England Dan & John Ford Coley

Dr. Heckle & Mr. Jive

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The sincerity of their days on A&M Records has turned to total formula by the time Dr. Heckyl & Mr. Jive came around -- and Robert Louis Stevenson expert, author Ray McNally, makes it clear in his book on Mr. Hyde that the true pronunciation is Dr. Jeekill (as in, "I Kill and Hide"). It is quite a paradox that this justified attack on the Hollywood system uses the mispronunciation of this famous title which Hollywood forced upon the world. Were these singers that clever to have slipped this in as a sly parody? Probably not -- because the sentiment in the poem here is right on, but the execution of the title track, is as musically contrived as it sounds. This album shows the worst, and the best, of this productive duo. "Running After You" falls into the former category, but their hit rendition of the Todd Rundgren tune "Love Is the Answer" is up there with "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight" as among their very best work. Their finding this little gem on Utopia's 1977 release Oops! Wrong Planet is commendable. In the same vein as "Love Is the Answer," "What's Forever For" is also extraordinary, featuring excellent vocal work, skilled musicianship, and top notch production by former bassist for this duo Kyle Lehning. He leaves the bass chores to Elton John's sideman Dee Murray along with Leland Sklar, John Leland, and Wilton Felder. Murray's sole contribution is on "Caught Up in the Middle," which sounds like England Dan and John Ford Coley fronting Toto, which is not a bad thing. Steve Porcaro is on synth, Steve Lukather on electric lead guitar, and Richie Zito on electric guitar. Although two songs of heartbreak are included: "What Can I Do With This Broken Heart" and a version of what became a monster hit for Anne Murray this same year, 1979, "Broken Hearted Me." These two songs identify the problem with this album -- John Coley's piano and touching vocal in "Only a Matter of Time" have the passion that is missing in "Broken Hearted Me" and "What Can I Do With This Broken Heart." Some of the tracks have that extra something on this album, and some don't have much of anything. The solution can be found in their final hit, "Love Is the Answer," a departure from the Parker McGee formula this act became so accustomed to. Had they dipped into the songbook of Utopia co-hort Moogy Klingman and his partner, Buzzy Linhart, they would have found lots of great hit material to followup "Love Is the Answer" with. "Children of the Half-Light" is the best example of the dilemma; the song can't decide if it is in their old format, or if it wants to follow Toto and Rundgren into progressive pop. All things being equal, they should've taken the plunge. Still, this album has some great moments, despite its inconsistency.

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