Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Philip Bailey - Chinese Wall

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Chinese Wall, the second solo studio album from Philip Bailey. It spent thirty-five weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 22. It also hit number 10 on the US Billboard R&B chart. The record earned him a Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance Male.

Side one opens with “Photogenic Memory”. The lyrics of this up-tempo dance tune tell of a woman who is jealousy attracted to her ex-lover now that he has moved on to another woman. She forgets all the bad things about him and only remembers the good times. As the second single, it stalled at number 61 on the US Billboard R&B chart.

The party continues with “I Go Crazy”, a song about a guy who loses it around an amazingly attractive woman. It features the pounding percussion of Phil Collins who also produced the album.

The third single “Walking on the Chinese Wall” halted its climb at number 56 on the US Billboard R&B chart and number 46 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The album’s title comes from this track, and it was inspired by a trip that Roxanne Seeman, one of the song’s co-writers, had recently made to China. The horns and drums give the song a sweeping and soaring sound.

Bailey returns to his falsetto vocals once more for the love ballad “For Every Heart That’s Been Broken”.

“Go” closes the side out with a more laid back, jazzy R&B sound.

Side two opens with the Grammy Award nominated “Easy Lover”, a duet between Bailey and Phil Collins. The video won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Overall Performance in a Video in 1985. This single went to number 19 in Japan, number 18 in Austria and Italy, number 15 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, number 14 in France, number 11 in Spain, number 10 in Sweden, number 8 in Switzerland, number 7 on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 5 in Germany and on the US Mainstream Rock chart, number 3 on the US Billboard R&B chart, number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 1 in Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UK. The song has a big, bold sound to it – very typical of Collins’ music at the time. I remember dancing to this one quite a bit at parties and out at the clubs during the mid-80’s.

“Show You the Way to Love” is another slow jam love song.

“Time Is a Woman” brings back the down and gritty dance beats.

The B-side to the first single was “Woman”; it features a calypso rhythm to it.

The closing track “Children of the Ghetto” was also the B-side to the second and third singles. This nearly seven minute song is a message of hope to those growing up in the inner cities. The beautiful piano solo is courtesy of Nathan East.

While I knew quite well the album’s big hit single, much of Chinese Wall was new to me until this review. I really enjoy Philip Bailey’s vocal style – very easy on the ears and controlled. This is an album I will continue to enjoy for many years to come.

For more albums featuring Philip Bailey, click here.

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