Neil Sedaka

A Song

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Produced by George Martin, whose projects with America and Jeff Beck were as essential as this excellent recording for Neil Sedaka to solidify Martin's post-Beatles reputation, the 1977 collection also contains some of Sedaka's best non-radio work, as important as Tommy James' In Touch album is to his legacy. "Amarillo" is the heart of the record, a song that was a minor hit, and the world is lesser for not being more familiar with its catchy chorus. Perhaps Elektra didn't have the support systems a Rocket Records provided -- not having the plus of Elton John pushing the music along with the promo men is a handicap. Still, the former home of Carly Simon should have been able to take the melancholy title track, which opens and closes this disc, and put it on the AC charts at the very least. The arrangements by George Martin are exquisite, and the production is flawless. There is the third hit penned for Captain & Tennille, their Top 10 "You Never Done It Like That," which sounds like a revamped arrangement of "Bad Blood" here. "The Leaving Game" also draws from past work, exuding flavors of "The Hungry Years" not only in theme, but in sound and melody. For such a prolific songwriter as Sedaka there is bound to be overlap; the man shifted gears from '60s pop classics like "Next Door to an Angel" and "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" to penning a '70s monster like "Love Will Keep Us Together." Here producer Martin has some fun with the moody "Alone at Last," a real departure, skillfully utilizing Sedaka's crystal clear and passionate vocals while painting the album's most lush and gorgeous track. It and the title tune are the best contributions from lyricistPhil Cody. Cody co-writes five titles here, with Howard Greenfield co-authoring six, including the tremendous "Hollywood Lady." As Kim Carnes hit with Jackie DeShannon's "Bette Davis Eyes," Sedaka countered with "Bette Grable" on his solo concert recording, Neil Sedaka and Songs and this title. Martin throws a few of his Beatles tricks in here, especially at the end of "Hollywood Lady," and it is that combination of great melodies, superb production, and some of Sedaka's most expressive singing which should've insured this collection more attention -- and sales. "I've Never Been in Love Before" is a mini-opera, with soaring chorus, fragrance from the strings which sweeten the Greenfield lyric, and a wonderful hook. Phil Cody's songs that follow, "One Night Stand," and "Sleazy Love" are OK, but not as striking as his"Hot and Sultry Nights," with its lyrics en espaƱol thanks to Sedaka's mother. Perhaps his most personal disc as a musician, A Song deserves a special place on the mantle, with "Tin Pan Alley" more evidence of that -- an interesting contribution by a graduate of the Brill Building, and one of the highlights here. Amazing that this effort did not get more attention worldwide.

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