A-ha- Album by album thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Havoc, Jul 28, 2014.

  1. Havoc

    Havoc Forum Resident Thread Starter

    So whaddya think? Is anyone game? This is a terrific band with a ton of musical talent. They released 9 fairly solid albums, some great, none terrible and I think it would be fun to rediscover them.

    Hunting High and Low- A-ha (1985)

    Most Americans will tell you they know that one song with the video but not much else, if anything which is a shame because this band gave me many, many years of terrific music and my wife caught me crying while watching their farewell show in Norway because even though many started to sit up and take notice, I realized that there were no more albums and that the band just would not get its just recognition.

    Hunting High and Low seemed to come out of nowhere but it was like a carnival of great music that had such a different sound to it. Yes it was definitely similar to some of the other bands around at the time but this band had a pop sensibility that was unique. I read a story about when the members of the band were forming their own music sensibilities and that growing up in Norway only exposed them to a very narrow scope of popular and rock music. In fact, there was only one radio station in the country which played Lutheran music all day and all night with the exception of Friday and Saturday nights where Abba and The Beatles would be played. Morten Harket stated that he remembered clearly when someone in the neighborhood actually brought back an actual Thin Lizzy record from a trip to Ireland and it knocked everyone out.

    This might be why Hunting High and Low sounded like nothing else to me. The Lutheran influence meant that everything had a sort of melancholy sound to it even though every song was a great pop tune but at the same time, much of the album had that sort of bounciness you might ascribe to Abba. I don't think there is another band out there that can cite these influences. Now to the album................

    Released in 1985, the album starts off with some of the most memorable notes of the decade and never really lapses from there. I honestly believe that every track on the album could have done well as a single and in the context of the album, they all work well and are thoughtfully positioned. "Take On Me" is an unusual song but boy is it infectious and does exactly what pop music should do. The listener is then treated to "Train of Thought" and "Hunting High and Low" which are extremely effective tracks that highlight the band's talent as songwriters, a talent that has been noted by many heavy hitters in music who rightfully cite A-ha's songwriting as being among the best of its generation. Side one is closed out by two more solid tracks, "The Blue Sky" and "Living A Boy's Adventure Tale". IMO, this has always been one of the best sides of any album of the genre.

    Side two begins with the firestorm of "The Sun Always Shines On T.V." After a soft intro, the song takes off hard and fast with some great sequencer and keyboard tracks colored with effective guitar stabs and a great break that gives way to a very unique synth bridge that speeds the rest of the song to its close. Next up is a simple and nice pop vocal "And You Tell Me" which is followed by a trio of solid and catchy tunes that are closed out by a more dramatic and thoughtful "Here I Stand And Face The Rain". All of the tracks have multiple layers of great sounding synthesizer tracks with just the right amount of acoustic accompaniment. Much of the rhythm section seems of the more electronic variety when not propped up by very clean sounding acoustic drum and bass. It is a very electronic sounding album in the same sense of Duran Duran's Rio where the drums and guitars have a fair degree of production.

    I'll admit that when I first heard of the band the night the video to "Take On Me" premiered, I didn't think it would be something I would take an interest in. A girl on my swim team who assumed I was a crazed punk rocker because of my Clash and Social Distortion shirts and my mostly shaved head had loaned me the cassette and dared me to give it a chance. Little did she know that my hair was shaved in most part because I didn't want to pay for haircuts and a $10 pair of clippers set on 2 carried me almost all the way through high school and that I had a soft spot for good pop tunes. I popped this cassette in and was treated to track after track of catchy and thoughtful pop and when the album wound down with the closing notes of "Here I Stand and Face The Rain" I had to play it again because to be honest, I had sort of discounted the band as being pretty boys who couldn't hold a guitar. It is now one of my favorite albums by anyone and a reliable pick me up whenever I could use one.

    Any fan of good pop music would be well served to grab a copy of the album and they wisely released a deluxe edition with some very interesting demos and live tracks. This is definitely one of my top 5 favorite bands of all time and I am so thankful that I was in a position to enjoy them the way I did. I saw them in Concord, Ca. in 85 and I was so impressed that I made a vow to become a dedicated fan. By playing their albums during my daughter's B-day arties, I've created at least 2 dozen more. My only regrets are that I was only able to see them live twice and that they called it quits, albeit in extremely classy fashion. They deserve your attention.

    A-ha Hunting High and Low

    Produced by Tony Mansfield

    Morten Harket- Vocals
    Magne Furuholmen- Keyboards
    Paul Waaktar-Savoy- Guitars

    1. Take on Me
    2. Train of Thought
    3. Hunting High and Low
    4. The Blue Sky
    5. Living A Boy's Adventure Tale
    6. The Sun Always Shines On T.V.
    7. And You Tell Me
    8. Love Is Reason
    9. Dream Myself Alive
    10. Here I Stand And Face The Rain
  2. Surly

    Surly Bon Viv-oh-no-he-didn't

    Cleveland, OH
    I've thought about starting a thread on this band for a long time, so I'll gladly participate. Because they were marketed as pin-ups in the beginning, not many people took them seriously, which doomed their chances in the US. It's a shame, though because they have a large catalog of intelligent, sophisticated pop/rock. Theirs is a very unique sound and the lyrics have quite a depth to them. I fell in love with this album instantly - it was one of my first compact disc purchases after receiving my first player in 1985. I had just started working part time in a Musicland store in August '85 and I played it every chance I got. I mentioned in another thread that because I worked at the store, the manager let me keep a promo-only copy of the 45 of "Take On Me" that came with a little illustrated booklet (like the video). We received some promotional materials and I built a big display on the wall that we kept up for a long time. I even bought some black speaker wire and would wrap it around my wrist like Morten did (although he looked cool when he did it...I just looked like a dork!) While I always claim 1983 to be the best year quality-wise for '80s music, I have a very strong attachment to 1985 and this album is a major player in that attachment. Oh, and I prefer the single mix of the title track - great memories of summer 1986 with that song!

    When I used to DJ in NYC in the '00s, I once participated in a multi-DJ "guilty pleasures" night. One girl played "Living A Boy's Adventure Tale," and I had 2 thoughts: 1) not a great song for a party vibe (much as I love the song), and 2) I have no guilt about loving a-ha!
  3. Havoc

    Havoc Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Wow, that would have been an awkward moment on the dance floor for sure. Your tales bring back such great memories of record stores in the mall, even though I remember once paying $18.99 for a cassette at a Wherehouse but it was one of those times where I just had to listen to New Order's Low Life and I guess there was a convenience fee in there somewhere. Hunting High and Low is a consistently interesting album from start to finish with each song standing well on its own. I'm glad so many heavy hitters in the music industry are recognizing them as great songwriters and performers. Even Graham Nash gives them props which should get some fans of the singer/songwriter genre sit up and take notice. I hope some do and chime in. This band is too good to be overlooked.
    JonnyKidd and D.B. like this.
  4. jeffmo789

    jeffmo789 Give The Gift of Music!

    New England
    Havoc I would enjoy reading this thread and learning about one of the bands "that passed me by" back in the day. I recently discovered them with the excellent 25 comp and have really enjoyed it - in fact, to my surprise I like the second disc of later material more than the 80s heyday. Most importantly, I discovered they weren't a one hit wonder anywhere except here in the US.

    I can contribute about how I feel about certain songs along the way if nothing else and this thread will help guide me toward future purchases, although your Simple Minds one has already cost me money!
    John Adam and D.B. like this.
  5. AFOS

    AFOS Forum Resident

    I only have the debut and it's one of my favorite albums.

