Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sinitta-Sinitta! (1987)


Getting the 'S' artists in my music collection organized has further allowed me to reconnect with a very familiar favorite from the 80's PWL camp: Sinitta. Last I checked, I had heard just about all of Sinitta's biggest PWL hits, but it never hurts to check out these memorable golden oldies again.....and again and again, and especially if you're forever nostalgic about music from the 80's like yours truly. Turns out that, it had been so long since I've listened to any of these songs on Sinitta's self-titled debut I hardly remembered any of them at all! So my re-discovery adventure began with the wonderfully cheery pop pleasure that is "Toy Boy", a delightful song where she proclaims that the man she's got is all hers and hers alone. It's the celebratory spunk of the chorus that hooked me back into this one, and I ended up treating myself to the 7+ minute 'Extended Bicep Mix' that was a bonus track on select versions of this album. "Who's Gonna Catch You (When You Fall)?": this wonderfully sunny guilty pleasure makes great use of Miss Sinitta's then-sweet, girly voice; love it when she breaks it down about midway through, singing ' don't you know what love can do?' and 'just take the pain and fall in love ', among other sweet things. "Cross My Broken Heart": the title shares the name with a memorable hit by THE JETS and nearly another memorable song by Martika (shortened as "Cross My Heart"), and while the theme for all three songs are pretty much on the same ground, Sinitta gets the courtesy of the added boost of the dancey PWL bass line. "GTO": lots to say about this one! I'd always remembered she recorded a song with this three-letter acronym, but completely forgot what it stood for, plus the song itself. So when I paid close attention to the lyrics and heard her singing ' he's got a big red GTO '—I hadn't paid attention to the words before and had instead been all caught up in the music&mddash;I finally realized after all these years that she was simply referring to a car (Pontiac model to be exact). I should kick myself for that one, because the repeated sounds of the revving engine heard throughout should've been a dead giveaway. Does he love me or his car? Yep, totally bubblegum and totally 80's! My favorite part is whenever the backing vocalists chant 'G-G-G-G-GTO'; it just makes me wanna sing along with them! "Rock Me Slow": I surely didn't remember ever hearing this starry ballad. I see it would have made for a perfect slow jam for the quiet storm r&b channels. That sweet girly Sinitta heard on the previous tracks? You can't quite tell here, because she sounds so very mature all throughout this one. Felt like I should've remembered "So Macho" well, but it now has become a newly-rediscovered Sinitta favorite, thanks to its high-energy beat and the cute lyrics about a girl who wants a strong and muscular guy to be her sweetheart.. It's one more excellent example of the fun and carefree 80's, and making it even more fun is the 12" remix, which sounds as if it samples the distinctive rhythm to 'SUGARHILL GANG's "Rapper's Delight" (seems a lot of artists have sampled that old-school rap classic). "If I let You Go" sparked my senses because there was some familiarity in the ambient/electronic arrangement, like something along the lines of Paul Harcastle's "Rainforest". It's one of the few upbeat songs without the signature PWL sound, but it's nicely jazzed up by the saxophone and still so deliciously 80's nonetheless. Speaking of deliciousness, "Feels Like The First Time" is definitely one I would've devoured a long time ago! So glad to have re-discovered this funky pop pleasure! It's one of those that's got so much going on with the music (there is a distinctive glitzy beeping accompanying the beat in the chorus that attracts my ears, in particular) that you'll get lost and forget you're not in the 80's anymore! And then there's "Cruising", which is the highest energetic of the high-energy jams and reminded me that Sinitta's style was surely influenced by her mother and disco queen, Miquel Brown. Before she even starts singing, there's some terrific play with the showing off the various drum beats in the beat-drop portions. Hearing her singing ' I'm looking for a macho, macho man ' during one of the verses made me wonder if she was in the macho man mood when she recorded this album, considering that aforementioned line, plus the "So Macho" song she'd already recorded and the 'bicep' tagged onto the extended mix of "Toy Boy". Well I myself was in an 80's mood before I started this hour-long adventure, and I'm certain anybody who embarks on this same adventure will also find themselves getting into the 80's music spirit:

