For some reason, the solo career of ex-Go-Gos singer Belinda Carlisle always made me think of Feargal Sharkey – the ex-Undertones singer whose solo work had taken off slightly earlier in the decade. They were both characters from the late ’70s alternative (punk-orientated) rock scene, with a similar rapid vibrato in their voices, who turned to the mainstream in the middle of the 1980s and stormed the UK charts in major fashion.
This, October 1987’s Heaven on Earth album, was Belinda Carlisle’s second as a solo artist, but her first to gain really serious attention in Britain. This was a massive album, spawning a string of hit singles (including the Number One hit Heaven Is a Place On Earth), and almost immediately became a pop classic. Even though the music, predominantly, was technically rock, with heavily-overdriven guitars, power drums and driving bass, it captivated the pop audience first and foremost. Indeed, there must have been a hankering for this kind of rock-chick-sings-catchy-pop-tracks approach in late ’87, as that was the point at which Taylor Dayne made her highly successful entrance as a solo artist.
The cassette is on Virgin Records – a chrome formulation in a ‘Type I’, 120 microsecond package. Sound quality is very nice indeed, with a really tight bass. The production was extremely classy on this album, managing to avoid that grating, late 1980s character which was a big craze at the time, but which merely prompts you to ask: “what on earth were they thinking of?” today. Much of the production wouldn’t really sound alien on a track in 2012 to be honest. There’s actually a lot of reverb and processing (as there routinely was in 1987), but it’s very cleverly done, and you don’t ever feel swamped by it. And it’s no surprise at all that a number of the tracks became hit singles. Good song-crafting, great performances, some great musicianship – this lot knew how to make an album.
The only track I think was a mistake is the Cream cover I Feel Free. Nothing against Cream at all – Eric Clapton’s one of my favourite guitarists – but the song just doesn’t sit right on this album and it sounds out of place. That’s really nitpicking, though, in the absence of anything serious to criticise. I loved Heaven on Earth when I bought it (couldn’t stop playing it), and it still stands today as a brilliantly made album.