Cherry Red's Cherry Pop arm began a new association with Sheena Easton with the 2021 release of The Definitive Singles 1980-1987. The 3-CD, 51-song collection brought together the Scottish singer's A-sides including both 7- and 12-inch singles during that period. This Friday, February 25, the label (once again in tandem with the owner of Easton's EMI discography, RT Industries) will release another generous set: a 2-CD expanded edition of Easton's fifth studio album, 1984's A Private Heaven. With the original EMI America album joined by six 12-inch mixes, three B-sides, and twelve previously unreleased tracks, this Deluxe Edition is a substantial addition to the Easton catalogue.
Sheena's vision for the album was edgy and provocative; she'd found inspiration in Olivia Newton-John's Physical album to create an assertive and empowering musical statement that wasn't afraid of pushing the envelope musically as well as lyrically. Out were the strings and orchestrations, in were slick synthesizers and rock guitars. This approach was epitomized by the opening track of A Private Heaven, Charlie Dore and Julian Littman's confident, swaggering, and suggestive "Strut." Its lyrics - "Strut, pout, put it out/That's what you want from women...Watch me baby, while I walk out the door" - were originally written from a male perspective, but Easton successfully persuaded the songwriters to change it. The resulting anthem earned her a top ten U.S. Pop and Dance hit and a Grammy nomination. But "Strut" was downright innocuous compared to "Sugar Walls." None other than Prince was recording next door. Writing and co-producing under the pseudonym Alexander Nevermind, he donated the provocative track to Easton ("Come spend the night inside my sugar walls...Take advantage, it's alright"). It had the same sexual directness that characterized much of his own oeuvre, and was quickly tagged as part of the "Filthy Fifteen" by Tipper Gore's crusading Parents Music Resource Center. Despite the furor over its explicit lyrical content, or perhaps because of it, "Sugar Walls" earned Sheena another top ten Pop hit and crossed over to R&B (No. 3) and Dance (No. 1) on the U.S. Billboard charts. Moreover, it would be just the first of a string of collaborations between Easton and Prince.
Greg Mathieson and his collaborator Trevor Veitch penned the urgent, lightly Asian-flavored "Hungry Eyes" as well as the irresistible and evocative "Back in the City," the latter with guitar hero Lee Ritenour. Another top-tier guitarist, Steve Lukather, wrote the power ballad "All by Myself" with Veitch and contributed its searing solo. The full-on rock attack of Tim Scott McConnell's "Swear" was fuelled by a "Beat It"-like riff and striking spoken-word rap sections; it made the lower reaches of the Hot 100. The album's signature ballad, "Hard to Say It's Over," was authored by singer-songwriter Gino Cunico, lyricist and frequent Barry Manilow collaborator Adrienne Anderson, and multi-instrumentalist Tom Saviano. Sheena also tackled Joan Armatrading's 1976 hit "Love and Affection" with impressive understatement. Indeed, one of the most remarkable accomplishments of the album is that Sheena's powerful, versatile voice never gets lost in the sleek, ultra-contemporary production.
A Private Heaven remains Sheena's most successful album in the U.S. to date. It peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard 200, spending 35 weeks on the chart and going Platinum. Cherry Pop's expanded edition, produced and annotated by Adam Mattera, explores the album in depth with its whopping 21 bonus cuts. The first disc adds extended 12-inch remixes of all three singles, with two apiece for "Strut," "Sugar Walls," and "Swear." Disc Two opens with three non-LP flipsides all written, entirely or in part, by the Greg Mathieson/Trevor Veitch team for Sheena: the uptempo "Letters from the Road" and "Straight Talking" and moodier, more rock-oriented "Fallen Angels." Three outtakes premiere directly from the EMI vaults including early, alternative mixes of "Hungry Eyes" and "Hard to Say It's Over" and one song not otherwise recorded by Easton, "Have You Ever Been in Love." Introduced by co-writer Andy Hill in the duo Gem and later covered by Leo Sayer (to the tune of a No. 10 U.K. hit!), Easton's silky rendition of the attractive, Ivor Novello Award-winning ballad is persuasive but might have been too conventional to fit comfortably on the original LP. The disc is rounded out with eight instrumental tracks - seven of the album's songs and one funky slow burner of an outtake, "In It to Win It," for which it's believed Sheena never recorded a lead vocal.
The 24-page, full-color booklet housed within the six-panel digipak offers Adam Mattera's comprehensive chronicle of the album based on new interviews with Robbie Nevil, Charlie Dore, Greg Mathieson, Tim Scott McConnell, and Tom Saviano. Mattera's essay is illustrated with both photos and memorabilia. Most happily, full credits, discographical annotation, and track-by-track notes for the bonus material are also offered. Simon Murphy has newly remastered all of the material from the original master tapes.
Sheena Easton began a new chapter of her storied career with A Private Heaven. Record labels were anxious to repeat its success; much of the same personnel (Greg Mathieson, Trevor Veitch, Robbie Nevil, Lee Ritenour, Carlos Vega, Jerry Hey, Richard Page, Abraham Laboriel, Michael Landau, Steve George, Tom Kelly) would go on to appear on singer-songwriter Melissa Manchester's similarly cutting-edge 1985 album Mathematics. (Private Heaven alums Tom Saviano and Lenny Castro both played in the 1970s as part of Manchester's band but didn't appear on Mathematics.) Sheena went on to continue her collaboration with Prince and also work with a host of acclaimed producers such as Nile Rodgers, Phil Ramone, Narada Michael Walden, Nick Martinelli, Keith Diamond, Babyface, and L.A. Reid before the 1980s were out.
The Deluxe Edition of A Private Heaven is due from Cherry Pop/RT Industries this Friday, February 25 and next Friday, March 4, in North America. Look for it at the links below!
Original Album (EMI America LP ST-17132, 1984)
- Sugar Walls
- Hungry Eyes
- Hard to Say It's Over
- Love and Affection
- Back in the City
- You Make Me Nervous
- All by Myself
- Double Standard
The 12" Mixes
- Strut (Dance Mix) (EMI America 12-inch single V-7837-1, 1984)
- Sugar Walls (Dance Mix) (EMI America 12-inch single V-7852-1, 1984)
- Swear (Dance Mix) (EMI America 12-inch single V-7847-1, 1985)
- Strut (Dub Mix) (EMI America 12-inch promotional single SPRO-9231, 1984)
- Sugar Walls (Red Mix) (EMI America 12-inch single V-7852-2, 1984)
- Swear (Dub Mix) (EMI America 12-inch single V-7847-2, 1985)
- Letters from the Road (B-side of EMI America single B-8227, 1984)
- Straight Talking (B-side of EMI America single B-8253, 1984)
- Fallen Angels (B-side of EMI America single B-8263, 1985)
The Studio Sessions (previously unreleased)
- Have You Ever Been in Love
- Hungry Eyes (Alternate Version)
- Hard to Say It's Over (Alternate Version)
- Sugar Walls (Long Roman Version)
The Instrumental Mixes (previously unreleased)
- Strut (Instrumental Mix)
- Love and Affection (Instrumental Mix)
- Hungry Eyes (Instrumental Mix)
- All by Myself (Instrumental Mix)
- Back in the City (Instrumental Mix)
- Hard to Say It's Over (Instrumental Mix)
- Straight Talking (Instrumental Mix)
- In It to Win It (Instrumental Mix)