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Over the past year, London-based Big Break Records has reissued the majority of the Pointer Sisters' Planet and RCA catalog. From 1978 to 1988, the remarkably diverse Oakland-born siblings explored many shades of rock, dance, and R&B with producer Richard Perry. Although not a commercial success, 1988's SERIOUS SLAMMIN' shows that they never lost sight of the funky stuff responsible for propelling them into the limelight during the early '70s via "Yes We Can Can" and "How Long (Betcha' Got a Chick on the Side)." The crossover success of those surefire recordings had broken new ground. Never before had an African-American female group climbed so high on both the soul and pop charts with such pure funk. It is thus fitting that Anita, Ruth, and June (RIP) would return to those roots after a successful run of pop-fused hits such as "I'm So Excited," "Jump (for My Love)," and "Dare Me."

Technology unmistakably changed the landscape of urban contemporary sounds throughout the '80s. That, however, didn't stop the Pointers from having fun with every kind of groove they encountered. Kick-started in the marketplace by the inclusion of "He Turned Me Out" on the ACTION JACKSON soundtrack, SERIOUS SLAMMIN' was primed to reintroduce the group to longtime R&B fans. Adding a new spin to their sound, the girls delivered unison vocals on the song's verses and pre-choruses rather than selecting one lead vocalist. This approach resulted in a lively and festive vibe, which adds sassy fuel to the tune's contagious synth-groove. Likewise, the opening title track and the assertive jam "Shut Up and Dance" benefit from such flavor. On the latter, it's hard to resist "body slammin'," while heeding songwriters Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett's proclamation, "It's a big mistake to try to rap to me while I'm on the beat"—delivered in no-nonsense fashion by the Pointers.

Not every moment on SERIOUS SLAMMIN', however, is a call to the dance floor or a summons to romantic action. Self-reliance (the stimulating "My Life"), commitment ("I Will Be There"), and insecurity ("Pride") are all touched upon, occasionally to slow and intimate musical backdrops. The groove is steady yet gentle on the Diane Warren-penned "Moonlight Dancing," a romantic ode to private time under starlit skies. June's understated lead performance paints soft, sensual strokes that give balance to the set. Closing out the session, Anita's assuring tone makes "I Will Be There" an uplifting listen in trying times.

But the standout track on SERIOUS SLAMMIN' must be "Uh Uh," a title deceptively plain for such a chic workout. Fresh guitar licks, slick keyboard moves, and a saucy vocal arrangement are key components in these four minutes and fifteen seconds, criminally relegated to B-side status. Not that the single release, a solid ballad in the classic soul tradition called "I'm in Love," wasn't worthy. The Jonathan Butler- and Simon May-penned cut provided Ruth a chance to showcase her natural ability to bring to life the humbling qualities of a heart-to-heart conversation. "Uh Uh" shouldn't have been passed over, though, as it truly evokes the essence of the album title.

Along with the original ten tracks, Big Break includes five bonus tracks with this CD reissue. Among these are the full-length 12-inch mix of "Be There." Not to be confused with "I Will Be There," the track is a driving tale of day-to-day living, produced by Narada Michael Walden. Also appearing for the first time on CD is the Extended Dance Mix of "He Turned Me Out" and a remix of "Translation," previously only released as the B-side to the 45 of "He Turned Me Out." Furthermore, Christian Wikane's liner notes include interviews with session players, and provide interesting insights into the recording process.

About the Writer
Justin Kantor is a freelance music journalist with published works in Wax Poetics and the All-Music Guide. A graduate of Berklee College of Music's Business and Management program, he regularly writes liner notes for reissue labels.



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