Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Lucy Simon - Stolen Time (1977)
"They picked the wrong song for the single."
If there's one line that could serve as a description for why the albums I post didn't click with the public, this one is it. And boy does it ever apply to the second album by Lucy Simon, the older sister of rock star Carly Simon.
The third song on side one of this LP is a blissful slice of dance-pop titled "Please Say Yes." It's one of those songs that you know is going to be great as soon as the intro starts up. The rest of the tune does not disappoint. It's got a perfectly-formed melody (composed by Simon), a convincingly funky beat (perfect for its era), and the type of lyrics that might not be profound but sing really well (courtesy of Carol Bayer-Sager).
And speaking of singing, Simon sings the hell out of it. For this number, she casts aside her typical highfalutin "trained" vocals and moves convincingly into the R&B arena, coming off like a cross between her more famous sister and Dionne Warwick. Speaking of Warwick, "Please Say Yes" is a bit reminiscent of that singer's 1974 #1 hit with the Spinners, "Then Came You."
I'm trying not to drone on about one song for too long (he said as he went into paragraph three about the tune). But I'll go out on a limb here and say that not only do I think "Please Say Yes" could have been a massive hit, I personally like it better than any Carly Simon song.
Why this piece of pop perfection was left to languish in obscurity on this album is a mystery. Instead, the people at Simon's label, RCA Records, chose the song "If You Ever Did Believe" for the single. That song, by the way, was written by the outside team of Andrew Goldmark and Elizabeth Dasheff, who wrote songs for Andy Williams and Mary McGregor. Since this is the only song on the LP Simon didn't have a hand in writing, I guess RCA felt they needed to bring in outsiders to make hits. Their plan didn't work; the single went nowhere.
Virtually all the rest of the songs on this album are well-written and catchy, even if they don't sound like they have as much hit potential as "Please Say Yes." "Father to Son," which features Carly and her then-husband James Taylor, is a perfect example of what makes Lucy Simon's music so compelling. It's a pensive sentimental story-song about divorce that could have been overly sentimental. But its economic lyrical structure and Simon's stiff-upper-lip reading give it just enough pathos to avoid sappiness.
The lack of a hit single was what probably drove the elder Simon out of the pop world after this release. Her first album, which I wrote about previously, also didn't produce any hits, so I guess after two albums she and RCA parted company. Lucy Simon's only chart entry came as part of the Simon Sisters, a duo featuring her and Carly. They got to #73 with the children's song "Winkin', Blinkin' and Nod" in 1964.
A little over a decade after this release, Simon was able to forge a successful career composing theatrical musicals. As I mentioned in the previous post, her most famous is the award-winning Broadway hit "The Secret Garden." But had "Just Say Yes" been the single, you wonder if things might have turned out different.
Related post: Lucy Simon - Lucy Simon (1975)
1. If You Ever Believed
2. Father to Son
3. Just Say Yes
4. Safe in My Arms
5. Summer Storm
6. I've Been There Before
7. We're Over
8. Partners in Crime
9. The Early Heroes in Our Lives
10. I Want You Back Again