I wouldnâ€™t want to be the lone man out, so let me begin by opening this contribution to PopDoseâ€™s Al Jarreau Week by admitting that I, too, was hesitant when asked if I might want to chime in on the genius that is Mr. Jarreau. Itâ€™s not that I canâ€™t get behind a tribute to the man; itâ€™s simply that Iâ€™m not all that familiar with his back catalog.
I do, however, have 1996â€™s Best of Al Jarreau, so I immediately broke out that disc in order to spin it and see which songs leapt out at me with instant familiarity. As it turned out, all I really had to do was glance at the track listing for memories of one of the songs to come flooding back: â€œWe’re In This Love Together.â€ The finger-popping goodness and silky smooth synth and sax sounds of this track still hold up, at least to my well-aged ears. Jazz? Not so much. But given the way the hook has stuck with me for 25 years, itâ€™s sure as hell a top-notch pop song. Listening to it now, it has the same effect that so many singles from the early â€˜80s have on me: it makes me start to wax nostalgic about a time when tracks from various musical genres could sit comfortably side by side on the airwaves without having to be so damned segregated.
And speaking of the early â€˜80s, I always used to get Al Jarreau and George Benson mixed up back then (and I have a sneaking suspicion that Iâ€™m not the only who suffered from this malady), so I found it rather appropriate when I learned that the pair had teamed up in 2006 to release the collaborative effort, Givinâ€™ It Up. As someone who gets inappropriately excited about a good cover song, it must be said that I probably enjoyed their take on Seals & Croftsâ€™ â€œSummer Breezeâ€ more than some, but the cover that really surprised me was Sam Cookeâ€™s â€œBring It On Home To Me,â€ courtesy of an unexpected third vocalist: Sir Paul McCartney. You can always tell when Paulâ€™s having fun rather than just phoning it in, and this is clearly a case of the former; when listening to the soulful vocal harmony between these three guys, it sounds like the feeling was mutual.
Unfortunately, thatâ€™s about all the love I can comfortably offer for our man Al without totally clutching at straws. But hereâ€™s to ya, Al, and let it be said that, if nothing else, you made enough of an impression on me in my youth that I think of you fondly even now. That should count forâ€¦um, probably either nothing or, if youâ€™re in a really bad mood, maybe even less than nothing.
But, hey, at least, itâ€™s from the heart.