Review: “Belinda” by Belinda Carlisle (CD, 1986)

Today’s POP RESCUE from an unknown future, is the 1986 debut solo album Belinda by American singer Belinda Carlisle. Will you be Mad About it, or is it lacking any Magic? Read on…

Belinda Carlisle - Belinda (1986) album cover
Belinda Carlisle’s 1986 debut solo album ‘Belinda’.

This 10 track album opens with lead single Mad About You. The track starts off with a nice bass and simple beat as synths and guitars come together into a foot-tappingly good rhythm. Whilst the track may well be quite an up-beat song with a hint of energy, Belinda feels a little be constrained in the chorus. For all of the singles on this album, none of them charted in the UK, except for this track, albeit 2 years later in 1988, when it scraped the UK charts at #67 amongst her huge hits from next album Heaven On Earth. Susanna Hoffs (of The Bangles) and fellow-Go-Go Jane Wielden can be found on backing vocals. Andy Taylor of Duran Duran provides a nice growly guitar solo about 2/3rds of the way through.

Next up is I Need A Disguise, which was co-written by Susanna Hoffs (and was originally intended to be one of The Bangles’ tracks). Again, this track has a nice up-beat feeling, and almost something of a whiff of 1960’s Motown style with the snares, piano, bass, and vocal harmonies. This is a nice little playful pop song.

A piano leads us into this slower ballad track – Since You’ve Gone. This track allows Belinda to show off her vocal diversity as it switches over to a much more familiar big-vocal sound that made Belinda famous a few years later. Go-Gos bandmate Charlotte Caffey is on songwriting duties here, alongside Fleetwood Mac vocalist Lindsey Buckingham. This is a heavier but emphatic rock ballad, complete with soaring strings, that really stand alongside Belinda’s more powerful notes. This stood as the album’s fourth and final single, and it’s a lovely track.

This is followed by second single I Feel The Magic, and you might be forgiven for assuming this is a Christmas song, given then use of sleigh bells, and lyrical mentions of ‘angel’ and ‘magic’, but never ‘Christmas’. It races along, complete with a ton of saxophone and trumpets, and a warm wave of vocal harmonies. This track is another here to reek of 1960’s Motown musical cues. A delightfully catchy song!

That’s followed by I Never Wanted A Rich Man, which lands us into a mid-tempo piano and country-styled ballad. Belinda delivers the song seemingly effortlessly whilst the guitar-laden track wafts along in the background. There’s some more of Belinda’s powerful rock-pop vocals here, supported by yet more delightful vocal harmonies. The track served as a b-side to Mad About You, and I think that it wouldn’t have worked as a single in its own right.

Belinda turns to a cover of the Freda Payne hit Band Of Gold, and this was the album’s third single. The track bursts in before Belinda goes straight into the very familiar disco-styled song. Belinda’s vocals aren’t quite as suited to this track as Freda’s, with Belinda’s vocals being buried a bit, but it’s a fun little cover of a well known song, but it feels like it loses its way in the second half and subtly heads to the fade. Sadly, despite it’s notoriety, the track didn’t touch the UK chart.

Chugging guitars of Gotta Get To You give us another glimpse of that amazing voice of Belinda’s, in this her only credit as a songwriter. The chorus gives us those roaring vocals that we’re familiar with, alongside some great electric guitars and backing vocals. A saxophone solo hops in alongside the guitars to lead us to the face-off, but returns us to Belinda’s rich and controlled vocals of the verse. The guitars roar in this song, and it’s great to hear a heavier track here.

From The Heart is next, and this is a nice-enough simple guitar pop-rock song, although it is notable for an amazing vocal high towards the end, which I assume was Belinda, although it’s played as a backing vocal.

We’re into synth pop for next song Shot In The Dark, with lots of percussion and synths. Some guitars drop in too, alongside a scattering of Caribbean sounding steel drums (via a synth). Belinda races through this song with great ease as the synths gurgle and brood around her. The mixture of sounds here work well, and give us something new, that I can’t say I’ve noticed from Belinda since. It works well.

The album closes with some emphatic strings and piano of Stuff And Nonsense. Belinda gets to show off her softer ballad vocals alongside the piano. She sounds superb here in this heartfelt song. She’s joined by a bass and simple sound effect, then a string section as the song grows, but all the time this song is Belinda’s vocals that are the centre of attention – and rightly so. About halfway through the beat drops in and the song comes together, with strings, and brass arriving to build the song up nicely.

Belinda Carlisle’s lead single ‘Mad About You’.

Verdict

Over all, this album is a great pop-rock album, and one that is packed with music royalty from Belinda’s Go-Go’s bandmates, The Bangles, Duran Duran, all present and correct to help launch her solo career.

The album has some great energetic tracks that pitch Belinda against guitars and allow us to be teased by those powerful vocals that we know she’ll deliver in abundance in her next album. The album also allows us to hear her rich vocals too, with plenty of slow numbers (Stuff And Nonsense is a great example here), and some glorious 60’s sounding harmonies.

High points are definitely Since You’ve Gone, I Feel The Magic, and I Need A Disguise, as these all show off Belinda perfectly. There are some lower points though, with the Band Of Gold Freda Payne cover being a nice inclusion but lacking anything that really gives it a Carlisle mark, and From The Heart simply being a bit dull.

William Orbit is lurking on remixing duties for this album, and whilst there are synths scattered throughout the album, his trademark style found in Madonna‘s Ray Of Light and All Saints‘ later work is not yet developed here.

All in all, it’s a great little album, and the perfect foundation for the new solo Belinda.

Rated 4 stars - You're missing a treat!
  • POP RESCUE 2022 RATING: 4 / 5
  • 1986 UK CHART PEAK: Didn’t chart in the UK.
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from an Age UK store.

Based on all of the Belinda Carlisle albums we have reviewed, we are able to calculate her average album score of 4.0 out of 5.

Average album rating 4.0/5

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