Album #549 – Hunting High and Low
a-ha is one example of an 80’s band who were brought to new heights and worldwide acclaim because of music video. The Take on Me video is the greatest of the decade; only equaled by the vid for Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer. Combining animation and live action was very innovative for 1985. Because of that landmark, a-ha became Worldwide stars. Take on Me is a song that people either love or hate. Many see it as the finest example of 80’s cheese. I used to be one of those people until I listened to this album. Hunting High and Low is more complex than people realize. It took a-ha 2 years to crack the mainstream. Take on Me was remixed a second time before the song became a monster hit. But, unlike most albums on this list that feature a one-hit wonder, Hunting High and Low offered more. The fact that these guys are from Norway also adds to the cheesy quality. But, you can hear the Progressive Rock influence on the album in tracks like Train of Thought and Hunting High and Low. These guys are clearly musicians first. Maybe that explains why they didn’t take full advantage of their fame. Sure, they won loads of MTV VMAs and other awards but, after listening to the full album, I feel the music is what mattered most. Morten Harket’s voice is distinctive. I heard shades of Midge Ure and the Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan while listening. To hear those singers as influences is a huge compliment to a band of this caliber. Guitarist Paul Waaktaar-Savoy also made this album phenomenal by writing most of Hunting High and Low’s tracks. Waaktaar was the band’s driving force. Waaktaar and co-writer keyboardist Magne Furuholmen are also visual artists. Not too many bands have real artists in them. It probably made their sound even more unique. The album was not recorded in their native Norway, but in Southwest London at Pete Townshend’s Eel Pie Studios. It was co-produced by Tony Mansfield, the driving force behind 80’s synthpop group New Musik. Mansfield has also produced the B-52’s, Aztec Camera, Naked Eyes and Captain Sensible. The band were in great hands. I never got the feeling that Hunting High and Low was overproduced. This became so common place in the 80’s. Artists were not given the freedom in the studio that had been present in the past. If you get past the synthesizers, the album is a good one. You can tell that the band had a say in how things were done. My, how things have changed. Other highlights include: Living a Boy’s Adventure Tale, The Sun Always Shines On T.V. and I Dream Myself Alive. Overall, I give Hunting High and Low, 4 out of 5.
Next: Songs from the Big Chair by Tears for Fears