Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rita Coolidge - Never Let You Go

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Never Let Go, the tenth studio album from American singer/songwriter Rita Coolidge. Despite including a variety of covers of various popular new-wave/rock acts of the time, the record failed to even break into the top 200 of the US Billboard Album chart.

Joining Coolidge on this one were Michael Lewis (keyboard), Mike Utley (keyboard), Rick Vito (guitar), Eric Williams (guitar and mandolin), and Bernie Worrell (organ, piano and synthesizer).

Side one opens with “I’ll Never Let You Go”. Backed by a mid-tempo beat, the lyrics tell of a woman with her hungry sights set on a specific guy.

“Tempted” is a cover of the 1981 Squeeze song written by Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford (from their 1981 album East Side Story). I am a huge fan of the original (my wife and I sing along to it whenever it comes on the car radio) so I was a bit cautious about her version. While it lacks an edge that Squeeze gave it, Coolidge’s is okay. Released as a single, it reached number 37 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.

Coolidge‘s cover of “Stop Wasting Your Time”, written by Ian Dury and Chas Jankel, features an extremely strong synth element. I do like the lyrical word play of the chorus (“…stopping wasting your time, you could be wasting mine…”).

“Shadow in the Night” takes a tune by country musicians Jimbeau Hinson and Tony Brown and spins it into a sweet, sensual ballad. This one plays directly into her Memphis musical roots.

“Only You” was written by Vince Clark. She covers it here, and as a single her version hit number 37 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. This one was a tougher sell for me because I am a huge Yaz/Yazoo fan and completely love the 1982 album Upstairs at Eric‘s. While she gives it a good effort, Coolidge is not able to touch the haunting vocals of Alison Moyet.

Side two begins with “You Do It”, a mid-tempo pop song,

“Fools In Love” was written by Joe Jackson and first appeared on his 1979 debut album Look Sharp!. Coolidge takes up a bit of a reggae swing for this one.

Coolidge covers Culture Club next with “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me”, from their 1982 debut album Kissing To Be Clever. This is the third of the big hits from my high school years that she takes a swing at. Again, I liked it but the original is so iconic that it is tough for hers not to suffer a bit on comparison.

The Al Green co-penned “You Ought To Be With Me” for his 1973 album Call Me and took it to number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on the R&B charts. This newer cover has a bouncy pop beat to it that really updates the decade old song for a new audience.

“We’ve Got Tonight” was an icon hit for Bob Seger in 1978, from his Stranger In Town album. To close out this record, Coolidge covers it as a duet with Jermaine Jackson. Again, an interesting and bold choice, especially since in the January of 1983 Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton topped the charts with their duet version. Coolidge and Jackson do harmonize nicely together.

After the release of the soundtrack for the James Bond film Octopussy, Coolidge’s song from there “All Time High” was added to the re-release of this album, replacing “Shadow of the Night”.

For a woman in her late thirties at the time, Rita Coolidge certainly showed a willingness to embrace more current musical trends of the early 80’s. That makes Never Let You Go an intriguing mix of music. As a pop music fan and someone who liked her hits from the 70’s, I was certainly willing to give this one a shot. And it just might continue to grow on me after additional listens (I picked it up on a CD set along with two other Coolidge albums - and I like how they kept the original vinyl track listing intact).

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