    The singles are all great but there are also amazing deep cuts like "The Blue Sky" & "Living A Boys Adventure Tale" - probably my top 2 followed by the title track. "Take On Me" is awesome but probably ranks about 5th - that tells you how good this album is.
  6. morgan1098

    morgan1098 Forum Resident

    Awesome! Another album-by-album thread to go along with Simple Minds. I love a-ha and have every album, along with a healthy dose of remixes, rarities, etc.

    I agree with much of what has been said about Hunting High and Low. It's a great debut. "Take on Me" is a synth-pop anthem for sure, but there is a lot of varied musicianship across the whole album. It's a shame that a-ha were basically marketed as a boy band. Paul Waaktaar-Savoy is a fantastic songwriter, and he only got better as a-ha's career rolled along.

    "The Sun Always Shines on TV" is one of my favorite singles of the 80s. It's over-the-top in the very best way. It captures the melancholy and romance of a-ha perfectly. I also love the tracks that weren't singles. I made a 46-track a-ha play list and it kicks off with "Living a Boy's Adventure Tale." That first note Morten hits is sublime.

    I think a-ha's two best albums are Hunting High and Low and Foot of the Mountain (sorry Scoundrel Days fans). There's a lot of great stuff in between, of course, but I think it's significant that a-ha's career is book-ended by two such strong albums.

    Did anyone get the Rhino 2CD deluxe editions of Hunting and Scoundrel Days? There are some great demo versions on those. They're definitely worth owning and can still be found for a good price.
  7. sbsugar

    sbsugar Representing Benton County since 2010

    Great thread idea. I was just watching the Ending On A High Note video with my brother last week, and I think it is a shame most people remember them as a one hit wonder. I like the debut album a lot, but I have to echo the sentiment that they were marketed all wrong. Just look at early 45 sleeves, promo pictures, etc....they just don't reflect the maturity of the music.

    JonnyKidd likes this.
  8. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Bought their records real time.
    Prefer their comeback albums.
    Great thread !
  9. morgan1098

    morgan1098 Forum Resident

    LOVE this extended version of "The Sun Always Shines on TV." There were two different "extended version" released, one in the US and one in the EU. This one by Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero is far superior.

    mooseman and LarsO like this.
  10. leshafunk

    leshafunk Forum Resident

    Moscow, Russia
    Probably only one weak track on the debut album, #9 - Dream Myself Alive.
    Album tracks can easily compete with the singles.

    45 RPM Club EP is a good add-on to the album.
    D.B. likes this.
  11. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

  12. GubGub

    GubGub Forum Resident

    I was at college when this came out, preceded by the irresistibly catchy Take On Me. The band were marketed on their looks in the UK too. Morten Harket's cheekbones did little to help them in their bid to be taken seriously. The Sun Always Shines On TV however was a statement of intent that identified them as something different and hit the number 1 spot here. Train Of Thought showed there was a great deal more to them than their record company created image would suggest.

    I bought the album at that point. It isn't my favourite of theirs. I always preferred them more when the guitars became more audible in their sound and the synth pop edges were knocked off to some degree but Living A Boys Adventure Tale and Here I Stand And Face The Rain confirmed that this was a band who were in it for the long haul, worthy of serious attention but who, given their start, might struggle to find an adult audience. After losing the teenagers at the end of the 80s, they finally found that grown up audience in the UK in the first decade of the 21st century.

    It is a fine pop album, not their best but one which points the way to the band's future. Take On Me, brilliant though it is, was so huge that it became an albatross (Stormy Petrel on a stick!) around the album's neck by overshadowing the more mature songs.
  13. jeffmo789

    jeffmo789 Give The Gift of Music!

