The year: 1989. The artist: Liza with a â€œzâ€. The idea: Bring Liza back into the present out of the standards ghetto sheâ€™d been reduced to by teaming her with the Pet Shop Boys, who would write, produce and play on her new album. The results: â€œResultsâ€. The verdict?
Not half bad.
There are two stories floating around about how this project came to be â€“ one has Lizaâ€™s then-current recording manager, none other than Kissâ€™s Gene Simmons, suggesting the collab. Another version has a Sony exec, quite probably Walter Yetnikoff, sparking the idea. In either case, it was one of those wild ideas that smacked of both desperation and inspiration â€“ combine the most camp, gayest sensibilities of the Pet Shop Boys with the most camp, gayest icon short of her mother, Liza Minnelli.
â€œResultsâ€ was a mix of previously recorded Pet Shop Boys tunes like â€œRentâ€ and â€œTonight Is Foreverâ€, alongside some carefully selected covers (including a bewildering version of Tanita Tikaramâ€™s â€œTwist In My Sobrietyâ€) and new PSB material. Something in the songs must have breathed some life in olâ€™ Liza, since she toned down much of the histrionics that had plagued her delivery and actually emoted, giving the songs surprising depth. That didnâ€™t mean the album was without its campy moments.
First single â€œLosing My Mind,â€ a Stephen Sondheim composition, seems almost unfair to put Liza through, considering her past. But luckily, Liza was in on the joke and delivered a winking performance like a champ. Dance clubs went nuts for it (imagine that), and Liza had a bona fide hit single â€“ â€œLosing My Mindâ€ peaked at #6 on the U.K. charts. U.S. radio, predictably, wanted nothing to do with it.
Now imagine Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford as a Disco Diva and you get the idea behind the albumâ€™s follow-up single, â€œDonâ€™t Drop Bombsâ€. To wit:
I’d rather not have to hear about
Your other girls on your expense account
I know you carry on, behind my back
With your secretary, you’ll have a heart attack
Whatâ€™s not to love?
But as was noted earlier, it wasnâ€™t all wink-wink nudge-nudge campy fun. The album has some honestly earnest moments, most notably â€œLove Pains,â€ a disco hit first made famous by Yvonne Elliman. Itâ€™s shocking to hear some actual grit in Lizaâ€™s voice, especially during the chorus â€“ itâ€™s a side she should have explored more, instead of marrying gay plastic surgery addicts and popping Xanax.
â€œResultsâ€ is pleasantly surprising. Donâ€™t let the fact that itâ€™s Liza Minnelli scare you off, especially if youâ€™re a Pet Shop Boys fan. The album must have done okay since itâ€™s not only still in print, but there’s now a remastered version, complete with bonus remixes and a DVD of all the videos made to promote the album.
Score: Liza â€“ 1, New Wave â€“ 0. Decision, Liza.
Minnelli went on to record more standards, Broadway-ish things, but never returned to the pop charts. She did, however, earn major cool cred points by portraying Lucille 2 on “Arrested Development”, the greatest sitcom since “Seinfeld”. So for that, she gets major props.
â€Losing My Mindâ€ peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music Sales chart in 1989.
â€œLove Painsâ€ peaked at #40 on the same chart the same year.