Monday, November 28, 2011

2011: The QH Blend's Year In Music

Year-end retrospectives, to me, are integral to anyone working in the music critique and commentary. Collecting together what recordings "mattered" in the year can be a massive and joyful job. I've done this several times in print and here at The Blend. This time, I've attempted to make this list as varied as possible.

Many will ask why I chose to include certain albums and exclude others. For me, as it has always been, quality is the determining factor. Each album included here is the best 2011 had to offer and captured my attention. There were several records I wasn't able to retrieve in time for the deadline of this piece: Blondie (Panic of Girls), Common (The Dreamer/The Believer), Joe (The Good, The Bad, The Sexy), Beverley Knight (Soul U.K.), Mýa (K.I.S.S.), Meshell Ndegeocello (Weather), Seal (Soul 2), and Robin Thicke (Love After War). I'll gather the remaining 2011 releases early in 2012.

The only record that was purchased out of the 31 that didn't make the list is Jennifer Lopez's Love?. Excluding "Good Hit," "What Is (LOVE?)," and "Papi," Love? wasn't up to Lopez's standards. Check out my thoughts on Love? here. I've been creating my own music universe here since 2008 and this entry is the representation of everything I stand for when it comes to my "art," as it is. I hope that sharing this with you all gives you a doorway to that world.

2011 Selection #30
Tori Amos: Night of Hunters (Deutsche Grammophon)
Depending on how the individual views Amos, another concept record may elicit jeers or cheers. It's no contest to state that Tori Amos is the mistress of taking the obvious and transforming it into something beyond normal. Night of Hunters is no exception, see Tori Amos' website for a detailed dissertation on the plot of this album. Hunters is a classical recording presenting her pianist gifts as heard on "Carry."

2011 Selection #29
Lupe Fiasco: L.A.S.E.R.S. (Atlantic)
You're forgiven for assuming Fiasco's best work is Food & Liquor (2006). The Cool (2007) wasn't a complete sophomore slump, but it aimed too high. L.A.S.E.R.S. ("Love Always Shine Everytime Remember (2) Smile") is the weakest of the Fiasco trilogy, yet it generated immediate Lupe Fiasco familiars: "Words I Never Said," "Till I Get There," and "All Black Everything."

2011 Selection #28
Chris Isaak: Beyond the Sun (Wicked Game/Vanguard)*
Chris Isaak loves rock 'n' roll and like his older records Beyond the Sun proves his devotion to the craft. Isaak has earned enough clout in his career to record this covers project. Created at the legendary Sun Records Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, the LP doesn't present Isaak in a new light and isn't meant to. The pulse on Sun is about romantic reverence. Hearing Isaak’s voice give and receive “the classics” brings him and his fans full circle.

2011 Selection #27
Mary J. Blige: My Life II: The Journey Continues (Act 1) (Geffen)*
The first mistake with Blige's 10th album is naming it after her second record My Life (1994). My Life was an album that should stand alone in Blige's backlog. To reference My Life means the new LP will be judged against that originator. While nothing on My Life II comes close to My Life, it's an enjoyable continuation of Blige's modern soul. My Life II clues to Blige heading into bolder territories as heard on her nu-disco cover of Rufus' "Ain't Nobody."

2011 Selection #26
Chris Brown: F.A.M.E. (Jive)*
F.A.M.E. is a transitional assembly forecasting what Brown's next record requires to succeed and what will hold him back. Amid the rabble of several unnecessary guest spots and unfriendly hip-hop bluffs, there are songs to sing. Modish interpretations of dance music on "Yeah 3x," "Oh My Love," and "Say It With Me" announce a Michael Jackson-esque expansion. With a little more reliance on quality versus quantity, Brown's stake to be a legend in his own right is closer to reality than he may suspect.

2011 Selection #25
Stevie Nicks: In Your Dreams (Reprise)
Nicks has entered that space of "legend" status affording her the luxury of coasting. In Your Dreams isn't jumping up and down with new things to give, but exemplifies what makes Stevie Nicks great. Dave Stewart (one half of the Eurythmics) produces broad, rock-pop songs that bear obvious heart tugging lyrics delivered by Nicks' witchy voice. As it is, Nicks' new album is a welcome return from one of rock's most beloved treasures.

2011 Selection #24
Jill Scott: The Light of the Sun (Warner Bros.)*
Switching to a higher key in her sexual frequencies lastly occupied on The Real Thing: Words & Sounds, Vol. 3 (2007), Scott's fourth record is a brighter, humid affair. Scott's voice is her best asset, it gets low, it swoons, and it can holler and growl. The music is urbane and funky, if dancing on the edge of boring. Only on the "All Cried Out Redux" with Doug E. Fresh, featuring a ragtime flavored middle, does Scott break free.

2011 Selection #23
The Bangles: Sweetheart of the Sun (Waterfront)
Minus bassist Bangle Michael Steele, the remaining trio rock on. Co-produced by the ladies, Sweetheart is a love letter to their Paisley influences. Hoffs is still a knockout, "Under a Cloud" is gingery in its seduction. Not to be outdone, the Petersons give their own sugary leads on "Circles in the Sky" and "Mesmerized." Sweetheart of the Sun is no Doll Revolution (2003), but on its own feet it doesn't need to be.

2011 Selection #22
Roxette: Charm School (EMI)**
Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle are back and Charm School reflects their pop blend is ripe. Veering close to Crash! Boom! Bang! (1994) in its abundance of ballads, Roxette are wise to keep several fire cracker uptempos around to prevent monotony. The first single "She's Got Nothing On (But the Radio)," is cocky with its rapid, rubbery guitar lick. It's one of those great European pop moments that keep coming on this set.

2011 Selection #21
Joss Stone: LP1 (Stone'd/Surfdog)
Stone's walk to "creative freedom" continues to be a bumpy road. Freed from EMI, her former label, Stone's LP1 is her fifth and first independent outing. Appearing as producer for the second time on this list, Dave Stewart paired with Stone to generate guitar grinding blue-eyed soul on LP1. The "funk" is lowered a few decibels, giving a discernible amount of musical tension. Stone's sweet, molasses voice on "Drive All Night" makes it a late night radio killer.

2011 Selection #20
Lenny Kravitz: Black & White America (Roadrunner/Atlantic)*
Though fixable, Kravitz never completely rips off classic rock as many detractors state.
Up to this point, the closest Kravitz had come to courting the black sound directly was on sections of 5 (1998). On Black & White America, the Shuggie Otis throwback "Superlove" and its ilk coexist with familiar guitar-rock noisemakers in harmony. Length continues to plague Lenny Kravitz, but even with that Black & White America is far from a poor showing.

