Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain fate, is the 1991 album Ripe by female duo Banderas.
The Banderas – Caroline Buckley and Sally Herbert, were a buzz-cut duo in the early nineties, best known for what was their hit This Is Your Life. The Banderas joined a short list of female duos all finding success at this time – alongside the likes of Soho, and of course Shakespears Sister.
I remember it being released, and turning up on a couple of compilations. However, here’s their 10 track album with Stephen Hague taking production credits.
The album opens with their debut single and #16 UK hit This Is Your Life. This is a great track – it reminds me somewhat of the Pet Shop Boys (and the video helps with that) or of Electronic – which is unsurprising as it features Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner on guitars, with the latter also adding backing vocals. Although not featured in the credits, it also apparently features a sample of the Grace Jones track Crack Attack. This was rightly a hit.
Up next is The Comfort Of Faith, which is musically much more pop right from the out-set. This kind of bounces along, and it occasionally sounds (vocally) like it belongs on one of Madonna’s early albums.
Third track, and third single, is May This Be Your Last Sorrow, which has a wonderful slow beat and bass line, whilst Caroline’s vocals waft and weave perfectly throughout, almost hypnotically. It’s down-beat, but it’s such a great sound, although slightly reminiscent of the lead single. Sadly, this song was ignored, and it failed to chart in the UK, and acted as the duo’s final single. If this hasn’t been covered by someone, then that is a crime.
This is followed by First Hand, which opens with some strings and a funky bassline, before Caroline’s vocals start. Again, this is quite an upbeat pop song, but it’s here where Caroline has a stronger voice and seems to ‘properly’ sing, in fact vocally she reminds me of Lisa Stansfield. The song is pretty catchy, and could have made it as a single.
Why Aren’t You In Love With Me is up next and this opens with a wonderful string section. Again, Caroline sings a little like Lisa Stansfield here, but her vocals really shine here. This is a great little track, and oddly it feels like a cover of a 70s disco track, but it’s an original song. This really should have been the second single! Jimmy Somerville, for whom Sally had provided backing vocals for in his The Communards recordings, makes an appearance here, returning the favour with some backing vocals, but you’d never notice her was there.
This is followed by second single, She Sells, which is quite a nice up-beat track, more up-beat than This Is Your Life, but it only reached a modest #41 in the UK singles chart. ‘She sells anything, everything‘ they sing, and I swear they also sing ‘from airlines to cheesecake’. In 1991, not even Woolworths did that. It’s also worth checking out the nice Apollo 440 remix that’s floating around on YouTube.
Up next is Too Good, which has some wonderful percussion, and this gives plenty of space for the vocals to sit on top, as a gentle guitar strums, and string synth swell in the background, peaking at about 3m 20s. The track gently builds, adding in some well-placed handclaps, but the song stays relatively mellow. This works well, and it turns out to be a really nice song.
This is followed by eighth track Don’t Let That Man. This is a fairly upbeat song with a beat that feels like it’s come straight from an 80s rock song, but the over-use of a jangly guitar seems to get in the way of the vocals. The chorus feels a little muted, and over all the song feels a bit dated and weak.
Some wonderful acoustic guitar opens next song It’s Written All Over My Face. This gives way to some percussive sounds, as Caroline’s vocals waft through the first verse, sounding like something that Enya would nod along to. It kind of chugs along, punctuated by the acoustic guitar. Whilst it’s a nice little gentle song, it’s not particularly memorable.
The album closes with Never Too Late, again it’s a song that plays on the empty space to give Caroline’s vocals rooms to weave through the lyrics. There’s intermittent percussion here, and an underlying sound like a grasshopper at night.
Over all, there seems to be two sounds to Banderas – one is pop, the other is more percussive and dream-like. This may well have made this album a more of a difficult listen at a time when pop and dance were standing strong commercially in the charts.
I’m wondering whether the Banderas were meant to be the female answer to the Pet Shop Boys. The vocals are quite unshaken, rarely stray far, but stand strong. Of course, there’s also the moody one who doesn’t seem to sing much (just like Chris Lowe). Of course, if that was the plan, then the PSBs undoubtedly won, and Banderas were wrongly consigned to the ranks of ‘one-hit wonder’.
Where are the Banderas now?
There is scant information about what Caroline Buckley and Sally Herbert have been doing since their third single.
Some sources suggest that Sally has continued to work with Jimmy Somerville, whilst other sources suggest that Caroline has been working with Sally on new songs.
Maybe a second album may ripen one day.
POP RESCUE RATING:
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1991 UK CHART POSITION: #40
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from a British Heart Foundation store.