To celebrate four decades since Howard Jones’ debut studio releases hit shelves, Cherry Red Records have just announced expanded CD/Blu-Ray deluxe editions of the synth-pop pioneer’s first two albums–1984’s Human’s Lib and 1985’s Dream Into Action. The Blu-Ray discs feature brand-new remixes in stereo & 5.1 surround sound from original mix engineer Stephen W Tayler, along with Dolby Atmos mixes of select tracks from Bob Clearmountain.

Originally issued through Elektra Records in March 1984, Human’s Lib topped the UK album chart and spawned four top-20 hit singles: "New Song,” "Hide and Seek," "Pearl in the Shell," and "What Is Love?" The March 1985 follow-up Dream Into Action was equally successful, achieving a gold certification from the RIAA in the UK and platinum status in the US.

In December 2023, Jones appeared on Daryl Hall’s long-running web series Live From Daryl’s House. The duo, along with Hall’s incredible house band, performed terrific new renditions of several hit songs from these albums including “Things Can Only Get Better,” “No One Is To Blame,” “Like To Get To Know You Well,” and “What Is Love?”

Though the CD/Blu-Ray sets aren’t due out until May 31, Bob Clearmountain’s Dolby Atmos mixes of six key songs have already been quietly made available on to stream on Apple Music, Tidal, and Amazon Music. Listeners can find them compiled in a new EP release entitled Celebrating Together (The 40th Anniversary EP).

Clearmountain has done his usual excellent job on the Atmos mixes, which make full use of the immersive medium. Howard Jones’ vocal resides primarily in the center speaker, underpinned by drums and bass, with the big ‘80s ambience traveling up to the height array. The numerous layers of digital percussion, keyboards, and background vocals are scattered throughout the side and rear surround channels to great effect.

“What Is Love?” kicks off with the wind howling from the rear height speakers, while synth horns blare from the sides and the rhythm section comes thundering in from upfront. Once Jones’ vocal enters, different keyboard parts alternate between the rear surrounds. Starting in the second chorus, backing vocals answer from the sides. During the breakdown at around the two-minute mark, metallic percussion sounds from the front heights and synthesizers wildly swirl around all four top speakers.

The iconic keyboard intro to “Things Can Only Get Better” fills up the rear surrounds, with programmed drums and horns blasting in from the front stage. The call-and-response backing vocals during the chorus answer from behind, just as I’d hoped. Though the horns are primarily placed upfront, their delay comes from behind–yielding a really immersive sense of space.

Digital percussion bounces between the side surrounds for “Like To Get To Know You Well,” as keyboards gently fade in from behind. Jones’ voice again stays locked to the center channel, but his double-tracked vocals reside up in the rear heights. The gated reverb and big delays again float above the listening space, giving the vocals and other instrumentation a truly multi-dimensional quality.

“The Prisoner” is another highlight, with the strings fading in from behind and keyboards emerging from the sides. Backing vocals appear exclusively in the side surrounds, giving way to the lead vocal and rhythm guitars arrayed across the front stage. The EP then concludes with “Hide and Seek,” featuring a soulful vocal from Jones and more room-filling keyboards.

Though it's a bit disappointing that the complete albums won't be made available in Atmos, this digital EP release is a great preview for the full releases to come. Based on Stephen W Tayler's excellent track record with bands such as Van Der Graaf Generator, Be-Bop Deluxe, Renaissance, The Moody Blues, and Camel, I imagine the 5.1 surround mixes will be prove to be worth the wait.

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About the Author
Jonathan is an audio engineering enthusiast from New York with a passion for immersive audio, having amassed a formidable collection of multichannel optical discs and quadraphonic vinyl. He earned his undergraduate degree in Television-Radio from Ithaca College and is currently enrolled in a Master’s Program in Audio Technology.