2011 Selection #19
Marsha Ambrosius: Late Nights & Early Mornings (J Records)
Half of the disassembled U.K. duo Floetry, Ambrosius' first solo recording was anticipated and doesn't disappoint. "I Hope She Cheats On You (With a Basketball Player)" is fierce, its bounce and bite threads on loan from contemporaries Chrisette Michele and Alicia Keys respectfully. More impressive is her dank and dark version of "Sour Times," originally created by trip-hoppers Portishead.

2011 Selection #18
The Sounds of Arrows: Voyage (Geffen/Labrador)**
 Oskar Gullstrand and Stefan Storm aren't pioneering the halls of electronic pop. Voyage compels in that it possesses youth. Arrows debut is soaked with excitement at putting their own hand print on anything established prior. Visit with the cinematic climber "Into the Clouds" and it becomes clear that Arrows are looking at this type of music at a different angle.

2011 Selection #17
k.d. lang: Sing It Loud (Nonesuch)*
Still a lang centerpiece Sing It Loud, her 11th album, have the lines separating hers torch and twang blurred. The songs "I Confess" and "Sugar Buzz" dwell within interlocked hands, lingering glances, and endless slow dances. The flickering title track shows off lang's unconquerable vocals. Sing It Loud isn't a departure, it's executed excellently so it doesn't have to break a sweat to seduce its listeners with its affable nature.

2011 Selection #16
Björk: Biophilia (Nonesuch)*
In jest, the title of Björk's eighth record could be "Bitch, I'm Björk!" to the forgetful if one considers her weight in  pop music visually and sonically. Biophilia is larger-than-life, in deluxe physical and iPad editions for the collector and media junkie. Just plain folks can cop the compact disc. Biophilia's main directive is highbrow pop. Grand and weird, Björk continues to be the apex where modern art and pop intersect.

2011 Selection #15
The Human League: Credo (Wall of Sound)**
Phillip, Susan, and Joann have reemerged 10 years after the cold steel of Secrets with Credo, their ninth affair. While synth-pop and electronic fads have come, gone, and come again The League continued to plow and rock the genres even when it wasn't chic to do so. Credo finds them at the height of their creative abilities, the LP is London nightlife made flesh.

2011 Selection #14
Lenka: Two (Epic)
Initially, Lenka may draw comparisons to the mild mannered Dido and Jem. Two, Lenka’s second album uncovers that she has plenty bark to separate her from the pack when she dons her "unaffected" voice. See "Heart Skips a Beat," "Everything At Once," and "You Will Be Mine." Musically, those mentioned pieces are knowledgeable interpretations of Motown, Broadway, and Euro-pop. An intelligent, pleasant pop miscellany describes Two.

2011 Selection #13
Van Hunt: What Were You Hoping For? (Godless-Hotspot)
With his third album What Were You Hoping For?, he dispels any neo-soul by burying his craft deep into snarling  funk and bits of muscular punk. The rhythm and blues side of Van Hunt is used sparingly, often to sweeten the rougher edges heard here. Forward thinking and unapologetic, Van Hunt's What Were You Hoping For? is black music at its inventive, ear bending best.

2011 Selection #12
Ricky Martin: Música + Alma + Sexo (Sony)*
Is it in poor taste to completely single out Mr. Martin's sexual orientation confessional as the moment he became a true artist? Maybe, but it's hard to comment that his work before he came out, congenial as it was, was truly memorable. His recent album Música + Alma + Sexo is a  force of nature that embodies liberation, sexiness, and confidence, with no chaser.

2011 Selection #11
Les Nubians: Nü Revolution (Shanachie)
Parisian sisters Hélène and Célia Faussart don't release music in a steady stream, so original music must be cherished when dropped.
The junior effort continues with the bilingual pace that One Step Forward (2003) started, but the grooves are a bit heavier on this adventure ("Afrodance","Nü Soul Makossa"). Breaking cultural barriers, Les Nubians newest long player will communicate directly to the rhythm in everyone.

2011 Selection #10
Mint Condition: 7... (Shanachie)*
The title of "the last R&B band" is honorable and its bearer, Mint Condition, deserves the moniker. 7... functions from a foundation of Minneapolis R&B, then adds a plethora of musical ideas to the pot. Somewhere between artistic freedom and comfort coasting, Mint Condition comes off as a tight knit band. They know what they want and how they want it to sound.

2011 Selection #9
Melanie C: The Sea (Red Girl)**
Anyone who has dismissed the Spice Girls as not having any lasting mark in popular music should be eating their words well done. Seventeen albums (group and solo) combined, Melanie C's fifth album continues her own musical legacy as well as that of her former group. The Sea is a triumph, the title track, similar to the grandeur of Katie Melua's "The Flood" from last year, is an aural juggernaut. Again, her staying power and that of her former group continues to matter in pop music.

2011 Selection #8
Rahsaan Patterson: Bleuphoria (Artistry Music)
After Wines & Spirits (2007), Patterson's R&B traveling continues on the thrilling, loose terrain of Bleuphoria. Romantic and conflicted, it isn't as dark as its predecessor was. The hypnosis of "Crazy (Baby)" or the starry rendition of The Flamingo's doo-wooper "I Only Have Eyes For You" are jaw dropping.

2011 Selection #7
Sophie Ellis-Bextor: Make a Scene (EBGB)**
Soldiering past a staggering three year delay, La Bextor's fourth opus finally saw light in 2011. Sleeker, harder, and faster than her last three albums, Make a Scene is frenzy on wax. Bextor pulls from Róisín Murphy, ABBA, Donna Summer, and Kylie Minogue without sacrificing what makes her work distinctly her own, that British tea stained wonder (her voice).

2011 Selection #6
Duran Duran: All You Need is Now (Tape Modern/S-Curve)*
The gentleman are back again, though they've never really left, so leave the comeback claptrap at the door. There are surface level winners and other diamonds in the trenches that will be found upon exploration from the listener. A true treat for long timers and the new, curious fans they've sparked interest in.

2011 Selection #5
Gloria Estefan: Miss Little Havana (Crescent Moon/Verve Forecast)*
What to do when you've come to the realization you've done everything? Spanning decades, Gloria Estefan faced this query and embraced it by looking back and forward on Miss Little Havana. Her second album of dance charged fare following gloria! (1998), Estefan's producing partnership with Neptune Pharrell Williams is savoir faire.

2011 Selection #4
Vanessa Carlton: Rabbits on the Run (Razor & Tie)
Vanessa Carlton's Rabbits on the Run continues building on her honeycombed pop. Bigger than Heroes & Thieves (2007) in the way it unravels to the attentive. Carlton sets Rabbits apart by letting her voice and piano skim softly along detachment here creating a haunting effect.

