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Ghost Canyon

Title - The Cotillion Years (1979-1985) [7CD]
Artist - Stacy Lattisaw

For those unaware, The Cotillion Years (1979-1985) is an extensive box set featuring Stacy Lattisaw’s complete Cotillion album collection from between those years.

Including all seven albums Young And In Love, Let Me Be Your Angel, With You, Sneakin’ Out, Sixteen, Perfect Combination and I’m Not The Same Girl plus selected bonus tracks, this is quite an INCREDIBLE new collection from Cherry Red Records (UK).

Starting with her debut album produced by the legendary Van McCoy that includes her take on the standard When You’re Young And In Love, the set spans Stacy’s career which took off when she was offered a recording contract at just 12 years old.

Disc One - Young And In Love (1979)
1. When You’re Young And In Love
2. Love Is Here Beside Us
3. Rock With Me
4. Three Wishes
5. Spinning Top
6. Dedicated To The One I Love
7. Downtown
8. When You’re Young And In Love (Disco Version) [Bonus Track]
9. When You’re Young And In Love (12” Disco Version) [Bonus Track]

A far cry from the soulful ballads that would later make her a favorite in R&B circles, Lattisaw’s debut album consists of remakes of ’60s and ’70s pop hits and a few pleasant, if forgettable, disco entries.

Recorded when she was only 12, Young and in Love showcases a warm, sweet voice surprisingly mature for its age. Her subtlety and youthful emotion work to great effect on serene numbers like Love Is Here Beside Us and the title track (both disco and ballad versions are included); and her delivery of Petula Clark’s classic, Downtown, is as enjoyable as the original.

On several cuts, Lattisaw has a few intonation problems here and there. But the bulk of the performances is consistent, making it an essential item for any loyal fan.

Disc Two - Let Me Be Your Angel (1980)
1. Jump To The Beat
2. Dynamite!
3. You Don’t Love Me Anymore
4. Dreaming
5. Let Me Be Your Angel
6. Don’t You Want To Feel It (For Yourself)
7. You Know I Like It
8. My Love
9. Jump To The Beat (7” Version) [Bonus Track]
10. Dynamite! (7” Version) [Bonus Track]

Big success came when she teamed up with famed singer/songwriter Narada Michael Walden who produced her breakthrough album Let Me Be Your Angel, which included the hits Jump To The Beat, Dynamite and Let Me Be Your Angel.

Lattisaw was only 13 when, in 1980, she made her commercial breakthrough with her second album, Let Me Be Your Angel. Not surprisingly, the fact that she was just barely an adolescent got a lot of press; the black teen magazines that had given the Jackson 5 and the Sylvers so much coverage were quick to run articles on Lattisaw.

But Let Me Be Your Angel isn’t a bubblegum record, and Lattisaw doesn’t go out of her way to be cutesy. If anything, she sounds like a younger version of Deniece Williams or Rose Royce’s Gwen Dickey - girlish, certainly, but substantial and not without grit.

Although Lattisaw had some developing to do in 1980, this is a fairly promising sophomore effort. Narada Michael Walden, who produced the LP and wrote or co-wrote all of the songs, doesn’t treat Let Me Be Your Angel like a teen record.

More often than not, he gives Lattisaw solid material to work with, and that includes infectious dance-funk items like Jump to the Beat, Don’t You Want to Feel It (For Yourself), and the hit Dynamite! as well as sentimental soul-pop ballads such as My Love and the title track.

Let Me Be Your Angel isn’t perfect; again, Lattisaw still had some growing and developing to do back in 1980. But it’s a respectable offering that has more plusses than minuses, and those who gave the LP a serious listen realized that Lattisaw wasn’t a mere novelty.

Disc Three - With You (1981)
1. Feel My Love Tonight
2. Screamin’ Off The Top
3. It Was So Easy
4. Baby I Love You
5. Love On A Two Way Street
6. With You
7. Young Girl
8. Spotlight
9. You Take Me To Heaven

The Washington, D.C. native found success on her third album with the classic Love on a Two Way Street. Released by the Moments 11 years prior (#1, 5 weeks), Lattisaw’s maturing vocals introduce her to an older audience.

Her effortless deliveries are commendable on this solid production. Her version held the number two position on the Billboard R&B charts for four consecutive weeks. The second single was the mid-tempo It Was So Easy where Lattisaw’s vocals are supreme on this relaxing number (the single peaked at #61).

The third single was the more upbeat Feel My Love Tonight. Here too Lattisaw’s vocals ring with precision. With rap on the rise, the young vocalist ventures into that untamed territory and whilst her enunciation is articulate, the texture is still painted with a juvenile sound, of course.

The title track is a mellow, soft number allowing Lattisaw to expand her ever-expanded vocal range and at the same time, this album was also a wonderful platform for some of Narada Michael Walden’s earlier production work.

