Frankie Goes To Hollywood - "Liverpool"
This album got short shrift when it came out.
FGTH made quite a splash and had all of their commercial success with 1984's "Welcome to the Pleasure Dome," album and the worldwide hit from it; the sexually suggestive: "Relax" (don't do it, when you wanna "come").
Their debut was an MTV smash and the controversial sexually-charged video for 'Relax' launched FGTH to a triple platinum debut album.
(Frankie Say: Three Million copies!)
But the band "came".
They came too quickly, and due to legal and contractual and creative issues with their label (ZTT Records/Island Music Group) many of their MTV fans didn't even know that this 1986 follow-up effort was ever released.
FGTH is thought of today as just another 80's new wave one-hit wonder. And due to internal band squabbles and the protracted legal matters with their manager, their producer and their record label this sophomore album; "Liverpool" was indeed their last.
That's a shame, because this is an incredibly progressive innovative band. "Liverpool" was expensively made, given the huge worldwide hit they had under their belt the budget for recording their second album was reportedly 1 million British pounds.
This album was recorded over nearly two years using top studios in four countries, and thankfully it was completed prior to the filing of all the lawsuits.
"Liverpool" has a sound far more Prog-Rock than their new wave-meets-disco debut album: "Welcome To The Pleasure Dome".
The concept this time was still hedonistic. But lyrically it reflects both their towering success and the accompanying hedonism set against the melancholy of the ordinary man in an increasingly meaningless technological modern world.
''Liverpool'' is eight tight, well-crafted songs, with a hyper alternative-pop sheen provided by producers Stephen J. Lipson and his mentor, the legendary 80's pop producer Mr. Trevor Horn.
''Liverpool'' kicks off with 'Warriors Of The Wasteland', at first atmospheric and peaceful, it then turns sweepingly grand and powerfully aggressive.
Track 2 continues the aggression in the dance-funk bombast of 'Rage Hard', which was released as the lead single at the time of the original album release.
'Rage Hard' fell well below the record label's and the band's lofty expectations on the pop charts. It is a motivational song about aspiring to fulfill one's potential. We can have the life we imagine if we have the courage to take focused action on our dreams.
Next up is the guitar rock of 'Kill The Pain', a song about the inner fight it takes to even so much as desire a better life.
Side one ends with the grand optimism of the synthesizer odyssey: 'Maximum Joy'.
Side two (track 5 on the CD) begins with the lushly orchestrated: 'Watching The Wildlife'. It's about the day-to-day humdrum of the working man.
In it lead singer Holly Johnson reminisces on his youthful daydreaming for a life of freedom while enduring the drudgery and the daily grind of a meaningless 9-to-5 existence.
Then 6; the beautiful and sublime: 'Lunar Bay'. This is probably my favorite track. It echoes the excitement of the new wave 80's with a pumping 4/4 drum groove. Add the layering of multiple synthesizers for a space-fantasy-love-song tour de force. Think Bowie's 'Moonage Daydream' meets 'Relax'.
The seventh and second to last track is: 'For Heaven's Sake'.
A mellow song asking us to think of what we have we done to our world in our reckless ambition to promote consumerism and modernize daily life.
The album closes with the atmospheric, thoughtful and heartbreaking love song: 'Is Anybody Out There?' This is another big fave of mine, and it's as moving and poignant as 'The Power Of Love' was from their debut album.
It closes this concept album out perfectly and beautifully.
In summation, if you can manage to separate this music from all the madness going on during the recording of it e.g., the constant in-fighting about which direction the songs should take, and the battles with Trevor Horn driving everybody so hard with his intense controlling method of music production, that Stephen Lipson actually had to take over and finish it, then you'll find this is a stupendous album of 8 really fantastic songs.
Produced in the larger-than-life Horn/Lipson signature 80's Brit-pop new wave sound, all eight tracks are BIG sweeping opuses meticulously performed.
Music arranger Richard Niles adds symphonic orchestral arrangements to many of the songs and it really elevates the music to more than your typical 80's synth pop.
It's a real shame that FGTH didn't last into the 90's. It would have been really interesting, if they wouldn't have split up, to see where the band would have gone next after the "Liverpool" album.
This album deserves repeated listening as it is very, very, VERY imaginative and quite visionary in it's stylistic sound.
Anyone who likes prog-rock with heavy synth-work, and fancy orchestral arrangements will hear something amazing, new and wondrous with each new listen.
There are lovely little percussion effects and background vocal tricks providing ear candy that you won't notice the first time.
You are highly advised to give this disc more than one chance.
Each additional time you sit through the whole album you'll fall enraptured into a new meaning of the words. You'll fall for the romance of the violins, and into the fantasy world of elaborate sampling and synthesizer textures.
The lyrics and singing by Holly Johnson are immaculate. Holly gives a stunning emotional performance for every word in every song.
Each song has an urgency and yearning. Holly obviously had a few things to get off his chest. Each song thus has a distinctive story to tell about a young homosexual man growing up in Liverpool England just raging for a more fulfilling life. A life of 'Maximum Joy'.
A young man trying to kill the daily pain of a wasteland existence by keeping his dreams alive.
Liverpool as Holly's lyrics tell it, is an indifferent yet bustling city where most residents are all too comfortable in their lives of banal mediocrity.
His words and vocals throughout the disc passionately inspire one to 'seize the day' and pursue your hearts desire...or die inside while still living in quiet mediocrity.
You can 'Rage Hard' for your dream, make your mark, and conquer the world, or you can fade into the background in an increasingly mechanized technological apathetic way of life.
It many ways this concept and these lyrics were ahead of their time. With the advent of the internet and social media many years later, people became more distant than ever as technological reality took priority over human interaction.
The ahead-of-it's-time concept, the expensive and clever studio production, and Holly's singing are worth the price of admission alone and make this disc a classic.
Our highest recommendation.
A hidden treasure for Alternative-pop fans, or 80's dance music fans, or British Prog-Rock fans.