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A-HA
(Morten Harket, Pal Waaktaar, Magne Furuholmen)

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"A-Ha will always hold a special place in the pantheon of international flash-in-the-pan stardom. Their slick brand of synth-pop was certainly in vogue when their hit "Take On Me" became the tune du jour in mid-1985, but it was a unique combination of Nordic cheekbones and cutting-edge technology that was most responsible for thrusting this Oslo-based trio into the spotlight...
(...) Take On Me, the lead single from their debut LP Hunting High And Low , was a lofty pop cut with a unique, state-of-the art video that combined live action footage with black-and-white rotoscope animation. The song immediately became a staple on MTV and brought A-Ha worldwide recognition. On four additional albums (1986's 'Scoundrel Days', 1988's 'Stay On These Roads', 1990's 'East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon' and 1992's 'Memorial Beach'), A-Ha veered away from their synth-heavy roots with more material favoring guitar and piano, but were unable to maintain much interest outside of their native Norway and parts of Europe."
-- Stephen Peters, Yahoo! Launch

 A-HA Discography - Album / CD Reviews


***¾ 1985: Hunting High And Lowaudio

"In 'Hunting High and Low' - one uncovers A-Ha's distinctive style. More than straightforward pop-meisters, a-ha wrote and executed some interesting tracks in their debut album. Morten Harket's pristine, sweeping vocals are the highlight of each song. The album veers between bright pop synth ballads (Blue Sky; Love is Reason) to progressive whimsical love songs (Living A Boy's Adventure Tale). The band's matinee idol looks didn't hurt either and greatly enhanced their success. Given their appeal to teens, the image aspect of A-Ha did sometimes overshadow their inventiveness as musicians (this was the era where pop bands could play and compose their own music as with predecessors Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet, Depeche Mode etc), and much of A-Ha's later music tried to find new ground - moving away from the bright pop landscape they create in this album, but somehow never quite recapturing the youthful charm."
-- Jonas A Hansen, via amazon.com

***1986: Scoundrel Daysaudio
"While not quite as strong as the band's debut, 'Scoundrel Days' is still a-ha succeeding as a marketed 'pretty boy' band which can connect musically and lyrically as much as any musical sacred cow. The opening two songs alone make for one of the best one-two opening punches around: the tense edge of the title track, featuring one of Morten Harket's soaring vocals during the chorus and a crisp, pristine punch in the music, and The Swing of Things, a moody, elegant number with a beautiful synth/guitar arrangement and utterly lovelorn lyrical sentiments that balance on the edge of being overheated without quite going over. Although the rest of the disc never quite hits as high as the opening, it comes close more often than not..."
-- Ned Raggett, AMG

***½ 1988: Stay on These Roadsaudio
"You can feel and hear a sound that is in transition from Pop to Rock on this album, yet the overall sound is somewhere in between the two making this album a rather curious oddity. You get the impression that they were being pulled in two directions. 'The Blood That Moves The Body' and 'Stay On These Roads' are examples of this. Even the title of the album can be interpreted as a question and suggests wonder for what may lay ahead. Yet they still meld lyric, melody and their unique sound into something that transcends the definition of music in whatever manner they perform. My favorite song on this album is 'The Living Daylights' originally written for the James Bond film."
-- gobirds2, amazon customer reviews

**½ 1990: East of the Sun, West of the Moonaudio
The start of the end for the trio. An all too familiar formula, and a lack of catchy melodies.

**** 1991: Headlines and Deadlines: The Hits of A-Ha
16 of A-Ha's top hits spanning their 1985-1990 existence. While the collection carefully depicts their strong moments, it misses on two excellent tracks from their second album: Scoundrel Days and The Swing Of Things.

** 1992: Memorial Beach
Another missed shot before the band fades into oblivion for the rest of the 90s.

***¼ 2000: Minor Earth Major Sky
"They do not seem to have concern about attracting the youth/dance market, but instead seem to be focusing in on how to make perfect middle of the road pop songs with '90s technology. This is not a criticism, as it produces several fantastic songs, such as Little Black Heart and the wonderful I Wish That I Cared. These, and many others, are full of catchy, beautiful melodies and Morten Harket's vocals are near perfect as usual -- his voice has not lowered one octave since their debut. The one problem with this CD is the relative sameness to some of the music. The tempos do not change a great deal, and by the end the songs seem to run together. More variety would have been beneficial. However, in terms of production, this is as close to perfect as a CD can get, and the lyrics keep things interesting throughout. Overall, a good album, and one that fans will enjoy."
-- Aaron Badgley, muchmusic.com

