The wait is over: Other Half Entertainment, the late Laura Branigan’s production company, has recently reissued her 1983 sophomore album Branigan 2 on CD in a new edition expanded with one additional track, the 12-inch mix of the leadoff single “Solitaire.”
German producer Jack White returned from debut album Branigan to once again helm the LP, and was this time joined by the up-and-coming Robbie Buchanan as associate producer and arranger in place of Greg Mathieson. Keyboardist Buchanan put together a core band to lend a cohesive sound to the album: Michael Landau (guitar), Carlo Vega (drums), and Dennis Belfield (bass). The resulting album was even stronger than its predecessor, matching Branigan’s big, expressively husky voice with equally big and powerful songs in both the synthpop and soft rock veins.
As he had done with the hugely successful “Gloria,” Jack White sought out European songs which could be outfitted with new English lyrics for Laura. All told, four such tracks appeared on Branigan 2. The most successful was the shimmering opening track which became a top ten hit: “Solitaire.” Diane Warren, who had co-written “If You Loved Me” on Branigan, wrote the dramatic English lyrics (one of her three contributions to the LP) to the Martine Clemenceau melody first recorded by the French singer on her 1981 album Clementine. “Mama” was written by the “Gloria” team of Giancarlo Bigazzi and Umberto Tozzi; Warren’s new lyrics gave Branigan another sensual showcase, but its seductive, late-night vibes were quite different than the brash ebullience of “Gloria.”
The modern electric sound was juxtaposed with dirty guitar on “Deep in the Dark.” Its herky-jerky, robotic rhythm and sexy, spoken/sung sections gave it a distinctive sound on Branigan 2. It had previously been recorded by both Austrian singer-songwriter Falco and the U.K.’s After the Fire as “Der Kommissar” but Branigan made Bill Bowersock’s tailor-made English lyrics her own. Like “Der Kommissar,” Steve Bi’s “Lucky” also hailed from the German pop chart. Bernie Paul and Roy Black had both cut the soft, pretty tune; Branigan brought a hint of smoke to the wistful lyrics about a broken relationship.
Diane Warren reteamed with “If You Loved Me” co-author The Doctor on the sleek, energetic dancer “I’m Not the Only One,” and Robbie Buchanan brought his own, urgent “Close Enough” (co-written with John Lang). Two attractive ballads came from the pen of Carol Connors, lyricist of movie hits like “With You I’m Born Again” and “Gonna Fly Now.” David Shire composed the latter’s tender melody while Lee Holdridge joined Connors for the pulsating “Don’t Show Your Love.”
Far more unusual is undoubtedly the cover of The Who’s “Squeeze Box,” but it works terrifically well thanks to Branigan’s straightforward delivery of Pete Townshend’s naughty, double entendre-laden melodic rock tune. The most memorable moment on Branigan 2, even eclipsing “Solitaire,” might well be the U.S. AC chart-topper “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You.” The Michael Bolton/Doug James anthem fit Laura’s emotionally authentic brand of vocals like a glove, while the classy arrangement beautifully supported but never overpowered her lead. Bolton’s subsequent 1988 cover of his own song was even more successful than Laura’s rendition, reaching No. 1 Pop and AC, but his emotive version (modeled on Laura’s) lacked the moving quality of the original.
Other Half’s reissue of Branigan 2 is presented in a slipcase with a 16-page color booklet featuring exemplary liner notes by Christian John Wikane, repeating his duties from Branigan’s past expanded reissues. Wikane’s essay features insights from Robbie Buchanan, Jack White, and Bill Bowersock. There are no remastering credits other than original mastering engineer Brian Gardner, but sound is crisp and comparable to the past Branigan reissues. One of Laura’s strongest albums, Branigan 2 is a timely reminder of a distinctive talent gone too soon but never forgotten.
Branigan 2 is available directly from Other Half Entertainment at this link!