Now this is a bit confusing, so please bear with me. Way back in January I wrote a post announcing Amanda Lear's comeback album and even provided a tentative tracklist. The good news is that "Brief Encounters" has finally been released. Albeit only in Italy. Now, here's where things get a little complicated. The album will be released in France on the 23rd of November (and subsequently in the rest of the world) as "Brand New Love Affair" - with a completely different tracklisting! The albums also have distinctly different themes. The Italian release is a double CD comprised of an acoustic disc and a dance/remix disc, while the French version is a disco concept album. I haven't heard "Brand New Love Affair" in full yet but it appears that most of the best tracks have ended up on that album. However, that's not to say that the Italian version is a write off. "Brief Encounters" is a great listen and contains several Lear-tastic pop gems. If this is the reject album (so to speak) - the real deal should be amazing!
Despite mainly featuring acoustic/pared back covers, disc 1 kicks off with the album's mid-tempo lead single "Someone Else's Eyes" - an appealing duet with the album's main producer Deadstar. I like the song but I prefer the airbrushed to the point of being animated video clip. Watch a preview above. The next song is more reflective of this half of the album. Amanda shows Amy Winehouse a thing or two about being a real diva on her surprisingly fabulous cover of "Back To Black". The jazzy sound suits Ms Lear perfectly and she was born to sing the line "he left no time to regret, kept his dick wet"! "Cupidon", a pretty ballad performed in French, is followed by a sax-tastic version of the Lenny Kravitz hit "I Belong To You". Amanda sounds great but I don't like the musical arrangement. It sounds like elevator music from the 80s. The same could be said for "I Don't Wanna Lose You", which is similarly sleep inducing. Happily, "Fallin' In Love Again" is more lively and stands out as the album's only contemporary pop-rock track.
"Je m'appelle Amanda" is poignant for the clearly autobiographical lyrics, while the jaunty accordion wouldn't sound out of place in a Parisian cafe. Unfortunately, "Let's Love" is another snail paced ballad that sounds like it was stolen from Kenny G circa 1984 but Amanda's smokey cover of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" is touching despite being marred by excessive lashings of saxophone. The covers continue unabated with a cute version of Françoise Hardy's "Comment Te Dire Adieu", which has more than a touch of Austin Powers about it. The Queen of Chinatown's take on David Bowie's "Sorrow" is a real highlight. The arrangement is relatively faithful to the original and the song choice is sentimental given that the great diva appeared in the original video clip (below). I was really concerned about the next song but "Suicide Is Painless" (better known as the MASH theme song) is a minor triumph. Amanda brings real gravitas to the proceedings and the result is tender and real. Disc 1 finishes on a rather insipid note with "Secret Lover" but there is a lot to enjoy on the first half of "Brief Encounters".
I suspect that most fans will be far more interested in the trashtastic second disc, which returns Amanda to dancefloor. The disc opens with an unexpected cover of Peter Wilson's "Doin' Fine". Peter is a friend of mine - so I'm probably a bit biased - but I prefer his version. The production on this is just lazy. It's exactly the same backing track as Peter's version! Rather more appealing is the dance remix of "Someone Else's Eyes", which is pure Hi-NRG cheese. I love the floaty Euro beats and really think this should have been the single version. Next up is the first of three versions of "This Is Not America" (not a David Bowie cover as first reported). The song is a surprisingly dark dance anthem with political lyrics and it works quite well. However, I think three remixes is a bit of overkill. Disco fans will be more interested in Amanda's interpretation of Giorgio Moroder's "Let The Music Play". I love this. The production is a bit kooky at times but a talented DJ could work wonders with it. However, the album's best cover version is yet to come. As far as I'm concerned "Brief Encounters" is worth tracking down for Ms Lear's stunning cover of "Always On My Mind" alone. This is the only T1 production (Peter Wilson and Chris Richards) on the Italian release and it's a winner. Think the Pet Shop Boys meet Kate Ryan (if she could sing) and you have some idea of what this achingly pretty, synth drenched treat sounds like. The boys also deliver a fantastic club mix. The last notable track on Disc 2 is "For What I Am". Amusingly, the song comes with an R'n'B remix but it's pretty dull by Amanda's lofty standards and brings down what is a highly enjoyable collection of dance tunes and remixes.
"Brief Encounters" is available to order from FNAC Italy but they don't ship to Australia (or America by the look of it), so your best bet is Ebay. Amanda's Italian opus is a lot of fun and essential for fans of disco's most fabulous diva but it's very uneven. There are some great moments but the album has clearly been padded with filler and unnecessary remixes - probably because most of the quality tracks ended up on the French release if the buzz on Myspace and Facebook is any indication. Speaking of which, check out a preview of the title track and lead single from "Brand New Love Affair" (below). I'll post more details about that release very soon.