Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Music Box: Liza Minnelli

I've always loved "Results," Liza Minnelli's 1989 album she made with the Pet Shop Boys. But deep down inside I've always thought somehow it wasn't quite as good as it should have been. (There. I said it. Don't hate me. I feel better already finally getting this off my conscience.) Not since Debbie Harry teamed up with Chic in 1981 for her solo debut, "Koo Koo," have I felt such ambivalence about a favorite record (and sure-fire collaboration). But unlike "Koo Koo," which looking back I can see lacked strong material, there's not a dud to be had on "Results," which makes it all the more perplexing.

While I can see Christopher Isherwood's point when he said Liza was "too good" to really be the unpolished Sally Bowles of "Goodbye to Berlin" -- it's hard to say Liza was all that miscast here. Who better to deliver Neil Tennant's cynical, monotone musings than the heiress to the throne of the Queen of Tragedy? And Tennant and Chris Lowe brought magic out of the equally tragic Dusty Springfield on "What Have I Done to Deserve This?," yet strangely I find it's on the three songs they didn't write -- Sondheim's "Losing My Mind," Tanita Tikaram's "Twist in My Sobriety" and the old Yvonne Elliman classic "Love Pains." -- do they even come close with Liza. (Of their seven contributions "Don't Drop Bombs" is probably the closest.)

Then last week I gleaned some new insight into the whole "Results" affair when I stumbled upon "Visible Results," the video companion to the album. While I normally think videos tend to ruin songs (don't get me started about the Pretenders' "Show Me"!), seeing these they almost serve as the missing link for why "Results" wasn't the greatest album ever: It should have been a full-length video-album! (A la Blondie "Eat to the Beat.") Watching a flawless-looking (she's svelte!) early 40s Liza chasing her ex-lover half-naked in the rain, hanging his shirts on a clothesline and in a tub of man-Polaroids with those CRAZY EYES of hers in "Losing My Mind," or seeing her looking fabulous doing an homage to Fred Astaire's "Holiday Inn" in "Don't Drop Bombs" (or did she crash the set of Bananarama's "Venus"? ) or glammed up in a theater singing to an audience of no one in "So Sorry, I Said," brings these songs to a whole other level, and you start to remember that Liza was never JUST a recording artist; she's a PERFORMER. (I only WISH there'd been a clip for "Rent"!) And while I'll admit she needs direction -- I heard she kept trying to SMILE while taping these videos for codependent anthems! -- when you give Liza Minnelli the right song and the right setting, you'll never disappointed in the Results ...

"Losing My Mind": the coffee cup, I think about you ...

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    Anonymous said...

    Gayest. Album. Ever.

    Thanks for the flashback.

    Sean said...

    OMG. I love that album. I have every one of those 12" singles except for the UK "Love Pains" one. Too cool. And the dub mix of "Don't Drop Bombs" is literally the BOMB! Great post.

    nojarama said...

    "Results' and "Visible Results" are simply perfection. Both are still relevant (gulp) almost 20 years on.

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