[Album Review] "Stay on These Roads" – a-ha

Stay on These Roads - a-haAlbum Title: Stay On These Roads
Artist: a-ha
Year: 1988
Running Time: 43m 40s

Track listing: 1 Stay On These Roads; 2 The Blood That Moves the Body; 3 Touchy!; 4 This Alone is Love; 5 Hurry Home; 6 The Living Daylights; 7 There’s Never a Forever Thing; 8 Out of Blue Comes Green; 9 You Are The One; 10 You’ll End Up Crying

With the musical landscape shifting, A-ha returned in 1988 with their third album, “Stay On These Roads”. It was an album that had the advantage of containing two huge hit singles from the outset. The 1987 single, ‘The Living Daylights’, the soundtrack to the Bond movie of the same name, was re-mixed and sounded even better second time around. Brooding and dramatic, it personified the kind of direction that A-ha would benefit from following in the future.

The title track was the lead single. ‘Stay on These Roads’, a sweeping and emotional ballad with epic intentions, isn’t close to being the barnstorming classic that ‘Hunting High and Low’ is, but is competent enough to be enjoyable. It made #5 in the UK charts.

Following on from that, A-ha found top ten hits hard to come by. ‘The Blood That Moves the Body’ was almost a direct descendant from ‘The Living Daylights’. A strong rhythm section gives ‘Blood’ a rare hook and displays originality that was starting to fade as A-ha’s career progressed. Probably the most original and credible song on the album, it disappointingly only made #25 in the charts.

‘Touchy!’ is a quintessential pop song that caught the imagination of many non-A-ha fans after it’s release. The up-beat, catchy semi-classic made #11 in the charts and breathed new life into the band. They followed it up with the similar but less-impressive ‘You Are the One’, which also just missed out on the top 10. The track is fast-paced and melodic, but without much substance.

The rest of the album is a mixed bag. The slight ‘This Alone is Love’ never really takes off, plodding along in a rather subdued and muted fashion. ‘Hurry Home’ completely misses the mark, only sparking to life for a brief moment during the chorus, but even that doesn’t sound quite right.

‘There’s Never a Forever Thing’ is pretty good stuff. A superior ballad to the title track, the acoustic and piano accompaniment along with gripping vocals work beautifully together. More reminiscent of ‘Hunting High and Low’, it’s the type of sound that helped A-ha maximize their quality song-writing. ‘Out of Blue Comes Green’ is also a pretty likeable tune. Weighing in at almost 7 minutes, this well sculptured power-ballad got some well deserved radio airplay after the album’s release. A single release seemed plausible but didn’t materialise.

We finish off with the peculiar, almost operatic, ‘You’ll End Up Crying’. Nicely performed but essentially a little bland.

“Stay On These Roads” is a disappointing record. None of the singles are outstanding, although ‘The Blood That Moves the Body’ and ‘Touchy!’ are definitely quality tunes, if for differing reasons. Unfortunately the album-only material is overall quite poor and this is A-ha’s weakest album to date.

2star

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