WENDY & LISA: ‘Eroica’ (Cherry Pop)



Guitarist Wendy Melvoin and keyboard player Lisa Coleman rose to fame as members of Prince’s band, The Revolution, in 1984, starring alongside the diminutive Minneapolis genius in the blockbuster movie, ‘Purple Rain,’ which also yielded a multi-Platinum soundtrack album.  By 1986, the duo had signed a deal with Virgin to make their own records, and in 1987 issued their self-titled debut LP, which included the minor hit, ‘Waterfalls.’ Their second LP, ‘Fruit At the Bottom,’ came out a year later (it included their UK Top 30 hit, ‘Satisfaction’) followed by their third album, ‘Eroica,’ in 1990, which is now reissued as an expanded 2-CD ‘Special Edition’ set by Cherry Pop.  

Lisa Coleman contributes detailed reminiscences to the liner notes of this release and reveals that the duo regarded ‘Eroica’ (which takes its title from Beethoven’s third symphony) as their best for Virgin as it was a record that didn’t try to appease record company A&R people and as such was the truest reflection of what they wanted to achieve musically. What they delivered was a seamless amalgam of Minneapolis-style funk, R&B, pop, and rock flavours, with passionate vocals (mostly sung by Wendy) and intelligent lyrics. The original album has been remastered and is certainly a vast sonic improvement on the 1990 CD. The highlights include the insistent ‘Rainbow Lake,’ a brassy funk juggernaut called ‘Skeleton Key,’ the throbbing, wistful groove ballad, ‘Staring At The Sun,’ and  the slow, poignant confessional, ‘Don’t Try To Tell Me,’ featuring Lisa doing lead vocals (which an orchestral arrangement by Wendy’s father, noted west coast jazz man, the late Mike Melvoin).

The second disc in the set is packed with sundry bonus cuts, which range from  various 7-inch edits and 12-inch remixes of singles (including the catchy ‘Strung Out,’ and an ultra-funky ‘Rainbow Lake’), an alternative version of ‘Don’t Try To Tell Me,’ plus the non-album single B-sides, ‘Stones And Birth,’ and ‘Balance.’ The original ‘Eroica’ album came with a limited bonus CD of four solo, jazz-inflected piano improvisations by Lisa Coleman, which are also included in this package.  

While Wendy & Lisa can currently be found touring the USA to great acclaim in a reformed Revolution band (alongside fellow original members, bassist Brown Mark, keyboardist, Dr. Fink and drummer Bobby Z), this fine reissue shows us what they could do when they spread their wings and flew to musical worlds beyond Prince’s orbit.

(CW) 3/5