When looking at the Enigma discography it is easy to overlook Michael Cretu’s solo works. Even though his early LPs are mostly labeled as pop, there is plenty here for the Enigma fan – or any new age music fan for that matter – to enjoy.
Michael Cretu (born 1957) debuted as an artist in 1979 with the album Moon, Lights and Flowers after having received education in classical music – but deciding that synth music was his “thing”. His second album came in 1983, called Legionare. Here mostly German music fans got to hear Michael’s impressive keyboard and composition skills. Singing was never his strongest card, but he was a decent singer in the 80s and the early Enigma period.
His third album is called The Invisible Man (1985), which I will review in this article. I find this to be a very elegant album, with beautiful and heartfelt synth melodies, some with that emotional depth that made Enigma into such a winner 5 years later – in 1990.
Note that there is also a German version available of this album – which is ready for playback in many music on demand services. This version is called Die Chinesische Mauer, and has German lyrics and a different track listing. But it is basically the same album.
The Invisible Man is the very first sign of what eventually would become Enigma.
The English version starts with the international hit Samurai. Cretu’s synth work and singing are here at their very best. The lyrics are perhaps a bit too enigmatic, yes, but the opening song has that rare groove that also made Sandra’s Maria Magdalena – produced by Cretu – into such a winner in the same period. It is simply a great pop song with an unusual and dramatic backdrop. This is not “baby, I love you” pop – just the way we Enigma fans like it.
With that tour-de-force of a first song out of the way, the album moves on with the song Carte Blanche. This is a slower, more thoughtful piece, a perfectly composed synth melody. Talking of synths; it must be said that the album sounds somewhat dated, but that will not stop a new age music fan. Never.
Silver Water is a refreshing song. Even though Michael’s singing is very loud, almost to the point of screaming at some parts, the song as a total is very well balanced.
Another truly beautiful song is track four, Your favorite toy. Here the lyrics are just as important as the music, telling the sad story of a toy. The German title is, translated, Tin soldier.
The album is in many ways divided into three. I have commented the first part above. The second part is the three songs Intro, Mikado and Coda. And this is the very first signs of what eventually would become Enigma. These tracks have deep synth pads, a heart-like rhythm and strong melodic elements; the very fingerprint of Cretu’s later masterworks. My only objection to this part of the album is that it is too short; it is only about five minutes long. These three tracks are, by the way, the intro to the German album.
The song Heavy Traffic is even more relevant today as back in ’85; “Heavy traffic / Never ending / Spitting poison in the air / Metal river, who’s pretending / you’ll never get me there”.
The album ends with the title song. The Invisible Man is a track with a magnificent trumpet solo and a very satisfying build-up. It reminds of later Enigma masterworks such as Out of the Deep and Return to Innocence.
The Invisible Man album is only 33 minutes long, originally meant for LP and cassette formats, but it is a short album not to be missed. And note that this is not only for fans of 80s synth music – but for all fans of great pop/new age. The Invisible Man is an early example of the genius that in time would sell many million albums – and get just as many fans.
Sample the album on: