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article imageReview: Enigma Classic Album Selection

By Adrian Peel     Jan 14, 2014 in Entertainment
As part of an extensive series of reissues, Universal Music has re-released groundbreaking albums from famed German experimentalists Enigma as an attractive five-CD box set.
Best known for uplifting and ubiquitous melodies like "Sadeness (Part 1)" and "Return To Innocence" - as well as a string of less familiar tunes that have also popped up on numerous film and TV soundtracks - Enigma, the brainchild of Romanian-born multi-instrumentalist Michael Cretu, continue to push the boundaries, most recently on 2008's Seven Lives Many Faces.
Now for the first time ever, the first five LPs from these prolific purveyors of New Age electronica (essentially Cretu plus collaborators) — who began putting out material under the name Enigma in 1990 — have been packaged together as part of a series of reissues that also includes music by Simple Minds, UB40 and Gary Moore.
Kicking things off is Enigma's solid debut, MCMXC AD, released to much acclaim in 1990, and it remains a very enjoyable listening experience. Spawning four memorable singles, "Principles Of Lust," "Mea Culpa," "The Rivers Of Belief" and the aforementioned "Sadeness," the record also contains other wonderful moments in the form of the chill out-esque "
Callas Went Away" (sampling Maria Callas to great effect) and "Knocking On Forbidden Doors."
The second of these five Enigmatic forays into soulful electro pop is 1993's The Cross Of Changes, another consistent display of creative prowess that maintained the high standards of its predecessor (though in my opinion, it isn't quite as entertaining). At this point in their career, Enigma were on the crest of an ambient wave and could seemingly do no wrong.
As well as the worldwide mega hit, "Return To Innocence," their sweetly-produced sophomore effort contained more awe-inspiring flights-of-whimsical-fancy, such as "The Dream Of The Dolphin," "Age Of Loneliness (Carly's Song)" and the stunning title track.
Unlike most pop acts, Enigma suffered from 'Third Album Syndrome' on 1996's Le Roi Est Mort, Vie Le Roi! Less warmly received by critics, album number three nevertheless contains some pleasing tunes, "Morphing Thru Time," "Why," "Shadows In Silence" and "Prism Of Life" among them.
This decline in popularity (compared to their early '90s peak) continued in 2000 with The Screen Behind The Mirror, the collective's first CD of the 21st Century. Again, although it failed to match the outstanding critical and commercial success of their first two albums (it also contained more vocals and fewer purely instrumental tracks), there was still much to be thankful for. Stand-out songs include: "Push The Limits," "Smell Of Desire," "Silence Must Be Heard" and the
title track.
Rounding of this impressive body of work is Voyageur from 2003, something of a return-to-form and a significant shift in style from what had gone before. This ambitious piece has more of a pop edge to it, reflecting the electronic music of the time — a laid-back landscape in which the likes of Air and Groove Armada had thrived, with their lo-fi grooves and infectious, chilled-out beats.
Songs of note this time around include: "The Piano," "Incognito," "Page Of Cups," "Boum Boum" and the excellent "Look Of Today" that imaginatively samples ABC's "The Look Of Love."
This welcome release, coming at a time when a lot of mainstream pop seems to have rather lost its way — as far as innovation is concerned — serves to remind us what a talented musician/producer/creative force Michael Cretu, a long-time German resident, is, and with these five intriguing albums (some better than others, naturally) lovingly packaged together for a very reasonable price, there's simply no excuse not to buy it.
Enigma Classic Album Selection is out now.
For more information, visit their website.
More about Enigma, return to innocence, sadness part 1, Universal Music Group, New age
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