Thursday, January 30, 2014

Bangles - An Eternal Flame Burns Bright

 Following a summer ‘87 tour, supported in part by Australia’s Hoodoo Gurus (see future post), the Bangles opted to explore something other than preparing immediately for their next full album.  They contributed backing vocals on the Hoodoo Gurus hit ‘Good Times’ (#36 in mid ‘87).

The band was invited to contribute a song to the soundtrack of the latest ‘brat pack’ film ‘Less Than Zero’, starring Andrew McCarthy.  The Bangles dipped into their past to retrieve a song made famous by Simon & Garfunkel.  ‘Hazy Shade Of Winter’ received a radical makeover, with thumping percussion, searing guitar hooks, and pristinely layered vocal harmonies.  Produced by Def Jam’s Rick Rubin, it was released as a single late in ‘87, and the charts were soon a hazy shade of Bangles with the song reaching #2 in the U.S. - held off the top step off the pop podium by Tiffany’s ‘Could’ve Been’ (and you’ll know I’ve completely lost the plot if I ever publish a post here about Tiffany - nothing personal, it’s just that I’ve got standards of integrity to adhere to).  ‘Hazy Shade Of Winter’ peaked at #7 here in Australia (UK#11), early in ‘88, reminding audiences of the Bangles sound that had so enamoured itself with listeners previously.

Hoffs had starred in the 1987 motion picture ‘The Allnighter’, directed by her mother.  It was around this period that Hoffs started to become the media’s focal point of the Bangles, something that irked the other members of the band.  But there was more success to come before the cracks were to take hold.

During the summer of ‘88, the Bangles returned to the studio under the watchful eye (or should that be ear) of producer Davitt Sigerson, who would still retain the slickness and radio-friendly sound of ‘Different Light’, but allow the Bangles more room to breath life back into their stylistic roots.  This was no more evident than with the lead out single, In Your Room’ (US#5/ OZ#42/UK#35).  Released late in ’88, it was a psychedelic pop-rock flavoured hit, accompanied by an equally swirly, trippy promotional video.

The Bangles next single, would represent a radical departure from their work to date.  It was written by Susanna Hoffs in partnership with professional song writers Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly.  Steinberg and Kelly had already notched up quite a tally of hits by other female artists including Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’, and Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colours’.  Steinberg had been a long standing fan of the Bangles, and following a concert at the Palace in Hollywood during 1985, he met with Hoffs backstage, whereupon the two agreed to write something together in the future.  Kelly was brought into the mix, and several songs were written but none had been realised in the recording studio.  That was until the trio penned the song ‘I Need A Disguise’ for Belinda Carlisle’s debut album ‘Belinda’.  The experience inspired the trio to apply themselves to write some material to include on the Bangles’ next planned album.

The aim of the collaboration was to write something that would, stylistically, fall somewhere between the Beatles and the Byrds.  In fact, one of the song’s that the track would emulate in aural ambience was the Beatles’ ‘Here, There And Everywhere’.  Lyrically, the song would take its inspiration from two sources.  Hoffs had recalled a time when the Bangles had played in Memphis, and on a day off had visited Graceland where there was an eternal flame for Elvis Presley.  The other inspiration came from Billy Steinberg’s childhood from Sunday school at a local synagogue.

Stylistically, the song ‘Eternal Flame’ was at odds with everything else the Bangles had written and recorded for their 1988 album release, ‘Everything’ (US#15/ OZ#13/ UK#5).  In fact the song nearly didn’t make the cut to be included on the album.  Wishing to return to some of their garage/folk /psychedelic rock influences, ‘Eternal Flame’ was a syrupy ballad that had a lead vocal owned entirely by Susanna Hoffs, something that would further antagonise the other members of the Bangles, as the charismatic Hoffs received the bulk of spotlight attention from the media.

‘Eternal Flame’ hit the U.S. Hot 100 during February of ‘89, and 8 weeks later hit #1, in so doing supplanting ‘The Living Years’ by Mike + The Mechanics (see future post).  After just one week at the pop pinnacle, Roxette’s ‘The Look’ bumped it to one side.  In Australia, ‘Eternal Flame’ shone bright atop the charts for one week, replacing Julian Lennon’s ‘Now You’re In Heaven’ (see future post), and in turn replaced by the soppy ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ by the Divine Miss M - it went on to become the biggest selling single in Australia for 1989.  In the U.K., the song spent 4 weeks atop the charts, replacing Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’, and eventually replaced by Kylie Minogue’s ‘Hand On Your Heart’.

‘Everything’ spawned two more singles, the Debbi Peterson co-penned pop-rocker ‘Be With You’ (US#30/ OZ#41/ UK#23), and Susanna Hoffs’ folk-rock-ish sounding ‘I’ll Set You Free’.  In terms of being set free, the Bangles had enjoyed a good deal more freedom and autonomy than ‘Everything’s predecessor ‘Different Light’, but still that wasn’t enough to overcome some of the compromises and stylistic unevenness.

In September of ‘89, the Bangles cut short their world tour to “go on hiatus”, after almost 9 years together.  Soon after it was announced that the Bangles had officially disbanded (for then at least).  At the time Susanna Hoffs highlighted a contrast in artistic direction as being a key factor in the group fracturing and eventually folding, but she didn’t rule out a reformation at some point.

Susanna Hoffs was the first Bangle to emerge post-band, with the release of her 1991 debut solo set, ‘When You’re A Boy’, produced by Bangles’ alumni David Kahne.  The track listing featured a diversity of song writing talent, from Diane Warren, through Cyndi Lauper, to Juliana Hatfield.  The album’s title came from the Bowie song ‘Boys Keep Singing’, a cover of which was included (featuring the Who’s John Entwistle on bass).  The lead single, ‘My Side Of The Bed’, was put to bed at #30 on the Hot 100.  Whilst recording her follow up album, Hoffs was dropped from the Columbia roster.  She opted to take some time out to start a family, but returned to the recording studio for her 1996 self titled sophomore album.  In 1997, she joined ranks with Matthew Sweet, Christopher Ward, and comic legend Mike Meyers to form Ming Tea, a fictional British rock band who appeared in all three ‘Austin Powers’ films.  Over the ensuing fifteen years, Hoffs teamed up with Matthew Sweet to record three covers’ albums, titled ‘Under The Covers’.  In 2012, Susanna Hoffs released her third solo album, ‘Someday’.

Post Bangles, Vicki Peterson began collaborating with Susan Cowsill, and began playing in clubs under the name the Psycho Sisters, soon to become a full member of the backing band the Continental Drifters.  She sang and played guitar on the Continental Drifters’ self titled 1994 album.  In 1994, Peterson joined the Go-Go’s reunion tour, filling in for a pregnant Charlotte Caffey.  Over the ensuing decade she contributed guitar and vocals to a wide variety of artists, from Hootie & the Blowfish, to Dwight Twilley.  Meanwhile, sister Debbi had formed the band Kindred Spirits with River City People vocalist Siobhan Mayer, who released an eponymous album on the I.R.S. label in 1994.  Bassist Michael Steele became a bassist for hire having not land a solo recording deal.

By the late 90s, the four Bangles began to tentatively consider working together again.  The first evidence of that came in the form of the song ‘Get The Girl’, which was included on the soundtrack to the 1999 comedy ‘Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me’.  The experience was pleasant enough to encourage the quartet to reunite for a full tour during 2000.

It took a while, but the Bangles eventually released their first album since reforming with 2003’s ‘Doll Revolution’ (US#23 Top Independent Albums), featuring the single ‘Something That You Said’ (US#26 Adult Contemporary).  Tim Sendra of All Music Guide described the album as ‘bland’ and over-produced’.  The album did however offer up a good serving of the Bangles’ signature jangling guitars and rich vocal harmonies.  The album was produced by the Bangles, and the writing credits were shared around the album’s fifteen tracks.

Following the departure of Michael Steele from the band, 2011’s album ‘Sweetheart Of The Sun’ (US#148/#28 Top Independent Albums), saw the Bangles reduced to the original trio of Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson, and Debbi Peterson.  Tim Sendra from All Music Guide described ‘Sweetheart Of The Sun’ as a record ‘brimming with jangling guitars, tough lead guitar work from Vicki Peterson, rich vocal harmonies, and a layered live sound’ that really works.  The album echoed the early chapters of the Bangles tenure.  It was co-produced by Hoffs cohort Matthew Sweet, and of the 12 tracks, most had been co-written by the Bangles.

In my mind, in deciding who the better all-girl band of the 80s was - between the Go-Go’s and the Bangles - it’s a split decision.  If I were pushed to choose a favourite, I might lean ever so slightly toward the Go-Go’s, but that’s not to say on another day I wouldn’t choose the Bangles.  In the end, both bands deserve a place of pride in the pantheon of 80s pop music.

Bangles - Monday, Manic Monday

 For as long as popular music has been around there have been numerous and sundry all female vocal groups, anyone from the Supremes to the Spice Girls, the Andrews Sisters to the Pussycat Dolls.  But less common are all female bands, where the members handle instrument duties in addition to vocals.  The early to mid 80s saw the emergence of two such all girl bands - the Go-Go’s, and the Bangles - both of whom owe much of their inspiration to the Runaways, who forged the path for all girl bands during the latter half of the 70s (in fact as you’ll discover, the Bangles had a direct connection to the Runaways).  I’ve already touched in part on the Go-Go’s story (see separate Jane Wiedlin post), but will expand on it in the future.  For now though, let’s explore the world of the Bangles from gooooooo to whooooooah…

In early 1981, singer/guitarist Susanna Hoffs placed a ‘band members wanted’ ad in the Los Angeles paper, The Recycler - the ad read “Band members wanted: into the Beatles, Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield".  Sisters Vicki (guitar/vocals) and Debbi Peterson (drums) answered the ad in the affirmative and the base trio of a band had been formed.  Guitarist Vicki Peterson had formed her first band in the ninth grade, and began writing songs while still in high school.  Her influences centred around the likes of the Beatles and the Hollies, so she and Hoffs were perfectly matched in their love of 60s pop-rock.  The trio began rehearsing together in Susanna Hoffs’ garage, and soon enlisted the services of bassist Annette Zilinskas to round out the band.  The quartet initially adopted the moniker of the Colours, followed quickly by the Supersonic Bangs, and by late ‘81 they were known as the Bangs.  They released the self produced EP ‘Getting Out Of Hand’ (on their own Downkiddie label) in December of ’81 (under the name the Bangs).

The Bangs built a solid reputation and following on the Los Angeles ‘paisley underground’ movement, which also featured the likes of Green On Red, Rain Parade and Dream Syndicate. The ‘paisley underground’ was a loose-knit collective of bands heavily influenced by a fusion of folk-rock and psychedelic rock - the Bangles would prove to be the only band from the movement to achieve broader commercial and critical success.  Their sell out live shows, debut EP and an appearance on a Rodney on the ROQ compilation, brought the Bangs to the attention of Miles Copeland who signed them to his I.R.S. label.  As so happens on occasion, there was already a New York based band called the Bangs who were threatening to sue.  Following a meal at a Mexican Restaurant en-route to Las Vegas, one of the band members scrawled the word ‘Bang-less’ on a napkin, and so the name Bangles came into being during January of ‘82. Copeland also booked them as the opening act for the English Beat.  They released their second EP in June of ‘82, an eponymous effort released on the Faulty Products label (an I.R.S. subsidiary) that sold over 40,000 copies, and further enhanced the quartet’s profile.

The Bangles were signed to the Columbia label during 1983, but before they had entered the recording studio, bassist Annette Zilinskas (who wanted more opportunity to sing lead vocals) quit the band to join country-punk outfit, Blood On The Saddle.  In her place, bassist Michael (Micki) Steele was welcomed into the Bangles’ fold.  Steele had been the original lead vocalist with 70s proto-punk hard rock outfit the Runaways (see separate Joan Jett post).

With veteran power-pop producer David Kahne in the control booth, the Bangles spent a good part of the first half of ‘84 recording their debut album.  ‘All Over The Place’ (US#80/ UK#86) hit stores late in ‘84, and immediately made an impact on U.S. college radio.  The album contained all original material across its eleven tracks, with one exception, ‘Going Down To Liverpool’ (UK#56 - and yes that is Leonard Nimoy in the video clip), a cover of the Katrina & the Waves hit (see separate post).  A second single, the perky ‘Hero Takes A Fall’ (penned by Vicki Peterson and Susanna Hoffs), was added to college radio play lists and the burgeoning MTV network.  At this time lead vocal duties were shared amongst the quartet, with no clear leader evident.  The album reflected the 60s folk-rock, garage rock, and psychedelic rock influences that had energised the Bangles’ early music.  Echoes of the Byrds, The Beatles, Love, Grass Roots, and Jefferson Airplane were laced throughout the album, with chiming riffs, jangling guitar and infectious melody hooks.  Stellar harmonies and taut arrangements compromised the Bangles’ style to that point, but aided in engaging a wider audience.

‘All Over The Place’ went on to sell a very respectable 150,000 copies.  One of those copies undoubtedly fell into the hands of a certain artist by the name of Prince, who, it was rumoured, had been quite infatuated with Hoffs, via her appearance on MTV in the clip to ‘Hero Takes A Fall’.  In between a live tour and promotional work for ‘All Over The Place’, the Bangles found time to appear (as pirates) in the promotional video to friend Cyndi Lauper’s top ten hit ‘Goonies ‘R Good Enough’.  The band spent the latter part of 1985 in the recording studio working on their sophomore album.

By early ‘86, the Bangles released the album ‘Different Light’, led by the single ‘Manic Monday’, an engaging piece of psychedelic pop-rock.  The track had been penned by a writer calling themselves ‘Christopher’.  In case you weren’t aware, ‘Christopher’ was one of the many aliases of an artist better known as Prince.  Such was his fascination with the Bangles, he furnished them  the chance to record the song.  The Mamas & Papas-esque ‘Manic Monday’ proved to be anything but just another ‘Manic Monday’.  The song entered the U.S. Hot 100 during February of 1986, and was by that time already on heavy rotation on MTV, and FM radio.  It peaked at #2 on the Hot 100 during the month of April.  In a case of irony, the Bangles were denied their first #1 hit by none other than the man who had penned ‘Manic Monday’, Prince with the song ‘Kiss’.  ‘Manic Monday’ reached #3 on the Australian charts, and was denied a #1 in Britain by the Barry Gibb penned ‘Chain Reaction’ by Diana Ross.  Prince even joined the Bangles on stage for an encore of the song during a concert.

Both artist and label were hoping that the follow up single, a melancholic rendition of the Jules Shear song, ‘If She Knew What She Wants’ (released mid year), would further build on the band’s momentum, but the single proved a relative disappointment in commercial terms (US#29/ OZ#31/UK#31).  Meanwhile the Bangles had embarked on a lengthy summer tour during 1986.  The album ‘Different Light’ climbed steadily up world charts (US#2/ OZ#2/UK#3), eventually becoming the 12th biggest selling album in the U.S. for 1986.  It represented a marked departure from the 60s pop-rock infusion that had been a signature of their early work, and arguably suffered in stylistic terms by over production (once more Kahne was overseeing things from the control booth).  In essence, the album compromised some of the band’s early career personality and style.  Though from a commercial audience, and radio friendly angle, the more polished ‘Different Angle’ worked a treat, no more illustrated by the third single release.

Songwriter Liam Sternberg was on a ferry crossing the English Channel when the phrase ‘walk like an Egyptian’ struck a chord with him.  As any good writer does, Sternberg had a note book on hand to scribble the phrase down for future reference.  Some time after, Sternberg penned a song around the title ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ and cut a four track demo (including the song) in Los Angeles during January of ‘84.  He enlisted the services of Marti Jones to provide vocals on the track.  Sternberg played the demo to singer Toni Basil (of ‘Mickey’ fame - see separate post), who turned it down flat.  In late ‘85 Bangles’ producer David Kahne had received a two track demo tape from Peer Southern Publishing with the request that he consider the first track on the cassette, ‘Rock and Roll Vertigo’, for inclusion on the Bangles’ next album.  Whoever had made the tape had reversed the two tracks so track number one was actually ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’.  Kahne was instantly impressed and offered the Bangles the song to record.  Writer Liam Sternberg was over the moon as he had seen the Bangles live and loved their sound, and was thrilled by the finished product.  The song had that infectious feel good, foot tapping, smile stimulating aura about it.

Featuring lead vocals from three of the four Bangles, ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ was released in late ‘86 (interesting that the single releases from ‘Different Light’ were spread out over such a long period).  By November it had sand danced its way into the Hot 100, and by December 20 had assumed the #1 mantle, in the process punting ‘The Way It Is’ by Bruce Hornsby and the Range.  ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ became the dance of choice (including for all the cops in the donut shop) over the holiday period and into January of ‘87, spending 4 weeks in top spot (UK#3) - the equal longest stint atop the U.S. Hot 100 by an all girl group to that time (along with the Chiffons, the Supremes, and the Emotions).  It was eventually knocked off by ‘Shake You Down’ by Gregory Abbott (see future post).  I recall instantly falling in love with the song (or maybe it was the Bangles I was in love with) when I first saw it on Countdown late in ‘86 - the song induced a feeling of fun and cheeriness - I especially enjoyed Debi Peterson’s solo whistle mid song.  ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ spun around and crossed the floor all the way to #1 in Australia as well, replacing Pseudo Echo’s ‘Funky Town’, and in turn being replaced by Kim Wilde’s ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’ (see separate posts for both artists).  The song ended up being the 2nd highest selling single in the U.S. for 1986, and the 7th biggest seller in Australia for 1987.

‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ was a tough act to follow, and another strolling song in the form of ‘Walking Down The Street’ didn’t quite manage to crack the top 10 (US#11/ OZ#56/UK#16), but by being a vocal vehicle for Susanna Hoffs it signalled a trend that would eventually erode unity within the band.

Take Me In Your Arms

If you’ve read my previous post about the Hues Corporation, then you’ll be aware all ready about at least part of the George McCrae story.  But even if you have, please read on to discover more about the man and his music.

George McCrae was born in West Palm Beach, Florida in 1944.  He became passionate about music whilst still at high school and performed vocals in a couple of groups - the Fabulous Stepbrothers, and the Jiving Jets.  The latter included his future wife Gwen.  During the mid 60s, McCrae served in the U.S. Navy for four years, and in between naval manoeuvres formed another band, called Atsugi Express.  After George and Gwen had been married and started a family, both were signed to Henry Stone’s Alston label in 1969 (George also became Gwen’s manager).  They laid down several tracks as a duo but success eluded them.  Gwen left the label and signed with Columbia, whilst George elected to focus on managing Gwen’s career, and study criminal justice.

But the lure of the microphone proved too strong and by 1974 George McCrae had returned to the fold at Henry Stone’s T.K. label.  Also on the T.K. creative roster were a pair of song writers and budding musicians, Harry Casey and Richard Finch.  Though the pair had passionate ambitions for a career in music, their day jobs at this time were less glamorous - warehouse and studio duties.  Whenever they could, Casey and Finch fitted in studio time to both produce and record music, including for the likes of Betty Wright and Jimmy (Bo) Horne.  The duo had penned a song that they felt their own vocals couldn’t do justice to, and as they had recently released a single of their own (“Sound Your Funky Horn”), they decided to offer the song to someone else to record.

With a demo recorded in under 45 minutes, Casey and Finch took the instrumental version of ‘Rock Your Baby’ to play for T.K. A&R chief Steve Alaimo, and owner Henry Stone.  They got the thumbs up to record the track proper.  They had two vocalists in mind that they felt could do the song justice; Jimmy ‘Bo’ Horne, and George McCrae.  As it happened McCrae called into the T.K. studio the very next day and gave the instrumental track a listen.  It took just two takes for George McCrae to make ‘Rock Your Baby’ his own.

After being added to the play list of influential top 40 radio station, WABC, ‘Rock Your Baby’ started to attract attention, and hit the Hot 100 in early June of ‘74.  By mid July it was being played on dance floors across the nation and ascended all the way to #1, replacing the Hues Corporation’s ‘Rock The Boat’ (see separate post).  ‘Rock Your Baby’ had R&B roots but was all over an early disco hit, delivering the second of two punches delivered on the charts immediately following ‘Rock The Boat’.  ‘Rock Your Baby’ stayed at #1 for two weeks, before being replaced by John Denver’s ‘Annie’s Song’.  It rocked its way to #2 on the Australian charts, but went one better on the U.K. charts finding a #1 audience for three weeks (holding off both glam rock and early punk challengers), replacing ‘She’ by Charles Aznavour, and in turn replaced by ‘When Will I See You Again’ by the Three Degrees.

Under the production auspices of Harry Casey and Richard Finch, McCrae laid down enough tracks for an eponymous debut album.  Though failing to make an impact Stateside (#152, R&B#24), the album found an eager audience in both Australia (#26) and Britain (#13).  A second single, ‘I Can’t Leave You Alone’ (UK#9/OZ#92), further consolidated McCrae’s profile in Britain, whilst ‘You Can Have It All’ (UK#23) rounded out a hugely successful 1974.

The U.K. continued to be the most lucrative market for McCrae during 1975, yielding three top forty hits; ‘Sing A Happy Song’ (#38), ‘It’s Been So Long’ (#4), and ‘I Ain’t Lyin’ (#12).  McCrae also found time to sing backing vocals on wife Gwen’s 1975 US#9 (#1 R&B hit) ‘Rockin’ Chair’.

By the time McCrae’s 1976 album, ‘Diamond Touch’ was recorded, producer Gregg Diamond was guiding proceedings - due to Harry Casey and Richard Finch being preoccupied as principal members of KC & the Sunshine Band (see future post).  The single ‘Honey I’ cracked the U.K. top 40 (#33), but though the album featured plenty of disco rhythms and romantic soul, it failed to make an impact on the charts.  With both George and Gwen having scored top ten hits, it seemed logical to combine their talents as a duo.  1976’s ‘Together’ did just that (US R&B #33).

It seems an injustice that one of the pioneers of the disco movement, George McCrae failed to cash in on the runaway disco train of the late 70s.  He had just one hit during that period, ‘Don’t You Feel My Love’ (US#25 Dance Music chart), lifted from the 1979 album ‘We Did It’.

By the 1980s, George McCrae had relocated to Europe, Holland to be precise, but despite a steady output of recorded material, McCrae only broke into the charts one more time with ‘One Step Closer (To Love)’ (UK#57) during 1984.  Over the next 25 years, McCrae surfaced only a handful of times with the albums ‘Romance’ (1995), ‘Love’s Been Good To Me’ (2003), and ‘Time For A Change’ (2009).

But his career will be best remembered as having been at the vanguard of the disco movement.

A Cargo Full Of Love And Devotion

When I first thought to review the careers of both The Hues Corporation and George McCrae (see next/separate post), I had no idea that there would be a strong connection between the two artists, other than the fact that their biggest hits were similar in nomenclature.

During 1969, songwriter Wally Holmes had the idea to form a black vocal trio.  His original idea was to call the group the Children of Howard Hughes, in reference to the reclusive millionaire.  Not unexpectedly, legal issues meant the Howard Hughes name couldn’t be incorporated into the group’s name.  Holmes put on his thinking cap and came up with a good compromise - the Hues Corporation.  The group’s original line-up comprised a friend of Holmes, Bernard Henderson, female vocalist H. Ann Kelly (who they discovered at a Los Angeles talent show), and Karl Russell who responded to notices that Holmes had placed in southern California record bars.  The vocal chemistry wasn’t quite right, so Russell was soon replaced by Fleming Williams, and the Hues Corporation was open for business.

Initial tenures at various Los Angeles clubs failed to attract much notice, but the group gained a profile and following during a stint of shows in the lounge of the Circus Circus Club in Las Vegas.  Word of mouth led to record label talent scouts checking out the balance sheet of the Hues Corporation, and RCA liked the numbers they saw, signing the trio to a recording contract.

Holmes arranged for the trio to work with producer John Florez (produced Friends of Distinction) on their debut album, to be titled ‘Freedom For The Stallion’ (US#20).  The title track single, ‘Freedom For The Stallion’ (US#63), made little more than a ripple in the lower reaches of the Hot 100.  The Hues Corporation’s debut album looked set to be declared insolvent when RCA executive David Kershenbaum went to one of the trio’s shows in Los Angeles.  One song in particular went over very well with the audience.  Penned by Wally Holmes, ‘Rock The Boat’ was one of ten tracks that had been laid down for the debut album.  The song had been consigned to the backwaters of the album’s grooves, but had been selected by Holmes to receive special production treatment from New York producer Tom Sellers.  He came up with the idea to apply a slight reggae edged back rhythm, to make the track more danceable.  Originally H. Ann Kelly was to handle the lead vocals, but that honour eventually went to Fleming Williams.  Despite doing a sterling job on the track, Williams was soon after replaced by Tommy Brown, therein missing out on some of the credit he was due for his role in the Hues Corporation story.

RCA soon released ‘Rock The Boat’ as a single, six months after the source album had been released and had all but disappeared.  Released in February of ‘74, initial interest in ‘Rock The Boat’ was sluggish, but then it came to the attention of several high profile radio stations in New York City.  It notched up sales of over 50,000 and was packing dance floors across the city.  Within a few weeks ‘Rock The Boat’ had debuted on the Hot 100.  Six weeks later the track had sailed to the top and replaced Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Sundown’ at the toppermost of the Hot 100 (US#2 R&B, OZ#18/UK#6).  ‘Rock The Boat’ held sway at #1 for just one week, before sailing downwind on the charts, replaced at #1 by George McCrae’s ‘Rock Your Baby’ (see separate post).  Stylistically the song was somewhere between R&B and early disco music.  In fact, ‘Rock The Boat’ is credited as one of the seminal cornerstones of the evolution of disco music in the mid 70s - along with the likes ‘Rock Your Baby’, ‘TSOP’ by MFSB and the Three Degrees, ‘Love’s Theme’ from Love Unlimited Orchestra, Barry White’s ‘Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe’ and Carl Douglas’ ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ (see separate post), all of which charted during 1974.  The song was later covered in 1983 by U.S. vocal group Forrest (UK#4/OZ#18 - they had a further hit in 1983 with ‘Feel The Need In Me’ - UK#17).

