Singles Reviewed by MARK COOPER

THE GAP BAND ‘Outstanding’ (Polygram) Yet another soul concerto from The Gap Band with a monstrously hard-hitting handclap from the engine room and a vocal that homes in around ‘Summer Breeze’ period Isley Bros. This may be the second single from the album but it’s still the freshest thing in town. For the last year and a half, The Gap Band have been consistently dumping on everybody in the soulfunk stakes. If they could just put a face in the gap, they might be recognised for the fact. Plug that gap!

EARTH WIND & FIRE ‘Fall In Love With Me’ (CBS) Like The Gap Band, EW&F put studio quality before character and over eight albums this emphasis tends to wear the souls of the shoes too bare. Maurice White’s latest outing is distinguished by a brazen chuckle, a sweeping falsetto chorus and a rather pedestrian arrangement. Methinks Maurice has been holding on to one groove too long. This single would’ve been surprising if someone else had made it. As it is, it’s below par.

MICHAEL JACKSON ‘Billie Jean’ (Epic) I hate to be one of those boorish people who like to limit an artist, but this is how I like Michael Jackson. There’s no one better at working up a storm around frustration or anticipation and ‘Billie Jean’ finds Jackson back at the brink, working up a sweat. Extended dance mix advised.

ARETHA FRANKLIN ‘Love Me Right’ (Arista) Aretha sits on a song like a queen upon a throne. In recent years, she’s had a tendency to start squirming after a verse or two and let her mind drift. Producer Luther Vandross has used Aretha’s looseness to fine effect, allowing it to pull against the tightest arrangements in town. This ain’t quite ‘Jump To It’, but it ain’t half good. Buy the album.

CHERYL LYNN ‘If This World Were Mine’ (CBS) Vandross also produced Lynn’s album and the man sings up a storm on this duet. The two slip into the song like they were putting on silk pyjamas and then the trembling starts… The song isn’t that strong but the performance puts goose-pimples in places you didn’t know you had.

INDEEP ‘Last Night A D.J. Saved My Life’ (Sound Of New York) New York’s latest rave and a novelty treat, built around the marvellous title and some ludicrous sound effects, telephones ringing, toilets flushing. First prize for ingenuity and for the guitar part. A hit that will eventually drive you crazee so enjoy it while you can.

ROCKERS REVENGE ‘The Harder They Come’ (London) The excellence of ‘Walking On Sunshine’ can’t disguise the fact that Arthur Baker is rapidly becoming the Manfred Mann of New York City. Like Manfred, Arthur specialises in covers and supposedly interesting backing tracks. Here he merely misses the spirit of Jimmy Cliff’s original without adding any surprises from his producer’s bag. In the middle Donnie Calvin delivers a homily to the kids on the benefits of education. One for Parent-Teacher Associations everywhere.

CENTRAL LINE ‘Nature Boy’ (Phonogram) A messy intro that eventually settles into Central Line’s familiar lope. The synth figure and solo are as exotic as cocktails in cans and as delightfully artificial. There’s even a story line pinched straight from a children’s book and a heartwarming chorus. This is a nice record and that’s not an insult.

NEW POP

HAYSI FANTAYZEE ‘Shiny Shiny’ (Regard) The public have already made up their minds about this one so I’ll only take a moment to insult it. Culture Club seem to have ushered in a new age of clever clichés whose only ambition is to appear on TOTP and be introduced by balding DJs with hairpieces. Haysi Fantayzee come on with a leer and a grin but then forget what they were going to say. Actually they were never going to say anything.

TEARS FOR FEARS ‘Change’ (Phonogram) Like all our latest white boys, Tears For Fears have an excellent command of the latest language of pop and nothing to say with it. The backing track of ‘Change’ is, quite possibly, a masterpiece. The lyrics show the lads intoning philosophically in a manner that once belonged to Andy McCluskey. All that work and still no signs of real character…

BLUE ZOO ‘Loved One’s An Angel’ (Magnet) Blue Zoo take the biscuit. Their latest offering is quite brilliant at being mediocre. They pay the greatest respect to all the latest devices, the mild funk guitar, the big drums, the synth figure towards the song’s end, and wind up sounding like a complete guide to current pop cliché. At every halfway decent interval they scamper towards a maddeningly hummable chorus. This has no integrity and will be a hit. However, it will grow old quicker than milk.

