Robert Palmer was a post-war child born in Batley, though his parents had been stationed in Malta. Robert grew up listening to American Forces Radio who played a rich diet of blues and rock’n’roll in the 1950s and he was soon in bands of his own like The Mandrakes, a school based outfit in Scarborough. He got a break replacing the singer Jess Roden in the Alan Bown Set in 1969 before coming into his own as a dual vocalist with Elkie Brooks in the group Vinegar Joe – they’d toyed with the name Dada. Acclaimed as they were Vinegar Joe didn’t break out of the reasonably lucrative college circuit but they did have an Island Records deal and released three albums.
On disbanding Palmer signed a solo deal and soon released the excellent debut Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley (1974) with considerable assistance from New Orleans legends The Meters and Allen Toussaint and kindred spirits Little Feat. Both the album and the single title song were hits in the USA and British reviewers were ecstatic to hear him working with Lowell George, the classic-era Meters and Blue Note soul funk aces like Richard Tee and the guitar wizard Cornell Dupree. The combination of New Orleans studio sessions and stints in Island’s Compass Point, Bahamas set-up, and New York facilities gave this album a strong and polished sound. Despite the ensemble Palmer is never overawed here and tackles the Feat classic “Sailing Shoes” and Toussaint’s eerie “From A Whisper to a Scream” with real flair.
The follow-up, Pressure Drop, improved on that template and is in fact a slow burning classic. Now working with all off Little Feat, the Muscle Shoals Horns, Gene Page’s strings and James Jamerson’s sensual bass, Palmer turns in more terrific performances. We were amazed to rediscover just how great the Toots & the Maytals title track still sounds and Toussaint’s “River Boat” – a hard song to get inside – is also sweet and dandy. The Lowell George cover, “Trouble”, may be the best of the lot but this is another exceptional disc and finds Palmer in sparkling mood at the microphone and with his pen since “Give Me an Inch” and “Which of Us is the Fool” are his own work and stand tall today.
Ever willing to manipulate roots music and fuse it to modern urban disco Palmer’s third album, Some People Can Do What They Like, adds elements of soul, Caribbean percussion from Taj Mahals’ steel drums and pans expert Robert Greenidge and a side order of LA super session slickness thanks to the arrival of drummer Jeff Porcaro, Carol Kaye on guitar and Chuck Rainey on bass – these in addition to the Feat clan, minus George this time although his lovely “Spanish Moon” is a featured gem. Look out also for Palmer’s slinky take on Don Covay’s “Have Mercy”, James Gadson’s funked up “What Can You Bring Me” and the album’s most famous song – “Man Smart (Woman Smarter)”. Now gaining a reputation as a smooth talking dude – like a proto Pharrell Williams – Palmer is seen playing a game of strip-poker on the cover with a Playboy Playmate (the previous album’s cover model had evidently lost that game).
Double Fun (1978) is regarded as his breakthrough. Self-producing with Tom Moulton - “father of the disco mix” and originator of the remix, the breakdown section and the then rare 12-inch vinyl format – Palmer hits pay dirt with his version of Andy Fraser from Free’s composition “Every Kinda People” – one of the greatest unknown or overlooked songs of the era.
A truly eclectic masterpiece, names that crop up in the credits include Lee “Scratch” Perry, Brenda Russell, the Brecker Brothers horns, the Feat, and Ray Davies, whose classic “You Really Got Me” is stripped to the bone.
If that was Palmer’s coming of age disc then Secrets (1979) established him as a chart name at last. Recording opposite his home in New Providence, Bahamas, Robert crashed the charts with his take on Moon Martin’s “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” and a persuasive reading of Todd Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends”. Proving to be a man of immaculate taste Robert also tackles the Dennis Linde/Alan Rush R&B stomper “Under Suspicion” – previously a country hit for the great Delbert McClinton – and slips in Fraser’s “Mean Old World” for very good measure.
If all these discs to date are totally in the groove what follows is extraordinary. Clues (1980) doesn’t so much rip up the formbook as rewrite it for an artist working in his sphere. If this is blue-eyed soul then no one told the artist because not only does he team up with synth kid Gary Numan and cover his “I Dream of Wires” he revamps some Beatley Merseybeat via “Not a Second Time” and stalks the dance charts with his utterly essential track “Johnny and Mary” – an FM staple to this moment.
It’s worth pointing out here that Palmer was adept at upping his game and entering new phases. He’d already been through the hippy era and then invented a clean-cut take on roots. Now he starts to pioneer a chilled but soulful and modern brand of music that he’s never quite been given credit for.