The follow up album ‘Love Corporation’ (US#147/ R&B#40) failed to build on the profit’s generated by ‘Rock The Boat’, but did yield a #15 R&B hit with the title track.  1975’s ‘Rockin’ Soul’ album (R&B#20) yielded a Hot 100 top 20 hit with the title track (#18/R&B#6/ OZ#71/UK#24) but the fortunes of the Hues Corporation were quickly dwindling.  They made one final incursion into the Hot 100 with 1977’s ‘I Caught Your Act’ (US#92), but it seemed few were willing to catch the trio’s act anymore.  With the movement they helped kick start, disco, in full swing and generating dance group after dance group, there was no room in the mix for the Hues Corporation, and the trio disbanded late in ‘77.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kenny Loggins - Footloose And Fancy Free

Kenny Loggins had already collaborated with composer Dean Pitchford on his 1982 album ‘High Adventure’ for the soaring arena rocker ‘Don’t Fight It’.  For two years Pitchford (who had won an Oscar in 1980 for co-writing ‘Fame’) had been working on the script and music for a proposed motion picture musical.  He’d already decided that he wanted Loggins involved in the recording process for one or more tracks, and if possible the title track.  The two consulted each other regularly, including in between tour dates for Loggins.  It was on one of those tour dates that Loggins met with mishap and fell off a stage in Utah, fracturing several ribs.  Loggins recovered enough to continue the tour, but was also aware that there was a fast approaching deadline to pen and record a title track for the proposed movie project.  Meanwhile, Pitchford had come down with a serious bronchial infection.  And so it was that both writers, in not the best of health, collaborated over a period of four days (between concert dates for Loggins), and penned the title track for the film ‘Footloose’.  To test the waters as it were, Loggins performed the newly crafted song on his next few dates, and the song was very well received.  The pair knew they were on a winner.

The motion picture ‘Footloose’ hit cinemas in early 1984.  It was one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year.  The basic premise for the film was a young man Ren McCormack (played by Kevin Bacon) arrives in a small town with hopes and dreams beyond the boundaries of the conservative environment he finds himself in. Dancing and rock music has been banned by an over zealous town hierarchy.  Ren falls in love with the local Reverend’s daughter  Ariel (played by Lori Singer), and decides to defy the town’s conservative ways and dance till his feet won’t dance no more.  Eventually he prevails and dancing and rock music win the day.  The film’s theme song needed to embody the rebellious energy and spirit of the lead character.  Kenny Loggins’ ‘Footloose’ managed to do just that with it’s thumping percussion track, surging guitar riff, and inspiring vocals.  ‘Footloose’ bopped its way on to the U.S. Hot 100 in mid February of ‘84, and by the end of March had rocketed to #1, displacing Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ in the process.  As ‘Footloose’ the motion picture set box office records, the title track single spent three weeks at the pinnacle of the U.S. charts, and by May of ‘84 had done likewise on the Australian charts (UK#6).  ‘Footloose’ went on to become the 27th biggest selling song of all time from a motion picture.  It was eventually replaced at #1 by Phil Collins’ ‘Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)’ - not for the last time would Loggins be held off the #1 position by a Genesis connection.  Incidentally, for the first time during the rock music era, all five songs nominated for an Oscar for Best Song were #1 U.S. hits - ‘Against All Odds’ (Phil Collins); ‘Purple Rain’ (Prince); ‘Ghostbusters’ (Ray Parker Jr. - see previous post); ‘Footloose’ (Kenny Loggins); and the eventual Oscar winner ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’ (from ‘The Woman In Red’) by Stevie Wonder.  The ‘Footloose’ soundtrack also contained another Kenny Loggins track, the uplifting rock number ‘I’m Free (Heaven Helps The Man)’ - in my humble opinion a better track than ‘Footloose’.

Following the mammoth success of ‘Footloose’, Kenny Loggins took time out to write some new material for what would be his first full album of new material in nearly three years.  The album ‘Vox Humana’ (Latin for ‘human voice’), hit stores during April of ‘85, alongside the title track single (US#29) - which had more than a faint echo of ‘Footloose’ about it.  The second single, ‘I’ll Be There’ (US#88), was nothing to write home about, though the guitar riff was catchy enough.  The third single, ‘Forever’ (US#40/OZ#94), was a tender ballad co-written with David Foster - Loggins later noted that the track had been translated into a dozen or more languages, several of which versions he’d sung on tour.  Other highlights on the ‘Vox Humana’ (US#41) album included the synth-pop number ‘No Lookin’ Back’, and the similarly synth laced ‘I’m Gonna Do It Right’ - everyone else was using synthesizers, so why should Kenny miss out.

With the credits in the film theme bank accumulated from ‘Footloose’, Kenny Loggins was a name in demand in Hollywood.  The producers of a new Tom Cruise action vehicle contacted Loggins and asked if he’d be interested in lending his voice to one of the proposed singles associated with the film.  This time Loggins wouldn’t be needed to co-write the track (quite a change for an artist used to penning his own material), as that work had already been done by Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock.  All that was required was for he to turn up at the studio and deliver the same impassioned rock vocal performance heard on the ‘Footloose’ soundtrack.  With producer Giorgio Moroder overseeing things, Loggins did his part behind the microphone, the result being the supersonic ‘Danger Zone’ from the motion picture ‘Top Gun’.  Whilst the soundtrack delivered up one chart topping hit - Berlin’s emotive ballad ‘Take My Breath Away’ - Loggins’ ‘Danger Zone’ went mighty, mighty close to soaring to the same heights.  Instead it was held at #2 (OZ#14/UK#45) by another Genesis connection - Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’ and Genesis’ ‘Invisible Touch’.  Regardless, ‘Danger Zone’ became one of the most recognisable motion picture hit songs of the 80s, further enhancing Kenny Loggins’ reputation as the go to man for motion picture soundtracks.

The same combination of Moroder /Whitlock (composers), Moroder (producer), and Loggins (vocalist) joined forces once more on the soundtrack to the Sylvester Stallone film ‘Over The Top’ in 1987.  ‘Meet Me Halfway’ was a slower tempo, more ‘balladish’ number, and found enough appeal among movie goers to peak at #11 on the U.S. charts mid year.  The track ended up being included on Loggins’ next album of original material, released in mid ‘88.  The lead out single was yet another movie related affair, this time as the theme song from the film ‘Caddyshack II’ - a logical move given Loggins’ successful outing with the first film.  ‘Nobody’s Fool’ (US#8) was a raucous, arena rocker that packed a sonic punch from the get go.  I recall purchasing the single on vinyl 45 and playing it relentlessly, especially enjoying the middle refrain featuring beautifully layered vocal harmonies.  So much did I enjoy playing ‘Nobody’s Fool’ that I all but wore out the grooves on the vinyl single.  I eventually tracked down an imported copy of the CD album (that was before the days of downloading - which yes I admit is easier, quicker, and cheaper), ‘Back To Avalon’ (US#69).  The album’s second single was a curious take of the Exciters’ 60s hit ‘Tell Her’ (US#76), whilst single #3 was the largely forgettable ‘I’m Gonna Miss You’ (US#82) which all but missed the Hot 100.  It’s not that ‘Back To Avalon’ was a bad album, but it was a meandering affair that detoured from the heart and soul of Kenny Loggins’ previous material.

Regardless, by the close of the 80s, Kenny Loggins had gained a well deserved reputation as the ‘king’ of the movie soundtrack.  Despite substantial chart success in the U.S. and Australia, like so many A.O.R. artists, significant success in Britain eluded Loggins.  That lack of chart success would continue to be a growing trend in Loggins’ career as the 90s dawned.

A three year hiatus occurred between the release of 1988’s ‘Back To Avalon’ and the next Loggins’ album, 1991’s ‘Leap Of Faith’ (US#71).  Part of the reason for the gap could be explained by Loggins undergoing a divorce in the interim.  The album reveals a much more reflective and introspective Loggins, lyrics wise, and a more mellow, approachable style of music.  Though the album didn’t yield any Hot 100 hit singles, it did make an impact on the ‘adult contemporary’ charts with three separate top ten entries.  The gently flowing ‘If You Believe’ (#9) was co-written by Loggins with George Harrison, Steve Wood, and Gary Wright.  ‘The Real Thing’ (#5) was a collaboration between Loggins and David Foster, the lyrics of which had been inspired by Loggins’ daughter.  The majestic ‘Conviction Of The Heart’ (#9) was declared by U.S. Vice President Al Gore as being the ‘unofficial anthem’ of the environmental movement.  Loggins performed the song live on Earth Day 1995 before an estimated audience of 500,000.

