Sunday, January 24, 2010

We're with BOY GEORGE: MARILYN and HELEN TERRY reissues!

From 1982 to 1985, it was a great time to be friends with CULTURE CLUB vocalist BOY GEORGE. During those few short years, anyone seen within a few feet of George would have their faces plastered all over the tabloids and they, in turn, would become tabloid fodder!

By 1986, though, Boy George's long slide to bargain basement embarrassment began and, apart from a brief reunion with Culture Club in the '90s, he has essentially become the butt of '80s jokes alongside Mike 'A Flock Of Seagulls' Score's ridiculous hairstyle. 

But, in the early to mid '80s, he was a glorious pop star with a fantastic voice, a cheeky personality and loads of charisma. That magic also rubbed off on those around him including his clubbing mate MARILYN (he of long flowing blond locks) and HELEN TERRY (she of the soulful voice on Culture Club hits like "Church Of The Poison Mind"). Both Marilyn and Helen had shortlived (but memorable) recording careers, which have recently been reissued by Cherry Red subsidiary, Cherry Pop!

While Marilyn was not initially known for his singing/songwriting talents, he was (supposedly) marvelous to look at.  As a clubber at the Blitz Club during the New Romantic movement, he attracted as much attention as (Boy) George O'Dowd did. When he was linked with George during Culture Club's heyday, the labels came calling.

His debut single, "Calling Your Name", was an instant hit.  It's catchy melody and Soul-inspired beat was similar to Culture Club's "Church Of The Poisoned Mind" and other tracks from their Colour By Numbers album.  While his other singles didn't fare as well, Marilyn kept on releasing wonderful little Pop/Soul nuggets that would eventually lead up to his sole album, Despite Straight Lines.

By the time the album reached the shelves, Marilyn had cut his blonde locks and changed his image, but the music was still infectious and hard to resist.  While nothing here may have reached the spectacular heights of CC's "Karma Chameleon", it's admittedly not even fair to compare the two acts.

Despite Straight Lines is filled with great Pop music that stands up well on it's own.  Apart from "Calling Your Name", the album includes many tracks that stand up well even 25 years after their release. "Mountains To The Ocean", "Surrender To Your Love", "Cry To Be Free", "You Don't Love Me" and "Baby U Left Me (Out In The Cold)" are just a few of the standouts. And with some prime bonus remixes and non-album tracks, this is a must of CC/Boy George fans as well as those of you who dig catchy '80s pop.

(NOTE: The album has been subtitled The Very Best Of.. because of the exclusion of one track from the original album at Marilyn's request. Bummer for us, but at least we have the rest of the album to enjoy on CD!)

While the name Helen Terry may not jump out at you, her voice most definitely will.  It is her wailing, soulful voice that makes Culture Club's "Church Of The Poison Mind" really leap out at you.  Yes, she was a 'backing vocalist' for CC during the most popular time of their career, but her performances were so spectacular that she was often referred to as 'the unofficial fifth member' of the band!

While she started her solo career in 1984 with the hit single "Love Lies Lost", her debut album, Blue Notes, didn't hit the shelves until 1986. By that time, Culture Club were already in the midst of their fall from grace and the public's insatiable interest in anything Boy George was long gone. Which was a shame because Helen had managed to cut an album that could have had a lot of potential (especially for those who were following the musical careers of acts like Sade, Deacon Blue, Carmel and other acts that combined Pop with Jazz-influenced overtones).

Those expecting Helen to showcase her wailing, soulful vocals over danceable Motown-ish beats were disappointed for the most part, although she does occasionally cut loose on Blue Notes. Most of the album is dedicated to finely produced Gospel/Jazz influenced mid-tempo tracks and ballads.  While this certainly isn't what her early singles hinted at, it's still a treat to hear Helen up front and center. Tracks like "The River", "Come On And Find Me" and the glorious "Close Watch" are standouts on an album that surprises with each and every listen.

Bonus tracks include remixes, early non-album singles (including "Love Lies Lost" and her Giorgio Moroder collaboration, "Now You're Mine" from the soundtrack to Electric Dreams) and more.  Another fine Cherry Pop release that will please those with fine musical tastes!

You're welcome!
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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