The Glamorous Life


Sheila Escovedo was a session-player phenom long before Prince brought her into his orbit — a percussionist conversant enough in jazz, R&B, and Latin music to be in the Rolodex of George Duke and Marvin Gaye (not to mention her own father Pete). The Glamorous Life just elaborated on that background to posit the idea that Sheila E. could be a star. And while it helps that she got to record some of the best feminine-studies songs Prince ever surrendered, cresting with a title track that sits high in the money-versus-love pop pantheon, she’s able to pull it off so well because of a showbiz-lifer background that refuses to see muso chops and star-appeal iconography as adversaries. Prince’s imprint shows up on a couple other cuts, too, and their artistic collaboration makes for a winning line-straddle between R&B and new wave in fine Minneapolis sound tradition. While she’s a better drummer (i.e. fantastic) than singer (i.e. fine) — a fact she only sporadically shows off, primarily on the titular closer’s intricate timbale-riddled rhythmic interplay and the instrumental jam “Shortberry Strawcake” — she inhabits this world like a natural, where any vocal limitations can be easily repurposed into emotional directness. Rangier singers than her would have a harder time pulling off the openly vulnerable balladry of “Noon Rendezvous,” and “The Belle of St. Mark” — a sort of inverse of the title track, where she steps into the yearning woman’s role and is completely overwhelmed by infatuation instead of guarded against it by materialism — proves she’s just as assured expressing the intensity of love as she does coolly pinpointing its absence.

Nate Patrin