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Bananarama – Pop Life – Classic Pop Magazine

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Bananarama: Pop Life was meant to be a new start for the band after the departure of Siobhan Fahey, except the group’s fifth album failed to crack the Top 40… By Jon O’Brien

Bananarama Pop Life album

It’s clear 1991 was a transitional year for the Stock Aitken Waterman elite. Kylie Minogue laid the groundwork for her mid-decade indie phase by taking more creative control on Let’s Get To It. Rick Astley made a bid for serious singer-songwriter credibility with Free. And shortly before entering his hellraising phase, Jason Donovan ventured into the rock’n’roll world of, erm, Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals.

Yet the most convincing, and unfairly overlooked, change in musical direction from the PWL stable appeared courtesy of a group in a continuous state of flux. 

Bananarama’s decision to put all their eggs in the SAW basket on 1987’s Wow! had undoubtedly reaped its rewards. It’s their only album to spawn four consecutive UK Top 20 hits, reach No.1 (in Australia) and receive BRIT Awards recognition.

Making Bananarama: Pop Life

Of course, this unprecedented success also came at a cost. Disillusioned with the Hit Factory’s production line approach, Siobhan Fahey left to become the gothic foil to Marcella Detroit’s angelic soprano in Shakespears Sister. 

Rather than throw in the towel, Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward instead regrouped, invited Jacquie O’Sullivan of rockabilly revivalists the Shillelagh Sisters to join the fold and, after a successful compilation and inaugural world tour, hit the studio for album number five.

However, the session results with their previous hitmakers, and Lipps Inc’s David Z, were largely deemed to be sub-par. Enter the unlikeliest of saviours.

The former bassist of post-punks Killing Joke, co-founder of IDM maestros The Orb and future producer of pretty much every other band in the post-Britpop era, Youth (aka Martin Glover) wasn’t the most obvious choice to guide Pop Life, Bananarama Version 2.0’s first, and last, LP. Nevertheless, it proved to be an inspired appointment.

“Unlike the fast pace of PWL, Youth gave us as much time as we needed to play around with ideas and fully immerse ourselves in the process,” Dallin recalled in their memoir Really Saying Something.

Play around she and Woodward certainly did (O’Sullivan’s input was confined to the vocal booth), raiding the producer’s state-of-the-art bank of samples and loops on a collection of tracks bursting with invention.

Take lead single Only Your Love, for example, which borrows from Primal Scream, The Stone Roses and The Rolling Stones, not to mention James Brown’s ubiquitous Funky Drummer, for an anthemic homage to the Madchester scene.

Its underperforming chart peak of No.27 in the summer of 1990 may have sounded alarm bells at London Records but undeterred, the girls thankfully continued to persevere with this new maximalist approach. Opening with a burst of crowd noise, Outta Sight combines skittering breakbeats with the kind of psychedelic rock riffs that

Lenny Kravitz built his career on, while Megalomaniac is an experimental six-minute whirlwind of slinky Prince-esque guitars, shimmering techno and industrial funk. Even the album’s most languorous moment, the Dubstar-meets-Ace Of Base reggae pop of What Colour R The Skies Where U Live, can’t resist throwing in sound effects of seagulls and crashing waves. 

And forget their Hi-NRG take on Shocking Blue’s flower power favourite Venus. The trio’s treatment of The Doobie Brothers’ Long Train Running – which they spotted while rifling through Youth’s record collection – is even more radical.

Also boasting Sunshine On A Rainy Day hitmaker Zoë, Heaven 17 backing vocalist Carol Kenyon and Gipsy Kings (performing under pseudonym of Alma de Noche), the 70s country rock hit is revamped as a techno-flamenco banger. 

Then there’s the album’s standout, Tripping On Your Love, a joyful amalgamation of acid house, hip-hop, ragga and Asian pop later remixed by everyone from Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley to none other than George Michael. The fact that it missed the Top 75 altogether must rank as one of the biggest chart injustices of the early 90s. 

In fact, Pop Life as a whole was largely met with a resounding shrug by the general public, only peaking at No.42 in May 1991 (although this still remained Bananarama’s highest entry until 2019’s In Stereo). 

Perhaps the new lineup had simply waited too long to make their mark – it hit shelves three years after O’Sullivan took over from Fahey, after all. Maybe the latter’s new project overshadowed her old. Or it could be that they simply succumbed to the curse of the Greatest Hits?

Read our Bananarama interview here

Bananarama themselves didn’t seem entirely confident about their new direction either, with two numbers from their abandoned sessions making the final tracklist. The watered-down house pop of Ain’t No Cure and Heartless were certainly a cut above SAW’s efforts that year for Pat And Mick and The Twins, but feels at odds with much of the other material here.

