Theoretically, this should be a note-perfect example of commercial '80s pop music at its best. But it isn't. Half of this album is actually pretty great, though -- particularly the early Bananarama
hits. The Fun Boy Three
-produced "He Was Really Sayin' Something" throws that band's quirky avant-funk underneath the threesome's harmonizing; the cover of "Aie A Mwana" shows off some slightly unexpected Afrobeat chops over a brisk arrangement; while "Shy Boy" takes a more mainstream approach, but without losing its understated sass. The American hits "Robert De Niro's Waiting" and "Cruel Summer" show how the trio could balance chart aspirations with atypical singing or subject matter. When it comes to the multi-national smashes produced by Stock, Aitken & Waterman, though, it's not quite a case of the emperor having no clothes as much as a case of SAW being a one-trick pony. The reworking of Shocking Blue
's "Venus" was a well-deserved success, taking the off-kilter pop
ock of the original and giving it a sparkling dance undercarriage. "I Heard a Rumour" isn't bad either, with a catchy chorus and a similar synth sheen. Unfortunately, the rest of the SAW-overseen selections do both the band and producers a major disservice, all being pallid and boring revamps of those two songs. If they ever felt defensive about the critical slams they received, the fact remains that at this point in the band's career there wasn't much to shout about. A new version of the Beatles
' "Help!" at least provided them with a song that was more distinct than most of the late-'80s hash they received, but it wasn't as compelling a reworking as the others.