Alphaville

The Breathtaking Blue

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The Breathtaking Blue was a somewhat disappointing follow-up to Alphaville's early-1980s records Forever Young and Afternoons in Utopia. It lacked the shimmering standout quality of songs like "Big in Japan," "Forever Young" and "Afternoons in Utopia." The production, by Klaus Schulze and Alphaville, experiments with a somewhat richer instrumentation, adding strings, saxaphone, trumpet, double bass, electric and even acoustic guitars to Bernhard Lloyd's synthesizers. This strategy is met with mixed success. The lush production only serves to muddy "The Mysteries of Love," which might have been one of the album's better tracks had the songwriting been valued above the somewhat ostentatious arrangement. But the slinky bass and restrained sax ornamentation make the mildly jazzy "Heaven or Hell" one of the album's more interesting efforts. And "For a Million" is about as genuine as the band gets, thanks to the attractive minor-key melody and the surprising piano and acoustic guitar solos. But all things considered, Alpahville seems most in its element when sticking to simple synthesizer arrangements, as on the pretty "She Fades Away" and the clever "Middle of the Riddle" ("It's the middle of the riddle/It's not very serious/It's nothing but a big surprise/And the president's horse/is a rabbit of course/that is living in a big boy's mind"). Marian Gold's rich baritone vocals, with their classic Europop excesses, hold the record's diverging strands together.

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