Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate uncertain, is the bilingual 1989 Gloria Estefan album Cuts Both Ways, but was this album more of a minor graze? Read on…
This 12 track album opens with the drum-fill of Ay, Ay, I, swiftly followed by some hard 80’s synth stabs before some funky guitars lead us to Gloria Estefan’s rich vocals. This song is, as you’d expect, upbeat and a great start to the album. Gloria gets to show off her vocal range throughout this song as the synths, percussive beats, and unmistakable sound of The Miami Sound Machine expertly provide the music, as they had done with Gloria for 10 albums by this point.
The tempo drops for echoey light beats and a simple keyboard, as the breathy vocals of third single Here We Are arrives. This is a ballad, and one that I’m pretty sure I remember my sister having on cassette. Acoustic guitars gently strum in the background, and a scattering of piano help this song step back and let Gloria’s vocals shine. This single reached #23 in the UK during the spring of 1990.
Next up is Say, written by Jon Secada. It bursts open with a ton of Cuban-styled percussive, steel drum, and brass sounds, but with plenty of great pop vocals – including a very catchy chorus. Sadly this didn’t get released as a single, but then Jon Secada would return for her next track, next album, and have his own hit.
Think About You Now follows this, which is a mid-tempo ballad – with lots of electric piano, and big ballad-styled vocals. At times, it is musically and vocally dramatic, and takes a while to settle. Thankfully the role of 80’s Obligatory Saxophone is taken here by 80’s Obligatory Electric Guitar, which roars into the song at the perfect moment, giving Gloria a worthy duelling partner, while Jon Secada returns as backing vocalist towards the finale, giving a nice vocal contrast.
This is followed by Nothin’ New, which is a wonderfully bouncy little pop song, even after a deceptive little 40’s styled big band finger-clicking start. The 80’s synths of the Miami Sound Machine continue to make their mark here, along with a slightly over-liberal scattering of male vocal sample of ‘hoo ha!‘. Still, this is a really nice track.
Next up is big hit Oye Mi Canto (Hear My Voice), which opens with a flurry of percussion and Gloria’s vocals before a thumping beat and bass comes fading in. The end result is a fantastic foot-tapping latin music song, that rightly crossed over to give her a #16 hit single in the UK. The vocals flow perfectly, as the percussion sections really help build up the terrific piano section where Gloria really goes for it with her backing singers (clearly the best part of the song), and the only part to mention the song title. Perfect!
Gloria’s vocals really get to soar in next song Don’t Wanna Lose You, which sees her pitched against a wonderful synthscape and simple pop-rock beat. Occasional electric guitar chips in, but this is a song about giving Gloria enough space to sing her heartfelt lyrics over a somewhat minimal track. This was the lead single and a huge #6 hit for her then and throughout her career, and so far remains her highest charting single in the UK. This is a fantastic 80’s song, and one that rightly deserved that success.
Get On Your Feet ups the tempo somewhat, as the title suggests, with a plodding bass and beat, with acoustic guitars strumming. Gloria bursts in with her confident pop vocals. The song is up-lifting, telling you to ‘Get on your feet. get up and make it happen‘ and ‘Stand up and take some action‘. There’s no excuses here. 80’s Obligatory Saxophone fans will be delighted to hear that there’s a great burst from our old friend, right before some ‘oh eh oh‘ male backing vocalists lead us off towards the end of the song. I could imagine this being remixed as a real hard thumping dance track. Either way, this version is brilliant, and when released as her second single it was utterly rob – stalling at #23 in the UK chart.
Ninth track Your Love Is Bad For Me returns us to a downbeat ballad. The bass is heavy here but Gloria’s vocals cut through it. A simple harpsichord-esque keyboard places a simple melody, whist a distracting galloping synth plays in the background from time to time – clearly the Miami Sound Machine making its mark, but as annoying as a ringtone on a train. Despite that distraction, Gloria is once again flawless with her vocals – taking each word and note with seemingly great ease.
The title track Cuts Both Ways follows this, and this is really quite a nice track as it twists and turns. I like the song’s theme as it talks about ‘our love is like a knife – it cuts both ways’ giving the album title context, but also ignoring the fact that the albums songs (or ‘cuts’) are bilingual (clever, huh?). This song is a nice plodder, and gives us a great ending to the mostly English album. The song became the lowest charting UK single of her career by that point – scraping into the Top 50, at #49.
Penultimate track is Oye Mi Canto (Spanish Version), which is a straightforward translation of the earlier track, giving me the opportunity to hear infinitely more from the musicians as my Spanish is not good enough to keep up with Gloria’s.
The album closes with Si Voy A Perderte, a translation of Don’t Wanna Lose You, again reminding me just how great the music is on this album.
Where is Gloria Estefan now?
Gloria’s career really took off in this first album to put The Miami Sound Machine in a somewhat back-seat role – even though they feature throughout the album.
After the success of this album, and the two UK top 10 singles she scored from it, it wouldn’t be until Miami Hit Mix in 1992 – a dance medley of her earlier hits with the Miami Sound Machine, that she’d return to the UK top 10 for her final (so far) time.
In more recent years, her singles and albums have failed to repeat the success that she saw with her first few UK singles.
She has made many appearances as herself in TV and film, and has had character roles in shows including Frasier and Glee.
During the 00’s she teamed up with NSYNC for single Music Of My Heart – giving them a #34 chart position, she wrote and published children’s books, bought hotels and restaurants, ensuring her personal wealth continues to grow.
Over all, this really is a rich musical feast, laden with percussion, guitars, latin music melodies, and Gloria’s wonderfully rich and powerful vocals.
The Miami Sound Machine, although taking a back-seat for the first time, do make their mark throughout, even if sometimes it’s by a misplaced synth.
The singles really shine here, and several of the other songs do, making this a great album to listen to.
- POP RESCUE 2016 RATING: 4 / 5
- 1989 UK CHART PEAK: #1, certified 3x Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from a British Heart Foundation store.