Release date 1988
|Artist Sandie Shaw|
Label Rough Trade Records
(1988) Nothing Less Than Brilliant
Genres Pop music, Alternative rock
Producers Stephen Street, Kevin Armstrong, Clive Langer, Alan Winstanley, John Porter
Similar Sandie Shaw albums, Alternative rock albums
Hello Angel is an original album by British singer Sandie Shaw, released in 1988.
Shaw had released a couple of non-commercial singles in the late 1970s on the CBS label but did not show a serious interest in making anymore material until the early 1980s when new husband Nik Powell (co-founder of the Virgin Group) introduced her to the B.E.F. (British Electric Foundation) and she ended up recording an updated version of the 1960s song "Anyone Who Had a Heart" for their "Music of Quality and Distinction" album and subsequently releasing it as a single. Shaw learned around this time that many famous musicians, such as Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, had been influenced by her, and she was invited to join Hynde on stage during one of their concerts to perform one of their songs with them. She and Hynde also sang a duet of Shaw's Top 3 hit from 1964, "Girl Don't Come." An album was discussed with Virgin Records, who had released the B.E.F.'s album, but Shaw fell pregnant with her daughter Amie and the project was put off.
In 1983 Shaw wrote and recorded a new original album entitled "Choose Life", 1,000 promotional copies of which were released in support of the World Peace Exposition. However demand by fans led to the album being officially released on the Palace label. Around this time, Shaw received a letter signed "Two incurable Sandie Shaw fans" telling her that "The Sandie Shaw legacy is not over yet - there is more to be done." It was in fact from Steven Morrissey and Johnny Marr of The Smiths. They also informed her that they had written a song that they would be delighted if she would record. Though wary at first, Shaw agreed to meet Morrissey and continued to receive letters from him via Geoff Travis of Rough Trade Records (the label to which the band was signed), a personal friend of Powell's. Eventually she went into the studio to record the aforementioned song, "I Don't Owe You Anything" as well as a couple of their other songs including "Hand in Glove," which had been their first single. Shaw's version of the song was subsequently released as a single and reached the UK Top 30. It was accompanied by a legendary performance on Top Of The Pops which involved Shaw writhing on the floor kicking her feet in the air backed by The Smiths all in bare feet (as a tribute to her quirk of performing barefoot during the 1960s). An album with Rough Trade was discussed, but once again Shaw fell pregnant, this time with her son Jack.
Two years later Shaw was signed to Polydor Records and released two singles with them. She also embarked on her first University tour in over twenty years. Again an album was discussed, but was cancelled due to a change in management and the feeling that the two singles had not done well enough for an album to be made. In the end, Shaw secured a deal with Rough Trade to make the "Hello Angel" album (the title of which was inspired by a postcard from Morrissey), and it was released in 1988.
Everyone involved with the album was either a personal friend or supporter of Shaw's. She was determined to make it her own personal album, totally unlike the ones she had made two decades previously. Seven of the eleven tracks were co-written by Shaw herself, four of which alongside Chris Andrews, who had written the vast majority of her 1960s hit singles. Morrissey and Stephen Street provided the song "Please Help the Cause Against Loneliness" which would become the first single to be released from the album. Street was also given production credits for most of the songs. Writing credits were also given to Jim and William Reid of The Jesus and Mary Chain on the song "Cool About You." Guitarist Kevin Armstrong was credited on every track with the exception of the now two-year-old "Hand in Glove" which of course credited Johnny Marr as guitarist and the rest of The Smiths as musicians. Armstrong also co-wrote two tracks with Shaw and was given production credits on one track. Writer/producer Clive Langer was also given credits on the song "Comrade In Arms."
The opening track is called "Nothing Less Than Brilliant" and is written by Shaw and Chris Andrews. Shaw had lost confidence in herself after her initial fame and had spent much of the 1970s poor after her divorce from bankrupt fashion designer Jeff Banks. As mentioned previously, Shaw later came to realise that she had influenced other people, and this song talks about her perception of herself and how she was seen by others in a more positive light. "Nothing Less Than Brilliant" became the second and final single to be released from the album, and later became the title of a 1994 compilation album. Song number two, the title track, is another Shaw/Andrews track. Andrews had originally written the music for Morrissey to put lyrics to, but Shaw ended up doing them herself instead. "Take Him", also by Shaw and Andrews, is a tongue-in-cheek rumba/cha-cha-inspired song rumoured to be based on a true incident with Morrissey. "A Girl Called Johnny" is the first of two cover versions on the album, and was originally recorded by The Waterboys. Mike Scott had originally written the song about American singer Patti Smith. "Strange Bedfellows", by Shaw and Kevin Armstrong is one of the more eccentric tracks on the album, telling the story of a married couple engaged in some sort of gender-swapping role-play. "Please Help the Cause Against Loneliness" was written by Morrissey and Stephen Street for Morrissey's first solo album. A demo was recorded though it did not end up on the final product. It was instead given to Shaw who took to the song straight away, and it became the first single to be released from the album. Side two of the L.P. begins with a new mix of Shaw's original Rough Trade hit "Hand in Glove" which had originally been The Smiths's first single. Stephen Street is credited as remixing the track. "Cool About You" is a Phil Spector-influenced song written by Jim and Willian Reid of The Jesus and Mary Chain. Several effects used here are reminiscent of the wall of sound, such as plucked strings sounding like raindrops. "Flesh And Blood" is the other track on which Kevin Armstrong is credited as writing alongside Shaw. "Comrade In Arms" is possibly the most significant song on the album. Written by Shaw and Clive Langer, it tells of the relationship Shaw had with a close friend who was dying of AIDS. She finished writing the lyrics on the day he died, and it was recorded in the studio in the middle of the night with some friends present. "I Will Remain" is the final track on the album, and once again Shaw and her original songwriter Chris Andrews are given writing credits. The Italian-sounding ballad has been suggested as possibly the best vocal performance of Shaw's career.
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