My initial reasons for being interested in Cyndi Lauper's recordings go back to her debut album, "She's So Unusual". The reason for my interest was the inclusion of two musicians - Eric Bazilian or Rob Hyman. Two years following this album, Bazilian and Hyman would go on to found "The Hooters". Despite the fact that I was a fan of The Hooters, I was disappointed in "She's So Unusual". While the album had great commercial success, I found that there were only a few songs that I felt were any good. These songs included "Time After Time", "She Bop", "All Through the Night", and "When You Were Mine". I felt that these songs showed that Lauper had plenty of potential going forward. My curiosity led me to eventually check out Cyndi Lauper's follow-on album, 1986's "True Colors". While not the monster commercial success of "She's So Unusual", I found that Lauper had matured a great deal as a musician on "True Colors".
One reason I think that "True Colors" didn't sell well is because people who purchased "She's So Unusual" probably felt it wasn't a strong enough album to warrant the purchase of the follow-up. For the most part, I found "She's So Unusual" an album that blended with Lauper's bubbly personality. For "True Colors", I think of this album as the closest thing to Lauper's version of the "..But Seriously" album (Phil Collins' 'serious' album). With a couple of exceptions, Lauper not only shows more maturity in her music and songs, but in her performance as well.
I think a lot of credit for this maturity has to go to Lauper herself. Lauper takes a much more "hands-on" approach to this collection. Lauper is involved in the songwriting of 7 of the 10 songs. Keep in mind that 2 of these 10 tracks are covers, so she has a major role in the original material. This contrasts to "She's So Unusual" where she co-wrote 4 songs. Cyndi is the co-writer on each of the seven songs, but still she played a major role. Cyndi also is the co-producer of this album with her longtime producer, Lennie Petze. Despite the fact that Bazilian and Hyman are not a part of this collection - I still found there were some excellent musicians. There are also some name guest musicians in The Bangles, Nile Rodgers, Billy Joel, Aimee Mann, Pee-Wee Herman, and Rick Derringer.
The first single released from this album was a non-Lauper written song - the title track "True Colors". I must say that this song did not make me do handstands. While it's clear there is a new maturity in Lauper's voice - I found the song kind of boring. It wasn't enough to gain my interest in this collection.
It was the second single that completely changed my tune - "Change of Heart". Like its predecessor "She's So Unusual", for the most part "True Colors" is a synth-pop album. However 1986/7 was a time where the 80s music landscape was moving more toward a guitar-laden sound. "Change of Heart" demonstrates Lauper can handle this sound seamlessly. I like how Lauper blends with the harder edged guitar sound. It features guitar-work by Nile Rodgers. The Bangles also contribute some of their trademark vocals. While Lauper didn't write the music, she did contribute some additional lyrics. While I think her voice sounds a bit tentative at the start, as the song goes on - Lauper demonstrates some major intensity to her vocals to go with the guitar-laden sound.
Lauper's maturity contributes on the cover of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?". Cyndi brings a lot of creditability to this Vietnam-era song that advocates for peace. In some ways, I think Lauper's vocals are stronger on this track than the Marvin Gaye cover. The overall sound of the song is terrific - most notably with the inclusion of Linn Drums. "What's Going On" has a terrific percussion segue into the collection's other cover "Iko Iko". I have never been a fan of "Iko Iko", however I do think this version of the song is superior to the version of the song done by the Belle Stars for the movie "Rain Man". Lauper and Lennie Petze deserve an enormous amount of credit for the arrangements of these covers - because they not only find a way to blend Lauper's unique vocals with this songs, but overall they come up with superior products to the originals.
It was around this time that Lauper contributed vocals to the track "Code of Silence" to Billy Joel's "The Bridge" album. This time Joel returns the favor contributing vocals to the track "Maybe He'll Know". This song has a retro-sound - much like the sound to Joel's "An Innocent Man". While this may sound like a Billy Joel penned song, it isn't - it is a song written by Lauper and John Turi. This is another terrific track - Joel's voice blends perfectly. This track is better than the "Code of Silence" collaboration that was previously done.
Other good tracks include: "The Faraway Nearby" - this features some terrific co-vocals by Aimee Mann; "Calm Inside the Storm" - featuring guitar by Rick Derringer; and "Boy Blue" - an underrated track. The collections' final track, "One Track Mind" is average at best. The one poor track on the album is "911". I felt there was no value in this track - especially the inclusion of Pee-Wee Herman as a guest 911 operator. This song almost brings down the rest of the collection.
The liner notes include all of the lyrics, songwriting, and musician credits. For some reason, the lyrics to "Boy Blue" in a "handwritten" form and kept separate from the other lyrics. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this follow-up album. This is definitely an improvement over "She's So Unusual" - as well as a very different album. The serious Lauper fans will like this album, but I'd also recommend this collection to the casual fans.