2011 Selection #3
Joy Denalane: Maureen (Nesola)**
Four years after her second album Born & Raised (2006), and first in English, German soulbird Joy Denalane has returned with Maureen. The title comes from Denalane’s middle name. Languages aside, Maureen overflows with flowery ballads, sample-led midtempos, and a few funk throw-downs. Maureen communes with anyone willing to listen to her song, German and non-German speakers alike.

2011 Selection #2
Will Young: Echoes (XIX/RCA/Sony)**
The first to win Britain's Pop Idol in 2002, Will Young has worked hard to reach the artistic home run of Echoes. Young's ear is keen for sharp, adult contemporary pop channeled through electronic sophistication. Echoes puts Young at its focal point. Tailored, but not streamlined, Echoes is a sexy, emotional affair that will age well.

2011 Selection #1
Nikki Jean: Pennies In a Jar (S-Curve)
Bob Dylan. Carly Simon. Thom Bell. Jimmy Webb. Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Lamont Dozier. Just a sampling of the talent brought together to co-write with Nikki Jean on her debut. Attempts at such lofty partnerships have been tried, but never on this level has it been so successful. Occupying country-hip-hop and Philly R&B, Jean embodies the changeability of pop without shortchanging the sincerity of soul.

[Editor's Note: *-Denotes that the album has an "expanded edition" or is "retailer specific" in where it can be purchased. Please see the official websites of these artists for details. **-Denotes that the album is only available as an import and not a domestic U.S. release. Special Thanks: As stated, this article was a lot of work. I could not have accomplished it without the tireless efforts of several key people: Andrew Bird, Darren Spence, Justin Daniel, and Frank Coleman. I may select and listen to the music, write the piece, but these guys helped make the piece beautiful with their contributions of the art. Thank you all so much. Special thanks to Thomas Del Pozo for his recommendation of The Sound of Arrows.-QH]

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stepping Back & Forward with Steps

I've rediscovered my love of Steps, a popular British quintet prominent from 1997 through 2001. 2011 heralded a reunion for Steps after a rupture in the group 10 years previously this December.

Soaring back into the British public consciousness on the back of a documentary detailing their mended fences, Steps has topped the U.K. album charts (digitally and physically) with their Ultimate Collection. The companion tour, already selling out, is making this reunion a fantastic realization for longtime fans. A new album might even be in the works.

My initial exposure to Steps was, and is, owed to my love of the Spice Girls. The Spice Girls, another United Kingdom export, were worlds away from the pre-fab pep pop Steps favored. What the Spice Girls did was open my ears to the international music scenes and that allowed me to find Steps in the spring of 2000.

Beating the pre-fab explosion that stole the U.S. by two years, Steps racked up the requisite silver, gold, platinum sales and nothing less than Top 20 chart placements at home. Lee Latchford-Evans, Ian "H" Watkins, Lisa Scott-Lee, Claire Richards, and Faye Tozer were conceptualized by Tim Byrne, Steve Crosby, and Barry Upton, movers and shakers within the U.K. popular music sphere.

Later, Pete Waterman, a former third of the production trio Stock-Aitken-Waterman, became involved in the songwriting and production duties for Steps. Waterman, with his S.A.W. peers defined pop music in England, Europe, Australia, and Asia from the late '80's through the early '90's. America caught the S.A.W. bug as well, but not as feverishly as the previously mentioned locales. Steps drew their name from their dance choreography that accompanied every single they released, their music often based in varying European and British dance. However, they did have a longer reach in their singles and albums than a momentary listen suggested. What made Steps stand out was their harmonies, they could sing.

Some of the Steps songs haven't aged well ("5, 6, 7, 8" anyone?). The rest retain a golden gleam of well written, sweet appeal ("One for Sorrow," "After the Love Has Gone"). Their covers promptly showed that Steps added their own personality to classics by Bananarama ("Last Thing On My Mind"), The Bee Gees ("Tragedy"), Diana Ross ("Chain Reaction"), and Kylie Minogue ("Better the Devil You Know"). Steps attempted a shot at American success. Combining elements from Step One (1998) and Steptacular (1999), they prepped a composite U.S. edition of Step One which arrived in 2000. In spite of the lukewarm reception Steps got in the U.S., it was on their third album Buzz (2000) that Steps began shaking their pop foundations. New Musical Express critic Peter Robinson stated in his favorable review of Buzz (NME ranked it "8/10"):
Even more so than second albums, third albums are notoriously difficult in pop. For while a second album can lodge itself in the slipstream of all the excitement that comes with a debut, third albums are there to see bands "standing on their feet" and "proving themselves," and-call the police!-"taking a more mature direction' by "writing our own material."

Buzz, the first album I ever imported, is one of the finest pop records of its time. The disco resurrection of "Stomp," touted in the liner notes as a tribute to Chic members Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, was unapologetic in its flying groove. Songs like these are why I'm sold on British pop, they don't fret and fuss like Americans do over (supposedly) appearing old hat when getting into great period pieces. Elsewhere, Buzz held one song written by each Step. Claire's "Hand On Your Heart" and Lisa's "Never Get Over You" were gorgeous stand-outs. Additional highlights included their world music pull on "Paradise Lost," the mirror ball spinner "Learn to Love Again," and the DeBarge borrowed "Wouldn't Hurt So Bad."

Steps disbanded after their Gold Tour, their recent Steps: The Reunion documentary filled in the dots of what went wrong. In the interim of the break-up and reformation, the former Steps tried their hands at solo careers and personality driven entertainment engagements.

"It's the Way You Make Me Feel"
Directed By: David Amphlett

In the decade since their break-up much has changed. Performers like Steps, as they do, tend to be appreciated when they aren't as ubiquitous. Now their work is being crowned by former cynics. For me, a strange homecoming has taken place. I don't believe in the idea of the "guilty pleasure," at least in music anyway. Every artist has their place and the responsibility to be the best at what they do, no matter what anyone may think. Steps did that.

They spoke of a more innocent time in my life and those of their (now) adult fans. The Steps brand of pop, often heartfelt, fun, and sometimes corny I've discovered has its place among the other music I've found since I was 16. I am probably the only black 26-year-old Midwesterner checking for Steps to keep on truckin' in these pop barren days, but somehow it feels full circle.-QH

[Editor's Note: All of Steps discography is in print, the mass of it available via import. For more information on Steps visit: Steps Official.-QH]

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Supremes: 1970-1977

SUPREME: Highest in Rank or Authority, Highest in Degree & Quality, Ultimate, Final

The truth? It's assumed The Supremes, Motown's leading act, the eternal female vocal group blueprint, ceased to exist when Diana Ross departed in 1970.The real truth? The Supremes relaunched in 1970 to record and release 10 albums. Scuzzy revisionists usually tend to diminish the kaleidoscopic heights these incarnations of The Supremes scaled. To be fair, The Supremes weren't up against just historical rewriting, the times had changed in the 1970's. Competition from other up and coming black female groups, evolving tastes and their own revolving line-up provided challenges.