    New England
    What he said! :D
    willy and D.B. like this.
  14. Havoc

    Havoc Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Totally over the moon at the responses. I snatched up both deluxe editions and enjoy them on a weekly basis. I think the mastering is vibrant and alive and kudos to someone on all the outstanding extra material. Extremely brilliant insight throughout the posts, especially the acknowledgement of what was to come after this great debut album. I'd recommend each album enthusiastically but for those interested in their more guitar oriented sound, East of the Sun, West of the Moon and Memorial Beach are tops. I was knocked out by how much their songwriting had improved by the time "East........" came out but that is a conversation for a different day. I'm glad there are those willing to give this band a chance as the rewards are certainly worth the time. This band was such a positive force in the music industry and like others have noted, it's a crying shame Warner Bros. marketed them the way they did because I am sure a lot of people didn't give them a second look. Oh well, their loss. Thanks for giving this thread some life.
    enro99, its ec and alexpop like this.
  15. godslonelyman

    godslonelyman Forum Resident

    Very accomplished debut, though the title track and TOT sounds arguably better as 7" single remixes, replacing the albums 'midi' synths with more natural sounding string sections. Rhinos deluxe packages of this album and its superior followup are highly recommended.
    Havoc, jsayers and PCM7027 like this.
  16. RevolutionDoctor

    RevolutionDoctor Forum Resident

    Gent, Belgium
    Bought the vinyl back in the day. I was 14. It's a strong debut. Take On Me was the song that introduced me but now I prefer the other singles. The title track and TSASOT are standouts for me. These songs show that there indeed was more maturity in the songwriting. I haven't heard the deluxe but this might be a good opportunity to do so.
  17. GubGub

    GubGub Forum Resident

    That is precisely what I was trying to avoid saying until the appropriate moment. :D

    But yes, this! East is their masterpiece for me.
  18. Neonbeam

    Neonbeam All Art Was Once Contemporary

    Planet Earth
    Funny idea:) A-ha was always more of my (little;)) sister's thing, she even had the life-size cut out shape that came bit by bit with a huge German teenie mag.

    Haven't heard their music in ages but I found the debut last year cheap as japanese pressing and couldn't resist. This is VERY 80's but also VERY good:)
  19. Espen R

    Espen R Forum Resident

    From Norway….and not a huge fan of A-Ha. But…

    -Hunting High and Low is a fairly good album, but very typical 80s in sound.
    - Best album; Scoundrel Days
    - Best A-Ha song: Stay on these Roads (fits the voice of Morten just perfect)

  20. morgan1098

    morgan1098 Forum Resident

    One of the more interesting demos on the Hunting High and Low deluxe is "Train of Thought." It has a totally different bass line that is, in fact, the bass line of "Cold River" from East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I love how these two tracks, recorded years apart, intersect!
    godslonelyman likes this.
  21. walrus

    walrus Forum Resident

    Minneapolis, MN
    I need to spend more time with their 'classic' period LP's...oddly, the album I love the most and know the best is Minor Earth, Major Sky. The live album was my entry point to A-Ha, oddly enough, and after hearing the live band, 'meatier' versions of their 80's/90's songs, it'd hard to go back to the original studio versions.
    alexpop likes this.
  22. Rubber65

    Rubber65 Forum Resident

    Funny of all the artists in the mid 80s with huge hits, they asked A-ha to score to the opening sequence to James Bond's Living Daylights. Loved that song. I always thought that were the new Duran Duran at the time.
  23. dividebytube

    dividebytube Forum Resident

    Grand Rapids, MI
    Wow - an album-by-album thread I thought I would never see. When I tell people that I'm a big a-ha fan, I get the strangest of looks - especially since I'm known to listen to more obscure music. How could I like such a pretty-boy band? It's the hooky pop, that voice!, and great musical sensibility.

    As they aged, their music became - as I call it - modern pop music for adults.

    Their debut album is _very_ good - but Analogue gets my vote for their best. Anyway, looking forward to this thread.
  24. Riccardo2

    Riccardo2 Forum Resident

    How about "Petter Carlsen", also from Norway
  25. Espen R

    Espen R Forum Resident

    Sorry, I know little about him and his music.

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