Who would've thought the best track from dance artist Rachel Panay's debut album would be a ballad? The Rainy Night Radio Edit of "I Still Believe" may be the strongest track from her brand-new album Back To Love, but the rest of the uptempo tracks on this CD are simply the very best in disco-house dance.
"I Want Another Love Tonight" and "The Real Thing" are both tight house-y productions from Josh Harris, who also produced six other tracks on the album. If you like the smooth, classy sound of Freemasons remixes (and who doesn't these days?) then you'll love the style of these songs. Longtime remixer Guido Osario produced "Repeat Performance," clocking in at almost 6 minutes. This one's more of a full-on club mix, being heavy on the circuit/tribal feel - think Tony Moran or Ralphi Rosario.
Rachel's a talented gal, writing or co-writing each and every song on Back To Love. (She's also a dead ringer for Belinda Carlisle, post-GoGos; I mentioned this after meeting her in Las Vegas last year and she told me she gets that all the time). Ms. Panay also has a firm hand in the technical aspects of her artistry, arranging all of her lead and background vocals on her own. Unfortunately, not even this careful ability could save the album's weakest track, "The Walk Of Shame." Produced by DJ Yiannis, of remixing team Outstanding Productions, it's heavy on the monotonous bass-line tribal nonsense that seems to be all the rage these days, and light on any actual music or chord changes. If you're a fan of Offer Nissim's "sound" then this one should be right up your alley. Rachel doesn't sing a bad note on the entire album, and it's obvious she doesn't need any autotuning or tweak-heavy engineering (Britney who?) but on this song, the vocals just sound dissonant and screeching.
Lest the reader think I'm taking my job as a music "critic" far too literally, a couple more standout tracks off the record are the mid-tempo numbers "Life Is Beautiful" and "Don't Look Back," both produced by Francis Phan; brilliantly-layered production and spot-on vocals. As a bonus, two remixes of the title track are included with this album: the Moonlight Mix, as well as Josh's Lounge Mix, the engineering of which was a little too bongo-heavy for my tastes. Overall, this is a great debut album from an artist who clearly takes her work very seriously. I give Rachel Panay's Back To Love four out of five stars.