Big hair and glaringly loud fashion statements are first to pop into many minds when the 1980’s arise in conversation. One oft-too-neglected topic, however, is the wealth of funkified, addictively catchy R&B/pop hybrids that packed dancefloors and grooved their way on to radio stations during the decadent decade. Aside from the kinetic arrangements and fulfilling melodies of these songs, the vocalists fronting them were almost always authentic and naturally stylish -- an important factor not so common in today’s urban/dance scene.
One irresistibly engaging songbird of this groove is a certain Sid Haywoode, known to most simply by her surname. With a sultry tone that invokes the soft soulfulness of Diana Ross while simultaneously driving the listener with a sassy, Evelyn “Champagne” King-inspired spunk, Haywoode’s vocal delivery is like an invitation to a night of good-time clubbing. Thankfully, the UK’s Cherry Red label has transformed that idea into a real possibility with its deluxe reissue of the singer’s 1985 debut album, ‘Arrival.’ With a healthy supply of gems that blend the full, horn-driven arrangements of British soul with pop-laden touches of synths, the originally 10-tracks-long set blurs genre lines and focuses on quality songs and their entertaining presentation.
Opening with the vocalist’s biggest hit, “Roses,” and then segueing seamlessly into the similarly successful “Getting Closer” (an early Stock-Aitken-Waterman production) and “I Can’t Let You Go” (Detroit Mix by Bruce Nazarian and Duane Bradley), ‘Arrival’ makes its meaning clear from the get-go: get down and enjoy the party now! There are a few mellow moments for good measure, in the form of the sanguine stepper “Jelly Baby” and the pensive “Missing You”; but the core of the album lies in its striking danceability. Whether the dreamy keyboard sweeps of “Single Handed,” the rich vocal arrangements and deep synth stabs of “A Time Like This,” or the wicked ear candy of “You’d Better Not Fool Around,” there are no mobility issues to be found here - and performance calibre is not sacrificed in the process.
Fans who have been praying for a new CD issue of this classic album for years, hold your breath. While the scarce Japan-only edition fetching hundreds of pounds on Ebay will no doubt remain a collector’s item, Cherry Red gives ‘Arrival’ the proper, extra-special treatment with extensive liner notes by Jeremy Kay and John Palmer -- including in-depth quotes from Haywoode herself, as well as a photo discography with detailed tracklistings and chart positions. What’s more, the CD contains seven bonus tracks, among them sought-after 12” mixes and the B-side-only “Tease Me.”
Kudos to Cherry Red for finally opening the doors to a long-overdue, Re-’Arrival’! Look for a new Haywoode album on Energise Records UK later this year.
About the Writer
Justin Kantor is a freelance music journalist with published works in Wax Poetics and the All-Music Guide. A graduate of Berklee College of Music's Business and Management program, he regularly writes liner notes for reissue labels.