No Parlez

Paul Young

Columbia, 1983

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Paul Young was never going to be a big thing in the US, but when it came to the blue-eyed soul genre, he still managed to hold his own. Fellow Brit crooner and label mate George Michael certainly would be taking notes, as he poised himself for a booming solo career that would take the world by storm. But pave the way for ‘80s male vocalists Paul Young did and his debut effort, No Parlez, helps to explain why.

The leadoff track was the album’s biggest hit, “Come Back And Stay.” A year later, the UK band Talk Talk would release “It’s My Life,” which sounds dangerously close to this song, though no eyebrows or objections were raised at the time. Young then daringly covers the Joy Division anthem “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” a choice that will be debated for years to come, though I think he did a mighty fine job with it.

If I were to point to two songs that stand out the most, they would have to be the other two singles “Wherever I Lay My Hat” and “Love Of The Common People.” The former would enjoy a second chance to shine on the 1986 soundtrack to my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Ruthless People, while the latter takes the listener back to the best kind of arena-ready pop sound the ‘80s had to offer. Think “Shout” by Tears For Fears, only mellower. With all the bells and whistles in the background, it could even be considered a Christmas carol of sorts. It was released at that time of year, after all.

There are a few stumbles on No Parlez, where the music actually sounds warped and severely dated. The first of which is the guiltiest culprit, the nonsensical “Ku-Ku Kurama,” which sounds like a Culture Club/Haircut One Hundred reject. While I appreciate Young’s stab at going experimental, it is an experiment that ultimately fails. Then he goes and digs a deeper hole for himself with the laughable jungle-chant title track that’s set in a…boardroom? Yikes. “See you put the hammer of the children…” What, so they can smash that record to bits?

From a production standpoint, Laurie Latham certainly threw everything at this album she possibly could. You had bass guitar licks, tribal vocals and percussion and even the stab of jazz trumpet. The tempo of songs like “Oh Women” are a tad on the manic side, but what can you expect from a decade fueled by cocaine? Something tells me Latham recommended “Iron Out The Rough Spots” to Paul because of this mountain she clearly had to climb. Hey, it is a mantra.

To be fair, this is a FUN album. Even though there was a lot riding on it as a debut, you really can’t take any of this fluff too seriously. Having said that, “Broken Man” carries a substantial amount of weight and shows what he can really do as a vocalist. Paul Young managed to blend into the scenery quite well and with his follow-up, The Secret Of Association, would even reach #1 with another blue-eyed soul cover tune, this time by Hall & Oates, “Everytime You Go Away.” How could he resist paying homage to a US act who wrote the book on the genre? Secret or not, many acts can be associated with the Paul Young sound, but to focus solely on that is a “Tender Trap” indeed. With No Parlez, the best advice is to simply enjoy the ride.

Rating: B

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