In what may (or may not!) become a regular feature on AFDPJ, we’ll take a detailed look at an album which for various reasons is deserving of some retrospective attention. A record that never got the acclaim and/or success it should have done, a record that’s been largely forgotten with the passing of time, or just a record that I really like and remains a personal favourite…
LOUISE GOFFIN “This Is The Place” (Elektra Records, 1988)
- In The Mood
- Banging On A Brand New Drum
- 5th Of July
- Deep Kiss
- Bridge Of Sighs
- Send A Message
- So Many Summers Gone
- All It Takes
- Ghosts On The High Street
Imagine if Sophie B. Hawkins had made an album with the help of The Blue Nile, and Trevor Horn had produced it. In the late 1980s. That is, effectively, what This Is The Place sounds like when it’s at its best. Louise Goffin is, of course, the daughter of legendary songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin. That much you may already know, or be able to guess. What you may not find so easy to learn is very much at all about this 1988 album. Even her Wikipedia page only makes a passing reference to the record she made for the Elektra label while living in England for a decade between 1984 and 1994.
She had already released a couple of albums (1979’s Kid Blue and a self-titled effort in 1981), but This Is The Place went completely under the radar; in 1987/88 I was still listening to quite a bit of Radio 1 and avidly reading Q Magazine, but I have no recollection of Louise Goffin from that period at all. This Is The Place is exactly the kind of music someone like Johnnie Walker or Richard Skinner would have championed, so it’s even harder to explain why I’d never heard of this album until about 18 months ago when a random mention of the song 5th Of July sent me down a Google/YouTube rabbit hole for the best part of an evening.
To add further intruige, according to Discogs there were no fewer than five singles taken from the album in the UK! That’s some devotion on Elektra’s part to a project that wasn’t generating much attention or commercial impact.
As you can see, there doesn’t seem to be a unifying design style to the campaign; even the album itself had different sleeves for the UK and US editions. Perhaps the folks at Elektra were confused by This Is The Place’s split musical personality – the uptempo tracks come across like an adult contemporary Debbie Gibson or Madonna circa True Blue, while just over half the record is that Sophie B. Hawkins / Blue Nile-esque sound alluded to earlier.
Send A Message was the opener on Side 2, and falls into the former category. A strong, catchy number but nothing especially outstanding, with Louise’s nasal vocals recalling not only Sophie B. but Wendy Wilson of Wilson Phillips at times. The sleeve of the single sends a message that she is a sort of Madonna / Debbie Gibson / Gloria Estefan type of artist, whereas subsequent artwork moved away from that style without ever really finding her look (the one for 5th Of July would be my personal preference).
5th Of July itself is a dreamlike, dreamy dream of a song, Goffin’s vocal style perfectly suited to its yearning, reflective beauty. There are shades of Rickie Lee Jones, Cyndi Lauper and Donna Lewis (she of the sublime 1996 smash I Love You Always Forever). Bridge Of Sighs is more of the same, and utterly gorgeous, coming on like an outtake from Hats, until you realise this was recorded in 1987/1988, more than a year before that Blue Nile album existed. Hmmm.
Carnival, So Many Summers Gone and All It Takes make for a very pleasing run of songs on the second half of the album, before Ghosts On The High Street (an American artist would never write a song with that title if they weren’t living in Britain, I suppose!) closes in an extremely ethereal style. It’s barely a song, just a wisp of a thing, couched in lush production and tons of evocative atmosphere.
The album’s weak moments are inevitably the uptempo bops, which don’t always convince in the way the subtler material so effortlessly does. Banging On A Brand New Drum is the best of them, a cracking beat and playful tone that is also very much of its era. It would have made a terrific Martika single. Deep Kiss is guilty of trying a bit too hard to be cutesy dance pop, and again could be a so-so album track by Martika or Debbie Gibson. In The Mood, the LP’s opening track and one of the five singles, sits somewhere inbetween the two extremes, a confident and commercial statement yet perhaps not an outstanding song in its own right.
Elektra Records, in its 1990s incarnation as EastWest in the UK, continued to pursue the style of female singer-songwriter pop that forms the backbone of This Is The Place; you can hear echoes of its glossy, classy sound in artists such as Harriet, Betsy Cook and indeed Donna Lewis who all issued albums for the label between 1990 and 1996.
[…] I happened across the album by chance a couple of years ago, and I chose it as my first featured album for the blog, a series which has now become the most popular part of […]
[…] started with an obscure gem from 1988 by Louise Goffin, and from there I happened upon a format and style that I could have some fun with, and not feel […]