1993 and it was time for another live album, but this time with a difference.  ‘Outside: From The Redwoods’ (US#60) was Kenny Loggins’ version of an ‘unplugged’ affair, and included a mix of solo hits and hits from the Loggins & Messina era.  Michael McDonald guests on a version of ‘What A Fool Believes’.  Gone are the synthesizers and raucous guitar work of recent outings, with a return to a more organic, home grown feel to proceedings.

Kenny Loggins career, in a way, came full circle with his 1994 album ‘Return To Pooh Corner’ (US#65 - #7 Kids Album).  As Loggins recalls in the liner notes to his 1997 Greatest Hits CD - “I originally wrote ‘House At Pooh Corner’ when I was supposed to be studying for finals as a high school senior.  It was my farewell to childhood.”  The song was recorded by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band way back in 1971.  The title track ‘Return To Pooh Corner’ (#25 US Adult Contemporary) was a return to the spirit of that original song, and headed up an album of songs recorded for children to enjoy.  Other tracks included covers of ‘Rainbow Connection’, John Lennon’s ‘Love’, and Paul Simon’s ‘St. Judy’s Comet’.  The album confirmed just what a versatile performer Kenny Loggins had become.

1996 saw Loggins return to soundtrack duties on the ballad ‘For The First Time’, produced by Peter Asher, and featured in the George Clooney/Michelle Pfeiffer romantic comedy ‘One Fine Day’.  In keeping with the romance theme, Kenny Loggins’ next album of original material surfaced in 1997 under the title ‘The Unimaginable Life’ (US#107).  Whilst the 1991 ‘Leap Of Faith’ album dealt with the aftermath of Loggins’ divorce, this album immersed itself in the courting and marrying of the new love in his life.  Loggins has a strong hand in most of the writing credits, though his new wife Julia contributes, along with the likes of Jonathan Butler, Babyface, and David Foster.  At the time, Loggins referred to the album as “the most ambitious, artistic undertaking of my career”.  Maybe he was caught up in the moment there, but the album does offer up a genuine insight into Loggins the artist, and the man.  Some might call it self indulgent but a companion book of the same name was also released, chronicling the Loggins’ love affair.

Over the ensuing decade or more, Kenny Loggins has continued to demonstrate his versatility as both writer and performer, releasing two Christmas themed albums (‘December’, ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ - mixing original with traditional material), and another two children’s albums, ‘All Join In’, and ‘More Songs From Pooh Corner’ - what a busy little corner that must be.  2003 witnessed the return of Kenny Loggins the adult contemporary artist on the album ‘It’s About Time’, featuring guest appearance from old friends Michael McDonald and Richard Marx.  After a few years sabbatical, and a change of facial hair style, Loggins returned in 2008 with ‘How About Now’, a melding of his roots in folk rock, with country tinged rock thrown in for good measure on the track ‘I’m A Free Man Now’.

Though having a recording career spanning 40 years, it still seems apparent to this author that the name Kenny Loggins will forever be associated primarily with those huge soundtrack hits of the 80s.  No bad thing necessarily, but it bears remembering the versatility and complexity of the artist behind those songs.

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.

Login to Loggins & Messina

Some artists’ careers are defined by a particular song that makes them instantly recognisable in the eyes of the general public.  A signature moment that brings them to the conscious mind of even the most casual consumer of popular music.  For Kenny Loggins that song was ‘Footloose’, a pulsating boot scootin’ blast of pop rock which hit the top of the charts across the world during 1984.  But though a lot of people would identify Kenny Loggins by saying, “Isn’t he the guy who did Footloose?”, it would be a gross disservice to define his career by just that one shining moment.  By the time ‘Footloose’ got millions of toes-a-tappin’, Kenny Loggins had already been making hit records for over a decade.

Kenny Loggins was born into the world in Everett, Washington in January of 1948.  He moved with his family (as most kids do) to Seattle (his father was a travelling salesman), before settling in Alhambra, California during his formative years.  Music ran in the family (his cousin Dave Loggins went on to have a US#5 hit in 1974 with ‘Please Come To Boston’) and young Kenny took up the guitar in earnest during his teen years.  By the time he was attending Pasadena City College, Loggins knew with certainty that he wanted to pursue a career in music.  He played in a local band, Gator Creek (which recorded briefly with Mercury Records), alongside keyboardist, and future record producer, Michael Omartian (who was later a creative force behind Rhythm Heritage - 1976 US#1 hit with ‘Theme From S.W.A.T.’).  He went on to play with the band Second Helping (signed to Viva Records), all the while honing his skills as a songwriter.

By 1969, the skills honing paid off when Loggins was employed as a professional songwriter with Wingate Music, a publishing outlet for ABC Records.  Loggins continued to play live, touring with one time psychedelic rock outfit, the Electric Prunes, briefly, but was more regular as a songwriter.  It was during this period that he penned ‘House at Pooh Corner’ (seriously no pun intended there), which was offered to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to record, becoming a hit for them during 1971 - Loggins in fact penned four songs for the band, all included on their ‘Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddy’ album.

By September, 1970, burning the midnight oil as both performer and composer brought the reward of a recording contract with Clive Davis’ Columbia Records label - it didn’t hurt that Columbia A&R staffer Don Ellis was a Loggins family friend.  It was Ellis who soon introduced Loggins to another recent Columbia recruit, a young performer, songwriter, and producer by the name of Jim Messina.  Messina had been born in Maywood, California just a month before Loggins was born.  He was raised in Harlingen, Texas and had been playing in bands since he was 13.  By 1965, Jim Messina was also working as a recording engineer and producer for the likes of Sunset Sound.  He was a member of Neil Young’s band Buffalo Springfield during 1967 (‘For What It’s Worth’ - US#7), and during the late 60s was co-founder of the hugely popular country rock outfit Poco (who later also featured the likes of Eagles’ Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmidt in their ranks).  Messina left Poco after three albums (around the time he met Loggins), and was also contracted to Columbia as a solo performer, but it was his skills as a producer that would initially lead him to work with Kenny Loggins.

Loggins asked Messina to ‘sit in’ on some of early recording sessions, happy to pick the creative brain of someone with considerably more studio experience (as both producer and engineer) than himself.  And with his experience with Buffalo Springfield and Poco, Messina brought some serious credentials to the table.  In addition to his production work, Messina too had been signed to Columbia as a performer.  As the sessions for Loggins’ debut album wore on, it was clear to both he and Messina that their musical styles, playing, and singing complimented each other.  Messina started to spend as much time in the recording booth as at the producer’s control desk.

It was a case of happenstance that Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina ended up recording an album’s worth of material, essentially as a duo - Loggins would later claim that his and Messina’s creative partnership was more of an ‘informal union’ as each was formally contracted to Columbia as solo artists.  Regardless, Kenny Loggins’ debut album, released in the first half of 1972, ended up being credited to Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina: Sittin’ In’ - makes sense as producer Messina had also ‘sat in’ on so many of the recording sessions as a performer.  He also contributed to writing 6 of the album’s 11 tracks, contributed ‘first guitar’, and shared lead vocals on several tracks, including one of the album highlights, ‘House at Pooh Corner’.  The album introduced listeners to a laid back and engaging brand of country/folk rock.  Loggins and Messina soon hit the live circuit in support of the album, with their live debut at the Troubadour, in Los Angeles billed as the Kenny Loggins Band with Jim Messina.  The debut set sold slowly initially, but as word of mouth got out it climbed the U.S. charts to a respectable #70, and went on to be platinum accredited.  Another track from the album, ‘Danny’s Boy’, was recorded by Anne Murray in 1973, and became a U.S. Top 10 hit.

With such a promising start it was logical that Loggins and Messina establish a more formal creative union.  And so it was that late 1972 saw the release of the first ‘official’ Loggins & Messina album, titled appropriately enough, ‘Loggins & Messina’ (US#16/OZ#65).  The album featured the duo’s first, and ultimately biggest’ hit single.  ‘Your Mama Don’t Dance’, penned by Loggins and Messina, was a raunchy, rocking little number that quickstepped its way to #4 on the U.S. Hot 100 (OZ#30), late in 1972 (the track was later covered and a top 10 hit for hard rock band Poison during 1989).  The Messina penned ‘Thinking Of You’ was beautifully engaging and engaged with the U.S. top 20 early in ‘73 (US#18/OZ#65).  The duo called on some old friends to contribute in studio, with keyboardist Michael Omartian, and Poco steel guitarist Rusty Young playing on the sessions.  The platinum selling album featured a gamut of track lengths, from the one minute country jaunt of ‘Just Before The News’, through to the seven minute country rock epic of ‘Angry Eyes’.

