THINK WITH YOUR HEART
Debbie Gibson

SBK/EMI K2-33374, 1995

[This is the review I wrote for a local BBS, and subsequently posted to the rec.music.artists.debbie-gibson newsgroup. - Chaz]

The mistake I made was to read the lyric sheet first. A scenario immediately presented itself:

Some EMI Suit: So, what sort of material do you have for us?
 
DG (opening portfolio): Here's the list. There's also a cover, which you already know.
 
[The EMI Suit begins to read, and as he reads, clouds begin to form just above his increasingly-furrowed brow. Time passes. More time passes. Finally:]
 
DG: Well?
 
EMI Suit: Uh, there seem to be an awful lot, of, you know, love songs....

Cover artWhat our wayward executive, not to mention Your Humble Narrator, fails to realize is that the category of "love songs" is amazingly broad, occasional witless remarks from metalheads and other amateur moralists notwithstanding; the most complex of human emotions can produce the greatest variety of themes and interpretations. Not that songwriters necessarily realize any of this, mind you.

But Deborah Gibson, bless her, does. Most of her recordings over the years have been love songs. And on Think With Your Heart, each song has its own story to tell, its own unique spin on the subject. There is very little overlap; each song is self-contained. And no effort has been made to arrange the songs into some sort of chronological sequence to make a "concept" album; love, like life, simply isn't that neatly organized, unless you're very, very lucky, or you're Brian Wilson (cf. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds, 1966).

While none of these songs breaks new ground — "Two Young Kids", the serious side of McCartney's "When I'm Sixty-Four", comes closest — each of them reflects a different aspect of their composer. The weakest is probably "You Don't Have To See", which I suspect is basically just a roman-à-treble clef; it doesn't have much to say beyond Stand By Your Man, a worthwhile sentiment but done better elsewhere, and the faux-gospel underpinnings aren't as persuasive as they were on "Between the Lines", four albums ago.

That said, though, there are genuine gems here. "For Better or Worse", the opener, is a stirring variation on the theme of "Whither thou goest, I will go," and "Didn't Have the Heart" stares frightening vulnerability in the face. "Doncha Want Me Now?" and "Too Fancy", the two upbeat tracks, deal wryly with rejection, normally not a funny subject — at least, not to the person on the receiving end.

The teen-idol image from the Eighties, while it doesn't seem to bother Deb, definitely worries the risk-avoidance types who dominate American radio programming, so you're not likely to hear any of these tracks on your local no-dynamic-or-emotional-range FM outlet — not even the cover of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?", which presumably even ahistorical MBAs may have heard of. Of course, most marketing today is based on the premise that adolescence can be prolonged indefinitely, and "maturity" is something best left to, er, old people. The music industry knows how to sell adolescence; when it tries to go beyond, often it simply falls on its spindles.

What's more, the only two musical genres that seem to care anything about lyrics these days are country and rap — and rap, it seems to me, values attitude more than content. I'm going out on a limb here and predicting that some up-and-coming country wannabe will record a cover of "Doncha Want Me Now?", obligatory steel-guitar noises will be dubbed in, and forty bazillion copieswill be sold, which will attract virtually no attention to the Think With Your Heart album, country being as insular as postwar Albania and its fans apparently well-adapted to being force-fed by the Nashville establishment.

Too often, beset by poseurs who demand "meaningful" lyrics, by which they mean lyrics which support their particular Attitude Of The Month, we find ourselves practically apologizing for music with a wider world-view. (I would remind the politicizers out there that it's that tedious man/woman stuff that got them on the planet in the first place.) And maybe for some people it's not important to have any emotion more taxing than simple smugness. For the rest of us, Deborah Gibson replies simply: "I cannot pretend not to care anymore."

I hear you, Deb.

Track listing:
(All songs except "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" by Deborah Gibson)

  • For Better or Worse
  • Didn't Have the Heart
  • Will You Love Me Tomorrow? (Carole King-Gerry Goffin)
  • Dancin' in My Mind
  • Dontcha Want Me Now?
  • Can't Do It Alone
  • Think With Your Heart
  • Too Fancy
  • You Don't Have to See
  • Two Young Kids
  • Interlude/Tony's Rehearsal (studio tomfoolery)
  • Let's Run Away

Personnel:
Vocals: Deborah Gibson; Fonzi Thornton, Robin Clark, Michelle Cobbs, Diva Gray, BJ Nelson
Keyboards: Deborah Gibson, Steve Rosen
Guitars: Irv Siegel, John Leventhal
Drums: Russ Kunkel, Steve Jordan
Percussion: Bashiri Johnson, Russ Kunkel
Bass: T-Bone Wolk, Bob Cranshaw
Mandolin: John Leventhal
Violin solo: Gavyn Wright
Strings and winds: The London Session Orchestra
String contractor on "For Better or Worse": May Pang
Horns and reeds: The Cove City Cats: Richie Cannata, Alan Chez, Ozzie Melendez, Arno Hecht

Produced by Deborah Gibson
Engineers: Nathaniel Kunkel, Geoff Foster, Niko Bolas
Assistants: Suz Dyer, Andy Grassi, Glen Marchese, Jon Bailey, Steve Orchard, Rory Romano, David Voigt, David Kutch
Recorded at: RPM Sound Studios, New York City; Garage Studios, Long Island, New York; Air Studios, London; Power Station, New York City; Hit Factory, New York City
Mixing: Niko Bolas
Assistants: Danny Kadar, Andy Grassi
Mixed at: Sony Music Studios and Hit Factory, New York City
Mastering engineer: Dave Collins
Mastered at A&M Mastering Studios

Posted 22 January 1997; cover art added 5 November 1997


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Copyright © 1995 by Charles G. Hill
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