What becomes an exemplar of its time is often reliant upon those arbiters of memory and availability. Long out of print but awash with the swagger and guise of the early eighties, Peter Godwin's superlative Correspondence remains a sublime confection, swish, accomplished and perfectly mannered, it has long been a gaudy secret passed from hand to hand by those who care and share unknown pleasures.
Dressed in a Neville Brody sleevewhich features Mr Godwin staring forth in beatific wonderment, a perfect indication of all that lies within. It is an album that perfectly represents the production values of the time, without becoming subsumed by them. A notable feat achieved on account of the potency of the songcraft and the deftly accomplished desk duties of George Kajanus (Sailor/Eclection). It throbs with ambition and a sense of near perfection.
Godwin had been a member of the Glam/New Wave combo Metro whose "Criminal World" about ambivalent sexual nuances was banned by the BBC, only to be covered on "Let's Dance" Bowie's massive breakthrough collection. Metro made three excellent albums, but suffered from each appearing on different labels. Their single "America In My Head" remains a near perfect art-pop moment.
Proceedings kick-start with the dizzying resolute "Baby's In the Mountains" which neatly frames Godwin's deliciously nonchalant vocals. It sounds now like a rallying cry to romantic environmentalists, but with a sucker earworm hook that belies an epic conceit.
"Baby's in the mountains - the air is cleaner there
Baby's in the mountains she's gonna think it out
Baby's in the mountains - of course she's higher there
Baby's in the mountains - she's gonna work it out
And think about the future"
This sassy masterpiece that perfectly strides into the "The Art Of Love" all languid longing until Carol Kenyon soars above the proceedings like an operatic diva with her soul on fire. Think a soul-fuelled Blondie a la "Rapture" a reference which is additionally echoed by Godwin's dead-pan spoken section, a neat touch that is both dry and exquisite with a darkly edged lyric at odds to the innocence of the title
"There's the art of love - the art of love
The whores all kiss the boys
The angels watch them die from above"
Near calypso elements burst into life via "Window Shopping" a slab of catchy, infectious pop-funk that is awaiting its close-up in a ritzy commercial. Some musical moments deserve their day of modern plunder. A Sade-like louche-ness inhabits "Soul To Soul," a lazily, perfectly arch moment of effortless chic, deceptive eloquence at its best.
"Young Pleasure" has the evocative lilt of a hymn. Stirring and perfect it allows Godwin's assured but understated delivery to build and throb. His voice has a plaintive pull imbued with shadows of sophistry. "The Dancer" is the single that wasn't. All deft licks and turns it strides along with the eloquence and elegance of a catwalk anthem. Lights! Camera! Action! An electro-funk Dire Straits with a sense of humour and a tongue in its chic. "Correspondence" suits its title track prominence, a soothingly slick soundtrack piece. There is a widescreen filmic edge to the broodingly moody "Over Twenty-One" -- an epic in restraint it sweeps and swirls with a noir-like sensibility. With "Soul Of Love" Godwin sounds like a world-weary chorister. Achingly sad it also possesses a profoundly moving lyric which suggests Japan at all their moody, melancholia.
"What I'm living for
What my heart adores
The soul of love
And I know once more
What I'm dying for
The soul of love"
Correspondence is celebrating its fortieth birthday via this digital availability. It is only a click away. A strange return to a grave new place of change. Quality always survives eventually, but it is reassuring that this respected, neglected gem is again shining outwards to reward, refresh and soothe. Peter Godwin's new project is Re/Generation with the perfect muse in the form of Leah Lane of Rosegarden Funeral Party. Watch this space now that you've been alerted, but for now enjoy the eloquence of a belated correspondence or perhaps savour the joy of an old one worthy of renewal.