Heaven 17

Before After

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For over 20 years, Glenn Gregory, Ian Craig Marsh, and Martyn Ware (aka Heaven 17) have created electronic music with soul, literally and figuratively. Apart from adding a healthy dose of soul, disco, and funk into their sound, the electronic side of H17 was never stiff, cold, and distant. Instead, H17's synth-based approach to music was lively and warm while also being experimental and creative. Although not the most prolific band since the late '80s, each album they've released since then has embraced modern technology while remaining true to their original sound. Before After is no exception, as it sounds like H17 with a fresh outlook. While their former bandmates the Human League may have had bigger success, this trio always had more credibility and respect. And apart from Dare!, the League's albums have never come close to the quality and variety of a H17 album. With these nine tracks, the band sounds rejuvenated without losing sight of where it came from. The opening trio of songs ("I'm Gonna Make You Fall in Love With Me," "Hands Up to Heaven," and "The Way It Is") are dancefloor stompers for the new millennium. "Freedom from Love," with its sensual slow groove, is every bit the equal of their old classics like "Let Me Go." The oft-covered Blue Öyster Cult classic "Don't Fear the Reaper" may have been a mistake by any other electronic outfit, but they really pull it off here. "Deeper and Deeper" is another great dance classic waiting to pulsate through your local nightclub. "Someone for Real," "What Would It Take," and "Into the Blue" are soulfully atmospheric slices of electronica. With this being their first new album in years, it's disappointingly short, but filled with enough good songs that don't overstay their welcome. In essence, this is another classic H17 album that will sound just as good 20 years from now as Penthouse and Pavement or How Men Are do today.

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