30 Days: 30 Albums | ABC – The Lexicon of Love II

Phew! In spite of wanting this since the release was teased in… 2016, it’s taken me over two years to finally obtain the new ABC CD. This was strictly down to the inability of the band’s website to sell me anything but a DL or the three figure box of the album on LP plus some DVDs. Just a straight CD was nowhere to be found,, and the largest web retailer had had wildly fluctuating stocks of this, with many time there being no CD stock for sale when I looked. Since I never see ABC material [beyond the occasional cheepnnasty compilations] in actual brick + mortars, I was thrilled to see it in Amoeba last July.

Virgin EMI Records | UK | CD | 2016 | CDV 3150

#3ABC: The Lexicon Of Love II UK CD [2016]

  1. The Flames Of Desire
  2. Viva Love
  3. Ten Below Zero
  4. Confessions Of A Fool
  5. Singer Not The Song
  6. The Ship Of The Seasick Sailor
  7. Kiss Me Goodbye
  8. I Believe In Love
  9. The Love Inside The Love
  10. Brighter Than The Sun
  11. Viva Love Reprise

The lush romantic strings that opened the album on “The Flames Of Desire” showcased a far more seasoned Anne Dudley than the one who made her name with her string arrangements on three songs from the original “Lexicon Of Love.” This work was redolent of her decades of experience as an A-list composer and collaborator. The sound was also more foreground than the seasonings of strings that the earlier album sported. This one is not quite the “New Wave Motown*” of “Lexicon Of Love.” No, this was more like Broadway Disco. More of a late 70s vibe with no production value spared.

When “Viva Love” appeared in a much earlier Brothers In Rhythm recording in 2004’s “The Ultimate ABC Collection,” a 3xCD compilation by Universal NL, it was just a loose track from the “Abracadabra” sessions which made it to the public. A good song, but not the show stopper that it became here! The buildup intro quickly gave way to Philly Soul nirvana, with Fry’s full-bodies lead vocal ascending into the falsetto zone as he does so well. The classical acoustic guitar filigree on the outro is the last thing one would reasonably expect and was a thing of wonder.

The delicate instrumentation of the ballad “Ten Below Zero” was a bittersweet moment to come down from the torrid highs of “Viva Love.” Then “Confessions Of A Fool” chugged along, swept up by a wall of strings that rode the big drum beats courtesy of Richard Brook. The self-deprecation of the lyric was classic Fry and I especially loved the “fool, fool fool fool” refrain. One more repetition than with the equally delight “No More Blue Horizons [Fool Fool Fool]” by China Crisis. Never has self-flagellation sounded so beautiful.

Pregnant strings heralded the brilliant metasong of “Singer Not The Song.” The tempo picked up at a snappy pace in the verse and when the first chorus kicked in, it was like hearing a flower blossom. Fry with Ms. Dudley and the producer Gary [Go West] Stevenson managed to toe a fine line through packing melodic and rhythmic detail into this song without it ever becoming unbalanced or overweening. The amount of detail to listen to here was almost ridiculous.

The string syncopation that cut through “The Ship Of The Seasick Sailor” was so melodically rewarding, which was completely the hallmark of this supafine album. “I Believe In Love” began as an intimate piano ballad only to hit its full stride in glorious mid-period Roxy Music regalia before reverting to quietude for the song’s chillout coda.

The next two songs were co-writes with Ms. Dudley. “The Love Inside The Love” began as an intimate, drawing room sort of crystalline ballad that unfurled across the horizon to full John Barry widescreen proportions. The tremolo guitar was a dead giveaway there. Again, the sound of this album could be grandiose, yet it kept to the demure side of overstatement. Surely a one-of-a-kind balancing act?

Fry by my reckoning, has delivered three classic albums in the last 21 years. No matter who his writing partners were, the end results were consistently top drawer. This album heven had him writing numbers with members of Living In A Box and a Lady Gaga writer, not to mention Anne Dudley herself, and all of the results gelled here thanks to the sensitive production and arrangements. We know for a fact that some of these songs [“Viva Love” at the very least] go back over a quarter century and have been sitting in Fry’s notebook waiting for the right time to re-emerge. A sequel to “The Lexicon Of Love” would have seemed a hopeless task and a fool’s errand at the onset but Fry’s resolve not to waste anybody’s time has borne considerable fruit here. The money spent to make this album happen is there in the end product for any and all to hear.  Well done, ladies and gentlemen. Now if we can only get the next ABC album in less than 8-10 years I’ll be a happy man.

