Imagination's Body Talk was a magnificent breakout for both the group and the group's producers and co-songwriters, Tony Swain and Steve Jolley (both of whom would team to produce Spandau Ballet and Bananarama). Not only was Body Talk one of the best debut albums of 1981, it continues to stand as one of the best pop-oriented R&B albums of the decade it was released. Even if it suffered a drastic dropoff in quality after the first three songs, it remained an exceptional record; that opening 18-minute stretch is as close to perfection as a record gets. On the first two tracks, Jolley and Swain prove to be masters of the slow and simple, two characteristics that provide an ideal backdrop for the group. While most albums released during the time opened with one or two upbeat numbers to grab the listener's attention, Body Talk begins with two tracks that flow like lava. They're just as hot, too; "Body Talk"'s erotic simmer is based on an insistent, unchanging rhythm that is decorated by occasional piano vamps, keyboard trickles, swelling synth notes, and three soft voices. "So Good So Right" picks up the pace ever so slightly and is even more hypnotizing. As repetitive as it is, it needs its seven minutes to unwind and unleash its spell. The third song, "Burnin' Up" -- a favorite of Warehouse DJ Frankie Knuckles -- was several years ahead of its time and had an immense influence on Chicago house music, most particularly songs like Marshall Jefferson's "Move Your Body." A dance track through and through, its open spaces, loose feel, and fluid piano runs are more fitting for dancefloor tiles than the rumpled bedsheets caused by the opening pair of songs. A dip from here on out can only be expected, but it's hardly a steep decline; both the clubby, echo-filled "Flashback" and the moody "In and out of Love" sustain this lean album's excellence.
Body Talk Review
by Andy Kellman