Some of you might recognize Alison Moyet as the voice of iconic ‘80s electro synth-pop duo Yazoo, or here in the states, Yaz. They had a few hits way back when, like the new wave disco bits “Situation” and “Don’t Go,” or the slow roll dance ballad “Only You,” which were all staples of the alternative clubs and radio stations, when those were a thing. Also, her Yazoo partner in crime was Vince Clarke, who was a Depeche Mode original, and remains as the main music dude for Erasure.
Curiously, despite sporting her most recognized accomplishments, Yazoo was a very small part of an otherwise exceptionally long and prolific career, which continues to evolve to this day. Said duo only released two albums in as many years. But they were extremely influential, establishing synth-pop benchmarks that would light the way for future talent. When Yazoo disbanded in ’83, Moyet opted to continue solo, first emulating her prior efforts, gradually evolving into her own style and worth.
On that note, I wouldn’t place her solo material in the same room as Yazoo. There’s certain similarities, synths and sequencers being a keystone mainstay. But the likeness ends there, the overtly dance-oriented pop numbers being steered into a less mainstream, more sophisticated arena, with naturalistic tones and textures embedded into the electronics. That’s not to say those synth-pop moments don’t exist. They’re just not the focus.
This particular track “Ski” is a prime example. It’s a lush live recording from 2008, which was included on a 2014 deluxe edition reissue of “The Turn.” It’s my preferred version of this torchy cabaret single. It’s more organic than its studio counterpart, full of elegant sound, mood-setting and bluesy in a downtempo diva style. Moyet’s soulful voice really shines in this setting, warm, and thick, in a soft husky delivery that belts out the lyrics with a subtle intensity and strength.
It’s a far cry, a 180 degrees in the opposite direction of Yazoo, or even her more dance-oriented efforts. But it’s also a lavish production that’s fully evolved, completely realized as a singular vision. Surprisingly, “The Turn, the album “Ski” originally came from, almost didn’t get released. Her label at the time, Sony Music, didn’t want to support it because the material didn’t mimic her earlier mainstream efforts. They felt it was too adult and not commercial enough.
As it turned out (no pun intended), “The Turn” was her most successful solo effort to date, with critical and commercial success, as well as garnering UK noms for the BRIT Awards and Mercury Music Prize. That was back in 2002, so some time has passed. And it only took six more years for “Ski” to mature into the smokey slick lounge act of the naturalistic live setting. I wasn’t really paying attention back then, or at the very least, I can’t recall. So I couldn’t tell you if this live version was how she always intended it, or if it just came about during her 2008 tour.
Either way, I’m pleased that Moyet’s “Ski” exists in this particular recording. See what you think for yourself.
“Ski – Live – The Turn Tour 2008” from the 2015 deluxe edition reissue of the 2007 album “The Turn.”
And just for comparison’s sake, here’s Alison Moyet’s original recording of “Ski” from the 2002 album “Hometime.” I actually think the Spotify embed comes from a 2015 Deluxe Edition re-issue of that album. But technicalities and remastering aside, it’s essentially the same song. Compared to the live rendition, this one seems a bit stripped down and minimal, loungey all the same, yet a little bare bones for my tastes. But it is the original, and without it, there’d be no live version. So I can’t knock it too much. See how it measures up for yourself.
The studio recording of “Ski” from the 2002 album “Hometime.”