Today’s POP RESCUE from a future uncertain, is the 1988 album All Or Nothing by Milli Vanilli. Does this album give its All, or is it a bit too Vanilla? Read on…
Back in 1988, French/German duo Milli Vanilli – Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan emerged, and then their 12 track album too.
The world embraced them and made hits out of the 5 singles from this album.
Then…. in 1989/1990 it came to light, that neither of the duo were singing. They were actually lip-synching dancers, sent out to perform to the vocal tracks of a ‘less marketable’ team of session vocalists.
Pressings of this album went on to include the names of the real singers (Charles Shaw, John Davis, Brad Howell, and Linda and Jodie Rocco), naming Rob and Fab as ‘visual performers’.
Right, with that potted history done, let’s do this…
The album opens with the track Can You Feel My Love, a bouncy pop gem, with a great synth line and male vocal harmony. This could have been a great single for the group, and it serves as an energetic opening track.
Despite it’s odd title and premise, Boy In The Tree, is quite catchy. ‘There’s a boy in the tree and he’s watching at you. Looking with big brown eyes at you. Boy in the tree and you can’t run away’ sings someone. I’m not really sure what this song is about.
Money is the third track, opening with the sound of cash registers – which is almost a copy of Pink Floyd‘s intro on their 1973 track of the same name.
Dance With A Devil feels like a bit of a filler track, featuring only a scattering of backing vocals, duelled against drums and 80s guitar.
Things get better with the track I’m Gonna Miss You, a great track, complete with Roland TR-808 drums. The track was released as Girl I’m Gonna Miss You, and was the fourth single from the album, reaching #2 in the UK and certified Silver – their biggest UK hit.
Title track All Or Nothing is another good track, and they name-check the likes of George Michael and Marvin Gaye. I’m not sure whether they’d ever sit amongst the ranks of these two. In 1990, Rob also stated that he was ‘the next Elvis’. Brave.
Baby Don’t Forget My Number is fairly similar to All Or Nothing, with even a fairly indistinguishable drum beat. It was the group’s second single, but didn’t replicate the success of the debut, stalling at #16 on the UK chart. Following this on the album is Dreams To Remember, which is ironically easy to forget.
Is It Love is a true 80s pop track – vocally and musically – with Peter Cetera-esque male vocals, a soaring and roaring 80s lead guitar, a wandering bassline, and some orchestral stabs.
The group tackle Ma Baker, which is a cover of the Boney M track. This might seem like an odd choice, but the writer Frank Farian was also Milli Vanilli’s producer, and therefore it suddenly becomes clear. The group’s take on the track isn’t great i’m afraid.
Things are rescued – kind of – with an 8+ minute version of their hit Girl You Know It’s True, which was their UK hit single (reaching #3) that catapulted them to initial success in the summer of 1988. I swear that’s the drum sample used by PM Dawn in his Set Adrift, but somehow it’s not, but that’s definitely got to be a bass sample of the 1984 hit Don’t Look Any Further by Dennis Edwards and Siedah Garrett. Uncredited, of course.
The album ends on what is titled as ‘Bonus Track’ Too Much Monkey Business, which at less than 2 minutes long, confirms that this track isn’t really worth your time.
Over all, this album has some catchy tracks, but there’s plenty of weaker filler tracks too. Milli Vanilli were far more popular in the US than the UK, but never repeated the success with subsequent albums.
Court rulings mean that All Or Nothing has remained the biggest selling album ever to be taken out of print, and the only album ever to lose its Grammy Award.
The real singers behind Milli Vanilli told their story on a special episode of Oprah in 2014.
- POP RESCUE 2014 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1988 UK CHART POSITION: #6
- POP RESCUE COST: 50p from a British Heart Foundation store.