THE CASSETTE CHRONICLES – LAURA BRANIGAN’S self-titled release

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.

LAURA BRANIGAN – LAURA BRANIGAN (1990)

Laura Branigan is a guilty pleasure of mine that I don’t really feel all that guilty about liking. On this 1990 release, she finds herself once again mining a decidedly more adult contemporary musical bent, though she doesn’t completely abandon the pop/dance type sound that made her famous in the early 80’s either.

In fact, the album’s first two singles managed to give her a bit of a hit on both of those musical charts. The first single, “Moonlight On The Water”, kicked off the album and despite my opinion that it felt more like an adult pop song with a style that worked, it actually turned out to be a dance hit for Branigan. 

Meanwhile, “Never In A Million Years” did hit the Adult Contemporary charts. After listening to that song, I can understand why. The song is a ballad and given how picky I am about those songs these days, it is always a tricky needle to thread to get me to enjoy them. But this song was immensely enjoyable. Branigan’s vocal performance on this song is my favorite on the album. She put every possible ounce of emotion into the work and came out with one of the best songs of her catalog. 

I wish that I could say more nice things about the rest of the songs on Side One of the album but sadly, the increased level of maturity in how the album sounds didn’t necessarily lend itself to the material itself being all great all the time. The one remaining noteworthy thing about Side One was the pounding beat in “Let Me In” (which was originally recorded by Eddie Money). However, I can’t decide if it should be considered hypnotic or just sleep inducing. I have to admit, I felt myself nodding off during this one.

As for Side Two, Branigan gets things started with a cover of the Vicki Sue Robinson disco hit “Turn The Beat Around”. I don’t know how much of my metal cred I will lose for saying this but I really did quite enjoy Branigan’s rendition. The song “Unison” took a bit for me to get into it but it does grow on you. I was somewhat disappointed in the two ballads on Side Two. “No Promise, No Guarantee” was rather ineffective throughout the song’s running time. The more forceful approach at the end of the song did little to improve my thoughts on the track. As for Branigan’s cover of the Bryan Adams song “The Best Was Yet To Come”, it just didn’t really come together fully for me. The slow nature of the song did lend itself to Branigan’s vocals but despite the dramatic assist from a boys choir as backing vocalists, the song felt antiseptic to me.

Of course then you have a song like “Reverse Psychology” which is a fast paced number with a pure pop song delivery. I liked the track and despite its problematic title for what you’d expect for a song on the pop charts, this really could’ve been a breakout hit in my book.

This was the second to last full length album from Laura Branigan and it continues the trend of Branigan being more involved in the creation of the songs she’s singing. At times, she’s turning out some great work and then there are the songs that really didn’t work for me. It is a little disappointing that there wasn’t more to like but I do really enjoy those songs where she is at the top of her game.

NOTES OF INTEREST: This was the first album of Branigan’s that did not produce a top 40 single for the Billboard chart.  The singer co-produced three of the songs on the album. They were “Let Me In”, “Turn The Beat Around” and “The Best Was Yet To Come”. 

“Unison” was also covered by Celine Dion the same year that Branigan did it and it became a big hit off her first English language album.

Peter Wolf produced “Never In A Million Years” and “No Promise, No Guarantee”. He played all the instruments on both songs except for the guitars.

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