Review: “Wilson Phillips” by Wilson Phillips (CD, 1990)

Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate unknown, is the 1990 eponymous album Wilson Phillips by American trio Wilson Phillips. Will this album have a Hold On you, or will it leave you wanting to be Released from its spell? Read on…

Wilson Phillips - Wilson Phillips (1990) album cover
Wilson Phillips – Wilson Phillips (1990) album

This 10 track CD opens with hit debut single Hold On, with its gentle percussion and electric piano intro. Carnie, Wendy, and Chynna share the vocals as the track leads into a pop rock track. It’s a fairly standard music track for the period, but the motivational lyrics and the vocals and harmonies from the group, set against the guitars, really does give its appeal. The tender moments, where it’s just the vocals alongside the piano, or just the beat are also wonderful, and shows off their vocals wonderfully. The song rightly gave them a #6 hit in the UK right at the start of 1990.

That’s followed by a burst of beautiful vocal harmonies in the intro of second single Release Me. We’re into heartfelt ballad, but despite the paint-by-numbers-American-love-ballad approach, the vocals here are wonderful. It’s a slow plodding track, but the track does build a bit with strummed guitars, further percussion, and a few synths thrown in. Despite the quality of vocals, the UK audience stepped back, allowing the song to stumble at #36 on the singles chart.

Next up is Impulsive, and to be honest, I would have liked this to have been stylistically different – befitting the impulsiveness that the lyrics ask for. But no. It’s another mid-tempo guitar pop rock plodder. Yes, the vocal harmonies are nice and warm, and the song has a slightly higher tempo than the two preceding tracks, but it’s fairly middle of the road. The track was the album’s 3rd single, and it stalled in the UK chart at #42.

Next To You (Someday I’ll Be) follows this, opening with some nice echoey ‘oh ee oh’ vocals which are an interesting hook throughout the track. There’s a ton of light percussive sounds and even some panpipes appear to be lurking in the mix too. Again, it’s a fairly middle of the road pop rock track, although there’s a nice electric guitar solo moment about 2/3rds of the way through. The ‘oh ee oh’ vocals keep the interest, giving the group a recurring vocal to harmonise with. It’s not until about 4m 10s that the vocals seem to start reaching up, before returning to safe ground as a synth brings the track to an end.

That’s followed by You’re In Love. Vocally this sounds really nice and warm, thanks to plenty of well placed vocal harmonies. There’s some weird vocal melody moments in the shift from verse-chorus-verse, but over all, this song sounds like a worthy companion to Hold On. Thankfully it did get released as the fourth single, but unfortunately it stalled in the UK at #29.

Over And Over is next, and this track teases a different synth and sampled vocals approach in the intro, this gives way though to another pop rock guitar and beat. The track is quite a plodder, and the vocals are a bit sparse in the verse and flat. That said, the ‘bah. bah. bah’ almost sampled sounding vocals, along with the harmonies, brings the track just enough interest to get you through the boring verses.

Then it’s on to A Reason To Believe, and whilst we have a wave of guitars here, it’s a dull plodder of a track, that needs an injection of vocal energy and range, and less of vocal drama. Instead that role is given over to the guitarist again. The piano has a busy time in this song.

The amusingly titled Ooh You’re Gold follows that (I imagined that being said in a thick Yorkshire accent when I read the title on the sleeve). This song is probably the bounciest and most pop-ish song on the album thanks to the up tempo beat, synths, and bass line. Close your eyes for a moment and you can almost imagine B*Witched doing this song. The breakdown near the end is quite nice, briefly showing off the vocals.

The even more amusingly titled Eyes Like Twins follows that, and this takes another stylistic turn, this time somewhat sinister. The vocals are low register, apart from the chorus which at times reminds me of ABBA with their wall-of-sound vocals. ‘We have eyes like twins. Where your last thought ends my next begins always’ goes the chorus. I’m not really sure what concept this song is trying to reach.

The album closes with The Dream Is Still Alive which fades in with some nice warm vocal harmonies as chugging guitars and a stadium beat kicks in. The track does have a bit of a lighter feel pop feel to it, and it seems to flow with ease. The song was also released as a single, but it didn’t touch the UK charts.

Wilson Phillips’ lead single Hold On (1990)

Verdict

Over all, this album has music royalty roots – with Carnie and Wendy being the daughters of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, and Chynna being the daughter of John and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas And The Papas.

Essentially, the album sits firmly in the M.O.R spot – there’s nothing awful here, and there’s nothing that’s going to get you out of your chair with excitement. It relies heavily on 1980’s pop rock tracks, and whilst the album would have been recorded in the very late 1980’s, it just feels like a hangover from about 1986.

Hold On, You’re In Love, and Ooh You’re Gold are the highlights here, the rest of the album is kind of ‘meh’ in a Dido way – it just meanders along, and if you’re not paying attention, you might not notice the track changing.

I wonder whether this was a case of three young women entering a studio filled with old men who played the type of music they enjoyed, and that actually Wilson Phillips might have been much more exciting and dynamic given the chance with a big pop album.

Glen Ballard has writing and production credits throughout, so it’s probably no surprise having listened to this to know that he co-wrote and produced Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill album.

Rated 3 stars! It's a nice album.
  • POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 3 / 5
  • 1990 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #7, certified Platinum by the BPI.
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.79 from an eBay seller.

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