Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Kings Of Wishful Thinking Rule Supreme

Though the duo of Peter Cox and Richard Drummie had taken the pop world by storm during 1985 with their group Go West, their commercial compass had been knocked off course a tad by the relative disappointment of their follow up efforts during 1987. Some artists may have been pushed into trying to get the ship back on course quickly, and by any commercially appealing means necessary, but Cox and Drummie were used to biding their time, and determined to get the balance right on their next album. Though album #3 wouldn’t surface until late in 1992, the Go West name returned to the pop charts in a blaze of glory during mid 1990, with a single that not only opened the door Stateside for the duo, but blasted said door off its hinges.

Though a quality pop song in its own right, there is little doubt that ‘The King Of Wishful Thinking’ (penned by Cox and Drummie, with Martin Page) received a considerable boost in profile via its inclusion on the soundtrack to the hit romantic comedy ‘Pretty Woman’. Pretty much anything, or anyone, associated with ‘Pretty Woman’ got a lot of coverage in 1990. That aside, it was no more than Go West were due, given the lacklustre support offered their previous album. ‘The King Of Wishful Thinking’ answered Go West’s wishes when it bolted into the U.S. top ten (#8), following suit soon after in several other countries, including Australia (#5), though Britain remained more aloof to the song’s inherent pop allure. The single was released on the EMI label, due to its ties with the ‘Pretty Woman’ soundtrack, and had been produced by Peter Wolf, whose name crops up frequently throughout posts on this blog (connections with Wang Chung, The Escape Club, El Debarge, Big Country et al - among many others). And that is Wolf without the ‘e’, as opposed to the with ‘e’ variety associated with the singer from the J. Geils Band (see future post).

Following the phenomenal success of ‘The King Of Wishful Thinking’, particularly in the U.S., there must have been enormous pressure on Go West to fast track their next album, or at least a follow up single, but it was more than two years before their next release. Good things come to those who wait (allegedly), and so it was for Go West fans, with the release of the 1992 album ‘Indian Summer’ (UK#13/US#154). Peter Wolf stayed the course to helm the album, which saw Go West expand on the blue-eyed soul/R&B motif hinted at on some of their earlier work, and refine the formula. The result was a more mature and accomplished sounding album, written and recorded by musicians in command of their craft, though some of the songs did tend to have a sameness about them. Recorded in the U.S., there was an impressive roster of guest players on the album, including vocalist Siedah Garrett, Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro, bassist Freddie Washington, and guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. The lead out single, ‘Faithful’ (UK#13/US#14/OZ#61), was an up-tempo, feel good, ray of pop-soul sunshine, and its chart performance showed that audiences had remained faithful to the Go West brand, despite the long wait between drinks. Go West then turned to a cover for their next single, ‘What You Won’t Do For Love’, a smooth groovin’ R&B number, that had originally been a US#8 hit for Bobby Caldwell in 1979. Go West’s version didn’t quite match the chart performance of the original, but still delivered them another top twenty hit at home (UK#15/US#55). The third single, ‘Still In Love’ (US#43), followed much the same slickly produced R&B formula, but missed the mark on the British charts, whilst single #4, ‘Tell Me’, just couldn’t be differentiated enough from its predecessors to stand out as a commercial hit.

Later in ‘93, Go West released their first official ‘greatest hits’, titled ‘Aces And Kings - The Best Of Go West’ (UK#5). The compilation included the most obvious suspects from their first three albums, alongside a few new tracks. Cox and Drummie showed no fear in taking on the classic Smokey Robinson and the Miracles song, ‘Tracks Of My Tears’, and slowing its tempo considerably (UK#16). Studio wizard Tom Lord Alge went to work on ‘We Close Our Eyes’, and his ‘93 remix version peaked at #40 on the U.K. charts.

By the mid 90s, Cox and Drummie were ready to take an extended break from Go West duties, and go their separate ways for a while. Richard Drummie focussed on writing and producing for other artists, whilst Cox had penned enough material to record his debut solo album, a self titled effort, released in 1997 (UK#64). Cox (and Go West) then ended their long union with Chrysalis Records, but in 2001 Blueprint Records released the live Go West set, ‘Live At The NEC’. The bulk of the album’s material had been sourced from Go West’s 1993 ‘Aces And Kings’ tour, but included two new tracks, ‘Hangin’ On For Dear Life’, and ‘All Day, All Night’, an indication that Go West was still a going concern for Cox and Drummie. Peter Cox released a couple of low key EP’s later in 2001, then in December 2003, joined with Drummie and former Spandau Ballet front man Tony Hadley, to record an album of covers. The album, ‘Tony Hadley Vs. Peter Cox & Go West’, was released to coincide with a 2004 U.K. tour of the same name. The trio tackled tracks from Robert Palmer, Tom Petty, Don Henley among others. The tour was a runaway success, and before year’s end Peter Cox released his second solo album, ‘Desert Blooms’, indicating his willingness to balance both Go West and solo projects.

2005 saw Go West embark on a sell out 20th anniversary tour, and the tours continued throughout 2006 and beyond, whilst Cox released another solo album, ‘Motor City Music‘. In 2008, Go West toured Britain and Australia, followed by the release of their first album of new material in over fifteen years. 2008’s ‘futurenow’ was warmly received by long standing fans of Go West, and sparked another surge of interest in the duo. During 2009, Go West have embarked on an extensive tour, under the banner of ‘By Request’, and the latest news is that Peter Cox and Richard Drummie are working on material for a proposed album, in collaboration with Tony Hadley and singer Paul Young (see future post).

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