Having released their debut album A Little Spice in 1984, which had reached number forty-six in the UK, Loose Ends were ready to record their second album, which would become So Where Are You?, which was rereleased by Soul.Music.com in December 2011. Little did they realize then, that 1985 would be a year that totally transformed their career. The reason for this was a song they’d written and would record Hangin’ On A String (Contemplating). This song would give Loose Ends the biggest single of their career so far, and would be one of two US R&B number one singles they have in the next two years. However, all that was still to come, with So Where Are You? still to be recorded. After I’ve told you about the recording of So Where Are You?, I’ll tell you what the music sounds like.

Now that Loose Ends were ready to record their second album, they headed to familiar territory, the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. Their destination was Alpha Recording Studios, where they’d hookup with producer Nick Martinelli, who produced their debut album A Little Spice. Loose Ends had written the material for So Where Are You? at a demo studio in The Babican, not far from London’s Smithfields meat market. Most of the ten tracks were written in London, to give the track their traditional London sound. That would be fused with a Philly influence once producer Nick Martinelli worked his magic on their songs. Recording was meant to take place between September and the middle of November 1984. During their time in Philly, Loose Ends would stay in apartments in Center City. However, it wasn’t just Loose Ends and Nick Martinelli that would work on So Where Are You? 

Joining Loose Ends and Nick Martinelli  at the Alpha Recording Studios, were some of Philly’s musical giants. This included Dexter Wansel, who’d arrange and conduct the strings on the album. As if that wasn’t enough, a number of crack Philly musicians and The Sweethearts of Sigma, would appear on So Where Are You? The Sweethearts of Sigma were a trio of backing vocalists that included Barbara Ingram, Evette Benton and Carla Benson. Previously they’d sung on many Philly sound albums. They’d sing on The Sweetest Pain, co-written by Deter Wansel and Cynthia Biggs. This wasn’t the only cover version on So Where Are You?, with Loose Ends covering David Bowie’s Golden Years. Seven of the other eight tracks that were recorded were co-written by the three members of Loose Ends. Eventually, Loose Ends with Nick Martinelli producing the track, and many of Philly’s finest musicians playing on the ten tracks that would make up So Where Are You? were recorded. 

One of the seven tracks co-written by the three members of Loose Ends was about to change their career forevermore, when it would be released as a single. Now that So Where Are You? was recorded, the album was set for release. However, it would only be released in the UK, reaching number thirteen in the UK Charts. The first single released was the single that transformed Loose Ends’ career. That was Hangin’ On A String (Contemplating), which reached number thirteen in the UK Charts. However, it would do much better in the US, where it reached number one in the US R&B Charts, while reaching number forty-three in the US Billboard 100 and  number twelve in the US Hot Dance Charts. Hangin’ On A String (Contemplating) was added to a repackaged version for the US, which reached number forty-six in the US Billboard 200 and number five in the US R&B Charts. Two other singles were released in the UK in 1985 from So Where Are You? Magic Touch reached number sixteen, while Golden Years reached number fifty-nine. Overall, So Where Are You? had been a huge success, both in the UK and US, resulting in Loose Ends becoming one of the biggest R&B groups in the UK. However, what does the music sound like on So Where Are You? and how does it compare to their previous album A Little Spice?

Opening So Where Are You? is Magic Touch, one of the trio of singles released from the album, and one of seven co-written by the three members of Loose Ends, Carl McIntosh, Jane Eugene and Steve Nichol. It’s a combination of keyboards, flourishes of guitars and the rhythm section that open the track, before giving way to Jane’s sweet vocal. Quickly, her vocal is transformed into a more powerful style, while her vocal is multi-tracked, so that she provides sweet and beautiful backing vocals. Later, a sultry saxophone solo enters, replacing the vocal, before Carl’s vocal enters, while Jane contributes subtle, backing vocals. When the track ends, you realize why it was chosen as a single, and why it fared so well, given its sweet, smooth and hook-laden sound. Not only that, but this tracks sees Loose Ends maturing as a group, with their music moving up to the next level.

After the opening track, the standard is kept up on A New Horizon, another track written by Loose Ends. Opening with another glorious saxophone solo, accompanied by keyboards, percussion and the rhythm section. This gives way to Jane’s vocal, before quickly, the vocal changes hands, as the group contribute punchy, backing vocals. The tempo is the same as the opening track, 115 beats per minute, with an arrangement that’s a fusion of US eighties soul and jazz, given a a London twist by Loose Ends. This jazz influence is thanks to the dramatic, soaring saxophone that punctuates the arrangement. It augments the keyboards, rhythm section and percussion, while the vocals are a combination of punchy, dramatic and impassioned. When all this is combined, the result is an uplifting, uptempo fusion of soul and jazz from Loose Ends.

If My Lovin’ Makes You Hot is a track that has a real eighties sound, with its introduction featuring stabs of keyboards and drums augmented by percussion. When Carl’s vocal enters, it’s full of sadness and drama, delivered in an impassioned style. He sings about a father walking out and his wife being unable to cope with life. This is reflected in the arrangement that sprinkles drama throughout the song. Meanwhile, the rest of the group add backing vocals, before Jane’s vocal enters. She too, has another sad tale to tell, with another father leaving their family. Jane adds emotion to her delivery, before later, she begins to sound like Lisa Stansfield. Meanwhile, an eighties sounding arrangement reveals itself, with synths and drums key to the sound. This works well, and has aged well. However, what makes the track are the lyrics and the delivery of them. 

