Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is the 1989 LP Paradise‘ by dance duo Inner City, but is this album something to write home about, or more like a shipwreck? Read on…
The album opens with the synth of Inner City Theme, and is soon joined by a simple house beat as Kevin Saunderson repeatedly speaks a moral message ‘we as people in the world today, should come together to help one another‘. This short song gently builds up as the vocals are repeated before shifting into the second track.
For a moment, I thought the sleeve had a misprint, as it sounded like Good Life was coming early, but then I realised that this is the title track Paradise. This introduces us to vocalist Paris Grey, whilst we’re teased by what sounds like a pastiche of their two biggest hits with a synth trumpet sound thrown in over a bouncing bass synth sequence and up-tempo beat.
Ain’t Nobody Better follows this, and it soon bursts in with house piano and beats. It reminds me a lot musically and vocally of Lady Kier Kirby on Deee-Lite’s hit Good Beat, even though that was a couple of years away. This track is certainly a grower, and it gave them another hit – reaching #10 in April 1989.
Turn the lights down low for Paris’ breathy and sultry vocals on next track Power Of Passion. At times, the vocals are a little lost in the mix of the simple steady melody, but this song chugs along perfectly well. It’s a nice moody come-down track that allows us to re-charge a little before we head into the contrasting closing track of side one…
Lead single Big Fun (not to be confused with the S/A/W boy band of the same name) closes side one. This track gave the duo a fantastic start, taking them to number 8 in the UK singles chart. Those wonderful synths, dance vocals and party club crowd claps (even the video kind of shows you how to enjoy it) really helped to catapult this track up the charts. Whilst it’s pretty reminiscent of Good Life, it has yet to receive the same amount of pro-longed attention that the former did in later years.
With a quick flip of the record, Side Two opens with the heavy bass notes of fourth and final single Do You Love What You Feel. The song inherits the pace from Big Fun, and gives some classic dance beats as Paris takes the mic to belt out the fairly simple but cheery lyrics. This is certainly not as strong as the first two singles, and this was reflected when it stalled in the charts at #16 in the UK singles chart.
This is followed by second single, Good Life, which went on to become their biggest hit, reaching number 4 in December 1988 (and number 10, in 1999). It’s completely obvious why this song has become synonymous with the group’s name – it is absolutely flawless in production, strength of vocals and beats, and it was eventually certified Silver. Those up-beat lyrics, over a catchy synth and bassline, mixed with Paris Grey‘s fantastically dreamy vocals really does make this track feel like a slice of sunshine in the winter, which at the time of release, it was. I was pleased when it got a re-release in 1999. It’ll probably come back again soon.
Set Your Body Free is up next and this gives us a more mellow beat and synth line. Once again Paris rules the mic with some powerful dance vocals, and even Kevin gets another vocal credit in the chorus.
Penultimate track And I Do is ushered in by racing hi-hats and a thudding beat before a flurry of house piano lead us to Paris’ vocals of the verse. Of all the tracks here, this is the only one that is not co-written or produced by Kevin, leaving duties to Paris and Juan Atkins. The track does not feel out of place though – there’s still that techno undercurrent that lurks throughout the whole album.
The album closes with Secrets Of The Mind, which builds up the synth layers underneath Paris’ vocals and a dance beat. Again, her vocal power reminds me of Deee-Lite, and as the track leads us towards the label of the LP, it increasingly reminds me of it. What’s missing here though is a high point in the track – it remains fairly static throughout as it gently fades away.
Over all, this album is a great example of electronic dance (and techno, I guess) music infiltrating into mainstream UK charts. There’s plenty of familiar style here, but there’s not a wide range of them. A few of the tracks are highly reminiscent (melodywise) of the two big hits, which is okay, considering that they’re great songs, but a little more variation between tracks would have encouraged me to give it a higher star rating.
Where are Inner City now?
Inner City swiftly returned 4 months after this album’s final single with a #12 UK hit, Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin’ in November 1989, and the track had been included in the US edition of the album (replacing the weaker Power Of Passion track). However, earlier dance/techno fans would have perhaps been faced with a surprise as this took a more soulful sound – even the video was filled with more traditional instruments – piano, trumpets, saxophone etc, and Paris begins to sound more like Lisa Stansfield or M People here.
The duo released a remix version Paradise Remixed, which gave them a #17 hit UK album follow-up, but their follow up album Fire (1990) failed to chart in the UK (scraping a #166 in Australia), and Praise (1992) managed a #52, propped up by top 30 UK singles Hallelujah ’92 and Pennies From Heaven. By this time, the duo were up against europop artists like Haddaway and Culture Beat.
The duo returned to the top 10 in 1999, with a re-recorded release of their hit Good Life, but subsequent singles have failed to chart. The final UK charting single was a remix of their debut Big Fun, giving them a #86 chart placing in 2003.
Despite this, the duo are widely respected as purveyors of the late 1980’s dance-pop cross over, and their hit Good Life has been widely sampled and covered by other artists, including Rihanna.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE RATING: 3 / 5
- UK ALBUM CHART PEAK POSITION: #3, certified Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.20 from eBay.
LISTEN TO THE ALBUM
Take a listen to the album yourself – it’s now available on Spotify.