Should Have Been Greatest Hits

The Tourists

1984: Epic 39318

  1. I Only Want to Be With You
  2. It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
  3. The Loneliest Man in the World
  4. Blind Among the Flowers
  5. One Step Nearer the Edge
  6. Don’t Say I Told You So
  7. Let’s Take a Walk
  8. Circular Fever
  9. Angels and Demons
  10. From the Middle Room

I didn’t hear The Tourists until after I’d encountered the first three or four Eurythmics albums, and for a long time this album was almost an oddity to me—Dave & Annie when they were still just elements in something bigger, as opposed to the Eurythmics recordings where the combination of their two energies *was* the bigger thing.

Over time I’ve grown to like this album and The Tourists’ Luminous Basement (which I have on vinyl thanks to my friend Rob) on their own merits as good rock punctuated with clever and shrewd spikes of production excellence (but whose, if Dave wasn’t at the helm, or was he?).

There’s so much going on in these recordings, complicated by the fact that the songwriting is Peet Coombes’s but That Voice is an early Annie Lennox’s still finding its legs…it’s a young, husky voice not yet distilled to its essence as it was within a few years—or a few decades, if you agree with her recent comment (September 2004) that she now has the voice she wishes she’d had when she was younger…in any case there’s unconventional vocal action happening, and I can only assume (based on her later output and comments) that this was Annie’s own development taking form, which is great to listen to regardless of its provenance.

For an example of this, consider the climax of “Don’t Say I Told You So,” in which the Coombes/Lennox game of vocal hot-potato is first underlined and then overpowered by a multitracked Lennox calmly hammering a simple “ah” as an increasingly powerful major-seventh-chord. Did YOU hear anything that robotically charged in 1980? I certainly didn’t, although Grace Jones was just starting to give us the funkier side of that at the time via Warm Leatherette and Nightclubbing.

Right, so that’s something about the context and relevant elements, now let’s cover the tracks uber-briefly: “I Only Want To Be With You” may have cost them their career as a group but it really was a coyly fun cover version…if you’ve any doubt about that, check out the video for it (really! it’s viewable online! I was surprised too!), in which they’re all but winking about how unlike The Tourists it all was, and how fondly tongue-in-cheek…. “It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way” I continue to enjoy, especially for its pre-chorus angelic vocal swell of Annie’s held notes lingering on top of each other (Howard Shore, did you have this in mind with your LotR scores??).

Although I’ve never been particularly fond of “The Loneliest Man In The World” or “Blind Among The Flowers,” they’re really not bad…I just haven’t embraced them myself. “Don’t Say I Told You So,” however, is just mighty fun and spunky pop with an edge, as is “Let’s Take A Walk” which bops along at a pace almost too swift to be controlled and in fact becomes quite the thrasher towards its ending. “Circular Fever” I find interesting but not revelatory or inspiring, and the same can be said for “Angels and Demons” although Annie’s vocal on the latter is far more compelling.

Which leaves us with the final track, “From The Middle Room,” as well as “One Step Nearer The Edge,” which I omitted earlier. The final track is an instrumental (how terribly ’70s…) of raga-and-repeat-with-variations ilk, and it’s nice but not exactly ensorcelling. “One Step Nearer The Edge” however is an Annie Lennox composition, rare in those days, but all too appropriate in retrospect. The lyrics aren’t as refined and concise as she would craft in later years, but the import is very familiar now.