Wendy and Lisa – Wendy and Lisa (1987)

Wendy and Lisa album cover
Wendy and Lisa album cover

RECOMMENDWhile we were on the subject of angry women, two former members of Prince’s first backing band The Revolution come to mind. Wendy Coleman and Lisa Melvoin are probably best known for their roles in the film Purple Rain (playing themselves). The story goes something like this; the two were upset that the “Kid“ would not use any of their songs in their live performances. Eventually the Kid would take their lyrics and put it to his father’s unfinished music. After a spectacular stage performance that included Wendy and Lisa’s songs, all parties were happy.

In real life Wendy and Lisa would not have the perfect story book ending. Although they managed to hang on with their band The Revolution with Prince well after Purple Rain, they left after the tour for Parade. By that time Prince had decided to disband The Revolution and just like that the best backing band he would ever have was history. To their credit, Wendy and Lisa were not nearly as angry as they could have been. Fortunately for us, a solo gig would allow them to explore their own musical directions.

Wendy, Lisa and Bobby Z, the former keyboard player for The Revolution would form what would be a progression of old band’s sound in the form of Windy & Lisa. Other members associated with Prince related projects like Susannah Melvoin (cousin of Lisa) was also involved in the project. Released towards the end of 1987, Wendy & Lisa was a welcomed deviation from the regular Prince sex-lust-angst filled material he and his offspring were making.

The album’s charms come primarily from the seductive vocals of Lisa Melvion and the slick airy compositions that combine light touches of adult contemporary with hints of the old Revolution. Despite the breakup with Prince and the dissolution of The Revolution, the album maintains a complicated optimism that is only occasionally laced with regrets.

The album’s strongest songs seem to deal with some aspect of the split from the Prince. ‘Song About’ chronicles the dissolution of the revolution while ‘Waterfall’, a minor hit that reached out to Prince in an effort to mend fences. Other songs like ‘Blues Away’ offer the strongest hint of what new Revolution songs could sound like along with the instrumental ‘White’.

Wendy and Lisa is smart adult pop that is surprisingly sophisticated. The duo would continue on to critical acclaim, even though mainstream chart success would elude them. Prince even joked to them about their lack of commercial success by suggesting that they show more skin to get more attention. Wendy and Lisa had considerable talent and never felt the need to reduce themselves to Prince protege antics even if they knew it might impact album sales.

They have been instrumental in the success of others however as both Wendy and Lisa were accomplished musicians and have worked with a long list of diverse artists that include Joni Mitchell, Pearl Jam, Micheal Penn and Tricky.

I don’t know if The Revolution will ever get back together. Prince’s music is stale now and could use the creative infusion that Wendy and Lisa could offer. That is if they work as a team. Talk of a reunion has been a constant on again and off again subject for years. If it happens, it could be a true resurgence of Prince’s career critically and commercially as Wendy and Lisa were a very big part in Prince’s success up to the late ‘80s. Hopefully it will happen before they all get too old.

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