Alphaville's second album, produced for the most part by Peter Walsh, found the group creating something close to a concept record, in overall atmosphere and structure if not in specific storyline. That Alphaville wanted to aim high can be gauged from the credit list -- the three core members "composed" the album, while no less than 30 musicians and singers helped perform it. Certainly the opening track, "IAO," a brief a cappella piece with Gold backed by a heavenly children's choir, finds the group reaching just enough and getting away with it. While at the time Afternoons in Utopia got lost in a welter of mid-'80s Euro releases with airbrushing and bad synth playing galore, in retrospect it's actually a successful endeavour, perfectly evocative of a mainstream style long vanished while containing its own artistic worth. "Dance With Me" and "Red Rose" were the much more conventional singles which got released in America, the former benefiting from some great U2-inspired guitar and the latter a reasonably sassy pop number that's one of various chances for Gold to exercise his Bryan Ferry fascination. The true character of the album, though, appears on most of the other songs, such as the sweeping passion of "Fantastic Dream" (Yes goes synth-pop, only this time without Trevor Horn) and the gentle pace and sci-fi scenario of "Carol Masters." "Jerusalem," which was the final single from the album released in Germany, is the secret highlight, with a wonderful chorus and an inspiring, just epic enough atmosphere. Other winners include the sweetly sung title track, which musically sounds like Enya some years before her own big splash with Watermark, and the Pet Shop Boys-reminiscent "Universal Daddy." At points things are just bad yup-funk for wine bars, but a couple of misfires aside, Afternoons in Utopia holds up well.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett