Review: “If I Have To Stand Alone” by Lonnie Gordon (CD, 1990)

Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate uncertain, is the 1990 debut album If I Have To Stand Alone by American singer and songwriter Lonnie Gordon. Will this album be something you’d want to listen to All Over Again, or will you want to Stand Alone from it? Read on…

Lonnie Gordon - If I Have To Stand Alone (1990) album
Lonnie Gordon – If I Have To Stand Alone (1990) album

The album opens with title track and fourth single, If I Have To Stand Alone. It bursts this 11 track album right open with some wonderful bleeping synths, before instantly screaming Stock/Aitken/Waterman‘s late 80’s synth-pop style. This musical powerhouse are responsible for not only this song, but the album too. However, upon release, the track sadly stalled at #68 in the UK.

Next up is hit second UK single, Happenin’ All Over Again. This sounds musically very similar to the previous song, and a little like Big Fun’s Handful Of Promises. However, this song is highly catchy – the synths, the beats, the wonderful backing vocals, and Lonnie’s powerful vocals just make this such a masterpiece. The UK agreed, and rewarded Lonnie with a #4 UK hit single. Interestingly, this track was originally written for Donna Summer‘s follow-up album to Another Place And Time with S/A/W, but events meant that it did not go ahead, at Lonnie picked it up. Whilst I’m curious of what Donna might have made of it had she stepped in the studio to record it, but Lonnie’s version is perfect.

Better Off Without You follows this and it’s a bit more of a gentler song but it is fairly catchy, and again it’s undeniably S/A/W material. At times I can almost hear echoes from the Kylie Rhythm Of Life album of the same year, and wonder whether this could have feasibly have been a stronger single.

This is followed by third single Beyond Your Wildest Dreams, which Lonnie performs really well, and it’s great to hear her vocals like this and set against some lovely backing vocals and percussive beats. This is the first slower track on the album, and may have been unexpected by fans of Happenin’ All Over Again, which preceded it as a single many months previously. The track failed to gather the success of its predecessor and stalled at #48 in the UK. Sybil would later pick it up in 1993 and nudge it to #41.

Next is I Need You, which instantly makes me think a little of Technotronic, but this never quite materialises. Instead, Lonnie gets to show off some wonderfully powerful vocals – but the music track lets her down a bit. The shift from verse to chorus is a little uneasy, but the track is loaded with samples which helps to bridge the gap.

That’s No Reason follows this, and uses a sample heard in Kylie’s Let’s Get To It song which must have been in production at roughly the same time. It’s discrete though, allowing the song to stand up for its own merits. It’s a nice little pop song, and again Lonnie’s vocals are strong and confident.

Following this is Best Of Friends. This track gently wafts along, and whilst it’s a nice enough song, its really interchangeable with other vocalists, and Lonnie doesn’t really get anything new or different to do here. There are a few missed opportunities to really show off that vocal strength, but this feels very much like a filler track.

Lead single It’s Not Over (Let No Man Put Asunder) is up next, and this is a cover of the First Choice track Let No Man Put Asunder. There’s some wonderful attitude in the vocals here, and Lonnie makes light work of it. This song includes Lonnie singing the ‘We Got The Love‘ line, that was later sampled for minor dance hit of the same name by Touch Of Soul in 1990 which reached #46. Sadly, this song by Lonnie fared worse and wasn’t a hit – getting stuck in the UK charts at #91. It does shift around quite a bit melody-wise in it’s 3m 52s duration, and therefore it may have been found to be a bit disorientating.

A saxophone solo opens next song Watching You. This track is the sole writing credit for Lonnie here, and naturally her vocals fit it perfectly. It’s a soft mid-tempo song. The vocals are warm, aided by the tinkling piano, light percussions and backing vocal harmonies. It’s simply a nice song.

Some delicious snare-laden beats and a wonderful set of synths lead us into Helpless Hearts. Lonnie makes easy work of the vocals here in this optimistic upbeat track, and alongside the scattering of the Italia house piano, it’s quite a catchy track. Lonnie gets some wonderful vocals towards the end too.

The album closes with Right Before My Eyes (NY Mix), but I’m not sure what the original Lonnie version of this sounds like, but she does seem to have released a mix of this in 1989. Artist Patti Day picks this song up and covers it in 1991, but even then it faltered at #69. This NY Mix is a piano house mix, and so it’s stripped down quite a bit with vocal samples, hand claps, house piano, and could easily have been left off.

Lonnie Gordon’s lead single ‘It’s Not Over (Let No Man Put Asunder)’ from 1989.

Verdict

Given the team behind this album, it is remarkable that only one single was a success. S/A/W, along with Phil Harding and Ian Curnow‘s styles are recognisable and dominating the charts at this point, and I can easily hear a few drums sequences, synths, samples, or vocal styles, that were incorporated into what became hits for Kylie, Sonia, and Big Fun throughout this album.

It’s unfortunate that the lack of single success was likely the reason that the album therefore did not get released in the UK until 29 years later. Instead, it did see a European release, and this original Scandinavian copy was imported in for this review.

It’s clear from this album that Lonnie’s vocals really suited the big dance tracks of the time, and Happenin’ All Over Again is the high point here. With the vocal power and attitude behind it, she’s a little wasted on some of the lighter pop songs here.

I Need You and Right Before My Eyes are the low points here, but aside from the singles, Helpless Hearts could probably have fared well in the charts.

Rated 3 stars - Give it a go!
  • POP RESCUE 2020 RATING: 3 / 5
  • 1990 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: Not released in the UK until 2009.
  • POP RESCUE COST: €1.49 from a Discogs.com seller.

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