Karla Bonoff – Personally (download)
As you know, it’s not often that we cover the Ladies of Mellow Gold. I think that maybe the reason for this is that it’s just easier for me to make fun of the guys, but don’t be fooled into thinking that their contributions to the Mellow Category are any less valid than the ones by the dudes (who aren’t really men, anyway): "Personally" is a fantastic mellow record, one that could only be improved upon if it featured a cameo by our above-pictured hero. But we won’t hold that against her. Shall I regale you with a bit of Karla Bonoff history? (Shut up, I’m doing it anyway.)
Karla Bonoff was born in Southern California and, from a very early age, showed a clear talent for singing and songwriting. By 16, she had recorded a demo for Elektra Records. She spent many evenings at The Troubadour in L.A. and eventually fell in with three like-minded individuals: Kenny Edwards, Wendy Waldman, and (drum roll please) Andrew Gold. The four of them formed a band named Bryndle and although they recorded an album for A&M in 1970, it was never released. (A pox on your house, Herb Alpert!)
Karla Bonoff, spending the day at Neverland Ranch
Bryndle disbanded, and Gold and Edwards joined the backing band for Linda Ronstadt (earlier, Edwards had been a member of Ronstadt’s first band, The Stone Poneys). When Ronstadt went looking for new material to record, the men passed her a Bonoff demo. Ronstadt wound up recording a number of Bonoff tunes – three on her 1976 album Hasten Down The Wind alone. Bonoff embarked on a solo career, and had moderate success (a few Top 100 singles, anyway) from her first two albums. It was her 1982 album, Wild Heart Of The Young, that featured her biggest hit, "Personally," which peaked at #19.
"Personally" is the only song off of Wild Heart Of The Young that’s not self-penned. It was written by Paul Kelly, probably best known for his song "Stealing In The Name Of The Lord," a #5 R&B hit in June of 1970. I’m sure the irony is not lost on Bonoff: her biggest hit (and only hit from the album) is the only one the singer-songwriter didn’t write, and the lyrics are all about her delivering something personally.
Regardless of who wrote it, I’m having a hard time knocking "Personally." It’s truly a mellow gem: Bonoff’s voice is casual, sweet and gentle, and the music behind her couldn’t be any better. Light, funky guitar, breezy keyboards, um, competent drumming, and a fantastic bassline. I can’t tell you the featured musicians on this particular song, but on the entirety of the record you’ll find all members of Bryndle , most of The Eagles (Henley, Schmit, Walsh and J.D. Souther – come on, he counts as an Eagle), Danny Kortchmar – one of the only Mellow Gold artists to be nicknamed "Kootch" other than Charlene – and guess who’s playing that terrific sax solo?
Damn you, Sanborn! You’re on everything! Ahh, that chorus is fantastic – it’s one of those earworms that never seems to get too annoying. In fact, the chorus is so perfect that Kelly kind of got lazy on the second verse. See, the first verse appropriately leads up to the chorus, explaining how our protagonist (I try to use this word as often as I can, it makes me feel smart) has been writing all these letters, but now has to do something more. Okay, that makes sense. However, verse two: "There’s nothing like the feeling I get/Oh when you touch me baby/There’s nothing like the feeling you get/When I’m there with you, oh love." While I get the point he’s making, he couldn’t come up with something better than those first two lines? I’m convinced he just took those from another mellow gold tune, somewhere.
Of course, here’s the real mystery of the song: we never actually find out what, exactly, Bonoff is bringin’ to him personally. Yes, we know she can’t send it in, can’t phone it in, can’t use semaphore, can’t send it via carrier pigeon, can’t strap it to a small barrel that’s subsequently attached to the neck of a Saint Bernard, etc. But we don’t know what "it" is. My guess is that it’s similar to the "that" that Meatloaf won’t do (although he’s made it clear he’ll do anything else for love), but I don’t know for sure. So (ahem):
1) Alimony bill
3) Autographed copy of Bossa Nova Hotel by Michael Sembello
6) Farting midget (I feel like this would be the most difficult to send in of all)
7) Love child of David Pack from Ambrosia
8) Ambrosia (either the band or the fruit salad)
So what happened to Bonoff after "Personally?" Well, she continued to write and record her own songs. She recorded a Lost Soundtrack Classic for Footloose. She passed some hits off to other artists – Wynonna recorded her song "Tell Me Why" in ’93, and Ronstadt recorded "All My Life," a duet with Aaron Neville, which won a Grammy in 1991. She’s maintained a following in Asia, touring Japan numerous times. And hey, everybody – Bryndle got back together! In 1995, they released their debut CD – only 25 years after their first shelved recording! Andrew Gold left in ’96, and the band is sort of on hiatus, but they all still keep in touch and perform from time to time. You can keep updated on Bonoff’s career at her website. And have no fear, she’s not forgotten her Mellow Gold roots: she contributed backing vocals to McD’s Blue Obsession!
Bonoff and McD, shortly after McD ate her right arm
Until next time, my friends! Thanks for joining me on another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!