Musician Review: Howard Jones

My first real memory of hearing Howard Jones was in 1989, when the song “Everlasting Love” was receiving airplay on the radio and on MTV. I’m sure I must have heard “No One Is To Blame” a couple of years earlier, when it was a big hit, but the artist and song hadn’t stuck with me. I remember liking “Everlasting Love,” and thinking the video was kind of amusing. But the song that ultimately sold me on Howard Jones was the next single, “The Prisoner.” Not only did the song grab me, but I thought the music video was excellent. Both of these songs utilized a synthesizer sound that I was also appreciating from such acts as Erasure and Depeche Mode at that time. When my sister bought the Cross That Line album, which featured both of these songs, we also fell in love with the song “Those Who Move Clouds“; while it never would have been a single, the song was still fantastic. It really utilizes the synthesizer to its full effect.

In 1992, Howard Jones released his next album, In The Running. This was a more “organic” album, which featured Howard playing the piano more than the synthesizer. I enjoyed the lead-off single, “Lift Me Up” quite a bit, as well as the follow-up single, “Tears To Tell.” At this time, I was also fortunate enough to get to see Howard Jones when he came to my area for his “Live Acoustic America” tour. He performed several of his well-known classics on piano, as well as some songs I didn’t know. It was quite an enjoyable set, though. My favorite memory from that concert was when the crowd, and myself included, were chanting for Howard to perform “The Prisoner” on the piano. “The Prisoner” had been a rather big hit on our local Top 40 radio station, even though it wasn’t as big of a song on the national pop charts. Howard performed a short piece of the song, and then apologized for not performing the complete song. He said he hadn’t expected to play that one, so he hadn’t rehearsed it. He promised that the next time he came back to our area, that he would perform that song for us.

After the concert, I started listening to Howard’s back catalogue. The Dream Into Action album became a favorite. It included the original version of “No One is to Blame”; the version heard on the radio came from the Action Replay EP. That album also had “Like to Get to Know You Well,” “Things Can Only Get Better,” and “Life in One Day.” I also really liked the title song for the album; while it may not have been a single, it was still a great song. It was during this time that I also heard “What Is Love?” and “You Know I Love You… Don’t You?” When Howard’s first greatest hits CD was released in 1993, I made sure to purchase a copy.

In 1994, my sister and I were browsing through a used CD store, and came across a Howard Jones CD titled, Working in the Backroom. My sister decided to take a chance and purchase it, even though she wasn’t sure what it was. We later learned it was a CD distributed when Howard did an electronic tour a year after he did the acoustic tour. On this CD, Howard returned to his synthesizer roots, and standout tracks on the CD are “Cookin’ in the Kitchen,” “Over & Above,” which is my favorite on the CD, and “Left No Evidence.”

In 1996, a CD was released from the Live Acoustic America tour. Unfortunately, it’s not a recording of our show, so there’s no clip of “The Prisoner” on it. Howard released his next album of material in 1998, when he released the People album. Overall, Howard put much more of an emphasis on mid-tempo and slower songs, and included very little in the way of uptempo numbers. While there are some standout songs on the album, the album as a whole didn’t work for me. My favorite songs on People are “Tomorrow is Now” and “Let The People Have Their Say.”

In 2003, Howard released a CD called Piano Solos for Friends and Loved Ones. As the title says, the CD is all piano solos written and performed by Howard Jones; it really showcases Howard’s talent for playing the piano. In 2003, Howard also released another greatest hits CD. In addition to many of the songs included on the first CD, this release also includes material from the People album, a song from Working in the Backroom, and new songs “Revolution of the Heart” and “Someone You Need”; the latter is a duet with Duncan Sheik. The song “Revolution of the Heart” blew me away. Not only did Howard return to his synthesizer roots for the song, but it’s also a very dance-friendly song.

In 2005, Howard released the album Revolution of the Heart, and it was quite a return to his synthesizer roots. In addition to the title song, I also appreciate “Respected,” “Just Look At You Now,” and “Stir It Up.” After this album, Howard collaborated with several dance artists and dance remixers.

Admittedly, I had lost track of Howard Jones after the Revolution of the Heart era. From doing some research, it looks like he released a podsafe track titled, “Building Our Own Future” in 2006, and that he also released an album in 2009 titled, Ordinary Heroes.

While Howard’s musical output may not be quite as prolific as it was back during the 1980s, he is still releasing quality material. I would much rather have the long waits in between albums for quality material, rather than seeing Howard trying to churn out albums at a faster pace and potentially release some not-quite-as-good material. Hopefully, I’ll get an opportunity to hear “Building Our Own Future” and the material from Ordinary Heroes as some point in the future.

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