Monday, September 2, 2013

Sheena Easton - Best Kept Secret

Thirty years ago this month saw the release of Best Kept Secret, the fourth studio album from Scottish pop singer Sheena Easton. Recording in the United States, it was produced by Greg Mathieson who had worked previously with Laura Branigan‘s debut. The 1983 album peaked at number 99 in the UK, number 38 in Sweden, number 33 on the US Billboard Album chart, number 32 in Canada, number 5 in Norway and number 4 in Japan.

Side one opens with “Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair)”. As the first single, it went to number 84 in the UK, number 54 in Australia, number 46 in Japan, number 9 in Norway and number 8 in Canada. In the US, it went to number 15 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard Dance charts. This tale of “out of sight, out of mind” has a steady, up-tempo drumbeat and a melodic, up-beat synth line that made it a party favorite back in the day.

“I Like the Fright” keeps the synth party going with this tune about a woman who gets a thrill out of being scared.

The second single “Almost Over You” peaked at number 89 in the UK, number 68 in Australia, and number 35 in Canada. Here in the US, the beautiful ballad reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 4 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. With a piano and string accompaniment, Easton captures the raw emotion of running into a former-love who broke her heart.

“Devil in a Fast Car”, the third and final single, went to number 95 in Japan and number 79 on the US Billboard Hot 100. With a new-wave spin, Easton is on the prowl for hot, passionate one-night stand.

To close off the first half, Easton covers the Thelma Houston’ 1977 disco classic “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, which in turn was a cover of the 1975 song by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. She sticks to the songs original style yet spices it up by adding a bit of a Latin flare into the mix.

Side two starts with “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”, a synth heavy song about those events of the past that are best left to just fading away.

“(She’s in Love) With Her Radio” is all about a woman who is totally into her music, to the point where she cannot stand it being turned off.

Things slow down again with “Just One Smile”, a ballad about longing for one more notice by a former love. Randy Newman wrote the song which was originally a hit single for Gene Pitney in 1966. Others who have recorded version s include Dusty Springfield, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Karla DeVito.

“Sweet Talk”, the B-side to the third single, had a bouncy rhythm to it that reminds me an awful lot to Ace Frehley’s “New York Groove” from 1979 (which was a cover of a song first recorded by the glam band Hello in 1975). I think a deejay could really do a fun mega-mix of the two.

The title for the album comes from a line from the closing track - the slinky, stealthy “Best Kept Man”.

Even as a Sheena Easton fan from her earliest hits, I had not heard a majority of Best Kept Secret until doing this review. As a pop/dance lover, I certainly enjoyed listening to it (thanks to YouTube posts). If you are looking to add it to your collection, it might be tough to find. While used vinyl can be found on eBay, the only CD release was in 2000 and it demands a high price on the import market. Hopefully it will show up in digital format in the future.

For more of my reviews of Sheena Easton’s albums, you can check out the links below.

- For 1981’s self-titled Sheena Easton, click here.

- For 1982’s Madness, Money & Music, click here.

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