Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate uncertain, is the 1988 ninth album The Lover In Me by Scottish singer and actress Sheena Easton. Will this album fill you with love, or is it a case of heartburn? Read on…
This 10 track album opens with the solid beats of what I can only confirm voids your statutory consumer rights: No Deposit, No Return. The beats remind me of Fine Young Cannibals, but that shifts over for the first of five tracks produced by LA Reid and Babyface (also on backing vocals). Sheena’s vocals sit perfectly on top of this beat amongst a blend of 80’s synths, and backing vocals from Babyface and Karyn White help to lift them, and move effortlessly through the song. It’s a good strong pop start, ‘I’m not the kind of girl that you can kick around’ she sings.
That rolls straight into titular track and lead single The Lover In Me follows this, and this is a wonderfully catchy track, often reminding me of Five Star and early Paula Abdul, and some of the style of Prince or Bobby Brown. This synth laden pop song gave her a #15 hit single in the UK charts, and rightly so. There’s a little bit of Mr 80’s Obligatory Saxophone before the final act, but the result is a track that is a really great song, and #15 feels far too low for this song to have peaked at. I’d be surprised if no-one has ever covered this track.
Next is a soft ballad Follow My Rainbow, giving Sheena the chance to show off her tender side. Her rich vocals really really get to shine here, and she aptly gets to ‘reach for the sky’ with them, soaring off towards the end of the song as her backing vocals with Babyface offer the perfect springboard. Whilst listening, I wondered if it was a film, and after writing this review I learned that it was sung by Sheena in an episode of Miami Vice, moments before her character is killed off.
Without You follows this, a mid-tempo pop ballad, loaded with synths and jangling guitars. Whilst this song isn’t half as catchy or upbeat as the first two songs, Sheena does take the opportunity to at least show off that vocal power and range throughout. It’s a standard 80’s album-only pop song. Tucked away in the credits is Dennis Stefani – father of No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani, as what seems to be an assistant engineer.
Next is If It’s Meant To Last, and this returns us back to a catchy, bouncy pop number. I could easily imagine Stock/Aitken/Waterman being at the helm for this song, and Sonia singing it. Instead, Jellybean is the producer. The track builds well, and throws Sheena a key change for the final third of the track.
Following that is second single Days Like This, opening with a slightly sinister sounding synth take on The Wedding March, before heading into a set of downbeat regretful verses. Babyface and LA Reid are back, with Babyface and Karyn White back on backing vocals. It’s a nice enough song, but the use of the riffed sequence from The Wedding March is both brave and a little bit jarring to hear now. The track could easily survive without it. Sadly, the UK singles-buying chart didn’t really enjoy either, and it stalled at #43.
That’s followed by One Love. We’re back into that almost-Paula Abdul sound again, or possibly early Cathy Dennis. This is an upbeat new jack-swing kind of song, and brings us back to a catchy track again. Sheena’s vocals make light work of the verses and chorus, which are left fairly empty for her vocals to shine.. and they do. There’s even a shouty crowd section mid-way through before Sheena really lets her vocals soar.
Up next is track 101, written by a ‘Joey Coco’. This is actually one of Prince‘s pseudonyms (and the sleeve notes him as producer, and Joey as the musician). Prince had a few collaborations with Sheena over the years, but despite pop royalty being involved, the UK singles-buying public just weren’t interested, and it flopped at #54. The track is quite a mid-tempo breathy track, but sounds like it opens with a stomach grumbling too close to a microphone. Synths dance around Sheena’s soft vocals, but she does get to push through these and show off her vocal range and power for the chorus. It’s moody, and potentially a sound that’s a few years too early… but then that’s ‘Joey Coco’ for you!
Penultimate track Cool Love is next, and it’s another ‘Joey Coco’ track, produced by Sheena’s mate Prince at his Paisley Park studios. This shifts the sound again, with a return to a shuffling upbeat intro. Sheena makes light work of the lyrics, although they’re a bit clunky at times. It’s not a catchy track, and definitely belongs here on the album, but it’s an okay song. There’s a really nice brief cello part, and roaring guitar section that help to add interesting, but a ‘cool love’ sounds about as lack-lustre as the lyrics are.
The album closes with Fire And Rain, which returns us safely into the hands of Angela Winbush, who gets her second writing credit on the album, as well as production and backing vocals. This time, Sheena is given a nice mid-tempo track, backed with wonderfully warm backing vocals and a piano over a simple beat. It’s a nice little track, and a good way to end this album.
Over all, this album is home to some really wonderfully catchy late-80’s pop songs, and in those Sheena feels right at home and shows off her vocal warmth and range. She repeatedly sounds like her contemporaries, particularly Paula Abdul, and the frequent visits to the new jack swing style is clearly led by production royalty Babyface and LA Reid.
Prince’s contributions are, as I often find, a little awkwardly placed here alongside them. Cool Love is the lowest point in the album (just beating Follow My Rainbow), but 101 is a really interesting track that would probably have worked better if there were any other similar sounding tracks featured on the album.
The album deserves to have faired better than it did in the UK (it went Gold in the US), particularly as Sheena had a short recurring role in Miami Vice the year before, aside from the two Prince collaborations.
Sheena’s pop sound is brilliant though, and The Lover In Me, One Love, and No Deposit, No Return are all three great tracks that you should definitely try to put into your ears some time.
The album is a mixture, but it when it works, it really works.
- POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 4 / 5
- 1988 UK ALBUM CHART POSITION: #30
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.79 from a discogs.com seller.