Hello, ladies. Are you ready to be shaken down?
Don’t get excited — this album does not contain Gregory’s superfine hit, “Shake You Down.” Nope, this is the follow-up, released two years later, a span of time you’d think would have been brief enough to leave Abbott’s freshly shaken audience mostly intact. Nope! In a fascinating example of the way pop’s fickle winds can quickly turn from summer breeze to bitter wintry chill, the defensively titled I’ll Prove It to You crapped out at #132 on the Billboard Top 200 in the summer of ’88 — and Abbott wouldn’t release another album for six more years, when he returned on what I can only assume was his own label with One World! (containing! A live version! Of “Shake You Down”!)
Wait, did someone say “Shake You Down”?
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/NyEc0j2ny68" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
You know you feel better now. Eyyyyyyyyess you do, well well!
Anyway, back to I’ll Prove It to You. What happened here? Why did Abbott’s audience turn on him so quickly? I have no answers, only clues. Here goes:
1. Gregory Abbott fans didn’t think this was an album of new material. Check out that cover. Doesn’t it look like the kind of thing you’d expect to see underneath a layer of dusty cellophane on a truck stop counter carousel? The only thing missing is a bright yellow circle promising “ORIGINAL RECORDINGS BY THE ACTUAL ARTIST.” I’d love to know who to blame for this tragic miscarriage of graphic design, but — unsurprisingly — no one gets any credit for it in the booklet. I’m guessing Gregory Abbott designed it himself, which leads me to clue number two:
2. Gregory Abbott is an egomaniacal dick. I’m going way out on a limb here — I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about Gregory Abbott — but Abbott slapped his name all over this album. Not only was it Produced by Gregory Abbott for SBK Record Productions, Inc., but the booklet also lists him as the writer and arranger of every song, one of three background vocalists, and one of two keyboard players. Oh, and there’s this ludicrous credit:
Drums — Gregory Abbott
Believe me when I tell you that no human percussion came anywhere near this album.
Now, none of the above necessarily makes Abbott an egomaniac, or a dick. In fact, with the exception of his apparent belief that he could pass off chintzy drum programming as “drums,” all of it actually makes him pretty talented. Still, holding this disc in my hand, I can’t shake the nagging suspicion that Columbia executives were less than thrilled with Abbott’s singlehanded control of this album. You can hear the boardroom saying, “Fine, Gregory. You want to record your second album at home, handle the artwork, produce it yourself, write all the songs, and play most of the ‘instruments’? Good for you. You can handle the marketing budget, too.”
Of course, this completely made-up scenario could have nothing to do with actual events. Maybe people just forgot about Gregory Abbott. But I like my version better, and besides, would you get a load of this passage from the bio at Abbott’s official site:
Gregory Abbott coined the term “groove ballad” to describe what he does. Music writers have affectionately used the term “Wall Street Green Eyed Soul” to describe his sophisticated demeanor and intelligent green eyes that charm the women.
I will now pause and give you a few minutes to wipe whatever you were drinking off your monitor.
So, uh…what about the music? Well, all things considered, it isn’t bad, at least in the context of machine-driven late ’80s R&B. Lots of spoken word interludes, plenty of non-words like “waa” in the lyric booklet, and yes, a dash of synthmonica. And since I know the above description has left you foaming at the ears to experience these songs, I will now leave you with “Back to Stay” (download), “Runaway” (download), “Crazy Over You” (download), and “Prisoner of Love” (download). (Note: I hear they sound better if you liberally apply Drakkar Noir to your face, neck, and genitals before playing them. Eyyyyyyyyyyes they do, well well!)