Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Pop, Rock, Broadway & Vocalists
R. Bourbeau | 06/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are a Neil Sedaka fan and have mature musical tastes, then you should buy this CD. The way old (and good) CDs are here today and then deleted tomorrow, if I were you I would not delay in ordering this excellent Sedaka musical work of art. It is among his best and has become a favorite of mine. Like on his "The Hungry Years" CD, each song is different and Sedaka masterfully explores different musical styles. Each song is a success and the entire CD is a musical journey. It is a mature, thoughtful Sedaka with some of the best melody lines and arrangements of his career, including the duet with Elton John - "Love In the Shadows." A particular favorite of mine is "Cardboard California." - Talk about a song that paints a picture of Hollywood!! If you don't own this one - get it today while you can! As with the other re-released Sedaka CDs, the bonus cuts are also worth the purchase. If you love the Sedaka album "The Hungry Years" then you will love this one too. As a matter of fact, "Steppin' Out" could almost be a companion disc to "The Hungry Years." If you don't own "The Hungry Years" and "Sedaka's Back" then I suggest you order those two along with your copy of "Steppin' Out" and you will have the best of this most talented singer/songwriter's work in the 70s with Rocket Records (Elton's company). I'm looking forward to more music from Neil in the 21st century and hopefully with newcomer Clay Aiken. I only wish we had more great singer/songwriters like Neil today - People like him, Carly Simon, Carole King, Paul Simon, Neil Diamond, Paul Anka, James Taylor and Brill Building co-writers and buddies are in a class all by themselves; and this CD proves that the talent keeps on coming."
Still Steppin' Out
The JuRK | Our Vast, Cultural Desert | 03/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I grew up in the 1970's and discovered Neil Sedaka during that period of his career. I heard "Steppin' Out" on the radio (and I can still remember exactly where I heard it, like a lot of my favorite songs) and was hooked. I bought the STEPPIN' OUT album, then picked up SEDAKA'S BACK and THE HUNGRY YEARS.
And I got them when they came out, all these years later, on CD.
What's interesting was that I first heard them as a child and wondered about the situations that would bring about those feelings.
Now that I'm older, I've experienced them myself.
And that makes a song like "I Let You Walk Away" cut that much deeper."
Composer Sedaka #1 again in 2006?!
R. Bourbeau | Maui, Hawaii, USA | 08/22/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Probably a good reason to take another look at this album in 2006 is because, once again, Neil Sedaka has become a relevant artist in the here-and-now. This re-release of the original 1976 album Steppin' Out contains, as a bonus track, the original version of "(Is This the Way to) Amarillo"--originally released as just "Amarillo"--a mid-chart hit in 1977 (from a subsequent album to "Steppin' Out") but inexplicably absent from Sedaka's retrospective CD Laughter in the Rain: The Best of Neil Sedaka, 1974-1980. Other songs that were neither hits for him nor for others were included instead; perhaps it just wasn't one of Sedaka's personal favorites.
But it was a wise decision to add "Amarillo" to this album, because Americans will get to hear the song that became the #1 record in Britain, for seven weeks, in 2005. In fact, viewers of PBS' pledge-drive-premium nights this summer may catch Neil's video of The Show Goes On: The Very Best of Neil Sedaka - Live at the Royal Albert Hall, a solo concert filmed on April 7, 2006, during which he was pleasantly surprised to receive Britain's Guinness award for the most successful song (thus far) of the 21st century, selling more than 1 million copies. In Britain, those kind of numbers are literally astronomical.
The backstory is, British singer Tony Christie had released the single as "Is This the Way to Amarillo?" in 1971, the year it was written by Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, and it was a smash in Britain (six years before Sedaka would release the song as a single in the U.S. himself). Christie would go on to favor Sedaka, as so many other singers have, as a frequent source for his repetoire of singles and album cuts over the decades.
The song was then included in 2002 in Christie's retrospective album "Worldhits and Love Songs." In 2005, "...Amarillo?" was re-released as a benefit single for Comic Relief, of all things, in Britain, when it was used as the music for a video that became insanely popular ("Is This the Way to Armadillo?"; you've got to admit, it's funny). Christie had retired from his singing career and was "golfing in Spain," as Sedaka recalls the story.