The title track sees Loose Ends drop the tempo, on the mid-tempo So Where Are You? It sees slow keyboards joined by the rhythm section and percussion, before Jane delivers one of her most impassioned and beautiful vocals on the album. She’s joined by Carl, as they sing the song as a duet, one answering the other, on a beautiful love song. Jane’s voice is tender, as she delivers the lyrics, with Carl’s delivery perfect for what’s one of the best songs on the album. This is helped in no end by an understated and thoughtful arrangement that never overpowers the vocals.

Loose Ends had always wanted to record a David Bowie song, with Golden Years the one chosen. This works well, with a combination of keyboards, rhythm section and percussion accompanying Carl’s vocal, while Jane adds angelic sounding backing vocals. The arrangement stays true to the original, with the addition of a sizzling guitar solo adding something different to Bowie’s original. Later, he even adds a convincing Bowie sounding vocal, while percussion accompanies him. Of all the covers of Bowie songs I’ve heard, this is one of the best.

The track that Loose Ends will forever be remembered by is Hangin’ On A String (Contemplating). It brings to mind memories of 1985 as if it were just yesterday. Immediately, I remember the fashion, music and people I knew, as if it were just yesterday. To me, this one of the most memorable tracks of 1985, one I’ve always adored. It’s a mid-tempo track, 103 beats per minute, with its combination of jazz tinged guitar, crisp drumbeats, compelling percussion and prominent bass line. Add to that, the combined vocals of Jane, Carl and Steve, punchy, often beautiful and shrouded in delay, as slowly and gloriously the track reveals its subtleties and plentiful charms. For six minutes I’m transported back to 1985 by the beauty and brilliance of Loose Ends and their hook laden, irresistible Magnus Opus Hangin’ On A String (Contemplating).

Following a track that’s as great as the preceding one isn’t easy. Often, this means that an otherwise excellent song doesn’t get the credit it deserves, because of such comparisons. However, Give It All You Got is a track that doesn’t disappoint, as it quickly reveals its charms. A combination of keyboards, guitars and rhythm section combine to produce an uplifting sound. This is perfect for first Jane’s sassy vocal and then Carl’s emotive vocal. They’re accompanied by punchy backing vocals, while the arrangement is quick and full of subtle hooks. Key to the track’s success are keyboards, guitars and the rhythm section, not forgetting the impassioned vocals. 

Cynthia Biggs and Dexter Wansel cowrote The Sweetest Pain, while The Sigma Sweethearts contribute some beautiful, subtle backing vocals. Dexter arranges and conducts the lush, cascading strings, while Jane’s vocal is gorgeous, one of her best on So Where Are You? It’s delivered in an impassioned and emotive style, while The Sigma Sweethearts, demonstrate why their voices appeared on so many Philly sound tracks. The arrangement is stunning, made all the better by the strings that accompany the subtle keyboards, rhythm section and percussion. When combined, the result is one of the highlights of So Where Are You? Not only that, but it demonstrates that Jane could’ve easily have had a solo career, given how talented a vocalist she is.

 You Can’t Stop The Rain has a lovely laid back sound when the track opens. It’s just stabs of keyboards, drums and the lushest of strings that accompany Jane’s vocal. Her voice is a combination of tenderness and beauty as she delivers the lyrics. When Carl enters, his vocal is delivered with a similar tenderness, before Jane’s vocal becomes louder and emotive. Meanwhile, the arrangement meanders beautifully behind them, the strings key to the track’s beauty and laid back sound, whose sound and charm you can’t help but succumb to.

Closing So Where Are You? is the Latin tinged Silent Tinged co-written by Steve Jennings with Loose Ends. This is a very different, but very catchy track, similar to the track that closed A Little Spice. With its combination of Spanish styled acoustic, flourishes of piano and percussion, the track is a fusion of Latin and jazz music, that demonstrates the group’s versatility. Later, blasts of whistles, a myriad of percussion join the now dramatic piano, while the guitar is ever-present, during five minutes of majestic Latin tinged music.

Having spent a considerable time listening to So Where Are You?, I’ve come to the conclusion that this album saw Loose Ends maturing as a group.  So Where Are You? is a highly accomplished and polished album, crammed full of some great music. This includes two of the singles from the album, Magic Touch and Golden Years, the uplifting A New Horizon and the two slow, beautiful tracks So Where Are You? and You Can’t Stop The Rain. These two slow tracks demonstrate a different side to Loose Ends, proving whether a track is fast or slow, they’re able to deliver it just as well. On The Sweetest Pain, one of the true highlights of So Where Are You? Jane delivers one of her best vocals on the album, accompanied by a trio of hugely talented backing vocalists, The Sigma Sweethearts. Here, Jane adds further proof that she could’ve had a successful solo career, delivering her vocal in an impassioned and emotive style. Of course, the best known and most successful tracks from So Where Are You? was Hangin’ On A String (Contemplating), which gave Loose Ends their first number one single in the US R&B Charts. Even twenty-seven years after its release, Hangin’ On A String (Contemplating) is still a timeless classic from Loose Ends. When I heard the opening bars, it brought back memories of 1985, as if they were just yesterday. As if that isn’t enough, there are two other versions of Hangin’ On A String (Contemplating), one mixed by the legendary Frankie Knuckles. Apart from these two bonus tracks, there are alternative versions of You Can’t Stop The Rain, Loose Ends cover of Golden Years and a version of Magic Touch featuring Roy Ayers playing vibes. With informative and in-depth sleeve-notes from David Nathan, So Where Are You? is an opportunity to revisit and rediscover the music of Loose Ends, on their second album So Where Are You? which was rereleased by Soul.Music.com in December 2011. So Where Are You? is an album I can thoroughly recommend, as it features some of the greatest music Loose Ends recorded, including their classic track Hangin’ On A String (Contemplating). Standout Tracks: So Where Are You, Hangin’ On A String (Contemplating), The Sweetest Pain and You Can’t Stop The Rain.


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