The latter tip, it should be stated, really was only a problem for the casual observer. Five women inherited the mantle of being a Supreme from 1970 through 1977. Mary Wilson was the sole original member to navigate each line-up from 1959 through 1977. Each woman who came into The Supremes brought a distinct color all their own. In the last decade, their works have finally gotten the spotlight they so richly deserve.

A series of epic reissues starting with The '70's Anthology (2002) led to This Is the Story: The '70s Albums, Vol. 1–1970–1973: The Jean Terrell Years (2006), Magnificent: The Complete Studio Duets (2009), and Let Yourself Go: The '70s Albums, Vol. 2–1974–1977: The Final Sessions (2011). All revived by the reissue imprint Hip-O-Select, The '70's Supremes have been allowed to tell their story, and what a tale it is. For those, and there are still many, unfamiliar with The '70's Supremes this overview will remedy that.

Right On
Released: April 1970
Produced By: Frank Wilson
Chart Placements: U.S. Pop #25, U.S. R&B #4, U.K. # (Did Not Chart)
Singles: "Up the Ladder to the Roof," "Everybody's Got the Right to Love"
Line-Up: Jean Terrell, Mary Wilson, Cindy Birdsong

After three years of running on empty, Right On was a glorious return to form and rebirth. The Supremes were a unit again and producer Frank Wilson made that a reality on record. Right On was seminal, as it was the first record without Diana Ross, announcing the arrival of Jean Terrell. Also important was that it  was the first studio recording to restore Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong to the fold after being supplanted by session singers The Andantes on the bulk of the D.R.A.T.S. (Diana Ross & The Supremes) album output. A pool of graceful soul and pop, Right On was luxurious. The ephemeral highs of the lead single "Up the Ladder to the Roof" immediately won over the wary. Deeper cuts such as "But I Love You More" and "The Loving Country" fulfilled further investment from the listeners. Back in business, three-part harmonies and all, Right On was a top to bottom victory for The Supremes.

"Up the Ladder to the Roof" & "Everybody's Got the Right to Love" Circa 1970

New Ways, But Love Stays
Released: October 1970
Produced By: Frank Wilson
Chart Placements: U.S. Pop #68, U.S. R&B #12, U.K. #(Did Not Chart)
Singles: "Stoned Love"
Line-Up: Jean Terrell, Mary Wilson, Cindy Birdsong

Frustratingly bold and limp, New Ways, But Love Stays was the rushed follow-up to Right On. Frank Wilson again steered the good ship Supremes sewing psychedelia into the soul-pop mix. The three-part, segued opener of "Together We Can Make Such Sweet Music," "Stoned Love," and "It's Time to Break Down" was a wall of auditory sensations. New Ways placed more emphasis to the distinct sounds of Terrell, Wilson, and Birdsong. They rolled on "Together," took to the gospel cosmos on "Stoned," and occupied majesty with "It's Time to Break Down." "Stoned Love," the biggest hit single for the '70's Supremes, was controversial in that many misread its call for "solid" or "stoned" love as a veiled drug reference. Performances on "Is There a Place (In His Heart For Me)" and the sunny "Shine On Me" were fantastic due to these songs being written for The Supremes. Majority of New Ways was constructed out of cover material, distributing an uneven quality. For every assured turn on Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" their were anemic takes on The Beatles "Come Together" or The Four Tops "I Wish I Were Your Mirror." A transitional piece, but with vocal prowess to spare, New Ways, But Love Stays was a rare misfire in the '70's Supremes discography.

"Stoned Love" Circa 1970

Released: June 1971
Produced By: Frank Wilson
Chart Placements: U.S. Pop #85, U.S. R&B #8, U.K. #40
Singles: "Nathan Jones," "Touch"
Line-Up: Jean Terrell, Mary Wilson, Cindy Birdsong

The first Supremes album to be reviewed, and favorably, by a then up and coming music magazine called Rolling Stone, was Touch. The last of the Frank Wilson trilogy, Touch was a monochromatic wonder, sonically speaking. It  was the first Supremes record to have a detectable atmosphere. The brisk "Nathan Jones," its verses and chorus sung in unison, sat next to the ringing "Love It Came To Me This Time." "Love" revealed Terrell's unaffected ability to read the feelings of the track in an astoundingly astute fashion. Leads from Birdsong and Wilson were becoming more prominent, in fact the titular cut and second single, had Wilson going toe-to-toe with Terrell. Her first commercial single release as a co-lead was spellbinding. Touch benefited from what New Ways, But Love Stays lacked: an abundance of original songs written for The Supremes. One cover, The 5th Dimension's "Time & Love," vibrantly tackled by The Supremes soared. Interestingly enough, Diana Ross also recorded a version for her eponymous solo debut, which remained vaulted until 2001. Dark and lovely, Touch was top shelf Supremes, age of its creation notwithstanding.

"Touch" (Audio & Still Photography Only)
*Performance clips from this period are rare, none were available at this time*

Floy Joy
Released: May 1972
Produced By: Smokey Robinson
Chart Placements: U.S. Pop #54, U.S. R&B #12, U.K. # (Did Not Chart)
Singles: "Floy Joy," "Automatically Sunshine," "Your Wonderful, Sweet Sweet Love"
Line-Up: Jean Terrell, Mary Wilson, Cindy Birdsong, Lynda Laurence

Motown alumni Smokey Robinson (of The Miracles) took duties for The Supremes fourth album of the '70's. Robinson's prior production past included a bulk of material The Supremes first released to mild fanfare. This took place before their hit streaking pairing with Holland-Dozier-Holland in '63. Robinson decided to guide The Supremes into joyful, but no less evocative, waters on Floy Joy. Girlish and playful, Floy Joy ended up as the aural equivalent of fresh cream. By now, Terrell, Wilson, and Birdsong had adhered to one another. Snappy on the title track (the larger hit on the LP) or low and groovy on "Now the Bitter, Now the Sweet" stated that The Supremes had established their own brand separate from their previous decade. Pictured on the album cover and present for all promotional performances, appearances, etc. was Lynda Laurence. Birdsong's voice is unmistakably heard on Floy Joy, but her impending pregnancy meant she departed The Supremes after the Floy Joy recordings wrapped. Laurence, a Wonderlove vocalist from the legendary backing troupe for Stevie Wonder, left with Wonder's blessing to become a Supreme. Floy Joy became the last successful album The Supremes knew, as Motown's support for them began its inexorable decline.

