[Review] Howard Jones: Dream Into Action (1985)

From beginning to end, a treasure trove of ‘80s synthesizer pop with a positive message.

Kronomyth 2.0: Things only got better.

Howard Jones followed up his chart-topping debut with an even better album, Dream Into Action. This is one of those albums that you listen to from beginning to end, with nearly song taking a turn as your favorite over time. A lot of music in the mid Eighties didn’t interest me, but this, The Golden Age of Wireless and Cupid & Psyche ’85 captured everything that was best about electronic dance pop.

Where Scritti Politti was sometimes inscrutable, Howard Jones is a clear communicator who makes a real connection with his audience. Life in One Day is a self-help session wrapped in sugar, No One Is to Blame is simply heartbreaking, Dream Into Action is sound advice to heal division. Throughout, Jones and producer Rupert Hine strike just the right balance between technology and humanity. Even when Jones is preaching about animal rights (Assault and Battery), you have to appreciate the music behind the message.

The second side starts with Look Mama, a plea for independence that was one of several singles from the album. Bounce Right Back is Jones’ playful rap attack, Elegy its antithesis. The remaining tracks continue to balance between dark and light, ending with the atmospheric and heavy Hunger for the Flesh. While the album is front-loaded with its best ideas, Dream Into Action held my interest throughout.

In reading an NME article on 50 albums from 1985 that have aged well, I was surprised that Dream Into Action and Cupid & Psyche ’85 didn’t get a mention. The article made good choices, and I don’t envy anyone the task of compiling such a list, yet these two albums bespeak what was best about 1985 and still sound wonderful today, to me anyway. Both proved that great music transcends the medium and that synthesizers can have as much soul as a saxophone.

Original elpee version

A1. Things Can Only Get Better (4:02)
A2. Life in One Day (3:39)
A3. No One Is To Blame (3:28)
A4. Dream Into Action (3:45)
A5. Like to Get to Know You Well (3:59)
A6. Assault and Battery (4:51)
B1. Look Mama (3:53)
B2. Bounce Right Back (3:55)
B3. Elegy (4:20)
B4. Is There a Difference? (3:33)
B5. Automaton (4:04)
B6. Hunger for the Flesh (3:54)

All tracks music and lyrics by Howard Jones.

The Players

Howard Jones (lyrics, vocals, instruments, programming) with Afrodiziak [Claudia Fontaine, Naomi Thompson, Caron Wheeler] (backing vocals), The Effervescents [Laura Bishop, Kirstie Fulthorpe, Elizabeth Hoden, Tania Matos] (girls’ voices on A6), Helen Liebman (cello on B3), TKO Horns [Brian Maurice, Jim Patterson, Dave Pleurs, Alan Whetton] (brass). Produced by Rupert Hine; engineered and mixed by Stephen W. Tayler.

The Pictures

Album sleeve photography by Simon Fowler. Graphic design by Rob O’Connor/Stylo Rouge.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and compact disc in March 1985 in the UK (WEA, WX15/C), the US (Elektra, 60390), Australia and Germany (WEA, 240 632-1/4/2) and Japan (WEA, P-13086) with lyrics innersleeve. Reached #2 on the UK charts and #10 on the US charts (RIAA-certified platinum record).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *