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Soul Express Classic Soul CD of the Month - December 2008

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Can't We Fall in Love
UK CD, 2008
The original release on Arista, 1981
1) You Sure Look Good To Me 2) Don't Tell Me, Tell Her 3) I'm Not Asking for Your Love 4) Can't We Fall In Love Again 5) The Love Too Good To Last 6) Tonight You And Me 7) The Sunshine In My Life 8) Just Another Face in the Crowd
Bonus Tracks:
9) Sleep On It 10) If You Ever Change Your Mind 11) In Between The Heartaches 12) You're The One 13) I Ain't Asking You To Stay

Produced by Norman Connors, Chuck Jackson

It's amazing that we still have Phyllis Hyman albums that haven't been available on CD. I'm very grateful for David Nathan's label which has finally made this 1981 album available in CD format with no less than five bonus tracks.

Arista had really invested in quality producers, musicians and arrangers for this project. The album was produced by Norman Connors and Chuck Jackson, arranged by McKinley Jackson, Paul Riser and Chuck Jackson, and the musicians included a real all-stars lineup featuring Gary Bartz, James Gadson, David T. Walker, Paulinho DaCosta, Bobby Lyle, Sonny Burke, Nathan East, John Barnes and Marlo Henderson.

However, when the album was released, I wasn't so delighted with the selection of songs. Many of the tracks were cover songs or aimed at the pop or disco markets. Still, with Phyllis on vocals and those musicians playing the instruments, the end result was at least good, if not always excellent.

Maybe the album lacked a complete killer cut, but the track I have gradually learnt to love the most is Phyllis' reading of the Bacharach-Sager tune recorded only one year earlier by The Pointer Sisters: The Love Too Good to Last. Norman's production on this tune is second to none, with Gary Bartz blowing the sax solo, Jean Carn being responsible for the background vocal arrangement, and Reginald Sonny Burke playing the elegant keyboard lines. Just splendid – had the remaining tracks been in this style, this would have been album of the year!

The single hit from this album was, though, the powerful Michael Henderson duet Can't We Fall in Love Again. The actual melody is quite MOR-ish, but the way Phyllis and Michael tear down the lyrics leaves little to improve upon. The twosome had earlier recorded duets on Norman Connors' albums (We Both Need Each Other in 1977 and Betcha by Golly Now in 1977).

The second single pick from the album was the disco number Tonight You and Me, which has a similar feel to the Jacksons' hit Shake Your Body from 1979. This was quality disco and wonderfully sung by Phyllis, no doubt about it, but her fans probably already knew that she could do much more than play a "disco diva". The third single release You Sure Look Good to Me was a pop-oriented uptempo tune co-written by Brian Potter and produced by Chuck Jackson. More to my liking was the bouncy Ashford & Simpson swayer I Ain't Asking for Your Love with its funky bass licks by Nathan East, and the Odyssey cover Don't Tell Me, Tell Her, which is a relaxed mid-tempo mover with Nathan East playing the throbbing bass while Mynyoungo Jackson and Paulinho DaCosta take care of the percussion fireworks.

The last two tracks of the original album took Phyllis back to more sensual settings. The Sunshine in My Life was written by Phyllis herself together with her former husband Larry Alexander (whom she had divorced in September 1980), and again, I don't think the actual composition is brilliant, but Norman's production and Phyllis' interpretation are superb. David T. Walker adds his unique guitar sounds to spice the fine instrumentation, and Gary Bartz blows another short but impressive sax solo. The album closes with another MOR-ish composition Just Another Face in the Crowd, which has a Dionne Warwick-ish feel, but Phyllis' fabulous vocals again turn a mediocre tune into a memorable recording.

The five bonus tracks contain three tracks produced by Norman Connors and Chuck Jackson in 1980, one produced by Thom Bell and one without any producer or composer details (You're the One). While none of these tracks is of classic status, I guess the longtime Phyllis Hyman fans simply can't live without the four tracks produced by these famous producers...

The melodious mid-pacer Sleep on It was already released on Ralph Tee's excellent Expansion compilation of rare Phyllis Hyman material, In Between the Heartaches from 2003, as well as the next two tracks. If You Ever Change Your Mind is an energetic mid-tempo track. Phyllis' singing is really dynamic at the end of the song. In Between the Heartaches is a Bacharach/David-tune (originally recorded by Dionne Warwick) and it's been arranged in a typically dramatic Bacharach setting, but Phyllis was perfectly at home at this kind of atmosphere and velivers the tune magnificiently.

The uncredited You're the One is clearly the weakest link of the bonus tracks, being a second-rate disco mover in the late 70s style. The last track of the CD is a track produced by Thom Bell in 1982; I'm Not Asking You to Stay was written by Bell's old partners Joseph Jefferson and Richard Roebuck, but this uptempo track had an odd rock-inclined feel and I think it was a good decision to drop it off from Phyllis' next album Goddess of Love. Looking forward for its CD release!

- Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express

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