Sheena Easton Biography
It absolutely, indisputably is. In fact, we'd go so far as to say that Sheena Easton's first British album release in six long years is a parquet-igniting, Spandex-shrinking, glitterball-exploding, Saturday night fever-inducing, no-prisoners-taken, all-out disco monster - the kind of record that ricochets you back in time, shakes you forcibly by the shoulders, and reminds you in no uncertain terms just what fun (and truly great singing) is all about. Sit it out on the sidelines, wallflower-like, with a long face and a glass of luke-warm Coca-Cola? We don't think so! Hear it even once and you'll find yourself meekly obeying orders to, well, strut your funky stuff ...
On describing both the project itself and that tongue-in-cheek title, Sheena lapses temporarily into a dance diva's mink-coated purr. "Once we started recording, the joke quickly became, 'But this is just so-oo fab-u-lous, dahlings! In fact, it's faboo! Totally fab-u-loso! Fabissimo to the max!' Because everyone was having such a blast - me included. How could I not do? Here I was in the studio, singing songs that I used to dance round my handbag to as a teenager, and without a care in the world. No angst. No introspection. No asking myself, 'Can I relate personally to this lyric?' or 'What's my motivation here?' Musically, it was just one big old party." Just consider the track-listing!
Scheduled as first single is a pulverising version of the Giorgio Moroder-penned 'Giving Up, Giving In', first launched into the charts in 1978 by the Three Degrees and soon to exlode there again courtesy of Sheena. There's also a glorious new take on 'Don't Leave Me This Way', the classic track that has already provided hits for The Communards, Thelma Houston and Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes. Add similarly respectful but inspired re-readings of 'Never Can Say Goodbye' (The Jackson Five, Gloria Gaynor and, again, The Communards); 'Love Is In Control' (Donna Summer); 'Best Of My Love' (The Emotions, C J Lewis); 'On My Own' (Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald); 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' (Andy Williams, Boystown Gang) and 'That's What Friends Are For' (Deniece Williams), and you're beginning to get the picture. The results are nothing short of, well, fabulous.
Says the divine Miss E: "Some albums are artist-driven, some song-driven, some producer-driven ... this was definitely the latter." Stepping forward on cue and taking a sequinned-coated bow is the duo of Ian Masterson and Terry Ronald, already hailed in fab circles for their work with Kylie Minogue, Geri Halliwell, the Pet Shop Boys, Gloria Estefan and Boyzone, and soon to be yet more famous still. "You only have to sit in a room with them for five minutes to know that they've lived and breathed this record," Sheena continues. "They've been totally consumed with it. It's their baby. It's got their stamp all over it. They're going to be one of the best-known production teams in pop." Ian and Terry also get the chance to prove their mettle as original songwriters: they penned the two new and original songs that complete the tracklisting - 'You Never Gave Me The Chance' and 'Get Here To Me' .
Responsible for bringing them and Sheena to the party was Universal Records' A&R supremo, Tony Swain (who made his name as part of 80's production team Swain & Jolley whose credits include Bananarama, Spandau Ballet, Kim Wilde, Alison Moyet and Culture Club) . "As a company, we got very excited about the idea of doing a no-holds-barred, out-and-out retro dance anthem record. The plan was to employ a great production team and really hot remixers, and to choose songs that everybody knows and really loves. But one question remained ... Who should front it all? That was the one missing piece in the jigsaw. Then we thought of Sheena, and realised there could be no-one better. There's a huge residual interest in her. She's looking and, crucially, singing better than ever. Her vocals here are tremendously strong and soulful. Anyone who hasn't heard her in a while is going to be completely blown away!"
It took all of Swain's powers of persuasion to convince the Scottish-born singer and actress that she should get involved in what, eventually, would become known as 'Fabulous'. Two decades after exploding onto the showbusiness scene, she continues to enjoy a thriving US-based TV and stage career. While the leap from Lanarkshire to Los Angeles, heart of the showbusiness beast, might seem a long one, Sheena had made it effortlessly some 20 years ago. A graduate of Glasgow's Royal Scottish Academy Of Music And Drama, she first gained fame as the subject of the BBC TV's a-star-in-the-making documentary 'The Big Time'. Within weeks of that programme's transmission, its featured single, '9 To 5', had not only reached Number 3 in Britain, but had topped the American charts. And in 1981, she beat off competition from Luther Vandross, James Ingram, Adam and The Ants and The Go-Gos, to win the Grammy as that year's Best New Artist.
The subsequent two decades have been filled with career triumphs. Musically, her global hits include the James Bond film theme 'For Your Eyes Only', the LA and Babyface-produced 'The Lover In Me', and a series of celebrated collaborations with the artist then known as Prince - 'Sugar Walls', 'U Got The Look' and 'The Arms Of Orion' among them. Her TV acting credits include the role of Don Johnson's screen wife Caitlin in 'Miami Vice'. And on stage she has toured nationally and headlined on Broadway in productions of 'The Man Of La Mancha' and 'Grease'. Currently, she is starring opposite David Cassidy in the Las Vegas musical revue 'At The Copa'. Given that these days she fits her work commitments around the demands of her most important role in life, that of mother to children Jake, nearly six, and Skylar, four-and-a-half, it's easy to see why she was anything but ready for a new recording project.
"But Tony (Swain) and the people at Universal kept making it impossibly easy for me," Sheena admits. "I was like, 'No! I'm not sure I want to! And anyway, I'm committed to this show until next January and can't leave Vegas ...", and they were like, 'That's fine! We'll record all the tracks our end and you can do your vocals over there! Whatever it takes!" And so it went on. Every time I put an obstacle in place, they overcame it. It's was if there was no escaping my fate. This was a record that was meant to be made." Fans old and new are sure to agree. And all the signs are that it will return the one-time Modern Girl to the British charts in a totally triumphant way. Already, the totally outrageous and over-the-top video that accompanies 'Giving Up, Giving In' is causing eyes to pop and jaws to drop.
The album 'Fabulous' is released by Universal Records on 13 November. The single 'Giving Up, Giving In' will follow on the 27th.
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