The Cover Girls

Here It Is

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By the time this pioneering freestyle trio's third album release rolled around, the group had undergone three lineup changes, and it had become clear that the name the Cover Girls was more of a marketing concept than a real, live group. It's hard to know exactly which member is doing what, given that the credits fail to mention leads and -- most importantly -- the "unseen" backing vocalists that seem to be supporting the girls on nearly every track. The 12" for the driving "Funk Boutique," which had been released in single form a year and a half before this album saw the light of day, even credited producer Tony Moran and long-time session vocalist Debbe Cole with background vocals -- their voices are still heard prominently here, but aren't mentioned. Many different vocal shades and colors are found on the choruses of various tracks, but there's no clue as to who helped the trio. It cannot be denied that dance is a producer-driven genre, and despite the shadiness of non-crediting found here, the grooves are smokin', and the powerhouse lead vocals by Michelle Valentine and Evelyn Escalera are dynamite in the context.

Here It Is begins with the deceptively morose "Wishing on a Star," a cover of the 1978 Rose Royce hit. Valentine displays ample soul and tenderness with her vocals, turning in a performance which surpasses the vitality of the original and resulted in a number nine pop hit. Meanwhile, Escalera, whose voice is remarkably similar, throws down defiantly on "Still Miss You," a spicy brew of freestyle, house and traditional Latin elements. Nearly every other cut on the album lives up to the one before it. The melodically soulful "Always" may be midtempo, but its seeping bassline, coy guitar effects and varied percussion fills make it an inimitable club number; the relentless "If You Want My Love (Here It Is)" has a jazzy vibe via its quasi-horn arrangement and is lyrically contagious; and the saucy "That Feeling" merges James Brown-esque samples and hip-hop beats with a house bassline, a memorable R&B melody and an irresistible vocal arrangement. The charming melody and fairy-tale lyrics of "Thank You," the album's other ballad, provide a nice balance toward the middle of the album. Here It Is is an essential piece for freestyle stalwarts and any fans of '90s club music.

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