"Your Wonderful, Sweet Sweet Love" Circa 1972

The Supremes Produced and Arranged By Jimmy Webb
Released: November 1972
Produced By: Jimmy Webb, Deke Richards (on "I Guess I'll Miss the Man")
Chart Placements: U.S. Pop #129, U.S. R&B #27, U.K. # (Did Not Chart)
Singles: "I Guess I'll Miss the Man"
Line-Up: Jean Terrell, Mary Wilson, Lynda Laurence

Jimmy Webb touched The Supremes with his silk and lavender tones, giving Produced & Arranged an adult contemporary, if staid feel. Terrell was provided with fantastic songs like "5:30 Plane," "When Can Brown Begin," "Tossin' and Turnin'," and "Beyond Myself." Wilson shared the forlorn "I Keep It Hid," a solo number. Ballads were fast becoming Wilson's calling card and she almost exclusively handled them in the last three years of The Supremes lifespan. Oddly, the solitary single, from the play Pippin, "I Guess I'll Miss the Man" made minimal impact. It was also the only song on the record not produced by Webb, but Deke Richards. Richards was a popular Motown stable producer.

Produced & Arranged's notoriety increased by the fact that it was the first, and last, Supremes album to host Supreme Lynda Laurence. The commercial failure due to Motown's non-support on Produced & Arranged soured Terrell and Laurence on the label. Laurence's last ditch effort led to persuading her mentor Stevie Wonder to produce a single-only release for The Supremes. "Bad Weather" became popular with fans and R&B disc jockeys. Issued not long after Produced & Arranged had cooled the single stalled. It was the final curtain for Terrell and Laurence, both asked to be released from Motown. Mary Wilson, now alone, had to reconfigure the group who wouldn't have another record released for two years.

"I Guess I'll Miss the Man" Circa 1972

The Supremes
Released: May 1975
Produced By: Hal Davis, Mark Davis, Brian Holland, Clayton Ivey, Michael Lloyd, Terry Woodford, Greg Wright
Chart Placements: U.S. Pop #152, U.S. R&B #25, U.K. # (Did Not Chart)
Singles: "He's My Man," "Where Do I Go From Here?," "Early Morning Love"
Line-Up: Mary Wilson, Cindy Birdsong, Scherrie Payne

Two years of contractual struggles with Motown Records occurred before Produced & Arranged had a proper follow-up. New changes in music transpired. Vocal groups were even more en vogue, some of whom were rocking a sound known as disco. How would The Supremes factor into all of this? Mary Wilson returned with Supreme favorite Cindy Birdsong and the newest member, Ms. Scherrie Payne. Without missing a beat the eponymous sixth '70's Supremes LP glistened with a rebranding of their music. Tied with Produced & Arranged as their poppiest affair, unlike the formal restraint of that record, The Supremes courted a tactful, youthful exuberance. Sporting a plethora of production talent (see credits above), The Supremes were going to find a niche to get in and fit in.
A chunk 'o' funk, "He's My Man" was their first dance hit with dual leads from the dynamo Payne and Wilson. The post-coital ode in "Early Morning Love" evenly matched the diamante of "It's All Been Said Before," which showcased harmony acrobatics from all three Supremes. Many fans over the years have commented that the Birdsong, Payne, Wilson line-up came closest to the classic Ballard, Wilson, Ross salad days.

"Color My World Blue," another Payne knockout, seized her vitality superbly. Though that "vitality" sometimes got the best of her and her fellow Supremes, as heard on "This Is Why I Believe in You." The fun, but erroneous cut marred this otherwise stainless eponymous record. The sales slump continued from a mainstream market perspective, but The Supremes made the group visible in 1975. One genre in particular showed affection to The Supremes after this recording dropped: dance music.

"Early Morning Love" Circa 1975

High Energy
Released: April 1976
Produced By: Brian and Edward Holland, Jr.
Chart Placements: U.S. Pop #42, U.S. R&B #25, U.K. # (Did Not Chart)
Singles: "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking," "You're What's Missing in My Life"
Line-Up: Mary Wilson, Scherrie Payne, Susaye Green

"Out of adversity..." or so the saying goes. The sessions for High Energy had begun when Birdsong said her final goodbyes to The Supremes amid a growing turbulence within the group. Motown's lack of support, blatant by this point, was coupled with Wilson's troubled marriage to Pedro Ferrer. Ferrer assumed a managerial role of The Supremes, with catastrophic results. Despite all of this, High Energy became a definitive recording for The Supremes. In addition, High Energy played an integral role in the return of the prodigal sons, brothers Brian and Edward Holland, of Holland-Dozier-Holland fame. These two men helped make The Supremes the icons they were a decade prior. Parting with Motown over royalty disputes in 1967, they founded their own label Invictus. The Holland's returned to Motown with the bad blood washed away.

The Holland's mission with High Energy conceived to update The Supremes with the posh, orchestral brush strokes of disco and modern R&B. Joining Wilson and Payne was Susaye Green, the final Supreme to come aboard. Ms. Green, another Wonderlove vocalist, doubled as a songwriter. Upon stepping into The Supremes, she had just scored a hit penning Deniece Williams' "Free." Later, Green co-wrote Michael Jackson's "I Can't Help It" from Off the Wall (1979). It was Green's gargantuan octave range that charged the title track with a late-night sensuality. It went on to become a club classic without a commercial single release.

Brazen and feminist, "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking" graced the U.S. Pop Top 40, the last conventional hit they landed. Somewhere between the coquette and the lascivious, "Only You (Can Love Me Like You Love Me)" lived it up on record without a care. Wilson carried the end of the album, her angles bittersweet and husky on "Till the Boat Sails Away" and "Don't Let My Teardrops Bother You." Channeling her recent emotional upsets into "Teardrops," Wilson's poignancy enthralled. Start to finish, High Energy's case as another stunning entry into the 70's Supremes discography was hard to argue against.

"I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking" Circa 1976

Mary, Scherrie, & Susaye
Released: October 1976
Produced By: Brian and Edward Holland, Jr.
Chart Placements: U.S. Pop # (Did Not Chart), U.S. R&B # (Did Not Chart), U.K. # (Did Not Chart)
Singles: "You're My Driving Wheel," "Let Yourself Go," "Love, I Never Knew You Could Feel So Good," "Come Into My Life"
Line-Up: Mary Wilson, Scherrie Payne, Susaye Green

At the time of its release, The Supremes had become full-on dance music stars. The indifference from the pop and R&B charts hadn't dampened their spirits to create another foray toward the mirror ball realm. Unfortunately, Mary, Scherrie, & Susaye, the final Supremes long player, was more steam than heat. The ballads, while pretty, had become perfunctory. Great vehicles for Wilson's shadowy presence, they still were missing something. The uptempos had ceased to bend trends and saw The Supremes following them instead. "Love, I Never Knew You Could Feel So Good?" Too furious for its own good. "You're My Driving Wheel?" It orbited parody.