Stopping off at the Maybe It’s Live album from 1982 – this includes his British hit “Some Guys Have All The Luck” (long before Rod Stewart tackles it) he clears the decks completely for the dance heavy Pride (1983), which includes his own masterpiece “Deadline”, a whiff of Kool & The Gang and plenty of other swivel-hipped moments propelled by his favoured drummer Dony Wynn.
With European success under his belt Robert will become a worldwide star on Riptide (1985). Produced by Chic’s Bernard Edwards, who also plays bass, this is where most people suddenly jump on his bandwagon thanks to the massive MTV hit “Addicted to Love” ensuring American Double Platinum status as the album scorches the year out. That hit aside this disc is well worth hearing in Reissue format where promos and unreleased material bolster fine songs like “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” and a return to roots via Earl King’s “Trick Bag” (originally covered by The Meters).
Something of the superstar by now Heavy Nova (1988) will keep Palmer on heavy rotation once the public get all over “Simply Irresistible” and torchy fare like “It Could Happen to You”. In-demand and in control Palmer calls up assists from The Band’s Garth Hudson, the Weather Report percussionist Dom Un Romao and Chuck Findley’s trumpet. It all sounds super sophisticated and authentic.
Don’t Explain is another mash-up that predicts future trends as Palmer combines covers of Divinyls, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” (with UB40), Mose Allison and the English bandleader Ray Noble. If this disc has passed you by then we urge its rediscovery. The same goes for Honey (1994) where Devo’s “Girl U Know” gets his full suave attention just as the CD single hit “Know by Now” leads him towards proper crossover success.
He will continue to release albums of the highest quality – Drive is a beauty – until his untimely death and will mine a variety of styles that continue to pique critical acclaim.
As always with artists of this caliber we have superb collections on offer. Addictions Volume I and Volume 11 and Very Best of Robert Palmer cover all the bases and fully deserve their Platinum status as hits packages. Both the Volumes contain in-depth interviews and liner notes. Similarly the 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Robert Palmer collates all the hardcore hits. At His Very Best and Best of Both Worlds: The Robert Palmer Anthology (1974-2001) are well worth considering.
So there we have the man: a bon vivant, a raconteur, a great interpreter and a damn fine singer and songwriter, Robert Palmer’s departure has left a large hole. At least his recordings are cause for celebration and rediscovery. Once you catch his luscious drift the chances are you’ll become addicted.
After recording a series of albums that established him as a pop-minded interpreter of soul styles, Robert Palmer surprised fans in 1980 with the stylistic about-face of Clues. On this album, he brought his sound into the new wave era by playing up the rock edge to his music, stripping the high-production gloss from his sound, and incorporating synthesizers into the arrangements. The end result became a big hit in the U.K. and paved the way for later international successes like Riptide and Heavy Nova. Clues also produced two notable singles in "Looking for Clues," a clever slice of new wave pop that surprises the listener with an unexpected xylophone solo, and "Johnny and Mary," a moody synth-driven ballad with perceptive lyrics about a doomed romantic relationship. There is also an impressive cover of Gary Numan's "I Dream of Wires" that retains the chilly electronic grandeur of the original while successfully working in an earthier rhythm arrangement that makes the song dance-friendly. Elsewhere, Palmer shows he hasn't abandoned his penchant for soul and ethnic music: "Woke Up Laughing" filters an African-style, chant-like vocal melody through a minimalist electronic production style, and "Found You Now" effectively combines a reggae groove with a deadpan sense of cool that is very "new wave." The end result is a bit short (it clocks in at barely over a half hour), but it remains one of Robert Palmer's strongest and most consistent albums. In short, Clues is a must for Robert Palmer fans and worth a spin for anyone into new wave.
Words: Donald A. Guarisco
Before becoming a slick, sharp-dressed pop star in the 1980s, Robert Palmer was a soul singer deeply rooted in R&B and funk. Those influences are on full display on his debut album Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley. With a backing band including members of Little Feat and the Meters, the music has a laid-back groove whether Palmer's covering New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint (the title track) or singing originals ("Hey Julia," " Get Outside"). While the music is tight and solid, it is Robert Palmer's voice that is revelatory -- he sounds supremely confident among these talented musicians, and they seem to feed off his vocal intensity. Fans of the Meters or people who want to discover the funky side of Robert Palmer should check this one out.
Words: Vik Iyengar
Coming on the heels of the massive success of the Power Station, Riptide packages Robert Palmer's voice and suave personality into a commercial series of mostly rocking songs that seem custom-tailored to be chart hits. The Power Station connection threatens to overpower Palmer's usually more eclectic musical interest, but with that band's producer/member Bernard Edwards handling production duties and members Andy Taylor and Tony Thompson contributing as well, stylistic similarities were inevitable. "Flesh Wound," though, sounds like a retread of "Some Like It Hot," with its squelching staccato guitars and tribal drums mimicking the hit single. "Hyperactive" adds a bit of a pop veneer to the formula, with its bright keyboards dating the song to the Miami Vice era; that's not to say it doesn't hold nostalgic charm. "Addicted to Love" shares some of the same punch, somewhat slowing down the Power Station's bombast into slinkier, blues territory, while maintaining a heavy rock crunch. The song skyrocketed to the top of the U.S. charts and sold more than a million copies as a single worldwide. A music video for the song, featuring sexy models gyrating blankly, no doubt helped sales and launched a new phase of Palmer's career, where music videos would nearly overshadow his songwriting. Equally catchy and almost as successful is the brilliant take on the Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis song "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On." It is perhaps Riptide's most daring track, with its fractured jittery notes, funky basslines, and pounding drums matching Palmer's bothered, sweaty vocals to create a yearning song that drips with passion. Also not to be missed is Earl King's "Trick Bag," which Palmer translates into a fun Clues-style minimalist modern blues song. Even if Riptide uses the Power Station as a blueprint, its only true faults reside in the cheesy album-opening and album-closing refrains of "Riptide," which seemingly satisfy Palmer's tropical proclivities. They might be relaxing and humorous as elevator music, but they are sharply at odds with the tone of the album and Palmer's usually impeccable musical taste. Cheesy opening and ending aside, Riptide has some truly addictive moments and it set him firmly on course, for better or worse, for the even harder-rocking Heavy Nova.
Secrets was recorded entirely in New Providence, Bahamas, and an island influence is apparent on a number of its songs. But for the most part, the album features some of Robert Palmer's funkier stabs at R&B and soul ballads. The addictive "What's It Take" gives the clearest sense of a tropical recording setting, and its juju mix of a pop beat and Caribbean rhythms brings a smile with each new listen; Palmer was apt to call it the most fun song he'd penned. The song's theme of marital/relationship troubles crops up in almost every track on Secrets, but such repetition never becomes grating thanks to Palmer's eclectic musical heart. One can hardly imagine the aforementioned tropical "What's It Take" sitting easily with an earnest cover of Todd Rundgren's "Can We Still Be Friends?" and a passionate, scuzzy take on "Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)," but of course Palmer manages to mix genres and tempos with his trademark flair. These three songs are among the highlights of the album, but Palmer treads similar ground through the remaining songs, and expert sequencing along with Palmer's subtle and clean production make for a cohesive whole. "Mean Old World" is a beautiful sleeper of a song, where Palmer nearly defines the blue-eyed soul genre. The song's uplifting tones and Palmer's gentle voice together make for a track reminiscent of Nina Simone's version of "O-o-h Child." "Jealous" sees Palmer rocking out with endearingly edgy punk-inspired guitars. Palmer is as suave singing about paranoia and jealousy as he is about love, which makes the album a breezy delight from start to finish. Secrets might not be essential like its successor, Clues, but its accessible nature, fine execution, and honesty mark it as another fine moment in Robert Palmer's recording career.
Before he moved to Nassau and became a carefree, laid-back expat who craved sunshine, Robert Palmer lived in New York City, hired Little Feat for a backup band, and released the all over the place yet still solid Pressure Drop. Named after the massive reggae hit from Toots & the Maytals and the excellent cover version Palmer performs here, Pressure Drop is sometimes wrongly sold as the singer's first island-styled album. Past the title cut, Feat and the New Orleans funk of the Meters are much bigger influences, along with smooth, dated disco ballads smothered in strings. The latter numbers are what make the album too blue-eyed and polished for fans of Palmer's more gutsy moments, but the soft songs are well written and convincing, especially the opening "Give Me an Inch." Better still is the loose and feel-good funk that has long made this effort a fan favorite, with Palmer delivering full-bodied vocals over bright horns and popping basslines. Since compilations and Palmer's own live set lists increasingly ignored the album over time, Pressure Drop has grown into the great overlooked album in the man's discography, and it's much more rewarding than the unfamiliar track list displays.
