With the release of her Decca/Universal label debut album The Turn, the world welcomes back Alison Moyet as simply one of the best, most compelling female vocalists to emerge during the past quarter-century of British pop music.
The Turn is Alison’s first new collection of original material since Hometime in 2002. (Voice, the singer’s UK Top Ten album of 2004, was comprised of well-chosen and superbly performed classic songs by composers ranging from Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach to George and Ira Gershwin.) But The Turn focuses the spotlight on Alison’s formidable strengths as a contemporary composer with deep roots in soul music, modern pop, and the emotional French ballad style known as chanson. She co-wrote all eleven songs with album producer and multi-instrumentalist Peter Glenister. Their partnership dates back to Alison’s 1991 album Hoodoo. (Peter also has worked with Terence Trent D’Arby, Bryan Ferry, and Beth Gibbons of Portishead, among other artists.)
Alison once described her recent music as “chill-out for grown-ups: dark, intelligent, sexy, moody, neurotic.” The Turn is all that and more besides - a work of pathos and drama, strength and fragility, from the lush orchestration of the heart-stopping opener “One More Time” to the accordion-laced strains of “Home” (shades of Jacques Brel and Lotte Lenya). “The Man in the Wings” is a striking meditation on the performer/audience relationship, set to a delicate blend of piano and strings with a twangy spaghetti-Western guitar break interpolated by Peter Glenister. “Anytime at All” is quite possibly the greatest song that Dusty Springfield or the Walker Brothers never recorded.
As one deeply impressed reviewer wrote: “Violins slink across semi-tones, oboes yearn in mature resignation, jerky acoustic guitars take a stance, and, above it all, Moyet’s distinctive voice demands attention.”
In an essay for The Guardian (UK), Alison Moyet described the profound influence of her French father’s beloved chanson on her new music. “France taught me self-expression – the kind that is heated and shameless,” she wrote.
“It informs the sounds I make; the music I am drawn to. . . . There was Edith Piaf for my grandmother; Jacques Brel for my uncle, and later, spilling from my father’s car with its doors wide open, courtesy of his newly acquired cassette player, the ever-running scales and arpeggios of the accordion-led valse musette. This was the sound of my home.”
In the UK and across Europe and numerous international territories, Alison Moyet is a certified superstar. Her remarkable career has taken her from the pioneering dance-rock hits of Yaz to chart-topping success as a confident solo artist to acclaimed stage roles in the London musical theatre productions of Chicago and Smaller. (Indeed, three of the songs on The Turn originally were created for the latter show, in which Alison co-starred with actress/comedienne Dawn French.) Since first breaching the UK Top Five in 1982 with Yaz and “Only You,” Alison Moyet has amassed worldwide sales of more than 20 million recordings.
Not bad for a high-school dropout who trained as a piano tuner until she and partner Vince Clarke (Yazoo, Yaz) and soul-stirring vocals of “Only You”. When Alison went out on her own with the 1984 solo debut Alf, the result was a pair of UK Top Ten hits, “Love Resurrection” and “All Cried Out,” and her first U.S. Top 40 hit, “Invisible”.
Between 1984 and 1987, Alison Moyet toured the world, won two BRIT Awards, and performed at Live Aid in 1985. Her next album, Raindancing (1987), earned the singer a third BRIT Award and brought her to the U.S. for the first time as a solo performer. Hoodoo (1991) and Essex (1994) found Alison taking her music in an earthier, less pop-friendly direction. But “It Won’t Be Long”, a track from Hoodoo, received a Grammy Award nomination in the category of Best Female Rock Performance.
Due to prolonged litigation with Sony Music, Alison did not record or release a new studio album for over eight years following the release of Essex. But her 1995 hits collection Singles entered the UK chart at Number One, paving the way for a sold-out British tour that included three nights at the Royal Albert Hall. Over the next few years, Alison’s unmistakable voice appeared on recordings by Tricky, Ocean Colour Scene, The Lightning Seeds, and King Britt; she also starred on the UK leg of the Lilith Fair tour.
Towards the end of 2001 Alison made her stage debut in the West End hit musical Chicago playing the role of Matron Mama Morton. London’s Evening Standard declared that the singer’s performance “stole the show . . . the packed auditorium saluted Ms. Moyet with a deafening cacophony.”
In August 2002, Alison released her first studio album in eight years, Hometime, which catapulted her into the Top Five of best-selling female UK artists. Her next album, Voice, entered the UK chart at Number Seven when released in September 2004 and quickly achieved gold sales status.
Yesterday’s teenage soul-punk aspirant is today’s seasoned pro - but her desire to create fresh, distinctive, and emotionally compelling music still burns on The Turn.
“Today, I make music as the day suggests,” declared Alison Moyet in that Guardian essay. “My day, the one I wake up to. I will write about things that move me. I will sing like it matters, because it can matter. I will be the product of my 46 imperfect year. . . . I want to be able to laugh with abandonment at the folly of it all.”
In 2007, a quarter-century after their original musical partnership began, Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke decided to re-form Yaz (Yazoo). To celebrate this momentous occasion, Mute Records released In Your Room in 2008 in the UK/European territories. This deluxe four-disc box set incorporates Yazoo’s two studio albums, Upstairs at Eric’s (1982) and You and Me (1983) along with a third CD of B-sides and rarities and a DVD collecting music videos, television performances, and the short film 2 Albums, 4 Singles and That Was It. Alison and Vince also launched their “Yazoo Reconnected” tour on May 26, 2008 in Copenhagen, with UK and European dates running through June.
Clearly indicating a new artistic lease of life, The Minutes (2013) is arguably Alison’s
most creative album. It has subtle parallels to her synth-pop past but is also
bang up-to-date, taking in elements of high-end pop smashes, R&B, modern
club sounds, and electronic experimentation. Panoramic strings and icy
electronics start proceedings on album opener “Horizon Flame” before the
massive-chorus-meets-jerky-robotic-R&B of “Changeling” kicks in. “Apple
Kisses” highlights the versatility of Alison’s singing; having defined dance floor
synth-pop in Yazoo, this track sees
her voice equally at home soaring over a snarling bass line that wouldn’t sound
out of place tearing from the Fabric sound system. Equally schooled in club
culture is the punchy house/bass squelch of “Right as Rain,” while the brighter
“Love Reign Supreme” recalls Chris & Cosey’s “October Love Song.” The
darkly beautiful, emotionally fraught torch song, “A Place to Stay” precedes
the positive and uplifting “Filligree,” which is indicative of the whole album’s
cohesive pendulum swing from darkness to light and back again.