Monday, September 13, 2010

Rozlyne Clarke - A Tribute

I've been meaning to write about Rozlyne Clarke since I first started this blog but I kept postponing it because I didn't know where to start. It's like trying to cover La Toya's iconic, hit filled career in one post! All of the legendary diva's stunning anthems deserve their own in depth analysis but I'm notoriously bad at keeping on track when it comes to extended features - see my failed Barbra Streisand guide or tragic Wasted Singles serial - so I've done my best to cram in everything. I just hope I can do justice to this amazing talent. So who is Rozlyne Clarke? Possibly the most fabulous Australian pop star of the 1990s. Which makes it even more of a scandal that nobody knows who the hell she is outside of France. Yes bitches, Rozlyne is the original Tina Arena! A nobody in Perth but a star in Paris (well, about 15 years ago). Let me explain.

The glamorous Sydneysider first made a name for herself in the late 80s, winning roles in hit musicals like Sugar Babies and Starlight Express. That lead to Roz being offered starring roles in Europe. It was during a performance of Cats in France that Nicolas Skorsky (a music producer) was thunderstruck by the Australian's exquisite beauty and otherworldly vocal talent. Anyway, that guy obviously knew his shit because he hired Roz to sing on a dance track he had written called "Eddy Steady Go". A camp floorfiller with indecipherable lyrics about having a three way (or is it riding on the freeway?), bizarre vocal effects not seen since the glory days of Boney M and an infectious chorus that basically consists of Rozlyne screaming "Are you ready Eddy steady go? Eddy go home!", the song shot to #1 on the French club chart and peaked at #8 on the Singles Chart. The cultural capital of the world was clearly smitten by the Australian songbird and she was called back to record an album with Skorsky. Appropriately enough, Rozlyne's debut was called "Gorgeous".

As far as 90s Eurodance albums go, "Gorgeous" is pretty hard to beat. It only has 9 tracks - 8 if you bought the original French release - but this is a case of all killer, no filler. What makes the album special is the variety. There is enough low brow Euro-fabulousness to satisfy even the most demanding trash lover but Roz also throws in some unexpected ballads and co-writes one of the campest songs I have ever heard. But more about that masterpiece later. The title track was released as the album's second single and it was another club smash and followed "Eddy Steady Go" into the French top 20. I'm not convinced by the dubious lyrics ("Wanna be the prettiest, wanna be extremely gorgeous" - LOL!) but Rozlyne's pipes are in breathtaking form and I love the production. Make sure you check out the classy video for the full "Gorgeous" experience. The hits kept coming with "Dancin' Is Like Makin' Love", which is easily my favourite (hit) single from Roz's debut. Another top 20 smash in France (peaking at #16), this catchy jam is a pure pop explosion. Again the lyrics are first class - "remote my control, use me like a toy!" - and the production sums up all that was beautiful about 90s house. It's a miracle Kate Ryan hasn't butchered this classic for her own devious purposes! Brace yourself for one of the best "live" performances ever in the history of television (below). The audio isn't synced but Rozlyne's effortless grace and fierce dance moves will leave you in a trance. This is YouTube gold!

The rest of the album is just as amazing. "Still Waiting For Your Call" is a tender ballad that reminds me of La Toya's classic "I Don't Want You To Go". If it were a showtune. Roz brings a bit of funk to the mid-tempo "Stepping Out Of Line" but goes completely hood on the urbantastic "Never Started Loving You". I think Rozlyne missed her calling as the original Fem C because her fierce rhymes put Lil' Kim to shame. "Single Again" is another floorfiller for dance fans, while "Certain Nights" is truly a ballad for the ages. Who doesn't feel the tortured diva's pain when she sings "certain nights I cry by the window, certain nights I just can't hide my sorrow"? Rozlyne was clearly robbed of an Ivor Novello award! That leaves the album's undisputed highlight. The title probably tell you everything you need to know about "Wizard Of Roz". There is some dispute as to whether it was an official single - some fans insist it was just released on 12" vinyl as a club promo - but there's no denying the song's genius. A camp, slightly bizarre and strangely touching ode to her father, "Wizard Of Roz" is an enduring trash classic that deserves a wider following. Give it a listen at the bottom of this post.

