Classic Freestyle Reviews-The Cover Girls

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The Gay Lord of Freestyle
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Show Me

Review by Alex Henderson

The original members of the Cover Girls (Louise "Angel" Sabater, Sunshine Wright, and Caroline Jackson) weren't fantastic singers; their voices were undeniably thin. But then, no one honestly believed that they were the next Martha & the Vandellas. Despite their obvious limitations as singers, the Cover Girls made some memorable contributions to Latin freestyle — in fact, their debut album, Show Me, is among freestyle's most important releases.

Boasting such producers as Andy Panda Tripoli, Lewis A. Martineé (the brains behind Exposé), and Little Louie Vega, Show Me is full of infectious, Latin-flavored dance-pop grooves that no freestyle enthusiast should be without. "Inside Outside," "Because of You," "One Night Affair" (not to be confused with the Gamble & Huff classic), and the hit title track are, without question, some of freestyle's most essential recordings. Meanwhile, the unexpected and very retro "That Boy of Mine" finds the New York trio recalling the girl group sound of the early '60s.

Show Me contains a few mediocre tunes, but they are the exception instead of the rule. All things considered, Show Me is an album that anyone with even a casual interest in freestyle should own.



We Can't Go Wrong

Review by Bryan Buss

This manufactured group of rotating vocalists had success with this album due to the strong singles "We Can't Go Wrong," "All That Glitters Isn't Gold," and "My Heart Skips a Beat." The rest of the album is by-the-numbers filler, however; not that it's not enjoyable, it's just not very interesting. In some ways, the trio sounded dated even when their singles were first being released, and, where Paula Abdul embodies '80s music even in the 21st century, the Cover Girls were parodies at the time — even the cover of this album looked bargain bin when it was first released.

The marketing, the production, and the writing ("I don't know what to do/I'm so in love with you") weren't up to the fight for more prominence for the Cover Girls, which is unfortunate, because when Louise "Angel" Sabater, Margo Urban, and Caroline Jackson Calister are allowed to shine, they're good. There's a simple quality to their voices that gives "We Can't Go Wrong" a particularly plaintive tone, and the mindful "All That Glitters Isn't Gold" is undeniable. Those two cuts are strong enough to make the album somewhat worthwhile, but much of the rest of the material is weak despite some unquestionably catchy hooks (notably "Once Upon a Time" and "Cute," which, despite being too precious, isn't as bad as you'd expect from the title). The positive aspects are that the group was part of the freestyle movement of the late '80s and, despite the adolescent lyrics of cuts like "Nothing Could Be Better" or "That Boy of Mine," the Cover Girls sound like a '60s girl group, and girl groups throughout the decades have never been much about maturity (think the Shangri-Las or the Crystals) — they've been about boys, love, and fun. So though their pop careers waned after this album, the girls are in good company.



Here It Is


Review by Justin M. Kantor


By the time this pioneering freestyle trio's third album release rolled around, the group had undergone three lineup changes, and it had become clear that the name the Cover Girls was more of a marketing concept than a real, live group. It's hard to know exactly which member is doing what, given that the credits fail to mention leads and — most importantly — the "unseen" backing vocalists that seem to be supporting the girls on nearly every track. The 12" for the driving "Funk Boutique," which had been released in single form a year and a half before this album saw the light of day, even credited producer Tony Moran and long-time session vocalist Debbe Cole with background vocals — their voices are still heard prominently here, but aren't mentioned. Many different vocal shades and colors are found on the choruses of various tracks, but there's no clue as to who helped the trio. It cannot be denied that dance is a producer-driven genre, and despite the shadiness of non-crediting found here, the grooves are smokin', and the powerhouse lead vocals by Michelle Valentine and Evelyn Escalera are dynamite in the context.

Here It Is begins with the deceptively morose "Wishing on a Star," a cover of the 1978 Rose Royce hit. Valentine displays ample soul and tenderness with her vocals, turning in a performance which surpasses the vitality of the original and resulted in a number nine pop hit. Meanwhile, Escalera, whose voice is remarkably similar, throws down defiantly on "Still Miss You," a spicy brew of freestyle, house and traditional Latin elements. Nearly every other cut on the album lives up to the one before it. The melodically soulful "Always" may be midtempo, but its seeping bassline, coy guitar effects and varied percussion fills make it an inimitable club number; the relentless "If You Want My Love (Here It Is)" has a jazzy vibe via its quasi-horn arrangement and is lyrically contagious; and the saucy "That Feeling" merges James Brown-esque samples and hip-hop beats with a house bassline, a memorable R&B melody and an irresistible vocal arrangement. The charming melody and fairy-tale lyrics of "Thank You," the album's other ballad, provide a nice balance toward the middle of the album. Here It Is is an essential piece for freestyle stalwarts and any fans of '90s club music.
 
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