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Calling “Gloria”: Laura Branigan’s Debut Album Gets Expanded Reissue

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Laura Branigan - Branigan“What kind of an artist are you?”

The question has been asked again and again in this age of music reality shows in which a fickle public can make a recording star – at least for fifteen minutes – by dialing an 800 number or sending a text message. Truth to tell, Laura Branigan could have been any kind of artist she desired. Armed with a powerful, resonant and highly individual voice, Branigan worked her way up the ranks of stardom.  She ultimately chose to embrace the sounds of contemporary pop, forever to be associated with the big, sleek sound of the 1980s. But if the late artist will inevitably be remembered for “Gloria” or “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” her body of work reveals a multi-faceted vocalist whose alto was excitingly adaptable. The first phase of Branigan’s all-too-short career gets its most comprehensive exploration yet thanks to Other Half Entertainment and Gold Legion’s expanded CD reissue of her debut album for Atlantic Records, 1982’s Branigan. This loving reminder of Branigan’s dynamic talent adds seven delicious bonuses – six of which predate the album itself.

German producer Jack White and his co-producer/arranger Greg Mathieson were enlisted by Atlantic to shape Branigan’s debut platter after a number of singles failed to establish the singular vocalist in the pop mainstream. (More on those later!) With an A-list band including Toto’s Steve Lukather on guitar, Leland Sklar and Bob Glaub on bass, Carlos Vega on drums and Michael Boddicker on synthesizers, plus Maxine and Julia Waters on background vocals, Atlantic wasn’t taking any chances. White was determined to showcase many facets of Branigan’s burnished voice, alternating ballads with rockers and perhaps most key, dance-oriented floor-fillers.

Branigan begins modestly enough. Opening cut (and the album’s leadoff single) “All Night with Me,” written by future Walt Disney Music President Chris Montan, is an adult contemporary mid-tempo ballad placing Branigan’s warm voice out front. She embellishes the soft verses with vulnerability and the hook-laden chorus with sweetly seductive confidence, but the smooth composition serves as mere prelude.  Though it came second on the album, Umberto Tozzi, Giancarlo Bigazzi and Trevor Veitch’s “Gloria” is second to none in the Branigan songbook. The track exploded onto the turntable with a torrent of urgency; its fiery, anthemic arrangement by Greg Mathieson (who arranged the original Italian version of the song) with its commanding power chords was matched by Branigan’s furious vocal. If the singer kept her cards close to the vest on “All Night with Me,” she unleashed her inner tigress four minutes into Branigan on “Gloria.” Branigan’s plea to the titular lady to “slow down before you start to blow it” was delivered as if the lives of both the singer and the subject of her admonishment were on the line. The Americanized “Gloria,” with Veitch’s new lyrics, couldn’t miss. It proved to be a supremely fierce performance wrapped in an irresistibly catchy package for the post-disco generation of dancefloor dwellers. It took Branigan to the top of the Cash Box chart and No. 2 on Billboard.

Following “Gloria” would be no easy feat on any album, so White and Mathieson provided Branigan with a move away from dance and towards rock. Adrian John Loveridge and John Wonderling’s melodramatic “Lovin’ You Baby” burns with requisite passion and desperation (“How could I live? Where would I go and what would I give? What can I say? How do I stand…if there’s no more lovin’ you, baby?”). It wasn’t the only rock-oriented track on the nine-song album.  Dive in – after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 30, 2014 at 13:37

Posted in Laura Branigan, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Review: Laura Branigan, “Self Control: Expanded Edition”

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Self ControlSongwriter Bruce Roberts penned “The Lucky One” for the television film An Uncommon Love, in which a college professor begins a relationship with a student earning tuition money by working as a prostitute.  For this drama, Roberts (who had already written songs for Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer and collaborated with Bette Midler and Burt Bacharach) crafted an uncommon story of a girl whose “soul was strong, her heart was tough.”  He tailored it specifically for the talents and range of Laura Branigan, a vocalist equally comfortable with a sultry whisper and a theatrical belt.  “Like a wild bird of prey, like a thief in the night,” Branigan vividly captured the essence of Roberts’ song, from its hushed introduction to its big, “Gloria”-esque chords.  The Grammy-nominated “Gloria,” of course, was the Italian pop song reinvented as a dance anthem for the ages by the singer on her 1982 debut album Branigan.  She built on its massive international success with further hits such as the power ballad “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” and appeared on the Flashdance soundtrack with “Imagination.”  For her third album, 1984’s Self Control, the onetime backup singer for Leonard Cohen asserted herself with her most confident and adventurous set of songs yet.  Robbie Buchanan and Harold Faltermeyer arranged Self Control, with Buchanan sharing production duties with Jack White.  Gold Legion has just reissued this slice of pop in a slipcased deluxe edition with four bonus tracks.

