The Eurythmics

John Williamson hails - though not without reservation - one of Britain's definitive eighties groups as they reform, release a new record, and go on a massive world tour

Annie Lennox is arguably Scotland's most successful musician ever: a brilliant singer, whose voice has floated around the charts for the better part of

20 years from her punk rock Dusty days in The Tourists through a decade's worth of the Eurythmics' hits in the eighties.

Though motherhood and religious beliefs have meant her profile has been lower in the nineties, she has still maintained her dignity with a couple of successful solo albums, although the most recent, Medusa, a tame selection of cover versions, can hardly go down as a career highlight.

Dave Stewart, by contrast, is the wide-boy London entrepreneur (OK, he's actually from Sunderland, but has lived in London for 20-odd years), for whom dignity has never been a primary consideration. Just look at his fashion sense. In a piece of hyperbole, they surely now regret, Melody Maker branded him ''Jack of all trades, master of them all'' - but given his dalliances as a session musician, producer, studio owner, record and publishing company boss, artist, and film producer, even the most cynical has to give him credit for covering all the angles at least.

Yet, for all their financial and spiritual wealth, their reunion as Eurythmics the last year is hardly surprising. Why? Well, look at either of them without the other. Stewart looks every bit the embarrassing uncle, trying to be cool when he never was and never will be, while Lennox seems so

ego-less that you can hardly identify her as a dynamic performer.

Their comeback show at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, which was broadcast live around the world, did go some way to confirming the ''whole greater than the sum of the parts'' argument, with a passionate pop performance that combined rearrangements of their hits with some material from their comeback album, Peace.

It seems like less than 10 years have elapsed between the release of We Two Are One and Peace, but during this period Lennox and Stewart barely spoke, until reconvened for an impromptu performance at a leaving party for their former record company boss, John Preston, and again when accepting a lifetime achievement award at the Brits.

Both agree that the break from each other has served them well.

''We both ended up doing very different things,'' Dave Stewart told VH-1, the satellite music station that now seems like their spiritual home, in a rare interview. ''It's like any powerful relationship, where things happen in your life that bring things back towards that relationship that help you when you do get back together again. It was important to have that 10 years apart to soak up other influences and learn about different stuff. It meant when we got back together to write we had lots more information going into the music, whereas before it just tended to come out of us.''

''It had so much to do with output,'' said Lennox in the same interview, where she finished Stewart's sentences in the way that only long-term partners can.

''For a while we were all about output. We were on a creative roll that has its own momentum and just takes you along, but we reached a certain point where you want to do something completely different because you need different experiences.''

When asked why and how the reformation came about, the duo are keen to stress its organic and almost accidental nature, and, that unlike most rock reunions, it was certainly not motivated by greed. Both band members are independently wealthy through business and musical interests away from the Eurythmics, let alone when you add in the money still generated from the radio play their 16 top 20 singles, many of which were huge worldwide hits as well.

''It definitely wasn't for the money,'' Stewart told Associated Press, ''because we are giving all our money from the gigs to Amnesty International and Greenpeace,'' while Lennox is more expansive on both the album's title and the motivations.

''There is a song on the album called Peace Is Just A Word,'' she told VH-1. ''One night I went to see the Dalai Lama give a talk about the new millennium and what it really meant, and after that it occurred to me that the word is such a touchstone for everything at the moment. Not just in an external way, like we would all like to see peace in Northern Ireland or Kosovo or between India and Pakistan, but we would also like to see peace within because we are living in such angst-ridden, stressful times that nobody is at peace.

''It was beautiful,'' she gushed, ''and it was leading on from that that we joined forces with Amnesty and Greenpeace. We never planned that either, but anything we can do in that environment to nudge people out of their complacency is good. Just the mere fact that people will join Amnesty and Greenpeace can make such a massive difference to things. It would be extraordinary having such a network of people together in the cause of human rights and environmental issues.''

So genuine, worthy ideals and hippy philosophy aside, the biggest lingering doubt about the Eurythmics lies in the music and its currency. Peace is not, as Lennox boldly declared a few months ago, ''definitely the best Eurythmics album'', (that honour

goes to the brutal and criminally underrated Savage), but by and large it sounds both classy and contemporary.

This may well be because Stewart and Lennox, after their electronic origins, became a very timeless songwriting team, where melodies and voice reigned. Arguably, Stewart is also now savvy enough as a producer to know in 1999 how to downplay the more preposterous production elements of their eighties output that spoiled Touch and Revenge, two of the band's mid-eighties albums crammed full of great pop tunes overburdened with effects that now sound positively outmoded.

Reaction from the public and media to Peace has also been largely favourable. The album and single have charted respectably across Europe and Peace entered the Billboard chart at No 25, while nostalgia alone has ensured decent ticket sales for the concerts, but perhaps SonicNet, in its review of the album, came closest to the mark when it observed that ''Annie Lennox's voice is untouched by time . . . but play Peace next to Be Yourself Tonight or Savage, and it is painfully apparent that something is missing.

''Eurythmics' old playfulness and wit, their willingness to shock and their creative abrasion, are all gone.''

The Eurythmics are growing old graciously, magnanimously, and carefully.

l The Eurythmics play the SECC

on Monday.