Various Artists

Too Good to Be True: Very Best of él Records

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An outgrowth of the heralded Cherry Red label, Mike Alway's él Records defined baroque pop during the 1980s, building an exemplary catalog elegantly blending soft rock, easy listening, and fern-bar jazz at a time when the world wanted nothing of the kind. It was music about 20 years behind and ahead of its time, and its releases remain sought-after by bespectacled record collectors the world over. The aptly titled Too Good to Be True celebrates the label's 20th anniversary by assembling two dozen cult classics from él's mid-'80s heyday -- inasmuch as none of these records were hits, it balances "stars" (Momus, Louis Philippe, and the Would-Be-Goods, most notably) alongside long-forgotten one-shots like Anthony Adverse ("The Ruling Class") and the Cavaliers ("It's a Beautiful Game") -- essential listening for anyone who still laments the creative breakup of Burt Bacharach, Hal David, and Dionne Warwick.

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