By late ‘73, Loggins & Messina revealed their nautical side on the ‘Full Sail’ album. The lead single was ‘My Music’ (US#16/OZ#65), a rock and roll pastiche not a million miles away from ‘Your Mama Don’t Dance’ (why change a winning formula).  Another highlight was the opening track, the island-rock anthem ‘Lahaina’ (reminds me of Harry Nillson’s ‘Coconut’).  The album ‘Full Sail’, in keeping with its album cover motif, navigated its way into the U.S. Top 10.

As prolific as the duo was proving in-studio, Loggins & Messina had become a major drawcard on the live circuit, impressing audiences with an invigorating blend of folk and country rock numbers.  A live album was warranted, no….make that a live double album was warranted, and it was released in mid ‘74.  ‘On Stage’ had been recorded from a series of early ‘74 concerts and featured all the hits and crowd favourites to date, including a 21 minute version of the psychedelic rock edged ‘Vahelava’, which took up an entire side on the original record release.  ‘On Stage’ went on to sell platinum numbers and found its curtain call at #5 on the U.S. charts (OZ#97).

For studio album #4, Loggins & Messina delivered a ‘Mother Lode’ of ten new songs.  On casual listening, the album was more low key and introspective, both in sound and theme. It was also unusual in that there were no Loggins/Messina writing collaborations.  Highlights included ‘Be Free’, a mandolin etched marathon at seven minutes, and another seven minute epic with the slow tempo country rock number ‘Move On’.  And speaking of moving on, ‘Mother Lode’ moved comfortably into the U.S. top ten (#8/OZ#89) early in ‘75.

As if to remind people they were capable of delivering more than grandiose seven minute tracks, Loggins & Messina dipped into their childhood memories to retrieve 14 hits from the 50s which they could rework to their liking.  1975’s‘So Fine’ (US#21/OZ#83) offered up presentable covers of the likes of Don Gibson’ ‘Oh, Lonesome Me’, Gene Pitney’s ‘Hello Mary Lou’, and Bobby Darin’s ‘Splish Splash’.  Though an admirable tip of the hat to some of their rock and roll and country heroes, ‘So Fine’ proved a dip of the sales chart for Loggins & Messina.

Perhaps looking to reinvent the wheel, the duo employed a new backing band, and an accent on lush string arrangements for their 1976 studio album, ‘Native Sons’ (US#16).  The title track simply dripped with nostalgia, whilst the Messina penned ‘When I Was A Child’ did the same albeit lyrically.  The highlight for mine was the more contemporary soft rock sounding ‘Wasting Our Time’.  The album went gold but further confirmed a slide in commercial trending for Loggins & Messina.

The second half of ‘76 saw Columbia release a compilation album titled ‘The Best Of Friends’ (US#61), though it was apparent that Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina had moved past the status of ‘best friends’, at least creatively, by that stage.  As it was confirmed that the duo of Loggins & Messina had officially parted ways, the record label saw no reason not to cash in one last time with yet another double album of live material.  ‘Finale’ (US#83) was far less engaging than its predecessor ‘On Stage’, but that was probably more reflective of being the after taste of the Loggins & Messina creative brew.

Though selling albums in respectable numbers, critical plaudits largely eluded Loggins & Messina.  Regardless, they established a place as one of the most successful duo’s of the 70s.  But given they were originally signed as solo artists, it seemed entirely logical that Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina pursue what a six year creative partnership had interrupted.  Jim Messina recorded a number of solo albums, including ‘Oasis’ (1979), and ‘Messina’ (1981), before rejoining Poco for the 1989 reunion album ‘Legacy’.  But the majority of his creative endeavours have been focused on production work, with some touring thrown in for good measure.

In 2005, Columbia release the compilation ‘The Best Of Loggins & Messina: Sittin’ In Again’.  The good reception for the album inspired the duo to reunite and embark for a nationwide tour during the summer of 2005.  The tour spawned a DVD and album release titled, ‘Loggins & Messina: Sittin’ In Again at the Santa Barbara Bowl Live’.  Subsequent Loggins & Messina tours took place over the next few years.

In between times Kenny Loggins embarked upon a solo career of seemingly limitless possibilities.

The Cars - The Final Laps

Following the arrival and passing of the ‘greatest hits’ package, the Cars officially went on extended hiatus in the interest of pursuing solo projects.  Guitarist Elliot Easton released a solo album (‘Change No Change’), whilst bassist Benjamin Orr also released a solo set (‘The Lace’), which yielded the US#24 hit ‘Stay The Night’.  As usual Ric Ocasek seemed the most creatively committed.  In mid ‘86 he released the album ‘This Side Of Paradise’ (US#52/OZ#24), featuring the tender ballad ‘Emotion In Motion’ (US#15/OZ#8).  Ocasek also took time out to lend his acting talents to the 1987 film ‘Made In Heaven’.

In hindsight, rather than build on the mammoth achievements of ‘Heartbeat City’, the Cars let the momentum falter and would never again reach that high watermark.  Though they had one final creative vehicle left to drive out of the showroom.

‘Door To Door’ knocked at the door of the US charts during September of ‘87, led out by the bright and catchy ‘You Are The Girl’ (US#17/OZ#69).  The single was pop savvy enough but failed to live up to commercial expectations, though once more the Cars were in fine promo video form acting up a treat in some post modern meets bizarro world space adventure.  I purchased ‘You Are The Girl’ on vinyl 45, and subsequently outlaid the readies for the ‘Door To Door’ on cassette (remember those?).

Two more singles followed, the guitar driven ‘Strap Me In’ (US#85), and the creeping up behind you sounding ‘Coming Up You’ (US#74).  My personal favourites from ‘Door To Door’ are the heavy, we mean business of ‘Double Trouble’, and the pulsating playfulness of ‘Ta Ta Wayo Wayo’.  All in all, and considering the inevitable comparisons with ‘Heartbeat City’, ‘Door To Door’ (US#26/ OZ#26/UK#72) fell short of critical expectations, with words such as lacklustre bandied about.  The chemistry was just a tad lacking, and the engine needed a tune.  Would the Cars be able to find their lost mojo?

The answer was soon revealed to be a firm no.  In February of 1988 it was announced that the Cars had disbanded.  There was no public airing of dirty laundry, no sense of an acrimonious split (though some working relationships were a tad frayed), more so just an artistic vehicle that had run its course and needed to be parked in the garage.  All five members of the Cars remained active on solo projects throughout the late 80s and into the 90s, with Ocasek continuing a steady output of work from 1990s’ ‘Fireball Zone’ to 1997’s ‘Troublizing’.  Sadly, in October of 2000 Cars’ bassist Benjamin Orr died from pancreatic cancer.  It seemed then that a Cars’ reunion would never happen.

Ric Ocasek continued to dedicate himself to his new life as a record producer, working with the likes of Weezer, Nada Surf, and No Doubt, but found time out to release another solo set, ‘Nexterday’, in 2005.   Around the same time Cars’ guitarist Elliot Easton, and keyboardist Greg Hawkes joined forces with acclaimed producer/singer Todd Rundgren, to form the New Cars.  The trio toured to great success, their shows featuring old Cars’ hits, Todd Rundgren hits, and some new material penned by the trio.  They toured with new wave compatriots Blondie during 2006, captured on a live album release, titled ‘It’s Alive!’.

In 2010, it was officially announced that the four surviving members of the Cars were to record and release an album of new material.  They worked with producer Jacknife Lee in a recording studio in Millbrook, New York.  By 2011, an all new model Cars album hit stores, under the title ‘Move Like This’.  I’ve not heard the album, but from track snippets and written review on All Music Guide, the Cars managed to capture some of their old captivating style and sound - new wave pop-rock to the core and proud of it.  As a stand alone album, even without the Cars body of work behind it, it would still work.

The Cars stand up to both the toughest commercial and critical scrutiny in a career that fitted the times they recorded in perfectly.  Here’s hoping there are one or two more circuits left in the Cars before the chequered flag.

The Cars - Cruising In The Fast Lane

The Cars spent the latter part of 1983 in the shop/studio, and by early ‘84 had emerged with a brand new sheen and a brand new album, their fifth to date.

‘Heartbeat City’ hit stores in March of ‘84 and immediately found a pulse on record charts across the world.  Chief composer Ric Ocasek had struck a rich vein of composing form, evidenced straight up with the lead out single ‘You Might Think’.  By 1984, MTV had become the promotional tool of choice for any artist wanting to grab worldwide attention, and the Cars were well positioned to unleash another dimension of creative muscle in their promotional videos for the ‘Heartbeat City’ album.  ‘You Might Think’ (US#7/OZ#24) was the epitome of an 80s pop-rocker, rich and lush yet deceptively simple in delivery.  The music video showcased the band’s humorous, even mildly eccentric nature, and employed cutting edge green screen effects for its time.

