Friday, October 24, 2014

Michael Sembello-Bossa Nova Hotel (1983)


I have checked into quite a few 'hotels' over the years—the German rock band TOKIO HOTEL, THE EAGLES' "Hotel California", Whitney Houston's "Heartbreak Hotel" and, most recently, "Black Hotel", courtesy of the Danish pop group, VIENNA. And as I continue pouring through the 'M' entries in my music collection, I thought it would be fun to revisit an old friend and check back into the "Bossa Nova Hotel", the debut release by the versatile musician/singer/songwriter Michael Sembello. Perhaps the last time that I heard his voice prior to today was when I'd collected some favorite tunes from this album and put them on a long playlist—among them his memorable hit "Maniac" from the "Flashdance" movie soundtrack. Yeah, remember that one? It's like one of THE definitive hits of the awesome 80's! 'She's a maniac, maniac, that's for sure'..... 'And she's dancin' like she's never danced before'..... I'll never forget those lyrics, not to mention that dancey beat. And I love that wild guitar instrumental midway through. Something else that's for sure: "Maniac" sounds like something you'd be jamming to in the heat of the summer while cruising around Miami Beach in a convertible (and now I'm suddenly drawing up images of "Miami Vice" and any thing else movie-related from the 80's). One other memory about "Maniac": I recall hearing the music for it being sampled for an old 90's commercial during a commercial break while watching "Star Trek: Voyager". But those lyrics were changed to where it was saying 'and he's cooking like he's never cooked before'. The commercial was advertising some food product—perhaps one of those instant microwavable TV dinners. Wish I could pull it up, as I'm as big a sucker for music in commercials as I am for 80's music in general. Elsewhere in the "Bossa Nova Hotel", there's some more dancin' happening on the catchy opener, "Automatic Man". All I keep remembering from this one is that robot-voiced guy on backup doing that 'count up' in the main chorus: '1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8'). (Sembello sure did right with having a spunky beat for a song about a spunky ride on "Cadillac". He's riding shotgun on "Cowboy", where there's some excellent piano work to be appreciated all throughout, particularly that ragtime-ish instrumental midway through, while the cacophony of sounds heard towards the end is almost like an old high-noon showdown in the Wild Wild West—gunshots and all. Ironically,"Godzilla" is the album's one true song that actually has a bossa nova-like rhythm, with the part of the song I like the most is when Sembello goes 'e-yo, e-yeah' in the main chorus' second arrangement. Though the song I like the most is the one that I think sounds the loveliest on the easy-listener's ears: "First Time". That early 80's pop—it always feels so magical, doesn't it? I cited this one as a place where I thought Sembello sounded vocally similar to THE DOOBIE BROTHERS' icon Michael McDonald and the man who 'sailed' into our hearts when he performed the dazzling, romantic "Sailing" from 1980: Christopher Cross. The album's other three tunes—"Lay Back", "Superman" and "Talk"—show a softer and more—how else shall I put it—'laid-back' version of Sembello, which demonstrates some of that singing versatility of is. So if you're an 80's fanatic like me or just a fan of Michael Sembello altogether, make like a maniac and listen to "Bossa Nova Hotel" like you've never listened to any album before:

1. Automatic Man
2. First Time
3. Cowboy
4. It's Over
5. Maniac
6. Godzilla
7. Talk
8. Cadillac
9. Lay Back
10. Superman

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