Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman are aware that they are best known as those talented girls in lingerie who were in Prince’s band, the Revolution. There is however much more to them than sexy underwear. To date they have released five albums as a duo, contributed to or written numerous film and television scores, receiving an Emmy Award in 2010, and have worked with artists such as Neil Finn and Nerina Pallot. Yet they are still proud of their start with the Purple One, admitting in the sleeve notes to this re-release of 1989’s Fruit at the Bottom that this (second) album was an attempt to win back the Prince fans they may have alienated by their debut.
Fruit at the Bottom therefore purposefully focused on funk. The record company, and possibly Prince, were disappointed by Lisa and Wendy’s “baggy jeans” image and reluctance to embrace showbiz glamour, but Prince fans will appreciate the obvious influence on this album, which kicks off with the minimalist but catchy pop of “Lolly Lolly”. Although there’s not much wrong with this original version, the song appears again later on this expanded re-issue, engagingly remixed “according to Prince”.
A further two singles were released from the album, with “Satisfaction” reaching the top 30 in the UK. Sophisticated and upbeat in the style of “Kiss” and with an appearance on guitar from Prince acolyte Jesse Johnson, “Satisfaction” was a deserved hit. Indeed this album is at its best when delivering the funk work-outs it was aiming to deliver: the title track has a great burn-the-house-down groove and catchy shout-out chorus. But they also show versatility with the determined idiosyncratic cool of “Someday I”, the sultry vocals and funky downbeat of “Are You My Baby?”, and the simple but appealing strut of “Everyday”.
1980s production values become more prominent when things are slowed down on the ballads “Always In My Dreams” and “Tears of Joy”, but the tracks still hold up in 2015. “I Think It Was December” is impressive for its arrangement and big chorus, and “From Now On (We’re One)” is ambitiously upbeat despite the lovey-dovey sentiment. Sisters were certainly doing it for themselves, and both Wendy and Lisa’s respective sisters, Susannah Melvoin and Cole Ynda, contribute interesting backing vocals throughout.
As well as the original album, “More Fruit” is also included in the way of bonus tracks: there are three versions of “Are You My Baby?” (the original album version, a seven-inch remix and a 12-inch version) as well as a 12” dance mix of “Satisfaction”. “Happy Birthday”, written for film “Twins” (although surprisingly rejected) is also here, showing Wendy and Lisa’s gift for writing pop, and it’s a melodic, likable song. “Hip Hop Love”, their reaction to the negativity of gangsta rap, is playfully inventive with background vocals influenced by Brazilian music. Sometimes it’s about what you leave off as well as you put on, and sensibly, “Waterfall ‘89”, which appeared on the 1989 “extended play” edition of the album, has not been included this time as it’s a remixed track from their debut.
Still sounding fresh and unusual, this album merits this finely executed upgrade; it’s a fun, spirited album and demonstrates that Wendy & Lisa’s “big break” with Prince was not down to good luck alone.