Fingers, Heart, Soul and Mind are all slaves to the American Heartbeat

Round 1 – Group 211

1.) American Heartbeat [ Vinyl ]:  Various
2.) Nine Track Mind:  Charlie Puth
3.) Fingers Of Gold [ Vinyl ]:  Juanillo de Alba
4.) Heart And Soul – A Valentines Collection:  Various

 

Heartbeaten

Heart And Soul – A Valentines Collection is a collection of mainly famous standards, and despite a good beginning with Phyliss Nellson’s Move Closer and Al Jarreau’s Let’s Stay Together its turns into a bit of a mixed bag with a melange of live & recorded songs and non-originals. The quality of recordings is heterogeneous, for instance the live version of Slow Hand by The Pointer Sisters is excellent whereas the performance of Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye is poor. Gerry & The Pacemakers manage to suck all the emotion from Unchained Melody whereas The Drifters’ Save The Last Dance For Me sounds great. There’s a couple of question marks on here too, like what is this version of Tracks Of My Tears? It certainly isn’t the original and why is Dianna Ross MIA on Baby Love? A sub-standard selection.

Finger picking good

Fingers Of Gold is an old Vinyl pressed in 1970 by flamenca guitar player Juanillo de Alba. His music is flamboyent and really quite beautiful and what a talent. Such technical mastery, imagine what this guy could do with an electric guitar and a rock band! I thought it’d be a yawn-fest but it’s quite pleasant actually, albeit you have set your expctations accordingly. This whole album is one man with one instrument. No singing, no ‘phat’ beats, no Rhythm & Blues and all 8 tracks tread a similar musical path. A sensationally gifted guitar player though and culturally enrichening if nothing else. Betters the messy Valentines collection but doesn’t quite match Nine Track Mind.

One Call Away from a cancelled record deal

American singer/songwriter Charlie Puth shows on his debut effort Nine Track Mind that he has a lovely tone to his voice and makes laid back soulfully glazed pop. Until I listened to this I hadn’t actually realised he was the guy behind Let’s Marvin Gaye & Get It On, which I originally thought was a thoroughly naff song with dubious lyrics and owning the album hasn’t dented that view much. Why does this bug me so much, ‘Let’s Marvin Gaye and Get It On, like they said in the song’. Who’s *they*? Surely the line should be like *he* said in the song, you know, ‘Marvin‘, the guy you’re namechecking in the title? Also who says things like “it’s time for Karma Sutra show & Tell” or “we’ve got this KingSize to ourself”? Who else were you expecting to be in your bed with you Charlie? Obviously me and the Puth live very different lives!

In places the album is insipid and underwhelming but occassionally it’s not bad, I’ve come to appreciate tracks like My Gospel, Losing My Mind and even Dangerously. The album is shaped by piano pop, he’s a bit like Daniel Powter on a Bad Day (fnarr). Actually I thought at first that he sounds incredibly similar to Panic At The Disco vocalist Brendon Urie, so similar in fact that I had to google it just to make sure it wasn’t the same person. Crawls over the line for another go in round two.

Hearts Are Burning On The Boulevard

American Heartbeat was the soundtrack of my youth, one of the first tapes I had on my little tape machine. This was before I got a stereo so I must have been about 9 years old. The tape machine had a dual purpose, it could play my music tapes, recorded from my Dad’s vinyl setup, or it could load my ZX Spectrum games, Jet Set Willy, Manic Miner, Space Invaders that sort of thing. What it couldn’t do was play music *and* load computer games at the same time, so when I did finally get my own stereo setup it was a game changer.

American Heartbeat is an AOR compilation from 1984 featuring some spectacular tracks. It’s wave after wave of melodic rock masterpieces. A compilation I’ve been listening to for over 30 years and quite possibly one of my most played tapes. I still have the tape but I no longer have a tape player! It’s not available on CD (I’ve been looking for years) and so it’s only recently that I’ve managed to give it a listen again now that I have my shiny new turntable and my Dad’s vinyl collection. My turntable records to digital WAV format so I’ve digitally recorded the whole vinyl (which itself is pretty worn out) and then I’ve pumped it through an MP3 converter so that I can play it in the car and wow!, what a great trip down memory lane this album is.

When I first listened as a small kid I didn’t know the track listing and didn’t realise there were songs from repeat bands. Toto’s three songs could be by three different bands for example (Rosanna, Africa, Hold The Line). Quarterflash’s Harden My Heart could be one of the best tarcks here and that’s saying something in company like this (More Than A Feeling by Boston, Don’t Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult, Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas and more!). These songs are so well crafted, this is true art. Representative of an age personified by radio friendly, singable melodic rock songs with enough rock attidude and electric guitars to swell the emotions of both casual and fanatic rock fans alike. This compilation is mixed to perfection too. Only many years later did I find out that most of these songs were edited versions. It was when I bought Boston’s self-titled debut album on CD that I realised they had stripped out a whole verse from the Amercian Heartbeat version of More Than A Feeling. Similarly, Journey’s Who’s Cryin Now and REO Speedwagon’s Keep On Loving You have also been shortened, the latter missing an entire guitar solo, but you know what? It doesn’t detract at all, these songs sound like they belong together and work their magic nonetheless. A true compilation materpiece.

 

 

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