Sheena Easton | Page 34 | The Popjustice Forum

Sheena Easton

Discussion in 'Comeback corner' started by VoR, Aug 31, 2006.

  1. Ooh. Spotted on the RSD list:

    Sheena Easton
    The Definitive 12” Singles 1983-1987

  2. I'd probably spring for a 7" compilation. 12"? Absolutely not.
  3. That artwork on vinyl?? Tempted...
    IEngineered and idratherjack like this.
  4. [​IMG]
    The Definitive 12” Singles 1983-1987

    More Info
    • Her first-ever collection of 12” extended mixes - pressed on pink double-vinyl and featuring her 80s US top 10 pop hits ‘Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair)’, ‘Strut’ and ‘Sugar Walls’.
    • Includes two previously-unreleased tracks exclusive to this release - ‘Sweet Talker’ (12” Version) and ‘Wanna Give My Love’ (12” Version) and many recently uncovered vault tracks making their first appearance on vinyl.
    • Top-drawer production talent includes Prince, Nile Rodgers, Narada Michael Walden and Shep Pettibone
    mguyb, zephyr, The_Rani and 2 others like this.
  5. Very nice!
    zephyr and IEngineered like this.
  6. Nice article on the new A Private Heaven deluxe edition


    Cherry Red Records began their Sheena Easton EMI catalog rollout at the end of 2020 with a definitive collection of all of her singles during her tenure at EMI (1980-1987). They now continue the campaign with the first of their Deluxe Editions of her albums. “A Private Heaven” is released this week, remastered with bonus tracks, b-sides, instrumentals, remixes, and an unreleased track. It is the perfect start to her catalog as it is her most critically and commercially successful album from that period.

    This was Sheena’s fifth album to be released (not including her Spanish album “Todo Me Recuerda A Ti), and found her coming off of her successful “comeback” fourth album “Best Kept Secret”. which included the top ten Grammy-nominated hit “Telefone”, as well as the Top 5 Adult Contemporary smash “Almost Over You” (one of her most-streamed hits today). “Best Kept Secret” was her first American-based recording, using top-notch LA musicians, producers (Greg Mathieson, Jay Graydon), and engineers. It was also a new focus in direction for Easton to a more youthful pop/rock sound.

    Easton could have chosen to play it safe, continuing to toe the line of Pop/Rock and Adult Contemporary. But in the typical fashion of her gutsy musical choices throughout her career, she hired Mathieson for the production for the follow-up “A Private Heaven”, and decided to move a bit further outside of the general public’s expectations of her sound. It’s these choices that made it an exciting time to be a fan of Easton, as there seemed to be something new for her fans to discover about her with each new album. It also seemed to be a motivating driving force for Easton to challenge herself as well, seeing what material she could handle when thrown her way. “A Private Heaven” was a highlight in her career, as more than any of her albums, it explored different genres with consistently rewarding results. It became her best-selling album, garnered critical acclaim, and scored multiple top ten singles across three major singles charts. It also was the beginning of many fruitful partnerships between Easton and Prince.

    The album kicks off with the first single “Strut”. The first time I heard the song was when she performed it on The Tonight Show a good month before the single was released. Even on that performance, you could hear the new-wave influence on the keyboard synth-line throughout. On record it was even more explorative; from the unique mix on the bongos at the introduction to Easton’s background vocal “Oh no”, to the bridge breakdown where off-kilter Easton layered harmonies are processed through a keyboard to angelic effect, this was a new sound for Easton and pop radio alike. Easton nails the vocal interpretation, playing coy while sexy on the verses while demonstrating characteristic gusto on the chorus. This perfectly balances the perspectives between the verse and chorus lyrics, which depict a male and female perspective on misogynistic views of female sexuality.

    This perfectly sets up the next song, the theme of which is the antithesis of misogyny. The second single from the album garnered a lot of attention from the press and the government (thank you Tipper Gore), due to its implicit lyrics building “Sugar Walls” as a euphemism for, ahem, female anatomy (okay, ******). The character in the song is bragging about their ****** and their sexual prowess. Much different than the character in the preceding song, who was feeling used and taking back some of the power in the relationship. This was completely new territory in the ’80s. We had some cock-bragging songs and many men boasting about their prowess, but even with Madonna being two years into her career at the time, there was never a top ten hit this explicit in its implicitness. Reading many articles about Prince through the years, I’ve often wondered if he wrote this song for Easton as a secret dare only he knew about. “Let’s see if she is brave enough to do this.” Honestly, most artists would have balked. In fact, Easton’s original manager Deke Arlon is on record as saying he tried to persuade her not to release it. Easton had balls enough to sing about a ******. In doing so, she most likely impressed Prince with both her guts and convincing vocals, opened up doors to explore R&B material, and with this single hitting the top 3 on the R&B charts, became the only artist to date to have top 5 chart success on all five of the major singles charts (Pop, Adult Contemporary, Country, Dance, R&B). The groove was typical Prince at the time, with Easton masterfully taking on the character of a sexy siren while handling some tricky scaling of notes from low to orgasmic piercing highs towards the climax of the song. Check out the Dance Mix included on the reissue for one of Prince’s most blistering guitar solos on record as well.

