In December, The Go-Go's will launch a mini-tour of California and Nevada hot on the heels of their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Demon Music Group has recently been revisiting the catalogue of the band's breakout star Belinda Carlisle on vinyl. Following such releases as 2017's Heaven on Earth (reissued for its 30th anniversary), 2019's Runaway Horses (also a 30th anniversary), and Belinda earlier this year (marking its 35th), the label has delivered a Deluxe 25th Anniversary 3LP Box Set for 1996's A Woman and a Man.
As Belinda explains in Justin Kantor's exemplary liner notes (adapted from his essay in Demon's 2CD/DVD edition from 2014), she harbors mixed feelings about the album. "It was the first - and only - time in my career that the A&R department [took control]. I know now that I could never work like that again - and I don't have to. But at the time, I wasn't in a good head space. I wasn't confident enough to say, 'I can do this on my own.'" A Man and a Woman followed Carlisle's relocation from the U.S. to France and a brief Go-Go's reunion. It was her first and only album for Chrysalis (in the U.K.) and Miles Copeland's Ark 21 label (in the U.S.), and ultimately fared better in her adopted home of Europe than in her native United States. Despite behind-the-scenes stress, Carlisle acknowledges that some of the material is quite strong - and it is. The album was primarily produced by David Tickle (U2, Joe Cocker) in cool, contemporary style in contrast to Belinda's back-to-basics approach on 1993's Real.
The strongest track may well be the bittersweet ode to "California." Written by Billy Steinberg, Rick Nowels, and Maria Vidal, it takes a first-person approach to the lyrics: "I remember I was in the tanning salon/When I heard that River Phoenix was gone/They say that only the good die young/But that ain't true where I come from..." While the words remain clear-eyed - the next verse considers the Northridge earthquake of 1994 - Brian Wilson supplies the heavenly background vocals. "Lord have mercy on California," the Beach Boys' leader sings in his familiar, reassuring tones. "Working with Brian Wilson was, hands down, the most amazing experience I've ever had in the studio," Carlisle told Kantor. She was clearly inspired on the track, and is equally compelling on other cuts such as Nowels, Anders Bagge, and Allan Rich's poignant "My Heart Goes Out to You." Belinda's interpretation of the elegiac ballad was informed by her experiences of loss as AIDS ravaged the world.
A Woman and a Man yielded four hits on the U.K. Singles Chart including "California" which turned out to be Carlisle's final top 40 there to date. Rick Nowels' catchy "In Too Deep" (first recorded by New Zealand's Jenny Morris) was an obvious choice for the first single and went top ten. Roxette's Per Gessle contributed two tracks to the LP including the second single, the more rock-oriented "Always Breaking My Heart." It's not one of Carlisle's favorites ("Lyrically, I don't think that song is very strong - and it's not that outstanding melodically") but her imploring vocal was convincing enough to earn the tune another top ten berth. The third single went to the top 20: Nowels' "Love in the Key of C." Each single sounded different from the last; the melodic "Love" is one of the more beguiling productions with its prominent electric sitar and subtle orchestral backing.
Demon's deluxe reissue includes all of the audio bonus tracks on the 2014 CD/DVD. The second LP has nine B-sides and bonus tracks, among them the non-album covers of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" and Shel Silverstein's "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" (originally recorded by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show but best known in Marianne Faithfull's hushed, dramatic rendition), Belinda's recording of Alan Menken and David Zippel's sassy "I Won't Say I'm in Love" from Disney's animated film Hercules, and a trio of club mixes of "Remember September." The third LP has another eight live performances encompassing six band tracks (including classics "I Get Weak," "Live Your Live Be Free," and "Heaven Is a Place on Earth") and two acoustic, Unplugged versions ("Circle in the Sand" and "In Too Deep"). All three discs are pressed on 180-gram vinyl - black for the standard edition and purple for the Amazon U.K. exclusive pressing. Phil Kinrade, responsible for the mastering of the CD issues, repeats his duties here.
The quarter-century anniversary set designed by Jools Williamson is happily lavish, with a lift-off lid on the sturdy box containing a 12-page full-size book and the albums in individual jackets and inner sleeves with lyrics, photos, and credits where applicable. A Man and a Woman will be followed in October by a similar 30th anniversary set for 1991's Live Your Life, Be Free.
A Woman and a Man is available now from Demon Music Group at the below links.
Belinda Carlisle, A Woman and a Man: Deluxe 35th Anniversary 3LP Box Set (Demon DEMRECBOX59, 2021)
LP 1: Original Album (released as Chrysalis 72438 53545 2 6 (U.K.)/ARK 21 618681001027 (U.S.), 1996)
- In Too Deep
- A Woman and a Man
- Remember September
- Listen to Love
- Always Breaking My Heart
- Love Doesn't Live Here
- He Goes On
- Kneel At Your Feet
- Love in the Key of C
- My Heart Goes Out to You
LP 2: B-Sides & Bonus Tracks / Remixes
- The Ballad of Lucy Jordan (Japanese bonus track - TOCP-50002 (JP), 1996)
- Jealous Guy (bonus track from DTS reissue - ARK 21 7102151012-2-4 (U.S.), 1996)
- I See No Ships (B-side to "In Too Deep" - Toshiba TOCP-40001 (JP), 1996)
- Love Walks In (Japanese bonus track - TOCP-50002 (JP), 1996)
- Submission - Belinda Carlisle & Radiator (from Come Again - EMI 7243 8 59942 2 7 (U.K.), 1997)
- I Won't Say (I'm in Love) (single A-side - Walt Disney Records 060 449-2 (EU), 1997)
- Remember September (JPO Club Pipes) (12″ promo A-side - EMI P 519761 (U.K.), 1996)
- Remember September (Beam's Club Mix) (12″ promo B-side - EMI P 519761 (U.K.), 1996)
- Remember September (Beam's Vocal Mix) (12″ promo B-side - EMI P 519761 (U.K.), 1996)
LP 3: Live Tracks and Acoustic Live Versions
- Big Scary Animal (Live) (B-side to "California" - Chrysalis 72438 83717 2 8 (U.K.), 1997)
- I Get Weak (Live) (B-side to "California" - Chrysalis 72438 83717 2 8 (U.K.), 1997)
- Leave a Light On (Live) (B-side to "California" - Chrysalis 72438 83716 2 9 (U.K.), 1997)
- Live Your Life Be Free (Live) (B-side to "California" - Chrysalis 72438 83716 2 9 (U.K.), 1997)
- In Too Deep (Live) (B-side to "California" - Chrysalis 72438 83717 2 8 (U.K.), 1997)
- Heaven is a Place on Earth (Live) (B-side to "California" - Chrysalis 72438 83716 2 9 (U.K.), 1997)
- In Too Deep (Acoustic) (B-side to "Love in the Key of C" - Chrysalis 72438 83518 2 9 (U.K.), 1996)
- Circle in the Sand (Acoustic) (B-side to "Love in the Key of C" - Chrysalis 72438 83518 2 9 (U.K.), 1996)