At the beginning of 1980, Sheena Easton, who had graduated as a teacher of speech and drama the previous summer, was working on tracks for her debut release with EMI Records. Eighteen months later and Sheena had a top twenty album to her name, six UK hit singles, an American number one, had sung the theme to the latest James Bond movie and, in a first for the franchise, appeared on screen singing the song during the title sequence. Not a bad couple of years then!
An appearance on the BBC1 TV series, ‘The Big Time’ undoubtedly helped and brought her to wider public attention, but Sheena’s early success was built on a combination of winning commercial pop songs (‘9 To 5’, ‘One Man Woman’) strong ballads (‘For Your Eyes Only’, ‘When He Shines’), a selection of excellent album tracks and quality production from Christopher Neil that showcased Sheena’s beautiful voice perfectly. Sheena’s sophomore album You Could Have Been With Me, was released to coincide with a sold out UK tour in the Autumn of 1981. It developed her style incrementally and helped to consolidate her success. It was Sheena’s second album of that year, arriving just nine months after Take My Time. In retrospect this may have been to its detriment as, despite some stellar moments, You Could Have Been With Me doesn’t quite have the strength in depth of its predecessor.
The album starts with the enjoyably upbeat ‘A Little Tenderness’, which was a single in certain territories. Another Leeson/Vale co-write, ‘Just Another Broken Heart’ was released ahead of the album and is a fine track that deserved much better than its #33 chart placing. ‘You Could Have Been With Me’, climbed to #54 in the UK but it became a substantially bigger hit in America where it reached the top 20 – a further indication that Sheena’s future and greatest commercial successes would lie across the Atlantic.
Much like Take My Time there are some overlooked tracks on this album waiting to be discovered and, for me, two of them are ballads. ‘I’m Not Worth The Hurt’ is an affecting song about unrequited love and the inevitable heartbreak that must follow if those feelings are pursued. ‘Savoir Faire’ is the audio equivalent of being wrapped in a soft, comforting blanket; a classy song with a gorgeous, restrained vocal from Sheena, surrounded by lush harmonies, and embellished by tasteful guitar by the song’s co-writer Phil Palmer. Fabulous.
The second half of the album doesn’t quite match the standard of the first but it’s not for want of trying. ‘Johnny’ takes Sheena’s sound in a more contemporary direction, Dominic Bugatti and Frank Musker, who wrote ‘Modern Girl’, serve up another winner with ‘Letter From Joey’, and the orchestral ‘Isn’t It So’ closes the album. In America the 12-track Take My Time album became the 10-track Sheena Easton, with the result that the US version of You Could Have Been With Me omits ‘Isn’t It So’ in favour of ‘When He Shines’. Thankfully this release restores the original track listing.
Remastered from the original master tapes and pressed in limited edition coloured vinyl (blue in this instance) with refreshed artwork and a new inner sleeve, these reissues of Sheena Easton’s classic EMI back catalogue, are eagerly and gratefully welcomed. Unlike Take My Time and the forthcoming Madness, Money & Music (due September) there is no CD/DVD release for You Could Have Been With Me, possibly due to the shortage of bonus material on this occasion. However, as a fan and as a collector, to see Sheena’s albums finally being presented with thought, care, love and attention to detail after decades of being out of print is genuinely a delight.
- Reviewed by David Waterfield.
- You Could Have Been With Me is released via Cherry Red/Pop Records and is available now.
- Official Website
1. A Little Tenderness
2. Savoir Faire
3. Just Another Broken Heart
4. I’m Not Worth The Hurt
5. You Could Have Been With Me
6. Letter From Joey
7. Telephone Lines
9. Trouble In The Shadows
10 Isn’t It So