CONCLUSION: enjoy… a lot!

 

About postpunkmonk

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34 Responses to 30 Days: 30 Albums | ABC – The Lexicon of Love II

  1. dhrichards says:

    Really glad you liked it. It was about half a classic for me, but yards better than anything since Up, imho.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      dhrichards – I still prefer the “Skyscraping” album in terms of writing, but this one had a better production that went far in smoothing out, nay, erasing any problems. I didn’t like “Up,” apart from “North.”

      Like

      • dhrichards says:

        I always forget about Skyscraping, even though the title track is in my all time top 40 of great songs…

        Like

        • postpunkmonk says:

          dhrichards – I always maintained that Smokey Robinson never knew what he was missing by not covering “Skyscraping.” I still love that album. The songs and styles are fascinating to me but the recording sounds cheap next to LOL2. Hell, almost everything sounds cheap next to it!

          Like

          • Tim says:

            Vinny Vero is working on a deluxified Abracadbra and I am hoping that Skyscraping has a revisit from him when he finishes up with that.
            I am happy to hear that you finally added this one to the cell and that it is uniformly to your liking. There’s a lot to enjoy in this one.

            Liked by 1 person

            • negative1ne says:

              mr monk,
              there were 2 remastered versions of abracadabra already:
              the 2005 digital release:
              ———————————————————-
              11 Love Conquers All (Extended Version) 6:17
              12 Say It (The Black Box Mix) 6:20
              13 Unlock The Secrets Of Your Heart (M People Mix) 5:00
              14 Love Conquers All (Boilerhouse Mix) 4:51
              15 Love Conquers All (The Morales Eclipse Mix) 5:45
              16 Viva Love (Brother In Rythym Edit) 4:14
              17 Snakebite 4:52
              18 Kiss Me Goodbye 5:20

              and the 2011 cd:
              —————————–
              10 What’s Good About Goodbye 4:48
              11 Love Conquers All (Boilerhouse Mix) 4:48
              12 Love Conquers All (Morales Edit) 4:38
              13 Say It (The Black Box Mix) 6:18
              14 Say It (The Abracadabra Mix) 4:23

              there were way more tracks, so maybe
              a 2 cd version would be better.

              there already is a 2cd skyscraping, with pretty much
              every extra track on it:
              ————————————————
              2-1 The World Spins On 3:44
              2-2 All We Need 4:33
              2-3 Stranger Things (Acoustic) 5:09
              2-4 Skydubbing 7:27
              2-5 Stranger Things (Live) 4:55
              2-6 Rolling Sevens (Radio Edit) 3:33
              2-7 The Look Of Love (Live) 3:54
              2-8 All Of My Heart (Live) 5:53
              2-9 Skyscraping (Alternate Version) 4:16

              you may want to get that.

              later
              -1

              Like

    • negative1ne says:

      mr monk, as a longtime fan of ABC,
      i was there when lexicon of love was released.
      and have remained a fan ever since. it’s been
      a long ride, and what a rollercoaster ride its
      been, especially over the very sparse last
      3 releases they have had. going down from
      a quartet to a duo, and now down to just
      martin fry, he has kept up the name until
      this day.

      it pains me to say it, but this album severely
      under-performs on many levels. commercially,
      critically, and longevity. it just doesn’t have
      the appeal and character that their other
      albums do.

      what went wrong with it.
      ===============================
      there are many answers. after being forced
      to change the title by the label. it was very presumptuous
      to put the name 2 after it. the first is a classic to pretty
      much anyone and everyone that knows the band
      or likes the band. its what established them.
      so they set sights very high with it.

      granted, there’s nothing wrong with returning to
      a sound, or theme after such a long gap. and i
      love orchestral sounds and tracks. so i had
      to temper my expectations. i knew it wouldn’t
      live up to the original, but i never thought it
      would end up falling very short.

      ——————————————–
      there are some highlights in it, but they
      are very few and far between.

