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Our December review includes albums by Larry Carlton, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Ambrosia, Robbie Dupree, and Greg Guidry.

“Larry Carlton” by Larry Carlton (1978)

When guitarist and composer Larry Carlton released his first self-produced eponymous Warner Brothers album, he was already one of the finest session guitarists of his time. With his unique blend of blues, rock, pop and jazz, he had great influence on bands like The Crusaders and Steely Dan. Carlton’s sound ennobled masterpieces like the famous “Kid Charlemagne”. On “Larry Carlton”, the native Californian shows an incredibly tasty play with melodies. For this album Carlton hired a small, experienced band with bassist Abe Laboriel, drummer Jeff Porcaro and keyboardist Greg Mathieson to support him. Songs like “Room 335” – an ode to his L.A. studio -, “Nite Crawler” and “I Apologize” showcased a smooth and funky fusion sound that has a massive impact on the West Coast music scene of the late 70s and early 80s. “Larry Carlton” became a masterpiece and shows an artist at the peak of his art.

“Along the Red Ledge” by Daryl Hall & John Oates (1978)

In 1978 Daryl Hall and John Oates had teamed up with David Foster as producer for their seventh studio album “Along the Red Ledge” to further develop their sound towards slick pop. For the first time the duo also relied on their road band in the studio. However, the two did not completely renounce further support. The former Beatle George Harrison played on “The Last Time”. Todd Rundgren and Rick Nielsen from the band Cheap Trick were also part of the album. Robert Fripp from King Crimson played on the title “Don’t Blame It on Love”. The single “It’s a Laugh” became a top 20 hit. With “I Don’t Wanna Lose You” the album contains a fan favorite, which inspires with its infectious Philly Soul groove, but did not become a hit. “Along the Red Ledge” shows Hall and Oates in a state of upheaval, at the latest with the release of “Voices” two years later they started their final rise to superstars.

“One Eighty” by Ambrosia (1980)

All shades, textures, colors and styles: that was the self-chosen motto of Ambrosia, founded 1970 in LA. And true to their vision the band created in the 70s a unique fusion of prog-inflected art rock and smooth West Coast soft rock. In 1980 they released their 4th album “One Eighty”, which became a huge success and included the two biggest hits of the band “Biggest Part of Me” (US No. 3) and “You’re the Only Woman” (Us No. 13). Both songs represent the essence of great produced West Coast AOR. With “One Eighty” Ambrosia earned three Grammy nominations, but what is more important, they conquered with only two songs their place in the West Coast music pantheon – corresponding to the ancient Greek myths of Ambrosia, as the drink of gods, that consumption enables an immortal life on Olympus. This record is an indestructible classic!

“Street Corner Heroes” by Robbie Dupree (1981)

In 1981 Robbie Dupree released his second L.A. album “Street Corner Heroes”. The title was a reminiscence to Dupree’s first musical steps as a singer on the street corners of Brooklyn, New York City. Dupree could not repeat the success of his self-titled debut album, but there was no lack of good songwriting. You find smooth gems like the minor hit “Brooklyn Girls”, the terrific “Free Fallin'” or the doo-wop pastiche “All Night Long” on this record. It’s a great West Coast album!

“Over The Line” by Greg Guidry (1982)

Greg Guidry started singing and playing piano in several bands in St. Louis – among others with his friend Michael McDonald – before he began to write songs for artists like Robbie Dupree and singing backup for the Allman Brothers in the late 70s. In 1982 he released his debut album “Over The Line”. Produced by John Ryan and supported by musicians like David Sanborn, Mark Hammond and David Hungate (Toto), Guidry created a West Coast AOR album near perfection. The opening track “Goin’ Down” became a small hit, but the whole song material on this record persuades with high quality. “Over The Line” is a smooth West Coast treasure. Highly recommended!