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As founding member, synthesizer wizard and main songwriter for Depeche Mode, Vince Clarke had already made his mark when he formed Yaz with powerful bluesy singer Alison Moyet in 1982. On just two albums in two years, Yaz created some of the most acclaimed synth-pop to this day. On this "best of" compilation, classic hits such as modern rock staples "Only You" and "Don't Go" remind us just how influential Yaz really was - and how great to hear Yaz still is.
Yaz (Yazoo in England) released only two albums during their short but influential existence, so a "best-of" album seems rather farfetched. Still, Depeche Mode ex-patriot Vince Clarke's music was a major influence preceding synthpop's dominance in the '80s, and their deepening obscurity makes them a prime candidate for a well-done retrospective. If only this one qualified. There are a few happy inclusions, like the lovelorn "Midnight," with Alison Moyet's soulful croon waxing over Clarke's omnipresent, light-as-air keyboard programs. The sweetly wistful "Mr. Blue" will provoke whiplash nostalgia in many a twentysomething, its melancholic chorus reflecting the awkward yet hopeful qualities of adolescence. Overall, though, curious choices abound. "Goodbye Seventies" is so forced it's almost camp, a song that the talented Moyet would likely rather forget, given her undisciplined yelping during the chorus. It's a mystery why the inoffensive but uneventful "Tuesday" was included here, while the excellent "In My Room," a Yaz staple for good reason, was not. Even the remixes included here are less than stellar. While Todd Terry's interpretation of "Don't Go" rips out a decent groove, the latest version of the dance-floor staple "Situation" starts strong but runs out of steam as the source material gets sacrificed in favor of overtly cute DJ permutations. While it's to Yaz's credit that enough good material can be found in their two-album catalog to make a best-of album at all, sadly, this collection fails at the attempt. --Matthew Cooke