Three years after his solo album The Wildest Wish to Fly, pop producer and songwriter Rupert Hine came back under the disguise of the pseudo-group Thinkman. The three musicians who accompanied him in interviews and lip-sync performances were actors, the whole project becoming a concept revolving around media manipulation. The Formula, Thinkman's first album, sticks close to this idea (the title track begins with the lines "It's an interview/But it's a second take"). During the early '80s, Hine followed an evolution that led him from disturbing art pop to intelligent but more commercial songs. The Formula is pretty much middle-of-the-road but has a harder edge than the singer's previous LP. Songs like the title track "The Ecstasy of Free Thought" and "The Days of a Champion" are fueled by newly found energy and feature the hook-filled melodies that made Hine an important part of England's '80s pop music. More importantly, there are no weaker tracks, no jumping off the bandwagon for a quick one. As far as concept pop albums go, this one is particularly successful. The Fixx's James West-Oram provided guitar tracks and Stewart Copeland (ex-The Police) plays some real drums whenever the producer felt the machine was not enough -- they are both featured on the closer "There Shines Our Promised Land." This album is more than a marketing curiosity, it can be considered as an essential part of Hine's discography.