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Back in 1984, Howard Jones told us he’d like to get to know us well. It took just two years, though, for the chart success to dry up. In fact, while he’s maintained loyal devotees and still frequently tours the world, he hasn’t enjoyed a Top 40 hit single since 1986.

Not that this has deterred him: Transform is his 11th studio album, and he’s proved defiant pursuing his muse, with a Piano Solos album in 2003 and an interactive collection, Engage, in 2015.

Only a curmudgeon, too, could deny the nostalgic charms of his early string of hits, whether What Is Love?, Things Can Only Get Better or New Song. So is the time ripe for a revival? One album could make the difference. The question is: is Transform that album? Maybe it is, but its ties to his 80s roots remain so tenacious they’re as likely to keep the non-believers at bay as provoke jubilation.

The strutting The One To Love You finds his immediately familiar voice lushly layered, his synths both squiggly and brassy, and, on Take Us Higher, these are exchanged for synths both squidgy and almost Van Halen Jump-like. Beating Mr Neg could be an unusually jolly OMD, too, and the title track slips in nifty keyboard licks that demand rolled up jacket sleeves. At The Speed Of Love, meanwhile, is an ode to resilience which threatens to break into What Is Love? (it doesn’t), and Tin Man Song’s jaunty pianos seem poised to morph into Saint Etienne’s cover of Only Love Can Break Your Heart (they don’t either).

Eagle Will Fly Again rises highest, its guitar riff copping moves from Simple Minds’ Waterfront, but Mother’s a successful attempt to show his touchy-feely side, its paean to maternal love delivering a sting in its tail: “Gave me life/ Gave your life”.

He signs off with Stay With Me’s bubbly synth-funk, admirably sticking to his aesthetic, if simultaneously confirming that Transform’s hardly a transformation. Still, the more things change, the better it is to stay the same. It’s a calculated risk, maybe, but when it’s what you do best, it makes a lot of sense.

Wyndham Wallace

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About Classic Pop

Issue 52 of Classic Pop is on sale now! This month, we have an exclusive interview with Bryan Adams and get the inside track on his adventure-packed 40 years in music plus we meet Howard Jones who tells us why he's returning to his synth-pop roots for new studio album, Transform. Classic Pop celebrates the 40th anniversary of the 2 Tone movement by speaking to those who made it happen including Jerry Dammers, Lynval Golding, Pauline Black and Ranking Roger; hip-hop legends De La Soul reveal the ties that have kept them together since their 1989 breakout LP 3 Feet High And Rising and we also talk to Toyah Willcox who explains why she's revisiting her 2008 album In The Court Of The Crimson Queen. Elsewhere, we interview Erasure's Andy Bell, pop tunesmith Guy Chambers and A Flock Of Seagulls. We also have unseen photos of Nick Heyward and Haircut 100. Our Classic Album is Soul II Soul's Club Classics Vol One and we serve up a buyer's guide to Japan and David Sylvian. Our packed new album reviews section includes Howard Jones, Morrissey, The Cranberries and The Waterboys. On the reissues front, Stephen Duffy's wonderful I Love My Friends makes its debut on vinyl plus there are re-releases from Heaven 17, Stevie Nicks, Julian Cope and more. In our live reviews section, we check out gigs by The Specials, Giorgio Moroder, Emika and Stewart Copeland.