What do you do if you have been slogging it out for many years as a backing vocalist for all sorts of acts and then you finally get your big break yo record an album but the sounds you have been singing are "old hat"?
You take a good look around, listen to what's going on and proceed full steam ahead making sure to hedge your bets.
Will this work?
Of course it will that's what hedging your bets is about. But the return is usually a little less than normal.
And that is Karla's album.
Karla was born in 1953 in Mokena, Illinois and "attended Lincoln-Way High School in New Lenox, Illinois. In her senior year, Karla appeared in the high school's production of "Brigadoon" and "The Odd Couple". She was also runner-up to the Homecoming Queen.
At Loyola University Chicago, she majored in theatre. During her freshman year, she joined the Chicago cast of "Godspell." In 1971-72 Karla studied with Jo Forsberg at Second City Company in Chicago and was part of the Second City Children's Theatre group, with Bill Murray and many other improvisational actors. In 1973, she was in the cast of the popular play Hair.
She subsequently sang with Meat Loaf, on the Bat out of Hell tour (and also performed lip sync to Ellen Foley's vocals in the music videos). Karla then contributed background vocals for such groups as Blue Öyster Cult and the Sorrows. Later she became a solo performer in her own right and opened for such prominent artists as Hall & Oates and Rick Springfield, as well as headlining solo concerts at New York's The Bottom Line". (wikipedia)
She was also one of the vocalists in the rock n roll, come Broadway, come theatrical band "Orchestra Luna" in the mid 1970s.
She finally got a chance to record her first album, this one, in 1981 and the music world around her had changed.
She (or her producer or label) did what they always do and forged ahead…
Throw in a few of songs with the new sound, a few in the old sound, a few covers and we should be muster a hit.
Not such luck – this album tanked.
But this is unfair as the album is (in part) quite good, and occasionally great.
Karla can sing.
Think Cyndi Lauper but with less pop and more rock or Olivia Newton-John with more grit.
There is also some Lesley Gore, Go-Gos, Ann Wilson, Pat Benetar and Ellen Foley in there
Karla's voice is powerful and quite distinctive and ballsy. Her strength surely comes from singing her lungs out on stage in musicals.
Fuck, I will say it again …. this chick can sing ….
But … the material is variable.
Oh, and she is quite "foxy" – is that the correct 1981 expression for a girl who is a babe? She comes across on the sleeve as if Kate Bush if she was invaded by Cyndi Lauper …. I would like to be there for that.
I love the hooker aerobics instructor outfit …
It's a pity Karla never really caught on – I believe marriage and lack of subsequent label push stalled her career.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Cool World – (D Lawson, G Mundt, Karla DeVito) – Trying to be very "new wave" with keyboards, doubling echo and "edgy" lyrics this is naff but it actually grows on you. It's one of those songs you could hear as a "new wave" song on a Hollywood teen film from the 80s.
- I Can't Stand To Reminisce – (P. Glenister) – standard pop trying to be power pop. Writer Glennister was a member of London power pop new wave band "The Hitmen": in the early 80s. he went on to session for everyone. http://www.discogs.com/artist/112093-Pete-Glenister
- Heaven Can Wait – (J Steinman) – This is a throwback to the 70s – naturally enough written by Jim Steinman…and recorded by Meatloaf for his monster selling " Bat Out of Hell" in 1977. It is melodramatic and overwrought as you thought it would be
- Midnight Confession – (L Josie) – a #5 hit for The Grass Roots in 1968. Karla has updated the song from it's psych pop roots but it still works …this is big new wave pop for the mainstream.
- Big Idea – (D Lawson) – Danny Lawson is Karla's song writing partner. The sound is big and it's a fair approximation of what the mainstream thought the new wave was about. That doesnt mean it's bad
- Almost Saturday Night – (J.C. Fogerty) – from John Fogerty's self title album of 1978 (the song was released as a single and went to #78 in the US). WTF? Why would Karla record this.? I don't care I love this song and Karla sings the hell out of it. There is no danger in Karla's Saturday night as there was in Fogarty's but you know this girl is going to party regardless. Excellent.
- Boy Talk – (D Lawson) – Pop rock with a hint of the new wave.
- Just One Smile – (R Newman) – Randy Newman wrote this song, and Gene Pitney recorded it in 1966 (#8). It was recorded later by Dusty Springfield, Scott Walker, Blood, Sweat & Tears and others. Not too bad …
- I'm Just Using You – (M Briley) – Englishman, Martin Briley played with Mandrake and Greenslade in the 60s and 70s before moving to New York and doing session work (and obviously writing)
- Work – (D Lawson, Karla DeVito, P Jacobs) – an inordinate number of new wave songs were about "work" or rather the disenchantment with it.
- Bloody Bess – (Karla DeVito) – a song about a female pirate which is clearly, lyrically and musically, trying to be a Jime Steinman song. This is ridiculous…but it almost works.
- Just Like You – (Karla DeVito) – the obligatory chick ballad. Not too bad.
This is not to bad …. I don't really have enough rock chicks in my collection or even pop rock chicks …..hmmm, decisions, decisions.
Nothing no where
Almost Saturday Night
Most of the songs can be found done live for her MTV Rockin New Years 1982 concert:
with Robby Benson
- Another album, to be called "Karla DeVito – Incognito" for which Karla had recorded several new demo songs, was shelved, and those still unreleased recordings were thought to be lost for twenty years (wikipedia). Karla's second (and last) album, "Wake 'Em Up in Tokyo" included songs written by Robby and Karla was released by A&M in 1986.
- She has been married (and has kids to) actor Robby Benson since 1982. In 1981 Benson accepted an offer to take over the romantic lead in the Broadway hit "The Pirates of Penzance" opposite Karla DeVito and the rest is ….err history.
- Karla has written music with Benson (for her second album) and also co-starred with him the 1990 film "Modern Love".
- She subsequently (1989) formed a band called "Desolation Angels". The Desolation Angels were : Karla DeVito, Suzzy, Margaret and Terre Roche (The Roches), Deborah Berg and Kit Hain (The Blister Sisters) and Jane Kelly Williams.