CD Review: Bananarama - Drama / Viva (Deluxe Editions) (Cherry Red Records)
The last few years have seen a strong profile and reappreciation for the music of the 1980s, particularly as some artists from that era have reassembled, recorded new material and toured. No doubt, one such example has been one of the UK’s most successful girl groups Bananarama. Anyone who caught Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin on tour and reunited with original band member, Siobhan Fahey a few years ago were reminded as to what made much of the 80s music scene both colourful and fun as the trio re-treaded a back-catalogue of memorable hits including Really Saying Something, Cruel Summer and Venus for fans who had bought those records some three decades earlier.
In 2019, Bananarama, who have continued primarily as a duo consisting of Sara and Keren since the 1990s are still very much an entity. Presently there’s a new album and tour in the works, numerous TV appearances and a high-profile presence on social media as well as numerous reissues of their older albums.
Cherry Red have joined the Bananarama reissue party and released deluxe editions of two albums from the noughties, which ike me, you may have missed first time around!
Drama (Deluxe 3 CD Edition)
Drama from 2005, kicks off with the track Move in My Direction which saw Bananarama return to the UK charts for the first time in over a decade. The track, catchy, melodic and carrying strong vocals from Keren and Sara was a strong dancefloor hit and rivalled the quality of material produced by the then electro-pop new girls on the block, Girls Aloud, Atomic Kitten and The Sugababes were doing at that time.
To prove the Bananarama revival was more than a brief return to the charts Keren and Sara followed Move in My Direction with a further hit, the Italo Disco track ‘Look On The Floor (Hypnotic Tango)’ which also features on Drama. Capturing a flavour for the re-emergence of dance music there was also a treat for long-term fans with updated remixes of earlier hits, Really Saying Something and Venus (remixed by Marc Almond).
For those of us who enjoyed some of the softer moments on earlier Bananarama albums such as Cheers Then, Wish You Were Here and Through A Child’s Eyes, Drama has Middle of Nowhere a ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place alongside their early tracks.
Back in the 80s, any Bananarama fan had a challenge on their hands to collect together remixes for many of the group’s releases. Cherry Red’s deluxe packaged re-issue of Drama is therefore a good purchase for anyone wanting all the material connected with the album thanks to two additional discs featuring full dance floor remixes and further edits and dub remixes. The release also benefits a personal touch with a full colour 20-page lyric and photo booklet including a specially written introduction from Keren and Sara. What more can a Bananarama fan want?
Well if Drama isn’t enough there’s also Cherry Red’s 2-disc deluxe reissue of 2009’s Viva, probably their most electro sounding collection, a collaboration with celebrated producer, composer, songwriter and remixer Ian Masterson, famed for his work with Girls Aloud, Kylie Minogue and the Pet Shop Boys.
Viva was originally supposed to be a disco covers project, but Keren and Sara changed direction part way through, when the record company preferred the strength of their original material. It was a good decision as the album opener Love Comes and Love Don’t Live Here prove demonstrating that the girls could still present stand out dance tracks. A few covers to make the release, the strongest being their take on The Three Degrees classic, The Runner, which still makes a great disco track and probably my favourite on the album for catching a genuine example of the disco genre and bringing it into the present day. There’s also interesting takes on Bryan Adams Run to You and Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence, but these interpretations sound slightly uneasy for me and certainly not as much fun as versions of Fox’s S-S-S-Single Bed and Desireless’ Voyage Voyage.
Both Viva and Drama represent a new chapter in the Bananarama story. New music, new styles and a new approach, a theme that the Keren and Sara have continued to build on with their forthcoming releases. There’s no better time to catch up on the Bananarama story!
Visit www.cherryred.co.uk for details on these and other classic reissues.