Tracks : A Little Respect / Ship Of Fools / Phantom Bride / Chains Of Love / Hallowed Ground / Sixty-Five Thousand / Heart Of Stone / Yahoo / Imagination / Witch In The Ditch / Weight Of The World
This was purchased from Soundsearch the following week for £4.00. It had been released just a few months earlier becoming the first of a run of number one albums that lasted until the mid-nineties. For this one Andy and Vince brought on board Stephen Hague as co-producer to expand the sound. The cover picture of a detail from a stained glass window indicates an interest in spirituality that permeates quite a few of the tracks and the lyrics are considerably more opaque than on their previous efforts.
"A Little Respect" the third single was riding high in the charts at the time of purchase thanks in part to the fortuitous word association ( playfully acknowledged in the video ) between Bell's melismatic "Soul" in the chorus and the Seoul Olympics which were running at the time so that it became an unofficial anthem of sorts. As covered by Wheatus and Bjorn Again it's one of their most enduring songs with a galloping rhythm , a towering vocal performance from Bell and a strong chorus ( though the falsetto'ed "To me" at its climax is a blatant lift from The Sun Always Shines On TV ). Bell's plea for reciprocity in a relationship is heartfelt and universal in appeal.
"Ship Of Fools" was the lead off single in February, nothing to do with the almighty World Party song of the previous year but great on its own account. It was notable for introducing real strings to the sound. It's lush and stately with Bell ruminating mournfully on the loss of childhood innocence and the realisation that the adult world's a mess , perhaps a reflection of his own coming out.
"Phantom Bride" is a third person but sympathetic tale of a lonely wallflower who gets pregnant with a killer chorus where Bell's vocals are multi-tracked to great effect.
"Chains Of Love" the second single is a Hi-NRG stomper mourning the loss of some golden age of community. Despite the entrance of gospel backing singers including future Soul II Soul protégé Caron Wheeler on the chorus it is a bit ordinary.
"Hallowed Ground" is more subdued, a mid-paced chugger about inner-city desperation that in the verses at least borrows heavily both lyrically and melodically from In The Ghetto. Although plaintively sung by Bell the chorus is rather ungainly , the last line "Are we living for an uncertain future ?" sounding as awkward as it looks in print.
Side Two starts unpromisingly with the house near-instrumental "Sixty-Five Thousand" a close relative of Pump Up The Volume which ends abruptly after three uninteresting minutes.
"Heart Of Stone" utilises Hague's heavy drum sound as heard on New Order's True Faith and some real horns courtesy of sessioneers The Kickhorns. Bell delivers a typical rebuke to a hard-hearted lover ; he must be a lousy judge if they're all directed at different people.
Then the album's real strength comes through with three corkers in a row. "Yahoo" brings back the girls for a synth spiritual with a marvellous uplifting chorus. It's not clear whether Bell really does "pray to the lord on high to rescue me" or it's just an affectionate tribute to gospel music but it really should have been the second single.
"Imagination" belies its unoriginal title with an inventive arrangement from Clarke and another belting chorus with an uplifting message , Bell exhorting not to dwell on the past.
"Witch In The Ditch" has the most impenetrable lyric mixing medieval courtly love ballad with Cold War persecution metaphors but it's home to another superb Clarke arrangement, a waltz with a tumbling folk melody that lodges in the brain and won't let go.
"Weight Of The World" seems like an anti-depression anthem with another humane Bell chorus. It's not as compelling as the previous three tracks but a perfectly serviceable closer.
This is apparently the band's bestselling LP and I think the public got it right.