Into the Ear of Madness: Week 14 — Goodbye To Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of…

Written by Into the Ear of Madness, Music

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Over the next year Terje Fjelde has agreed to listen to nothing but David Foster on his iPod. He’s loaded the thing with over 1,200 songs produced, arranged, composed, and/or played by David Foster. A deal with the devil? He keeps wondering.

It’s time for another Theme Week! I’ll leave it up to you to figure out what’s the theme, though. It should be pretty obvious.

I heard Donna Summer’s “Livin’ In America” (1982), produced by Quincy Jones, for the first time when I watched a documentary about Quincy released around the same time as his album Back On The Block in 1989. He had invited a bunch of hot rappers such as Ice T, Melle Mel, Big Daddy Kane and Kool Moe Dee to join him along with a stellar cast of musicians but, me being a very pale and very Scandinavian teenager, I just didn’t get the rap and hip hop thing at all in 1989. Well, I still don’t for the most part, but that’s another story. Anyway, I was for all purposes hoping for The Dude, Part 2 at the time of its release, and thus Back On the Block turned out to be a huge disappointment. It just didn’t sound smooth enough for me at the time by far, which I guess is kinda telling — and utterly and completely incomprehensible: Have you ever heard “Setembro (Brazilian Wedding Song)” or “The Secret Garden”? Smooth as silk. Or “Tomorrow (Better You, Better Me)” with a very young Tevin Campbell on lead vocals? The only thing with an edge on it is Tevin’s braces.

Still, that’s probably why I remember “Livin’ In America” so well from the soundtrack – it was one of very few tracks with Quincy’s smooth, early 1980s pop sound. I loved what I heard and went straight out and bought Donna Summer from 1982 and I was happy as a hippo for months, playing my new old Donna Summer album all the time whilst everybody else was listening either to the Stone Roses or Roxette. I was so out of touch with anything resembling hipness. Some things never change.

The album sounded more “modern” than The Dude when it was released in 1982, with plenty of state-of-the-art-synthesizing, which again of course makes it sound more dated than The Dude does today. Time works in mysterious ways. David Foster played keyboards, co-arranged and co-wrote “Livin’ In America” along with Quincy, Donna, Steve Lukather and Rod Temperton.

Natalie Cole’s “That Sunday That Summer” from Unforgettable: With Love (1991) is a quite loverly ‘n’ summerly number, and it marks Foster’s first step into the world of traditional pop, and in many ways the album marked a new phase and a revitalization of his career (as well as Natalie Cole’s) when it was released in 1991 – even though he only produced 8 of 22 tracks. That has everything to do with the title track, I believe, a duet with her father, and the first in a series of creepy post-mortem duets to be produced by David Foster. We’ll get back to it in a future entry.

Cole is releasing a follow-up on September 9 called Still Unforgettable. It contains yet another duet with her long-dead father, and this time she produces the album herself according to Amazon’s product description.

Michael Bublé’s “Summer Wind” is from the singer’s first collaboration with Foster in 2003, released some time after he was discovered by Foster performing as a wedding singer at Paul Anka’s daughter’s wedding. Or something like that. Maybe it was Anka’s great-granddaughter, I don’t know. It’s sacrilege, of course, but it’s also quite possibly the only time I will ever be able to say it, so here we go:

I like Buble’s version better than Sinatra’s. It’s slightly faster, less hammy and generally more agreeable to my ears.

Oh dear, would I really have uttered something like that before I started this series? I don’t think so. A definite warning sign. But what can you expect from the guy dedicating the better part of a year of his life to the arguably schlockiest producer on earth? Oh well, the smoother the better, I say [door slowly creaking behind me, that all-too-familiar, bespectacled face of Bob James peeks in with a big, hearty grin appearing behind the beard]

Well, until the next time: Take care, so long and all that. I’ve got to go punch something.