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January 19, 1980 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-01-19

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Mainstream solo pop is one of the
most popular guilty pleasures around
these days. Nearly everyone likes it in
one form or another, but hardly anyone
likes to admit it. Particularly in a
community like Ann Arbor, it's not too
socially redeemable to be caught
listening to a top-40 station unless they
happen to be playing something ancient
d forgivable, like old Stones or
atles. Otherwise, the mere mention
of "pop" conjures up unpleasant
memories of "Run Joey Run,"
"Cherish is the Word," "Copacabana"
and other horrors, along with vague
recollections of all those inter-
changeable hits by Boston/Styx/Kan-

don't care what you're listening to
(some of the songs sound best when the
listener is asleep, for instance). At wor-
st, the songs are obnoxious hybrid
creations: most appallingly, the
almost-inevitable disco disaster
"Junkanoo Holiday" tries hard to work
up some excitement by dragging in
what sounds like a Mexican percussion
festival. Your immediate reaction may
be a fast two-step to the nearest
bathroom or wastebasket.
STILL, SUCH dismal moments are
partially salvaged by the strong, seduc-
tive bass line in the hyperactive rocker
"Love Has Come of Age; " "Mr.
Night," an upbeat dance tune with a
great tooting horn section; and "Now
and Then," a ballad that would be un-

replaced by a viewpoint of such objec-
tive banality that one longs for more
self-pity. Even Fogelburg's impec-
cable-as-usual vocals can hardly help
but turn anemic with so little real
emotion to work with. He's still an ef-
fortlessly attractive singer, aS on this
album's creamy "Gypsy Wind," but
now the singing is just a luxury item,
more icing on a sickly-sweet cake.
PHOENIX IS at best harmless, at
worst offensive in its disinterested pop
posing. "Tullamore Dew," the in-
strumental opener, is just more drippy
Muzak, a far cry from the sweeping
beauty of Fogelburg's own "Aspen," a
similar venture which opened the 1975
Captured Angel disc. Among all the
dismal recent musical anti-nuke an-
thems, Phoenix's "Face the Fire" may
well be the most idiotic, complete with
the necessary sophomoric politics in
the lyrics: "I hear the thunder/three
miles away/the island's leaking/into
the bay/the poison is spreading/the
demon is free/the people are running
from/what they can't even see." The
ditty goes on about those nasty men
who'll "take your health to line their
pockets with unequalled wealth." Help.
The album closes with "Along the
Road," Which tries to be another
"Forever Young" but lands slightly
closer to those little good-bye tunes that
Donny and Marie, Carol Burnett and all
of our other favorites used to sing at the
end of their TV shows.
"Like a -phoenix/I have risen from
the flames," Fogelburg sings. Unfor-
tunately, on Phoenix he creates nothing
but ashes.

Multi-media theatre presentations
are not exactly common fare these
days. As a theatrical genre, they've
never been solidly established critically
or commercially, and the few am-
bitious attempts that do get staged
rarely receive much attention, since
they fail to fit comfortably into any
clear-cut category of performance.
Richard Jennings' Space Opera I
(As We Travel Through the Stars), a
one-act multi-media theatre event for
solo performer," will offer Ann Arbor
residents a chance to experience a
unique fusion of various art forms. The
production is being staged this month at
the Dance Theatre studio, 711 N.
University; two performances remain,
Jan. 19 and 26, both at 8:00, ticketed at
$2.50 a head.
SPACE OPERA 1 is Jennings'
creation as both author and performer.
It is being touted as offering a complex
mesh of "voice, tape, live electronics,
dance, projected imagery and special
effects . . . developed within the
operatic form," and has won some local
praise for its previous performances in
both Ann Arbor and East Lansing. The
work is an exercise in "space music,"
built around a theme os intergalactic
brotherhood, no less. Jennings sum-
marizes the goings-on thus: "Tran-
sported from a concert stage into
space, past the planets of our solar
system, through time into the holocaust
of a civilization's self-annihiliation, the
drama of human evolution and survival

The Michigan Daily-Saturday, January 19, 1980-Page 5
Qualified help wanted
The Daily Arts page wants to put your critical mind to work. If you're in-
terested in the arts, if you're a brilliant worker, and if you crave all of the
glamour and excitement that supposedly comes (we won't shatter your
illusions) with wrtiting for the campus' finest and only major newspaper,
then by all means let us exploit you.
We need wrtiers interested in dance, classical recordings and concerts, all
forms of popular music (yes, there is room enough for even the lowly disco and
Barry Manilow lover), visual arts (museum exhibits, etc.), movies, plays
and whatever else you might consider arts-related. Those of you too kind-
hearted to stoop to heartless criticism are welcome to try your hand at
feature artices dealing with trends, local arts news, etc.
Aw, come on, give it a try. We may not pay particularly well (i.e., not at
all), but we do reimburse for all records, tickets and such purchased for
review purposes. Come to the Arts staff meeting Sunday, January 27, up-
stairs at the Student Publications building, directly behind the LSA building
at 420 M.aynard. The meeting will be at 3:00 p.m. PLEASE bring a writing
sample-it doesn't have to be about any particular recent event or creation
(though it must be typed and triple-spaced, please), but should at least give
the Arts editors an idea of the sort of articles you'd be interested in , doing.
In other words, if you'd like to do record reviews, please don't bring along an
old English paper. If you can't make it to the meeting, but would still like to
write for us in the future, call 764-0552 and ask for the Arts editors, Monday
through Saturday from 2:00 to 5:00.

