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Music Review: Yaz – In Your Room

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Yaz (in the US, and known as Yazoo in the UK and abroad) has just released In Your Room, a box set of their entire and short-lived career. Both albums, Upstairs At Eric's and You And Me Both, are presented in remastered versions of their original UK running order as well as a bonus disc of B-sides and remixes, and a DVD that includes the band's promo videos, live performances, 5.1 album mixes and a half-hour interview retrospective

For those who might not be that familiar with the group, Yaz consisted of Vince Clarke on electronics — after his departure from Depeche Mode and before his long-running stint with Erasure — and Alison Moyet on vocals — before her successful solo career in the UK.

Their sound was very progressive for the time, melding clever synth/pop arrangements with more soulful vocals, and much more than their contemporaries or successors helped to set the stage for even modern radio pop. Considering that Upstairs At Eric's came out in 1982 and its follow-up just a year later, it's remarkable that the sound and style of these records has held up as well as it has

Upstairs At Eric's has always been the strongest of the two releases and contains some of the duo's more diverse and polished output. Sandwiched between the dance floor seduction of "Don't Go" and "Bring Your Love Down (Didn't I)," are some excellent examples of pioneering pop synthesis. "Too Pieces" and "Bad Connection" sound as immediate and catchy as ever, and "Only You" is still a compelling single. The moodiness of "Winter Kills" is just timeless, and could have been released yesterday as easily as it was a quarter century ago. "I Before E Except After C", likewise, is just as oddly avant-garde and disturbingly compelling as it's always been.

You And Me Both is also a nice album, but it has not aged nearly as well as its predecessor. With a more obvious nod to sounds and styles of the '80s, it's a snapshot piece of the times and shows a group on its way out. But songs like "Nobody's Diary," "Mr. Blue" and "Ode to Boy" save it from being just that. There are enough strong tracks to balance out the weaker ones.

There is also an additional disc of remixes and alternate versions. Mainly consisting of remixes of "Situation," "Don't Go" and "State Farm," it seeks to collect some of the additional material released on singles and promo vinyl. Of particular note are the inclusion of the main true b-side, "The Other Side Of Love", and a newly re-recorded version of "Situation," which is largely comparable to the original except for updated vocals from Alison.

Overall, the set is a very nice summation of a brief, but shining, seminal 80s act. The remastered versions of the two albums give the sound a bit more clarity and punch (although, to be honest, they sounded pretty good already). The bonus audio disc collects most of the loose ends scattered on more singular releases. And if you really want the full, updated experience, there are 5.1 mixes of the two albums on the DVD.

If you already own both albums, it might not be worth the expense, but if you are revisiting or just getting into the group, this is an excellent and complete resource.

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About David R Perry