Having recently discovered Louise Robey, the Countess of Burford, hidden away in a recording studio in Suffolk, England, it was a reminder of her earlier career accomplishments. Of late, she's been associated behind the scenes with the death metal group, Cradle of Filth. Robey is best known as the red-haired beauty, Micki Foster, who bewitched viewers on TV's three-year series, "Friday the 13th: The Series." Before that, she had mild success as a recording artist. This album, "One Night in Bangkok," released in 1984, represents her best effort. She's been reported to be working on a new album, but no release date has been promised.
On "Bangkok," she collaborated with producer Joel Diamond, who since then has accumlated 36 gold and platinum recordings and has produced hits for many artists, from Laura Branigan, Gloria Gaynor, Jay Black, Sister Sledge, Helen Reddy, and Australia's The Deadly Nightshades, to the more mundane Lorna Luft, Engelbert Humperdinck, Milton Berle, and Britt Eckland. Diamond's name came up in conversations over the years with other show biz people I've met who were happy with his work, including Dick Clark, Dr. Hook, Mike Doublas, Soupy Sales, and my good friend and Las Vegas star Clint Holmes. Often, a more successful career will stimulate interest in the earlier works, good or bad. In the context of 1984 when "One Night in Bangkok" was released, this is an excellent first album for Louise.
The title song is a cover of the Murray Head recording from the Broadway show "Chess." Robey's version hit number one in the dance clubs and various mixes of the song have circulated, but America was in an anti-disco mood by the mid-80s trying to cast off the musical vestiges of the 1970s. Prince, Madonna, Huey Lewis, a reinvented Tina Turner, even the unlikely pop dual of Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney signaled that music was trying to write a new chapter. Movie soundtracks were in ("Footloose," "Ghostbusters"), Broadway show tunes were out. While this album will have you dancing, it did not get enough promotion to find it's niche in 1984. Had it been released during the run of "Friday the 13th," along with the show's theme song, it might have hit the upper levels of the pop charts.
Still, "Moth to A Flame," a song co-written by Robey, is an edgy, infectious song that should have been the first track leading off on this digitally remastered CD. Many artists underestimate the importance of the first three-tracks on a CD, but in 1984, artists will still pushing vinyl and cassettes, so it didn't matter. "L. Robey" also co-wrote her femme fatale track, "Killer Instinct," not bad for a new artist having two writing credits on an album. Besides "Moth" and "One Night," "Turn My Head" and "The Right Combination" are two other great dance songs, although I would have suggested a better orchestral arrangement for the intro of "Right Combination." Covers of the hits "Tighter, Tighter," and "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show," are excellent arrangements and full of the energy and the sexy wink of a young singer who had an uncanny awareness of her potential at the time. The one quality that comes across on this album is that Robey seemed to be having fun recording this album and her positive energy comes across in her recordings. I would have left off one song--"Bored and Beautiful," a tongue-in-cheek satire of the boring and beautiful and replaced with something more primal or danceable...maybe a cover of Branigan's "Gloria," Bowie's "Let's Dance" or a hundred other songs, just not this one.
You have to remember to judge this album in the context of 1984. The technology and the way albums are produced and recorded have changed. Audio engineering and computers today can make a few instruments sound like a full orchestra and slight glitches in vocal efforts can be smoothed out with a few electronic tricks. With Robey's album, what you hear is what you get, but still a well produced album given what was possible more than two decades ago. Once "Friday the 13th: The Series" becomes available on DVD or replayed on TV, or, as I suspect, she returns to entertainment from her intermission as a mother and real countess, Louise will bring new interest in this early effort. If you're a fan of Louise Robey as I am, then having this momento of her career is a must.