and all of their imitators. In the '70's a
good deal of record listeners and buyers
found themselves rather concerned
with liking what it was chic to like
(perhaps the "Me Decade" tag should
be expanded to the What-Will-Other-
People-Think-of-Me Decade), and it
was never very chic to like lightweight
pop, unless your peer group happened
be under 14 years of age.
WELL, THE mainstream solo pop
category is awfully broad, covering
everything from (God help us) Barry
Manilow to such skilled stylists as
James Taylor and Kate and Anna
McGarrigle. Once one gets away from
the Tin Pan Alley junk vendors like
Manilow and into genuine pop talents,
like Michael McDonald and many
others, the pleasure of the music is
"ustification enough. Good pop may in-
weed be thoroughly commercial, sen-
timental and even trite, yet its un-
pretentious charms are enough to
override the necessity of excuse-
making. (Most people tend to preface
statements like,° "I 1 9 Billy Joel,"
with "I know it's stupid, but.. ."). Too
many people seem de'thly afraid that
their favorite pop albums will be
brushed off with a "What! That slop!"
by the new wave or Dylan freak down
he hall.
Kenny Loggins and Dan Fogelburg
are surely among the better pop per-
sonalities around at the moment, and
each has the potential to be one of the
best. In Loggins' case, that potential
Otay be realized, in a modest way. His
third and latest solo effort, Keep the
Fire, is fairly pleasant (though
inevitably overproduced) fluff, though
hardly likely to knock the socks off any
critic or listener. Alas, Fogelburg, the
r greater talent of the two, is also the
igger dope. His new LP, Phoenix, is a
logical progression from his recent
work - it's one more step downhill -
and a sad example of talent squan-
dering itself in order to hit those golden
charts with a bang. It's a slick, smarmy
and, in direct opposition to the earliest
and best of Fogelburg's work, utterly
KENNY ,LOGGINS is no 'major
talent, but he does spread what he has
i ith an unpretentiousness that's
frequently appealing. Like his hit many
years ago during the Loggins-Messina
partnership, "House on Pooh Corner,"
the bulk of his music is naive to a
degree, but also melodic, simple and
In concert (as at Hill Auditorium last
October), the lack of any shading and
depth in his music almost becomes a
plus, because it complements the per-
rmer's agreeable no-threat, no-
ough-edges-persona. On his three solo
discs to date, Loggins has been less
successful, mainly because he's always
been stuck with producers who attempt
to submerge his slight but pleasing per-
sonality in lush musical posturing.
Keep the Fire is more of the same,
shoving poor Kenny into a
schizophrenic series of genres, all of
them in somewhat castrated form:
slicked-up hard rock, smoothed-over
fink, pop ballads, dull disco. Too much
the record is merely innocuous,
suitable for listening at times when you

bearably slushy ("She sings to me now
and then/Gentle refrains of summer
mornings/The first rays of sunlight/In
dew-dropped roses") if not for Loggins'
almost alarmingly perfect vocal inflec-
tions - lunging from breathy lows to
immahllate falsettoes with just the
right touch of sentiment and pathos.
"This Is It," the current single co-
written by Loggins and pop wizard
Michael McDonald, is fine top-40 fod-
der, catchy and smooth, though Mc-
Donald is probably capable of doing a
better version on his own.
If Keep the Fire presents'the likeable
sound of a competent artist doing more
or less as well as he can, Dan
Fogelburg's Phoenix album is sleek but
disagreeable, because it's the product
of a performer who's working far below
his capabilities. On his first four LPs,
Fogelburg fused elements of rock, folk,
bluegrass and pop into uneven but often
ethereally beautiful songs earmarked
by his own hushed, high vocals, har-
monically blended in a style somewhat
reminiscent of Crosby, Stills and Nash.
His lyrics were often pretentious, but
such compositions as "Stars" and
"There's a Place in the World for a
Gambler" were far too exhilarating to
be passed off as well-crafted bub-
SOMETIMES deserving artists are
rewarded by growing popularity, and
from the miniscule sales of his striking
debut album, Home Free, Fogelburg
has steadily climbed from being a cult
figure to hitting the commercial Big
Time. Too bad.As a relative obscurity,
he was a notably gifted performer and
composer; as a success, lodged
somewhere in the upper regions of the
top 10, he's suddenly just like everyone'
else. Last year's Twin Sons of Different
Mothers record, a promising
collaboration with flutist Tim
Weisburg, turned out to be not a break
for experimentation but a hopelessly
commercial mix of Muzak-styled in-
strumentals and passable vocalized
singles. Coming only two albums after
the excellent Netherlands, Phoenix
seals Fogelburg's fate as a streamlined
hack, burying nearly all the qualities
that once made him so intensely
It isn't a bad LP, really; what's un-
pleasant about it is the chilly commer-
cialism and utter lack of personality
that sifts through every track. Even the
best cuts (the title song and "Wishing
on the Moon," both streamlined, nicely
crafty rockers) are pitifully devoid of
meaning or imagination. They could
have been done by anyone. The artist's
old self-pity is gone, but it's -been
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