Monday, May 21, 2018

Marilyn Scott - Without Warning (1983)

Released: 1983 (Mercury)
Produced by: Michael Sembello
Peak on the US Billboard 200: Did not chart

Side One Side Two
Only You
First Time
Where Is The Key
You Can Do It
Say Goodbye
10 x 10
If You Let Me Love You
This Side of the Rainbow
Hold On
I'll Be Lovin' You

A few weeks back, a friend hipped me to this album because of its connection with Michael Sembello. I liked what I heard and thought it sounded a lot like Bossa Nova Hotel but also another group - I just couldn't place the sound. A quick trip to the discogs site to check out the writing and playing credits revealed familiar names: Ricky Lawson, Jimmy Haslip, and Russell Ferrante, who, at the time, were recording together as Yellowjackets and had recently released Mirage à Trois, a personal favorite of 17 year old me. Turns out Scott did some vocal work on the Mirage album while Yellowjackets wrote 7 of the 10 songs here, so these guys helped each other quite a bit. It should go without saying that you'll dig Without Warning if you like Mirage à Trois. And vice versa.

The Without Warning album is a delightful mix of familiar sounds and artists. For a while, I listened the album daily on YouTube, then eventually headed over to eBay and yada, yada, yada, I'm now spinning the vinyl on my Technics. I wish I had found it in 1983.

Billboard, August 27, 1983, p. 48

  • Only You:  Written by Scott, Michael Sembello, and his younger brother Dan. This song wouldn't have been out of place on the 1983 Sergio Mendes self-titled album (another favorite with which the Sembello brothers played a large role).
  • First Time: I was already familiar with this track because it's also the second track on Bossa Nova Hotel. The Sembello version is in a lower key, slightly slower, and uses synth drums. If I had to choose between the two, I'd pick this Scott version, but they're both good.
  • Where Is The Key: The shift from Sembello to Yellowjackets is immediately noticeable as the album moves to this cut. Jazzier with a slight gospel vibe (an early Yellowjackets trope) and a nice guitar solo from Robben Ford.
  • You Can Do It: A breezy bit of filler with an uplifting lyric and keyboard solos from songwriter Russell Ferrante.
  • Say Goodbye: Midtempo ballad with plenty of synthesized electric piano (Yamaha DX7?). I'm getting a Brenda Russell vibe on this one. And that's a good thing. Maybe it's the tight background vocals 

  • 10 x 10: The obvious attempt at a pop single because it sticks out like a sore thumb on this album. That doesn't mean it's a bad tune; just oddly out of place. We go from smooth soft rock with understated production to an aggressive dance tune with clipped vocals. Even with a breakdancing promotional video and a 12" remix release, I can't see that this made any chart appearance. That's a shame because I really dig the chorus harmonies. Of course said chorus has been a steady earworm for more than a week now. Ignore the "exponential exploration" bridge.
  • If You Let Me Love You: sounds much like the tune "Goin' Home" from the aforementioned Mirage à Trois, but I'll let it slide because Lord knows I've subconsciously plagiarized from myself. Still, there's not much going on with this one except an overly busy synth solo.
  • This Side of the Rainbow: starts off by quoting the 1933 standard "Stormy Weather" but quickly turns into a blues-based slow funk-lite tune. Sounds like something Natalie Cole might have recorded. Robben Ford tears off the best solo on the album.
  • Hold On: the Tower of Power horns bring their 'A' game to this otherwise lackluster tune. 
  • I'll Be Lovin' You: Scott and Ferrante slow things down to end the album with a chorus so smooth they start the song with it.

  1. First Time
  2. Only You
  3. 10 x 10
  4. This Side of the Rainbow
  5. I'll Be Lovin' You
  6. Where Is The Key
  7. Say Goodbye
  8. You Can Do It
  9. If You Let Me Love You
  10. Hold On

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