    “Hungry Eyes” was a song written by Mathieson and Trevor Veitch, with the Asian market clearly on their mind (in fact, this was the first single in Japan). The synth line at the start of the song and throughout the chorus seem straight out of a ’70s Kung Fu movie. Normally this might distract a listener but the hook and Easton’s vocals retain the focal point and allow the synths to be an afterthought. It segues perfectly from the first two songs and cement the sound of the album for the listener. This is not the Sheena you may have expected. It’s a triple crown moment of a more youthful sound for the young singer (at the time, 25), as well as a side of her vocals not heard before. The chorus’ on all three songs showcased a more mature vocal, one with more shades and nuance than previous albums may have displayed.

    That’s not to say that Easton was foregoing her trademark ballads. “Hard To Say It’s Over” was the tour-de-force vocal on the album. Yet, this was not your typical ballad by Easton. This was a classic “power ballad” format, one that would become more popular throughout the ’80s. It was a rock-oriented production, no strings or schmaltz, just LA’s finest studio musicians at the time and Easton, building to incredible highs throughout. The verses are breathtaking in the way Easton goes higher and higher in full belt with such ease. Then the chorus kicks in with a hook so catchy it gets a complete breakdown at the end. The sentiment of the lyrics paired with the powerhouse production and vocal make this a fan favorite. The only shame is that the record company (EMI) never released it as a single. It would have been a surefire hit. They should have released it as the second single and then came out with “Sugar Walls” as the third single but they wanted to capitalize quickly on Prince’s success and perhaps felt that releasing a ballad would have challenged the perception they were creating that Easton was moving away from her Adult Contemporary image. They were wrong though as the ballad would have appealed to listeners, young and old.

    Instead of releasing it as the third single even, they went with “Swear” instead. “Swear” was a minor hit for its writer, Tim Scott, and was the furthest dive into New Wave that Easton ever took on record. With a guitar riff straight out of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, Easton proves up to the frenetic challenge of the song, including an impressive speed rap towards the end of the song. A bit repetitive and too outside of mainstream radio airplay at the time, the song stalled at #80 on the Hot 100. Still fun to listen to today though.

    Joan Armatrading’s “Love and Affection” is the cover song on the album. Of all of the great cover versions she has recorded throughout her career, this is the best. First, because the original itself is magnificent, but also because more than any other song on the album it gives great insight into the interpretive skills Easton possesses. While Armatrading’s version is a bit meandering at times, Mathieson reigns in the arrangement, giving it a structure and base for Easton to truly shine. The listener had never heard her like this before. She is settled throughout the song in a slightly lower vocal register than previously heard, which allows for a more soulful, nuanced, and sexy performance. The longing in her vocal builds to unbridled joyfulness as she does some lovely call and response interplay with her own background vocals. It’s a career highlight performance. For those looking for a more faithful rendering, check out Easton’s live performance from ’87 on YouTube. It features an interesting intro with Easton trading the opening vocal lines with bass guitar lines and also features some incredible low notes by her.

    “Back In The City” was written for the album by Mathieson/Veitch/Lee Ritenour. I imagine Easton gave them a blueprint request for a song that Manhattan Transfer would record. It’s a warm, sticky, night in a suburban city, and Easton and company rise with the heat. Besides Easton’s melodic vocal, the highlights include Jerry Hey’s horn arrangements and Mathieson’s groove production. While this would appeal to an adult contemporary fan base, the production still sounds fresh today.

    “You Make Me Nervous” was Robbie Nevil’s first platinum co-write and showcases a more sultry vocal on the verses, while the pre-chorus finds Easton easily building belts to the chorus. The chorus and syncopated beats throughout do leave the listener in an anxiety-induced state.

    “All By Myself” was composed by Veitch with Toto member Steve Lukather. The verses are typically heartfelt emotions delivered with characteristic beautiful tones from Easton. The chorus, however, is another rock-oriented production with Easton keeping up with the building power throughout. By the time the bridge comes, Lukather is ready to layout a guitar solo to match the unrestrained passion.

    “Double Standard” is the only weak song of the bunch. It’s actually a decent song but doesn’t hold up next to the others after all the years. Perhaps this is due to the too-sugary chorus. That being said, Easton sounds tough throughout.

    The Deluxe Edition included a few b-sides and an unreleased track. All of which I would have swapped out with other songs on the album if I were making those decisions back then. The first three songs I will talk about were all written by Mathieson/Veitch (one of them with a co-write) and were written for Easton. These three may have been relegated to b-sides due to their less polished sound. I think they would have fit just fine and would have made the album even stronger.