In 1993 "Eddy Steady Go" was re-released in France, becoming a hit all over again. Sadly, it was to be Rozlyne's last appearance on the French singles chart. The club hits, on the other hand, would follow for the rest of the decade. 1994 saw the release of "Giving Up, Giving In" - the same Three Degrees classic that Sheena Easton later covered on her epic "Fabulous" album. Like Sheena, Roz couldn't give her version away and she went back to the drawing board. "Take My Hand" fared considerably better the following year. A top 20 club smash, the infectious dance anthem is one of the best songs in Rozlyne's canon of hits. The production is more electronic than her earlier offerings and the chorus is an absolute monster. That was followed by the house-tastic, disco-tinged "Knockin' Me Out" (another top 20 club hit in France) later that year and the insanely catchy "I Wanna See You" in 1996. As far as I know, the latter is the only Roz anthem to be released in her homeland. There could be others but I've been looking for years and it's the only Australian CD single I've come across.

Speaking of fruitless endeavours, I've been trying to get my hands on Rozlyne's second album for over a decade. Despite her stunning success in France, "Faithful To You" was only released in Belgium and is almost impossible to find. If anyone has this treasure sitting in their collection, I would do just about anything to hear it. Someone out there must have it - I'm convinced it's lining every bargain bin in Brussels! While lesser divas would have given up, Roz went on to score three more French dance hits. "I Need You" reached #20 on the club chart in 1996, while "Ecoute Bien Ces Mots" went all the way to #4. Unfortunately, neither crossed over to the mainstream and Rozlyne released her last single "Quel Tempérament De Feu/I'm On Fire" in 1997. Fittingly it became a top 20 club hit in France. I guess that leaves us with the question - where is she now? And the answer is a happy one. Roz got married and moved back to Australia. I believe she's now a professional make-up artist and just as gorgeous as ever. I'm happy the Queen of French clubs has found her calling but I really wish she would come out of retirement. At least on a part time basis. After all, she's only 42 - a month younger than Kylie - and the diva's amazing Hi-NRG sound is as timeless as her beauty. Rozlyne, we miss you!

My favourite Roz anthem

9 comments:

Diva Incarnate said...

That first clip is endless fun - I need to check out more from her, I do love my fat beats.

tommie said...

Had no idea who this was - I'll keep an eye out for that second album!

Ro Ro said...

Amazing!

RV said...

as I'm frenchie, I remember her days as good ol' days when "Eddy steady go" introduced me to her dance beats. Then Gorgeous came and I HAD to buy her album straight away !
I immediately liked Wizard of Roz and Dancin' is like makin' love (who was remixed & re-released along Eddy steady go in 1993) but didn't have a clue about her following singles and second album until I went there and then on the net pages and searched for it ... until a SoulSeeker friend told me he got it (direct from a path with the devil for sure as it is as rare as canadian brother/sister duet René & Nathalie Simard's selftitled 1989 album I'd be willing to kill to finally be able to hear !!!) and let me have it. Now it's all yours too Mike.
Consider my link a thankful giving back for all the great pop you've let me discover via your blog ;)

Mike said...

RV - You are my hero! Finally hearing "Faithful To You" after all these years is something akin to a spiritual experience. I still need to hunt down a physical copy though. One day it will be mine! Thanks so much. I love the remix of "I Need You" as well! Roz is queen.

By the way - who are René & Nathalie Simard? I've never heard of them.

Nasty G said...

Oh my, thank you for introducing this stellar talent to me! I am now obsessed with her! I love those old house beats with a Minnie Mouse voice over top! Australia is so lucky to have birthed Roz and Collette! I've managed to find a bunch of her singles, but should anyone wish to share both of her awesome albums with me I'd be forever in your debt. ;)

Mike said...

Grant - I'm so glad you love her! Send me an email and I'll see what I can do.

T. said...

I'm french and I'm a fan, also looking 4 the 2nd album... My favorite track is dancin is like...

Anonymous said...

I'm currently doing an amateur production of a chorus line with Roz at the moment and I can tell you she's still as gorgeous as ever and still has amazing pipes!
I had no idea she was so big!!! She is doing well here in Australia and am honoured to be working with her and sharing a stage with her.