Josie Cotton

Convertible Music/From the Hip

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Josie Cotton is a classic example of an artist whose entire career is overshadowed by one song. This album's hit, the in-dubious-taste "Johnny Are You Queer?," was such a controversial song at the time of its 1982 release that the rest of this fine album was overlooked in the brouhaha. That's a shame, because Convertible Music is a classic of the whole California girly pop scene of the early '80s, on a level with the Go Go's' Beauty & the Beat, Bonnie Hayes' Good Clean Fun, and the first Bangles EP. The songs, mostly either by Cotton herself or her producers, Bobby and Larson Paine, are neat '60s pastiches with elements of surf (the glorious opener, "He Could Be the One"), Shangri-Las-style melodrama (the sultry "I Need the Night Tonight"), and Farfisa-driven swoony pop bliss ("Rockin' Love," "So Close"). Cotton's voice, which can switch from a bratty whine to a sexy purr from one line to the next, is perfect for this kind of disposable pop, and the production, though a tiny bit slick at times, is sympathetic to the unapologetic good times on display. Convertible Music is one of the most perfectly named albums ever; this is the sort of music that sounds best with the top down on the way to the beach. From the Hip is less successful than Convertible Music. It kicks of with the peppy near-hit "Jimmy Loves Maryann," which features some great guitar work by Lindsey Buckingham, but the album soon runs out of gas. The songs are not as catchy and in a few cases just plain bad (the ridiculous, rockabilly-influenced "Straight Talk," the over-synthed "Come With Me"). The record sounds more grown up and processed; the lo-fi Farfisa organ of the first album is traded in for tired-sounding synthesizers, and where Cotton's vocals smacked you right between the eyes before, here they are buried in reverb and tend to be muddy-sounding. There are also too many cheesy sound effects that forever date the record. Still, it is not really a bad disc. Some of the tracks are even worthy of being on Convertible Music. Apart from "Jimmy Loves Maryann," "Life After Love" is a swinging doo wop pastiche, "Gina" is a rocking tune with a great hook, and the cover of Gary "U.S." Bonds' "School Is In" is a lot of fun. The strength of Convertible Music more than makes up for From the Hip's dip in quality and Collectables has done fans of overlooked '80s music and classic female-sung rock and pop a great service by making these two discs available.

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