Paul Williams

A Little on the Windy Side

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When Paul Williams released A Little on the Windy Side in 1979, he was at the peak of his stardom, which isn't to say he was at the pinnacle of his record-selling powers. He never was a chart-buster in the first place -- 1974's A Little Bit of Love was his highest-charting LP at 95, "Waking Up Alone" his biggest pop hit at 60 -- but A Little on the Windy Side failed to chart, a curious conclusion to a period when Williams was omnipresent on TV and film. Part of this failure can be blamed on his new label Portrait, which underwent some corporate restructuring via its parent Epic not long after the album's release, but the album is also something of a hodgepodge of new songs and revivals that kicks off with a cover of Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke's standard "Moonlight Becomes You." That's a tip-off that this record wasn't quite designed with the top of the charts in mind but A Little on the Windy Side nevertheless is an assuredly commercial record of its time, an album rooted in soft rock but with a keen eye for lite-disco and a yen for sultry electric pianos. Some of this can be chalked up to Williams choosing to bring his brother Mentor Williams in as a producer and bandleader, marking the first time they've worked on a full project since their early band Holy Mackerel. Where that band was steeped in the soft psychedelia of 1968, A Little on the Windy Side is redolent of the studio culture of 1979, and that's its appeal: the craft is so impeccable, the sound ties together those divergent sounds. That coherence is rare in Williams' discography, which started out strong with Someday Man and Just an Old Fashioned Love Song, then slipped into a patchwork of glib laziness, a claim that cannot be leveled at A Little on the Windy Side. Paul Williams is working hard on this record and he succeeds in making one of his very best albums. [Real Gone's 2015 reissue contains four previously unreleased tracks: a reprise of "Brand New Song"; his own version of "When the River Meets the Sea," which first appeared on Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas; his version of "Love Conquers All," which Seals & Crofts recorded first; and a mono single edit of "A Little on the Windy Side."]

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