Friday, September 25, 2009

The Ever Changing Fortunes Of Money

Following on from the reckless success of ‘No Control’ came ‘The Big Crash’ for Eddie Money - literally and figuratively. The title of his 1983 album, ‘Where’s The Party?’ (US#67), may have given a clue as to some of the issues creeping up on Eddie Money - he may well have been attending too many - parties that is (and the wrong kind). The album was generally lacking in originality and quality material, and could just as well have been a collection of throwaway tracks from the ‘No Control’ sessions. The killer hooks, and melodic finesse had been supplanted by dull and uninspired offerings. The Money/Dowd produced set wasn’t all bad though, and the title track was a bit of a rock ‘n’ roll charmer, but the singles, ‘The Big Crash’ (US#54), and ‘Club Michelle’ (US#66), yielded only loose change on the charts for Eddie Money. It later became apparent that Eddie Money had for some time been battling some serious problems with drug addiction, and over the next couple of years he took time out to seek treatment, and regain his health.

With his battle to recover from drug addiction having curtailed his career considerably, by 1986 Eddie Money was ready to prove, like his 1979 single, that you can’t keep a good man down. His triumphant return was announced by the stellar radio anthem ‘Take Me Home Tonight (Be My Baby)’. The song lured listeners into its brooding world, before launching them into an irresistible chorus hook, signed off on with a vocal cameo by none other than Ronnie Spector (of Ronettes’ fame) - she sang the “be my baby” bit. ‘Take Me Home Tonight (Be My Baby)’ also brought Eddie Money the accomplished saxophone player to the fore (in fact Money also attended to keyboards). The track soared to a high of #4 on the U.S. charts (OZ#46), but as had been the case with all his previous work, Money’s music held no currency on the British charts. Where some of Money’s previous albums had suffered from ‘filler’ syndrome, his 1986 set, ‘Can’t Hold Back’, didn’t refrain from serving up across the board quality. Money sounded like a man reinvigorated with life, and reconnected to his craft - and keen to make up for lost time. The laid back rocker ‘I Wanna Go Back’ eased its way to #14 on the U.S. Hot 100, further confirming that the ‘Money Man’ was back. ‘Endless Nights’ (US#21) offered up another radio friendly morsel during the first half of ‘87, and by the time that the fourth single, the crisp and catchy ‘We Should Be Sleeping’, underachieved at #90, the album ‘Can’t Hold Back’ had racked up platinum sales, peaking at US#20 in the process.

Given his remarkable comeback, Money might well have felt he could walk on water, and late in 1988 he did just that - at least in song. The radio-friendly finesse shone through once more on the single ‘Walk On Water’, heavy on keyboards, heavy on slick production, heavy on soaring harmonies, heavy on Eddie in career best form, and featuring Eddie’s old band mate Jimmy Lyon once more on lead guitar. ‘Walk On Water’ performed a minor miracle at #9 on the U.S. charts, but a poor exchange rate left the song floundering at #91 in Australia. The song was penned by Jesse Harms, formerly Sammy Hagar’s keyboardist, and I could imagine Hagar performing the song. The track featured on Money’s seventh studio album, ‘Nothing To Lose’ (US#49), and after what he’d experienced over the last decade, the title was apt. By and large there weren’t any great surprises on the album, with Money employing the same, or at least similar, formula of well-crafted pop-rock throughout - it worked last time, so why not. The follow up single, ‘The Love In Your Eyes’, sighted a peak position of #24 on the U.S. Hot 100 in early ‘89, though ‘Let Me In’ only received access as far as #60.

Ten years as a recording artist, and riding on the high of a major comeback - time for a greatest hits album to celebrate! In late ‘89, Columbia released the compilation ‘Greatest Hits: The Sound Of Money’ (US#53- ch-ching!), featuring ten of the most likely suspects from his career to date, with the bonus enticement to Eddie Money fans of three new tracks. I had only had a passing interest in the work of Eddie Money to that point. Many of his previous hits had received little to no coverage here in Australia, though I was familiar with the better known singles such as ‘Baby Hold On’ and ‘Take Me Home Tonight’. But the new single release from his greatest hits album caught my attention late in ‘89. ‘Peace In Our Time’ was inspiring in its anthemic brilliance, crystalline in its sound, uplifting in its lyrics - it sends my spirits soaring every time I hear it. As much as I’ve come to appreciate a good deal of Eddie Money’s music, ‘Peace In Our Time’, for me, remains at the pinnacle of his work. It also represented Money’s last major splurge on the pop charts (US#11), though by the dawn of the 90s, his consistency of presence on the charts over the preceding decade had resulted in record sales exceeding eleven million units.

In 1991, Eddie Money had one last tilt at chart success with the album ‘Right Here’ (which boasted no fewer than five producers), but despite the minor hits ‘Heaven In The Back Seat’ (US#58), ‘Fall In Love Again’ (US#54), and the US#21 hit ‘I’ll Get By’, it appeared the album buying public had moved on (more than likely to grunge), as sales for ‘Right Here’ petered out at US#160. In 1992, Money was near the head of the queue to try and cash in on the new MTV ‘Unplugged’ series, but the edge was lost in the translation from lushly produced pop-rock, to stripped down acoustic. Columbia then dropped Money from their account, or roster even, but he found a new home at Wolfgang Records, releasing an album of new material in 1995, titled ‘Love And Money’. Over the next couple of years, Money paid the bills with regular touring, and a number of compilations and live albums were released, including 1997’s ‘Shakin’ With The Money Man’. By 1999, the world was ready for a new Eddie Money album, or at least Money was ready to record one, and it arrived under the title ‘Ready Eddie’. It was a ‘back to the future’ style affair, revisiting the classic album rock territory which defined the first half of his career. Over the last decade the compilation releases have kept the royalty cheques flowing for Money, whilst he still tours on occasion. Money’s latest studio offering surfaced in 2007, with the veteran rocker revisiting some of the music he grew up with. ‘Wanna Go Back’ was a nostalgia laden homage to some of the classic 60s hits that had inspired young Edward Mahoney all those years ago. Everything from ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’, through ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’, and ‘Land Of A Thousand Dances’, got the Eddie Money treatment, and on three tracks his daughter Jesse shared vocal duties. In 2009, Eddie Money the man became Eddie Money the musical, with his life story and music featured in ‘Two Tickets To Paradise: The Musical’. Through all the ups and downs of a turbulent career, Eddie Money has remained, above all else, true to the music he loves.

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