Saturday, 12 September 2015

Regina - Baby Love

Questions of Regina's startling vocal similarity to Madonna on her debut solo LP resonated through the industry upon its release and became the overriding factor in its short-lived popularity. The set's first single, "Baby Love," was the main culprit. Co-written by Regina with producer Stephen Bray and Mary Kessler, "Baby Love" was originally intended for Madonna - who did cut a demo of the song, but scrapped it. One can only speculate on the subsequent circumstances; but Bray, who co-wrote much of Madonna's wildly successful Like a Virgin, ended up producing the track for Regina, and it became a top-10 pop hit. While Regina here undeniably employs the chirpy tone and coquettish nuances Madonna had become known for, a few listens to Curiosity demonstrate who's the better vocalist of the two.

Contrary to popular belief at the time, Regina was not a start-up. She was actually on record before Madonna, fronting the band Regina Richards & Red Hot on an obscure A&M album in 1981; the next year releasing the independent solo single, "Deep Dreaming." While Curiosity is much different than the "Head On" pop/rock sound she established with her earlier material, her songwriting and vocal abilities are perfectly intact here. Unfortunately, the strong attempt to write and sing Madonna-esque songs does detract at times. But not all of the cuts suffer from this syndrome, and the singer proves herself more substantial in both areas than La M. A healthy supply of session singers (including Gwen Guthrie, Tawatha, Siedah Garrett, and Evan Rogers) doesn't hurt either. The standouts are the riveting R&B/rock fusion "Sentimental Love"; the snazzy titlecut, especially thanks to its playful lyrics; and the light, Motown-esque soul groove of "Just Like You." On these cuts, Regina sounds her most spirited, and the arrangements are vibrant. Additionally, "Love Time" and "Bring Me All Your Love" do a good job of meshing pop/dance radio trends with jazzy R&B shades. But the other single releases - "Beat of Love," "Head On," and "Say Goodbye" - only continued the sound-alike concept, and Regina became a one-hit act. She released one more single for Atlantic in 1988, "Extraordinary Love," as well as "Track You Down" on the small Centurion in 1990 (A "forthcoming" album entitled Best Kept Secret was promoted here, but if it in fact was released, it's quite a rarity.)

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