Thankfully, for every uneven number a few clear cut classics rose to the challenge. "Sweet Dream Machine," with its score-like arrangement looked back to the High Energy LP. The sci-fi Donna Summer glow of "Come Into My Life" was Green's best Supremes cut. A veritable production and vocal wonder. " I Don't Want to be Tied Down," a sassy tell-off, was unapologetic and abrasive, suggesting an even bolder direction for The Supremes. It was not to be. The Supremes finished without the "hit record" they'd been pining for. The final curtain fell on their last farewell show on June 12th, 1977 in London, England at the Drury Lane Theatre. Mary, Scherrie, & Susaye remains a perennial query of where The Supremes could have gone, given better circumstances.

"Come Into My Life" Circa 1977

The drama and tragedy of The Supremes overshadows their musical legacy more often than not. The unique epoch of these chapters in The Supremes history appeals because of the sheer excellence of the recorded product. Even with the heartache, Motown machinations, the quandary of cultural relevance, The Supremes delivered. The Supremes grew as women and the songs reflected those changes. Whether straddling soulful maturity during Jean Terrell's tenure or getting loose once Scherrie Payne touched down. Mentioning Terrell and Payne, Mary Wilson, Cindy Birdsong, Lynda Laurence, and Susaye Green evidenced that The Supremes never wanted for talent, having the most diverse clutch of female vocalists under one nom de guerre in popular music.

The ravenous '60's Supremes aficionados may see the '70's Supremes as only shades to their earlier incarnations. Again, the truth? The '70's Supremes existed on a completely different plane, looking to birth not just hit singles, but albums. Dedicated to the music, they never relinquished the glamor and sophistication that were hallmarks for The Supremes, regardless of the decade. The '70's Supremes were just the next step in the evolution of an iconic institution. That's their story and I'm sticking to it.-QH

[Editor's Note: At the time of this writing, The '70's Anthology (2002) and This Is the Story: The '70s Albums, Vol. 1–1970–1973: The Jean Terrell Years (2006) are physically out of print. The latter was a limited run edition. However, Magnificent: The Complete Studio Duets (2009), and Let Yourself Go: The '70s Albums, Vol. 2–1974–1977: The Final Sessions (2011) are still in print. All of these packages are available digitally via iTunes and Amazon. For more information on these remaster sets, visit]

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Jamiroquai's "Rock Dust Light Star" One Year Later

Funk and disco, R&B’s progeny, aren't to be mixed according to some. In truth, these styles rub shoulders often. Those schooled enough on black music will understand the phobic lines drawn in the sand regarding these genres are man made divisions, not musical.

Jason Cheetham, or Jay Kay, led his group Jamiroquai out of the acid jazz confines of Britain by being dashing enough to mix those genre offshoots of R&B. In the last 10 years, whispers of which elements factored into their sound most abounded. At the beginning Jamiroquai was much like their acid jazz cousin The Brand New Heavies, a band. Each member played a role in shaping classics like Emergency on Planet Earth (1993) and Return of the Space Cowboy (1995). Those records drew praise for their spontaneous organics. The creamy, dreamy disco strings kept to just a dollop didn't distract.

As Jamiroquai evolved, the group were relegated to elevated session player status. It reflected Jamiroquai's sound as they began moving toward concise structures that owed more to disco than funk improvisations. Granted, closer inspection showed Jamiroquai (like Earth, Wind & Fire before them) moved on the same track black music did when funk and disco merged during the mid-to-late-‘70’s. The funk didn't vanish, it just wasn't the only thing there anymore.

Released one year ago today Rock Dust Light Star (2010), their seventh album overall and first on Mercury Records, was met with high expectations. The ingenious craft that went into A Funk Odyssey (2001) and Dynamite (2005) peered at the hybrid of funk-disco with an electronic edge that was accessorial. Both projects had commercial clout but divided Jamiroquai’s fans.

Rock Dust Light Star sought to meet both sets of fans in the middle. Far too late to reverse their evolution, Jay Kay led another savvy pack of session players to create a subdued groove. That groove, ideally, would loop the group back to the echoes of their first two records. With his beguiling pipes, Kay breathed self-contemplation into “Blue Skies” and gave finger snappin' wit to “Lifeline.” “All Good in the Hood” fingered Kay as the done-wrong lover who cheered that “a little tension makes the world go round” when it came to love. Kay later drastically shifted into a Stevie Wonder romantic apologist on “Two Completely Different Things." When the tempo reached for adrenaline, it remained mannered on the lead single “White Knuckle Ride.” “She’s a Fast Persuader” proved gratifying to the Funk and Dynamite crowds. Glowing and cheeky, it was a brash nod to the fine art of fellatio, its night-streaked fevor should have been a single.

"Blue Skies"
Directed By: Howard Greenhalgh

Rock Dust Light Star had Jamiroquai comfortable enough to switch their styles when it suited them. The peaks of their first two records can’t be compared to Rock Dust Light Star because the fact is that they've become that good. Even the low key performances here are slick and accessible, in a good sense. Jamiroquai are contemporary and retro without any of the irony. It will be up to fans to accept that they started on “Planet Home,” but they've since traveled to a galaxy of funk-disco ecstasy far, far away. We’re just along for the ride. Five out of five stars.-QH

[Editor's Note: Rock Dust Light Star is available in all music retailers, in-store or online, that specialize in import materials. For more information on Jamirquai, visit:]

Friday, October 28, 2011

Kylie Minogue: 20 Greatest Singles '87-'10

An idea born out of boredom during a slow work day took an interesting change of direction. Listing favorite Kylie Minogue songs of mine became an almost impossible task.

The sheer boundlessness of Minogue's discography would fill a "Top 100" countdown easily. I wasn't quite ready for such a massive undertaking yet. Instead, I decided to draw from her singles well and narrow it to at least 20 favorites.

The timeliness of this random act couldn't have been better. Capping off the hugely successful Les Folies tour earlier this year stirred a feeling of appreciation. Looking back is something I always enjoy and when it comes to the "Pocket Venus of Pop," Ms. Minogue's hallowed halls are always fun to stroll down. There were some singles I'd have loved to include such as "Step Back in Time," "If You Were With Me Now," "Breathe," "Love At First Sight," "Red Blooded Woman," "In My Arms," "Better Than Today," etc. It does feel a bit endless. However, what I did pick evince Kylie Minogue's appetite of pop changeability. A quick reference note on the chart positions used. I  focused on two of her largest markets: England and Australia. While wildly popular in Asia and Europe, there was no room for every country in this exercise. I did include America for the singles that managed to chart here.

