Saturday, November 2, 2013

Irene Cara - What A Feelin'

Following her appearance in the movie Fame (click here for that soundtrack album) and her 1982 debut Anyone Can See (click here), Irene Cara put out her second studio album in 1983. Today (November 2nd) marks the thirtieth anniversary that record which charted at number 77 on the US Billboard Album chart, number 49 in Australia, number 45 on the US Billboard R&B chart, number 29 in Germany, number 12 in Norway, number 8 in Switzerland and number 3 in Sweden.

While many would note the heavy influence by super-producer Giorgio Moroder, it should be noted that Cara herself shared co-writing credits on all but two of the songs here.

There is a lot of misinformation online to the original track listing of the vinyl LP release from 1983. Of course, it does not help that the 1997 CD re-release for it shifted a lot of things around too. Luckily, I found an image of the back of the album cover so that I could properly review this one is its first release order.

Side one begins with the question “Why Me?” The answer was a chart-busting second single which reached number 17 in Germany, number 13 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 7 on the US Dance chart, number 5 in Norway and number 4 in Switzerland. I like the opening guitar riffs; they really drive up the energy level very quickly. The cascading drums, courtesy of Keith Forsey, on the bridge to the final chorus are very cool too.

The fourth single, “Breakdance”, hit number 20 in Switzerland, number 13 on the US Dance chart and number 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100. This is one of those lost dance gems from the early 80’s that you don’t hear enough any more; it has disappeared the way of so many things from the break-dancing era. But there is a reason it charted so high - it just such a great dance tune.

“You Took My Life Away” slows things down a bit with a melodic mid-tempo number.

“Receiving”, penned by William Sandman, served as the B-side to the third single. It has that whole “cosmic airwaves” vibe to it, both musically and in theme.

“Keep On” was written by Arthur Barrow and Richie Zito, who played bass/keyboards and guitar/drums respectively on the track. It has a spicy Latin salsa rhythm sprinkled through it.

“The Dream (Hold On to Your Dream)” was the third single; it charted at number 37 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 26 on the Dance charts. It also appeared on the soundtrack for the film D.C. Cab which came out in December of that year (watch for the review next month). While it starts slow, it really builds in inspirational intensity that is fueled by Cara’s powerful vocals.

Side two starts with the radio-edit of “Flashdance…What a Feeling” from the soundtrack of the earlier 1983 film Flashdance (click here for that review). That single was a number 1 smash in Norway, Switzerland and on both the US Billboard Hot 100 and the Dance charts. It was really a no-brainer for it to appear on this record as well; a perfect enticement for casual fans to come and sample more of Cara’s exceptional talent. There was easily plenty of space on the second side of vinyl to have dropped in an extended version of the track here, in my opinion.

“Romance ‘83”, the B-side to the fifth single, takes up that whole digital age/synthetic feel of the time and spins it into a song about love that time. Being an old school console owner and arcade crawler, I appreciated the Atari shout out too. I like how Cara’s vocals in parts remind me of Tina Weymouth on the Tom Tom Club records.

The B-side to the fourth single was “Cue Me Up”, another bass and drum thumping dance track.

“Talk Too Much”, with its bouncy reggae beat, reminds a guy that actions speak louder than words. It also was the B-side to the second single.

“You Were Made For Me”, the closing ballad, was released as the fifth and final single. While it only reached number 78 on the US Billboard Hot 100, it landed at number 10 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. I like the simple piano accompaniment that allows Cara’s voice to ring out strong and true.

I was a huge Fame fan during my high school years (both the film which I saw on HBO countless times and the weekly TV show). As such, I really liked Irene Cara’s music as well. I remember getting a copy of What A Feelin’ on vinyl for Christmas in 1983, and I played it a ton during the coming years. All the great dance rhythms were perfect for getting me into a weekend party mood. After a long absence from my listening sphere (it went away with the rest of my vinyl in the 90’s), it has been a pleasure to have it back again.


HERC said...

Big fan of this album, too. The original 1983 vinyl was pretty good but the CD reissue definitely upped the ante in my book. Extended remixes of Moroder productions are always desirable.

Cara all but disappeared after this one, didn't she - don't remember hearing anything else from her.

Always appreciate your efforts to hunt down the source material as originally issued, too.

Martin Maenza said...

She did step away from music for a few years after this (got married during that time). She returned in 1987 with an album Carasmatic but then really shifted more to an acting career.

JP.M said...

Hi Martin, I'm a big fan to Kim Wilde in France but I love Irene Cara and all the 80's
Thanks for your great blog and soon