The ‘Nanas delved even further back into the past on the ethereal Is Your Love Strong Enough, with the man who worked on their first three LPs returning as producer.

Steve Jolley’s contribution fits in better with Youth’s club culture leanings, combining the group’s famously nonchalant vocals with some dreamy synths and chillout beats. Yet you still wish they’d been courageous enough to completely go for broke. 

Nevertheless, Pop Life’s standing within Bananarama’s 40-year discography has only continued to grow. In the duo’s autobiography, Woodward reveals it’s one of the albums she’s most proud of.

And opener Preacher Man, their final Top 20 single until 2005’s surprise hit Move In My Direction, was the only post-Fahey track that appeared on the setlists of their triumphant reunion tour.  

You can also see its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink DNA in Xenomania’s production style, particularly their work with Girls Aloud (coincidentally, Hillary Shaw – who would later take on the Popstars: The Rivals winners – left her role as Bananarama manager shortly after Pop Life’s release).  

It’s slightly ironic, therefore, that Bananarama delivered their most ambitious album having just lost a member who’d felt the group were stuck in a creative rut.

Fahey might not have appreciated Wow!’s well-worn formula but she’d surely have been more accepting of a record that was bold, brave and – to reference one of Youth’s many musical endeavours – brilliant. 

Check out Bananarama’s website

Read more: Bananarama Superfan – Normski

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Listen to “Still Think About You” by thisisNAMASTE

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The last time I featured thisisNAMASTE on the blog, the track I spoke about, “I Like Your Face“, got a play on the reality TV show Love Island UK. Which was a pretty, awesome thing to happen. And so lovely for Natasha Marie Stewart (AKA thisisNAMASTE) to receive this kind of recognition. It just goes to prove how relatable her lyrics are and that she hits the right vibes with a pop audience that spans all ages. In follow up, as summer finally kicks in. She is out with another glorious, shimmery bop. Come rain or shine, “Still Think About You” provides the taste of Summer in song form. Delivered by a joyous, uplifting melody and thisisNAMASTE’s straight-up glowing vocals.

The lyrics are self-explanatory on this new banger. It is a break-up song of sorts steered by lyrics that spin on a positive axis. “We said forever, but I’m thankful we’re done. Now I’m number one” she sings. While further issuing a bolder statement. “Boy, don’t get it confused, now your gone, yeah, I’m thriving, no point in denying I still think about you.”

Listen on Apple Music

Another way of looking at the track is that it also celebrates new beginnings. But that’s just the way of thisisNAMASTE’s open and honest pop brilliance. She goes out of her way to empower through her lyrics. Giving us much to take on board and be optimistic about set to a glittery pop beat. “Still Think About You” is a must-have track on your summer playlist. So catchy, melodically led, pop perfection. In fact, she has now amassed a plentiful supply of beautifully crafted songs where each one directs us with ease to become addicted to the repeat button.

Still Think About You” continues to solidify thisisNAMASTE’s presence in the pop realm. In that, I know who to come to when I have cravings for super catchy and accessible pop. thisisNAMASTE always sees me right.

Connect with thisisNAMASTE
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thisisnamaste
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thisisNAMASTE
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thisisnamaste/





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‘Lost’ Donna Summer song drops ahead of new remix album

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I’m A Rainbow: Recovered & Recoloured
I’m A Rainbow: Recovered & Recoloured

The late Donna Summer is back with a new track from her hotly-anticipated next album.

The song, You To Me (Oliver Nelson Remix), is the second single to be taken from I’m A Rainbow – Recovered & Recoloured, a 10-track album which completely re-imagines Donna Summer’s ‘lost’ 1981 LP I’m A Rainbow mixed by a host of international producers; Junior Vasquez, Le Flex, Figo Sound, Jean Tonique, Ladies On Mars and Oliver Nelson – who has just signed to Atlantic Records – have all added their touch. 

Forty years ago this September Donna Summer’s new album I’m A Rainbow, produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, was weeks away from being released. During 1981 the musical landscape was changing, production techniques were developing and Summer’s label wanted a more R&B-influenced album and took the decision to withdraw the album just before its release.

It languished in the Geffen vaults until it was eventually issued in 1996 as an 18-track CD with no fanfare at all.

Fast-forward to 2021 and I’m A Rainbow has received a fresh coat of paint. 

Album curator Michael Neidus on this second track to be taken from the album: “You To Me has always been my favourite song from the album but have always wondered how it would sound slightly more up-tempo. Whilst in Los Angeles in 2017, I kept hearing this cracking dance track over the poolside speakers. ; it was a remix by Swedish producer Oliver Nelson, of Habits (Stay High) by fellow-Swede Tove Lo.

