In The Garden

Eurythmics

RCA, 1981

http://eurythmics.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/18/2017

It is sometimes unfair to judge someone by a snapshot from their past. I'm certain there are photos of me somewhere that I would be ashamed to have someone look at, much less base their first opinion of me on. Yet in music, whenever a group or artist obtains success, especially when it is not on their first attempt, people tend to try to dig up earlier works to see if they can hear what made the musicians tick, or where they got their start.

In the case of In The Garden, the debut effort from Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart (otherwise known as Eurythmics), the picture definitely isn't a pretty one. Anyone listening for the heavy synthesized beats or catchy songwriting suggesting numerous hits in their future will be sorely disappointed. While there is the occasional hint of promise, the bulk of this disc is absolutely forgettable.

Granted, Lennox and Stewart were still growing comfortable in their respective skins. Stewart wasn't nearly as skilled of a popsmith and hadn't quite honed his synthesizer skills to razor-sharp edges. Lennox, for her part, sounds very tentative as a vocalist here, not displaying the power and range that she would on later efforts.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Oh, there are signs of what was to come, even just one album later. “Belinda,” the closest thing this disc has to a hit single, turns out to be a very enjoyable selection, and one that rightfully could be included on any greatest hits compilation...even though, to date, it hasn't been. Pity. If anything, this track hints more at the pop sensibilities that some of the Eurythmics' later singles (e.g., “Would I Lie To You”) had, albeit with a gentler delivery. Likewise, “Your Time Will Come” might not be a stellar track like any of the hits people know from Stewart and Lennox, but it is catchy enough, especially in the chorus, to keep the listener coming back to this one wanting to hear more.

Unfortunately, this is where the praise stops for In The Garden. The remainder of the album features tracks that sound like full-band demos, lacking any real focus or polish, ranging from merely acceptable (“English Summer,” “Revenge,” “Caveman Head”) to downright awful (“All The Young [People Of Today],” “Sing-Sing”). Maybe the problem was that Stewart and Lennox were still trying to discover who they were in terms of both their musicanship and their partnership. Maybe they were trying to capture a musical moment in time, rather than forging their own path and demanding that people approach them on their terms, not what people wanted them to be. Whatever the case, the end result is an album that just doesn't work.

Of course, it's entirely possible to make a bad thing even worse...and by throwing bonus tracks onto the re-issue of this album, this is exactly what has happened. Of the five bonus songs, only one – a live version of “Never Gonna Cry Again” – does anything close to excite the listener, and admittedly, it does shed some new light onto a song that was simply okay with its studio counterpart. The live version of “Take Me To Your Heart” merely flatlines; it doesn't add or subtract from the original, while “Le Sinester,” “Heartbeat Heartbeat” and “4/4 In Leather” are absolutely atrocious. Had these three tracks been left in the vaults (preferably to suffer tape rot) and only the live versions of “Never Gonna Cry Again” and “Take Me To Your Heart” been included, it would have made the overall album just a little bit better.

In The Garden might have been the birth cry of the Eurythmics, but it might be a better time to wait until their music had ripened a bit before delving into their works.

Rating: C-

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