All-Time Albums: #43


a-ha Stay On These Roads

Stay On These Roads 4:46 (UK single, #5)
2 The Blood That Moves The Body 4:06 (UK single, #25)
3 Touchy! 4:33 (UK single, #11)
This Alone Is Love 5:15
5 Hurry Home 4:37
6 The Living Daylights 4:47 (UK single in original form, #5)
7 There’s Never A Forever Thing 2:51
Out Of Blue Comes Green 6:42
9 You Are The One 3:51 (UK single remix, #13)
10 You’ll End Up Crying 2:07

The third a-ha album had an air of “will this do?” about it on release in May 1988, with old B-sides from 1987 (This Alone Is Love), their Bond theme from the previous summer (Living Daylights), as well as Touchy! which dated from the sessions before Hunting High & Low.

The speed at which Scoundrel Days followed their debut, plus the touring and promotion schedule through 1987, appeared to have left precious little time for writing new material. The return of the “classic” band logo on the front, plus artwork evoking Hunting High & Low, gave the impression that Warners were masking any loss of momentum after the generally underwhelming performance of Scoundrel Days.

In fact, all these years later, Stay On These Roads feels like the pivotal a-ha record, catching them between the Top 40 synthpop of their early efforts and the more rock-oriented, grown-up sounds that would characterise their ’90s output.

Touchy! and You Are The One provided the fluffball hits for Smash Hits and TOTP to get on board with, but the real meat of the album can be found in the likes of Out Of Blue Comes Green, There’s Never A Forever Thing and The Blood That Moves The Body (the first flop a-ha single). Even the glorious title track, which shot to #5 on fanbase loyalty alone, hints at a less straightforward future.

Song for song, this is one of my absolute favourite a-ha albums (the cackhanded Hurry Home excepted!). It has elements of everything I love about the band, and the production is stellar. Rather like Fleetwood Mac’s Tango In The Night, the singles choices gave a false representation of the record as a whole, but the cheesy bops were always a necessary evil to help keep a-ha in the higher reaches of the chart and they’re still fine tracks. The reworking of Living Daylights was a bit needless, as though they had some point or other to settle over the John Barry version, but again taken on merit it’s perfectly okay.

The two standouts for me, This Alone Is Love and Out Of Blue Comes Green, most powerfully signified where the band were headed for the next album. And yet, ironically, when they fully embraced that direction I wasn’t so enamoured with it and wished for a return to the ’80s sound. Impossible me.

One comment

  1. […] No longer derided as music only worth bothering with if you fancied them, a-ha got an upgrade to 3-star status with their third long-player. This was the one where they tentatively attempted to beef up their sound with more guitars and write songs called The Blood That Moves The Body and Out Of Blue Comes Green. Some of it is quite strange indeed. But it’s still very accessible, very a-ha. And very, very good. […]


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