V. You can never surrender

In this review: Corey Hart, Boy in the Box (EMA, 1985).

This almost isn’t a real review.  I saw this album in a discount bin for £1.  When my sister was in her mid teens, a giant poster of Corey hung on the door to her room. She must have spun all his tracks at one point or another.  With her birthday coming up, I thought I’d pick it up, throw it in an album frame, and send it to her.

Like most of us, though, the only track of his I can remember actually listening to is ‘Sunglasses at night’.  So, I figured I’d throw it on.  This led to two major surprises:

  1. This is a full album.  For some reason (perhaps the slightly naff album design) I thought this was a single. But no! It’s nine tracks of 1980s Canadian content. (That’s just over 10p a track, which pretty good value by anyone’s estimation.)
  2. It’s actually quite decent.

To start with, Hart’s voice is clear and strong. He doesn’t demonstrate the range that Sting or Bryan Adams does, but there’s good control there.  He mustered nice emotion as well, which plays well to the material in many of the tracks.  There is good, deep backup to his vocals.  A range of percussion fills in between some fun guitar shredding and the healthy dose of synth.  There is good energy throughout the album, making much of it come across as still fresh and approachable.

Hart is at his best in the slower songs.  ‘Never surrender’, for example blends his aching heart throb vocals with a slower backbeat that ends up having significant emotional impact.* ‘Everything in my heart’, leading off the second side, has the makings of a classic pop ballad.  The last minute of the final track, ‘Water from the moon’, is simply beautiful.

When things get more up tempo, though, it’s a bit shakier.  The title track, ‘Boy in the box’, fails to achieve critical mass and some of the other bouncier songs are slight non-starters.  More than a bit of this is down to the 1985 production choices.  The 80s saxophone line in ‘Komrade Kiev’, for example, is a bit embarrassing.

Still, if you’re reading this Mr Hart, I think you should be proud.  If I could pull out an album I cut 30 years ago (especially if it were my debute album) and have it as listenable as this one, then I’d consider myself damned lucky.  Also, I think my sister will be happy to be reunited with your sound.

* – I just checked, and ‘Never surrender’, won a Juno! So smart people agree with me 😏

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