Wendy and Lisa – Wendy And Lisa
Released – 25th March 2013
Confession time, the teenager in me’s ears pricked up on seeing this album in the review list. Released in 1987, Wendy and Lisa, along with Belinda Carlisle formed part of that less cool section of my music collection based on a mix of pop songs and good looks. Effectively Prince’s backing band, the two girls with his encouragement set out to make their own career. Despite some minor successes, particularly with second album Fruit At The Bottom (which received a similar reissue treatment from Cherry Red last year), they never really made a significant breakthrough. This makes this reissue all the more interesting, is there really any point to it?
Taking the album at face value, the answer is yes. Listening to the album before and after receiving the review copy, it’s evident immediately that the remastering process has breathed new life into the record. Lead singles Sideshow and Waterfall don’t sound like twenty-six year old minor hits, the key being the timeless vocals of the two girls. Everything But You, the hit single they never released, sounds as obvious a four minutes of pop beauty as it did back then.
What makes this album stand out is not those singles, but the quality of some of the other tracks on it. It’s these qualities that probably prevented them making that all-important breakthrough but there’s actually some genuinely stunning ballads on here that bucked the trend for instant pop gratification that characterized the post-Smiths pre-Madchester period of the late 1980s.
Stay is a impassioned plea to an estranged lover framed in a simple subtle ballad, whilst Blues Away demonstrates a pop-funk blend that stood them out from many of their contemporaries. Honeymoon Express, Song About and Chance To Grow follow a similar blueprint, clearly coming from their association with Prince, but not apeing his sound or each other. The Life is a fragile tender ballad with vocals that feel like they’re on the edge of breakdown, made even more heart-rending by the generous remaster.
There’s still the mid 1980s compulsory instrumental, White, sitting in the middle of the album, not serving much purpose and slightly disturbing the rhythm and feel of the album. Also, the four additional tracks on the album, extended versions of Sideshow and Honeymoon Express and two versions of Waterfall don’t add much at all to it at all. The album does come with some insight from the girls on the recording process and background to the project and the songs.
So, with hindsight, revisiting this album probably twenty years after I last listened to it, makes me feel my musical radar wasn’t too bad in those turbulent teenage years, far more than can be said for some of the 1990s and 2000s indie abominations that reside on my record shelves.
All words by David Brown. You can see more of David’s work on Louder Than War here