I'd been planning this post to briefly recap a few key albums from late in 1990, but didn't get around to finishing it last year. But I think it's still worth doing, so here it is.
Pet Shop Boys - Behaviour. Less dance pop than Introspective before it and Very after it, Behaviour was Pet Shop Boys' stab at something a little more stately. Although more subdued than their usual sound, it's not a bad listen, not by a long shot, representing one of the most finely crafted works in their catalog. "Being Boring" is a lovely piece of history-inspired synth pop. "This Must Be the Place I Waited Years to Leave" is more insistent, but also reflective. "To Face the Truth" injects a bit of melancholy, while "How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously" (they really liked the long song titles for this one) was a bit more upbeat. "Nervously" is a sweet tale of a first romantic liaison, and despite the fact that Neil Tennant hadn't come out yet, it's a pretty gay song (there are no "shes" but plenty of "hes" thrown out). Best: Being Boring, This Might Be the Place I Waited Years to Leave, How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously, So Hard (4.5).
Cathy Dennis - Move to This. Cathy Dennis would later become one of the most successful British pop music songwriter-producers around. Her credits include Kylie's "Can't Get You Out of My Head," Britney's "Toxic" and the Sugababes' "About You Now." But before she was in the back of the studio she spent some time in the sound booth too, recording some pretty heady dance pop in the early '90s, first as a member of D-Mob, and then as just a solo act. Her best songs were her vibrant, Euro-styled hits "Just Another Day" and "Touch Me (All Night Long)." Producer Shep Pettibone had a hand in this album, and his style is most obvious on "Everybody Move," which sounds quite a bit like the smash he produced for Madonna, "Vogue." The dance pop outshines the ballads, except for "Too Many Walls," which was also a hit. Other ballads aren't nearly as good though, such as "My Beating Heart," which sounds like a limp take on Paula Abdul's "Rush Rush." Best: Just Another Dream, Touch Me (All Night Long), Everybody Move, Too Many Walls (3.5).
Whitney Houston - I'm Your Baby Tonight. With her third album, Whitney Houston tried to update her sound for the '90s with edgier, more R&B-styled productions courtesy of producers extraordinaire Babyface and LA Reid, but the bet was hedged against songs that sound like her late '80s output as well. Thus more modern fare like the bouncy "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and "My Name Is Not Susan" share space with songs like "Lover for Life" and "I Belong to You," which sound like leftovers from the recording of Whitney. None of these are bad songs though, they just sound a bit disjointed together. I used to not really care for this album, but it's grown on me quite a bit. As usual, the big ballads "All The Man that I Need" and "Miracle" are solid songs that went on to be a #1 and top 10 hit respectively. The only misstep is "Anymore," which sounds like a carbon copy of the production Babyface did for Karyn White's "Secret Rendezvous." Best: I'm Your Baby Tonight, My Name Is Not Susan, All the Man That I Need, Lover for Life, I Belong to You, Miracle (4/5).
Madonna - The Immaculate Collection. Madonna finished 1990 with a greatest hit set that pulled together 15 of her biggest hits from the last 7 years plus two new tracks that would also become hits for her. It became Madonna's second diamond-selling album after Like a Virgin, one of the best-selling and most revered greatest hits collections of all time. And despite the fact that it's indisputably wonderful, there's some odd things about it too. The strangest thing from a purists perspective is that none of the songs are either the single or album versions--all of the songs were remixed for the album by Shep Pettibone and edited for length to fit them all on. Some of the remixing is minor--you have to really listen to tell that the intro to Borderline has slightly different instrumentation--but some of it is dramatically different, like the decision to use a dance remix of "Like a Prayer" rather than the classic original. The tracks are sequenced in release order, except that "Lucky Star" and "Borderline" are switched. Really, these are minor gripes though, and since I've sinced gathered all the album and single versions of Madonna's hits, it's kind of fun to also have these strange slight remixes. Best: All 17 tracks represent pop perfection, so I couldn't possibly choose (5/5).