*** 2002: LifeLines
"The song writing duties have been handled by all three A-ha members this time. The thing one notices after a few listens is that the tracks written by Magne Furuholmen and vocalist Morten Harket are, with one exception, undoubtedly the best. Still, Pål Waaktaar-Savoy has written most tracks on "Lifelines", branding his pieces with an annoyingly anonymous mainstream sound. The title track opens the album and it is A-ha in their right element. An absolutely beautiful mid-tempo song, written by Furuholmen, oozing of melancholy and Morten's wide-range vocals. The following two tracks follow the same emotional path and make me sit silently, just watching out my bedroom window, daydreaming of lost loves with tears in my eyes. The single "Forever Not Yours" stand out as one of the strongest A-ha tunes to date. It is electronically charged pop with a nice piano melody and that chorus of tragedy, sung impeccably by one of the bests vocalists of all time. (...) Another great ballad appears among the last few songs (the album is way too long with 15 songs), a duet with Bel Canto member Anneli Drecker. It sends delightful chills down my spine every time. What follows the magic of the first song trio is a wild journey of hopelessly flat songs even Morten can not save."
-- Niklas Forsberg, releasemagazine.net

2004: The Singles 1984 - 2004
A-Ha celebrates their 20th anniversary with the release of a new singles collection. Gathering all of their hits and highlight tracks together in one essential collection, ''Singles 1984 - 2004 '' celebrates the unique talents of Norwegian electro-pop superstars.Throughout their career, A-Ha has officially released 32 singles. 13 of them became top ten singles in the UK, and 14 singles have been number one on the radio lists over the world. The new singles album includes some of the highlights from A-Ha’s last 20 years.

2005: Analogue
Tracklisting: 1. Celice 2. Don't Do Me Any Favours 3. Cozy Prison 4. Analogue 5. Birthright 6. Holyground 7. Over The Treetops 8. Halfway Through The Tour 9. A Fine Blue Line 10. Keeper Of The Flame 11. Make It Soon 12. White Dwarf 13. The Summers Of Our Youth
"Although unlikely ever to reproduce the success that made them regular cover stars for Smash Hits, A-ha continue to create quality albums which make a mockery of their former teen-idol status. Despite apparent public difference (though their tours still cover some of the largest stadia), A-ha haven't actually changed their style that much in twenty years. Still creating that epic widescreen pop sound courtesy of the twin synth attack from Pal Waaktaar and Magne Furuholmen, Morten Harket's falsetto remains an instrument of wonder and only a stronger rhythmic element and a broodier approach to songwriting has been added since. The title track to Analogue, Celice and Birthright would all have charted twenty years ago whilst ballads such as Holy Ground and A Fine Blue Line are superior to their equivalents from 2002's 'Lifelines'. So even if 'Analogue' is a few songs too long to approach the excellence of 2000's 'Minor Earth Major Sky', this is one Eighties' act that have showed staying power whilst others merely regurgitate the old hits."
-- Jonathan Leonard, leonardslair.co.uk

*** 2009: Foot Of The Mountain
Tracklisting: 1. The Bandstand 2. Riding The Crest 3. What There Is 4. Foot Of The Mountain 5. Real Meaning 6. Shadowside 7. Nothing Is Keeping You Here 8. Mother Nature Goes To Heaven 9. Sunny Mystery 10. Start The Simulator

"Today, almost a quarter of a century after A-Ha first rocked the world, they unveiled their latest offering, 'Foot Of The Mountain'. The album's title track has already won fans over and has created quite a dent on music charts in parts of Europe. The radio-friendly track, with its memorable piano-laden hook, skims musical territory similar to that of Coldplay and Keane. Yet, it is not an indication of the audio blueprint that forms the basis for this album. The band seems to have shed its new millenium timeless sound in favor of a heavily synthesizer-driven sound that characterized their music in the 80s. For fans that still think of A-Ha as an 80s band, this is probably a good thing. For the new generation of fans that A-Ha has nurtured over the nine years, it is inevitable that many of them might be left absolutely confused. Despite the divisive effect that this album will have on the band's fanbase, the album has its moments of brilliance. (...) On the whole, 'Foot Of The Mountain' is a substantial effort. While it is by no means groundbreaking, it has its share of memorable moments."
-- Radio Creme Brulee, 6/09
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Recommended Links:

A-Ha.com
A-Ha.ru
 
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