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THE NEW ALBUM REVIEWED BY PETE REYNOLDS
(April magazine 1983)
This album is worth getting for the cover alone! If you open it right out, the whole Fame line-up is there, from Professor Shorofsky at the left, to Julie at the right, and they're all really great pictures, with everyone smiling and happy. The new teacher, David Reardon, is also in the shot, and there are more pictures of them all inside, too.
To get down to the music itself; the first thing I noticed, with a pang of disappointment, is that the songs on the record aren't all new ones; two tracks - "Body Language" and "Could We Be Magic Like You" – were also included on the last album, "The Kids From Fame Live". As they were both put out by BBC Records, they haven't got any excuse for doing it. On the other hand, they're both excellent songs and slightly different versions, too, as the numbers on this album have been taken straight from the soundtrack of the series as opposed to being stage versions. Not that there's that much difference. The original arrangements have been adhered to very closely and the main thing you'll notice is the change in sound quality.
Side A opens with Erica singing "Be Your Own Hero", a song that is out as a single in the States at the moment. We've had quite a few letters sent in to the magazine asking if it was possible to get this song on a record, and now here it is! Erica really is a very good singer, and the sentiment of the song is just the sort of thing we have come to associate with Coco in the series.
"Just Like You" is next. It opens with very funky guitars and bass, then Debbie Allen's classy voice breaks in. It's a number all about being let down in love and features a lot of high notes which must have been quite difficult to sing. Oren Waters, of the singing group who backed the Kids from Fame during their two tours, sings a few lines and his voice sounds extremely good with Debbie's.
"There's A Train" is an odd, wistful little song about being separated from loved ones, and Albert Hague (Professor Shorofsky) makes an appearance on a Fame record for the first time, singing - or rather, speaking - the first verse of the song until Debbie takes over. It's a lovely, dreamy number which leads perfectly into the next one, which is Lee singing "Could We Be Magic Like You".
The first time I ever heard this, I didn't know that Lee had written it about a baby, but now it all falls into place and makes perfect sense! It's one of those songs you can never grow tired of, because the melody and the words are just so good. On this version, Debbie sings the harmony with Lee, whereas on the "Live" album it was The Waters. I think Lee's voice sounded better on the previous version, nothing to do with his singing, but just the general sound quality which made his tone sound clearer before. I would love to hear Carlo duet with Lee on this.
Gene Anthony Ray's "Lay Back And Be Cool" is a real show-stopper. The song suits him perfectly, with its finger-snapping, quicktalking style, and Gene puts exactly the right expression into his voice and just acts it out.
Side B starts off with the title track of the album, "Songs", performed by Carlo and Erica. These two are really good singing together - remember their stunning version of "Life Is A Celebration"? The theme of the song is that "Songs are around when you need them" to suit your every mood, so that you need never be lonely.
"Body Language" comes next, a slightly slower version than the live one, and also, if my ears don't deceive me, in a slightly lower key, so Debbie sounds less strained on the top notes and Gene's voice comes over marvelously. It's great when he says "Shukutuka" at the end of one of the lines, it's a really Gene-ish thing to do! Really, Gene's contribution is much better on this version. That's my opinion, anyway!
The next track is my personal favourite on the whole album. It's Valerie Landsburg
singing "Beautiful Dreamer" - not the old hit, but a brand new song with the same title. Her voice is so sweet, vulnerable and appealing that I only wish she got more numbers to do. She has that `little girl lost' air about her that is most touching, especially at the end of this song when she sings, "You, you're different, you, you're special." Lots of girls who fancy someone will identify with this song....
"Dancing Endlessly" features Debbie again and Oren Waters takes the male vocal role once more. The two of them sound great together.
The album ends as it begins with a stirring, inspiring number from Erica. This one is called "Bet Your Life It's Me" and breathes that supreme confidence ("I'm number one, top of the charts") that we have come to associate with Coco in Fame.
My only complaints about this album are that two other tracks should have been put on in place of the two we've already got - Lee's "Murphy's Blues" and Carlo's "Sail Away" would have been ideal - and that we didn't get enough of Carlo, Gene and Lee. I would have loved another song from Valerie, too, but then you can't please everybody, and I'm sure this album WILL please everyone who loves Fame!
This interview was provided to me by Elaine.
The article above is from the Official Fame Magazines from 1983. The OFFICIAL FAME MAGAZINE was published by Beat Publications Ltd. and the interviews are copyright MGM/UA Entertainment Co.