Review: “Ken Laszlo” by Ken Laszlo (Vinyl, 1987)

Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate unknown is the 1987 debut eponymous album Ken Laszlo by Italian synth-pop singer and musician Ken Laszlo. Will this album make you raise your Glasses, or will you be trying not to Cry? Read on…

Ken Laszlo - Ken Laszlo (1987) album
Ken Laszlo – Ken Laszlo (1987) album

This 8 track LP opens with single Tonight (Remix), which weighs in at 6 minutes and 50s – feeling more like some kind of 12″ version. Thumping bass drums and a growling electric guitar usher you in as a flurry of drum fills and synths flitter around before coming together like some kind of Pet Shop Boys song from the same period. Ken’s vocal delivery is also somewhat reminiscent of the PSBs – taking a more spoken than sung approach here, but the combination works really well. The album is off to a good start.

Let Me Try is next (or ‘Let My Try’ if you believe the artwork). This track swiftly drops the vocals in over a gentler synth, and gives you a slower track over all. It feels more lyrically formed as a nice little pop song. It reminds me at times of something you’d find echoed forward on La Roux’s Trouble In Paradise 2014 album.

That’s followed by Black Pearl, and this is a really great track that allows us to witness Ken’s vocal range. The regular ‘oh-ey-oh’ backing vocals woven regularly into the song help to keep this a catchy sing-along track, and the chorus is perfect. This is a great piece of 80’s pop.

Side One closes with the odd Glasses Man, which begins sounding like something passed around between Kraftwerk and the Village People before Ken finally gets his hands on it. There’s a plodding beat and synth line, and it’s an odd song about a ‘glasses man you never open your eyes’, and how he’s not to be mistaken for Superman. It’s a strange observation to have turned into a song, as there’s no super-power identified, only that he wears glasses with his eyes closed. Still, musically the simple synth track makes it quite a catchy little song.

Side Two opens with 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, and this is a really bounce song with a load of vocal sample effects too. As you’d expect with nearly every song involving counting or days of the week, it’s quite catchy when Ken hits on that part of the lyrics. The track really allows Ken to show off his higher register vocals and he’s eventually joined here by a flute section that strangely fits okay. Towards the end, I realised that the vocals were counting 1-8 and then 10, with number 9 AWOL.

Next up is Talkin’ and here Ken gets more of a singing role again, resulting in what sounds like a classic 1980’s pop song. The backing vocals, and the loud gruff sample (which sounds like Phil Mitchell from EastEnders) work well here and the song flows effortlessly along.

Don’t Cry (Remix) is next and this song comes roaring in and is soon bouncing along like an excited spaniel. Ken puts in a great vocal performance and seemingly with ease. There even seems to be a dash of 80’s Obligatory Saxophone for a moment – well, a synth version i guess – but that’s fine. The end result is a pretty catchy pop song that I could easily imagine the likes of PWL producing for a Kylie or Sonia album in the late 80’s.

The album closes with Ken’s first single, Hey Hey Guy (USA Remix). There’s no star-spangled banner sample here, so I’m not sure what makes this a USA remix, but it initially feels a bit too fast, then suddenly a broken down synth over a live drum kit, before abruptly swapping to what feels like the version of the song that I’m familiar with. The synths here remind me a bit of the hit Popcorn, but it really is a catchy track, and Ken’s vocals are absolutely perfect. The album ends on this high.

Ken Laszlo’s 1984 lead single ‘Hey Hey Guy’ (1984)

Verdict

Over all, this album is a much-overlooked gem of 1980’s synth-pop, particularly when it comes to the UK.

For whatever reason, the album wasn’t released in the UK, and that’s a sore loss, as there really are some great tracks here that echo some of the hugely successful chart acts of 1987 and beyond. The high points are Hey Hey Guy, Don’t Cry, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, and Black Pearl also delivers the goods well. Whilst sounding okay, Glasses Man and Let Me Try are the lower points here – nothing bad, but in contrast their lyrics and music is more benign.

The slow release schedule of Ken’s singles can’t have helped – making this album almost a compilation of singles rather than a new album – hence the reliance on remixes to add some freshness to the originals (Hey Hey Guy being 3 years old by the time this album saw release), but it hangs together well, and you really should grab the chance to listen if you can.

Rated 4 stars - You're missing a treat!
  • POP RESCUE 2022 REVIEW RATING: 4 / 5
  • 1987 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: Wasn’t released in the UK
  • POP RESCUE COST: €12.00 from a Discogs.com seller.

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