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  #1  
Old 05-01-2017, 01:27 PM
ricohv ricohv is offline
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Default 9/81 NY Times compares Bella Donna to Debbie Harry's 'KooKoo'

SOLO DEBUTS FOR ROCK STARS
By JOHN ROCKWELL
Published: September 20, 1981
A solo album by a member of a rock band is always fraught with a certain danger. The very act of deciding to make such a disk can put a strain on the band's sense of itself as a communal enterprise. If the record proves successful, the harmony may be further disrupted. If it fails, the individual loses credibility both within the group and with the public.
The reasons for making such records are many. An artist can feel constrained by the chosen style of her group (since the individuals to be discussed here are women, we might as well use the feminine possessive pronoun) and wish to explore some different idiom. Or she may be tired of the group, and have every intention of going out on her own if enough people buy her solo album. Or she may simply be restless.
Neither Stevie Nicks nor Debbie Harry has announced any intention of breaking up their respective groups, Fleetwood Mac and Blondie. Actually, it seems unlikely that there will ever not be some sort of ''Fleetwood Mac''; the band has gone through so many shifts of personnel and survived that Mick Fleetwood and John McVie could probably carry on by themselves if they had to. Blondie without Miss Harry, however, who is Blondie, would be unthinkable.
Both women have come forth with their first solo albums recently, and neither represents all that striking a departure from the styles of their parent bands. But both seem commercially successful, with Miss Nicks's ''Bella Donna'' (Modern Records MR 38-139) at or near the No. 1 spot on the charts and Miss Harry's ''KooKoo'' (Chrysalis CHR 1347) lower down but climbing sturdily.
Miss Nicks's album is essentially an extension of the slightly posey, little-girl-playing-dress-up-witch dramatic and musical image she has propagated in her songs on Fleetwood Mac's recent albums. But it is also the most appealing of the albums under consideration here. Miss Nicks's voice, which grows periodically frayed and unsteady under the pressure of touring, sounds solid enough, although it has hardened in timbre, too, and lost some of its reedy fragility. Her backup bands from track to track consist mostly of Los Angeles session men, with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on some cuts and the whole brew seasoned by miscellaneous Eagles and Roy Bittan of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. They all provide good, tough, inventive rock arrangements that complement Miss Nicks's songs and singing. The songs themselves, composed between 1973 and 1980, range attractively in mood, but the themes are a li ttle hackneyed. Like toomany rock stars, Miss Nicks writes directly f rom her own experience. The trouble is that her current experience is that of being a rock star, which is a theme handled with greater p oetic insight by other writers. She also is fascinated by the occult and by love, but once again her treatment of these ideas is not str iking from a strictly verbal standpoint.
Still, rock songs, like all songs, work from a blend of music and words, not by words alone. Miss Nicks's songs, especially when sung by her, attain an individuality that is both seductive and undeniable. ''Bella Donna'' may not signify the liberation of a talent heretofore curtailed by membership in a band. But it is a nice record.
Miss Harry's ''KooKoo'' is more striking as a concept, for the alliance of potentially synergistic talent, than as actual sound. On its recent albums Blondie has used Mike Chapman as its producer, although Giorgio Moroder contributed a fascinating arrangement and production for the single ''Call Me.'' At one point Mr. Moroder was going to be used for the last Blondie album , but for various reasons the collabora tion collapsed. Miss Harry and her boyfriend, Blondie's guitarist Chr is Stein, then turned to Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards to pr oduce Miss Harry's solo debut.
Both Mr. Moroder and the Rodgers-Edwards team are known for their work in disco, the latter with Chic. But in the past few years Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Edwards have branched out to produce records in varied styles by other artists. Now that disco is ''dead,'' they have given Miss Harry what amounts to a dance-rock record with snippets of other idioms.
The trouble is that the songs are neither so wide-ranging as those on recent Blondie albums nor are they illuminated with Mr. Chapman's gift for the clever pop hook. Miss Harry has long epitomized the minimalist-robotic school of singing. If Miss Nicks is full of eccentric personality, Miss Harry is the dispassionate, witty but cool chronicler of sexual and societal mores. That puts all the more emphasis on the arrangements, and on ''KooKoo'' the arrangements just don't seem that special.
Miss Nicks and Miss Harry, on their own or with their bands, are two of the most popular female pop singers on today's market. Another is Pat Benatar, whose third album, ''Precious Time'' (Chrysalis CHR 1346) has already streaked to the top of the charts and fallen back a bit.
Miss Benatar has incurred considerable disparagement from the rock press. She is not this writer's favorite, either, but many of the complaints about her seem undisguisedly sexist. Miss Benatar's chosen idiom is male-strutting, macho-aggressive heavy-metal rock. People find her assumption of that stance to be calculating and false, but it is tempting to see their complaints as a simple unwillingness to accept any woman on what has conventionally been male turf.
Yet the Wilson sisters of Heart were not dismissed with such scorn when they imitated the sound of Led Zeppelin. There is something calculated about Miss Benatar's little growls and the gritty guitar chording of her otherwise neatly controlled band. On the other hand, many of the most popular male soloists and male bands today are similarly calculated. And Miss Benatar does have a fine, strong voice. If one's idea of rock-and-roll is still of burning, personal expression, then she will not seem very interesting or important. But on the level of the workaday entertainment that epitomizes mainstream popular music today, all honorable craft with few aspirations to anything higher, she fulfills a function that is not so despicable as some of her detractors seem to think.
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Old 05-01-2017, 04:43 PM
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I love Debbie Harry but that KooKoo album is a HOT MESS.
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Old 05-01-2017, 07:03 PM
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TheWildHeart67 TheWildHeart67 is offline
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Interesting.
The only truly SOLID solo album by Debbie was "Def Dumb and Blonde," in 1989, billed as Deborah Harry.
I LOVED that album.
But everything else she did solo was just "so so."
IMO