Selection Number 20: "Never Too Late"
Release Date: October 1989 (U.K., AU)
Written By: Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, Pete Waterman
Produced By: Stock, Aitken, & Waterman
Album: Enjoy Yourself (1989)
Chart Position: #4 (U.K.), #14 (AU)
Synopsis: Flashing into existence with a sparkling synth riff, an immediate melody carries the listener up, up, up into the pop heavens with a sing-a-long chorus.The beat is a bit more insistent on "Never Too Late," an unconscious shift in sound later to be mined fully on the following long player Rhythm of Love (1990). Purely joyful, this is accurate proof as to why Minogue's Stock-Aitken-Waterman years were pivotal in her career origin.

"Never Too Late"
Directed By: Pete Cornish

Selection Number 19: "I Should Be So Lucky"
Release Date: December 1987 (U.K., AU, U.S.A.)
Written By: Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, Pete Waterman
Produced By: Stock, Aitken, & Waterman
Album: Kylie (1987)
Chart Position: #1 (U.K.), #1 (AU), #28 (U.S.A)
Sypnosis: The lyrical signpost that trademarked the love worn laments majority of her Stock-Aitken-Waterman period material professed, "Lucky" is nothing short of brilliant. Deft, forthcoming, but vulnerable, Minogue's overall feel here is emotion wrapped in sugary hooks.

"I Should Be So Lucky"
Directed By: Chris Langman

Selection Number 18: "Giving You Up"
Release Date: March 2005 (U.K., AU)
Written By: Miranda Cooper, Brian Higgins, Tim Powell, Lisa Cowling, Paul Woods, Nick Coler, Kylie Minogue
Produced By: Brian Higgins, Xenomania
Album: Ultimate Kylie (2005)
Chart Position: #6 (U.K.), #8 (AU)
Synopsis: A clicking mecha groove knocks in all the right places. "Giving You Up" benefits from an assured chorus and verse that interplay with the frenzied pace of the arrangement. Minogue's attitude is maneater-cum-runway model, she also drops one of her best lines: "A girl's gotta suffer for fashion. She knows what a body can do. She finds a man and she makes him her passion, I'm happy trying all the time with a boy like you."

"Giving You Up"
Directed By: Alex & Martin

Selection Number 17: "Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi"
Release Date: October 1988 (U.K., AU)
Written By: Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, Pete Waterman
Produced By: Stock, Aitken, & Waterman
Album: Kylie (1987)
Chart Positions: #2 (U.K.), #12 (AU)
Synopsis: Teary-eyed circumspection gives "Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi" a "wisdom beyond its years" profundity. Out of all of Mingoue's earliest releases, "Je Ne Sais..." has the ability to shine brightly if ever given a re-recorded studio treatment. It was evidenced when Minogue resurrected it for her initial Showgirl concert shows in 2005.

"Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi"
Directed By: Chris Langman

Selection Number 16: "What Kind of Fool? (Heard It All Before)"
Release Date: August 1992 (U.K., AU)
Written By: Kylie Minogue, Mike Stock, Pete Waterman
Produced By: Stock & Waterman
Album: Greatest Hits (1992)
Chart Positions: #14 (U.K.), #17 (AU)
Synopsis: One of the two new songs recorded for Minogue's wrap-up of her S.A.W. years, "Fool" is fast and fun. The vocal given here showed a resilience and character, one that gained traction on Minogue's third and fourth albums from this time. That strength would be capitalized on with her later recorded output.

"What Kind of Fool? (Heard It All Before)"
Directed By: Greg Masuak

Selection Number 15: "Where Is the Feeling?"
Release Date: July 1995 (U.K., AU)
Written By: Wilf Smarties, Jayn Hanna
Produced By: Brothers in Rhythm
Album: Kylie Minogue (1994)
Chart Positions: #16 (U.K.), #31 (AU)
Synopsis: One of the two "lost" deConstruction label singles, "Feeling" was the final release from Kylie Minogue. The single edit, often termed as the "BIR Dolphin Mix," featured components from the jubilant album version, as well as its acoustic companion. Said acoustic version saw general release on the 2003 expanded re-release of Kylie Minogue. Surreal and sensual, the spoken word verses ground the song in the throbbing throes of desire, taking the song to unimaginable places. "Where Is the Feeling?" in this incarnation is only available on its parent maxi-single or the deConstruction centered collection Hits + (2002).

"Where Is the Feeling? (BIR Dolphin Mix)"
Directed By: Keir McFarlane

Selection Number 14: "Spinning Around"
Release Date: June 2000 (U.K., AU)
Written By: Ira Shickman, Osborne Bingham, Kara DioGuardi, Paula Abdul
Produced By: Mike Spencer
Album: Light Years (2000)
Chart Positions: #1 (U.K.), #1 (AU)
Synopsis: Returning to that pop fussiness of old? In actuality a return to a carefree state of mind is more like it. An anthem of independence and reimagination, "Spinning Around" wore a throwback urban disco sound that owed to "You've Got the Best of My Love" by The Emotions.

"Spinning Around"
Directed By: Dawn Shadforth

Selection Number 13: "2 Hearts"
Release Date: November 2007 (U.K., AU)
Written By: Kish Mauve
Produced By: Kish Mauve
Album: X (2007)
Chart Positions: #4 (U.K.), #1 (AU)
Synopsis: Her riskiest single since '97's "Some Kind of Bliss"? It's a sure bet. Hitting the ground running after her cancer diagnosis and recovery two years prior, Minogue slid into the spangly glam-rock jam. It was complete with jaunty piano bangs and enough guitar to chew on. Throughout the musical bedlam, Minogue's voice is loose and sexy.

"2 Hearts"
Directed By: Dawn Shadforth

Selection Number 12: "Slow"
Release Date: November 2003 (U.K., AU), February 2004 (U.S.A.)
Written By: Kylie Minogue, Dan Carey, Emiliana Torrini
Produced By: Dan Carey, Emiliana Torrini
Album: Body Language (2003)
Chart Positions: #1 (U.K.), #1 (AU), #91 (U.S.A.)
Synopsis: The minimalist, electronic back-drop of "Slow" still stands as one of Minogue's best singles. Slinky, its modus operandi is seduction plain and simple. The opening lyric of "I knew you'd be here tonight, so I put my best dress on" will send the listener into sensory overload.

Directed By: Baillie Walsh

Selection Number 11: "Chocolate"
Release Date: June 2004 (U.K., AU)
Written By: Karen Poole, Johnny Douglas
Produced By: Johnny Douglas
Album: Body Language (2003)
Chart Positions: #6 (U.K.), #14 (AU)
Synopsis: Body Language as an album possessed Minogue's most velvet like ballads since Kylie Minogue (1994). "Chocolate" with its dramatic prose against a canvas of melodic changes, it's one of Minogue's best performances. The middle eight draws everything in; a luxuriate center that like its real life Lindt candy counterpart smoothly melts.

