Following the emotional prog from Marillion, it's time to move across the Atlantic back to the USA to find some yacht rock with Robbie Dupree's eponymous debut album from way back in 1980.
Robbie Dupree first came to my attention thanks to a brilliant BBC documentary by Katie Puckrick on the much maligned genre of yacht rock last summer. It brought with it some artists I'd listened to previously such as the brilliant Doobie Brothers and Toto, and some I hadn't ever heard of, such as the aforementioned Dupree and the superb Ned Doheny. It's a great watch if you can find them online, and if you're wanting to find out more about this little-appreciated genre, there's no finer place to start than this.
Opener Steal Away carries what yacht enthusiasts call The Doobie Bounce - the jolly, foot-tapping melody that songs such as What A Fool Believes contain. A great rule of thumb is that any proper yacht rock song will contain the The Doobie Bounce, and it's certainly fair to say that Steal Away has it in spades. It's a wonderfully soulful tune with some lovely rolling piano and charming guitar work, and Dupree's super suave vocal certainly makes this a great listen. The following I'm No Stranger continues in the same vein, with some nice sax work and a smooth vocal making this track a real standout. Interestingly, I'm No Stranger was Steal Away's B-Side, meaning that the two tracks flow incredibly well and what's more, they're a brilliant pair. I'm No Stranger just pips its more commercial counterpart at the post for me though, not least thanks to its catchy interludes.
Thin Line chooses to slow things down a bit, but Dupree's third offering certainly doesn't lose anything by doing so. In fact, it just makes the overall groove of this track last a little bit longer. There's much more of a pronounced bassline here than on the two previous tracks, as well as a great guitar solo which puts this track firmly into the eighties camp. As much as it is a yacht tune, there's some elements of adult-oriented rock creeping in that make this a thoroughly enjoyable listen. It's A Feeling takes the relaxed sentiment and runs with it, bringing a track that's ultra-smooth and an irresistible listen. As with the previous offerings, the backing is pretty minimalistic, almost unplugged with just the odd keyboard jangle and bass, as well a great harmonica riff that carries this track to new, chillaxed heights.
Hot Rod Hearts returns to the proper adult-oriented rock first heard on opener Steal Away which really plays to Dupree's strengths. It's no surprise therefore that was the other pretty popular tune from this record, but that doesn't mean it isn't one of the best. There's a brilliant guitar riff present, as well as some nice little piano licks, but nothing beats Dupree's fantastic vocal. It brilliantly demonstrates his status as one of the most underrated artists of not just the eighties but also the last several decades of music. Nobody Else jazzes things up a bit thanks to the inclusion of a saxophone as well as some disco-inspired guitar work that sounds like it could easily be on a Nile Rodgers produced album. It's got this great boogie atmosphere that harks back a couple of years to the late seventies - as much as Nobody Else isn't designed as a floor filler, it's still a track that gets you up and moving. To be honest, it draws a lot of parallels to Phil Collins' early solo efforts, especially with the inclusion of a horn section.
Following on from that, We Both Tried marks the album's most emotional point, thanks to this track being a heart-wrenching ballad. This particular song wouldn't have sounded out of place on any Chicago album to be honest, and certainly plays to the strengths of the yacht rock genre. Aa such, it sounds a lot more grown-up than most typical loved-up ballads, in a similar vein to The Doobie Brothers' What A Fool Believes almost. Love Is A Mystery continues on with the ballad format, although with something a bit more upbeat-sounding. It features, once again, the defining feature of any great yacht rock track, The Doobie Bounce, especially thanks to that bouncing piano and joyfully simple drum pattern. It's one of Dupree's debut's deeper cuts, making it one of the most underrated tracks here, but definitely one of the standouts.
The record's final track, Lonely Runner acts as a great roundoff of what is an incredible album. It's got all the now expected features of Robbie Dupree that make it a brilliant song - that sumptuous vocal, the rolling piano, the little inflections of acoustic guitar and the steady yet rugged drums. As an added bonus, it's got this brilliant instrumental break that features a hypnotic organ sound and some great synth work too. As album closers go, there's not many better for a debut album than this one.
The kick-back-and-relax attitude of yacht rock is best summed up by the artists I've mentioned above and Dupree's debut solo record acts as an incredible introduction. It's got everything you need in a yacht rock album - smooth, suave and sophisticated. What's more, it's got a great mix of songs that'll be sure to keep you hooked.
If you want to pick up a copy, I’ll leave an Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/2FTCyDc
Or, if you’d prefer, here’s a Spotify link:
More musical magnificence to come next week!
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