You do not earn the name the Hit Factory without crafting some cracking tunes, and during the late 80s; Stock, Aitkin, Watermen did just that. With their distinct brand of High-NRG pop turned soap stars, newcomers, and pre-established acts, (such as Bananarama) into best-selling sensations. However, success can only stay for so long, with new innovative sounds on the horizon and changing tastes. In 1993, after the success of Wow! a less than fruitful continuation record, and a group departure, Both Bananarama and Stock & Waterman returned to a unique concept album, one that married the past with the present In Please Yourself.
A bit of background, the partnership of Stock, Aitkin, Watermen and Bananarama came about in ’86, culminating in the celebrated release of their Venus cover. Their follow-up, Wow! came about in ’87, incorporating more of the iconic Hit Factory sound, however, their input left elements of Bananarama feeling dissatisfied with the arrangement. Bananarama mostly abandoned them in 1991, to less of an impact resuming the partnership shortly after. Stock & Waterman had an intriguing concept when they pitched this album: Marrying 70s Eurovision-style songs with early 90s club dance sounds. The result was a fabulously Euro-pop album, with songs that would feel comfortable in both eras.
It is ironically fitting that both Stock and Waterman & Bananarama have lost members when they came to produce this record. Listening to the album, you would not notice as the music itself retains the craftsmanship of their previous efforts. Starting strongly with tracks like “Movin’ On”, a single that combines ABBA’s sense of memorable disco ballads with Bananarama’s delivery and modern sounds. Of course, it is not alone, as the track “Is She Good For You?” is an earworm-inducing anthem that highlights the talents of Stock And Waterman. In crafting a catchy hook-laden beat that you can shake your head along with, one that is slightly outside their traditional high-NRG sound. Other recognisable tracks include “Last Thing On My Mind”, a track that would find a place in Steps’ repertoire but started here.
Lyrics about love, scorned lovers, and the like, while consistent with Bananarama’s discography, certainly enhance the concept of this concept album. This feeling is perfectly crystalised into possibly the biggest single off the album, the delightful cover of More, More, More. Earning success with the combination of classic lyrics with the Korg M1 recognisable sounds, breathing new life into the old faithful. Suffice to say it is a bold rendition that encapsulates the ethos of Please Yourself. While the result was certainly divisive, It is not like the concept did not have much hope initially, as so many acts in the 90s repurposed hits from The Bee Gees and ABBA to ride commercial and widespread acclaim. Maybe if they covered more classics the critics would have been more receptive to Bananarama’s efforts. Or maybe Please Yourself, fell so those tracks could run?
Please Yourself is a solid step for the pop band and an ingenious return for Waterman et al. One could argue that both parties procrastinated about looking towards the future by embracing the past. But the 70s/modern fusion sound plays handsomely into their repertoire. The result is sassy, fun, breathy, the exact qualities you would want in a pop record. Please Yourself is such an appropriate title for the album, one that shows that songbirds can fly with clipped wings, and curse those who reject their new direction. Though Bananarama would continue to find success, Please Yourself highlight that despite their hardship that they are moving on.
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