Liza Minnelli

Epic, 1989

REVIEW BY: Peter Piatkowski


In 1987, the Pet Shop Boys resurrected the career of ‘60s icon Dusty Springfield, ushering her into the ‘80s with a massive hit, “What Have I Done To Deserve This?,” which led a number of other comeback hits for the blue-eyed soul legend. The boys – Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe – ended up having a knack for introducing pop veterans to younger audiences. In 1988, on the urging of their managers, the Pet Shop Boys aimed their shimmery talents at Oscar-winning stage actress and singer, Liza Minnelli.

By the late 1980s, Minnelli was a bonafide legend but sported a somewhat spotty recording career. Her best records were either soundtracks to her concerts or cast albums of Broadway shows, her studio LPs indifferent affairs that largely missed capturing her specific talents. She developed a pop persona of the teary-eyed Showbiz trouper, pumping the air with her fist as she belts out a showtune. From her mother, she inherited a loud kaboom of a voice as well as a fanbase of excited gay men.

Tennant and Lowe tapped into Minnelli’s innate campiness when crafting the perfect showcase for her, the 1989 album Results, a record of synthy dance-pop tunes that made the seemingly impossible possible: it made Liza Minnelli sound gayer. Though there’s a general tongue-in-cheek kitsch to Results, Minnelli jumps in, 100%, as if the lyrics she was singing were penned by Gerswhin or Porter. It helps that even with her histrionics, she’s still a very good singer.

As if to warn listeners that Results isn’t the expected Liza Minnelli record, Tennant and Lowe open the album with the looping, dramatic “I Want You Now” – a dark, epic record with over-the-top strings and a bouncing beat. Minnelli even gets to do some nifty vibrato-laden shouting in the song’s peak. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Once it’s established that we’re listening to a “new” Liza Minnelli, the Pet Shop Boys recall Minnelli’s theatre roots by including a HI-NRG version of Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind” from Follies. Predictably, Minnelli sounds right at home with the brainy lyrics, though with the moody synths and her dark voice, the song shifts into a creepy, paranoid, obsessed stalker anthem. The theatre follows Minnelli into “If There Was Love” a song that sports a similar rubbery percussion like “I Want You Now” but ends with the singer recite Shakespeare’s Sonnet 94 over Courtney Pine’s soulful sax work.

The best of Results spotlights the best of the Pet Shop Boys and their muse. In the strutting “Don’t Drop Bombs,” a loud, crowded dance song with Minnelli’s sneering spoken-word verses, Acid House-lite record scratches, disembodied vocal samples. It’s a mess, but a glorious mess, one that mixes all kinds of crazy incongruous noise into a three-minute pop song.

Even better is Minnelli’s cover of Yvonne Elliman’s disco hit “Love Pains.” The rumbling, churning dance-pop is intoxicated and catchy and the best example the Pet Shop Boys’ ability to adapt (then) contemporary pop sounds to a singer as antiquated as Liza Minnelli. It’s a rousing number with a great chorus, including hallelujah backup singers. One can imagine the singer holding court at gay bars like G-A-Y or Heaven, lip syncing this song to throngs of gay boys.

Though, Results is primarily a dance-pop record, this is a Pet Shop Boys record, so there are some more sedate moments. Tennant and Lowe are masters at writing and producing excessive synth-pop ballads. Their slow songs are also very melancholic, and Minnelli is a master interpreter of their heartache lyrics. “So Sorry, I Said” is an ethereal, atmospheric tune that has some lovely rueful singing; “Tonight Is Forever” is a grand, gaudy number with some extreme orchestration by Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti; and Minnelli dips into the Pet Shop Boys’ catalogue for a mournful take on their top 10 hit, “Rent” which includes a pretty cinematic story about a kept woman – and anything that exploits Minnelli’s thespian talents elevates the material.

One thing that Results does, aside from making the case that she could have had a career as a dance singer, is that it recasts Minnelli as a glamorous, worldly, American expat in Europe. Minnelli is a performer who is largely identified with New York City, largely due to her cabaret work as well as her unequivocal success on Broadway. What Tennant and Lowe do is make her a far more continental figure on Results. The production on the album is time-capsule late 1980s Europop. It’s a seemingly incongruous image: Showbiz Broadway baby Liza Minnelli getting down with the Pet Shop Boys at acid-house raves in London dance clubs. But against lots of odds, it works.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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