So many well-known albums turn 30 this year and Steve Taylor-Bryant and Susan Omand travel back to 1989 to revisit some of the sounds of their youth that made parents shout "Turn that noise down!" This week, Susan says amen to Like A Prayer...
As I’ve said before, back in 1985 I wanted to be the Susan that everyone was seeking. I wanted to look like Madonna looked in Desperately Seeking Susan, or at least to have that jacket, so I kind of followed her career for a bit, to see how her unique look and sound evolved over time (note to 1987 self, bubble cut and pedal pushers, just no) and it wasn’t until after her greatest hits Immaculate Collection in 1990 that I got a bit bored with her staged "Erotica controversy" and wandered off for a while til she got over herself again.
Like a Prayer is the studio album just before the Immaculate Collection and it itself is a collection of hits, with 6 of the tracks becoming chart successes as singles, as well as the album itself topping the charts in a dozen countries. Surprisingly, the album was also a hit with the critics, some classing it as Madonna “growing up,” becoming “arty” and widening her audience away from the teen market with some more sophisticated songs, all of which she co-wrote. Others, though, were less than impressed. The video for the title track caused all sorts of controversy with the church at the time, with her hair not being the only thing that went dark for the video. And her a good Catholic girl too.
All the tracks on the album felt like they had some kind of religious/areligious, or at least family orientated, overtones with titles like Act of Contrition and Oh Father. Having said that though, although they’re all highly listenable and mostly danceable, they’re all pretty standard Madonna fare, mind you, that might be me looking back and knowing what to expect rather than treating the record as new and "groundbreaking" at the time. Nevertheless, even then, you’d know it was her when you heard the songs, even if there were hints of the musical maturity to come. Keep It Together, Till Death Us Do Part, Cherish and Express Yourself are the upbeat pop tracks that we had come to expect from Her Madge-esty with Dear Jessie, Promise to Try and Pray for Spanish Eyes making up the more ballad-y sounding numbers. However, there’s a track on the album that, for me, stands out, just not as a Madonna song.
It’s a little remembered fact that Prince played guitar on at least four of the tracks on Like A Prayer and he contributed his song-writing talents to it too, co-writing Love Song with Madonna. However, it just goes to show that, no matter who he wrote for, Prince could only ever sound like Prince.
Image - Amazon