Yazoo (known as Yaz in North America for legal reasons involving Yazoo Records) were a British synthpop duo from Basildon, Essex, England, consisting of former Depeche Mode member Vince Clarke (keyboards) and Alison Moyet (vocals). Formed in late 1981 after Clarke responded to an advertisement Moyet placed in a UK music magazine, over the next 18 months the duo made two critically acclaimed albums, Upstairs at Eric’s and You and Me Both, blending Clarke’s synthesizer melodies with Moyet’s blues– and soul-influenced vocals. Yazoo enjoyed worldwide success, particularly in their home country where three of their four singles reached the top three of the UK Singles Chart and both their albums made the top two of the albums chart. In North America they are best known for the song “Situation“, originally only a B-side in the UK but which was a club and airplay hit in the US and Canada before being released as the band’s debut single in North America.
Despite their success, the duo split acrimoniously in the spring of 1983 due to a combination of Clarke’s reluctance to make more records under the Yazoo name, a clash of personalities, and a lack of communication between the pair. Clarke went on to form Erasure, another successful and longer-lasting synthpop duo, while Moyet embarked on a highly successful solo career. Although their musical career was short, Yazoo’s combination of electronic instrumentation and soulful female vocals has been cited as an influence on the house music scene that emerged in the mid-1980s, as well as bands such as LCD Soundsystem (who name-checked them on their debut single “Losing My Edge“), Hercules and Love Affair (whose leader Andy Butler has said that “Situation” was his biggest musical inspiration as a child), La Roux, Shiny Toy Guns and Blaqk Audio.
In 2008, 25 years after splitting up, Clarke and Moyet reconciled and reformed Yazoo to play a successful tour of the UK, Europe and North America in support of the reissue of Yazoo’s two studio albums and a box set of their material. The pair briefly reunited again in May 2011 to play three Yazoo songs at a music festival organised by their record label.
Nobody’s Diary—-When the familiar strains of Clarke’s synth line opens this track it is as if you take a step back in time. This remastered version of the record seems to bring Moyet’s vocal more to the fore front of the music giving it a more full and warm feel. The synth line sounds dated but never seems to get old….Clarke often repeating certain musical lines in many future songs. Moyet….sounding remarkably like Andy Bell gives a bluesy-soul infused vocal full of emotion and pain…but bright at the same time.
Softly Over—-With a ghostly and sad synth line, Moyet delivers a slight echo filled vocal that brings sadness and loneliness to the track. This is mysterious and filled with an emotional feel….the double tracked vocal giving the song a very large feel despite the sparse synths from Clarke. This is a beautifully sad song….but sounds like it was recorded yesterday….a great remaster project.
Sweet Thing—-Very familiar Depeche Mode style synth lines open this hyper kinetic track…..dance floor ready and filled with underlying effects that dance from speaker to speaker. Moyet sounds driven to keep up with the pace of the song….the over dubbed vocals adding to the full feel of the song. The remarkable and memorable thing about this track is that classic Clarke sound.
Mr. Blue—-Returning to the trademark Moyet style, Clarke delivers a synth ballad that seems to be built around the expressive soulful voice of Moyet. I think Allison is to ignored in American Music Culture…..Moyet was Adele before Adele knew who she was. This is a remarkably beautiful song…sparse yet layered with sounds. effects and blips that create a landscape all of its own.
Good Times—-Returning to a synth line that is familiar in sound, the remarkable thing about this sing is that Clarke was able to almost build a blues style synth line throughout the song. Moyet sounds so comfortable with this style of singing…like its natural and built in. This is a fun song….with a bevy of backdrop voices adding to the jubilant feel of the song.
Walk Away From Love—-By far, my favorite track from this release and the band as well. This has that familiar Clarke synth line that was repeated in the Erasure song Stop! Allison sounds brilliant…with her double tracked vocal and soulful delivery sliding smooth over the shine of the synth line…this was 80’s brilliance at its best. I freaking love this song.
Ode To Boy—-Sparse yet full of a dense dark sound, this is how I preferred this band from the very first time I heard them. Moyet delivers a much more emotional sound when the music is settled and calm. This song is dark….naked and allows her vocal to shine like never before. I love how everything seems to over lap itself yet still remains naked….Clarke settled and calm with special effects dancing from speaker to speaker…this is wonderful.
Unmarked—-With a somehow stationary yet escalating synth line, Moyet has a vocal that seems a little pushed to the back of the mix…but remains powerful and emotional. I love the male back drop vocal and the urgency that Allison manages to propel over the synth line. The bass heavy line that drives the synth has that constant high pitch line that keeps things from being to dark…this is fantastic….I love this band. Wish I could have seen them live.
Anyone—-Almost orchestrated synth lines make up the back bone of this song…..lending to the occasional wave crashes and special effects. Moyet delivers a sad and mournful vocal that leaves you with a slight ache in your heart. It is amazing Clarke was able to rein in his fingers enough to allow such a dark and mournful track….but that is talent. This is remarkable. Moyet delivers some lines that are so vocally strong…it almost overwhelms the music itself….wow!!!
Happy People—-A simple piano synth line creates the backbone for this song and it sounds amazingly like Erasure!!! This was the beginning of the end for this band…but they managed to deliver a song like this? This is so English in sound….and Moyet sounds almost removed from the different voices on the track…fun but not wonderfully brilliant.
And On—-Brilliant stacks of synth lines on top of each other begin this swan song for the band. Moyet delivers a vocal so emotive and sad it is hard to listen to….this is stark…beautiful and so very sad…..makes me tear up…..I cant get enough of this….just incredible…..this has everything for me. The emotion…the bright piano line…the low hum of sadness…..and Moyet.
****1/2 out of 5