Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sheena Easton - A Private Heaven

Today (October 2nd) marks the thirtieth anniversary of A Private Heaven, the sixth studio album from Sheena Easton. The Platinum seller hit number 88 in Australia, number 36 in Canada, number 26 in New Zealand, and number 9 in Japan. Here in the US, it spent thirty-five weeks on the Billboard Album chart and peaked at number 15.

Side one starts with “Strut”, a track penned by Charlie Dore and Julian Littman. As the first single, it went to number 72 in Japan, number 21 in Germany, number 13 in Australia, number 8 in Canada and New Zealand, number 7 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 6 on the US Billboard Dance chart. The song earned Easton a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance Female; she lost to Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It”. I like the slinky, sexy beat and the punctuating horns; it remains a fun one to let loose to when dancing.

Next up is “Sugar Walls”, a track penned by Prince under the name “Alexander Nevermind”. As the second single, it went to number 95 in the UK, number 87 in Australia, number 57 in Germany, number 30 in New Zealand, number 20 in Canada, number 9 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 3 on the US Billboard R&B chart, and number 1 on the US Billboard Dance chart. The suggestive nature of the lyrics (implying a vaginal imagery) and Easton’s sultry delivery earned the song a place on Tipper Gore and the PMRC’s “Filthy Fifteen” list. This was another dance favorite back in the day as well.

“Hungry Eyes” was released as a single in Japan, where it peaked at number 83. The high energy, new wave sound makes it my favorite of the deep tracks on the record. The lyrics tell of a lustful woman on the prowl.

After three dance tracks, things settle down with the ballad “It’s Hard to Say It’s Over”. For fans who were concerned that Easton has left her former sound behind, she shows that she could still belt out a beautiful tune.

“Swear”, the third single, stalled at number 80 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The track is a cover of a tune by Tim Scott McConnell and released originally on his 1983 album by the same name. For me, this rousing rocker rounds out a stellar side one. It has a great beat.

Side two opens with “Love and Affection”, a lovely ballad originally written and recorded by Joan Armatrading in 1976. Armatrading’s version is a folk/R&B blend with a smooth saxophone. Easton gives a lighter pop interpretation with a perkier horn solo. I think she could have gone grittier here.

“Back in the City” features an up-tempo urban sound with the guitars, percussion and horns. Again, a good number but it could have used just a bit more edge to it. The track was co-written by the album’s producer Greg Mathieson and Lee Ritenour.

“You Make Me Nervous”, a song about being confused by love, comes with a mid-tempo beat.

Next up is a ballad “All By Myself” wherein a young woman prepares to move on after the loss of a lover.

The closing track is “Double Standard”, a mid-tempo tune about a cheating boyfriend. In the end, she decides what is good for the gander is good for the goose too.

Outside of the hit singles, I did not discover the deeper cuts of A Private Heaven until about six years ago when I completed the album for my music library. Since then, I’ve listened to it from start to finish over a half dozen times. For me, the first half of the record is spot-on while the second tapers off as it goes (until it gets to the last track which redeems things a bit).

For more Sheena Easton, click here.

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