Directed By: Dawn Shadforth

Selection Number 10: "Finer Feelings"
Release Date: April 1992 (U.K., AU)
Written By: Mike Stock, Pete Waterman
Produced By: Brothers in Rhythm
Album: Let's Get To It (1991)
Chart Positions: #11 (U.K.), #60 (AU)
Synopsis: "Finer Feelings" was an inhouse work from the recently broken Stock-Aitken-Waterman trio; now down to Mr. Stock and Waterman. The single version though confessed a brooding, pastel cool courtesy of Dave Seaman and Steve Anderson, known collectively as Brothers In Rhythm. The first working project for Minogue and the Brothers was fruitful, laying the groundwork for her prolific deConstruction age.

"Finer Feelings"
Directed By: Dave Hogan

Selection Number 9: "All the Lovers"
Release Date: June 2010 (U.K., AU, U.S.A)
Written By: Jim Eliot, Mima Stilwell
Produced By: Jim Eliot, Stuart Price
Album: Aphrodite (2010)
Chart Positions: #3 (U.K.), #13 (AU), #101 (U.S.A)
Synopsis: Functioning between the space of a ballad and uptempo, "All the Lovers" sweeps into an orchestrated feel that will bring to mind a spiritual salvation. Minogue's vocal bravura is confident, not cocky, lending a level of emotional connection rarely seen in modern pop music.

"All the Lovers"
Directed By: Dave Meyers

Selection Number 8: "In Your Eyes"
Release Date: February 2002 (U.K., AU)
Written By: Kylie Minogue, Richard "Biff" Stannard, Julian Gallagher, Ash Howes
Produced By: Richard "Biff" Stannard, Julian Gallagher
Album: Fever (2001)
Chart Positions: #3 (U.K.), #1 (AU)
Sypnopsis: A hot blooded, mirrorball spinner, "In Your Eyes" takes no prisoners. Its incessant pulse raising beat pounds while Minogue and a host of sonic effects ride the spine of the song. Including several snatches and percussion tricks, "In Your Eyes" will never wear out its welcome.

"In Your Eyes"
Directed By: Dawn Shadforth

Selection Number 7: "Got To Be Certain"
Released Date: May 1988 (U.K., AU)
Written By: Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, Pete Waterman
Produced By: Stock, Aitken, & Waterman
Album: Kylie (1987)
Chart Positions: #2(U.K.), #1 (AU)
Synopsis: Vital and youthful, "Got To Be Certain" is the veritable "Smilie Kylie" chestnut that is too lovable to deny. With its repetitious clap-a-long touches, it has a peppy glide to its step. Minogue's voice, even in its earliest incarnation has presence, but is limited by her lack of experience at this point.

"Got To Be Certain"
Directed By: Chris Langman

Selection Number 6: "Some Kind of Bliss"
Release Date: September 1997 (U.K., AU)
Written By: Kylie Minogue, James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore
Produced By: James Dean Bradfield, Dave Eringa
Album: Impossible Princess (1998)
Chart Positions: #22 (U.K.), #27 (AU)
Synopsis: The other lost deConstruction label single, "Bliss" remains misunderstood to the present day by fans, critics, and maybe Kylie Minogue herself. Ravishingly addictive in its collision of Tamla Motown violins and British rock accessories, Minogue's athletic vocal fuses all the elements into a beautiful whole. The longing here is almost palpable.

"Some Kind of Bliss"
Directed By: David Mould

Selection Number 5: "Better the Devil You Know"
Release Date: April 1990 (U.K., AU)
Written By: Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, Pete Waterman
Produced By: Stock, Aitken, & Waterman
Album: Rhythm of Love (1990)
Chart Positions: #2 (U.K.), #4 (AU)
Synopsis: La Minogue's best love song employs equal amounts of melancholy and dance music fuel. "Better the Devil You Know" was a gesture toward a marked sophistication musically, vocally, and lyrically. Seen as an anthem to many, "Devil" also has the ability to communicate on a sensitive level, allowing it a broader identity outside of a dance context.

"Better the Devil You Know"
Directed By: Paul Goldman

Selection Number 4: "Can't Get You Out of My Head"
Release Date: September 2001 (U.K., AU), January 2002 (U.S.A.)
Written By: Rob Davies, Cathy Dennis
Produced By: Rob Davies, Cathy Dennis
Album: Fever (2001)
Chart Positions: #1 (U.K.), #1 (AU), #7 (U.S.A)
Synopsis: The inescapable anthem that solidified Minogue's brand of pop and reignited interest in the United States was simple and clean. Laboring several pulses below the clubbier cuts on its parent album Fever, "Head" was hard enough to bob heads and move feet.

"Can't Get You Out of My Head"
Directed By: Dawn Shadforth

Selection Number 3: "What Do I Have to Do?"
Release Date: January 1991 (U.K., AU)
Written By: Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, Pete Waterman
Produced By: Stock, Aitken, & Waterman
Album: Rhythm of Love (1990)
Chart Positions: #6 (U.K.), #11 (AU)
Synopsis: By this time Minogue had grown, almost overnight, into the pop siren we'd know today. "What Do I Have to Do" is one of those diamonds in Minogue's backlog that shows if the urgent, feminity of "What..." had wider exposure Stateside, Minogue would have broken here much earlier than she did.

"What Do I Have to Do?"
Directed By: Dave Hogan

Selection Number 2: "Put Yourself in My Place"
Release Date: November 1994 (U.K., AU)
Written By: Jimmy Harry
Produced By: Jimmy Harry
Album: Kylie Minogue (1994)
Chart Positions: #11 (U.K.), #11 (AU)
Synopsis: Dreamy and full of atmosphere, Minogue's take on New York Quiet Storm reaches for resolution in love. It's a song for the "grown and sexy" Minogue fans as it were. Confused and aching verses give way to a defiant chorus, "Put Yourself in My Place" is as real as pop music gets.

"Put Yourself in My Place"
Directed By: Keir McFarlane

Selection Number 1: "Confide in Me"
Release Date: August 1994 (U.K. & AU)
Written By: Steve Anderson, Dave Seaman
Produced By: Brothers in Rhythm
Album: Kylie Minogue (1994)
Chart Positions: #2 (U.K.) #1 (AU)
Synopsis: "Confide in Me" is a song that is a benchmark, a touchstone for reinvention."Confide in Me" sought to shatter any preconceived ideas about her and let the music speak for itself.Clocking in at no less than six minutes, the cut is an ambitious rewrite of James Bond styled-pop. Even better, "Confide in Me" forever removed doubt that Minogue herself couldn't carry a song vocally.

"Confide in Me"
Directed By: Paul Boyd

[Editor's Note: All of Kylie Minogue's albums mentioned are in print. Anything prior to 2001 may not be domestically available in the States. Anything from 1987-2000 can of course be special ordered via your local indie record store, online via Amazon or eBay, or iTunes. For current information on Kylie Minogue, visit -QH]