Disc Four - Sneakin’ Out (1982)
1. Sneakin’ Out
2. Guys Like You (Give Love A Bad Name)
3. Memories
4. Tonight I’m Gonna Make You Mine
5. Hey There Lonely Boy
6. Don’t Throw It All Away
7. Attack Of The Name Game
8. I’m Down For You
9. I Could Love You So Divine
10. Attack Of The Name Game (7” Version) [Bonus Track]

Peaking at #55 U.S. Pop and #11 U.S. R&B, the album opens with a strong dance tune penned with the same name as the album. The footsteps one hears in the beginning of the song lends the illusion of someone sneaking out of a room; very clever.

Guys Like You Give Love A Bad Name is a dance song with a message, and such a strong one at that for such a young 16 year-old. Next up is Memories which is a very pretty song and one of my favorites. Indeed, to my mind, this is classic Stacy at her finest and is what made her so sensational.

That is followed by Tonight I’m Gonna Make You Mine, a catchy dance tune reminding me of the type of music I used to dance to back in the early 80’s that is backed by Hey There Lonely Boy (which peaked at #71 on the U.S. R&B), and is not bad for a cover which had previously been done by more mature artists.

Don’t Throw It All Away was another popular favorite of mine back in the day and as Stacy sings you can hear the pleading and strength in her voice. Her age belied her emotions, and this song peaked at #9 on the U.S. R&B.

One might say that Attack of the Name Game was one of the earliest attempts on rap and making it mainstream it peaked at #70 on U.S. Pop and #14 on the U.S. R&B. Although not one of my favorites at the time, it has slowly grown on me over the years and I never tire of hearing it (Oh, and if you listen carefully you can hear her brother on this song too).

I always liked I’m Down For You because at the time it came out it, it sounded so cool, but now I can say with maturity that it has a great melody, catchy rhythm and sweet words. The final song I Could Love You So Divine should have charted in my opinion because it was sung with such passion and melancholy, making it a true love song.

Disc Five - Sixteen (1983)
1. 16
2. Black Pumps And Pink Lipstick
3. I’ve Loved You Before
4. Million Dollar Babe
5. What’s So Hot ‘Bout Bad Boys
6. Johey!
7. The Ways Of Love
8. Miracles
9. 16 (7” Version) [Bonus Track]
10. Million Dollar Babe (7” Version) [Bonus Track]
11. The Ways Of Love (7” Version) [Bonus Track]

A few years before the teenage-to-womanhood liberation of Janet Jackson’s epic Control album, Lattisaw stripped a lot of her R&B roots away on this album-length ode to being teenager.

It’s a heavily sugarcoated synth pop affair, no doubt due in part to the production aesthetics of Narada Michael Walden, who took many of the ideas implemented here and evolved them for other artists such as Whitney Houston later in the decade.

The topics are highly predictable in nature, with titles like 16, Black Pumps and Pink Lipstick, and What’s So Hot ’Bout Bad Boys pretty much delivering as advertised.

However, Lattisaw’s vocals are in prime form, as she easily reaches a wide range of notes and delivers passages with relative ease, something that a very young diva in training by the name of Beyoncé no doubt heard on her parents’ turntable.

Disc Six - Perfect Combination (with Johnny Gill) (1984)
1. Block Party
2. Fun ‘N’ Games
3. Falling In Love Again
4. 50/50 Love
5. Perfect Combination
6. Heartbreak Look
7. Baby It’s You
8. Come Out Of The Shadow

A nice collaboration album with future New Edition member, Johnny Gill, Perfect Combination saw Lattisaw successfully team up to record this masterpiece of ’80s R&B which still sounds great today.

Producer/songwriter extraordinaire Narada Michael Walden gave them some top-notch tracks which have stood the test of time. 50/50 Love, the upbeat Block Party, Come Out Of The Shadows and Falling In Love Again all epitomize the fresh, lighthearted sound of early-’80s R&B.

In truth, and listening back to this album today via this incredible box-set, I wish they could have recorded again, perhaps singing another song together after Where Do We Go From Here in 1989.

Disc Seven - I’m Not The Same Girl (1985)
1. Can’t Stop Thinking About You
2. Coming Alive
3. Now We’re Starting Over Again
4. He’s Just Not You
5. I’m Not The Same Girl
6. Toughen Up
7. Together
8. I Thought It Took A Little Time

Endearing, sugar-coated, pop ditties of young love shape Lattisaw’s final effort for Cotillion, which sadly went unnoticed. Age 18 when she recorded I’m Not the Same Girl, Lattisaw’s voice had reached a nice maturity, yet didn’t sound too old to sing youthful tunes here like Together and Coming Alive.

Her reading of the Michael Masser ballad, I Thought It Took a Little Time, is more authentic and accessible than Diana Ross’ 1976 version, and she lends equal conviction to Now We’re Starting Over Again, later recorded by Natalie Cole on her Good to Be Back album.

Indeed, the up-tempo tunes are just as strong, as evidenced by the fiery title track and the bright Can’t Stop Thinking About You.

Official 7CD Purchase Link