Kenny Loggins

High Adventure/Vox Humana

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High Adventure/Vox Humana Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

BGO's 2014 two-fer pairs 1982's High Adventure with 1985's Vox Humana, a pairing that makes chronological sense, but they sit strangely together. High Adventure is the last of the smooth, richly detailed yacht rock LPs from Loggins while Vox Humana is 1985 through and through, from its cover to its heavy synths. Well, if Duran Duran decided to rip off Raiders of the Lost Ark, why not Kenny Loggins? After all, the swashbuckling cover to High Adventure fits this album, since it finds him relying equally on rockers and melodic pop/rock. The album kicks off with Loggins' hardest-rocking single, "Don't Fight It," a surging arena rocker duet with Steve Perry. This signals that the rest of the record will be harder than his previous record and that's true to a certain extent, since this doesn't just rock on occasion, it also has his best ballads and midtempo charmers. In other words, it's his best album, showcasing all sides of his personality effectively. "Don't Fight It" is a great single, but the best moment here is "Heart to Heart," the second of two pop classics Loggins cut as a solo artist. Here, he has a great midtempo groove, a good lyric, and an indelible melody that is soft rock at its finest. The rest of the album may not match this height -- most of the genre didn't -- but it's all strong (though it's awful strange that "Heartlight," a tribute to the children's foundation Heartlight, has the oddest melody he's ever written, an ominous march that just gets creepier when the children's choir pops up at the end). Celebrate Me Home may be more consistent, but this is the most diverse record he ever cut, blessed by fine studiocraft and a nice reliance on pseudo-new wave production techniques. The dividing point for Kenny Loggins was, naturally, Footloose, the blockbuster 1984 hit that helped turn him into something of a teen sensation at the age of 36, and with the assistance of Michael Omartian and David Foster, he dove headfirst into synthesizers, synthesizing everything outside of backing vocals and chicken-scratch guitars. Occasionally, he tossed a glance back to the yacht rock of High Adventure -- "I'm Gonna Do It Right" is a nice Michael McDonald song, just given a tight sequencing; "At Last" also contains similar shimmering soft echoes -- but a good chunk of Vox Humana is bombastic and brittle, a somewhat pathetic attempt to inhabit the sound of 1985. Naturally, this desperation kept it from being a true hit -- the title track just barely cracked the Top 30 -- but all those stylistic cutting-edge flourishes that kept it off the charts are the reason to listen to it all these years later: it says 1985 like no other album can.

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