1. Toy Boy
2. Who's Gonna Catch You (When You Fall)
3. Cross My Broken Heart
4. GTO
5. Rock Me Slow
6. So Macho
7. Oh Boy (You've Got A Lot To Learn)
8. If I Let You Go
9. Feels Like The First Time
10. Cruising
11. Toy Boy [Extended Bicep Mix]
12. GTO [Modina's Red Roaring Mix]...
13. So Macho [12" Remix]

Friday, October 20, 2017

SIMPLY RED-Men And Women (1987)


My resumption of getting the 'S' artists in my music collection has given me the opportunity to catch up with some SIMPLY RED listening. In fact, I 'simply' have not listened to enough of this group outside of their popular radio hits, namely "You Make Me Feel Brand New", "Stars", "Sunshine" and some other favorites whose names I'm currently drawing a blank in remembering. And of course, I had to continue on in my 80's indulgence, so that meant tuning in to SIMPLY RED's 1987 album simply entitled "Men And Women". I did hear bits and pieces of this one years ago, which is how one favorite song in particular got stuck to me: "Move On Out". This nicely-arranged pop piece is about a couple breaking up where it's time for somebody to pack the bags and literally get out of their place so that the other can move on with a new somebody else—it's as simple as that. But what makes this song stand out is, for one thing, Mick Hucknall's vocals. I always like how he sings the 'get rid of me, rid of me, rid of me, rid of me' in the first or second verse), plus the part where he goes 'you better move on out now' before the main chorus, then that humorous part where the the guy is shouting 'ho!, whoa!, get outta here!, get outta here!' (that's what I always remember the most). I'd wondered if the album's second track, "Infidelity", is what inspired the album's simplistic title, as this perky and perfectly-80's pop piece tells a story about how men simply can't be trusted. Before that, my ears and I were impressed with the strong opener, "The Right Thing", which reminded me how marvelously soulful Mick can present him to be, as did the mellow piano piece, "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" (seems that just about every great popular soul singer has recorded a few of these acoustic piano pieces to show off their remarkable singing talents). Some of these songs were simply a fun music adventure that I got lost inside of: the sunny and upbeat "Shine", the breezy groove of a concluding piece, "Maybe Someday..." and Track #3's "Suffer" (what draws me to this one is the exchange between the deep-voiced guy singing ' please don't make me suffer ' on a low pitch followed by the backup singers repeating those same words at a higher pitch. Found a pair of new goodies to add to my goodie bag: "I Won't Feel Bad" and ":Love Fire". The catchy pop arrangement of the former reeled me in right away, and I remained hooked on the line each time Mick would show off some grit when he breaks it all down in the chorus, and especially during the final movements when the song suddenly explodes into a wild, funky and jazzy affair with Mick preaching about all of the various people in his life who say that he's bad. Then as for the latter, I felt a sense of peace and tranquility with the song's spiritual vibe, created by the ethnic sound of the backing vocalists and the soft, subtle reggae rhythm—an instant music delight before it even reached the fifteen-second mark:

1. The Right Thing
2. Infidelity
3. Suffer
4. I Won't Feel Bad
5. Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye
6. Let Me Have It All
7. Love Fire
8. Move On Out
9. Shine
10. Maybe Someday...

