True Confessions

Bananarama

London, 1986

http://www.bananarama.co.uk

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/19/2006

True Confessions marks Bananarama’s transition from bratty ragamuffins to full-fledged sex kittens. It’s the blending of the old sounds with the new that makes this a definite stand-out and worthy of a second look and listen.

As the most successful female group in British music history, Bananarama always had an uphill battle when it came to conquering the States. Their time finally came in 1986, when their brilliant cover of the Shocking Blue song “Venus” went all the way to #1 on the Billboard charts.

When I first heard “Venus” being played on the radio 20 years ago, I couldn’t get enough of the tune and it stands out as one of my favorites from the nbtc__dv_250 ’80s. “Venus” is the perfect example of synthesizers being played the right way; not since Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” has the instrument been showcased so effectively. Not bad for a song the girls hadn't even intended to record, but once they did they knew it had to be a single, and it shows three performers coming out of their shell.

True Confessions is one of those albums that tends to get better with age, and I say that because it took a while to grow on me. The title track would have made a terrific follow-up single to “Venus”, but “More Than Physical” was chosen instead. It’s important to note the album version of “More Than Physical” is noticeably slower and not as strong than the re-mixed single version. Also, the lyrics are unsubstantial and somewhat goofy. And then they had to go and release the anemic “A Trick Of The Night” as the third single.

Songs like “Dance With A Stranger” and “Hooked On Love” are far better representations than those singles. With its bossa-nova rhythm, “Dance With A Stranger” is as close to jazz as Bananarama will ever get. The airy track provides a nice change of pace, similar to Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer.” As an anti-drug song, “Hooked On Love” is an appropriate selection to close out the album and joins the ranks of other past Bananarama statement songs like “Rough Justice.”

Other highlights include “Ready Or Not” and “Do Not Disturb,” and the album as a whole marks a shift from the new wave sound the band had used up until now. Part of this is because of the Stock, Aitken and Waterman songwriting team, which helped this disc become popular but caused a rift in the group. Member Siobhan Fahey made one more album with the group before leaving, and subsequent albums lack the punch of this one.

True Confessions captures the girls at their peak. Though the Stock, Aitken and Waterman formula has been decried by critics, Bananarama was able to benefit from it at just the right time. That formula, together with the girls’ own talent and the strength of “Venus,” makes this a classic pop album.

Rating: B+

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© 2006 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of London, and is used for informational purposes only.