Al Jarreau

L Is for Lover

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While Al Jarreau's jazz following probably ignored this 1986 studio release in droves, they missed a gem, a perhaps surprisingly scintillating collaboration with one of the leading dance-music producer/guitarists of the time, Nile Rodgers (late of Chic). Not only did Rodgers and Jarreau assemble some strong tunes from many sources, Rodgers took advantage of Jarreau's rhythmic capabilities, for some of the material is too deliciously complicated for any old R&B soulster to pull off. Hear the way Jarreau brilliantly threads his way through the rhythmically complex hornet's nest of "Says" in English and French, or savor the sheer ecstatic energy of the chorus of "Pleasure" and the rapid-fire list of cities in the title track; this is first-class pop recordmaking. While the quality of material tails off in the second half of the program, the great tracks early on mark the aesthetic peak of Jarreau's R&B output of the '80s. Unfortunately, record buyers begged to differ, for other than the minor R&B hit single status of the title track, this album could not reverse AJ's sales slide.

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