THOMPSON TWINS ‘Love On Your Side’ (Arista) Try as they will, The Thompsons can’t quite fit through the golden door. Like ‘Lies’, this is all intelligence and no flair. The chorus shows an indecent desire to be in the charts, the verses betray a desperate desire to remain witty and aloof. Full marks for hard work but where’s the flair?

AZTEC CAMERA ‘Oblivion’ (Rough Trade) At last! A sign of character! Roddy Frame’s writing oozes personality and his guitar-playing is simply dreamy. The production makes them sound like a real group and all that’s missing is that old amateur joy of heart. One day Mr Frame will find the muscular delicacy for which he’s searching. Here he hasn’t quite the song and he has problems with a rather offensive piece of organ-playing. But he’s still by far the nicest white boy on display.

ROCK AND ROLL

BAUHAUS ‘Lagartija Nick’ (Beggars Banquet) Amidst all this posing politeness, Bauhaus sound positively thrilling. Unfortunately this is a criticism of the also-rans, not a commendation for Bauhaus. Murphy and co are at their liveliest here, where Arthur Brown rewrites ‘Telegram Sam’ as Nick the Devil. Promising enough if you have an interest in pop archaeology and can forgive the song’s long-winded ending.

DIRE STRAITS ‘Twisting By The Pool’ (Vertigo) In which Mark Knopfler proves he can be Rockpile as well as write film music for TV movies. His customary dry cynicism has its usual charm but the music reminds me of swimming in a pool that has no water in it. Music to read holiday brochures to.

THE POLECATS ‘Make A Circuit With Me’ (Phonogram) Dear O dear! I know they’ve been away but where have they been? Perhaps it’s my copy, but young Tim sounds as if he’s singing into his handkerchief. Perhaps he’s embarrassed by this attempt to make rockabilly modern by mentioning circuits and other electronic stuff. The fuse is blown, boys.

HACKS AND MoR

JOHNNY MATHIS AND DIONNE WARWICK ‘Got You Where I Want You’ (CBS) Given the current success of the Heartbreaker album and Mathis’ sooncome British tour, I fear this tearjerker will be massive. Console yourself by believing that this duet is, in fact, a theme song for sado-masochists everywhere.

TOTO ‘Africa’ (CBS) CBS have excelled themselves this week. I’m not even going to mention the Neil Diamond single, but this is serious MOR country. Toto are Top Ten in America with this state-of-the-art song for FM radio fans. Imagine a number of longhaired men in jeans working hours and days in a Los Angeles studio. Imagine them in a sentimental mood. You don’t have to buy it, you know.

SUPERTRAMP ‘My Kind Of Lady’ (A&M) Another one for people with expensive Hi-Fi and no interest in music. If Marks and Sparks made records instead of clothes, they’d sound like this. Falsetto wallpaper.

MANFRED MANN’S EARTHBAND ‘Demolition Man’ (Bronze) Not exactly MOR but determinedly mediocre. Why has Manfred Mann abandoned Bob Dylan for Sting? I refer you to Grace Jones’ version and pass.

ODDITIES

VIRGINIA ASTLEY ‘Love’s A Lonely Place To Be’ (Why-Fi) A sad tale of love grown old with a watercolour vocal from Miss Astley and a pretty arrangement of classical tinge. One for Mary Hopkin lovers.

JULUKA ‘Scatterlings Of Africa’ (Safari) Ho-hum, bang on the drum. An acoustic ballad celebrating Africa and resorting to a warrior-like chorus. This could do for Africa what ‘Mull Of Kintyre’ did for the Scottish Isles.

© Mark CooperRecord Mirror, 22 January 1983

Leave a Comment