Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is the 1988 debut album Mandy by British model and singer, Mandy Smith. Will this album trigger a Positive Reaction, or more of a Just Can’t Wait to turn it off? Read our review..
The album opens with Stay With Me Tonight, the electric guitars of Matt Aitken roaring away. The track soon finds a chugging rhythm with a simple pop beat. Mandy’s vocals are bright but sound double tracked here. That’s no bother though, as the tempo and energy continues right through, with a great guitar solo in the middle. This track is a wonderful start to the album, and perhaps should have been considered as a single.
Lead single I Just Can’t Wait is up next, and this is a very mellow little pop track. A magical set of tinkling bells lead us in, as we are met by a simple pop beat. Mandy’s vocals are light here, and highly reminiscent of some of Bananarama‘s 80’s tracks. The song steadily works its way through, breaking for a ‘I just can’t wait’ sampled mid section before Mandy throws in a spoken word section. It’s quite a nice little song but lacks a significant push that might have given it a burst of energy enough to make it more memorable. The UK record-buying public somewhat agreed, giving her debut single a lowly chart position of #91.
Victim Of Pleasure is next, and this was the album’s fourth and final single. The energy is pumping here with the bouncing bass line, and resembles the kind of sound that you’d expect from the PWL stable. It’s an awesome track! I could easily imagine Sonia or even Big Fun recording this, but Mandy makes a great job of it. Sadly though, it flopped at #93 in the UK singles chart.
That’s followed by Duel, and this is a lovely sounding, albeit entirely faithful, cover of the Propaganda hit from 1985. Musically it sounds wonderful, and Mandy makes light work of the vocals, including with some nice warm vocal harmonies. I wasn’t expecting this to be a cover.
Next it’s third single Boys And Girls and this is clearly a call out to her fans to ‘take control’. It’s quite a nice little bouncy pop song and it gave her a top ten hit in Switzerland and South Africa, a top 30 hit in Germany, but didn’t touch the UK chart. Once again, electric guitars roar away, and its joined by a lovely piano section too. I can just about imagine Sabrina singing this too.
Side One closes with Mandy’s Theme (I Just Can’t Wait) Part 1 (The Cool And Breezy Jazz Mix) and to be honest, I don’t really know why Mandy needed a theme, and why this is a mix on this album. I wouldn’t call it a ‘cool’ ‘breezy’ or ‘jazz’ mix as it’s laden with thumping bass drum machines, hand claps. The piano is quite nice though, and keeping with the ‘theme’ notion, the vocals are very minimal. I’d have left this off.
Side Two opens with If It Makes You Feel Good, and yes, yes it does. There’s a lovely bass line here in this mid-tempo pop song. Mandy’s breathy vocals return but they are well placed here. I’m reminded somewhat of Stefan Dennis’ hit Don’t It Make You Feel Good from the following year, and someone must have done a mash up of those two songs. It’s a great opener track to this second half.
Next up is Positive Reaction, the album’s second single, but despite its burst of energy, it failed to grasp that positive reaction from the UK, and it failed to enter the singles chart. The vocals here are again quite breathy, and I think that despite the musical energy, the vocals just weren’t matching it. Their higher register perhaps sounding a little too childlike. It’s a great song in itself though, and there are echoes of very early Madonna here.
Say It’s Love (Love House) follows that, and clearly this is where the emerging dance/house scene hops in. The track is laden with samples, and a bass line that reminds me somewhat of Michael Jackson’s 1987 hit Bad, which holds it all together. That said, it sounds really dated now.
Then it’s He’s My Boy which does have an almost Donna Summer I Feel Love vibe too it, mixed with Ottawan’s D.I.S.C.O. It’s an okay song, but the vocals are just not up to the job.
You’re Never Alone is next, and we’re in ballad zone. This track isn’t mentioned on the record sleeve, so I chased the title around as the record spun. The song is slow, and musically it is really nice to listen to, but vocally its weak. It almost fades out in boredom.
The album closes as Mandy’s Theme (I Just Can’t Wait) Part 2 (The Cool And Breezy Jazz Mix) fades in, seemingly mid-way back in on the previous Mandy’s Theme. This time, it seems to have gotten as far as a catchy bass line, and some lovely sounding piano. There’s more vocals here – the breathy ones again, but it works okay here amongst oodles of drum machines. It then slowly fades back out.
Over all, this album is a bit of a mixed bag. Pop production royalty is of all over this album though, with Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, Ian Curnow and Phil Harding on the controls. It is pretty evident who is on the dials as you listen and in theory this should have caused us to have quite a hit album on our hands, but Mandy’s vocals are just aren’t quite strong enough. This results in an album generally lacking energy and the catchiness that often comes with that. The additional mixes under the guise of Mandy’s Theme offer little extra value.
The highlights here are undoubtedly Victim Of Pleasure, Positive Reaction, and Stay With Me Tonight, but sadly the UK of 1988 didn’t agree. The final four songs of side two pretty much slide to a low point. When it’s good, it’s great. When it’s weak, it detracts.
Mandy’s success with her singles and this album was mostly overseas in European countries and South Africa. I don’t think that this was necessarily a mark on the quality of the album, more a mark of the attitude that the UK public had towards her as a controversial public figure.
The artwork is a bit disorientating, as the record sleeve’s track list does not reflect the order of the songs on the actual vinyl. It does at least state ‘consult label for correct sequence’, which I did whilst it spun around on my record player.
- POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1988 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: Did not chart.
- POP RESCUE COST: £4.40 from a Discogs.com seller.