The list of Liza Minnelli's musical partners reads like a "Who's Who" of popular culture: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Charles Aznavour, Donna Summer, Joel Grey, Chita Rivera, and of course, her mother Judy Garland, to name a few. Yet one of Minnelli's most cherished collaborations was also one of her most unexpected.
1989's Results was the superstar's first studio album in over a decade, and teamed her with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, a.k.a. the British dance-pop duo Pet Shop Boys. Marrying her powerful theatrical style with throbbing dance beats and layers of synthesized sounds, Results was - and is - unlike anything else in her six-decade catalogue. Though Results remained under the radar in the United States, it became a top ten album and yielded a top ten single in the United Kingdom. Hence, it's appropriate that the U.K. label Strike Force Entertainment, part of the Cherry Red Group, has revisited this seminal LP in a new 3-CD/1-DVD compact box set that aims to be a completist's dream. This set follows the imprint's recent, expanded reissues of Minnelli's The Singer and Tropical Nights.
Tennant and Lowe (who had previously worked with a very different but equally legendary diva, Dusty Springfield) wrote seven songs on the album, and co-produced it with Julian Mendelsohn. Five of their songs were originals, and two were reworkings of previously released tracks, while the remaining three songs were well-chosen covers. The new, opening song, "I Want You Now," quickly established how felicitous the teaming was. Minnelli's voice was out front - impossibly urgent, dramatic, intense in its yearning for a lost lover - over a background of Fairlight synths, keyboards, and percussion and topped off with Anne Dudley's darkly rich, John Barry-esque orchestration. The Pet Shop Boys opened up their worldview from the personal to the political on the bleak "If There Was Love," in which a breathy, ethereal Minnelli asks, "If there was love/Would that be enough" in a world of "individual freedom, intrinsically curbed/Inspiration: nil, slavery: ten?" (As if to emphasize the fact that the more things change..., the track ends with Liza's reading of a Shakespeare sonnet.)
The mood is mellower on the reflective "So Sorry I Said," with the singer stepping into the role of a woman trapped in a hopeless relationship but unable or unwilling to leave it; once again, Minnelli's gifts as an actress subtly add dimension to the evocative lyrics. She gave voice to a far more assertive persona on the sleek and steely floor-filler "Don't Drop Bombs," supported by Tennant and Tessa Niles on vocals.
Film score composer Angelo Badalamenti wrote the atmospheric orchestration for "Rent." The 1987 PSB ballad of a kept woman, considering her position from all angles, first brought the duo to Minnelli's attention; she imbued it with a chilling honesty. As on "Rent," the producers dropped the beats on "Tonight is Forever." Originally recorded by the Boys in 1986, the ode to living in, and for, the moment is sung beautifully and compellingly by Minnelli; the grandiose arrangement was provided by Anne Dudley. Courtney Pine's saxophone adds a sophisticated and urbane air as it wafts through the midtempo groove of another exploration of romantic ambivalence, "I Can't Say Goodnight." With the sax and J.J. Belle's guitar solo accompanying Liza's languid lead vocal, it's one of the loveliest and most sonically varied tracks on the album.
The most club-ready track on Results derived from perhaps the least expected place: the score to Stephen Sondheim's 1971 musical masterwork, Follies. Minnelli never got the chance onstage to play the role of Sally Durant Plummer, tragically obsessed with her former lover of decades past, but she brought the character to life over an irresistible, non-stop beat (and riff redolent of Olivia Newton-John's "Physical") on "Losing My Mind." Never paying short shrift to Sondheim's heartbreakingly incisive lyrics, Minnelli and the Pet Shop Boys nonetheless reinvented the torch song as a dancefloor anthem.
Minnelli also covered singer-songwriter Tanita Tikaram's "Twist in My Sobriety." Clearly, she wasn't afraid to invoke her own well-publicized substance abuse issues on the track, delivering one of her most forceful vocals and putting her higher register to strong use. To underscore the personal connection, the Pet Shop Boys even incorporated John Kander and Fred Ebb's famous "Liza with a Z" in opening and closing raps. On a lighter note was the upbeat revival of Yvonne Elliman's 1979 "Love Pains," co-written by Steve Barri (The Grass Roots, The Turtles) and featuring Tennant on the vocoder as well as prominent additional vocals from Tessa Niles, Carol Kenyon, and Katie Kasson.
While the original album is on Disc One of this set, the second and third discs are dedicated to the remixes of Results' songs that proliferated on various singles: five distinct versions each of "Losing My Mind" and "Love Pains" on Disc B, and a whopping nine remixes of "Don't Drop Bombs" on Disc C. These varied remixes are derived from international and promo releases. Three latter-day Almighty remixes of "Losing My Mind" from the 2000s have also been included, confirming the staying power of the album.
The fourth and final disc is a DVD, presenting the music videos for all three singles, as well as a clip of "Love Pains" as performed on the British talk show Aspel and Company. As a bonus, the promotional video of Liza's "The Day After That," from 1993, has also been included. Unfortunately for viewers in America (and elsewhere), the DVD is Region 0 PAL (not NTSC), meaning that it is not playable in standard U.S. DVD players.
All four discs are housed in a clamshell case, accompanied by a 40-page booklet boasting copious and well-researched liner notes and track-by-track comments from reissue compiler Barney Ashton; additionally, the booklet is lavishly illustrated with striking photos of the artist. (However, discographical annotation as to catalogue numbers for each single is missing.) Jim Phelan's artwork throughout the box is very much in keeping with the original album design and style. Alas, no remastering credits are available, though the sound quality is comparable to the 2005 reissue for the original album; sound varies on the bonus tracks.
Results: Expanded 4-Disc Edition is clearly a labor of love, and a comprehensive collection that belongs on the shelf of any fan of Liza Minnelli or Pet Shop Boys. Results' dynamic fusion of Broadway theatricality and pulse-pounding synthpop remains a singular one, and a standout in both artists' rich catalogues.