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A-Ha – 25: The Very Best Of A-Ha

A-Ha, The Best Of

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IT SEEMS like a long time since A-Ha were considered vital or even cutting edge, but listening to their farewell compilation 25: The Best Of shows how they’ve consistently been about quality and continue to churn out great records, despite no longer topping the charts.

Back in their heyday, of course, Morten Harket and company were renowned for their breezy synth-pop and their innovative, genre-defining videos, with the smash hit Take On Me a classic example of both that has a near timeless quality about it.

But even once the early buzz had dampened, they continued to surprise listeners and win new fans en route to enjoying the type of career longevity most bands can only dream of attaining.

It’s a shame, therefore, that 25 marks the end of an era for them – that they have decided to go their separate ways and begin new chapters in each of their lives. But at least they can say they left on top… with nine albums, one truly iconic music video and sales of more than 36 million world-wide as their legacy.

And the measure of any great Best Of compilation lies in just how many songs you’ve ‘forgotten’ you remember. In that regard, 25 is packed full of great surprises and nostalgia trips.

The earliest stuff is the best remembered and needs no reminding, from Take On Me through The Sun Always Shines on TV to Hunting High & Low. But subsequent albums yielded just as brilliant hits.

The moody pop they later specialised in is evident on the fantastically atmospheric, even melancholy Manhattan Skyline, which even tapped into the type of darkness more synonymous with Depeche Mode, there was that Bond theme in The Living Daylights, which underlined the band’s cinematic value at times, while the tenderness married to heartbreaking melody is evident in the still superb Stay On These Roads.

Admittedly, cheesy synth pop moments such as Touchy and The Blue Sky don’t really stand the test of time, but they’re thankfully in the minority and are best left to ‘80s revival parties, which actively celebrate the tackiness inherent with that decade.

Rather, celebrate instead the material that does stand the test… with tracks such as Crying In The Rain, Move To Memphis, Angel In The Snow and Shapes That Come Together still registering highly.

It’s true, perhaps, that A-Ha’s more recent material leant a little too heavily on the ballad formula, but Harket’s vocals did also do those songs justice, while the band’s collective ear for a moody backing sound also helped such tracks register as above average.

And with songs such as Lifelines they can genuinely lay claim to being able to compete with the likes of Keane, while the euphoric pop of Analogue shows they never completely lost site of the mainstream and what it takes to deliver an infectious, sing-along chorus.

And their farewell track, Butterfly, Butterfly (The Last Hurrah) confidently blended the best of everything they have to offer… and was a suitably moving way to bow out.

25 is therefore a triumphant celebration of all things A-Ha, as well as a fond farewell. It’s a measure of any band’s popularity as to whether you can say at the end they’ll be sorely missed. In A-Ha’s case, they will. But this serves as a great way to say goodbye.

Download picks: Take On Me, Hunting High & Low, I’ve Been Losing You, Manhattan Skyline, The Living Daylights, Crying In The Rain, Move To Memphis, Butterfly Butterfly, Analogue, Lifelines

Track listing:
Disc: 1

  1. Take On Me
  2. Blue Sky, The
  3. Sun Always Shines On TV, The
  4. Train Of Thought
  5. Hunting High And Low
  6. I’ve Been Losing You
  7. Scoundrel Days
  8. Swing Of Things, The
  9. Cry Wolf
  10. Manhattan Skyline
  11. Living Daylights, The
  12. Stay On These Roads
  13. Touchy
  14. There’s Never A Forever Thing
  15. You Are The One
  16. Blood That Moves The Body, The
  17. Crying In The Rain
  18. Early Morning
  19. Slender Frame
  20. I Call Your Name

Disc: 2

  1. Move To Memphis
  2. Dark Is The Night For All
  3. Cold As Stone
  4. Angel In The Snow
  5. Shapes That Go Together
  6. Summer Moved On
  7. Minor Earth Major Sky
  8. Sun Never Shone That Day, The
  9. Velvet
  10. Forever Not Yours
  11. Lifelines
  12. Did Anyone Approach You
  13. Celice
  14. Analogue
  15. Cosy Prisons
  16. Foot Of The Mountain
  17. Nothing Is Keeping You Here
  18. Shadowside
  19. Butterfly Butterfly (The Last Hurrah)