Yaz/Upstairs At Eric’s

Upstairs at Erics

Yazoo (known as Yaz in the U.S.) are an English synthpop duo from Basildon, Essex. They had a number of top ten hits in the British charts in the early 1980s. Formed in late 1981 by former Depeche Mode songwriter Vince Clarke (synthesizer) and English singer Alison Moyet (vocals), Yazoo were signed to Mute Records in the United Kingdom and (as “Yaz”) to Sire Records in the United States.

Yazoo’s debut single “Only You” backed with “Situation,” was released on 15 March 1982 and rose to number two in the UK charts. Yazoo released two successful studio albums, Upstairs at Eric’s in 1982 and You and Me Both in 1983. Shortly after, Moyet and Clarke decided to break up. Moyet pursued a solo career while Clarke went on to form Erasure, another synth pop duo. Yazoo temporarily reunited in 2008 with a tour in Europe and the United States and the release of a four-disc box set.

Though short-lived, Yazoo continues to influence and inspire many of today’s bands, including LCD Soundsystem, Shiny Toy Guns, Blaqk Audio,[1] Hercules and Love Affair,[2] La Roux, and Gil Mantera’s Party Dream.

Upstairs at Eric’s (1982) is Yazoo‘s first album produced by the band and E.C. Radcliffe with assistance from Daniel Miller. It reached # 2 in UK and # 92 in US. It was later released as an audio CD in October 25, 1990.

The album is an influential synth pop release which did much to establish the link between American-style R&B and European electronica, a marriage which defined much of the Top 40 throughout the 1980s. The album, named after the duo’s living space in producer Eric Radcliffe‘s home during the recording, contains two classic singles: “Don’t Go” and the ballad “Only You“. {Wikipedia}

Don’t Go—-One of this duo’s most popular singles, the track combines the remarkable synth rhythms of Clarke set with the bluesy vocal style of Moyet crashing together to create a dance floor smash that is still played in clubs all over the world. The production quality and the instrumentation is so much better on this release than the first Depeche mode release…masterminded by Clarke. This sounds so fresh and new in 2010, it makes me wonder if we have rally progressed that much. It is also remarkable to me how much Moyet sounds like future Clarke vocalist Andy Bell at times. This is truly a piece of history.

Too Pieces—-This contains the remarkable melancholy synth sounds that Clarke has managed to produce for many years now. the vocal is huge and overlayed…the production is top notch…the emotion that Moyet displays with her voice, set to the moody synth lines come together and crash in this huge and orgasmic sound that still 20 some years later makes my teary eyed and smiling. Incredible!

Bad Connection—-This is wonderful…the Clarke produced synth lines have a nice funk sound to them that fits Moyet’s vocal wonderfully. this has an almost retro Girl group sound to it thanks to the vocal overlays and studio magic. this is pure pop perfection. this was a short-lived project, but groundbreaking and earth shattering for a lonely boy in love with synth pop.

I Before E Except After C—-With a remarkable vocal intro that is spoken by Clarke, this is rather odd but none the less charming. this is full of reverb, echo and machine manipulations that bring wonderment to me even now….taking a whole 2 minutes for the song to really take shape, this is a nice adventure in synth pop that attempted to sound like Pink Floyd…interesting but rather odd…still, it only shows the true genius of Clarke!

Midnight—-Moyet enters with an a capella vocal that is hauntingly beautiful…the synth slowly grows and adds body to the song, but the true star of this song is the deep and soulful vocal of Moyet. Once Clarke really has a melody sound producing from his machines, I find it remarkable that Alison is able to keep her place despite the sound in the backdrop…the end result is masterful. This is intense, heartfelt and warm…full of emotions and feelings that apply to every generation.

In My Room—-This is intense…lots of sound effects and a remarkable beginning rendition of the Lord’s Prayer…the song is almost spoken…I wonder if this is Clarke speaking or someone else. This is full of all kinds of emotions and layers of feelings. This is brilliant…this is experimental and fun. Clarke and Moyet were pretty remarkable as a team. I love this…WOW!!!!

Only You—-This remains one of my favorite tracks from this band…the sound is so stark and haunting that it still has the remarkable ability to bring tears to my eyes whenever I hear it. It is obvious after listening to this release why it was not possible for Clarke to remain a part of Depeche Mode. This is far above anything that they would produce for years. The synth lines that Clarke manages to produce drip with tears and atmosphere…add the blues style vocal of Moyet and you are given a classic song that has survived 30 years and counting with the same emotive qualities. This is brilliant!

Goodbye 70’s—-Returning to the funk filled synth lines and the remarkable vocal of moyet, this is another classic synth pop classic that I still love today. An ode to the death of Disco, the duo create a huge anthem that moves away from the bass heavy sound of disco to the synth powered dance floor grooves that created as whole new generation of music. too me, this never received the attention that it should have…simply for the statement that it made. this is incredible and a subtle piece of pop history…moving from one manufactured sound to the other….wonderful!

Situation—-One of the best known singles from this duo, this is full of classic style synth grooves that still manage to fill dance floors on any given Friday or Saturday night in America. This is addictive, pleasant and damn fun. the vocal of Moyet is wonderfully understated considering the huge synth lines that Clarke produced…this is such fun you will back this up and listen again…I promise you that!

Winter Kills—-Another of those classic Clarke/Moyet collaborations that will make your heart bleed and you mind ache with memories of the past and fear of the future. The sound is so deep and intense, Clarke opting for actual piano rather than synths, moyet sounding as if she is literally devastated. This is so intense, I find it hard to get through the entire track. Just Brilliant!!!

Bring Your Love Down [Didn’t I]—-This last track is a nice return to the masterful synth pop that the band seemed to have mastered the first time they came together. This is wonderfully retro, reminding you of the very Disco that they rejected just a few songs earlier. this is full off poppers and sweaty dance floors…wild unhibited dancing and ecstatic clapping as you lose yourself in the fog and swirling lights. This is just full of wonderful memories!!!

****1/2 out of 5


One Response to “Yaz/Upstairs At Eric’s”

  1. Wonderful blog! I dont imagine Ive observed all the angles of this subject the way youve pointed them out. Youre a true star, a rock star man. Youve gained a whole lot to say and know a lot about the issue that i think you ought to just teach a class about it!

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