The title track was crafted by Steve Piccolo and Raffaele Riefoli with “Gloria” composer Giancarlo Bigazzi.  (It was one of two songs on Self Control from Bigazzi.)  Unlike the exultant “Gloria,” though, “Self Control” was a much darker animal.  Piccolo’s lyrics immediately set the stage for a story given further illumination via William Friedkin’s evocative music video.  “Oh the night is my world,” Branigan sings on the crest of an unusually tough guitar lick, continuing, “City light, painted girls/In the day, nothing matters/It’s the nighttime that flatters…”  When she sang, “I live among the creatures of the night,” Branigan was believable as a mature woman looking for excitement in the seamy side of town.  Harold Faltermeyer’s arrangement was cutting-edge and electronic but alluring, bolstering Branigan’s vocals – again capable of a hush and a boom – with an anthemic rallying cry.  There’s even a touch of Barry Gibb in the title refrain, adding up to a highly dramatic album centerpiece that even eclipsed the success of “Gloria” in many international territories.

“Ti Amo,” the second song on Self Control with the participation of Giancarlo Bigazzi, was also the first of the album’s four songs from songwriter Diane Warren.  Branigan was actually the first artist in the U.S. to record Warren’s compositions, finding room for her songs on both Branigan and Branigan 2.  “Self Control” gave her an even bigger spotlight.  “Ti Amo” was an Italian smash from the “Gloria” team of Bigazzi and Umberto Tozzi; Warren’s American lyrics matched the big melody with the heart-on-your-sleeve style for which Warren herself would become famous.  As convincing as she was on “Self Control” as one who lived among the creatures of the night, the singer was equally believable pleading for a lover to return and questioning herself with vulnerability (“Wasn’t I good to you?…I can’t believe you could just turn and leave…”) Her relationship was illicit on the wistful “Silent Partners,” co-credited to Warren and “The Doctor.”  On the other side of the spectrum was their “Breaking Out,” a propulsive track with shimmering synths and Branigan in the role of a woman “caught in the trap of a workin’-day world” and ready to break free of those conventions.  It’s the kind of quintessential eighties-pop melody and arrangement that sounds like so many others, but was another showcase both for a gifted vocalist and a songwriter poised on the cusp of even greater successes.  Even more frenetic was “Satisfaction,” a German track from Bernd Dietrich, Gerd Grabowski and Engelbert Simons with English lyrics from Warren and Mark Spiro.  This time, her lyrics had the unenviable task of supporting the nonstop beats arranged by Faltermeyer.  (Though the synths played by Faltermeyer and Buchanan stand out on Self Control, there’s also exemplary work all –around in the rhythm section of Carlos Vega and John Robinson on drums, Nathan East on bass, and Michael Landau, Dann Huff and Paul Jackson, Jr. on guitars.  Bill Champlin, of Sons of Champlin and Chicago, is among the background singers.)

There’s more on Laura Branigan after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 4, 2013 at 15:06

Posted in Laura Branigan, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Gold Legion Expands Titles by Laura Branigan, Grace Jones

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The Gold Legion label has two expanded titles coming from a pair of disco and dance legends this fall.

Expect remastered and expanded editions of the late, great Laura Branigan’s Branigan (1982) and Self Control (1984) albums, as well as reissues of Inside Story (1986) and Bulletproof Heart (1989) from Grace Jones, this September.

Branigan, the big-voiced New Yorker with a four-octave range, burst onto the scene in 1982 with the release of Branigan, a solid offering of dance-rock bolstered by a cover of “Gloria,” an Italian pop hit for Umberto Tozzi in 1979. Branigan’s iconic, addictive single spent an extraordinary 36 weeks on the U.S. charts, peaking at No. 2 and earning her a Grammy nomination. Branigan’s embrace of European musical trends and songcraft netted her greater success as the ’80s rolled on, first with a French pop song, “Solitaire,” translated into English by a rising lyricist named Diane Warren; then with “Self Control,” a hard-driving song co-written by Italian pop star Raffaele “Raf” Riefoli that was a Top 5 hit in 1984. The expansion of Branigan features the 12″ version of “Gloria” as well as 1981 non-LP single “Looking Out for Number One,” while Self Control features remixes of the title track and singles “Satisfaction” and “The Lucky One.”

Gold Legion then turns its attention to an oft-overlooked period for iconic dance musician/model/actress Grace Jones. The striking Miss Jones took on her biggest film role in 1985 as the mysterious May Day in the James Bond film A View to a Kill, and would end her longtime association with Island Records with the bestselling Island Life compilation. The next year, she took up with producer Nile Rodgers (ironically, a missed encounter at Studio 54 inspired Rodgers and Bernard Edwards to write massive hit “Le Freak” during their tenue in CHIC) and released Inside Story on EMI-owned Manhattan Records. The LP spawned a sizable U.S. dance hit in “I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect for You),” co-written by British songwriter Bruce Woolley (who co-wrote Jones’ hit “Slave to the Rhythm”). Follow-up album Bulletproof Heart was produced by a number of dance producers, including Jonathan Elias, Jones’ then-husband Chris Stanley and up-and-coming dance hitmakers Robert Clivillés and David Cole (the individual letters in the C+C Music Factory outfit). While the album was not a commercial success and would remain her last LP for nearly 20 years, it’s finally getting its due on CD, with three bonus remixes to boot. (Five remixes appear on Inside Story.)

Both Branigan discs and Bulletproof Heart will be available on September 18, with Inside Story following a week later. The initial 1,000 copies of each Grace Jones album will feature a special cardboard slipcase, and all sets will have expanded booklets. Hit the jump to explore these titles and place your orders!

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Written by Mike Duquette

July 31, 2012 at 12:50