The Glamorous Life

Sheila E

Warner Brothers, 1984

REVIEW BY: Peter Piatkowski


One of the greatest legacies of the late/great Prince is his ability to spot and nurture talent. Amongst his accomplishments was building a galaxy of stars from his collaborators and backup performers. Instrumentalists who have had the honour of performing on his records often were rewarded with solo success on their own, with the help of His Royal Badness.

One of the brightest and most enduring figures of his stable of protegees is Sheila E. (born Sheila Escovedo), a drummer and vocalist who played on some of his most iconic hits. Daughter of legendary percussionist Pete Escovedo, Sheila E. was a bright star in Prince’s band. Gorgeous and prodigiously talented, her success as a solo pop star seemed inevitable. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Her debut album The Glamorous Life is a swirling, contradicting, messy record that feels both of its time and timeless. It sports an interesting sound that straddles post-disco dance-pop, funk, and R&B. Though Sheila E. is an important figure and talent in her own right, Prince’s musical fingerprints are all over the place: from the tight, swinging funk of the instrumental “Strawberry Shortcake” to the smeary, sexy ballad “Noon Rendezvous” and especially in the eccentric, prancing “Oliver’s House” his influence is obvious. He also penned the lyrics to the entrancing, funky title tune (which would end up being Sheila E.’s biggest solo hit).

But even if Prince is all over the album, it would be a mistake to discredit Sheila E. as a cipher. As a drummer, she’s one of the most sought-after musicians in the business and her genius skills on the skins are on display on the album – most notably in the solo on “The Glamorous Life” or on the Prince-penned opener “The Belle Of St. Mark” (predictably, the best songs on the album were written by Prince) Though her vocals aren’t necessarily the strongest, she has loads of charisma.

The Glamorous Life is a cult-classic of the 1980s that introduces a fantastic talent and is an important album to emerge from the burgeoning Minneapolis sound that pioneering New Wave and disco-influenced funk and pop/rock during this time. The Glamorous Life predicted and acted as a seeming blueprint for Janet Jackson’s Control (another record to be born out of the fruitful Minneapolis sound and Prince’s expansive musical empire) and is a brilliant spin-off of Prince’s brilliant discography.

Rating: A

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