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Smokey Robinson-Being With You (1981)


They say where there's smoke, there's fire! And I'm on fire tonight, getting in three music features before midnight! With some much-needed time to get caught up on my music-listening, I've also resumed getting the 'S' entries in my collection organized, which meant I'd eventually reconnect with the legendary Smokie Robinson. I wasn't born yet when Smokey was enjoying his glory days with THE MIRACLES back in the 70's, so much of what I have heard from his illustrious career is from, of course, the decade in which I grew up. And from that decade, surprisingly, hasn't been very many songs at all, but one timeless classic in particular that always remains at the forefront of my mental jukebox is quite possibly the very first Smokey Robinson song I ever heard on the radio: "Being With You". I'm always captivated by the smooth and fluid rhythm, the starry and magical sound and Smokey's trademark lofty voice delivering the romantic words of ' I don't care about anything else but being with you, being with you, being with you ' in the memorable chorus. But along with me getting my copy of the 1981 album by the same name where this timeless classic can be found came my latest music surprise: Smokey recording "Being With You" in Spanish! There must've been select versions where "Aqui Contigo" (that literally translates to "Here With You") and the part-English/part-Spanish "Aqui Contigo (Being With You)" were originally added bonus tracks; well I'm so happy to have finally heard both after all these years! The Spanish lyrics, in fact, make the already-romantic classic sound even more lovely! Now I'm suddenly curious if Smokey's recorded anything else in my favorite foreign language..... Meanwhile, I further got my chance to hear some other delicious gems to add to my ever-expanding bag of musical ear candy. "Food For Thought" came as a surprise as well; I had no idea the lead singer of THE MIRACLES dabbed in reggae music! While listening to this sunny tune, I could picture him recording a full-length reggae album, because he demonstrates that he's definitely got the versatile voice and the persona for it here. Soul lovers surely would love hearing the ones with the slow grooves and the intimate, comforting words: "If You Wanna Make Love (Come 'Round Here)", "I Hear The Children Singing" and one that grew on me a lot, "Who's Sad?" (the lush backing vocals in contrast with Smokey's high tenor is a wonderful delight on the ears). Perhaps a bigger surprise erupted on the festively fun disco jam, "Can't Fight Love", because what begins with a jungle-sorta rhythm with only the hollow sound of drums emerges into a funky and jazzy affair! Nearly as groovy is "As You Do" while "You Are Forever" is nearly as beautiful of a love tribute as this album's title track:

1. Being With You
2. Food For Thought
3. If You Wanna Make Love (Come 'Round Here)
4. Who's Sad?
5. Can't Fight Love
6. You Are Forever
7. As You Do
8. I Hear The Children Singing
9. Aqui Contigo
10. Aqui Contigo (Being With You)

SHERIFF-Sheriff (1982)


Looks like a new sheriff has just rolled into town! Well actually, this particular 'SHERIFF' is kinda up in age now—that being the Canadian rock band that was active for only a short amount of time back in the 80's. Hard to believe that Freddy Curci and company only released this self-titled debut album; I personally think that every single one of the ten tracks they recorded on it could have been a hit! Well there's one song that definitely was a huge hit—a very memorable one and one that I still adore to this day: "When I'm With You". Could this one be categorized as one of the greatest power rock ballads of the decade? I think so! It deserves more airtime on the radio waves, be it the hard rock channels or the soft rock channels. Perhaps the latter is better suited for it, seeing that it's one of those mellow, touching love songs (which I'm always a sucker for) that just gets you in all the right places. But if you really wanna get into the 80's rock spirit, you gotta start with the energetic opener, "You Remind Me", which is a feelgood bit about a new woman that makes him think about an old woman from his past. I think we've all met somebody in our lives who have reminded us of somebody we used to love at some point or another. The opener also introduces your ears to SHERIFF's spunky, high-tech sound and their killer chorus hooks—is a deadly combination for those of us who are 80's rock lover!—which is why jams like "Makin' My Way" (his way back to the woman he loves, that is), "Kept Me Coming" (a personal favorite because of the high-speed tempo and the way the boys are singing 'she kept me coming all night long' in unison is terrific!), "Mama's Baby" and another personal fave, "Give me Rock 'N' Roll" (a purely rock thrill ride where the boys keep chanting ' I love rock 'n' roll, I want rock 'n' roll, I need rock 'n' roll, give me rock 'n' roll ') are so exciting! One thing that I really like about SHERIFF is the distinctive voice of frontman Freddy Cuci himself; He can be all soft and calm one minute, then becoming a wailing, hollering siren the next, as he demonstrates to excellence on the second track, "California", and again later on "Crazy Without You" (mellowed out in the verses, then lets it rip when the big hook comes). And while every one of these tracks truly does have a great sound, I'm especially turned on by the awesome drum beats shown off on "Elisa". Originally released in 1982, re-released in 1998, then remastered many times in the years thereafter, SHERIFF's self-titled album is still a golden oldie that I'm sure will make a fine addition to your music collection:

