Thursday, July 11, 2013

Shalamar - The Look

Today (July 11th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of The Look, the seventh studio album from the R&B group Shalamar. While it only reached number 79 on the US Billboard Hot 200, it climbed all the way to number 13 on the US Billboard R&B chart and number 7 in the UK.

This was the final album for Shalamar that featured the line-up of Jeffrey Daniel, Howard Hewett and Jody Watley. Both Daniel and Watley would leave the group in the later part of the year.

Side one opens with “Closer”, a seductively smooth mid-tempo groove.

“Dead Giveaway”, the first single, went to number 22 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 18 on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 10 on the US Billboard R&B chart and number 8 in the UK. The lyrics of this bouncy dance favorite tell of a guy picking up on unspoken signals from his girlfriend. I like the mix of guitars and synths on this one.

Things slow down with the next track. The ballad “You Can Count on Me”, the final single, only reached number 101 on the US Billboard Hot 200 and number 77 on the US Billboard R&B chart in 1984. Hewett’s falsetto vocals blend perfectly with Watley’s here.

“Right Here” keeps the relationship focus between the two lovers, blocking outside influences and putting in the work to keep things new and fresh.

At the heart of “No Limits (The Now Club)” is a message of unity and all-inclusiveness. It does not matter what walk of life you are from, all are welcome to get down here.

Side two begins with “Disappearing Act”; as a UK only single it charted at number 18. Watley takes the lead vocals on this smoking dance track about a love-em-and-leave-em boyfriend.

Things slow down a tad, tempo-wise, with the next track. The second single released was “Over and Over”; it went to number 26 on the US Billboard R&B chart and number 23 in the UK. I really like the strong bass line on this one.

“You’re the One for Me” keeps things on the mellower side with another song about being love.

On “You Won’t Miss Love (Until It’s Gone)”, Hewett pleads to his love to give their relationship a chance to grow.

The album closes on a strong note with the title track. “The Look” is another up-beat dance number that brings to my mind the runway of a high-fashion show. I can imagine this one was a big hit in clubs at the time.

While I was familiar with “Dead Giveaway” from its radio airplay, the rest of The Look never crossed my line of sight back in 1983. As such, I was looking forward to checking it out for this review and found a number of additional tracks to freshen up my 80’s R&B and dance playlists.

For more Shalamar, check out these links:

- For 1982’s Friends, click here.

- From two 1984 soundtracks Footloose and Beverly Hills Cop, click here and here respectively. Each features a track by Shalamar.

1 comment:

HERC said...

Ah, Shalamar. One of my favorite sounds from the late Seventies through the mid Eighties. They are in a class with Kool & the Gang and Raydio/Ray Parker Jr as far as consistent hitmakers of the dance/pop persuasion as opposed to the funkier acts like Prince, The Gap Band and George Clinton/P-Funk. Shalamar's labelmates on SOLAR included The Whispers, Klymaxx, Midnight Star, Lakeside and the Deele - they were a hit factory for a few years.

Howard Hewett's voice on Shalamar songs always appealed to me although I never got much into his solo stuff - he left Shalamar after 1984's Heart Break. Jody Watley was mostly a non-presence for me while she was in Shalamar but once she went solo with an assist from Andre Cymone, I became a big fan. Always was a fan of Jeffrey Daniels's dancing and last I read he was back with Howard in latest incarnation of the group so check your local concert listings.

Just after The Look was released I believe is when Watley and Daniels left - don't think they did any promotion for the album. Both appear with HEwett in the music video for "Dead Giveaway" but not "Over And Over". Not sure if they were around for the recording of "Deadline U.S.A." for the DC Cab soundtrack but I know they weren't involved in the sessions for "Dancing In The Sheets". "Deadline U.S.A." was released two weeks before The Look's final single "You Can Count On Me" in early 1984 with "Dancing In The Sheets" coming two weeks after that so they had three singles on three different labels released within a tight 28 day window.

The Canadian company Unidisc Music owns the rights to Solar recordings and not too long ago they rolled out just about everything they had onto Spotify. One day there was nothing form Shalamar and The Whispers and then the next day, it was all out there. All of Shalamar's studio albums and a collection of 12"s are available if you haven't found them yet.

For me, their best songs - "The Second Time Around", "Make That Move" and "Dead Giveaway" -are effortlessly groovy, with lyrics that seem organic, logical and infectious. It was a pleasant surprise to read the liner notes on Shalamar albums and see the heavy involvement of the Sylvers family, particularly the oldest sibling, Leon Sylvers III, one of music's unheralded geniuses.