Album of the Week, January 27: Be Yourself Tonight by Eurythmics

Eurythmics_-_Be_Yourself_TonightEnglish guitarist Dave Stewart was a member of the folky band Longdancer in the early 70s. He and Peet Coombes left to form the Catch with Scottish singer Annie Lennox. That band evolved into the Tourists, who had some success in the U.K. and a minor hit in the U.S. before dissolving due to internal tensions. Lennox and Stewart decided to proceed as a duo and recorded the intriguing but detached In the Garden as Eurythmics in 1981. Deciding to take matters more into their own hands, they put together a home studio and recorded a number of singles; the stress of handling all their affairs themselves took its toll, and they regrouped, rebuilding the singles with new material for the stunning Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This). That album led to huge international success which only grew with their third release, Touch. After a brief detour to record the ill-fated soundtrack for the film 1984, the duo — famous for their coolly moving electronic sound — were ready to stretch into new sonic territory.

Title Be Yourself Tonight
Act Eurythmics
Label RCA Release Date 5/11/85
Producer Mitchell Froom
U.S. Chart  9 U.K. Chart  3
Tracks
[US Hot 100]
  1. Would I Lie to You? [#5]
  2. There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart) [#22]
  3. I Love You Like A Ball and Chain
  4. Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves [#18]
    with Aretha Franklin
  5. Conditioned Soul
  6. Adrian
    with Elvis Costello
  7. It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back) [#78]
  8. Here Comes That Sinking Feeling
  9. Better to Have Lost In Love (Than Never To Have Loved At All)

For their fifth album, Eurythmics looked back at the music they loved and added a more traditional rock sound to their existing palette. The result was their most diverse disc, the sublime Be Yourself Tonight. Things kick off in fine style with Would I Lie to You?, a surprising rocker with a powerful guitar lick. Lennox was in fine voice, displaying a rock goddess manner not heard before. The single was one of their biggest, hitting #5 on the Hot 100.

To prove their experimental intent, the next track is the beautiful There Must Be An Angel, a near-gospel charmer with Lennox showing off her high range to beautiful effect. The song also features one of a number of guest appearances with Stevie Wonder lending some tasty harmonica. Next up is the dark I Love You Like A Ball and Chain, more reminiscent of their early work but with a gritty quality perfectly suited to the doomed relationship theme. The next guest shows up on Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves as the Queen of Soul provides a duet vocal. Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox prove to be a perfect pair, trading growls and belting out the chorus in an updated I Am Woman.

Side one wraps up with the de facto title track. Conditioned Soul repeats the line “be yourself tonight” and the imploring “when will you make up your mind?” as it explores individualism in the 80s. It also serves as a meditation on fame and is appropriately the most musically reminiscent of the duo’s earlier work. That leads neatly into the next guest turn, as Elvis Costello duets with Lennox on Adrian. (This is one of a pair of songs. Jennifer on the second album is dedicated to British comedy star Jennifer Saunders and Adrian is dedicated to her husband, fellow star Adrian Edmondson.) The bittersweet vocal pairing explores coping with the world and is delightfully effective.

The next hit is the album’s standout, It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back). A joyous celebration of love and impatience, it showcases Lennox in fine voice and merges the rock and electronic sounds perfectly. That song crashes into a dark counterpoint with the gripping Here Comes That Sinking Feeling another tale of betrayal. The disc wraps up with a wonderfully cautious bit of optimism. Better to Have Lost In Love is a sorrowful celebration of life and a suitable ending for this amazing musical journey.

FURTHER LISTENING: In general, Eurythmics’ earlier output is stronger than their later material. Sweet Dreams is a remarkable statement unlike anything else in music at the time, but it’s a bit inconsistent. Touch is a far better set of songs and the best of the duo’s very electronic output. Of their later discs, the real standout is the song cycle Savage, a meditation on modern life that finds Lennox in her best voice.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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