Even though it was released in the middle of summer (1983), Yazoo's "You and Me Both" (Mute Records, STUMM 12) makes me think of winter. This was their second and final album - the end of the line for Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet. The collaboration between Vince and Alison had fallen apart, with much of the recording done with each member having separate solo time in London's legendary Blackwing Studios. One might say the album was recorded after the breakup.
Even the album artwork, which portrays two Dalmatian dogs fighting, conveys much of what was transpiring between Vince and Alison. The album artwork was produced by 23 Envelope (a.k.a. Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson - the in house graphic design team of 4AD Records at the time). The story goes that Alison visited Nigel to look at some of his photos and select something that could be incorporated into the artwork and packaging. When she saw the photo of the two dogs fighting, she stated "we'll have that" and the artwork was created from there.
What do I like about this album? Above all, I think it's the simplicity of these well-written and produced synth-pop gems. They capture the mood, novelty and excitement of the early 80's where the sound was so fresh and crisp and analog synthesizers (e.g., Fairlight) were prevalent. These were the awesome sounding synths that had booming bass and could fill a room. Programming them required skill, creativity and lots of patience. Alison's vocals are as outstanding, soulful and emotional as ever. Musically, this is Vince Clarke, only two years after departing from Depeche Mode and 2 years before forming Erasure with Andy Bell.
The songwriting on "You and Me Both" is equally split between Vince and Alison - six songs written by Alison, six by Vince (if you include "State Farm"). The only official single from Mute Records was "Nobody's Diary" with b-side "State Farm" (a song that is NOT included on the original UK album). In the U.S., however, it was album track "Walk Away From Love" and "State Farm" that received quite a bit of radio play at the time.
YAZOO "Nobody's Diary" (1983)
Back to winter ... it's songs like "Softly Over", "Mr. Blue" and "Anyone" that seem cold and chilling. They are a perfect soundtrack for driving around in your car on a frigid, snowy day. These certainly aren't the Yazoo songs that got us out on the dancefloor, but there's something special and sentimental about them. "Nobody's Diary" is beautiful, upbeat and conveys so much emotion. Songs like "Sweet Thing", "Good Times" and "State Farm" were dancy and were representative of where Vince was eventually heading with Erasure and the "Wonderland" (1985) album. I could almost imagine "Good Times" sung by Erasure's Andy Bell, fitting in perfectly on "Wonderland". In short, "You and Me Both" is a lot of ups and downs - upbeat followed by somber, rinse and repeat - but it works incredibly well and conveys a broad variety of style, tempo and atmosphere.
I'll end with a few notables about the album:
While they were known as "Yazoo" in the U.K. and most of the world, they were known as "Yaz" in the U.S. - they couldn't use the name "Yazoo" due to legal reasons (U.S. record label with the same name).
"State Farm" was not included on the U.K. album - it was a B-side of "Nobody's Diary". Similar to "Situation", which was not included on "Upstairs at Eric's", but as B-side of "Only You".
The song "Happy People" which appears on the U.K. album was replaced with "State Farm" on the U.S. version. The story goes that Alison refused to sing "Happy People", so Vince did. This is the only time we hear Vince Clarke on lead vocals on any song (Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure).
The song "Unmarked" is a Vince Clarke composition that was originally intended for Depeche Mode in the early days. It went by the name "Secrets" and was performed at a few live Depeche Mode shows.
The original U.K. vinyl pressing of the album is notable in that the laughing at the end of "Good Times" on Side 1 is pressed into the continuous end groove of the vinyl. So, when you're playing it, the laugh continues to play repeatedly until you lift the needle.
The liner notes, vinyl labels and artwork on the original U.K. vinyl pressing are stunning. If you're a fan or collector of 4AD Records, 23 Envelope, v23, Vaughan Oliver or Nigel Grierson, this is a piece of vinyl to add to your collection.