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Old 09-03-2011, 09:18 AM   #202 (permalink)
Trollheart
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Hold me --- Laura Branigan --- 1985 (Atlantic)


I was, I have to admit, shocked and saddened to learn that Laura Branigan is dead. I had no idea, and when I went to research her discography for this review I found out that she died of a brain aneurym in 2004. Such a pity: she was so talented. In her relatively short then career she released seven albums, of which her most successful and best known was 1984's “Self control”, though she will always be remembered primarily for her huge hit “Gloria”, from her debut self-titled album. This however is my favourite of hers.

It opens with the title track, a slick, polished, street-rock song with dramatic keyboards and synthesisers telling the tale of a girl looking for love, and what she's prepared to do to find it. It's got a very eighties feel to it, with sax and horns and quite a funky beat. More straight-ahead commercial pop follows in the shape of “Maybe tonight”, with a great warbling keyboard line and powerful echoey drums. It's a song of “look what you lost and you'll be back” as she sings ”Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow/ It's just a matter of time/ Until you're running back in my arms again.” The song has an odd kind of tango-like rhythm, with Laura in strident voice, defiant and assured.

The first ballad comes in the form of “Foolish lullaby”, a song driven on breathy digital piano with synthesiser backup. It's another of those love triangle song s,where Laura asks ”If you're so sure that she's the one/ Why are you lying here with me?/ Did it ever cross your mind at all/ How all this feels to me?” As a ballad it really works, and is well positioned between the two previous fast tracks and the one that comes next, “Spanish Eddie”, which is a real rocker, with great synth and a jumping beat, kind of puts me in mind of the likes of “Flashdance”, then her version of Alphaville's hit ballad “Forever young” slows things down perfectly again. She does a great job on it, so much so that I think I prefer her version to the original. There's real power and emotion in her voice as she sings.

Much as I like Laura Branigan's work, it's again something of a disappointment to find that she did not write her own material, at least on this album (and looking quickly through her discog, none of the other albums either). She contributes to one track on this one, and there are the odd songwriting credits on her other releases, but very few and far between. Here, she has the likes of Jack White, Harold Fatermeyer and even Michael Bolton writing for her, and Faltermeyer also plays on the album. The songs are generally good, but it's always a pity when the artist doesn't create her own material.

She also recruits the talents of other luminaries, like Michael Landau on guitar and James Ingram on vocals, and in fact the supporting cast numbers close to forty. The production is top-notch, being handled by Faltermeyer, with Jack White and Mark Spiro. “I found someone” is a song made more famous later by Cher, but written for Laura by Michael Bolton. It's a power ballad, sung with great passion by Laura, but more restrained than Cher's punchy rock version. Whereas the woman with one name utilised a lot of heavy guitar and pounding drums in her version, Laura goes for an arrangement based around piano and keyboard, with just the right amount of percussion. It makes her version perhaps less aggressive than Cher's, but I believe better too.

“Sanctuary” is a pop/rock mid-paced song, with a good beat, and a really good guitar solo in there too, while “Tenderness”, the only song on which Laura co-writes, is a sort of cross between a rock and a dance number, with great horns. It's not great, not bad, but would have been a better closer than “When the heat hits the streets”, which is unashamedly pop/dance, and a little weak. Sorry, a lot weak. Bad choice to close what is essentially a really good album.

Laura's next album, “Touch”, just didn't do it for me, and I don't know what the albums after that were like, but I found “Touch” to be very heavily dance-influenced with not too much rock material at all. Here, there are pop songs certainly, but a decent smattering of rock too. Whether Laura changed her musical direction after this or whether “Touch” was a temporary aberration I don't know. Nevertheless, this album showcases some of her best work, some of her strengths and perhaps one or two of her weaknesses. Not a classic, by any means, but an album worth giving your time to listen to.

TRACKLISTING

1. Hold me
2. Maybe tonight
3. Foolish lullaby
4. Spanish Eddie
5. Forever young
6. When I'm with you
7. I found someone
8. Sanctuary
9. Tenderness
10. When the heat hits the streets

Suggested further listening: “Branigan”, “Self control”
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Last edited by Trollheart; 05-10-2013 at 05:39 PM.
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