Billie Ray Martin was born in Hamburg, Germany and raised by her grandparents. In the late 1980s Billie moved to Berlin, where she performed in several soul and RnB bands and discovered electronica. She hopped on over to London “to fuse soul and electronics – the intellectual and the emotional, as she put it.”
After leaving Electribe 101, an electro-soul band she formed in 1989, Billie worked on several solo projects. The classic dance single ‘Your Loving Arms’ preceded the 1996 release of her first album, Deadline For My Memories.
Deadline is a unique album in the world of dance music, kind of like Billie herself. Billie’s voice is soulful, yes, but is accented with a melancholy softness that makes her stand out from other dance divas. She can sing softly just as well as she can belt it out. Deadline showcases this versatility with tracks that mix old-school soul with top-notch dance production.
‘Hands Up And Amen’ is my favorite track and sets the tone for the rest of the album with its beautiful, atmospheric production that gives the song a darker mood than your average pop song. ‘Running Around Town,’ a good old-fashioned house track with soaring vocals from Billie, speeds things up before the chilled-out, piano-laced ‘Still Waters’ brings the tempo down again.
The title track is a bass-heavy ballad with lovely, ambient production by BT. ‘Imitation of Life’ is a pretty dance track tinged with sadness (and nice piano accents). ‘I Try’ is a rather uninspired RnB-influenced track and even at only 3:18 it seems to drag. So, I usually skip this one and move on to the cool trance/house ‘True Moments Of My World,’ all spiky synths and keyboard hits.
The downtempo ‘We Shall Be True’ has a groovy bassline and beat. ‘I Don’t Believe’ is another ballad in the vein of ‘Deadline For My Memories,’ but Billie’s passionate vocals and excellent details (twang-y guitar, extended ambient outro) make this the better of the two. ‘Space Oasis’ is another trance/house tune that sounds really cool, but lacks a great hook. It would have been interesting to hear a darker trance mix of this.
‘You And I (Keep Holding On)’ sounds like an electronic update of 60s soul songs and lets Billie’s strong vocals shine amidst the trumpet-accented instrumentation. ‘Your Loving Arms,’ at a whopping 6:38, more than earns its status as a modern dance classic with its pounding beat, synths, and memorable melody.
The album closes with two bonus tracks, ‘Big Tears And Make-Up’ and ‘Stand By Me’, that feature Billie’s distinctive vocals supported by only strings and piano (in the case of ‘Big Tears’) and guitar and soft synths (in ‘Stand By Me’) and sound strangely timeless after the very 90s album that precedes them.
Deadline For My Memories is a classy, sophisticated dance album that doesn’t rely on standard dance conventions to get your attention. Check it out and hear for yourself! :)