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Review: Randy Vanwarmer, “Warmer/Terraform” and “Beat of Love/The Things That You Dream”

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Bespectacled singer/songwriter Randy Vanwarmer became one of the unlikeliest radio heroes of the late 1970s when his gentle ballad “Just When I Needed You Most” began its ascent up the Billboard chart amidst an onslaught of disco (“I Will Survive,” “Hot Stuff”) and New Wave (“Heart of Glass”).  Vanwarmer’s bittersweet memory of a long-gone lover hit a nerve with listeners looking for an escape from the dance floor.  Although the song would qualify him as a one-hit wonder, Vanwarmer continued to record and write songs for other artists until his death from leukemia complications in 2004 at the age of 48.  The U.K.’s Edsel label continues its Bearsville Records series with four Vanwarmer albums on two single-CD releases, the first bringing together 1979’s Warmer and 1980’s Terraform, while the second combines Beat of Love (1981) with The Things That You Dream (1983).  Previous CD editions of the first two albums have been commanding high prices in the secondhand market, making Edsel’s reissues very welcome, indeed.

Based on Vanwarmer’s debut Warmer, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the song title was a pun on the artist’s name.  Paul Myers’ detailed liner notes reveal otherwise, that the title owed to the album’s warm MOR sound, and hence, Randy Van Wormer became Randy Vanwarmer.  The artist’s style on this album isn’t unlike that of prime Dan Fogelberg or Christopher Cross, although the surging popularity of the latter artist actually led Bearsville parent Warner Brothers to concentrate less on Vanwarmer.  Producer Del Newman (Cat Stevens, Elton John) added subtle textures to Vanwarmer’s delicate and confessional songs, while Ian Kimmet and Bearsville’s John Holbrook remixed the album at Warner Brothers’ and Bearsville owner Albert Grossman’s behest.

But the familiar “Just When I Needed You Most,” enlivened by John (“Welcome Back”) Sebastian’s autoharp, isn’t the only great song waiting for you here as Vanwarmer traverses a number of styles all within the adult contemporary context.  Despite the number of mid-tempo, radio-ready ballads on the album, the record label initially opted for the glossy, lightly funky “Gotta Get Out of Here” as the album’s first single.  With its big choral sound on the hook, it was perhaps an attempt to court the new wave audience.  The falsetto chorus of “I Could Sing” has a light disco flavor very much of the time, and Vanwarmer even comes close to rocking out on “Convincing Lies,” with its up-front electric guitars.  Though its title is hardly original, “Call Me” is one of the most appealing tracks here, with another strong melodic hook and vocals again recalling Christopher Cross.  The subtle, twangy guitars of “Forever Loving You” presage Vanwarmer’s later work supplying artists like Alabama and The Oak Ridge Boys with hits out of Nashville.

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Written by Joe Marchese

March 26, 2012 at 14:01

Posted in Features, News, Randy Vanwarmer, Reissues, Reviews

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