1. You Remind Me
2. California
3. Makin' My Way
4. When I'm With You
5. Kept Me Coming
6. Mama's Baby
7. Crazy Without You
8. Elisa
9. Living For A Dream
10. Give Me Rock 'N' Roll

KATRINA & THE WAVES-Shock Horror! (1983)


Shocked to see this one? Well I myself was 'shocked' to find it! It's occurred to me that, up until today, my ears and I hadn't heard any of the albums by the British rock band, KATRINA & THE WAVES, before their breakout memorable hit, "Walking On Sunshine". In fact, I haven't heard much of KATRINA & THE WAVES at all. So here I am close to the end of 2017 digging up one of their earliest efforts back when they were professionally known to the world only as THE WAVES (sounds a bit weird, considering I've gotten so used to calling them KATRINA & THE WAVES). "Shock Horror!" is definitely something for the fans of Brit rock.....and 80's music suckers like me. And me listening to it today came at just the right time, as I've found myself suddenly getting into the nostalgic 80's mood again. The opening track, "Going Down To Liverpool", is one that I had read about many times as being one of the band's earliest hits without ever having actually listened to it—a short-and-sweet pop/rock tune that serves as an early indicator of the quick adventure that is to come. Something sparked me on the follow-up, "Strolling On Air"; there's a certain striking appeal about it—between Katrina's vocals and the slightly psychedelic/Beatles-esque rhythm to it before the rest of the music arrangement kicks in after the second pass of the chorus. "Riding My Bike" is a prime example of how these songs with the simple lyrics turn out to be really good once it's had time to grow on you. I was captured by the melody and the slow, mellow arrangement first, then the extended guitar instrumentals, which are absolutely great! Seems Katrina and the crew were experimenting with a bit of blues rock on "I Caught The Milk Train", another one where the lyrics, while totally and senselessly 80's, tell a fun and simple story. After that, this "Shock Horror!" adventure becomes a high-speed rockin' thrill ride! Begins with "Brown Eyed Son", which I like because of its super-catchy chorus that goes ' you're my jealous brown-eyed son, I know everything you've done '. I also like punkish new wave jams like "You Can't Stand Next To Judie", which has some of the funniest lyrics (I like the part where she says Judie crumbles like ginger bread) and the best drum beats on this album! Then there's the breakneck, head-banging tempo of "Atomic Rock 'N' Roll" (yeah, it's atomic all right; the music just might set you on fire!) and the energetic rush that is the concluding cut, "Saturday Week", which I ended up listening to three times because it's barely over two minutes long but trumps "You Can't Stand Next To Judie" as having the best lyrics of all (cats, Frankenstein, driving with the President and something about driving on a TV as well are just a few things she mentions). In less than thirty minutes, my "Shock Horror!" thrill ride is over, but it was nice to reconnect with a forgotten band after all this time:

1. Going Down To Liverpool
2. Strolling On Air
3. Riding My Bike
4. I Caught The Milk Train
5. Brown Eyed Son
6. You Can't Stand Next To Judie
7. Atomic Rock 'N' Roll
8. Saturday Week

Sunday, October 15, 2017

DAZZLE-On Second Thoughts (1990)