      1) viva love originally surfaced in 1994, not 2004
      as you say. it was going to be a standalone single
      and going to come in 1995. some promos made
      it out that contain the full brothers in love remix,
      the edit, and the instrumental.

      it could have gone on the album abracadabra,
      but was withheld.

      to me this song on the album is the standout
      track.

      a short edit did come out on a compilation.
      but that was a much more electro-techno version.

      this version revamps it into a high energy song, with a
      much greater orchestral flair. love the orchestral strings
      hit, and the guitar, and there’s a lot of drama in it.

      probably to me the highlight of the album. great lyrics,
      and another new classic for abc. i love the line
      ‘You face the future like a heat-seeking missile
      You’ve got yourself a smile a mile wide’.

      the only thing is, i like the original version better than
      this. i consider this an alternate take, and not the definitive
      version of the song.
      ————————

      i’m not going to breakdown the tracks,
      because you’ve already done it.

      ================================
      overall, abc does a good job on the vocals, and bringing
      back the orchestral additions to the songs.

      as a theme, overall, abc and martin fry
      have delivered a good product.

      however, when you try to take on the legacy
      that the original had, i feel it doesn’t add or match up to it.

      individually, there are good tracks on it,
      and a few very good ones, but most of the time
      is spent on mellow, midtempo ballads.

      i think the album starts out strong,
      and has a few potential singles.
      viva love is the standout track.
      there really wasn’t any remixes
      or promotion for the other tracks
      on this album, and i feel that
      would helped with some of the other songs.

      the album made a small dent when
      originally released, but did not
      stand out much after that. even for me,
      i listened to it for about a month,
      and haven’t listened since then.

      its a tough act for a band to follow a major
      release that has overshadowed
      their career, so no matter how optimistic
      you can be, you wonder why it was attempted.

      i knew going in, this album would
      have a tough time matching even
      a part of the potential it could be. and
      unfortunately, thats what happened.
      there’s something missing
      from it, that normally abc has.

      maybe by being shackled into the
      more orchestral format, that didn’t
      leave room for improvement,
      and also sticking with topics of relationships
      and related, that didn’t help either.

      i feel abc retreaded too much material,
      themes, and overall feel for this
      album. yes, its modern in its production.
      martin sounds great, but you can
      tell he doesn’t have the energy like
      he did when he originally started.

      sure lexicon of love 2 is an average
      but not great album, but for abc
      thats disappointing. they stretched
      themselves for the underrated
      skyscraping album, and the much
      better album traffic. so a few
      steps forward, and now a step back for them.

      enjoy it as a fan, but it doesn’t have
      the lasting power to
      join the rest of their output.

      later
      -1

      Like

      • postpunkmonk says:

        negative1ne – I basically discount the whole LOL2 paint job that was slapped on this album as an afterthought. I don’t even consider this a sequel. To me, it’s. the new ABC album. I like it more than “Up” and “Abracadabra.” Maybe even “Alphabet City,” which I thought was the real LOL2 when it came out! I loved “Skyscraping” and “Traffic.” This one lacks in material to me. Only about half of the material is of the caliber of the previous two. Where it shines was in arrangements and recording gloss. I think it’s the richest sounding ABC album. That said Horn’s exacting arrangements of the debut still have not been bettered. But my favorite ABC albums continue to be “Millionaire” and “Skyscraping.” They sound cheaper, but I never tire of them. Either of them will always brighten my mood.

        Like

        • Tim says:

          I think Skyscraping needs Mr Vero’s loving touch much more than Abracadaver does.
          I really like some of the songs on that one but both that one and Skyscraping just don’t sound very good, at least via the cds I have of them. A decent remaster for both would help a lot.
          Abracadver has some good songs but they’re buried in the sound de jour of the time. That one (along with a couple of tracks from Up) need to be totally re-arranged and re-recorded.
          -1 has some legit points on LoL2. I think when the album shines, which is about 70% of the time, he really knocks it out of the park, the other 30% of the time…shudder. This was already covered in the original uber comment thread back in the day. Still, if every 80s legacy act put out something as well put together as this post 1985……well, it would make the money I spent on what I did get a bit more worth it.

          Like

          • postpunkmonk says:

            Tim – Great idea of re-recording songs from “Abracadabra” and “Up!” I didn’t like the idea of ABC bandwagon jumping the house sound. The only band that did that and it worked for me were The Blow Monkeys, for some reason.

