Welcome back! Hopefully you’ve recovered from last week’s one-two punch of Dan Hill and Little River Band. But here we are again, and you know what time it is. It’s wuss time. And I’m here to help you make the most of your wuss time with the latest edition of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!
Earth, Wind & Fire – After The Love Has Gone (download)
I know what you may be thinking: “But I only thought soul-less white boys were capable of the Mellow Gold!” That’s where you’re wrong, my friends. No doubt about it, Earth, Wind & Fire was a truly funky band. Yes, they were responsible for some of the most fantastic, soulful songs of the 1970s. But in 1979, even EWF fell into the Mellow Gold trap. They did inject their unmistakeable R&B sound into the track, but they unabashedly wussed it up. And they were handsomely rewarded for it.
In the late ’70s, Earth, Wind & Fire was an unstoppable force. For starters, their ’77 album All ‘N All was a #3 hit on the Pop charts (and #1 on R&B). They were frequently selling out concerts all over the country, armed with not only a fantastic musical show but a visual spectacle – pyrotechnics, lasers, magic tricks and even the band climbing into pyramid formation. (These concerts were directed by magician Doug Henning, who has somehow had his fair share of mentions over here at Mellow Gold.) They nabbed the “Favorite Band, Duo or Group, Soul/R&B” American Music Award three years in a row (’77, ’78 and ’79) and won three of their six Grammy Awards in 1978. They recorded a ridiculously awesome cover of “Got To Get You Into My Life” for the movie Sargeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and while the movie was a stinkin’ pile o’ crap, their song hit #9 pop (#1 R&B) and sold a million copies – as well as earning them one of those Grammies. Oh, and finally, they released a greatest hits compilation in early ’79, which included a new track entitled “September.” Maybe you’ve heard it.
So you see where I’m going. The band was quickly becoming the leader in R&B and Soul. They were, uh, on fire. They had yet to realize, though, that they had the potential to wuss out, if only they had somebody to guide them. Somebody who had Mellow Gold in his blood. Someone who probably cried once a day and enjoyed Wheat Thins as a healthy, mid-day snack.
Enter David Foster.
David Foster was already an up-and-coming musician, arranger, composer and producer, working with wimps such as Stephen Bishop, Neil Sedaka, Gary “Dream Weaver” Wright, Paul Anka and Seals And Crofts, not to mention television actors-turned-singers such as Cheryl Ladd, Jaye P. Morgan, and the one and only Ted Knight. He was brought in to work on the EWF album I Am mainly as a composer and arranger, but also contributed musically. “After The Love Has Gone” was a co-write between Foster, Jay Graydon and Bill Champlin, who was just about to become a new member of Chicago (that’s him singing lead on songs like “Look Away” and “I Don’t Want To Live Without Your Love”). It had several MG staples – gentle strings, unreal harmonies, and we can’t ignore those horns (which, actually, sound a lot like they belong to Chicago). The cherry on top is supplied by a gentle sax solo and a number of soaring key changes. In fact, every time they sing a higher note on those “ohh”s at the end, I think somebody’s head is going to explode. Maybe mine, as I try to sing along, or my wife’s as she winces at me pushing my falsetto to its very limit.
The song was perfect. Wimpy, but soulful as well. Some may argue its inclusion as Mellow Gold. Fuck those people. This is good wuss music. America agreed, giving EWF their second-biggest hit ever, at #2, as well as a Grammy for Best R&B Performance. Enjoy this download of “After The Love Has Gone,” and sing along, no matter how much the people around you protest.
Alessi – How Long, How Much (download)
This one is another Mellow Gold request, supplied by our friend Terje, who’s wussin’ it up all the way over in Norway. He provided this vinyl rip for us – so please excuse the crackles n’ pops – it’s worth it to get to the Mellow. (Terje would also like to point out that he never paid a penny for this Alessi album.)
Alessi, also known as The Alessi Brothers, was comprised of twins Bobby and Billy Alessi. After their original band, Barnaby Bye disbanded in 1974, the twins landed a deal at A&M (I wonder if they waited outside and stalked Herb Alpert?). They released a few albums and had a #7 hit with a song titled “Oh Lori.” The hit, however, was in the UK, which must have been somewhat of a disappointment for both the band and their record label, seeing as the twins were from Long Island, NY. A&M let them record four albums before sending them a clear message: boys, move to disco and get a hit, or you’re outta here. No disco hit = no Alessi on A&M.
Luckily, they picked up another record deal rather quickly (remember, friends, this was the late ’70s/early ’80s, when one could do such things). Quincy Jones’ new label, Qwest Records, released their 1982 album Long Time Friends (ironically distributed through A&M). Check out this record cover.
It featured Steve Lukather from Toto on guitar, and Patty Austin (of “Baby, Come To Me”, her duet with
Michael McDonald James Ingram) on lead and backing vocals. And do you see that pink flamingo in the right corner? Here, let me enlarge it as best I can.
It all makes sense now, doesn’t it? With a producing credit from Christopher Cross, how could we expect anything less than the wussiest songs imaginable? And that brings us to “How Long, How Much.”
Truth be told, you don’t really need my commentary on this one. The wuss is so apparent. Terribly, terribly apparent. The vocal is pretty much ALL falsetto – and I’m not talking about the type of falsetto that appears on “After The Love Has Gone.” There’s no soul here, for starters. It’s all delicately enunciated, sensitive white-boy vocal on this track. The chorus has shades of Bee Gees. At 2:16, the song seems like it’s going to break down into some rocking, but have no fear, it’s really all synthesizers. There’s an electric guitar lead that plays throughout the majority of the song, but it’s not like Tony Iommi is playing it or anything. It doesn’t rock, not in the slightest, nor does it really contribute that much to the song. It just adds a bit to the ambience. It’s the parsley of guitar solos.
Alessi didn’t record again for Qwest after this album. But before you go feeling sorry for them, let me assure you that the brothers have done quite well for themselves. For starters, they sang backing vocals for many famous musicians – Peter Frampton, Olivia Newton-John, and John Lennon, to name a few. They also had a song on the Ghostbusters soundtrack (“Saving The Day,” which I’m not sure I’ve ever heard), and most impressively, have carved out a successful career for themselves in the commercial jingle biz. Diet Coke, Ford, Twix, Slim-Fast, Dr. Pepper, Sears…all of these companies have employed the Alessi Brothers, and as a result, the duo has won ADDY and CLEO awards for excellence in advertising. These two Long Island brothers are most likely living quite comfortably. They also still perform live, especially in the Netherlands, where they have quite a strong following.
And the best news of all, everybody: Barnaby Bye got back together! I know, I know – we all never thought it would happen, right? But it DID! The triumphant return of Barnaby Bye, where they played such hits as….uh…well, anyway, if you want to see any pics of their long-awaited reunion, check out the Alessi Brothers photo page.
Thanks again to Terje for getting us this track. I might have found “Oh Lori” on my own at some point, but “How Long, How Much” would have never crossed my path. You, sir, are a wuss connoisseur. A wussisseur, if you will.
That’ll do it for this week in Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold! Enjoy and see you soon!