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Our January review includes albums by LeBlanc & Carr, Jay Ferguson, Ian Matthews, Michael McDonald and Bugatti & Musker.

“Midnight Light by LeBlanc & Carr (1977)

It was Jerry Wexler, legendary record manager and producer of Atlantic Records, who helped Pete Carr to find a record label for a solo production. Carr was a versatile session musician in Muscle Shoals, Alabama before joining forces with session mate Lenny LeBlanc to form the group LeBlanc & Carr. In 1977 they recorded the album “Midnight Light” for the Big Tree Label with Carr as artist and producer. The song “Falling” became a US Top 20 hit for the band. The first tour of the group with Lynyrd Skynyrd ended aprubtly after the tragic plane crash in Mississippi. LeBlanc & Carr split up shortly after. What remains is an excellent Southern AOR album.

“Thunder Island by Jay Ferguson (1977)

Jay Ferguson, previously the singer for the rock bands Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne, signed a solo contract with Asylum in the mid 70s. In 1977 he released his more pop oriented second solo album “Thunder Island”. Recorded in Miami with support by his old fella Joe Walsh and produced by The Eagles producer Bill Szymczyk, also known for his work with the James Gang, Ferguson landed a hit with his summer anthem “Thunder Island”. This single peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1978 and became Ferguson’s biggest success. Also the rest of the album convinced with great songwriting and musicianship – not least because of Joe Walsh’s great guitar work, which keep the album from falling too largely on the pop side of things. One year later Ferguson returned the favor on Joe Walsh’s “But Seriously, Folks…”.

“Stealin’ Home by Ian Matthews (1978)

In 1978 Ian Matthews released with “Stealin’ Home” one of his most successful studio albums. With the help of producer Sandy Robertson the former member of Fairport Convention created a catchy and mellow West Coast sound – even though the album was recorded in Oxfordshire. Matthews compiled a tasteful radio friendly mix of original material and cover songs by John Martyn, Terence Boylan and Robert Palmer. With the single “Shake It” he reached the US Top 20 for the first time in over seven years. You find wonderful gems on this record like the hypnotic “Give Me An Inch”, written by Robert Palmer, the America influenced “Don’t Hang Up Your Dancing Shoes” or the a cappella version of Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Carefully Taught”. It’s worthwhile to discover “Stealin’ home” again!

“If That’s What It Takes by Michael McDonald (1982)

After the break with the Doobie Brothers in 1982 Michael McDonald started his solo-career in the same year with his marvelous debut album “If That’s What It Takes”. Freed from all fetters McDonald indulged his passion for R&B with the support of old friends like Jeff Porcaro – who once introduced him to Steely Dan – and a fine selection of studio musicians. The result was not less than a benchmark of early 80s westcoast AOR. With his hit single “I Keep Forgettin'” McDonald even bewitched the Soul Train audience – he became the gentle ‘King of blue-eyed soul’

The Dukes by Bugatti & Musker (1982)

Dominic Bugatti and Frank Musker joined a sucessful songwriting partnership before they released their duo album “The Dukes” in 1982. Produced by Arif Mardin and supported by West Coast’s finest studio musicians (among others Jeff Porcaro, Robbie Buchanan, Steve Lukather and Randy Brecker) Bugatti & Musker recorded an AOR masterpiece. The record persuades with splendid songwriting and performance – from the funky smoothness of “Mystery Girl” about the slick fun groove of “Thank You For The Party” to the mellow ballad “So Much In Love”. “The Dukes” is a highly recommended West Coast gem!