“Steve Hogarth is a revelation among an impressive, if seemingly random, array of singers”: Trevor Horn’s Echoes – Ancient & Modern

Pop and prog tracks are presented in a dreamlike state in the follow-up to his 80s collection

Trevor Horn - Echoes Ancient & Modern
(Image: © Deutsche Grammophon)

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The last album to feature Trevor Horn’s name above the door, 2019’s Reimagines The Eighties, found the unofficial Global MD Of Shiny Left-field Pop covering a host of decade-specific tracks from the likes of David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen and his own past collaborators with Grace Jones, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Yes. He did so with the help of an all-star array of guest vocalists ranging from Robbie Williams to Steve Hogarth.

This follow-up takes the same approach, but tweaks the time frame slightly, allowing a handful of tracks from the 1990s and beyond. The cast list included this time finds Hogarth and fellow returnee Seal joined by an impressive, if seemingly random, array of singers ranging from Iggy Pop and Marc Almond to Rick Astley and lockdown showbiz royalty Toyah and Robert Fripp.

Horn has reduced the tempo of a lot of the songs here, detuning the musical excess of previous decades and lending it the effect of a dream-like state. This works fantastically well on Pat Benatar’s Love Is A Battlefield, with Marc Almond revoicing it as a skeletal torch ballad over pulsing synths and swooning strings.

Tori Amos adds vulnerability to rapper Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 single Swimming Pools (Drank); and Lady Blackbird – who has been dubbed ‘The Jazz Grace Jones’ – stamps her authority all over Slave To The Rhythm.

So far, so art-pop. But there are links to Trevor Horn the prog maven, most notably in the shape of the splendid, downbeat version of Yes’ Horn-produced Owner Of A Lonely Heart. The producer himself sang a version of the same on Reimagines The Eighties, but here he delegates the job to Rick Astley, who turns in a soulful vocal.

Steve Hogarth is a revelation on The CarsDrive – Horn has suggested the Marillion singer has a voice like that of Harry Nilsson, and he’s not wrong. And in one of the greatest pairings on the album, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax is deconstructed by the inseparable Toyah/Fripp tag team.

The only disappointment here is Iggy Pop’s take on Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus – a by-numbers version that doesn’t capture the genius of any of the parties involved.

Echoes – Ancient & Modern closes in true ‘And this is me...’ style, with Horn singing his only vocal. His take on Avalon is rather beautiful, reminding the listener just how few people cover Roxy Music songs (maybe because Bryan Ferry’s voice is so definitive).

It’s a fine sign-off for a record that delivers exactly what listeners would expect – exquisitely crafted covers delivered with elan, painstakingly produced with plenty of heart.

Echoes – Ancient & Modern is available now via Deutsche Grammophon.

Daryl Easlea

Daryl Easlea has contributed to Prog since its first edition, and has written cover features on Pink Floyd, Genesis, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel and Gentle Giant. After 20 years in music retail, when Daryl worked full-time at Record Collector, his broad tastes and knowledge led to him being deemed a ‘generalist.’ DJ, compere, and consultant to record companies, his books explore prog, populist African-American music and pop eccentrics. Currently writing Whatever Happened To Slade?, Daryl broadcasts Easlea Like A Sunday Morning on Ship Full Of Bombs, can be seen on Channel 5 talking about pop and hosts the M Means Music podcast.