Christie triumphantly returned to Britain and found himself with Britain's #1 song for the entire year of 2005. But it didn't stop there. The song's popularity led to it being re-recorded by Christie with a dance mix and new lyrics as "Is This the Way to Win the World Cup?" as Britain started catching soccer fever as its footballers prepared for the quadrennial World Cup. The new version once again has become a smash single and video in 2006, resulting in this amazing award for Neil in Britain. Once again, Sedaka is on top.
But enough of Tony Christie, you're probably saying. Sedaka's version of "Amarillo," the 1977 single, is a bit slower and has more of a Tex/Mex feel, with horns and marimbas, than Christie's faster, straight-ahead rock feel in his original 1971 version, which I recently finally had the chance to hear. Being American and the composer of the song, Sedaka's vision is clearly better, but kudos to Christie for his career revival, and certainly to Neil again, because it just proves that Neil Sedaka is never irrelevant and never out of favor, no matter the nation, year, decade...or century!
"Love in the Shadows" was the first single and made the Top 20, with its raucous rock beat, screaming guitar solo, and risque lyrics about lovers who must meet wherever and whenever. It was quite a departure from Neil's usual output, but remains today one of this writer's personal favorites. The title track, "Steppin' Out," would become Neil's second, and last, musical collaboration with Elton John. It also was a strong rocker about illicit lovers, with Sir Elton providing more backing vocals than a full duet, as was their #1 hit "Bad Blood" from 1975-76. After this record, Elton and Neil had a falling out, and Neil left Sir Elton's own Rocket Records for Elektra.
The CD also features the mid-chart hit "You Gotta Make Your Own Sunshine," a bouncy pop ditty that's pretty self-explanatory, but the CD also includes the bonus track "B" side of the single, "(Baby) Don't Let It Mess Your Mind," which was recorded in the early '70s in Britain and unavailable in the U.S. when the single was released. Neil goes country with "#1 With a Heartache," but fares better with the beautiful, plaintive ballads lamenting love gone bad, "I Let You Walk Away" and "Perfect Strangers."
The other two bonus tracks (of four) are "Time Waits for No One," previously unreleased, but more importantly, Neil's final Top 20 hit in the U.S., the beautiful duet with his daughter Dara from 1980, "Should've Never Let You Go." Dara was merely a teenager when she recorded that song with her dad, but more than 25 years later, the song is still as beautiful today as it was then.
Sedaka's new video referred to previously, "The Show Goes On," features Neil in a video/vocal "duet" with his daughter (a la Natalie and Nat King Cole in 1991's "Unforgettable"), and the two sing "Should've Never Let You Go" in 2006 exactly as well done as in 1980. In fact, it's remarkable how stable--and strong!--Sedaka's voice and piano playing remain. This writer is also a professional pianist and vocalist, and I am amazed to watch him performing the songs in exactly the same keys as they were written in 1958 or in 1974. The camera catches all the piano-playing action, and his #1 hit from 1974-75, "Laughter in the Rain," in still in the key of F in 2006. Unlike some artists who have had to change the manner in which they sing or the key performed (Dionne Warwick immediately comes to mind, after decades of chain-smoking has literally changed her from a soprano to an alto, and her '60s high notes have long since been abandoned). Sedaka's true, clear tenor is bright and beautiful, and he's 67 years old in 2006. Not many performers can literally sound exactly at 67 as he did when he was 18. It must border on the downright magical.
So, in a way I'm glad I'm re-reviewing this album, because I'm also re-reviewing Neil Sedaka's career (and boy, am I long-winded, eh?!). This album still gets the four stars I gave it in 2001, but its relevance in 2006 because of "Amarillo" makes it all the more worthwhile adding to your collection. Whether or not you're a fan of Neil Sedaka's, for a teenager who hit the charts first back in 1958, and here he is the composer of a #1 international hit again in 2006, that's nearly a half-century of hitmaking and songwriting. Yes, he's had mountains and valleys that he's the first one to tell you about (or, more likely, write about bitterly in his music), but it's important to note that Neil Sedaka is a truly gifted and timely entertainer.
You've got to admit: he's impressive.
CD review: **** (out of 5); career review: ***** (and then some)! 15 August 2006 / 24 Jan 08 -- BOB BOURBEAU"