Donnie Iris & The Cruisers

Out of the Blue

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Based on the quality of Donnie Iris' infectious power pop, he deserved to be a star, but things didn't quite work out that way. The Pennsylvania native (born Dominic Ierace) first hit it big with the Jaggerz's "The Rapper" in 1970 and another decade passed before Iris and his band the Cruisers signed with MCA Records and shot up the charts with the memorably catchy singles "Ah! Leah!" in 1980 and "Love Is Like a Rock" in 1981. However, the early 1980s marked the beginning of the youth-and-image-based MTV era, and it was not the best time to be a diminutive, bespectacled Italian guy pushing age 40, no matter how great your songs and voice were. Iris and keyboardist/producer Mark Avsec co-wrote most of the Donnie Iris and the Cruisers material, which was given a melodic crunch by guitarist Marty Lee. Out of the Blue is, in an odd sense, a best-of collection released by Seathru (part of Cleveland-area concert promotions giant Belkin Productions). It includes "Ah! Leah!," "Love Is Like a Rock," the minor hit "Injured in the Game of Love," and the superb King Cool track "That's the Way Love Ought to Be," which features Iris' unbelievable falsetto wail. Unfortunately, some other great minor hits such as "Tough World" and "Do You Compute?" are missing. Why? Iris said in a 1992 interview that MCA wanted too much money to license many of these other songs included on his four 1980-1983 albums for the label. Therefore, in addition to "Injured in the Game of Love" Out of the Blue includes "10th Street," "Ridin' Thunder," and "I Want You Back" from 1985's HME release No Muss ... No Fuss and six newer songs, most notably "Love Whispers."