The Cassette Chronicles – Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colors’

By JAY ROBERTS

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

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CYNDI LAUPER – TRUE COLORS (1986)

I recently acquired a CD edition of the reissued Cyndi Lauper debut album She’s So Unusual. I had loved the hits from the album but found that I didn’t like most of the album cuts that filled out the rest of the track listing.

Of course, the main reason I ended up with True Colors, Lauper’s double platinum second album is for the title track. While I am not usually much for being sentimental unless it involves a sports team winning a title, that ballad is just so dead on perfect that even this cold black heart is momentarily lifted.

Unfortunately, it is the only one of four singles from the album that I ended up liking upon this particular look back. While “Change of Heart” (which featured a guest vocal appearance from The Bangles) hit #3 on the singles chart, I have no memory of it at all. Worse yet, when I listened to it for this article it did absolutely nothing for me. I didn’t care for “Boy Blue” either. As for her cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”, I understand the need to do your own interpretation of a song but this was just too far afield for my taste.

Now, normally you’d be right in thinking I was about to go on a long diatribe about why I didn’t like this album. However, in the end I did like it. The reason for this is that the album tracks are a really decent collection of songs that struck far more of a chord with me.

Comprised of 10 tracks in total, the first side of the album started off weak with “Change of Heart” and “Boy Blue” being joined by the upbeat but mediocre “Maybe He’ll Know”. But after “True Colors” comes a solidly grounded song in “Calm Inside The Storm”. Lauper co-wrote the song (one of six co-write credits for her on the album) with Rick Derringer, who also played guitar on the track.

Side Two opens with that Marvin Gay cover I previously mentioned, but after that the songs are surprisingly strong. While I would normally consider the song “Iko Iko” a musical version of flying pest, for some reason Lauper’s rendition actually worked for me. “The Faraway Nearby” and “911” are faster paced tracks that succeed in getting your heartbeat elevated. As for the album closer “One Track Mind”, I thought the song was a track that at first didn’t seem like something Lauper would’ve done but soon realized it was a really good match between the singer and the song.

In writing about She’s So Unusual, I said that the album was pretty front loaded. On this follow up release it is the so-called “deep tracks” that are the real backbone of the album. The headline song is of course the title cut but otherwise it is the songs most might’ve missed if they didn’t buy the album that make True Colors a worthy addition to your music collection.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The guest list for True Colors is both diverse and interesting. Drummer Anton Fig appears on two tracks on the album while guitarist Adrian Belew plays on “What’s Going On.” Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers played on “Change of Heart.” Rick Derringer played on guitar on “

Billy Joel sang on “Maybe He’ll Know” while Aimee Mann provided vocals on “The Faraway Nearby” which was the second of two tracks that featured guitar work from Rick Derringer as well. And perhaps most eclectically, Pee Wee Herman is credited as a “guest operator” on “911.”

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