Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kenny Loggins - Solo But Calling On Some Friends

Following six years of successfully collaborating as part of a duo, Kenny Loggins took time out to catch his breath and set about exploring the very territory that he had originally set out to explore - before being sidetracked as one half of Loggins & Messina - that of a solo artist.

He resurfaced in April of 1977 with his debut album, ‘Celebrate Me Home’ (US#27).  The album was a more mellow affair, positioned well within the spectrum of soft rock, which was beginning to dominate the U.S. charts at the time.  Billy Joel’s producer Phil Ramone came on board to co-produce with Loggins.  The only single to chart was the more up tempo ‘I Believe In Love’ (US#66), though the title track also stood out, the lyrics inspired by, no surprise, Loggins’ desire to return home following recording sessions in New York City.  But despite no major hit single, ‘Celebrate Me Home’ notched up platinum sales Stateside.

While his debut set didn’t contain any stand out hit singles, Loggins’ sophomore solo release in mid 1978, ‘Nightwatch’, contained two, though only one would chart under the Kenny Loggins name.  ‘Whenever I Call You “Friend”’ was a beautiful crafted and seductive slice of soft rock, penned by Loggins in partnership with Melissa Manchester (see previous post).  Rather than record it as a duet with Manchester, Loggins called on another friend in the form of Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac - Loggins had opened for Fleetwood Mac earlier in his career.  Their voices blended perfectly and the combination yielded a top five hit in the U.S. (#5/OZ#26).  Loggins penned only one track on the album by himself (‘Somebody Knows’), choosing to collaborate on several others.  One of those writers who penned a song in partnership with Loggins was Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers.  Together they penned the sublime ‘What A Fool Believes’, recorded in its original form by Loggins, but in early 1979 the track would chart all the way to #1 in the U.S. sung by McDonald for the Doobie Brothers.  The Doobie Brothers version of ‘What A Fool Believes’ also won Grammys for ‘Record of the Year’ and ‘Song of the Year’.  The album ‘Nightwatch’ contained some thoroughly up tempo tracks such as ‘Easy Driver’ and ‘Down ‘N Dirty’, mixed with more mellow affairs such as the soulful ‘Somebody Knows’.  All in all it produced enough commercial appeal to sell platinum (US#7/OZ#70).

Kenny Loggins recruited producer Tom Dowd to co-produce his third solo album, ‘Keep The Fire’, released in late ‘79.  The lead out single was the pop rock classic ‘This Is It’, another Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald collaboration, which knocked on the door of the U.S. top ten (#11/OZ#85) early in 1980 - the song’s lyric had been inspired by Loggins’ father.  The album’s title track was released as the second single, and ‘Keep The Fire’ received a warm reception at #36 on the U.S. Hot 100.   The source album delivered Loggins his third straight platinum disc for sales in the U.S. (#16/OZ#95).

As Loggins & Messina had done so before hand, Kenny Loggins opted for a double album of live material relatively early into his tenure as a solo artist.  ‘Alive’ (US#11/OZ#72) contained all the hits from the first three studio albums, including a live version of the song ‘I’m Alright’.  Loggins had penned ‘I’m Alright’ as his first foray into motion picture soundtrack writing.  The playful song ended up being the theme track for the comedy ‘Caddyshack’.  The studio version of the song hit US#7 late in 1980 (OZ#53), and has become synonymous with both the film and dancing gophers.

1982 saw a return to the studio for Kenny Loggins, this time with co-producer Bruce Botnick.   The sessions resulted in the August ‘82 release of the album ‘High Adventure’, complete with a buccaneer looking Loggins on the front cover.  The opening track of the album also served as the opening single.  ‘Don’t Fight It’ saw Loggins in partnership with Journey front man Steve Perry (see previous posts).  In the notes to his 1997 Greatest Hits package, Loggins refers to ‘Don’t Fight It’ as a warm-up of sorts to push his music into more straight up arena rock territory.  The song works on that level really well, and was co-written by Dean Pitchford, a key player in Loggins’ future success as a proponent of harder rocking music.  ‘Don’t Fight It’ managed to hit the canvass at #17 on the U.S. charts late in ‘82.

The second single, ‘Heart To Heart’ (US#15), was penned by Loggins, Michael McDonald, and prolific composer David Foster.  It was a more soulful, mellow affair, featuring McDonald on backing vocal.  Loggins would later refer to the song as a “bridge between islands”, whatever that means.  The insistent rhythm of ‘Heartlight’, a song inspired by writing of children from the Heartlight School, pushed up the charts to US#24 in early ‘83.  The combined momentum of all three singles pushed sales of the ‘High Adventure’ album to gold status (US#13).  But the highest adventures of Kenny Loggins’ recording career were still to come.

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