ABC’s debut album The Lexicon Of Love (1982) isn’t a title I was personally familiar with, but it immediately piqued my interest when the band’s frontman Martin Fry announced last summer that the album had been remixed in Dolby Atmos by Steven Wilson as part of an upcoming 40th anniversary reissue.
Originally produced by ZTT Records founder and former Yes member Trevor Horn, The Lexicon Of Love reached the top of the UK album chart and spawned four top-20 singles; "Tears Are Not Enough", "Poison Arrow", "The Look of Love" and "All Of My Heart. Groundbreaking at the time, the album combined elements of new wave, disco, punk, and even Cole Porter-esque orchestration for a wholly-unique result.
Though it initially appeared as if the Blu-Ray disc containing Wilson’s remixes in stereo (both vocal and instrumental versions), 5.1 & Dolby Atmos would be kept exclusive to the 4LP deluxe edition, SuperDeluxeEdition.com has come through with a more affordable standalone option for fans looking to avoid purchasing the vinyl.
Whereas the Blu-Ray disc in the deluxe edition includes the Mantrap short film (previously released on VHS & LaserDisc in the mid-80s), the standalone edition from SDE eschews the video content in favor of an HD remaster of the original 1982 stereo mix. The stereo, instrumental, and Dolby Atmos remixes are additionally available to stream on Apple Music and Tidal.
The new 5.1 surround & Dolby Atmos remixes of The Lexicon Of Love take on a slightly different balance than Horn and engineer Gary Langan’s stereo mix, putting more ‘punch’ & emphasis into the drums and stripping back some of the ‘80s reverb for a clearer aesthetic.
Having become pretty familiar with the stereo mix over these last few months, I found the drier sound a bit jarring at first – particularly on the opening track “Show Me,” where it almost sounds like the snare was replaced with a triggered sample – but gradually grew to appreciate the individual clarity of each part afforded by the remix.
“Steven Wilson did an Atmos mix. We went to his house, and he kindly played it. It’s like walking into a crystal kingdom. It’s like walking into the record. It’s kind of an eerie and exciting experience. A lot of memories came back actually. It felt like I was back in the studio again. There’s a lot of detail. I play the songs and I’m familiar with the songs obviously. But there’s a lot of detail in the guitar work, like on “Tears Are Not Enough,” that I had not listened to for ages.”Martin Fry, July 2022
Wilson unsurprisingly makes expert use of all 12 channels afforded by the 7.1.4 Atmos format, with some elements changing position from song-to-song in order to keep the listener engaged. The interplay between the speakers is consistently clever and inventive, further enhancing the witty, whimsical nature of the music.
After a room-filling orchestral intro, “Show Me” kicks into gear with the rhythm section holding down the front channels and keyboards filling out the side & rear speakers. Synth and string highlights pop up in the height speakers, along with some big ‘80s drum samples towards the end of the song.
Moving into the hit single “Poison Arrow”, double-tracked vocals and percussion percolate from side & rear channels while Stephen Singleton’s sax hops between the front heights. That big Phil Colllins-esque ‘80s drum fill announcing the final chorus rather effectively pops up from above.
The funky “Tears Are Not Enough” is definitely a highlight, with the horns blasting from the rear height speakers while guitar stabs and double-tracked vocals pop up in the sides. The backing vocal chants of ‘blueprint’ and ‘picture’ appear directly behind the listener’s head. There’s even a passage with what sound like bongo drums swirling around the height array!
The Atmos mix really showcases Trevor Horn’s opulent production, revealing tons of interesting details that were buried in the stereo version. The clarity in Martin Fry's center-isolated vocals is striking. Anne Dudley’s orchestration throughout “Valentine’s Day” and “The Look Of Love” is featured primarily from above, along with some previously-unheard percussion and synth blasts. The rear channel shouts of ‘who got the look!’ and ‘where’s the look!’ were expected in the latter tune, but very entertaining nonetheless.
For those who still inhabit the world of traditional discrete six-channel sound, the DTS-HD 5.1 surround mix also makes for a fabulous listening experience. The rear channels are utilized quite aggressively throughout, usually for ancillary elements such as backing/double-tracked vocals, percussion, synthesizers, strings, and Stephen Singleton’s sax. Note that this is not a ‘fold-down’ of the Atmos presentation, but rather a completely unique mix intended specifically for a 5.1 array.
“Needless to say, The Lexicon Of Love has long been an album I dreamed of being able to remix into spatial audio. Like all of Trevor [Horn’s] records, it has a painterly quality where everything in the stereo mix is perfectly placed – but having the additional canvas of 5.1 and Dolby Atmos allows the music to become even more cinematic and enveloping. Remixing it was an education and honor.Steven Wilson, April 2023
“Date Stamp” is another standout, with the cash register sound effects coming from above and horn echoes bouncing all around the room. Midway through the song, Tessa Niles’ response vocal pops up from the rear heights to great effect.
“All Of My Heart” again has Fry harmonizing with himself front-to-rear at key moments ('surrendering, remembering...'), as the orchestra floats in from above and synths pop up from behind. The ghoulish chants of 'speak no evil' throughout “4 Ever 2 Gether” appear from the back of the room as well.
The short instrumental closer “The Look Of Love, Part 4” makes for a fun Dolby Atmos demo, with the harpsichord swirling around the room during the intro. Trumpet blasts are isolated in the side surrounds and sax in the rears, while strings again appear largely from above.
Overall sound quality is excellent, though some of those passages with the orchestra at full force in the height speakers do seem to test the limits of the lossy Dolby Digital+/JOC codec used for Atmos streaming. As is typically the case with Atmos music, the TrueHD presentation on Blu-Ray does make a notable sonic difference.
It almost feels redundant to say at this point, but this makes for another fantastic reissue from SDE and another amazing immersive mix by Steven Wilson. I have to imagine that the remarkable one-two-three punch of Tears For Fears' The Hurting, Suede's Suede, and now The Lexicon Of Love over a period of just three months won't soon be forgotten by audiophiles and immersive music fans.