Pop wildflower Lauper was one of the ’80s’ most surprising success stories when She’s So Unusual hit it big-time in 1984. She makes a hearty and, for her, disciplined effort to recapture her faded glory on this album. It may be too late.
It’s Lauper’s own fault if she has come to be known as a novelty act—much of her image was based on her Brooklyn-accented ditziness and mix-and-clash thrift-shop fashion statements. This record is a test of her appeal beyond such gimmickry. If she ends up on the flash-in-the-pan slag heap, it will be a shame. She’s a good singer, especially so on this album, where she curtails her penchants for breathy-squealy bursts and, at the other extreme, unconstrained hiccup effects. Vocally, she does everything right on A Night to Remember. She’s earthy on the winsome rocker “I Drove All Night,” scintillating on the airier “Primitive” and sweet on the gentle “Unconditional Love.” Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly are the album’s main songwriters, often teaming with Lauper. They give her good grist, especially on the sprightly “Like a Cat,” written with Christina Amphlett of the Divinyls.
Avoiding the manifold excesses of her disappointing second album, True Colors, Lauper elected to pursue a direct, vital pop style. She’s backed by stellar guest musicians—everyone from Eric Clapton and Rick Derringer to Bootsy Collins and Rockin’ Dopsie. Yet her voice, as it should be, is the main attraction here. She sings up a nontempestuous kind of storm. It’s a question, though, whether that’s the kind of thing that’s likely to reclaim her place in the house of mass appeal. (Epic)