Less an unreleased album, than an album's worth of unreleased tracks, the twelve numbers that comprise Alphaville were recorded at various points during the late 1990s - and, somewhat sadly, they sound like it. Arguably, that decade was Ferry's most musically unfulfilling yet - not since Boys And Girls, a full generation before, had he cut a record that actually lived up to his own expectations, and the arrival of Dave Stewart as his producer and occasional songwriting partner, sadly, was not about to change that.
It's a very busy collection - the opening "Love War" buoys the listener along on a sheer wall of sound and effects, a hallmark of Stewart's of course, and one can admire the way in which he crams so much into the mix, without ever sounding over cluttered. But the repetitive choruses and sultry dance rhythms only remind us that Ferry has still to shake off the spirit of Boys And Girls, and while Alphaville would undoubtedly have won him more friends and praise than Mamouna could ever have, nothing here suggests Ferry was wrong to cherrypick the highlights, and then build an entire new album around them. That was 2002's Frantic, on which we find reworked versions of "Cruel," "One Way Love," "Hiroshima," "San Simeon," "A Fool For Love," and in every instance, the new recordings are superior.
All of that said,
Alphaville is by no means a wash-out. Again, it's certainly better than
either Mamouna or Bete Noire; it's more exciting than Taxi, and where
else are you going to find seven previously unheard Ferry songs? In fact,
Alphaville's greatest fault isn't even the album's doing - it's the bonus
track remixes (from Taxi and Mamouna) that complete the package. They
maybe almost as rare as the rest of the songs here, but there's a reason
that remixes tend to be left on b-sides alone... -
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