of the opening track, “Falling,” I was practically crying with joy at how lucky I was to hear such brilliance. The “presence of beauty,” indeed. If you need a reminder about why life is a fantastic thing to experience, listen to “Another Magic Day” for the structural buildup to the bridge in which she says

“If you could feel it now
Warmer than magenta skies
My spirits burning just like the blazing cheeks on the face of a young child
And it’s wild”

My first taste of this album was actually the song “Take of Me,” which was included on one of the singles from Hoodoo and reflects that album’s continuation with almost painful “goth-y” indulgence (and a lovely steal from Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares); it was so delicious that I had to hear the album on which it was truly placed, and thanks to some online search engine I tracked down a copy of this inexcusably out-of-print CD.

What a dream
I could feel everything
Silk of softnesses
Why alone?
I’ll be lonely with you
Do I want for
Diamond skies?
Will you take of me?
Will you take of me?
Not a sound
I would hear everything
(Everything I hear)
Lay me down
Dance, can we?
Cast as one into
The sea
Will you take of me?
Will you take of me?

Sadly the remixes of Ode to Boy [II] and of Whispering Your Name are really not my cuppa. Nevertheless, I can earnestly recommend that you get this CD and experience it for yourself. It is genuine distilled beauty.


Oh dear…I just noticed that in my enthusiastic rejoicing of this album I mentioned fewer than half of its tracks. Oopsie. Well, I should at least acknowledge them, starting with her marvelously improbable cover of “Whispering Your Name;” in the original recording of this it was a guy singing to another guy about some girl they now had in common, but in Moyet’s take there are no such certainties, just deliciously teasing ambiguities that make the song readable any number of ways and always a little more kicky each time as a result. “Getting Into Something” is similarly shifty but much, much more grooveable (and fun to sing a capella while biking, by the way).

“So Am I” has lyrics that are another of Moyet’s vague/specific mirror tricks that madden me with their tantalizing hints of intimate narrative, although as a recording it’s not particularly stirring…the lyrics are the star there, but I think the song would stand on its own in another casting (I don’t care much for the production overload it gets here). “Satellite” is broad and lovely but also carries smirking in-joke references to her home town, apparently, so it’s a jumble of connection and irrelevance for me.

Maybe it’s because I’m not especially sentimental, but “Dorothy” never has touched me; as a song it’s very nice and probably adaptable despite its personalization, but the sentiments involved aren’t part of my emotional vocabulary, I guess. Or maybe they are and I’m not feeling it because it’s too personalized. Dunno. “Boys Own” however sneers excellently with allusions to British social themes which I’m only distantly familiar with, but the overall messages are pretty solid (to me), punching a retaliatory fist through the saddo-machismo of the “lads” mentality and leaving it exposed as the house of cards it is.

And that brings me full circle, so I’ll wrap up there (still very much loving this album after four years).


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