The follow up single was the dreamy summer anthem ‘Magic’ (US#12/OZ#96).  As if any excuse for a pool party is needed, the Cars enjoyed an afternoon with friends around the pool - to me there’s something ‘mad hatters’ about the whole affair, and who knew Ric Ocasek could walk on water - very engaging stuff.

To illustrate the length and breadth of the Cars stylistic and thematic spectrum, the album’s third single was the very antithesis of ‘Magic’.  Sung by bassist Benjamin Orr, ‘Drive’ was released in mid ‘84 and was the archetypal brooding ballad, lyrically very sombre, yet stylistically absorbing.  Exquisitely crafted in every facet, ‘Drive’ cruised up the charts to park itself at #3 during August of ‘84 (#1 adult contemporary hit for 3 weeks - OZ#10/UK#5), and the soft focus, black and white promo video proved the perfect artistic companion.  ‘Drive’ became the biggest selling single of the Cars career, and following an airing at Live Aid sped back into the UK top 5 for a second time (#4).

From the sublime to the ridiculous (possibly even ludicrous) would best describe the contradiction in styles between ‘Drive’ and the album’s fourth single (and opening track), ‘Hello Again’ (US#20/OZ#52).  The band took the concept of the promotional video to its threshold, and look to have had a ball in doing so.  The song’s quirky, even eccentric, flavour matched perfectly with the tongue in cheek, self effacing style of the video (which featured a cameo from Andy Warhol - serving drinks to Ric and the band - along with a cavalcade of weird and wonderful characters).  By this stage the Cars had become the darlings of the MTV generation.

From an album of just ten tracks it seems unlikely to find five or more candidates for top 40 singles, but find them the Cars did, with the futuristic pop of ‘Why Can’t I Have You’ finding a parking space at US#33 in early ‘85.  With five top forty hits on board, it seemed reasonable to think the source album, ‘Heartbeat City’, would sell by the truck load - and it did.  Produced by Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange’ (he of Bryan Adams, Def Leppard et al production fame), the album went triple platinum by the summer of ‘85.  But it served as more than a receptacle for hit singles, such was the eclectic mix of songs penned by Ocasek.  ‘Looking For Love’ proved a brooding pop paradox, set against the pared back rock kick of ‘It’s Not The Night’.  For mine the beautifully crafted and atmospheric title track stands out as one of the album’s highlights.

With such an avalanche of momentum established by ‘Heartbeat City’, it seemed odd that the Cars would choose the option of winding back band activity over the ensuing two years.  It may have been a case of burn out following the hectic promotional and touring activity associated with one of the biggest hit albums of the year.  The only new material to surface from the Cars during the subsequent two years took the form of one new song, and a remix of an old one, included in the well due ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation (US#12/ OZ#3/UK#27).  Most of the usual suspects were present on the track listing, and the new track ‘Tonight She Comes’ (US#7/OZ#16) lived up to all expectations.  The lads were also in fine form (and so was Ric’s hair) for the playful promo video.  The remixed ‘I’m Not The One’ (originally included on ‘Shake It Up’ - US#32/OZ#75) rounded out the Cars activity by March of ‘86.

The Cars - Ignition

When I started buying vinyl 45 singles in the early 80s, I didn’t take much time to listen to the B-side tracks.  But over time I began to explore the dark side of the disc and on occasion discovered some rare gems hidden away.  B-sides vary in nature from instrumental versions of the A-side track, to live tracks, tracks cut from the same source album, previously unreleased studio tracks, through to remixes of the A-side track.  Two examples of ‘rare gem’ B-sides I’ve discovered in the past were ‘The Photograph’ by Rick Springfield, and ‘A Call To Arms’ by Mike & the Mechanics - but  I’ll cover those artists in more detail in future posts.  The B-side track that leapt out of the grooves at me, in connection to this post, was an extended remix of the single ‘Hello Again’ by new wave rockers the Cars.  ‘Hello Again’ was an eccentric enough track in its original form, but the remix took the quirkyness to a new and very entertaining level, and it’s the band behind the music - the Cars - that I’ll explore in a little more detail in the paragraphs to follow.

The Cars proper formed in Boston during 1976, and comprised a quintet of mechanics…sorry, musicians: Ric Ocasek (vocals, guitar); Benjamin Orr (vocals, bass); Elliot Easton (guitar, vocals); Greg Hawkes (keyboards); David Robinson (drums).  It was drummer David Robinson that came up with the moniker of the Cars, but he was the last member on board the musical vehicle that had evolved  over the preceding years.  Both Ocasek and Orr had been involved in musical endeavours since their high school years.  They met one another in Cleveland and struck up a creative partnership, both on  a performance and writing level.  After a string of short lived vehicles, the pair settled on a more stable arrangement in the form of a trio called Milkwood.  Milkwood released a single album in late ‘72, which went largely unnoticed, but the experience had introduced a young keyboardist called Greg Hawkes into the fold.  By 1974, Orr and Ocasek had jump started another band called Cap’n Swing, alongside lead guitarist Elliot Easton.  The group built up a solid fan base in Boston, but by 1975 had run its course.  But there was something in the chemistry that encouraged Ocasek and Orr to relaunch the band under a new name.  And so, 1976 saw the unveiling of the all new model Cars, featuring Ocasek, Orr, Easton, Hawkes, and former Modern Lovers’ drummer David Robinson.

The Cars played relentlessly on the Boston live circuit, including regular gigs at the Rat Club.  They came under the management of Fred Davis, who began shopping around for interest from a recording label for a demo version of a song called ‘Just What I Needed’.  A copy of the demo found its way to popular Boston radio station WKRP in Cincina…no wait wrong station, and city…popular Boston radio station WBCN.  ‘Just What I Needed’ was added to the station’s play list and it became the station’s most requested song.  A combination of the Cars’ live following, and the high profile of ‘Just What I Needed’ on the airwaves, led to a recording contract with Elektra Records before the end of ‘77.

The Cars spent just a few weeks during the first half of ‘78 labouring away in the workshop, or studio (take your pick), alongside acclaimed Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker, before their pristine eponymous debut set hit the showroom floor mid year.  ‘Just What I Needed’ was the logical lead out single, and proved a worthy appetiser.  Bassist Benjamin Orr handled lead vocals on the track, and the promotional machine went into overdrive, including a stellar live performance on the popular Midnight Special music show (it was a condition of the band’s appearance that they have total creative control for the show - surely the act of jump starts…err.sorry, up starts, but confidence breeds confidence).  ‘Just What I Needed’ proved to be just what the Cars needed when it peaked at #27 on the U.S. Hot 100 (UK#17/OZ#96).  The album hit stores as ‘Just What I Needed’ hit the charts, and contained nine tracks in all (all but one penned by Ocasek).  The Cars’ style and musical direction was evidenced from the get go, with a melding of new wave (synth edged) and pure rock flavours dipped in pop sensibility.

‘My Best Friend’s Girl’ may have been a lyrical lament but it shone bright as a pure pop/rock comet.  With the honour of being the first single released on picture disc, ‘My Best Friend’s Girl’ showcased Ric Ocasek’s unique vocal style and revved its way to #35 on the U.S. Hot 100 (OZ#67), but proved a huge hit in the burgeoning new wave crazy market of Britain (UK#3).  Single #3 was the brilliant ‘Good Times Roll’ (US#41), a personal favourite of this author, stylish in its almost nonchalant vocal delivery, it hooks and hypnotises the listener from the get go.  Other highlights from ‘The Cars’ album include the playful and peppy ‘Don’t Cha Stop’, and the guitar rocker ‘Bye Bye Love’.

With a huge live following and steady rotation of all the album’s tracks on rock radio, ‘The Cars’ (US#18 /OZ#35/UK#29) proved to have exceptional longevity (something that many new wave acts couldn’t claim), staying on the U.S. album charts for over two years, and going on to sell 6 million copies.

Such was the sustained popularity of their debut set, the release date for the Cars’ sophomore album was pushed back on the grid.  The ‘Candy-O’ album had been recorded in early ‘79, but wasn’t released until mid year.  The much anticipated release resulted in a huge demand, subsequently sending ‘Candy-O’ racing to #3 in the U.S. (OZ#7/UK#30).  The album featured provocative cover art by artist Albert Vargas, and what lay between the covers was no less enticing.  The first single lifted from ‘Candy-O’ was the Benjamin Orr sung ‘Let’s Go’ (US#14 /OZ#6/UK#51), a beguiling little number that can’t help but get stuck on repeat inside the listener’s consciousness.  The follow up single, ‘It’s All I Can Do’ (US#41), fell short of the commercial mark, but as a collective pop/rock entity, the ‘Candy-O’ set offered a buffet of sweet sounding morsels, including the surging rock of the title track, and the T-Rex styled ‘Dangerous Type’.  The album reached platinum status just two months after release, and with their profile growing exponentially, the Cars went from playing concert halls to the rock arena circuit.