    “Letters From The Road” sounds like Easton meets the E Street Band. A driving backbeat, trademark sax solo reminiscent of Clarence Clemens, all allow Easton to lay down one of her most rock-leaning vocals to date. She also sounds like she’s having a blast putting her lover on blast for not handling life on the road. Would have loved to hear those harmony vocals on the chorus’ isolated as they are incredible.

    “Straight Talking” is a co-write with bassist Abe Laboriel and Easton. It finds Easton in a more funky musical landscape, toeing a Teena Marie type of jam. Fun, funky, with a spirited vocal from Easton. Her best uptempo b-side with another amazing high harmony vocal on the chorus.

    “Fallen Angels” reminds me of a harder-edged version of Heart’s “These Dreams”. There’s a lot to take in sonically here. From its spooky, moody opening to the tonal quality of Easton’s timbre on the verses, the song showcases another side to the colors in her vocals. The change in tempo on the chorus allows for a more rock-edge belt from Easton and segues to the most blistering, shredded guitar solo on an Easton recording. B-sides? Really??

    The unreleased track that remained in the vaults until now is her cover of a Leo Sayer UK hit from 1982 called “Have You Ever Been In Love”. I have not heard any of the other recorded versions since his hit but hearing it was a joy for this long-time fan. I am still scratching my head about this one being left off the album. I can only imagine that the fact that there had been a cover already on the album “Love and Affection”, and that they didn’t want to relegate “All By Myself” to b-side stature due to the Toto member assist, this one was kept tucked away and forgotten about. It’s a beautiful lyric and melody about the overwhelming nature of love. Easton finds the varied emotions conveyed throughout the lyric, at times sounding joyful, and by song’s end, sad and wistful. The ache in her vocal at the breakdown at the end of the song is ten seconds chock-full of emotion.

    Easton fans are rejoicing at the opportunity to revisit her classic EMI catalog. Adam Matera is overseeing the reissue campaign and is treating Easton and her body of work with the respect it truly deserves. The Remastering sounds spectacular. You truly hear these songs in a new way. The sonics on this album in particular are amazing and meant to be heard the way they were intended. This remastering is far superior to previous remasters which clearly did not use the original master tapes. Also, I would also recommend the CD just for the research Matera puts into his liner notes. I found out so many tidbits about the making of this project through his thorough research. At times, it felt like I was reading a manuscript of a “Behind The Music” episode as he tracks down all the writers and producers involved in the making of each song. My only critique would be to swap out the instrumentals for pristine quality TV appearances/videos. We are long overdue for a collection of her always stellar TV appearances.

    If you are a Sheena Easton fan, this reissue is a no-brainer. If you are a fan of the ’80s or brilliant vocalists in general, this is a must-buy for your collection. You will not be disappointed
  7. I'm looking forward to giving A Private Heaven a proper listen when I get this. Swear has always been one of my favourite Sheena songs and Letters From The Road is amazing, it's almost a Pat Benatar song. I'm interested to hear the other tracks in a similar vein like the one that article describes as a harder-edged version of Heart’s “These Dreams”. Sounds right up my street! Sheena's voice is so versatile - she can sing anything from pop to rock to dance.
  8. A Private Heaven, is for sure one of Sheena's strongest albums. Well worth an listen.
    idratherjack likes this.
  9. APH and Take My Time are my favourite albums by her. I never really took to the What Comes Naturally/The Lover In Me sound. Apart from a couple of songs. The title track of the latter is excellent though.
  10. I love What Comes Naturally and The Lover In Me. But, I DO love the New Jack Swing vibe so, that could well by why!
    Tommy Johnson and idratherjack like this.
  11. I love The Lover In Me and What Comes Naturally but they won't be part of this reissue campaign will they being on MCA?

    I'm looking forward to a deluxe reissue of the Do You album - I like what I've heard of that one, nice mid 80s sound to it.
  12. I think I was too old for New Jack Swing in 1988!
  13. What Comes Naturally, does of course though contain in my view, one of Sheena's finest ever ballads:
  14. Exclusive footage of you in 1988

  15. No, this is just the EMI albums. The campaign will stop with No Sound But A Heart.

    Do You sounds great, but some of the songs could use a pruning IMO. It was an odd decision on Sheena’s part to drop all the producers and writers who’d made A Private Heaven such a success! It was also the era of her ‘New Wave’ makeover which apparently went down poorly!
  16. That’s one of the best songs, I agree.
  17. Love this interview here. Think people forget at times how big Sheena was in the US:
    Tommy Johnson and idratherjack like this.
  18. What's not to like about this weave?

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  19. What was the sound quality like on The Definitive Collection comp, BTW?
  20. In my view, pretty good. Quite sharp and clear.
    Tommy Johnson and idratherjack like this.
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