Garland Jeffreys

Guts for Love

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After making the strongest and most consistent album of his career with 1981's Escape Artist, Garland Jeffreys seemed poised to finally make a genuine commercial breakthrough, and with Bob Clearmountain back in the producer's chair, he recorded Guts for Love in 1983, a polished and accessible set of songs about the joys and challenges of grown-up romance. However, while "polished and accessible" is doubtless what Jeffreys and Clearmountain were aiming for, there's little arguing that they got more of it than they really wanted. Dominated by slick dance grooves and keyboards, Guts for Love tries so hard to be radio friendly that it unwittingly became the most faceless album of Jeffreys' career, and as hard as he tries to push some passion into the songs with his vocals, the surfaces of the production are so clean and shiny that nothing sticks to them. It doesn't help that Guts for Love isn't one of Jeffreys' more memorable collections of songs; he can write with intelligence and force about how difficult and rewarding love can be, and he delivers a few top-shelf numbers on the subject with "Fidelity," "Surrender," and the title tune, but there are a few facile throwaways such as "Dance Up," "Shout," and "Rebel Love" (an especially weak reggae offering which you wouldn't expect from a guy who collaborated with Linton Kwesi Johnson on his previous studio set). And the cover of "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" proves David Sanborn is no substitute for Junior Walker. The final two songs, "El Salvador" and "American Backslide," recall the edgier themes of Jeffreys' best work, but their place in the running order suggests the artist knew he was propping up a house of cards. There's too much that's good on Guts for Love to utterly dismiss it -- Jeffreys remains a superb and wildly underrated singer, and he's in fine voice here -- but that doesn't change the fact it's a weak and disappointing effort from someone capable of far more.

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