Thomas Dolby / Retrospectacle-The Best Of Thomas Dolby

Retrospectacle: Best ofThomas Dolby (born Thomas Morgan Robertson; 14 October 1958) is an English musician and producer. Best known for his 1982 hit single “She Blinded Me with Science” and 1984 hit single “Hyperactive!“, he has also worked extensively in production and as a session musician.

The Analysis:

Europa And The Pirate Twins—-Perhaps one of the more under-rated artists of the 80’s New Wave scene, Dolby was way ahead of his times with his driving synth sounds. Dolby has a damn pleasant voice…often this fact is ignored because of the Electronic elements of his songs. This is a fantastic track and is often forgotten by the general public. The electronic musings are superb and the voice is so damn pleasant…despite all of the effects added on the song, this would stand very well with or without them.

Urges—-The early material from Dolby is somewhat minimal and really makes me think of Ultravox musically. This is a nice track…I much prefer the music over the vocal, but you take it as a total package. this is just a bit haphazard for me vocally…musically, this is layered Electronic music that still sounds fresh and innovative.

Leipzig—-For me, this is rather different. Peppered with electronic orchestration, the entire thing is rather dark and serious. Well, much of Dolby’s works are kind of dark, I think the general public overlooked most of the quality stuff he has released and settled instead on the more odd and catchy. This has a pretty serious tone to the whole damn thing…with dolby delivering a vocal that is so pleasant and catchy. This is fantastic.

Windpower—-This is another of those remarkably dark yet catchy songs that i spoke of earlier. Thomas delivers a vocal that is so pleasant..peppered with some nice Electronic effects thrown in for variety. The sequencers and synth lines were ground breaking at the time…as is the whole concept of wind power for that manner. The song does have a pretty contagious and catchy melody and chorus. This is 80’s synth pop at it’s very best!

Airwaves [7′” Version]—-This has always been my favorite Dolby release…I love the lonely vocal style that is presented. The music that makes up the track is lush and polished…Dolby delivers lyrics and a vocal that is so contagious and settles into my psyche and stays there for days after I re-visit this song. This is pure brilliance…showing any one that cares that there was so much more to Dolby than She Blinded Me With Science. This is a masterpiece!

 She Blinded Me With Science—-Perhaps one of the best known songs and videos of the 80’s decade, this also pigeon holed Dolby into a category that was all but impossible for him to escape. This was a novelty song…never intended to be the huge smash that it was and never meant to define this man…many whom consider to be a musical genius. Yes, this song is quirky and lots of fun…but a bit played out and stale.

One Of Our Submarines—-This is another of those songs that found a place in my permanent mental soundtracks. I love this freakin’ song…this has another of those lonely and incredible vocals that was so overlooked and under appreciated by people. The synth line, once the song opens up is just fantastic…better than anything that the classic Synth pop giants of the 80’s ever hoped to produce. This has a layered feel to it…with many different programs all coming together in a culminating sound that is just priceless. This never gets old for me!!!

Screen Kiss—-This is a nice surprise as the song begins with a plain acoustic guitar. When Dolby enters with a gentle and heavily accented vocal, the song adds some electronic sounds but is very sedate and introspective when stacked up against his other material. I love the sentiment of the song…the ability to deliver something very different and surprising and the gentle nature of the song. Fantastic!

Hyperactive—-Perhaps even more demented and driving than She Blinded Me With Science, this song was also accompanied by a pretty fantastic video. This is so full of different electronic sounds and effects that your head spins like a scene from The Exorcist. This is indeed….hyperactive…full of Electronic horns and layers of sound designed to make you lose control. This is great fun…delivered with a demented style of vocal that matches the look of Dolby perfectly. Great memories!

I Scare Myself—-This is another track that would surprise many people if they actually ever heard it. Delivered with a spanish style guitar, this is so sedate and intricate I almost swoon. the gentle piano and the horns add to the track and allow for the entrance of a vocal that is tender and quiet..full of introspection and naked emotions. This is magical…and it is so sad that many more people never got the chance to enjoy this.

The Flat Earth—-This is a brilliant piano based song that is gentle and without all of the overblown electronic sounds…but it all comes together to work wonderfully well. Dolby delivers a vocal that is pained and real..accented by some backdrop singers that allow for a fuller sound. This is just wonderful….Dolby lays bare many things that if you listen…might just surprise you.

Pulp Culture—-Returning to his classic sound bite delivered synth pop sound, Dolby delivers a track that is fun and light. This song should be re-released…it is far more pertinent these days than ever before. This is a pure study into the fascination with pop culture, popular figures and the media influence…a man operating far beyond his time.

Budapest By Blimp—-Again, surprisingly sedate and less experimental than you would expect. this is a gentle electronic delivery that makes me think of the more sedate bands of the 80’s like Spandau Ballet or Curiosity Killed The Cat. Dolby sounds very comfortable in this realm of recording…the lyrics are vivid and speak of actual emotions and real feelings. Surprise…he is very human after all.

Cruel—-This is so very nice…the electronics are delivered in a very bare way..minimal and with the addition of a nice female vocal that adds to the track immensely. This has some sounds to it that makes me think of latter-day Depeche Mode..somewhat machine sounding and quasi-Industrial. The backdrop almost plays like a music soundtrack…very nice.

Close But No Cigar—-Right out of the gate, this is exceptional. Delivered with a nice driving electronic beat, this would play very well on dance floors even today. Dolby delivers a vocal that is very much in the front of the mix…making you realize again what a great vocalist he really is. The chorus is damn fantastic…it sucks you in and lands in your memory bank for days. Wonderful!!!

I Love You, Goodbye—-With an Electronic introduction that almost sounds like bagpipes to me, the track takes a bit to get going, but once the Hornsby style piano introduces the meat of the song you are already hooked. I wish that all of those sounds had not fallen away to allow for the vocal, but none the less…the lyrics are intricate and personal…making up for the lack of electronic  histrionics. This is a classic end to a pretty remarkable look back at a career.

**** out of 5


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