“Hangin’ On A String (Contemplating)” by Loose Ends (1985)

Loose Ends is a group that doesn’t get enough props. They were one of the first British soul groups to make noise with R&B audiences; as a matter of fact, “Hangin’ On A String” was the first song by a UK act to top the American R&B charts¹. Their sound was familiar and exotic at the same time. Vocalists Jane Eugene and Carl McIntosh sang with a detached cool; they were never overwrought or aggressive. You can hear echoes of their aesthetic in modern day artists like Syd, who have expanded soul music’s sound beyond the gospel-derived vocal riffing that the genre is famous for.

The trio also benefitted from the production savvy of Philadelphian Nick Martinelli. “Hangin’ On A String” was his launchpad as well, and he spent a decade or so behind the boards for acts ranging from Phyllis Hyman to Stephanie Mills to Regina Belle. On “Hangin'”, Martinelli plays into the “cool” aspect of the vocals. The synthesizer-dominated production is danceable, but laid back as well. There’s an exotic element to the sound as well. It’s not obviously British, it’s maybe an amalgam of American soul, British pop, and the Loose Ends members’ West Indian ancestry.

The Martinelli/Loose Ends partnership lasted for three albums; and results in at least one more song on this list. Stay tuned.

Also, props to Loose Ends for teaching this 9 year-old word nerd the word “contemplate”.

¹-I guess Paul McCartney beat them by two years as the featured artist on “The Girl Is Mine”, but then again, that wasn’t really his record.

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