Portrait of an Artist: WENDY & LISA

I have decided that I want to periodically feature an artist (or in this particular case, artistes) who is musically relevant, but may be missing the commercial success that they definitely deserve.

First off, I ask the question: Who are WENDY & LISA?

Some of you may be scratching your heads, some may be commenting to yourselves that the name sounds familiar, and some of you may be rising up and saying the they were the "two chicks with Prince". As they were far more than just "the two chicks with Prince", I will tell you a brief history of them, and interject a few surprising projects along the way.

First, LISA COLEMAN and WENDY MELVOIN were both children of two different (in demand) session musicians. They both grew up in musical families, and therefore became very talented musicians in their own rights. If you want a more detailed biography, check out Wikipedia. To give you a Cliff Notes version, these two talented ladies both became involved with PRINCE and THE REVOLUTION, in the early 80's. First Lisa, and then Wendy joining. These two ladies played with Prince through the pinnacle of his success, both present on the 1984 hit movie/album, PURPLE RAIN. Over the course of the next few years, they assisted more than just background vocals on the albums, PARADE and UNDER THE CHERRY MOON.

Growing disheartened by the lack of credit for all that they did, they agreed to do one final tour with Prince, who went ahead and dissolved The Revolution, himself, following the tour.

In 1987, Wendy & Lisa released an eponymous album, under that exact name. This album had a modest hit single (and MTV video) called "WATERFALL". The album allowed them to take full control over their musical destiny, and gave them a place to exercise all their talents, incorporating Jazz into the Pop/Funk music which they had been known for, for the better part of the decade. Although not nearly the success of their work with Prince, it was a great stepping stone for these two ladies.

Over the next few years, they released a couple more albums, FRUIT AT THE BOTTOM, and the more Alternative sounding, EROICA. With the eventual incorporation of Virgin Records, which had always been their UK record label, their success really began to be centered around the European countries. A great remix album, entitled "REMIX-IN-A-CARNATION", featured mix collaborations with some of the greatest Electronica producers of the time, NELLEE HOOPER, THE ORB, WILLIAM ORBIT and the team of PAUL OAKENFOLD and STEVE OSBORNE, to name a few.

The next few years brought some of MY personal favorite Wendy & Lisa moments, including some of my biggest disappointments. In 1992, the duo lended their talents to the film soundtrack of TOYS, performing alongside SEAL (only in the rare 12" version of the song, "THE CLOSING OF THE YEAR") and TREVOR HORN. Now, if you have been reading my blog for the last 8 months, you will know my love for the work of Trevor Horn. As I have previously stated, the man could polish a turd. He is one of the few producers who will inspire me to purchase an album, based ONLY on his presence as a producer. In the opening sequence of "TOYS", you are treated to a song full of Christmas joy and merriment, accompanied by a beautiful song. This song features Wendy Melvoin on lead vocals, along with the talents of Lisa Coleman, Seal, among others. The song was credited to "The Musical Cast of Toys".

The following is the music video accompanying this song, which I had never seen before the preparation of this post. It features some clips of the movie, in addition to some original material.

In the mid-90's, their work with Trevor Horn continued, when they contributed a song to the DANGEROUS MINDS soundtrack. The song was called, "THIS IS THE LIFE", and was actually a re-working of one of the songs from their debut, self-titled album. It is one of my favorite ballads of all time.

The rumors began circulating about a full length album being produced by Trevor Horn. I was ecstatic. We waited, waited, waited... and never heard anything further. In 1996 (or so), I found out that the duo formerly known as Wendy & Lisa was releasing an album under the moniker, GIRL BROS. I was excited to finally see something happening. What followed was one of my biggest musical disappointments. Although the album may stand up better, if I were to listen to it again, today, it fell way short at the time. Where I was hoping to have a beautiful, polished piece of music produced by Trevor Horn, featuring the talents of these two great musicians, what I heard was a very D.I.Y. grungy sounding album. Somewhere along the lines, Wendy & Lisa decided they wanted to completely re-invent their sound and image.

So, let's fast forward about ten years. I'm watching the pilot episode of the hit TV series, HEROES. What to my beholden eyes did appear?? The film music was composed by WENDY MELVOIN and LISA COLEMAN? Does that sound familiar? I have since found out that they also do the scoring for CROSSING JORDAN.

Wow. From Prince to Wendy & Lisa to Toys to Girl Bros. to Heroes. Their life has been a roller coaster of success, and a roller coaster of sound. But, my respect for their talents has done nothing but grow as I have seen the assortment of work that they are capable of.

NOT to mention, I now follow them on Twitter... and they are pretty darned amusing.


Kate said…
::awesomesauce:: post, Zeke! Muy interesante! This is why everyone should always read the credits on EVERYTHING. You learn stuff!

Oh, and I LOL'd at Trevor Horn polishing turds. I thought only Lindsey Buckingham did that while working with Stevie... :-)
Hill Force One said…