Toyah: Take The Leap! 
by Richard Evans: 

Toyah's 1993 album 'Take The Leap!' is a bit of an oddity in that it's a heady mix of the old and the new, featuring six new songs alongside eight re-recorded versions of classic Toyah tracks. This edition, 'Take The Leap... Plus!' adds a further four tracks - two demos and two alternative mixes of the tracks presented here - which adds to the general schizophrenic nature of the release. 

'Take The Leap!' has only ever been commercially released in Japan although cassette copies were onsale at Toyah's live shows in 1994. I bought one (of course!) so it's good to see this coming out on CD, particularly given the quality of the artwork, the bonus tracks and the excellent sleevenotes. 

The six 'new' tracks open the album with 'Now I'm Running' leading the assault and setting the tone for the album as a whole... this is a rock record, guitar-heavy and a little rough and ready around the edges. The track also sees Toyah in fine voice and takes some interesting twists and turns along the way. 'Lust For Love' is a more inventive and exciting track which showcases some clever guitar work which sets off Toyah's breathless vocals perfectly, put simply this is a classic Toyah moment! 'Invisible Love' is up next - the second of three love-themed tracks in succession - and although it's not a slow song by any means it takes the pace down a couple of notches and allows Toyah to demonstrate the sweeter and more melodic facets of her voice, offset by a catchy 'where have I heard that before?' chorus and fading to a dramatic and plaintive close. A salvo of chunky, rock guitar opens 'Name Of Love' which is a a dark and contemporary-sounding song, with effective guitar squiggles and sees Toyah using her voice to great effect as she sings, growls, teases and swoops through a fine performance, another great Toyah moment and further evidence that some ten years after her commercial peak Toyah had lost none of her edge and. 'Winter In Wonderland', perhaps the most accomplished song of the six new tracks, sounds deceptively simple and melodic and Toyah's voice is pure and controlled; a pretty hypnotic performance which showcases yet another facet of Toyah's vocal abilities. 'God Ceases To Dream' completes the set of six new tracks and is easily my favourite of the set. Toyah's vocals sound very controlled - giving the impression that at any moment a torrent of emotion is about to boil over, yet instead of taking that explosive path the song sweeps towards a yearning that reminds me of Toyah's best-known album, 'Anthem'. If I had been in the studio I would have pushed for the track to be maybe a minute shorter, but at the end of the day you can't have too much Toyah!

Toyah's anthemic 'Ieya' - perhaps her definitive song and a true crowd-pleaser - kicks off the selection of re-recorded versions of her classic tracks and vocally it's very similar to previous versions but the band's work on the song, in particular the swirling and juddering guitar, is what updates it and makes this a very worthy version which can stand proudly alongside the many fine versions already out there. 'Waiting', 'Neon Womb', 'Elusive Stranger' and 'Our Movie' dig deep into the pre-'It's A Mystery' Toyah catalogue and it's brilliant to hear them updated so competently and effectively. The quartet serve as fine reminders of the power and inventiveness of Toyah's early work and her delivery is effortless, confident and proud. Later on the album there's also a great 'Alternate Mix' of 'Waiting' which takes the track in a spikier, vicious and distorted direction which is an effective, unsettling and experimental. 

The section of the album dedicated to updating the hits kicks off with fairly pedestrian versions of 'Thunder In The Mountains' and 'I Want To Be Free', Toyah's delivery is faultless but at times, and particularly in the choruses, they lack some of the passion they deserve. The 'Take The Leap!' version of 'It's A Mystery' is much more successful and takes the song in an edgier, less poppy direction, personally I prefer other versions but it's a brave experiment which I think owes a lot to the way Toyah performs the song live although her, to my ears it doesn't quite live up to it's potential. This album also include another version of 'It's A Mystery' as a bonus track; entitled the Weybridge Mix this takes the song in what I can only describe as a 'baggy' direction... imagine Toyah singing while the Happy Mondays provide the backing and you'll have an idea of what I mean. The echoing backing vocals on this version are a nice touch which hint at African influences but it's somehow at odds with the song as a whole but again it's a interesting attempt to take a well-worn classic in a new and creative direction. 

'Take The Leap!' also contains demo versions of two new tracks; 'Requite Me' and 'Tears For Ellie', 'Requite Me' is a very stripped back song, almost acoustic in feel which displays a new maturity to Toyah's voice, an impassioned song of warmth and beauty and a brilliant addition to any Toyah collection. 'Tears For Ellie' is another gem, a mid-paced song where Toyah's vocals are layered effectively over echoing beats and piano hooks, offset by dramatic violins which gradually builds momentum. Distinctively Toyah but it's a very different Toyah, a hint of a Toyah to come. 

'Take The Leap!' is an oddity of an album, but put into context as a kind of coming-of-age record, the updated versions of old songs bridging the gap to the new songs, it's an essential chapter in Toyah's fascinating and ongoing story. 

www.remembertheeighties.com
6th October 2006