Last edited by TheWildHeart67 : 05-02-2017 at 07:40 AM. Reason: correcting a date
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Old 05-01-2017, 09:48 PM
BombaySapphire3 BombaySapphire3 is offline
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Originally Posted by TheWildHeart67 View Post
Interesting.
The only truly SOLID solo album by Debbie was "Def Dumb and Blonde," in 1999, billed as Deborah Harry.
I LOVED that album.
But everything else she did solo was just "so so."
IMO
Glad that you mentioned that album .I have it somewhere in my collection and never listened to it .I'll dig it out now.
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Old 05-02-2017, 01:03 AM
ricohv ricohv is offline
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I love Debbie Harry but that KooKoo album is a HOT MESS.
Haha-you are quite right! It was way better in theory than it was in reality. The people involved, the art, the videos, all should have added up to something great, yet didn't.
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Old 05-02-2017, 01:05 AM
ricohv ricohv is offline
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Originally Posted by TheWildHeart67 View Post
Interesting.
The only truly SOLID solo album by Debbie was "Def Dumb and Blonde," in 1999, billed as Deborah Harry.
I LOVED that album.
But everything else she did solo was just "so so."
IMO
Def, Dumb& Blonde came out in 1989 and I agree-definitely her most cohesive album (a lot more hits and a lot less misses than usual for her solo work) and had some great punk(ish) tunes, e.g. Comic Books (my personal fave)
*Ricoh*
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Old 05-02-2017, 07:41 AM
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rico, I meant 1989. I mistyped.
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Old 05-02-2017, 07:43 AM
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I LOVE "Comic books" too. Also "Lovelight." That was a fabulous album. I still love it.
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Old 05-02-2017, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by TheWildHeart67 View Post
Interesting.
The only truly SOLID solo album by Debbie was "Def Dumb and Blonde," in 1989, billed as Deborah Harry.
I LOVED that album.
But everything else she did solo was just "so so."
IMO
"Def, Dumb * Blonde" is def her best album although I think Debravation is pretty good as well and Rockbird has some really great moments. KooKoo and Necessary Evil are just terrible IMO.
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Old 05-03-2017, 11:56 AM
brad975 brad975 is offline
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I grew to love Debbie and Stevie around the same time. And still do!

But BellaDonna is by far the better solo debut than KooKoo.

Stevie had saved up a backlog of great songs, while Debbie Harry/Chris Stein had run out of songwriting juice generating an album a year from 1976-1980. KooKoo's producers, Nile Rodgers/Bernard Edwards, also seemed to be running on empty after producing/writing for multiple artists in addition to Chic.

