Belinda Carlisle - Runaway Horses (25th Anniversary Celebration)
Buy Runaway Horses (Expanded Edition) here
Read my top five Belinda Carlisle songs here
Read all my 1989 25th anniversary posts here
By the time 1989 rolled around and the S/A/W sound was dominating the UK charts, there's no denying that Belinda Carlisle was a vibrant and exciting alternative for anyone wanting a bit of diversity in their chart music. I had fallen hard for her 1987 set (Heaven on Earth) and she was still riding high from that all conquering global success when her 1989 album Runaway Horses was released in October. On this album she continued to redefine the genre of "power pop", ensuring it a euphoric experience for those listening, performed with exuberant energy or subtle tenderness as the mood demanded. It was every bit as exciting as Heaven on Earth and holds up just as well 25 years later as it did when I rushed down to Tower Records 25 years ago after school to make sure I got the vinyl LP on the day of release. My anticipation was already high thanks to the anthemic lead off single Leave A Light On For Me. Back then I felt there was something so thrillingly audacious about the song, it's devil-may-care attitude filling every sound of the song with bravado and animated spirit. This was all fueled by the vivacious guitar licks, the pervasive drums and of course the stimulating production that all swathed Belinda's impassioned vocals with a searing energy. As the song stayed with me through the years, I noted that there was an actual tangible amount of vulnerability within the lyrics that makes it quite heartbreaking - as if the music was just a shield from what was really happening. Regardless, it certainly was a dynamic introduction to her third solo set and set the UK charts alight by giving her yet another top ten hit. And like Heaven on Earth before it, it was the album that kept on giving with another 5 singles to follow...
While no less evocative and insistent in it's compelling ability to insinuate it's melody and refrain into your brain, next single La Luna proved to be a far more primal and seductive affair. Like a call from a siren, Belinda's reverb vocals sounded nothing less than majestic in this swirling backdrop of flamenco infused guitars and tribal beats. Her narrative of a night of emotion driven, lustful intensity was the perfect balance of wishful longing and languid memory - almost like a more guttural 50 Shade of Grey (but without the need for any kink, just the magic of the moon). Delicious fantasy for anyone listening and a refrain that deserved to chart much higher than it actually did (no. 38 UK) - though the song definitely had staying power, hanging around the charts for 6 weeks. The title track was next, Runaway Horses, and the theme of wild abandon, taking chances and being driven by hopes, dreams & passions that pervades the album is non more prominent than here. What I always thought was so darned brilliant about the song was the way the music became such an intrinsic part of the story, with a sprightly pace in the verses that is unleashed into a full on gallop of the joyous choruses, so saturated with a giddy sense of freedom that it's an actual tangible endorphin rush just waiting to be experienced. It's a song that still acts as a glorious stress release for the pressures of modern life, living vicariously and letting that magnificent music wash over me whenever the need takes me. Fourth single Vision of You was a complete change of pace - a tender, delicate ballad that reflects on lost loves and the inability to move on. If I'd thought Belinda could do elegiac yearning music dressed up in a driving pop song on Leave A Light On, seeing her perform in such a stripped back setting was exquisite agony. A definite highlight of the album yet one that is often overlooked sadly.
The fifth single from the album needed to shake things up a little after her previous three had all reached (unjustly) the lower echelons of the top 40 - and We Want The Same Thing was just the song to send her rocketing back into the top ten. Completely reswizzled from the album version it felt like a brand new song and certainly remains one of the standout examples of how to completely re=invigorate a song for chart success. Punchy beats, convivial chants and enormous production all make this one of my go(go) to songs whenever I feel like I need to dance around the living room in my underpants (which, at age 40, is getting alarmingly more frequent). Potentially unrequited love has never sounded more triumphant - and quite rightly Britain agreed sending the song to number six and ensuring it hung around for nearly 3 months. The success of the song meant that there was a sixth single from the album that was as meaningful and memorable as those that came before it. It may have seemed odd releasing a track entitled Summer Rain in December but for those that thought that they were definitely missing the point. It's a song that conjures up images from the most precious corners of your brain using powerful imagery to do so. It's the promise of eternal love that gets me everytime, mixed with those sultry dark rhythms and the reminiscing of better times together. Plus the chorus is pure musical alchemy magicked up to entrance you with it's mesmerising call... It's no wonder that the album feels like a mini greatest hits celebration with every whirl that it gets. Certainly representative of it's time but has crossed the traverses of time well to hold up as a classic today. Oh and if anyone needs to know how to release a comprehensive remastered version with a treasure trove of goodies added onto it - just click on the link for the expanded edition at the top of this post. Perfection :)