Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Sheela-Reggae Madonna (1994)


It's a well-known fact by now that I'm totally crazy about the 80's, so whenever there's an opportunity for me to hear somebody performing memorable hits from my childhood, I excitedly take that jump and prepare for another joyride into music nostalgia! My latest ride saw me getting newly acquainted with a rather 'mystery woman' of a singer I only know as Sheela, who recorded her debut album, "Reggae Madonna", for a Japanese music label called Avex Trax. Well this album's title pretty much describes everything that awaits the listener: reggae music that pays tribute to the original 'Material Girl'. Madonna certainly became a household name in pop culture back in my favorite decade—and has remained as an iconic pop legend even now into the New Millennium—yet this mysterious Sheela could have become the next Madonna herself, considering how well she performs these selected golden oldies in nearly the same, playfully-girlish style, though with a little more sultriness and huskiness going on with her vocals. On the heels of me having listened to Madonna's "True Blue" album just for old time's sake not too long ago, it was fun to hear both the original slow version of "Live To Tell" with a refreshing bouncy reggae skip to it as well as Sheela's more dreamy interpretation of the romantic jewel "La Isla Bonita" (her voice is so angelic, yet so haunting as she's performing the familiar words) and her dynamite rendition of "Where's The Party?", which is totally done all the justice in the world with the festive dance rhythm and all of those blaring horns spicing up the music—a real party indeed! I suppose the party had already gotten underway with Sheela's remake of "Holiday" to kick things off. Sounds so much like the original, though the noticeable reggae Europop step is a revitalizing twist to appeal to all of us Madonna fans. The reggae production further makes this mystery lady's do-over of "Cherish" and "Crazy For You", with its smooth groove and distinctive jazzy accompaniment by the happy melody of the trumpet, into especially beautiful pieces. I'd been curious how Sheela would take on the faster-tempo Madonna hits, namely "Like A Prayer" and "Express Yourself". Turns out these are handled with ease and perfection as well, though it admittedly took me a while to get used to the slower reggae tempo of the latter even with the rest of the original production (the unified church voices, the serenity of the church organ playing during the opening movement) still being there. Really, this Sheela could've taken a stab any and all of the Madonna hits and passed with flying colors. Wished she could've done remakes of some of my other personal favorites ("Into The Groove", "Physical Attraction" and "Papa Don't Preach" readily come to my mind first), but then again, there's only room for so many hits on one album. Can't have 'em all, but at least I got ten of 'em:

1. Holiday
2. Material Girl
3. Cherish
4. Live To Tell
5. Like A Virgin
6. La Isla Bonita
7. Express Yourself
8. Like A Prayer
9. Crazy For You
10. Where's The Party?

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