For my readers who say I don't comment on enough "recent" records, recent being the 1980s, I give you Cyndi Lauper. Well, Cyndi Lauper's first band.
And it's a rockabilly band!
Well, perhaps "rock revival" rather than the rockabilly they are often described as.
Now, anyone who was around in the 1980s, like myself, knows who Cyndi Lauper is, but I wasn't into her music so I'm sketchy on her musical pedigree and career.
Not surprisingly, the rockabilly revelation took me by surprise.
Wikipedia: "Blue Angel was a retro-rockabilly band that featured Cyndi Lauper before her rise to fame as a solo singer. The lineup also included John Turi on keyboard instrument and saxophone, Arthur "Rockin' A" Neilson (guitar), Lee Brovitz (bass guitar) and Johnny Morelli (drums). Lauper and Turi wrote the bulk of their material, and the group also covered pop standards, such as Mann/Weil's "I'm Gonna Be Strong" (which Lauper covered again in a 1994 album). Blue Angel was briefly popular on the New York club scene … The band reformed without Lauper in 1987 under the name "Boppin' the Blues." Lauper joined them on stage for a one-time performance at New York's Lone Star Cafe, singing a Big Mama Thornton song and That's Alright Mama. The band has since disbanded". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Angel_(band)
According to wikipedia's Cyndi Lauper entry: "In 1978, Lauper met saxophone player John Turi through her manager Ted Rosenblatt. Turi and Lauper formed a band named Blue Angel and recorded a demo tape of original music. Steve Massarsky, manager of The Allman Brothers Band,heard the tape and liked Lauper's voice. He bought Blue Angel's contract for $5,000 and became their manager … Lauper received recording offers as a solo artist, but held out, wanting the band to be included in any deal she made. Blue Angel was eventually signed by Polydor Records and released a self-titled album on the label in 1980. Lauper hated the album cover, saying that it made her look like Big Bird, but Rolling Stone magazine later included it as one of the 100 best new wave album covers (2003). Despite critical acclaim, the album sold poorly (or " It went lead", as Lauper later joked.) and the band broke up. The members of Blue Angel had a falling out with Massarsky and fired him as their manager. He later filed an $80,000 suit against them, which forced Lauper into bankruptcy … After Blue Angel broke up and due to her financial problems, Lauper spent time working in retail stores, waitressing at IHOP (which she quit after being demoted to hostess when the manager made a pass at her), and singing in local clubs. Her most frequent gigs were at El Sombrero. Music critics who saw Lauper perform with Blue Angel believed she had star potential due to her four-octave singing range, and a unique vocal style. In 1981, while singing in a local New York bar, Lauper met David Wolff, who took over as her manager and had her sign a recording contract with Portrait Records, a subsidiary of Epic Records". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyndi_Lauper
And the rest is history
But, in 1980, Cyndi Lauper was struggling to make ends meet.
New York was going through a rock "n" roll and rockabilly revival which had hitched itself to the back of the musical New Wave. Robert Gordon and The Stray Cats (who had moved to England) were the highlights, though in other parts of the US, punk and new wave influenced rockabilly acts like The Cramps, Tav Falco's Panther Burns, The Blasters, and The Kingbees were also getting attention.
The scene had been bubbling away through the 70s but it really became commercially viable with the New Wave in the late 1970s.
Cyndi Lauper was in the right time and place with the right pedigree. Half Swiss German, half Italian Catholic and born in 1953 in Queens, New York she was perfectly suited to take advantage of the trend, and, more importantly, she could sing.
Her range is amazing.
However, without a feel for the music range doesn't mean much.
Cyndi has feel.
I suspect, much like fellow New Yorker David Johansen (born 1950), in her youth she soaked up the many musical sounds of New York which included rock n roll, Brill Building pop and doo wop, and channeled it into her music.
The sound here is more to the pop end of the rockabilly spectrum, with a big dose of early 60s Brill Building girl pop, but the music has energy (as it should have because it's of that era), catchy rhythms and a touch of quirkiness.
It's hard to listen to it without thinking about Cyndi, because here voice is so distinctive, but if you get past that (if that is a problem) then the album is worthwhile.
Some of the production is slick rather than retro and I think most Cyndi fans will think the sound recording is sub par. It certainly doesn't sound like here subsequent bop pop hits but that's what I like about it.
The album was produced by New Yorker Roy Halee , most associated with Simon & Garfunkel.
All songs written by Cyndi Lauper and John Turi except where noted.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Maybe He'll Know – Cyndi rerecorded the song for her "True Colors"(1987) album. Here it is a cross between Brill Building pop and contemporary (1980) pop. It works well and is sufficiently retro to appeal to me.
- I Had a Love – more 60s pop
- Fade – well sung and distinctly retro with nice 60s keyboards
- Anna Blue – a slow saxy (and trying to be sexy) song.
- Can't Blame Me – a mid tempo bouncy tune that's catchy.
- Late – (Lauper, Turi, Brovitz) – the first straight rockabilly song which sounds a little like Fabian's "Tiger" (1959) at times and Johnny O'Keefe's "Wild One" (1958). It is very catchy and very 50s.
- Cut Out – (Fowler, King, Mack) – Originally by Johnny and the Hurricanes from 1959 this is a faithful and well done quasi-instrumental.
- Take a Chance – very much a 50s type of Elvis tune and not dissimilar to "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care" (1957)
- Just the Other Day – an OK Brill Building type of New York street song that reminds one The Shirelles or The Ronnettes.
- I'm Gonna Be Strong – (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil) – Gene Pitney's #9 from 1964. There is only one Gene Pitney but Cyndi does the song well. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27m_Gonna_Be_Strong
- Lorraine – OK, but filler.
- Everybody's Got an Angel – (Blue Angel, Gross) – Quite a contemporary tune and Cyndi really belts it out in her fashion.
It's not a rockabilly revival masterpiece but it is perfect for my next, errr sock hop. And it's a good talking point (if i could only find someone interested enough to talk about it) … I'm keeping it.
Nothing (in the big markets)
I'm Gonna Be Strong (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil)
- Bass player Brovitz was briefly ion Chicago garage rockers The Shadows of Knight in the early 70s.