            Like

          • Echorich says:

            I’m a huge fan of Abracadabra and its easy-breezy House, but one thing was quite glaring on the album. When Martin is pressed to write dance music, his lyricism can travel right out the window….Case in point – these lyric excerpts from Say It : I was hung in effigy, I was flayed alive; I was baked Alaska, Burning deep inside ; I was wondering ’round this earth, Trying to find a place to hide … I still wince when I hear them…

            Liked by 1 person

            • postpunkmonk says:

              Echorich – So it wasn’t only me who groaned at these howlers?

              Like

              • Tim says:

                I had an old Trouser Press record guide in the 90’s and Ira Robbins said that Mr Fry sounded on Abracadabra like he was choking on his dessert.

                Regardless, in a lot of ways ABC is a yardstick for 80’s legacy act quality (I would say the Pet Shop Boys kicks ABC to the kennel on this one but PSB weren’t active until almost mid-decade). Look at the sheer quantity of comments on the original post about this album and and the current comment thread as proof, and most people are warm to LoL2.

                Like

  2. Brian says:

    Hey Monk. In 2016, this album landed just outside of my top 10. The momentum of openers Flames of Desire and Viva Love couldn’t quite carry through the entire production, but I mostly enjoyed it. It’s also one of the best sounding albums I have heard this decade. As I said over at my place at the time, Anne Dudley is the real hero here. Style points for the aesthetics of the cover too. It does take you back.

    Liked by 1 person

    • negative1ne says:

      i’m not sure you should give credit for the cover.

      copying something is easy, and very very lazy.

      to me, thats points off.

      later
      -1

      Like

      • postpunkmonk says:

        negative1ne – I completely agree with you. I found it exceptionally cynical and lazy when originally writing about this two years ago. I realized that the label pushed the whole LOL2 branding on what was simply the next ABC album.

        Like

        • Tim says:

          Cash grab by the label riding on the coat-tails of something decades old. If I remember right I read at the time that the whole LoL2 was the labels idea and not Mr. Fry’s.

          Like

          • SimonH says:

            I believe Martin Fry wanted to call it something like, ‘The Lexicon of Lost Ideals’…
            I can live with the album title when the music is this good.

            Like

            • postpunkmonk says:

              SimonH – I also saw that. Props for getting Anne Dudley so heavily involved. Her contribution made for a great ABC album but the wrapper the label put it in was just marketing.

              Like

  3. Echorich says:

    I won’t hear a negative word about LOL II. But then I’ve made that quite clear on my own site in a two-part post back in 2016.
    The opening strings of Flames Of Desire offer just enough of that feeling of the curtain being lifted on a spectacle before they build into a joyous welcome to an album that is as much a show as it is a musical spectacle. Martin Fry is first and foremost a Pop Lyricist and here he has allowed his gift to be unbound. Flames Of Desire is an opening musical shot!
    But Fry and company are not content with just a one cannon fanfare, Viva Love picks up where Flames of Desire peaks and runs back down the hill swords of love stretched out ahead of it’s battle cry.
    Monk, your words on Ten Below Zero and Confessions Of A Fool stand on their own, I need not add my own. But, it’s the three songs that follow that make LOL II a tower of songs…
    Singer Not The Song is Martin Fry, with the help of Rob Fusari, putting his entire musical history into 4:11 of song that teeters on the edge of madness. It’s Glam, it’s Punk, It’s ZTT…celebrates and it faces the reality of being the man at the center of the stage.
    Next, The Ship Of The Seasick Sailor Fry gets to flex those trademark word couplings, literary pairings that have been his successful (and sometimes not so successful) stock in trade for over 35 years. Using the allusions of the broken men returning from sea, from epic battles, imprisoned to reflect the greatness of his heartache and the strength of the love that’s been lost.
    Finally, Kiss Me Goodbye, in all its lush orchestration is the Martin Fry, the ABC of All Of My Heart, of S.O.S., of Ocean Blue…epic balladry. Oh and if ANY ABC song proved that Martin Fry could write a Bond Theme, it’s Kiss Me Goodbye.
    I think I’ll leave it there. Lexicon Of Love II is a rare, startlingly success that avoids the inevitable jabs at its title be crass and commercially expedient. It truly lives up to being part two.

    Like

  4. Tim says:

    And he does a nice job playing it safe on the fashion question. I believe I have an interview with him or promo material circa Lexicon of Love that has a quote from him that his sense of fashion walks a fine line between incredibly good and utterly tasteless. One could argue not to toss rocks at Hayze Fantazee after the fashions they sported circa Zillionaire. Great album but some of the clothes…..

    Like

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