Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sneaking Robert Palmer Thru the Rock Era

This is the 2nd of a 3-part posting on Rock icon Robert Palmer. See previous story for continuing storyline.

The story continues; During the period between the 1970's and the 1980's, music was very much a fabric of life for Pop Culture. FM Radio proved to the essential pipeline for the movement while new publications offered literary support. Cassette players armed with dual speakers were a must for your vehicle combined with an essential traveling case full of new releases. Times were good during this era as I remember traveling down the highway with a group of friends in my buddy's brand new van. I recall sitting in the rear of the truck and firmly planted in a bean bag with the ceiling vent open and smoke pouring-out of the roof in what resembled a scene from a Cheech and Chong movie. It was 1974 and we were on our way to a canoe trip on the Buffalo River in The Ozark Mountains when my buddy Ray King slipped-in a brand new cassette by vocalist...Robert Palmer.
It was Palmer's first solo release on Island Records when suddenly the focus became centered on the music blasting out of the speakers. It appeared for a moment that time stood still. I glanced around the van and no one on board was talking while everyone began bobbing their heads in unison. It was like we'd previously rehearsed this jester as a group and now given our cue to nod our heads. The first song pouring out the speakers was "Sailing Shoes," a song previously recorded by Little Feat. Next came the song "Hey Julia." And then the ultimate killer, "Sneaking Sally through the Alley." Wow! Three stellar tracks that sounded funky, soulful and flowed together to make a single entity. Yet all three had enough rock fusion for me to grab the cassette liner notes in search of musician's credits. But inside the cassette package there was nothing listed, no information about the sessions or credits given. This lack of information on the album left me puzzled and sent me on a extended mission to investigate.

After a lengthy search and based on this influential album, the following information surfaced; The title song "Sneaking Sally Through the Alley" was written by noted New Orleans producer Allen Toussaint. Plus, the song was recorded first by the great Lee Dorsey. Toussaint's talent as a songwriter and producer were continually in demand. He was also involved in some of the production for this album while his own Sea-Saint recording studio was used for several sessions. There were also rumors that Little Feat played on Palmer's solo album but come to find out that only guitarist Lowell George participated in the recording. But make no doubt, his tasteful influence is felt throughout this fine album. In addition, Toussaint recruited a New Orleans mainstay by bringing in the rhythm section of The Meters consisting of Art Neville (keyboards), Leo Nocentelli (guitar), George Porter (bass), and Joseph Modeliste (drums). The recording session appeared routine until Palmer's soulful voice quickly jelled with The Meters R&B groove. Legend has it when band members heard his voice they stopped and asked "What did you say your name was again?". Those parties played on tracks # 1 and 3.

Track # 2 was recorded with UK musicians Jim Mullen (guitar) and Jody Linscott (percussion) who may have overdubbed on additional tracks. The musicians on track # 4 on this album are undetermined.

Tracks # 5, 6, 7, & 8 are with the rhythm section from New York consisting of the great Cornell Dupree (guitar), Richard Tee (piano), Gordon Edwards (bass), and Bernard Purdie (drums).

Credits on this album were resolved sometime later by Robert Palmer and former Vinegar Joe bassists Steve York who also played harp solo on "Sneaking Sally Through the Alley."

By 1975, Palmer's solo career was further established when he released his second LP, "Pressure Drop." This album displayed his keen interest in reggae music infused with rock. Plus, the album's cover began his long identification with sex appeal and the promotion of his youthful looks. The album featured yet more Allen Toussaint and Lowell George compositions together with a Pete Gage (Vinegar Joe) song. Later that year Robert Palmer opened the Little Feat tour to promote the album.

Yet, Robert Palmer's body of work had just begun as his long and successful relationship with Island Records would span over two decades. His next album in 1976 titled "Some People Can Do What They Like" continued to set the trend of using the same players as featured on his first two albums. Plus, his skill as a writer of ballads became apparent. A short period later and after moving to the Bahamas, Palmer's appreciation of Caribbean influenced music was highlighted in his commercial breakthrough album titled "Double Fun." This 1978 album is recommended for everyone's library and produced the Andy Fraser penned hit single "Every Kinda People". This marked Palmer's most successful release to date by charting at #16 on Billboard's chart. "Secrets" was released in 1979 and recorded at Compass Point Studio in Nassau, Bahamas. The album produced the hit single "Bad Case of Lovin' You" (Doctor, Doctor) which became one of Palmer's signature tunes while reaching #14 on the U.S. charts. "Secrets" also produced additional hits while the LP was very deep with artistic influence. Yet, Robert Palmer was just rolling up his sleeves with much more to follow.

In 1980, Robert Palmer's album "Clues" developed into the latest trend of music with the fusion of electronic pop and synthesized experimentation. Despite it's lack of commercial success, it was indicative of Palmer's music, which in many cases was ahead of it's time. The album contained "Johnny And Mary", "Not A Second Time" and "Woke Up Laughing". The next album was "Pride" and released in 1983. Again, Robert Palmer was ahead of his times while the LP produced the memorable "You Are In My System." In early 1984, Robert began his realisation of the development of being a part of a 'supergroup' when he collaborated with John Taylor and Andy Taylor of Duran Duran and drummer Tony Thompson on the production of 'The Power Station'. This Capitol Records release produced the songs "Bang a Gong-Get It On" and "Murderess".

1985 was a triumphant year for Palmer as he released the album "Riptide". Almost immediately a groundswell of interest began to develop. The LP produced the monster #1 single "Addicted to Love." The song was originally recorded with Chaka Kahn sharing lead vocals but due to contractual issues with her record company, she was removed from the track and the rest is history. This time Robert Palmer's good looks and rock production video was a perfect fit for MTV as the album hit # 8 on the Billboard chart. The album also produced the Earl King penned song "Trick Bag". Plus additional hits such as "Hyperactive", "Woke Up Laughing","I Didn't Mean To Turn You On" and "Disipline Of Love".
The flood gates were open when in September of 1986 Robert won Best Male Video Category at the annual MTV Video Music Awards. Later, Robert won the Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male Category at the 29 annual Grammy Awards.

The Island Records marketing team guided by a crafty promotion director named Phil Quartararo who brought the goods home at radio and in turn rewarded all his team members contributing to this successful project with Platinum Record awards for their efforts.

Phillip Rauls and Robert Palmer share a smile over a well deserved team effort. Robert Palmer and Phillip were reconnected on the "Riptide" album project for the first time since the Vinegar Joe days back at Atlantic Records.

Next posting: Robert Palmer's EMI Years and beyond


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Phillip,

I remember that trip. That was a great road trip. I remember you passed out in a hammoch and woke up with mesh shaped bruises on your back. Another good road trip was when we took those crazy women to the coast.

Keep it up!

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

aloha phil,

I had never heard the story about Chaka Chan. Thanks for sharing

Vicki S.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Phillip!! What a great old picture of you, and our good friends. I have a feeling that 'anonymous' talking about the 'crazy woman' was most likely one of them Gee I wonder who..huh? MRK or RTK.(I think the later) anyway good to see you again. MRK's old gal-friend, Stacy. I think you knew me when I was still 'jailbait'.I remember Nesbit!! Stacy S.

10:57 AM  

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