Stephen Bishop

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Bish Review

by Lindsay Planer

Singer and composer Stephen Bishop was at the pinnacle of his craft when his second LP, Bish, was released in 1978. Not only was he coming off of the success of his 1976 debut, Careless, but also had a cameo in the 1978 blockbuster comedy Animal House as the acoustic guitarist in a memorable scene where John "Bluto" Blutarsky -- portrayed by John Belushi -- destroys his axe while Bishop is serenading some young ladies on the steps of the Delta sorority house during a toga party. As his stock was trading at an all-time high, it was no wonder that the artist came out of his introspective shell, mixing in a few spirited upbeat numbers alongside the softer and affective works. At the center of the performances remains Bishop's songwriting. Yet ever true to his mercurial nature, the disc opens on a jazzy vocal-less interpretation of "If I Only Had a Brain" and Bishop himself leads on the "tromblone." The tune segues perfectly into the catchy "Losing Myself in You," featuring the unmistakable presence of Doobie Brother Michael McDonald on supporting vocals during the chorus. "Looking for the Right One" recalls the languid ballads that Bishop was best known for and is strengthened by a string arrangement from the legendary Marty Paich. The tempo gets turned up on the brisk and limber "Everybody Needs Love" -- which became a pop and adult contemporary radio staple as well as a Top 40 entry, peaking at 32 in October of 1978. The slightly disco-inspired rhythm is brought to life by Michael Sembello (guitar), Ray Parker, Jr. (guitar), Nathan Watts (bass), Raymond Pounds (drums), and Greg Philinganes (keyboards) -- who were regulars with Stevie Wonder and contributed to the groundbreaking Songs in the Key of Life in 1976. "A Fool at Heart" returns to the romantic lethargy, with famed Booker T. & the MG's string man Steve Cropper taking the leads. Bishop dedicates the odd "What Love Can Do" to Yip Harburg -- who wrote "If I Only Had a Brain" as well as the rest of the score to The Wizard of Oz. "Vagabond from Heaven" is another freewheelin' danceable side with some of Bishop's best lyrics to date -- namely the surreal "I got a midget in my raincoat/And he's starin' at you" and "I count my blessings/Between my ham and eggs." Plus, the all-star "Whistling Bishettes" climb aboard -- with Cameron Crowe, Carrie Fisher, Tanya Tucker, Animal House director John Landis, and James Lee Stanley providing their respective puckers. Other standout cuts include the poignant "Only the Heart Within You" and the solo closer "When I Was in Love," again with Marty Paich adding a tasteful score. In 2004, Hip-O Select -- located online at -- reissued Bish on CD, making it available domestically in North America for the first time in over two decades.

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