Review: “Invitation To Party” by Rustie Lee (Vinyl, 1985)

Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate uncertain is the 1985 debut album Invitation To Party by British-Jamaican television presenter and singer, Rustie Lee. Will this album be a lot of laughs, or will you wish you were already in Barbados? Read on…

Rustie Lee - Invitation To Party (1985) album
Rustie Lee – Invitation To Party (1985) album

This 14 track LP bursts opens with Caribbean Party Time (Medley) – an energetic party sound, made up from sections of songs Caribbean Party Time, Yellow Bird, Linstead Market, Brown Girl In The Ring, Coconut Woman, The Banana Boat Song and Caribbean Party Time again. The underlying track is upbeat, loaded with whistles, keyboard brass stabs, and the over all track races along that it doesn’t feel possible to throw all those songs into the mix. Rustie blasts them out with seemingly great ease.

Next up is the album’s sole single Barbados, and this brings the tempo down slightly, giving us a nice relaxed version. Here Rustie’s vocals work really well during singing and more slightly comedic near-spoken segments. Sadly this single failed to chart, but it’s a really nice track, and Rustie laughing towards the end is a welcome addition. There’s a second female singer here as well, who takes on a fair amount of pacey lyrics too – but sadly she remains uncredited here on the album and on the single artworl. It’s also a challenge not to sing the Vengaboys’ 1990s hit alongside Rustie whilst listening to this.

Then it’s on to Bend Down, which is a fun track that makes me feel less depressed in this post-Christmas lull (when we’re reviewing this LP) of ‘bend down and roll your belly‘. Rustie’s strong vocal line commands the song, with the brass backing, racing percussion, backing vocalists, and bass obeying her lead.

A cover of the old 1966 Percy Sledge hit, When A Man Loves A Woman is next, and it has some nice 80’s synths that initially tease their presence at the start, before throwing in some hard chords. The intro leads you in with soft vocal harmonies before Rustie arrives, but doesn’t she doesn’t quite reach the notes that are needed for this song, but she puts in a good turn.

The Clapping Song follows that, a cover of the 1983 Belle Stars track. This gives us a kind of call and response type song between Rustie and the backing vocalists. This is backed by some hard snare-led beats, and a lead guitar that chugs in the background. Rustie then gives some dance move instructions, which sounds more like an excuse to get very tangled up.

Next is My Guy, and this track is off to a really nice start with the piano and bass, and this pretty much plods its way through the rest of the song. Rustie takes the mic and her vocal tone really sits as a nice contrast to the softer sound of the backing vocalists – perhaps think Sister Act soundtrack level.

Side One closes with a cover of Where Did My Our Love Go, and whilst Rustie sounds good here, the keyboards sound cheap, and more novelty record that they should for such a classic old Supremes song. Thankfully the backing vocalists turn up to soften the sound a bit, occasional brass tootles join in before joining in more towards the end alongside a harmonica, whilst Rustie bulldozes through this song with ease.

Side Two opens with a cover of My Toot Toot, a track that was proving a hit in 1985 already for Denise LaSalle. As expected, this song is as cheeky as it is bouncy. This track used to really irritate my late-aunt, much to the delight to my cousin and I when we’d sing it repeatedly as a child. Sadly it’s the LaSalle version we remembered rather than Rustie’s. Rustie’s delivery is spot on, and it suits her vocal style and power. The break down really works well, and the backing vocals deliver their vocals flawlessly. The track stood as the b-side to Barbados.

A cover of Len Barry’s 1965 hit 1-2-3 follows that, except that here it gets a really nice fresh sound with synths, and bass, without trying to match the 1960s sound. Rustie’s vocals again suit this song well, with her powerful voice matching the Len Barry approach. She’s flanked again by the backing vocalists, and a saxophone, resulting in a pretty decent track. This should have been a single.

Then it’s I Can’t Help Myself, a cover of The Four Tops hit. Unlike 1-2-3, this retains a 1960’s sound, and gives Rustie an easy walk in the park time on the microphone. Musically it’s really nice, simple, but lacking a little of that energy or uniqueness in its delivery.

Spanish Harlem is next, allowing for Rustie to show off her vocal range, whilst surrounded by intricate guitar work. Rustie does a decent job, but some of the notes are a little too low for her to hit. Still, the brass and backing vocal moments work really well, and this distracts you whilst Rustie works on the rest of the vocals.

Then it’s In The Shelter Of Your Arms (a Sammy Davis Jr cover), allowing Rustie to deliver a slow ballad track. Here she gets to show off a different type of vocal and whilst the song plods along, she does a great job to throw some soft and big notes around. The result is a really nice emotional song. Whilst the track was not released as a single, a promo sampler was issued in the UK.

Following that is Go Out And Get Some (Get It Out’cha System), a contrasting song that is really up-beat. Here Rustie delivers some defiant vocals befitting the lyrics. The ‘some’ is money, and Rustie’s commanding and booming voice really suits the tone of the song, and her harmonies with the brass, roaring guitars, and backing vocalists works a treat. This could have worked well as a single. Perfect!

The album closes with a return to Caribbean Party Time (Reprise), reminding us that Rustie is the host of this party album, and she invited you to enjoy it with her. The song jumps straight into the song, with a ton of percussion, those bursts of trumpets, and galloping through a quick reprise of the medley’s songs.

Rustie Lee’s debut single ‘Barbados’ from 1985.

Verdict

Over all, this album is perhaps more fascinating as a concept than it is musically engulfing.

That said, it is easy to dismiss this album as being novelty, but there are some really decent versions of songs here – with Barbados, 1-2-3, and Go Out And Get Some (Get It Out’cha System) leading the way, and In The Shelter Of Your Arms is a really nice song choice that acts as a nice showcase of Rustie’s tender vocals. You can tell that Rustie (or at least the marketing team) was taking the album at least fairly seriously.

A few tracks sound like they’ve been figuratively ‘phoned in’, like My Guy and I Can’t Help Myself, which are alright but lack a burst of Rustie energy and result in sounding a bit like Rustie went to a karaoke bar.

Sadly, the ‘free party hints from Rustie inside’ were not inside as promised by the label, so I will inevitably be a terrible host of my next party… but perhaps I could pop this LP on?

Rated 3 stars! It's a nice album.
  • POP RESCUE 2022 RATING: 3 / 5
  • 1985 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: Did not chart.
  • POP RESCUE COST: £4.50 from a Discogs.com seller.

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