Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Gary Wright -- "Love Is Alive" (1976)

Gary Wright was one spacey dude, as you can tell by this album cover. He was New Age before anybody coined the term. What's with that blue mascara on the eyelids? No question, this guy looks and sounds like a complete only-in-the-70's product.

All anybody seemed to know about Wright was that he played in a semi-obscure British band named Spooky Tooth for seven albums, then left to go solo. Dream Weaver was his third solo album, so it took quite a long time for Wright to get his career in gear. Naturally, I thought Wright was British but according to Wikipedia, he was born and raised in Cresskill, NJ and went to Tenafly High School. The guy was from Jersey!

But space cadets can come from anywhere, and Wright was certainly flaunting that as his shtick. He dressed in long flowing robes and wore mystical symbols around his neck. The title song "Dream Weaver" was a big hit, but with some of the most pretentious lyrics of the time:

Fly me high through the starry skies
Or maybe to an astral plane
Cross the highways of fantasy
Help me to forget today's pain.

He followed up that silliness with "Love Is Alive," and as far as I'm concerned, he hit pay dirt on that one. Like the rest of the album, everything except the drums was played on classic synthesizers of the era. A wicked funky bass riff, just burbling with that "warm" analogue sound of the time, propels the verses until the chorus plays it with straight 4/4. Layers and layers of synth pads, bell twinkles and counter-riffs made for one terrific and very 70's hit.

What sticks in the head: Wright's pronunciation of the word "alive," as he sings the hard "a" sound -- "my love is ay-live."

I know Chaka Khan did an OK cover of "Love Is Alive," but it seems somebody can really do justice to that great funky riff and melody.

Below is Gary Wright and his army of synthesizers performing "Love Is Alive" on the old "Midnight Special" concert series. Those portable synths must have damaged their postures for years to come. The skinny bespectacled guy in the red jumpsuit playing on his left is studio keyboard whiz Steve Porcaro, who would go on to join Toto with his outstanding drummer brother, Jeff. More cowbell, please!

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