Into the Ear of Madness: Week 6 — Jaye P. Morgan

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.

Jaye P. Morgan – “Keepin’ It To Myself,”
Jaye P. Morgan – “Can’t Hide Love,”
from Jaye P. Morgan (1976)

Aah, finally — the time has come. The classic Foster/Graydon sound in full bloom. So far we’ve listened to session dates where David Foster probably didn’t have a lot of influence, but somewhere along the line, he connected with guitarist Jay Graydon. They helped each other out, each recommending the other for session work — quickly spreading the word and gaining a strong reputation as talented studio musicians. And when future Chicago member Bill Champlin came down from San Francisco in the mid 1970s, they did the same thing for him, enabling him to get work as a background vocalist and vocal arranger on countless records throughout the decade. Foster even helped Champlin get an apartment not far from him and his wife, so these guys were pretty close back in those days.

Between their recording sessions with Steely Dan and George Harrison, they must have come up with a plan. A light, breezy pop/rock sound with touches of jazz and funk. Jay Graydon’s multi-layered guitar licks — it’s almost as if he orchestrates his guitar solos. Syncopation — lots and lots of syncopation. Easy melodies supported by complex chord structures. Rich harmony vocals. The occasional, heavily compressed horn sound of trumpeter Jerry Hey and his Seawind chums. And Foster’s romantic Rhodes and piano sound spiced up with some funky Clavinet. David Foster drove a Mercedes 450 SL back in those days, and somehow that makes perfect sense listening to his music. If Foster’s music is a sleazy white limo today, it was a 450 SL convertible in 1978.

They stuck with this sound for years, until Foster retreated into Balladland and Graydon stumbled and fell over his sequencer cords somewhere around 1984. For me this sound, and the period from around 1976 to 1984, marks the musical highlights of their careers.

Jaye P. Morgan was hardly an obvious choice for their fresh west-coast sound. Born in 1931, she was a successful trad pop singer in the 1950s and extended her career to acting and comedy throughout the 1960s and 1970s. She’s probably best remembered for her comedy routines as a panelist on The Gong Show between 1976 and 1978. This record was her first as a contemporary pop singer, and I think it may have been her last.

I don’t think she has a particularly strong voice, but it suits the material well. As AMG says, it’s husky. This self-titled album was produced by Foster, and it did absolutely nothing for her on the charts; in fact, it was largely forgotten about until it was re-released on a Japanese label a few years ago. I think it deserved better — it’s a wonderful little pop record with a great sound, pretty melodies and solid performances all around. And I must say, her cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Can’t Hide Love” is pretty awesome — and quite sexy, too. To be honest I think I prefer her version, even though I’m a big Earth, Wind & Fire fan. It’s a bit embarrassing, but I can take it. Foster and Graydon actually did another cover of “Can’t Hide Love” in 1982 with Dionne Warwick, then produced by Graydon. It’s a great song.

Sonic Past Music released Jaye P. Morgan on CD in the U.S. in 2007. Check it out.