Words: David Jeffries
Robert Palmer's third album is a blue-eyed soul disc that sits comfortably alongside Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley and Pressure Drop. This time, Palmer drops the orchestrations that tarted up portions of Pressure Drop in favor of a stripped-down yet stylish sound that shows off his ability to create a romantic, soulful mood. Highlights include "One Last Look," a lush breakup ballad that features a catchy, harmony-drenched chorus, and "Keep in Touch," a romantic tune that highlights Palmer's vocal style at its seductive height over a jazzy yet mellow melody built on a complex background vocal arrangement. Another standout track is "Man Smart, Woman Smarter," a tongue-in-cheek look at the battle between the sexes that deftly blends pop melodicism with reggae rhythms. The downside of Some People Can Do What They Like is that it often favors mood over hooks and this leads to music that is listenable yet falls short of being truly compelling: funky mood pieces like "What Can You Bring Me" and "Hard Head" successfully evoke a sultry mood but never take that mood in an interesting melodic direction. Another problem track is "Off the Bone," an effects-drenched instrumental snippet that serves no purpose other than to fill up two minutes of the album's running time. Despite these occasional lapses, Some People Can Do What They Like remains a solid and likable outing with enough memorable moments to please anyone who enjoys blue-eyed soul at its most silky and elegant.
Words: Donald A. Guarisco
Robert Palmer's grin on the cover of Double Fun is reflected throughout this light, feel-good, and funky album, recorded while he was living the life of an Island-loving expatriate with style and money to burn. With its laid-back sway, slap-and-pop bassline, steel drum melody, and lyrics that are really saying something, the big hit "Every Kinda People" is quintessential pre-Power Station Palmer, even if -- and considering his success with covers, maybe especially because -- he didn't write it. The easy and uplifting "Best of Both Worlds" is a great example of how slick can be an entirely positive thing and the closing rocker, "You're Gonna Get What's Coming," predicts his breakthrough American hit, "Bad Case of Loving You," with same combination of lust and guitar grit, just at a slower tempo. "Love Can Run Faster" -- which is "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game" for the sandals set -- and "Come Over" ("You tease my monkey/You make my knees feel funky") also deserve special mention. If it wasn't for "Where Can It Go?" (pure, unashamed syrup) and the slinky cover "You Really Got Me" (clever for the first minute, trying afterward), this would rank among the singer's best. Even with its faults, fans of Palmer's more Caribbean-flavored work will find plenty to love here.
Words: David Jeffries
This is on my list of those 10 Desert Island Discs. ''What?'' you say. A Robert Palmer album that has no Addicted To Love on it? ''Yes'' I would answer. Pride goes with me to that Desert Island. I played this album so many times when I bought it, it should have come with a disclaimer. Repeated Plays Will Cause Damage To Product. I must have heard ''You Are In My System'' first, if my memory recalls things that well. And from that song I purchased this album, and it has become one of my favourite albums of all time, and one of the most important to me. It was my introduction to Robert Palmer, his voice, and his skills as a composer/producer, that made me a lifelong fan, and one that was particularly sad when Palmer left this mortal coil. He left too soon, and didn't get enough accolades in his lifetime. A severely underrated singer/writer, even though Addicted To Love/Riptide and Powerstation were massive successes. His entire catalogue is worth purchasing, often times each album is completely different than the last, and he always made wise choices when it came to cover material. And musicians. With 1980's 'Clues' Palmer went down a synthesiser, new wave path that rendered some truly great material, particularly ''Looking For Clues'' and ''Johnny and Mary'', and also teamed him with Gary Numan. But with 1983's Pride, Palmer did an amazing thing. He made an almost totally electronic/synth laden album sound warm and inviting. It's not that he was doing something completely different than The System were writing when they came up with You Are In My System. But his version of their song is a completely different piece of music. Though retaining the main hook of the song that made it great, he adds an amazing amount of personal touches that made Palmer, the producer/arranger/composer, stand out. At least to me it did. I own both versions of this song, by The System and by Robert Palmer. And Palmer took that song and made it his own, and somehow made it 50x better than the original. If that was the single track making it worth purchase, I'd stop there. But it's not. This album is truly incredible, and full of great songs, one after the other. The album flows from one song to the next, and one of my favourite moments is ''Want You More'' into ''Dance For Me''. The album has some serious funk on it, touches of Reggae, Calypso, Rock, Arabic and certainly some strangeness. There are touches of the bizarre here on this album ,particularly in the harmony vocal departments. ''Say You Will'' being one of those. ''Say You Will'' has the title repeatedly sung like it's ... well, hard to describe. It's almost threatening the way it's hammered across. But then you have Palmer's beautiful falsetto singing 'Please surrender' over this juggernaut chant, and then the lead vocal snakes in. It's just an incredible song. The music jumps about, it's literally ''jerky''. The album is full of moments like this. Completely different