Orleans

Forever

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This is a very pleasant and valuable work by the post-Jon Hall Orleans who signed to Ron Alexenburg's ill-fated Infinity records label. Their almost Top Ten hit "Love Takes Time" (it got to number 11) leads off this Hoppen brothers-dominated version of Orleans and it is a treat, a move away from the folk sounds that the band originally found fame with and a jump head first into the music that the Atlanta Rhythm Section, David Pack, and Ambrosia, and other '70s album-oriented rock artists were enjoying success with. The evolution from folk beginnings actually makes for a more commercially pleasing sound than Atlanta Rhythm Section, and though this version of Orleans would release an additional two discs culminating in Atlantic's One of a Kind in 1982, they didn't land the '80s success they deserved. The original demos for this reconstituted band were cut by legendary live engineer Stuart "Dinky" Dawson, and those unreleased tapes show the beauty of this concept, as does this finished product. Unfortunately, Dawson did not get to do the album (though he and his wife Nancy Dawson are thanked in the liner notes) as the band produced it along with John Lennon engineer Roy Cicala. The nine tracks are elegant album rock with sterling vocals and a sound that draws from blues, gospel, and Southern rock, combining those vibes in a way that is very smooth and radio-friendly, not lingering in any one genre for too long, but taking the elements and fusing them for pop radio. Dinky Dawson gave his perception of the time to the All Media Guide: "Larry is a good lad, his feel for commercial music back in 1977 was exciting to be around. After all kinds of group, family, and road problems, he shows his strength and resilience. Throw a bit of leadership into the mix and you come out with an end of one era and the beginning of another." The title track is sublime, "Forever's" tale of solid friendship has a strong Larry Hoppen lead vocal to take the ballad to a dreamy place that really should have followed "Love Takes Time" up the charts. Hoppen only sings three of the nine songs; four of the songs are handled by piano player Bob Leinbach; one by organist R.A. Martin, with Martin and Leinbach sharing the leads on Leinbach's song "Keep On Rollin'." This formula works, Leinbach's and Hoppen's voices having a similar tonal quality. Leinbach's vocal on side two's leadoff track "Everybody Needs Some Music" is very cheery with its modulations and horns. There's not a bad track on this stylish reorganization of a band that survived the departure of its guiding light. When Jon Hall rejoined the group, they released a pair of live albums which gather the best elements of both versions of the band, something the Doobie Brothers but few others had the smarts to give their followers. Forever is a tasty album of pop melodies and harmonies, enhanced by the songwriting talents of Marilyn Mason, who contributes to five of the titles, including the brilliant "Slippin' Away," title track "Forever," and the big hit single "Love Takes Time."

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