a-ha, "Hunting High and Low/Scoundrel Days (Remastered Deluxe Edition)"

90 Billboard Rating

Having announced their disbandment after 25 years, the members of iconic Norwegian pop band a-ha conclude their farewell with reissues of 1985 debut "Hunting High and Low" and 1986 follow-up "Scoundrel Days" that brim with demos and remixes. The simultaneous release reinforces how the abrupt tonal shift from the shining, animated "Hunting" and the moodier, more isolated "Days" killed the massive U.S. success a-ha grasped with smash hit "Take On Me." But the trio doesn't regret it, as substantial liner notes outline how "Days" was a determined sidestep to avoid pop star straight-jacketing. (Amazing fact: "Take On Me" originally flopped. A streamlined version rerecorded with producer Alan Tarney is the one that triumphed worldwide.) The 13 rarities also found on "Hunting" reflect that the aural cream was correctly skimmed from those sessions; "Days" holds snapshots of a-ha's live chemistry. Hands down, the extended remix to title track "Hunting High and Low"-whose cinematic orchestral backing puts the song soaring-is the sweetest find among this trove.