Holly Johnson

Dreams That Money Can't Buy

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After topping the U.K. charts with his debut album, Blast, outspoken Scouser Holly Johnson's solo career looked as if it was going to continue where his seminal '80s pop outfit, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, left off. But just two years later, it all went a bit pear-shaped when various battles with MCA resulted in a slashed promo budget and a 12-month postponement in the release of his sophomore album Dreams That Money Can't Buy. Even taking into account the fact that the dated production would have sounded a little fresher back in the early '90s, it's not difficult to see why the label appeared to have such a lack of confidence. Inspired by the surrealist film of the same name' and packed full of cultural and literary references, Johnson may be under the impression he's creating a piece of pop art, but in reality, its ten tracks are more Rolf Harris than Andy Warhol. Not exactly helped by Andy Richards and Dan Hartman's game show theme-style production, all synthetic brass, spacy bleeps, and tinny beats, the likes of "Where Has Love Gone?" and "Do It for Love" sound like Erasure B-sides, "Penny Arcade" and "The People Want to Dance" are weak attempts at gospel-tinged disco-pop, while it's hard to believe that the wishy-washy anodyne ballad, "I Need Your Love," is penned by the same man behind the anthemic "The Power of Love." It's not a complete write-off. "Boyfriend 65" is a charmingly breezy piece of tropical pop featuring some enchanting backing vocals from the late Kirsty MacColl, the acid-house inspired "When the Party's Over" shows that Johnson was at least aware of the burgeoning rave scene at the time, while "You're a Hit" is a pleasantly melodic affair which sits somewhere between the melodramatic new wave of ABC and the arch synth pop of Pet Shop Boys. But they're only mildly diverting rather than knock-outs and, with nothing here even approaching a "Love Train" or "Americanos," let alone a "Relax" or "Two Tribes," it's a disappointingly bland affair from an artist whose previous career was anything but.

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