I've nattered on about Cavaliere solo and with his time in the Young Rascals on other posts so check them out for biographical detail and bits and pieces of errr, whatever.
This, here, naturally enough, given the self title, is Cavaliere's first solo album after The Young Rascals (or the Rascals as they were then known) folded.
In some ways it is a calculated affair. Cavaliere doesn't stray far from the blue eyed rock and soul (and pop rock Latin, and lite jazz influences) that made him a great vocalist with The Rascals. Likewise, on board is Todd Rundgren, 26 year old wizz kid producer to co-produce with Cavaliere, and surrounding them, amongst others, are Todd Rundgren himself on guitar and well known sessionists Elliot Randall and John Hall also on guitar, Gualberto Garcia Perez on flamenco guitar, Hank Devito on pedal steel guitar, Jack Scarangella and Kevin Ellman on drums and Cissy Houston on backing vocals.
But, calculated or not, this may not be a bad thing. Cavaliere is playing to his strengths. All the songs are written by him with Carman Moore who was the "musical consultant" (my italics) and sting arranger. Moore was (is) a classically trained Afro-American composer who clearly has an influence on the sound on this album. There are a lot of things going on, all sorts of instruments, horns, strings, synths and non-standard percussion.
It is of its time though and its time isn't bad but there is a touch of dull soft rock creeping in, and a slickness and pop sheen which is at odds with some of the "street" sentiments in the music (Rundgren's influence I suspect).
It all looked good on paper, and musically, The Rascals had been heading this way, but in hindsight Cavaliere would have been better returning to his rock and soul roots, stripping down and belting out. A cult was developing for rock and rollers which Cavaliere could easily have slipped into. I'm not sure if it would have helped his fortunes but it would have made his recorded works if he had recorded in that style more popular today (perhaps).
But, like The Rascals declining fortunes this album did nothing. Cavaliere was still a major player but marginalised by new trends that had come or by the lack of a hit.
Tracks (best in italics)
- A High Price to Pay – this is light and bouncy and the influence of Moore ic slear with wood winds and what not making this stand out a little moore (sic) than it would otherwise
- I Am a Gambler – a would be tough song which does quite work a "street" song but is quite pleasant as a pop song.
- I've Got a Solution – Faux country corn, like a theme song to a B action film written by Jim Croce that is quite a lot of fun in a dumb way.
- Everlasting Love – not the Robert Knight / U2 song.
- Summer in El Barrio – A Latin flavour with a hint of the street. Springsteen was tapping into this a lot better with a direct approach whereas this has leaning to Santana. Still, it's very good.
- Long Times Gone – a semi-dramatic piece with quasi rock Broadway overtones.
- Future Train – A good sentiment and a touch of the O'Jays at their softest. It is very slick and the synth sounds very weird in these surrounds, kind of Fischer Price..
- Mountain Man – a funky tune which depite the tile doesnt have any country overtones.
- Funky Friday – quite errr, funky. And Cavaliere manages to sound quite black like some sort of Stevie Wonder.
- It's Been a Long Time – a Latin influenced pop and soul tune which is a stand out. It's fluff but there is a lot going on which makes it enjoyable.
- I am Free – a psychedelic freakout which has Rundgren written all over it. It doesn't fit in and it is totally over the top and at six plus minutes perhaps a little too long but at least it's not boring. In fact it grows on you.
Very patchy but … I'm keeping it.
Summer in El Barrio
It's Been a Long Long Time
I am Free
- Moore also worked on Cavaliere's next album, "Destiny" (1974).
- Fabulous Rhinestones drummer Jack Scarangella who plays session here would join Cavalierie (and future Ace Frehley Kiss replacement) Vinnie Vincent's (aka Vinnie Cusano) in the band Treasure which release one self titled album in 1977.