The Cover Girls
Reviewed on this page:
Show Me - We Can't Go Wrong - Here It Is - Satisfy - Angel
The Cover Girls were the foremost exponent of Latin freestyle - also known, more confusingly, as Latin hip hop - a late 80s NYC blend of Hi-NRG synth dance, salsa rhythms, and tiny, trebly female vocals. Other artists in the mini-genre
include TKA, Sweet Sensation, Sa-Fire, Shannon, and Pajama Party; India's debut was
in the same style, while Exposé and Company B were Miami's version of the phenomenon. All these groups were primarily singles acts, like most dance artists, but The Cover Girls' debut is notably solid all the way through. The Cover Girls didn't make as much use of harmony vocals as, say, Exposé, and lead singer Angel Sabater (later Angel Clivillés) didn't have much vocal power, but her bell-clear soprano brought a touch of vulnerability to the group's romantic pleas. They did fall hard, though, releasing a dreadful followup before freestyle ran its course and they became just another intermittently successful dance act.
Louise "Angel" Sabater, Caroline Jackson and Sunshine Wright, vocals. Wright left, 1989, replaced by Margo Urban. Sabater and Urban left by 1992, replaced by Evelyn Escalera and Michelle Valentine. Group disbanded after 1996.
Show Me (1987)
The apex of Latin freestyle, produced by a veritable Who's Who of the form: TKA producer Andy "Panda" Tripoli helmed half the album's tracks, assisted by Little Louie Vega, Louis Martineé. In the main it's upbeat dance music, relying on programmed drums, high-pitched syncopated keyboards, equally high-pitched female vocals, and almost nothing else - at its best, it's pure fun. The title track is the most memorable, but no less than five singles charted: Tripoli's "Inside Outside" and "Promise Me" (with some surprising funk guitar),
Vega's "Because Of You" (with an insidious wordless vocal hook) and Rainy Davis and Pete Warner's sumptuous ballad "Spring Love."
The record's even deeper than that, though: "That Boy Of Mine" is an affectionate 50s girl group number (Hal Blaine imitation included), and Martineé's "One Night Affair" is as tuneful as any of the hits.
At this point the singers were Louise "Angel" Sabater, Caroline Jackson and Sunshine Wright, and they aren't powerful vocalists, but Sabater is winsome, frothy, and on-key.
Much as I like Exposé's debut, this is the Latin freestyle record to start with.
We Can't Go Wrong (1989)
Falser words were never spoken: everything went wrong on this follow-up.
It's not a good sign when an album track is recycled from a previous release ("That Boy Of Mine"), and it's a Very Bad sign when that track easily outshines all the new material.
Wright had been replaced by Margo Urban, and Tripoli was handling most of the production (title track, a cloying ballad with a hideous "inspirational" fade that somehow became a hit). He hits all the marks of the genre, but can't come up with a single catchy tune (the overdone kissoff "Cute" is the closest) - even
Goffin/King's "Up On The Roof" sounds drab.
The other producers fare no better: Vega's "Once Upon A Time" is mega-forgettable, and Clivillés and Cole likewise stumble on their three tunes ("All That Glitters Isn't Gold," with painful would-be deep lyrics; the horrid "My Heart Skips A Beat").
Here It Is (1992)
Producers Tripoli and Tony Moran turned their back on freestyle and embraced mainstream dance trends: "That Feeling" features a male rap; the single "Funk Boutique" is a "Pump Up The Volume"-style parade of keyboard hooks tied together by a simple, insistent chorus. It's an improvement on the weak songwriting of their sophomore release - there are even thoughtful, world-wise lyrics on "Thank You" - and the stylish cover of Rose Royce's "Wishing On A Star" was a big hit. There are plenty of weak cuts, though ("Still Miss You," produced by Frankie Cutlass), and without the elements that made the act stand out in the first place, they're just another interchangeable dance combo.
Sabater and Urban were out of the band, replaced by Evelyn Escalera and Michelle Valentine.
Standard-issue dance tracks again, but not as solid. The covers - Teena Marie's "I Need Your Lovin'"; Kyu Sakamoto's "Sukiyaki" with a rap from "Fat Doug" Harriet - are well chosen but pedestrian, and the originals are instantly forgettable ("All I Need Is Your Love"). Sabater's vocals are getting stronger, both on upbeat tunes ("Keep Giving Me Love") and ballads ("Sometimes Can Be A Surprise") but when the songwriting is this drab ("Whenever You Need Me") it doesn't really help.
Moran produced six of the eleven cuts, three were produced by Stretch Armstrong and Big City Mike Canter, plus one each from Kevin and Tony Perez ("Sukiyaki")
and José Sanchez, Frank Rodriguez and Guillermo Edgehil (title track).
Angel (Angel Clivillés: 2000)
Sabater released a solo album under the name "Angel Clivillés." It's all uptempo, percussion-heavy dance music, but it breaks neatly into two subcategories: the first five tracks are synth house with subdued vocals ("One More Chance"), and the next four are Latin house with salsa piano and Spanish-language diva vocals a la River Ocean. The former are produced by Moran (a remake of "Show Me") or EuroSyndicate Productions ("Never Alone"), and they're energetic but disposable. DJ Lucho produced the Latin tracks, though, and they're fun ("Babalu," sampling Dezi Arnaz). No classic dance tracks here, but if you have fond memories of Angel's voice you'll be happy to hear how well she's holding up.
Show me something else.