Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman knew each other their entire childhood in LA,with both their fathers being musicians in the group of iconic session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew. These musical lives led up to Coleman becoming the successor to Prince’s original keyboard player Gayle Chapman in 1980. In fact,it was Coleman who recommended Wendy to succeed original Revolution guitarist Dez Dickerson when he left before the making of the Purple Rain album. After two years of success with Prince,Wendy & Lisa left the Revolution,signed with Columbia and began their career as a duo.
Wendy and Lisa were significant because,similar to Jam & Lewis,the duo were never anyone Prince could be a puppet master with. They were genuine proteges who not only had enormous talent on their own,but also contributed new musical ideas for Prince. Their 1987 self titled debut featured songs that featured the production and co-writing of fellow Revolution alumni Bobby Z as well as Wendy’s brother,the late Johnathan Melvoin of Smashing Pumpkins fame. The first song on this album made an immediate impact on me personally. Its entitled “Honeymoon Express”.
Wendy starts out playing a thick and liquid rhythm guitar over an ethereal synth sound. A brittle,low ascending slap bass line. This is accompanied by a bassier sounding synth that plays for all the bars of refrain-along with a beat that kicks up high on the snare every few beats or so. Just before the choruses,the song goes up a chord just before the chorus-with the ethereal synthesizer mixed up a bit higher. The bridge features an electronic marimba type solo before the choral sequence of the song repeats to fade-with the synth marimba playing right along side it all the way.
Co written with Johnathan and Susannah Melvoin (‘ne of The Family,now fDeluxe), “Honeymoon Express” is a very densely composed,jazzy funk number. The rhythm is in as much an unusual time signature as what Dave Brubeck did in the “cool jazz” genre,also featuring some ultra funky bass/guitar interaction. The chord changes on the song are actually very singable. That being said,they are also somewhat outside American pop conventions of the late 80’s. And probably are part of why this album wasn’t a major success in the US. Still,this is Wendy & Lisa at some of their jazz funk finest as a duo.