I like parts of KooKoo, but "Rapture" was a fluke. Debbie is a little too stiff/detached to be funky. Her subsequent attempts at rap (from "Military Rap" on KooKoo to "Shakedown" on The Curse of Blondie) have generally been embarrassing.

It's interesting that Giorgio Moroder first offered the "Call Me" track (called "Mechanical Man") to Stevie. Based on her work up to that point, why would he have thought she'd be a good fit for that kind of dance rock? Granted, she pulled it off a few years later with "Stand Back" (but not so much since).
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Old 05-04-2017, 12:01 AM
ricohv ricohv is offline
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I grew to love Debbie and Stevie around the same time. And still do!

But BellaDonna is by far the better solo debut than KooKoo.

Stevie had saved up a backlog of great songs, while Debbie Harry/Chris Stein had run out of songwriting juice generating an album a year from 1976-1980. KooKoo's producers, Nile Rodgers/Bernard Edwards, also seemed to be running on empty after producing/writing for multiple artists in addition to Chic.

I like parts of KooKoo, but "Rapture" was a fluke. Debbie is a little too stiff/detached to be funky. Her subsequent attempts at rap (from "Military Rap" on KooKoo to "Shakedown" on The Curse of Blondie) have generally been embarrassing.

It's interesting that Giorgio Moroder first offered the "Call Me" track (called "Mechanical Man") to Stevie. Based on her work up to that point, why would he have thought she'd be a good fit for that kind of dance rock? Granted, she pulled it off a few years later with "Stand Back" (but not so much since).
I agree-KooKoo seemed like everyone just hit a brick wall creatively. AND...I always wondered if it was a myth that Stevie had been offered "Call Me" first. Other than the fact that she was pretty hot at that time-and I'm sure they thought they had a hit on thier hands-it certainly doesn't have a Stevie sound, especially Stevie at that point in time.
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Old 05-04-2017, 12:05 AM
BombaySapphire3 BombaySapphire3 is offline
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I agree-KooKoo seemed like everyone just hit a brick wall creatively. AND...I always wondered if it was a myth that Stevie had been offered "Call Me" first. Other than the fact that she was pretty hot at that time-and I'm sure they thought they had a hit on thier hands-it certainly doesn't have a Stevie sound, especially Stevie at that point in time.
*Ricoh*
It is not a myth .Giorgio Moroder wanted her to do the song but it would have been somewhat of a different song had Stevie done t since Debbie cowrote it for her version.
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Old 05-04-2017, 06:52 AM
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I had read that the original version of "Call Me", as offered to Stevie, was an instrumental entitled "Man Machine". Debbie Harry ended up writing the lyrics to "Call Me", hence the change of title.
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Old 05-04-2017, 02:02 PM
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I had read that the original version of "Call Me", as offered to Stevie, was an instrumental entitled "Man Machine". Debbie Harry ended up writing the lyrics to "Call Me", hence the change of title.
Oh, I didn't realize the song didn't have lyrics when offered to Stevie. Makes more since now as those lyrics seem way more Debbie than Stevie!
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Old 05-04-2017, 02:26 PM
brad975 brad975 is offline
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I had read that the original version of "Call Me", as offered to Stevie, was an instrumental entitled "Man Machine". Debbie Harry ended up writing the lyrics to "Call Me", hence the change of title.
Yes, "Man Machine" is the correct title. As with his collaborations with Donna Summer, Giorgio wrote the music while Debbie added the lyrics. So if Stevie was indeed offered the track and had agreed to it, it would have turned out very differently (Rhiannon hires a Gigolo).

I'm not even sure how much the other band members of Blondie contributed to the final song beyond backing vocals. I have the original 45 and the instrumental B-side of "Call Me" is credited to Giorgio Moroder instead of Blondie.

I read an interview with Debbie where she said they wanted Moroder to produce the 1982 Blondie album The Hunter, but it didn't work out. Beyond a couple of strong songs, that album was abysmal in my opinion.

Despite some lows, I do love that Debbie and Stevie, two of my personal faves of all time, are still highly active. The new Blondie album comes out tomorrow, and the first single "Fun" is pretty fun.
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