Into the Ear of Madness: Week 16 — Caught in the Middle of McD’s Rhodes and Foster’s Acoustic Grand

Written by Into the Ear of Madness, Music

Logo

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.

Today’s entry is dedicated in its entirety to a genuine soft rock classic, a formidable milestone which embodies just about everything I love about this kind of music. It’s more or less a re-post of an entry I did for my own blog a couple of year ago, but no one read it then and I can’t think of a better way to describe it, so here we go:

Kenny Loggins – “Heart to Heart,” from High Adventure (1982)

Kenny Loggins was never the one who kicked you in the ass with his no-nonsense musical attitude. He’s more like the musical equivalent of a friendly pat on the shoulder – and yes, he’s frequently nonsensical. But that doesn’t really bother me. He’s had a couple of magical moments in his career, and this is one of them. As far as I’m concerned, “Heart to Heart” is the definition of smooth music – and I mean that in a good way. It was co-written by Loggins with Michael McDonald and David Foster.

The song is firmly rooted in 1982. There’s a synth ambiance, but it’s tasteful and discrete. It has a warm and analogue feel. Had he recorded this a year later, the acoustic piano riffs would’ve been “Jump”-style synth riffs fronting a static synth bass and drum machines. A couple of years earlier, and he’d surely have vocoded the background vocals to a disco beat or something like that. Thank God for 1982.

From the three opening chords you can tell this is going to be done just right. On the one hand you’ve got Michael McDonald starting up his groove on the Fender Rhodes, on the other you’ve got David Foster syncopating away on his acoustic piano. Enter two percussionists (Lenny Castro and Paulinho Da Costa), a drummer (Tris Imboden – the guy who replaced Danny Seraphine in Chicago) and some excellent thumb bass fills (courtesy of Derek Jackson), and we’re off.

This is it.

The musical bed is rhythmically intricate, yet still somehow all soft and comfortable. There’s a little bit of jazz, and a little bit of R&B. Loggins’ vocals are as light as a fluffy pillow and the whole darn thing just smells as fresh as a daisy in the field. (used in accordance with The Intentional Use of Cliché-Ridden Idioms Act).

Mike Hamilton’s credited on guitar, but I can’t hear him anywhere. Enter some strings in the pre-chorus (courtesy of Toto-dad Marty Paich, which to me suggests they’re real, but I’m not sure) to bring on that floating feeling.

Richard Page and Steve George do McDonald Light on background vocals. It’s hard to believe the ‘daar-liin’ part was done without McDonald; it’s my only complaint – he should’ve been there. Page and George (of Pages and Mr. Mister) are still great, and their vocal stylings are appropriately dominant throughout the tune. David Sanborn plays an insightful and beautifully logical pop-sax-solo and it all fades out far too soon at 5 minutes and 21 seconds.

The lyric’s about a guy in a relationship that’s on the verge of collapse, but he figures they may have one more shot if they open up “heart to heart” – it sounds decent enough for a Loggins song, but I’m never able to concentrate on the lyrics anyway.

I’m always caught somewhere in the middle between McD’s Rhodes and Foster’s Acoustic Grand. And what a great place to be in 1982.

The album High Adventure was released in 1982. “Heart To Heart” was released as a single in late ’82 or early ’83, peaking at #15 on the US Pop Charts and at #3 on the AC charts.