Get ready to be 'dazzled' by even more good music! I didn't have to think twice about featuring this female duo that simply called itself DAZZLE and their only known album, "On Second Thoughts", as they had remained an ultra-rarity and hidden deep down in the depths of 90's house music obscurity. They continue my streak of fulfilled music wishes while yet another case in the 'unsolved music mystery' files. Other than a rather crude black-and-white mug shot of the ladies that you see pictured above (the original cover artwork was all black-and-white as well, but I added the frame of gold sparks around their photo to add some pizzazz to fit the 'dazzle' theme), there's practically nothing out there in cyberspace that reveals their true identities or their actual music origins. Once again, though, here we have an artist releasing only one album where the music is so good to the ears that it's a shame that the artist's career never quite took off beyond that. I was instantly delighted the moment I took in the soothing, soulful voice of the lead singer of the duo on the opener, "Take A Piece Of Me", which stirred up some of that nostalgia from the early 90's house era. In fact, it's that combination of the soothing soul and the groovy house rhythms that attracted me all throughout, and why I also favorited dancey jams like "What We Share" (hearing them sensually sing ' love we'll always share ' in the song's simple chorus gets stuck to me before long) and "I Need You" (a lot more happening in the arrangement here than on other tracks, taking into consideration the semi-tribal drum beat, the sweet woodwind melody and the keyboards). Great examples of how soulful singers can shine in pop music are represented by "This Is The Last Time" (a song about a woman who's tired of a man cheating and all of the no-good things he does would seem to require vocals with a little more bite and tempered emotion instead of the more casual warming approach taken here, but it still works), "Heaven" (I could see this one as being a full-out house jam in a remixed format somewhere), "I'm Finding It Hard" and especially in my two top picks: "Spend Some Time" (I like the mild-mannered determination in her delivery of how she's sooner or later gonna close the deal and not be alone anymore) and "Slowly" (I like these sunny songs that just have a way of lifting you up; a lovely tribute with the words to a special someone who takes her to places she's never been and allowed her to see things she's never seen). A fitting end for the dazzling duo to dazzle the ears at the end with their personal anthem of sorts: "Dazzle You". It's a very breezy listen where they want the man to let them dazzle him in every way imaginable.....and promise him that he won't be sorry that he did:

1. Take A Piece Of Me
2. This Is The Last Time
3. Heaven
4. What We Share
5. Men Cry Too
6. I Need You
7. I'm Finding It Hard
8. Spend Some Time
9. Slowly
10. Dazzle You (The Soundsystem Mix)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Robert Earl Wilson-Never Give Up (1991)


The title has it right—never give up indeed! This next music share—and personal wish fulfillment—was something I had been seeking over the course of several months after having spotted it during an extensive tour of the Europop/Euro-House catalog. And I never gave up seeking it until I successfully claimed what I believe to be a very rare CD from the 90's And with this acquisition comes one more case for the 'unsolved music mystery' file, as I have no clue whatsoever as to the musical origins of this Robert Earl Wilson you see pictured above nor as to what else he's professionally recorded throughout his career. What I do know, however, is that he and his songs on "Never Give Up" are a terrific listen, reminding me vocally and stylistically of something between Eurodance phenom Haddaway and the pop duo MILLI VANILLI. I knew that I was right on target with having made another fine discovery upon taking in the opener, "Dreams Of Summer"/ It's that distinctively slick, Europop 90's sound that attracted my ears, followed by the sunny breeziness of the music itself, all despite the song's negative theme about a love that was only a bad illusion. A similar negative vibe permeates the similarly-arranged "Lost Your Forever", yet the music sounds so good that I myself hardly noticed the 'lost you forever' theme. The mood is drastically different on "Cry It Out", where Robert breathlessly pleads his case for he and the lady to stay together (props to the production for making his voice trail off when he sings 'I need you forever' and the great extended instrumentals to close out the song, letting those earnest words sink in and linger on). .The mood is positive and upbeat also on the title track itself, which is a very powerful, inspirational love song and one that I had nominated as my #1 favorite even though I was slightly past the album's midway point! I draw his closest comparisons to MILLI VANILLI on the hip-house cuts "Twice Done" (ladies delivering the chorus lyrics while he lightly raps in uncannily the same way as MILLI VANILLI did in many of their hits) and "You Got Me Crazy". while I draw the Haddaway comparison when he gets down and groovy with with the strictly made-for--the-house party that is "Partyjam" and the jubilant concluding cut that became my #2 favorite, "Hold On To My Love" (so much to love about this one, from its totally-80's synthpop sound to the energetic spunk of the chorus where Robert proclaims that he is nothing without the lady in his life; it's a song that makes me happy and feel like celebrating!). In between the Europop, Euro-house and the hip-house are a pair of beautiful slow numbers that deserve much recognition: "Broken Lady" (the electronic ambiance used for this one alone makes it a delightful listen) and "Rock Your Baby" (his slow, sensual and soulful rendition of the George McCrae disco classic works wonderfully). "Never Give Up"—a highly-entertaining 40+ minutes with goodies to please just about everyone and a definitely a must-have for your 90's music collection:

1. Dreams Of Yesterday
2. Twice Done
3. Partyman
4. Lost You Forever
5. Cry It Out
6. Rock Your Baby
7. Never Give Up
8. You Got Me Crazy
9. Broken Lady
10. Hold On To My Love
11. Twice Done (Remix)

DRAMA-High Time (1983)


It's about 'high time' that I put some drama back into everyone's life! Continuing the streak of fulfilled music wishes, I proudly present the very much sought-after album by this Norwegian pop band and the only one of theirs missing from my collection (as I imagine it was for the rest of us in the DRAMA club). A trio of thoughts entered and re-entered my head while I was tuning in to the first few tracks: one, that I haven't listened to a whole lot of music from my favorite decade where there are young boys singing—groups like NEW EDITION, BROS, MENUDO and NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK readily come to mind&mash;two, that the enjoyment I was getting from these cute, three-minute pieces was equivalent to what I'd also enjoy from any number of my favorite bubblegum Euodance albums; and three, that this album was starting to feel like a fun, throwback radio version of "High School Musical". Everything on this too-short-but-wonderfully-sweet, half-hour-long adventure is pure 80's pop bliss at its finest, indicated early on by such bright, ear-pleasing and totally-80's-sounding sparks as "Don't Stop", "Do It!" and "Hey Girl" (dreamy songs like this one instantly put me in a happy mood). I found "Heavenly Lady" to be as funny as it is simply fun, accented by the orchestral accompaniment and the whole sunny sound of the chorus (I like the cheeky words the lead boy delivers that goes 'she really is too good for this world'). There's an instant catchy spark also with "On The Run"; 'I am on the run, catch me if you can'—yep, that one's a sweet bubblegum track, too, as is "Don't Tell Her On A Saturday" (' you'll be sorry you didn't do it Sunday '). You can't help but to be hooked by spunky songs like "Get Up And Go Away", because after the acapella intro, a mega-dancey beat takes over in combination with the DRAMA boys singing 'jump, jump, giddy-up' in unison. It could very well be the longest of the eleven tracks and it's definitely the only track having a rock kick to it: "It's A Hell Of A Night"; I'm liking the boys' harmony all throughout this one, too. Well, "Graduation Day" has a slightly soft rock element in there somewhere, and it too is a song with a breezy, happy melody that makes the music stick to you. Even the album's lone ballad, "Some Kind Of Wonderful"—a rather airy, lofty piece performed solo by the light-voiced boy of the bunch—is an ear-charmer. And as for the opening title track itself, it's the lone track that quite possibly is the least 80's-sounding with its distinctive post-disco rhythm, but I get as 'high' off of it as I get with the rest of the highlights on this "High Time" adventure:

1. High Time
2. Don't Stop
3. Do It!
4. Hey Girl
5. Heavenly Lady
6. On The Run
7. Don't Tell Her On A Saturday
8. Some Kind Of Wonderful
9. Get Up And Go Away
10. It's A Hell Of A Night
11. Graduation Day