Monday, July 13, 2009

For Your Reconsideration: Kenny Loggins

(I recently finished a post for the blog Video Pop. Couldn't wait to see it up, so I'm double dipping)...

Over the last year and half, I have become slightly obsessed with Soft Rock. Now this is not some post-ironic, Yacht Rock kick. This is the real deal. And I'd like to share with you some of the artists/albums that go down smoother than a 2005 Le Clos Jordanne Chardonnay.

To get things started, I wanna get you down with my man Kenny.

Now many people may associate him with this:

Or this:

But the fact is, Kenny is a seriously killing songwriter. Particularly in the late 1970's, he had a winning combination of pop songcraft, jazzy arrangenents and a voice reminiscent of a white Stevie Wonder. Stevie actually lent him a Yamaha C-80 keyboard for the record "Keep the Fire". Prior to that, Kenny recorded the 1978 album "Nightwatch" with producer/keyboardist Bob James.

James is best known for the tastefully funky, frequently-sampled song Nautilus and the painfully smooth jazz label, GRP. But with "Nightwatch", Loggins and James got just the right balance of cheese and genuine blue-eyed soul.

"Nightwatch" starts out with a moody, bass-driven title track that effectively combines Kenny's meticulous songwriting with James's delectably questionable take on faux-noir atmospherics and "session" musicianship. You can practically hear James holding a glass of Ridge Monte Bello and saying "This tune is a dark, romantic groove. Turn the lights down low Kenny, I want you to really feel this one". It's so obvious, but sometimes cliches work if done with some creativity and total commitment.

Other notable tracks include Wait a Little While and the classic duet with Stevie Nicks, Whenever I Call You Friend. Record geeks will also note that the album contains the song What a Fool Believes, which Kenny wrote with Michael McDonald. McDonald would (smartly) re-record this song later with the Doobie Brothers. It's interesting to compare each version, which ultimately shows that Kenny didn't quite have a handle on the vocal delivery and James should have helped more with tightening up the arrangement. As a side note, I recently just found another version with Aretha Franklin singing lead. McDonald still wins. He just owns that shit.

More gems can be found on Kenny's aforementioned 1979 follow-up record, "Keep the Fire"

which has his most famous soft rock hit, This is It.

But my favorite track is Who's Right, Who's Wrong, featuring backup vocals by a young Michael Jackson. The song has a surprisingly complex arrangement that takes some unexpected turns (in a good way). In addition, the title track is great and demonstrates how Kenny can really rock out while maintaining a soulful croon when needed.

In the 1980's, Kenny dramatically shifted his sound to stay relevant in a youth-driven pop marketplace. But check out his 1970's discography. The songs mentioned in this post can be found here. Hold from the tip, give a light twist, smell the aroma, and then taste the richness of the soft.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you!!!! 1000 times!!!