types of music juxtaposed against eachother to turn into some hybrid beast of an album. Palmer also does a stellar cover of Kool & The Gang's ''You Can Have It (Take My Heart)'', which is just as good as the original. It doesn't vary much from what the original sounded like, but it was such a catchy song to begin with, I imagine Palmer saw no need to mess with its structure. But what he does with the vocal is fantastic. It's once again where Palmer turns the song into his own that makes Pride truly an album worth having. ''Dance For Me'' probably has my favourite Palmer vocal from Pride. Truly a person gifted in voice, Palmer could make a melody line move. He knew when to hold back, and when to let go, and ''Dance For Me'' has many a moment illustrating his sensibilities as a soul vocalist. He's one of the few Caucasian singers I can think of that actually understood Soul. A lot sing it, but few get it. And Palmer got it. And I never felt like he was faking it either. He seemed to have a massive appreciation for R & B, Soul and African American artists, and Pride is an album full of this influence. If you've ever heard his version of Andy Fraser's ''Every Kinda People'' , then you'd know that Palmer had a great degree of Soul, even if it was well-tailored. But with Pride, out came this elastic, synthsoul, just at the experimental edge of Palmer that makes this album a work of pure beauty. It's an amazing album. I've played it for 22 years, and it has never lost its veneer. It's actually gotten better with time. Try and find Robert Palmer's Pride. It is one of those albums I will never be without. I'd like it to turn into that album for you as well.
Words: S. St Thomas
This CD represents the culmination of his craft, on which Robert Palmer put it all together. Every type of music he'd ever experimented with is present here. Indeed, it's a virtual "world tour" of rhythm. Utterly fantastic in its breadth and scope, the British Palmer wove it all together seamlessly in a way that eluded other worldbeat-dabbling rockers of the day. The only other record I can think of that put forth such a variety of beats and song styles is David Bowie's "Black Tie White Noise", but even that great effort doesn't cohere as perfectly as "Heavy Nova". This is a textbook example of how to do it right, and should be studied by music students in composition classes. Lyrically, however, Palmer is more limited than Bowie. Though his words are clever, a close look at this album (and his back catalogue) reveals that he only really wrote about one subject - sex, and the related topics of love and relationships. In this regard he could be considered to be the white Barry White. It must be said though that he's very good at being a "love man", perhaps unequalled - so don't let this put you off. If you do, you'll miss out on a lot of great music! Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads once opined that Robert Palmer was the hardest working, most innovative musician she'd ever met. Rod Stewart was such a big fan that he'd call up radio stations to request his songs. Though he had the respect of his peers, Palmer today isn't remembered as much as he should be by record buyers (or downloaders - hi kids!). I think there's a good reason for that. I always felt Palmer would've had a much longer and more successful career if he hadn't worn a suit for so many years. A short phase of that might've been OK, but he looked too straight for too long. Too "legit" for rock 'n' roll. This was hammered home to me when I went to see the "Heavy Nova" tour and the one prop that hung over the stage was a large pink neon-lit outline of a martini glass, complete with a pink outlined olive with a toothpick going through it! It was so un-cool. At the time I worked at a large company with many secretaries, and that night I saw all of them had dragged their boyfriends to the show. No doubt they were expecting a lively concert of dance music - after all, he'd had a couple of giant hits with "Addicted To Love" and "I Didn't Mean To Turn You On". What they got was a man in a suit crooning too many ballads and Caribbean-flavored numbers. There they sat with their big 1980's hair, staring uncomprehendingly and applauding tepidly - apparently bored stiff. By the time he encored with a couple of upbeat dance numbers, the damage had already been done. The word at work the next day was that the concert was terrible. In all my years of concert-going, I've never seen an artist misjudge his audience to this extent. We were all still pretty young, and felt like we were watching Bing Crosby on a set designed for Dean Martin (hi grandpop!). Palmer had committed the cardinal sin of making us feel old and un-hip, and paid a heavy price for this transgression. Disagree with me if you must, but I believe that the bad word-of-mouth about this tour is what torpedoed his career. Fans were further alienated by his foray into "big band" music on his next two records. When he finally returned to his old style, no one cared anymore. He never again had a hit, and all album releases following Nova failed to sell or generate any attention. Regardless of this, "Heavy Nova" stands as a testament to a true genius of songwriting captured at the peak of his career, with unparalleled arranging and interpretive skills. His voice is thrilling - nuanced, yet always exuberant. Robert Palmer sang with infectious joy and truly loved all kinds of music. Soul, r&b, calypso, rock, new wave - nothing was beyond his reach or capability. Not only could he do it all - he could do it well. This comes through on all of his wonderful albums. There's none I wouldn't recommend buying, but none contain as much variety as this one. It really is a masterpiece. Check it out, and pass the word to your friends. Palmer deserves to be remembered.
