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Good Lovin’: Felix Cavaliere Teams with Todd Rundgren, Laura Nyro, Leslie West, Dino Danelli On Bearsville Reissue

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The union of singer/songwriter Felix Cavaliere and producer Todd Rundgren might have seemed like a marriage made in heaven, with Cavaliere having specialized in blue-eyed soul with The Rascals, and the wunderkind Rundgren no slouch in that field, either. But in fact, it was more like a shotgun wedding.  You can hear for yourself, as Cavaliere’s Rundgren-produced, self-titled 1974 album for Bearsville Records has just been coupled with its follow-up, Destiny (1975) on a stellar new two-for-one release from Edsel.

Felix Cavaliere recalled in liner notes penned especially for this reissue by Paul Myers that his loftier ideas met with opposition from Mo Ostin of Warner Bros. Records, then Bearsville’s distributor.  Ostin wasn’t much interested in Cavaliere’s rock opera based on Dune, or a politically-minded album like The Rascals’ Freedom Suite.  Instead, Ostin and Bearsville’s Albert Grossman were looking for pop singles, and turned to Bearsville house producer Rundgren, hot off Grand Funk Railroad’s smash We’re an American Band.  But the former Rascal felt that Rundgren “was very much concerned with his own, personal work…[and] I had just a lot of trouble trying to understand his attitude towards the product that we were doing.”  Rundgren diplomatically told Myers that he and Cavaliere “sort of got along personally.”  It couldn’t have helped matters that Rundgren was brought a partially-completed LP and instructed to work his magic.  And so Utopia stalwarts John Siegler (bass) and Kevin Ellman (drums) were overdubbed on nearly every track, and Todd himself played guitar on four songs.

Cavaliere co-wrote every track on his debut with Carman Moore, but many of its tracks bear the same signature as his collaborations in the Rascals with Eddie Brigati.   The album’s opening “High Price to Pay” would have put Rascals fans at ease with its catchy chorus and up-tempo groove, and “Everlasting Love” again recalls that classic sound with a brass section, though it’s a tougher sound than in the past.  Prominent backing vocals are supplied courtesy Cissy Houston and Judy Clay, among others.  Big pop ballad “Long Times Gone” even suggests a distant cousin of “How Can I Be Sure” in its melody and arrangement.

Cavaliere stretched his muscles elsewhere on the surprisingly cohesive album, though.  The Latin funk of “Summer in El Barrio” pleasingly blends brass and smoking guitar with Cavaliere’s soulful lead and the female chorus, while the twangy “I’ve Got a Solution” might betray a rootsy Bearsville influence.  Rundgren’s touch is most pronounced on “Funky Friday,” a bright pop song with his distinct guitar flourishes (“The one thing I’ve got to do/Is get funky with you!”) as well as on the spacey jam of “I’m Free.”  It likely reflects more on the marketplace than on the material that neither of the album’s two singles released by Bearsville saw chart action; Felix Cavaliere remains an overlooked gem.

Hit the jump to reveal your Destiny!

Destiny was a happier experience for Cavaliere, who had a “freer hand” on the album with Rundgren out of the picture.  He produced himself, and wrote or co-wrote every track.  Guests abounded, including David Sanborn, Mike Brecker (his brother Randy was enlisted by Rundgren for the first album!), Foghat’s Rod Price and Mountain’s Leslie West, and even The Rascals’ Dino Danelli on “Flip Flop.”  The most special guest, though, might be Laura Nyro, who supplies background vocals on the brash and brassy “Love Came.”

The artist jumped head-first into the New York disco sound on Destiny, with wah-wah guitar and prominent backing singers, although there are equally strong elements of rock, pop, soul and jazz including saxophone spots from George Young, Joe Farrell, Sanborn and Brecker.   “Never Felt Love Before,” selected as the U.S. single, is the kind of pop melody Cavaliere could toss off effortlessly, and he’s equally at home with the string-laden balladry of “I Can Remember.”  Leslie West takes the guitar lead on “Try to Believe,” the most rocking track on the album, with “Hit and Run” a close second.

Perhaps because of its sheer diversity of styles, Destiny hasn’t aged as well as the 1974 album, but as Cavaliere himself says in the liner notes, “the joy of living is in there.”  Wounded Bird Records reissued both of these albums in the U.S. in 2006, but Edsel’s new edition easily triumphs over those releases, largely thanks to Myers’ comprehensive new liner notes.  Peter Rynston at Tall Order has mastered both albums.

Felix Cavaliere/Destiny joins releases from Todd Rundgren (news to come!) and Utopia’s Roger Powell and Jean Yves Labat  in U.K. stores today.  It will arrive one week later at all finer U.S. establishments!  You can order below. 

Felix Cavaliere, Felix Cavaliere/Destiny (Edsel CD EDSS 1065, 2012)

  1. A High Price to Pay
  2. I’m a Gambler
  3. I’ve Got a Solution
  4. Everlasting Love
  5. Summer in El Barrio
  6. Long Times Gone
  7. Future Train
  8. Mountain Man
  9. Funky Friday
  10. It’s Been a Long Time
  11. I’m Free
  12. Destiny
  13. Flip Flop
  14. Never Felt Love Before
  15. I Can Remember
  16. Light of My Life
  17. Can’t Stop Loving You
  18. Try to Believe
  19. You Came and Set Me Free
  20. Love Came
  21. Hit and Run

Tracks 1-11 from Felix Cavaliere, Bearsville LP BR 6955, 1974
Tracks 12-21 from Destiny, Bearsville LP BR 6958, 1975

Written by Joe Marchese

February 29, 2012 at 14:06

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