STEPHEN DUFFY - The Ups and Downs

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This is a brilliant debut album. Dropping the name Tin Tin (due to the threat of a law suit from the publishers of the Tin Tin comics), Stephen Duffy emerged with this stunning album. It's chock-full of strong pop melodies, love-found-and-lost lyrics, and Duffy's sweet vocals. The album was assembled over a period of time using a variety of co-producers (Stephen Street and Art of Noise's J.J. Jeczalik), but it all comes together, as the subtitle states, as "A Very Beautiful Collection." The hit "Kiss Me" is re-recorded here and actually sounds better than the original single version -- noisier, but more interesting. "Icing on the Cake" and the enchanting "She Makes Me Quiver" are other highlights that demonstrate Duffy's ability to use clever lyrics without sounding smug. Although the album sounds somewhat dated ('80s dance music with the heavy production), it holds together well due to the strong playing and the mixture of conventional instruments (e.g., piano and vocals) with keyboards/synths. It works. Duffy has studied '60s pop and quite simply updated the sound, but he knew enough to include his own style and sounds. Overall, a very strong album that comes highly recommended.