ANDRE CYMONE-SURVIVIN’ THE 80’S.

ANDRE CYMONE-SURVIVIN’ THE 80’S.

Having released his debut solo album Living In The New Wave in November 1982, less than a year later, in September 1983, Andre Cymone released the follow-up album, Survivin’ the 80’s. His debut album Living In The New Wave had reached number forty-nine in the US R&B Charts, with both singles Living In The New Wave and Kelly’s Eyes entering the US R&B Charts. This had been an encouraging start to Andre’s solo career. Like his debut album, Survivin’ the 80’s saw Andre write, produce and mix the album, while playing drums, guitars and keyboards on the album’s eight tracks. It seemed that Prince’s former bassist was heading for a successful solo career. Would Survivin’ the 80’s which will be rereleased by BBR Records on 16th April 2012, surpass the success of Living In The New Wave?

Andre had written eight new songs for his second album Survivin’ the 80’s. Like the title-track of his previous album Living In The New Wave, the title-track Survivin’ the 80’s sees Andre’s political side come to the fore. This demonstrates Andre’s political awakening and his doubts about how the eighties would play out. It’s the only overtly political song on the album. The other seven songs are Andre’s usual fusion of funk, soul and eighties electronic music, with more in common with the songs on Living In The New Wave. For recording of the eight tracks on Survivin’ the 80’s, Andre and his band headed to familiar territory, American Artists Studios in Minneapolis. 

At Minneapolis’ American Artists Studios, Andre and his band set about recording the eight tracks on Survivin’ the 80’s. Although Andre played drums, guitars and keyboards on the album, guitarist Bobby Dean played on three tracks, while drummer John Mordan played on two tracks. Linda Renae played keyboards on Stay, while Craig Thomas played both synths and keyboards on the albums. Contributing backing vocals alongside Andre were Bobby Brooks, Bobby Dean and Craig Thomas. Overseeing the whole project was Executive Producer Larkin Arnold. Once the eight tracks that became Survivin’ the 80’s were recorded, it would be released in September 1983.

Before the release of Survivin’ the 80’s, Make Me Wanna Dance was released in August 1983, reaching number thirty-seven in the US R&B Charts. The following month, September saw Survivin’ the 80’s released number 185 in the US Billboard 200 and number thirty-one in the US R&B Charts. This was an improvement on his debut album Living In The New Wave, which had only reached number forty-nine in the US R&B Charts. October 1983 saw the release of the title-track Survivin’ the 80’s, but unlike the Make Me Wanna Dance, failed to chart. Overall, Andre Cymone’s second album Survivin’ the 80’s had been a commercial success, improving on his debut album and seeing his career continue on its upwards trajectory. However, what does the music on Survivin’ the 80’s sound like? 

Survivin’ the 80’s opens with the title-track, and second single released from the album. It’s a track with the excesses of eighties Reganomics, with Andre singing about the “classic cars, plastic bars and plastic people,” which to many people, sum up the eighties. This he does against a backdrop of a vocal that’s distant, with Andre sometimes, using a vocoder on his vocal. Meanwhile, a wash of synths, crisp drums and stabs of keyboards augment his vocal. Rock tinged guitars and pounding drums accompany the frustration and anger in Andre’s vocal. Listening to this song, which although recorded in 1983, Andre’s lyrics would prove prophetic about what the eighties really were about. 

Squelchy synths, drums that almost crack and keyboards combine, while guitars intertwine on M.O.T.F. This somewhat futuristic sounding arrangement is quite different to much of the music on Survivin’ the 80’s, and  Andre’s debut album Living In the New Wave. Man of the Future has a futuristic, spacious sound with Andre’s vocal buried deep in the arrangement. Instead, a myriad of synths, keyboards, pounding bass lines and guitars intermingle, combining with crisp drums as Andre’s voice plays a secondary role. The result is an ambitious, innovative track, with a futuristic, spacey sound.

Make Me Wanna Dance was the lead single from the album. Here, the tempo increases to 128 beats per minute, with Andre fusing funk with eighties electronics. There’s even a Prince influence prevalent. Again, Andre uses the vocoder, while electronic sounding drums pound, while synths and keyboards are key to the track’s sound. Like the previous track, there’s even a futuristic sound, to what’s a really catchy and compelling dance track.

