Basia - The Sweetest Illusion

Basia: “The Sweetest Illusion” 3CD deluxe edition

A top thirty album in the US and top ten in Japan, Basia’s third solo album failed to chart in the UK. Now it’s back as a deluxe triple CD edition courtesy of the fine folks at Cherry Red records. Is it an overlooked classic waiting to be rediscovered?

Of course, Basia first came to our attention as a member of Matt Bianco, most notably as lead singer on their second top forty hit Half a Minute, but soon quit for the glamour of a solo career. Her first two albums Time and Tide and London, Warsaw, New York expanded the Matt Bianco sound to include more contemporary elements; both reached the UK top 70 and spawned radio hits such as Prime Time TV and Cruising for Bruising, if no actual top forty hits. They achieved moderate success in the US, though, and Basia’s third album is a clear attempt to capitalise on her momentum in the States.

The Sweetest Illusion was originally released in 1994, and boy, does it show. Opening track Drunk on Love (her biggest solo hit in the UK, where it reached #41) slaps a generic mid-nineties dance filter on Basia’s usual jazz-tinged stylings; it would go on to endure a number of Roger Sanchez remixes (all included here) which propelled it to the top of the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart. Nothing else on the album fits into this pigeonhole, though, with much of the rest offering little in the way of engagement and seemingly aimed at the undemanding smooth jazz market. The sprightly More Fire Than Flame and My Cruel Ways do at least threaten to spark some interest, but songs with twee titles like Perfect Mother, Simple Pleasures and The Prayer of a Happy Housewife sound exactly as you would expect them to.

As always, Cherry Red have scoured the archives for bonus material and somehow found enough to expand the album to a full three CDs, packing in numerous dance remixes, single edits, additional material from the album sessions (including a new version of the aforementioned Half a Minute) and – for Heaven’s sake – the entire album again in previously unreleased instrumental form. With track annotations from Basia and her colleagues, there’s more than enough to keep even the most ardent completist happy, but the overall feeling is that this is a great vocal talent desperately in need of worthwhile material.

4/10

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