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Eurythmics--Back to Its Techno-Pop Roots : * * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty :

December 06, 1987|CHRIS WILLMAN and Check List and **** Great Balls of Fire and *** Good Vibrations ** Maybe Baby * Running on Empty

*** EURYTHMICS. "Savage." RCA.

Eurythmics has never really existed as a "band" at all, let alone a rock 'n' roll one, but the duo's last couple of highly commercial albums did a fine, if illusory, job of establishing that Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox had shed their techno-pop origins and turned into some sort of great white modern soul-rock hybrid.

But Eurythmics' seventh album is an untimely and perhaps unfashionable return to the duo's coolly reflective roots, with Stewart providing all the instrumentation (mostly electronic) and Lennox all the vocals. It's an honest-to-gosh Eurodisco album, by criminy!

And a good one, too, though the move backward toward a somewhat subdued, studio-and-synth-bound sound may not go over fabulously with recent converts to the outfit's more raucous rock.

Only the first American single, "I Need a Man" (one of the weaker cuts on the record), counts as a real rocker remotely in the lineage of recent hits like "Missionary Man" and "Would I Lie to You," with its Richards-style guitar riffs and mock-Mick feminist cockiness.

Stewart's baroque and/or celestial electronic keyboards and drum machines dominate virtually every other track, with acoustic guitars thrown in for delicate ornamentation.

The most predictable Eurythmics motif is still well in place: Lennox's romantic and (especially) post-romantic confidence. Hearing that gorgeous, soulful instrument of hers get righteously nasty and insinuating always remains a thrill, but Lennox also offers ample vocal intrigue in the calmer and more ambiguous numbers--like "Beethoven (I Love to Listen To)" (which is not about classical music), and the record's one major surprise, "I Need You."

The latter breaks away from techno-pop-ology to have Lennox sing about ambivalent emotional sadomasochism, folk-style, accompanied only by acoustic and slide guitars against a background of nightclub chatter. Musical surprises like that are too few here, and the surface emotional charge may not seem high enough, but those with the patience to listen and re-listen may find that there's still something savage in this album after all.

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