Bangles – All Over the Place (Cherry Pop) CD review
Bangles – Different Light (Cherry Pop) CD review
As the bigger record labels get more choosy in what they re-release on CD, smaller labels are stepping in and picking up the slack. Cherry Pop Records out of England has just released the first two Bangles albums in remastered form with bonus tracks.
The Bangles are primarily known for their ridiculously annoying 1986 hit “Walk Like an Egyptian.” But, listening to their debut album, All Over the Place, from two years earlier, we get a clearer idea of where these girls were coming from.
The Bangles began life as worshippers of Sixties’ garage rock, and their debut is full of the jangly guitars and tight harmonies that made that genre’s music so irresistible. What’s more, there’s no pretension here whatsoever; just look at the unassuming black and white album cover. This was just four girls, wearing their influences on their sleeves, and having a blast doing it. A couple of the album’s highlights come from outside sources; a faithful rendition of the Merry Go Round’s shoulda been hit “Live,” and “Going Down to Liverpool,” originally done by Katrina & the Waves (who would have their own monster hit with “Walking on Sunshine” a few years later).
Their original music was just as strong: “All About You” has a country beat and harmonies reminiscent of Buffalo Springfield, while “Tell Me” is like the Byrds on steroids. “Hero Takes a Fall,” with it’s psychedelic guitar and pulsing vocals, was an early MTV hit. Of course, a band made up entirely of pretty women is going to get some notice, and so their stardom was inevitable. But, for one fleeting moment, All Over the Place shows a band completely content to just play music. The original disc is augmented by one excellent bonus track, a cover of the Grass Roots’ “Where Were You When I Needed You,” which was the original b-side for “Hero Takes a Fall.”
Their next album, Different Light, takes a much different approach. Just look at the album cover; it looks more like a modeling session than a rock n’ roll LP jacket. Their record label saw hit potential in the four sexy girls from California and looked to exploit it. Gone are the warm retro guitars, replaced by meatier production layered with keyboards. Yet, the Bangles sound is still there, especially the great harmonies. The lead track, “Manic Monday,” was penned by Prince under the pseudonym “Christopher” and gave the ladies their first big hit. “If She Knew What She Wants” was written by Jules Shear and was closer in style to the material on their debut.
They also turn in an excellent rendition of power popsters Big Star’s “September Gurls.” Then there’s “Walk Like an Egyptian,” so left-of-center that it threw everyone for a loop when it rocketed to number one. The self-written material is weaker than on their previous record, with “Walking Down Your Street” being the best of the bunch. Michael Steele does turn in the brooding, acoustic “Following.”
Although chock full of hits (four of them cracked the Top 30), Different Light sounds somewhat forced at times, and the mid Eighties’ production relies too heavily on synth drums. Still, it stands as the Bangles moment in the spotlight. This deluxe edition contains an entire disc of bonus material, featuring b-sides and dance mixes of the hits. The live medley of “Walking Down Your Street” and “James” (from their debut) proves that they could pull off their sound in a concert setting. Although interesting, none of these cuts are terribly essential or add anything to the original versions. –Tony Peters