Review: “On My Own” by Anita Dobson (Vinyl, 1986)

Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain fate, is the 1986 album On My Own by former-EastEnders star, stage actress, and singer, Anita Dobson. Is this worth a celebratory drink down The Vic, or is it worth a shock divorce? Read on…

Anita Dobson - On My Own (1986) album cover
Anita Dobson – On My Own (1986) album

The album opens with Intro: The EastEnders Theme (Instrumental), and therefore one of the oddest inclusions on this album, and weirdest opening tracks. Anita Dobson is most famous for playing the role of Angie Watts in EastEnders during the 1980s, a role that gave her a huge hit with the song Anyone Can Fall In Love, which she sang to the theme of EastEnders – THIS. VERY. SONG. This album is clearly on the tails of her huge hit success in the charts and on TV screens, so why would you put a cheap knock-off keyboard instrumental demo version of it, that sounds like a novelty doorbell at times, as the opening track to the hit singer’s album? This almost feels like an insult to Anita – it makes no sense, and even my record player objected to it, by jumping a few times in this song. WTF.

Next up is On Broadway. This is a paint-by-numbers stage show go-to song. Again, the cheap sounding keyboard is there at the start. Anita’s vocals do sound at home here – she is a stage actress – and thankfully the track grows as guitars and backing vocals join in. Eventually strings arrive, and Mr Obligatory 80s Saxophone arrives for a solo part way through. I hate the song, but this is an alright version.

The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face follows this, opening with acoustic guitar and piano. Again, Anita’s vocals sound quite constrained, and I wonder if it’s the stage training of projecting a voice that’s playing a role here. It’s just lacking emotion in what is meant to be an emotional song. The string section makes up for it, but it’s mostly a boring song regardless of who covers it.

Seeing Arthur’s Theme listed here feels like an amusing nod to her EastEnder’s character’s neighbour Arthur Fowler. Saxophone and strings lead us into this and Anita’s vocals sound like they fit fairly well. As the song grows and the backing vocals (Anita, and album producer Tony Britten) join in, it just lifts the lead vocals enough to make it a nice track.

That’s followed by Suddenly which has an irony in its title, as it’s fairly much a continuation of the previous style – nothing unexpected about it. The musicians are great here, but sadly it’s quite a bland track, leaving little appeal.

The tempo jumps up fo When Will I See You Again, and there’s oodles of bouncy bass guitar and brass. Sadly, Anita’s lower register approach drags it down a bit and it jars a bit. There’s a wonderfully funky mid-section but even that doesn’t succeed in waking Anita from her trough.

Some lonely brass (horn? trombone?) opens Don’t Cry Out Loud – yet another ballad. Anita remains in the lower key in the verse, but thankfully rise up for the chorus which adds a glimmer of life to the song. It’s not enough, and the song is just somewhat boring.

Side two opens with single and title track On My Own, but this failed to chart (which had artwork that weirdly looked almost identical to this album). The track does build up nicely with the orchestra, and Anita’s vocals start off well. However, this plodder sounds just too much like a projected stage song, and it misses the spot.

Let It Grow is next, and the song does grow when the backing vocals kick in – it gives Anita something to work with and off of, and I think this is what has been missing on this album. The bass and brass once again put in a good show, with a few keyboard notes thrown in, but the vocals are again so low in the verse that it’s just a bit flat.

A cover of The Righteous Brothers’ hit You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ follows this, and musically this is by far the most up-beat pop version I’ve ever heard of this song. The vocals remind me of someone singing in a shower but not too loud that the neighbours might notice. I think that this track could have really worked with a different vocalist on it.

Summertime follows this, and actually Anita’s vocals work wonderfully here. The song is sung often with a low register vocal, and so here it works a treat. The vocals, like the song, waft around, and Anita’s vocal control in this song is spot on.

Next up is what I think is the first of two originals – All In The Air – written by the album’s keyboardist and producer Tony Britten. This track feels like a pop song, and a very 1980’s one at that – it’s a nice song, but Anita is not a pop star, she’s a stage actress, and therefore it sadly sounds a bit forced. With another artist, i’m sure it would have been better.

The penultimate track is another Tony Britten original – Crossed The Bridge – and we’re safely back in ballad territory again. This allows Anita to click back into her careful vocal stage style, but sadly leaves you with a dull plodder.

The album closes with You Can’t Hurry Love, which as with the original, and the later Phil Collins cover, it’s impossible to not be upbeat. A flurry of drums lead us into this song, and it instantly has a fairly catchy pop style. Anita’s vocals are stylised, but thankfully not low, allowing us to hear a tiny glimmer of 1960’s style in this final track.

Anita Dobson’s hit ‘Anyone Can Fall In Love’ on Top Of The Pops, 1986.

Verdict

This album falls down, mostly for two reasons; 1) where the Hell is the actual hit single instead of the cheap rip-off instrumental version that Anita doesn’t even sing on? and 2) The songs are mostly sung in a show tune/theatrical manner.

To her credit, Anita’s long career in the West End theatres as an actress, makes sense that this is the style that she may turn to when singing, but here on a record, it jars. It’s not the soundtrack to a show, there’s no stage to project from, it’s 12 inches of vinyl, and I think that this made it a huge challenge to sing more relaxed and looser than she’s used to.

The musicians are mostly bang on – and with another artist, and a few track swaps, this album could have been quite enjoyable. Instead, it’s just quite awkward.

That said, the highlights were Summertime and All In The Air.

Rated 2 stars - A tough listen!
  • POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 2 / 5
  • 1986 UK CHART PEAK POSITION: Did not chart.
  • POP RESCUE COST: £0 – given.

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