In just two short years, the Cars had quickly established themselves at the vanguard of the U.S. new wave movement, proving to be more commercially lucrative than the likes of New York new wave cousins Blondie and Talking Heads.  But the cars were no less influenced and inspired by 60s movements, such as garage rock and bubblegum pop.  What set them apart from their purer new wave contemporaries was their adherence to classic rock sensibilities, featuring guitar laced hooks underlaid with slick keyboards, but with elements of art rock splashed on to their creative canvas.  In so doing the Cars earned cross over appeal to both new wave devotees and album rock enthusiasts, managing to please the demanding palettes of both genres.

Having established a lucrative niche on the pop/rock spectrum, the Cars made the decision to make a foray into uncharted stylistic waters for their third album, ‘Panorama’ (US#5/OZ#19).  On the face of it, ambition wasn’t rewarded with commercial acclaim, but ‘Panorama’ (with all tracks penned by Ocasek) reached the top five and notched yet another platinum hood ornament for the Cars.  The lead single, the atmospheric ‘Touch And Go’ (US#37/OZ#62), performed modestly, whilst the follow up ‘Don’t Tell Me No’ (though featuring a killer guitar riff) received a firm ‘no’ from the U.S. Hot 100.

With the mild formula experimentation explored on ‘Panorama’, the Cars returned to form on their fourth album ‘Shake It Up’ (US#9/OZ#20), released late in ‘81.  Recorded at the band’s newly decked out studio, Synchro Sound, the album found Ric Ocasek in fine composition form, and the band with a willingness to shift gears from the more rock edged fare of their debut, toward an embracement of futuristic styled (and synth driven) pop-rock, which would fully evolve on their next set.

The title track served as the lead out single, with ‘Shake It Up’ proving to be just as energetic in chart performance as in sound, delivering the Cars their first top ten finish on the U.S. Hot 100 (US#4/OZ#10).  The party anthem was accompanied by a promotional video with an aptly automotive theme, which soon earned heavy rotation status on the newly formed MTV network.  The follow up single was the melancholic and hypnotic ‘Since You’re Gone’ (US#41/UK#37), with its train track rhythmic beat, accompanied by another fine example of video promotion

As so many bands do, so the Cars took some time out to explore solo projects.  Ric Ocasek released his debut solo set ‘Beatitude’ in 1982, and continued his burgeoning career as a record producer for up and coming young bands, whilst keyboardist Greg Hawkes released his ‘Niagara Falls’ album.  The other Cars pursued performance and production based projects. The break away from one another must have proved good medicine for the Cars, as during 1983 they reconvened and began production work on their fifth and, what would ultimately prove to be, their biggest selling album.

A Call For The Ages

In mid ‘83 I heard a song on the radio that immediately roused my senses to fever pitch.  It was like a call to arms for the mind, body and spirit.  The song was ‘The Walls Came Down’ by the Call.  For all intents and purposes I was of the view (misapprehended as it was) that the Call were British - in fact I would have guessed Scottish to be more precise.  They just had that rousing ‘highlands’ passion to their sound (think Big Country or Simple Minds).  But as it happened, and as I discovered years later, the Call were in fact a quartet from Santa Cruz, California, formed in 1980.

The Call heard the call to instruments in 1980, comprising the quartet of Michael Been (vocals, guitar, and chief songwriter), Greg Freeman (bass), Scott Musick (drums), and Tom Ferrier (guitar).  By 1982, the Call had scored a recording contract with the Mercury label and released their eponymous debut album - recorded in England.  The album failed to make an impact on the charts, but earned positive reviews and came to the notice of Peter Gabriel (he of the Sledgehammer), who invited the band to open for him on his 1982 ‘Shock The Monkey’ tour (Gabriel was quite enamoured with the Call’s sound, referring to them as the ‘future of American music’).

1983 would witness a call to commercial breakthrough for the Call with the release of their sophomore album ‘Modern Romans’ (US#84/OZ#50).  The album was overtly political, or at least the songs within were in a lyrical sense.  None more so than the single ‘The Walls Came Down’ which was as ‘call to arms’ and ‘anthemic’ as they come.  Written by vocalist and guitarist Michael Been, the lyrics to ‘The Walls Came Down’ had been inspired by contemporary world events, as had many tracks on the ‘Modern Romans’ album.  ‘The Walls Came Down’ didn’t play on people’s fears (as the lyrics commented) but did play on their passion for rousing rock music.  Well they blew the horns and the song peaked at #74 on the U.S. Hot 100, but really found an audience here in Australia (OZ#21).  I recall seeing the black and white video on Countdown (black and white videos were all the rage circa 1983), and I remember wondering who the rather mature looking bearded gentleman on the keyboards was.  It was pointed out at the end of the video that it was none other than Garth Hudson, ex of the legendary Band.  Hudson contributed keyboards to the Call’s first three albums.

The Call had certainly come to the notice of critics and showed considerable commercial promise, but their third album didn’t produce according to the script.  1984’s ‘Scene Beyond Dreams’ (US#204) hit a different chord both lyrically and stylistically, with some of the rouse removed from rousing.  By this time bassist Greg Freeman had been replaced by keyboardist Jim Goodwin.  The album on the whole was a little too introspective and failed to find an audience beyond the Call’s core fan base.

The momentum initiated by ‘Modern Romans’ had been lost, and so too was the Call’s association with the Mercury label.  But Elektra Records still saw promise in the literate and fervent rock proffered by the Call and subsequently threw them a recording lifeline.  By 1986, the Call had emerged from the studio with their fourth album, titled ‘Reconciled’ (US#82), which revisited some of the Call’s earlier ardent stride to arms approach.  In mainstream terms it proved to be the band’s most commercially successful album to date, and it wowed the Call’s growing fan base on the college rock circuit.  The singles, the atmospheric and defiant ‘I Still Believe’ (US#17 - mainstream rock) and pulsating rocker ‘Everywhere I Go’ (US#38 - mainstream rock) both received airplay and commercial returns.  The ‘Reconciled’ album featured a star studded line-up of guest players - Peter Gabriel, Jim Kerr (Simple Minds), and the Band’s Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson - not bad credentials in that lot.

Once more the Call scaled back some of the rallying call motif for their 1987 album ‘Into The Woods’ (US#123), released on the Elektra label, and featuring the single ‘I Don’t Wanna’ (US#38 - mainstream rock), a lyrical declaration of intent.  The track ‘In The River’ was also well received on US college radio.  But something big was just over the horizon.

As if oscillating between stylistic extremes, the Call re-engaged with their buoyant, ardent pitch for their 1989 album ‘Let The Day Begin’ (US#64), released on the MCA label.  The lead out single was ‘You Run’, an
appealing pop-rock number, which peaked at #29 on the US mainstream rock chart (UK#78), and delivered a taste of what was about to come.  The album’s title track, ‘Let The Day Begin’, worked brilliantly as an anthem for the masses, everyone from the truck drivers to the school teachers to the ‘soldiers of the bitter war’.  The lyrics were matched with a strident and infectious guitar hook throughout.  ‘Let The Day Begin’ hit #1 on the U.S. mainstream rock chart (#51 Hot 100/ UK#42/OZ#74).

1990 saw the Call once more invert their sound to embrace a more roots oriented feel, not a million miles from the down home feel of the Band (logical that they would visit this style given Band-mates Hudson and Robertson had guest roles on earlier Call albums).  The single ‘What’s Happened To You’ (#39 US mainstream rock) was in its own laid back style a call for self reflection.  Taken from the ‘Red Moon’ album, the track featured backing vocals by none other than U2’s Bono.

In 1994, the Call’s front man Michael Been released a solo album, ‘On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakthrough’, and by 1997 the Call reconvened operations for the ‘Heaven & Back’ album.  That would prove to be the Call’s final studio album, but 2000 saw the release of the ‘Live Under The Red Moon’ set (does the title remind of another more well known live set?).  Following a lengthy stint on the road, the Call disbanded shortly after the album’s release.

Michael Been continued to work in the music business but as a soundman for his son Robert’s band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.  Sadly, he suffered a fatal heart attack backstage in 2010.  Three years later, Jim Goodwin, Scott Musick, and Tom Ferrier reunited for a series of live shows, with Been’s son Robert handling vocal and bass duties.

Despite a great deal of promise and praise both from critics and peers, the Call didn’t manage to break free of a narrow bandwidth of popularity, mostly with college and indie rock circles.  A shame really, given their lyrical integrity and profundity of sound styles.

For those of you wanting to immerse yourself more in the world of the Call, there is an official website of the band of considerable quality which can be found here -