Less than a month ago I reviewed Amanda Lear's "Brief Encounters" album and clearly riled some fans (if the comments were any indication) by suggesting that it wasn't all that good. In retrospect, I think I was actually quite restrained - particularly when you compare it to the amazing "Brand New Love Affair". Before I get into my review, I should recap the situation for the uninitiated. Both albums were originally part of the same project but subsequently split into separate releases in Italy ("Brief Encounters") and France ("Brand New love Affair"). New tracks were then recorded especially for the latter. As it turns out, the French got the far better deal. "Brand New Love Affair" is easily Amanda's best studio album since the 1980s. It's edgy and contemporary yet completely true to the great diva's disco roots. A lot of love went into this release. There are subtle references to Ms Lear's classic hits and an attention to detail that is absent from the Italian release. Most impressively, "Brand New Love Affair" finally provides Amanda with material worthy of her talent. The three new songs (there are also a couple of covers and remixes) are absolutely stunning and rival anything in the charts. It's not a perfect album (I'll get to that later) but this mini-opus is a real treat for fans and the perfect introduction for newcomers.
"Brand New Love Affair" begins in fine style with the lead single and title track. Written and produced by T1 (Australia's Peter Wilson and Chris Richards), the song is an eccentric electro dance anthem that pays homage to the 70s classic "Follow Me" in its structure and quirky lyrics. Amanda sounds amazing on this and she was born to sing/speak lines like "I'm in the mood for pleasure and sin" in her sultry accent. The production keeps a lid on the camp during the verses before exploding into a fabulous Eurodance chorus. As much as I love "Brand New Love Affair", it is a grower and took me a few listens to get into. It's also probably my least favourite of the new tracks, which just goes to prove how good the others are. Take the next song for example. "Coming Up" is one of the best dance anthems of 2009. T1 have crafted a dark and dirty electro stomper with an insanely catchy chorus and irresistible hook. I hear traces of "Intellectually" from 1979's iconic "Never Trust A Pretty Face" album, which makes the track doubly enjoyable for old school fans. It would be absolutely criminal if this isn't released a single.
After a couple of very contemporary dance tracks, Amanda throws her trashy fans a bone in the form of Hi-NRG dance cover of "I Am What I Am". Every gay icon from Gloria Gaynor to Pia Zadora has interpreted this anthem but none have done it quite like the Queen of Chinatown. This now takes pride of place next to "Love Boat" and "No Credit Card" on my high camp Amanda Lear iTunes playlist. The low brow detour is a lot of fun but the album's real strength lies in its new material and it doesn't get much better than "C'est La Vie". This is probably the most traditional dance-pop song that Amanda has ever recorded as far as structure and lyrical content is concerned but the result stunning. The chorus is pure dynamite and T1's production lifts the track to a whole new level. I also need to give Australia's Susie Ahern a shout out. The 90s dance diva's backing vocals are amazing and give the track an unexpected depth and warmth. The next song is a new ten minute chill out dance remix of "Kiss Me, Honey, Honey, Kiss Me" (a Shirley Bassey cover) from Amanda's 2006 album "With Love". It's nice but slightly disappointing considering what comes before it. I'm not sure who produced it but the sound is also slightly dated.
Unfortunately, it's all downhill from there. I like the remixes of "C'est La Vie" and "Brand New Love Affair" but they don't improve on the originals and the final track "T1 Love Suite" turns out to be an 11 minute medley of those tracks with bits of "I Am What I Am" throw in for good measure. I believe the record company was inspired by 70s disco albums, which contained longer edits of fewer tracks but "Brand New Love Affair" feels unfinished. Two or three additional songs would have fleshed out the project and made it feel less repetitive. T1's sole contribution to "Brief Encounters" (an amazing cover of "Always On My Mind") would have fitted in perfectly here but the good thing about iTunes is the ability to mix and match your own album. Despite the anorexic tracklist, "Brand New Love Affair" is still a triumph. Unlike "Brief Encounters", it proves that Amanda can not only still cut it against today's leading dance divas but surpass them given the right material. The album is released physically in France on the 30th November but will also be available to download internationally from that date. Check out Amanda's Myspace for more details.