a-ha – Hunting High and Low (30th anniversary ed) (review)

a-ha – Hunting High and Low (30th anniversary edition) (Rhino / Warner) review

Early MTV darlings get the anniversary treatment

Hunting High and Low by a-ha and it’s massive 1985 worldwide smash, “Take on Me,” is perhaps the crowning achievement of the initial MTV Era. After all, it was the fledgling network that helped popularize the synthesizer in popular music with a steady stream of cute bands from Europe with funny haircuts and strange names. But, by 1985, most of the strangeness and newness had been jettisoned for mainstream entertainers like Michael Jackson and Madonna. Amidst all of this came the Norwegian band a-ha, and Hunting High and Low. Rhino Records has just issued the classic album in several forms to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

The album certainly is “of the times” and yet, still has a freshness that few records of that era possess. Credit must be given to the producers who spent hours mixing and remixing these tracks. The band knew they had something special in “Take on Me,” the song actually dates back to 1982, with its original title “Lesson One” (which can be heard on the Super Deluxe Edition). The song was re-recorded and remixed many more times, finally falling into the hands of Alan Tarney (who we love for the lost nugget “No Time to Lose”).

“Hunting High and Low” is a gorgeous ballad that showcases vocalist Morten Harkett. This could be an opportunity to over-sing, but he shows particular restraint. “The Sun Always Shines on TV” begins slow, but quickly picks up the pace, featuring some badly-needed guitar. The album closes with the moody “Here I Stand and Face the Rain.”

For those fans wanting to dig deeper, there’s a Super Deluxe Edition which contains four CD’s, featuring rare mixes, demos, and b-sides, along with a DVD containing videos and other rare footage. —Tony Peters