Lovedog is one of the best tracks on Survivin’ the 80’s. The tempo is frantic, with Andre’s vocal laden with emotion, as a funky bass, wash of synths, stabs of keyboards and punchy drums combine. You hardly get a chance to draw breath as the track reveals its charms and secrets. Although the arrangement is awash with an electronic sound, the track has a really poppy sound. Together with one of Andre’s best, most emotive vocals on one of the album’s highlights.

Body Thang has much in common with Make Me Wanna Dance. Both have an urban sound, both are quality dance tracks and both are hugely catchy. Of the two tracks, I think Body Thang is even better than Make Me Wanna Dance. Synths reverberate, before the funkiest of bass lines, guitars and synths combine with drums. Andre picks up from where he left off on the previous track. His vocal is impassioned, emotive and sometimes, dramatic. Backing vocalists accompany him, with a sensuous sounding female backing singer drifting in and out of the track. Combined with tempo of 129 beats per minute, this is an impassioned slice of urban eighties dance music, that although nearly thirty years old, is still irresistible.

Stay sees Andre drop the tempo way down low, with just moody synths and crisp drums accompanying his soaring vocal. Persistent, punch synths accompany Andre’s vocal, which is full of sadness and pain. Meanwhile, drums and a wash of synths augment his vocal, as he delivers some of the best lyrics on Survivin’ the 80’s. Later, Andre pleas and begs, his voice not unlike Prince’s, as the arrangement grows in power and drama. While this track reveals a very different sound to Andre Cymone, it’s one that I really enjoyed and would like to have heard more of, given how emotive and powerful the track is.

The questioning What Are We Doing Here sees a reawakening of Andre’s earlier political side. This he does against a backdrop of pounding drums, crashing cymbals, whistles, synths and keyboards. His vocal takes on a Prince sound, as he asks a series’ of questions, his voice full of frustration and even  anger, on what’s one of his best vocals on the album. Given the quality of the track, it seems strange that it was only chosen as the B-side of Survivin’ the Eighties, the second single released from the album. Personally, this track would’ve made a good single, given it’s one of the best tracks on Survivin’ the Eighties.

Closing Survivin’ the Eighties is Don’t Let the Future (Come Down On You). Here, the tempo slows, with the track having a thoughtful sound, as if Andre’s vision of the future wasn’t what he’d hoped for. Crisp drums, a wash of synths, bass and Andre’s vocal combine to produce a moody, dramatic sound. The track is reminiscent of something Prince would produce during the eighties. This isn’t surprising, given the friendship and working relationship between Prince and Andre. Not only does the track feature an accomplished, dramatic arrangement, but Andre’s delivery of some wonderful lyrics is full of emotion and passion. It seems that Andre, like so many other artists, have kept this thoughtful, but dramatic and amazing track until last. 

Andre Cymone’s second album Survivin’ the Eighties saw him produce another ambitious, innovative and accomplished album. It contains some quality music, including the first single released from Survivin’ the Eighties, Make Me Wanna Dance, Body Thang a slice of quality and funky dance music and Stay, a slow, sad song with a really emotional vocal. There’s much more to Survivin’ the Eighties than three tracks, with the two tracks that close the album, the questioning, ponderous  What Are We Doing Here and the thoughtful, dramatic Don’t Let the Future (Come Down On You). On the title-track Survivin’ the Eighties, it’s full of social comment, regarding the greed, excess and selfishness of the eighties. It would proved to be a prophetic song, given how that decade played out. Like Living In The New Wave, Survivin’ the Eighties demonstrated how multi-talented Andre was. Not only did he write, produce the eight tracks on Survivin’ the Eighties, but he played drums, synths, keyboards and guitar on the album. Survivin’ the Eighties was a bigger commercial success than his debut album, Living In The New Wave and saw his career continue on an upward trajectory, After this, Andre would only release one further solo album AC in 1985. After that, he’d become a successful producer, producing a variety of artists, including two number one US R&B singles for future wife Jody Watley. However, that was all still to come. Back in 1983 Andre Cymone had released his second album, Survivin’ the Eighties which has been remastered and rereleased by BBR Records on 16th April 2012, along with his debut album Living In The New Wave. Both Living In The New Wave and Survivin’ the Eighties are accomplished, ambitious and innovative albums, from the multi-talented Andre Cymone. Standout Tracks: Body Thang, Stay, What Are We Doing Here and Don’t Let the Future (Come Down On You).

ANDRE CYMONE-SURVIVIN’ THE 80’S.

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