“It had been a UK Top 10 hit but somehow I had completely missed it. I kept hearing Oliver’s remix, then discovered his other work and knew that I’d want him to work on a future project; You To Me just seemed the right track. He delivered a great version, respecting the original but adding new elements to it and giving it a little more pace. I suggested to remove the original intro and introduce a drum rise, which he did and it gave more impact to the start of the track, especially stylistically in a Love Unlimited vein. Within two seconds its warmth made it sound like an old and familiar friend.”

You To Me is available now with I’m A Rainbow – Recovered & Recoloured following on 8 October.

‘I’M A RAINBOW – RECOVERED & RECOLOURED’ 

CD TRACKLISTING 

I’m A Rainbow [Junior’s Shiny Rainbow Remix] 

I Believe (In You) [Figo Sound Version] – duet with Joe ‘Bean’ Esposito

Back Where You Belong [Jean Tonique Remix]

You To Me [Oliver Nelson Remix]

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina [Ladies On Mars “Buenos Aires” Remix]

Sweet Emotion [Le Flex Remix]

Brooklyn [Ladies On Mars “Child Of Rhythm” Remix]

Romeo [Ladies On Mars “Luv NRG” Remix]

Highway Runner [Ladies On Mars “Street Race” Remix]

Leave Me Alone [Ladies On Mars “Independence” Remix]

Brooklyn [Ladies On Mars “Child Of Rhythm” Remix-Radio Edit]

I Believe (In You) [Figo Sound Radio Version]

Highway Runner [Ladies On Mars “Street Race” Extended Mix]

Brooklyn [Ladies On Mars “Child Of Rhythm” Extended Remix]

Romeo [Ladies On Mars “Luv-NRG” Extended Remix]

 

LP TRACKLISTING 

SIDE ONE

I’m A Rainbow [Junior’s Shiny Rainbow Remix]

I Believe (In You) [Figo Sound Version] – duet with Joe ‘Bean’ Esposito

Back Where You Belong [Jean Tonique Remix]

You To Me [Oliver Nelson Remix]

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina [Ladies On Mars “Buenos Aires” Remix]

 

SIDE TWO

Sweet Emotion [Le Flex Remix]

Brooklyn [Ladies On Mars “Child Of Rhythm” Remix]

Romeo [Ladies On Mars “Luv NRG” Remix]

Highway Runner [Ladies On Mars “Street Race” Remix]

Leave Me Alone [Ladies On Mars “Independence” Remix] 

 

SIDE THREE

Brooklyn [Ladies On Mars “Child Of Rhythm” Remix-Radio Edit]

I Believe (In You) [Figo Sound Radio Version]

Highway Runner [Ladies On Mars “Street Race” Extended Mix]

 

SIDE FOUR

Brooklyn [Ladies On Mars “Child Of Rhythm” Extended Remix]

Romeo [Ladies On Mars “Luv-NRG” Extended Remix]

 

Donna Summer: Encore boxset review

 

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Watch “are you?” by zeph

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I have New Zealand singer-songwriter Thomston to thank for an early introduction to Maryland-based bedroom pop auteur zeph (Zephani Jong). She featured on Thomston’s recent, dreamy offering “Magnolia” (review here), providing a splash of liquid gold harmonies to the sonically driven piece. She is also the latest artist to be snapped up by Neon Gold Records as a part of their fantastic roster of artists and has released her first single on the label. The catchy and fresh alt-pop track “are you?” arrives ahead of her forthcoming debut EP slated for arrival in the Autumn.

Her vocals are shimmering and hypnotic, with a notable breeziness about them. The best way of describing her style is that it is really, quite indie-pop angelic. And she is into creating vibes from the ground up. The debut “are you?” is written, recorded, and produced by, Zeph herself. She also exudes some quirkiness, which I love to see in pop artists (in fact applies to people in general). I am, loving that quite a lot of quirkiness has spilt over into the music video also. It is sweet and adorable to watch and is making me want to jump into the screen to join her because it looks like Zeph had the best kind of fun making this Erik Rojas (Isaac Dunbar, Rich Brian, Jessie J) directed video.

Listen on Apple Music

The track endearingly broaches the topic of relationships. Does this guy still want to be with Zeph? If only he would quit the mind games. Speak up, reciprocate with some answers and not be so vague and distant, Zeph politely inquires.

Zeph has a voice that is sweet enough to charm. Yet her honest, straight to the point style of lyricism is her weapon of choice and the embodiment of her signature style. This is the winning formula that culminates in the whimsical banger “are you?“. Dive into this fiercely cute pop track now. I guarantee after just one listen, it will be in your head for the rest of the day.

Connect with Zeph
Twitter: https://twitter.com/zephanijong
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zephanijong/





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