Words: Mike B.
Robert Palmer had a pretty diversified career behind him at the beginning of his third decade as a recording artist. His interest in the beginning of his career was in jazz,rock and R&B styled bands such as Dada and Vinegar Joe and later graduated to his 70's R&B/funk works to the beginning of his recording at the Compass Point studios later in the decade,which continued into the 80's Than after 1985 he released the album Riptide,followed by Heavy Nova in 1988. These albums,especially the last ones were both as diverse as his earlier works but placed heavier emphasis on the hit singles,which were either guitar heavy rock songs or contemporary dance/funk interpretations. There was a formula developing. And Robert Palmer was never an artist given to being formulaic. If you read the liner notes to either of Palmer's greatest hits packages he talks of each song. And interviews of the period also reveal Palmer to be someone who actually takes great measure and dignity in presenting his art. He likes to have fun with his music,for sure. But especially when it comes to his soul/funk side,he treats them with great dignity and appreciation. And that's key to understanding this particular album. When you hear the first five numbers,one is almost instantly convinced their hearing a pretty straight follow up to Heavy Nova. And if the hard rocking "Your Mother Should Have Told You",the oddball monster ballad redoing of Otis Redding's "Dreams To Remember" and the rather cute "You're Amazing" (actually the stronger of the rockier tunes here) don't do it for you,it is all too tempting to switch it off. But these five songs have about as much to do with the other songs here as a person would have to do with say...an amoeba. "Mess Around" finds Palmer taking on a stripped down late 80's style Minneapolis type funk. A good part of the cuts after this are produced by Teo Macero and again the results are very compelling. "Happiness" takes a very contemporary variant on Marvin Gaye styled 70's Motown which is revisited later in the album with a medley of "Mercy Mercy Me/I Want You",which of course Palmer just works to death. On the acappella "History" and "Housework" Palmer is dealing with South African style sounds,chants and vocal lines. He brings in UB40 for a modern funk/reggae take on Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" with some Zydeco references mixed in. The last nine tracks on the album from the title track,the bossa nova of "Aeroplane","People Will Say We're In Love","Not A Word","You're So Desirable" and "You're My Thrill" find Palmer and Macero working around luch,orchestral jazz type settings for a series of romantic midtempo balldads. The best of these (and of the album actually) is the almost career defining "Top 40",a swinging big band type number where Palmer wittily illustrated the different ways he can stay afloat in the business part of the pop music world. Although I don't know if anyone paid this album the sort of attention it deserved,Robert Palmer was actually presenting himself here as being on the cutting age of at least three different musical subgenres that would define the 90's musical decade all the way up to the present day. The latter Teo Macero produced numbers anticipated the the whole pop standard/jazz type sound that would become something of the rage a decade or so later. Especially on places such as public radio. Also the big band influence greatly anticipates the swing revival that would come to full flower with the Brian Setzer Orchestra,Sugar Poppin' Daddies,etc. So while this could by and large be described as a transitional album for Robert Palmer,it also represents a transitional point in pop music too that would not go fully realized for a rather long time as it turned out. A year or so after this album came out,there wasn't much someone like Robert Palmer could do but remain creatively eclectic. Unless one had or developed a sound that imitated either the shrill,abrasive tone of alternative rock or any number of adult contemporary or hip-hop based R&B style you just weren't going to generate radio hits or album sales. Yet another "musical freeze out",somewhat similar to that which occured following the disco era,was about to begin. And this time it was just about anything musically indicative of 1980's pop sounds that were the key target. So it was a whole culture,not just a music. So Robert Palmer definitely had the right idea to make this the type of record it was. Because it allowed him to be himself and not really lose anything either.
Words: Andre S. Grindle