Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Herb Alpert - Beyond (1980)

Note: this release was originally purchased as an LP, later replaced by a CD.

Herb Alpert recently regained control of his catalog (he had licensed it to Shout! Factory) and on September 9, 2016, he released all of 'em in one fell swoop on his new vanity label, Herb Alpert Presents. The new releases have all been remastered (this one sounds great) and Alpert has released several CDs that Shout! Factory chose not to reissue for whatever reason (like this 1980 release, for example). In any case, I'm glad to have this one for reasons of nostalgia.

Alpert had left behind the cocktail party music of the Tijuana Brass for instrumental disco with his 1979 hit album Rise.  Well, if it ain't broke, don't fix it (this adage may be followed more closely in the record industry than elsewhere). On this follow-up to Rise, the production crew is the same and so is the format: mid-tempo instrumentals with a disco feel.  In fact, except for the final track, the whole album has a mid-'70s disco feel.  Unfortunately, while the production hasn't changed, the songwriting isn't as good as Rise.  And, to be honest, I don't think Alpert is that great of a trumpet player.  His tone is average at best and he really doesn't have great solo chops.  But those setbacks have never seemed to hamper crossover success (see Kenny G., for example).  The use of hand claps is prominent throughout the album.  So much so, this credit is given:

Alpert, who contributed some tracks to Rise, didn't write any of the pieces on this disc.  However, he was the "A" in A&M Records (Jerry Moss was the "M"), so I'm sure he didn't have any problem finding material.  

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #28
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #6
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #26
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #32

  • Kamali: Not surprisingly, the lead track is almost the same tempo and feel as Rise, so it's almost too easy to label this formulaic and derivative (but I did it anyway).  You can't chase a hit, but they sure give it the college try here. The great Ernie Watts shows up to help out on the bridge and is almost ignored - why didn't he get a solo turn?
  • The Continental: A complete throwaway.  If the introduction doesn't turn you off, the repetitive melody will.
  • Reach for the Stars:  After an unaccompanied trumpet intro, this falls into the familiar disco lope with big hand claps on beat 4 of each measure.
  • Interlude (For Erica): Now things are looking up. A very beautiful ballad with songwriter Andy Armer on piano.  Like much of Armer's work, it is very repetitive, but the repetition works here.
  • Red Hot: Alpert and the gang keep the momentum going here with an upbeat party tune that is a welcome departure from the disco 16th-notes-on-the-high-hat feel.
  • Beyond: Now the album starts to stretch out and sound a little different.  While not leaving the disco realm entirely, this piece sounds more like something Giorgio Moroder would come up with. Lots of synth sequencing.  All that's missing is the synth drums.
  • That's the Way of the World:  A fairly straight ahead instrumental cover of the Earth, Wind & Fire tune.  A good choice for a cover.
  • Keep It Goin': A pseudo-reggae feel backs up a boring melody.  The only glitch in an otherwise enjoyable side.
  • The Factory:  The relentless percussion and bass lines churn out a memorable musical representation of a factory and set the backdrop for long, repetitive trumpet lines from Alpert and guitar work from Peter Frampton.  Yes, THAT Peter Frampton.  I know it all sounds silly but somehow it works. 
Let's rank 'em from best to worst:
  1. The Factory
  2. Beyond
  3. Interlude (For Erica)
  4. That's the Way of the World
  5. Red Hot
  6. Kamali
  7. Keep It Goin'
  8. Reach for the Stars
  9. The Continental
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: My family moved from West Texas to the Gulf Coast in 1978, but we would go back occasionally to visit friends. One visit must have happened around Christmas 1980 because that's when I remember buying this album at a discount store in Odessa. It was a frustrating experience having a brand new album with no way to listen to it until the vacation was over a few days later.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Classics, Volume 1 (1987)
Rise (1979)
What Now My Love (1966)

Note: most of this post appeared previously over on the My Favorite Decade blog. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

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