Veteran singer makes credible, commercial New York club album.
Daryl Easlea 2012-05-14
Born into a musical family, Melba Moore made her recording debut in 1971, after she had made her name in Broadway productions of Hair and Purlie. Best known in the UK for her irresistible Van McCoy-penned 1976 hit This Is It, her 12th album The Other Side of the Rainbow fitted perfectly into the New York groove of the early 80s. With its synthesisers, drum loops and impeccably produced vocals, it demonstrated that Moore could adapt perfectly to the shifting mores of the dance market.
The album's first half is a straight wander through the club underground. Working with writers and producers Paul Laurence and Kashif, it hangs together coherently and sounds, unsurprisingly, like their other production charge, Evelyn King. Ira Seigel’s unmistakable guitar licks (he also worked with King, Madonna and Whitney Houston) and Wayne Brathwaite’s bass added to this slick, urban sound.
Lead single Love’s Comin’ at Ya broke into the UK top 20 at a time of Culture Club and The Kids from Fame, and zips along with an effortless, expensive-sounding beauty. Follow-up hit, Mind Up Tonight, is all pizzicato guitar and chorus vocals (future hitmakers Freddie Jackson, Alyson Williams and Lilo Tomas all feature) and further demonstrates the album’s sophistication.
The second side, produced largely by Rahni Harris, follows a more conventional route, and features two of Moore’s best ever ballads: Don’t Go Away and the title track, a showstopper that provided an opportunity for Moore to emote and, rather spectacularly, hold her closing note for 35 seconds. Co-written by Moore, it predates the sort of epic tearjerker Whitney Houston would be producing a handful of years later.
The only misstep is a strange, synthesised version of the Four Tops’ classic I Can’t Help Myself. The then-17-year-old track sounds positively prehistoric compared to the other material, especially in this overly jolly arrangement.
The Other Side of the Rainbow heralded a rebirth for Moore and made her a fixture on the US R&B chart for the rest of the 80s. It matched her ability and experience with material of the highest quality and, as a result, is one of the greatest albums of her long career.