Wendy & Lisa
Eroica: Expanded Edition
Guitarist Wendy Melvoin and keyboardist Lisa Coleman came to prominence as members of Prince & The Revolution, and there’s no doubt of their creative influence on the purple one; they fleshed out his sound and vision on some of his greatest recordings. As that band wound down, they embarked on their own recording project, Wendy & Lisa, establishing themselves not only as the double-headed creative force within the band, but also as a crack go-to recording and production team. Their self-titled debut appeared in 1987, and Fruit On The Bottom appeared in 1989, and though they weren’t commercially acclaimed, they were warmly received.
Their third album, Eroica, appeared in 1990 and found them with a new record label, a sophisticated collection of songs. Though the shadow of their previous work inevitably looms—it’s not hard to imagine “Rainbow Lake” being a part of Graffiti Bridge had circumstances been different—for the most part Eroica finds them creating a satisfying groove that’s all their own. Pop and funk was their specialty, and they offer up some great jams, such as the dance-floor groove of “Strung Out,” the slinky funk of “Cracking Me Up,” and the perky “Turn Me Inside Out.” But Eroica satisfies when they escape those expectations and sonically explore; “Valley Vista” is a folky, upbeat roots-rocker that comes near the end of the album, a jaunty acoustic sing-along number, while “Porch Swing” is an unhurried little number with a quiet little funk groove and a lackadaisical attitude that befits sitting on a porch with nothing else on your mind but killing a little time, and “Mother of Pearl” and “Why Wait For Heaven: are heavy rock numbers that predate “grunge” by about a year.
The bonus disc of material in this reissue, however, offers up several wonderful obscurities, and shows that Eroica was borne out of a very creative time. B-sides “Stones & Birth” and “Balance” are as strong as anything found on the album—left off in the interest of space, and not as a reflection of their quality, and while remixes are often a mixed bag, the various takes on “Strung Out” and “Rainbow Lake” offer variations of a theme that are compelling and surprisingly don’t sound dated. But it’s the inclusion of four songs of instrumental piano numbers, taken from a limited edition EP included in the first pressing of the album, which really illustrates Wendy Melvoin’s talents as a pianist. “Minneapolis #1” and “Minneapolis #2” are two sketches of a melody that are quite beautiful, while “Eric’s Ghost” and “C-Ya” are moody and introspective. If anything, they’re a reminder of just how integral a role she played in the music of The Revolution, as they recall some of the more tender moments of that group, most notably the haunting “Sometimes It Snows In April.”
Sadly, Wendy & Lisa’s new label dropped the ball on Eroica, as it came and went in a rather low-key fashion. As a recording partnership, they would start work on a fourth album with Trevor Horn, but it would go unreleased; they would form a short-lived new project, Girl Bros, releasing a sole album in 1998. The duo would soon focus on other musical activities, reuniting a few years back and releasing a fine comeback album, White Flags of Winter Chimneys. More recently, they reunited The Revolution, a touring act which pays tribute to their fallen leader, while retaining the energy and intensity of Prince’s live act. This timely reissue of Eroica reminds the listener of just how amazing and talented these two ladies are, and it’s good to hear it again.
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