Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mr Mike's High School Record Collection: Peter Cetera - Solitude / Solitaire (1986)

He's Peter Cetera and you're not. The man was the perfect image of Baby Boomer lovelorn cool in the Reagan era.
I've been on a bit of a Chicago kick lately so it seemed like a good time to cover another mid-80's classic. Peter Cetera, king of the clenched jaw crooners, released his second solo album in the summer of 1986. After nearly two decades with the band Chicago, the group's career had evolved from a jazz rock combo to soft rock lovin' balladeers led by Cetera's romantic love songs. After the band's most successful album, Chicago 17, went Triple Platinum 'ol Pete decided he wanted to make a solo album. In one of those classic "I was fired / I quit" scenarios Cetera found himself out of the band (the most common story I heard was Cetera was told if he wanted to make a solo album, he was out). While Cetera had released a solo album before, it was when Chicago was at its nadir. Fortunes had changed by 1985 and Peter Cetera was perfect as the former rocker turned romantic that was so popular in that decade. Feathered hair and stately readings cannot be denied! Now armed with a hot streak of smash hits co-written and sung by his Ceteraness leading up to this moment, he was ready to make another run at the brass ring.

Not the most optimistic song title to lead off a solo album. Petey was starting to feel the itch to be known for more than luv. Hence this slick piece of AOR with a big hammering beat and busy keyboards courtesy of Producer Michael Omartian. The third single from the album, Cetera warns the ladies of the dangers from pretty boys because, well, he's that kind of guy. All caring and stuff. What Cetera should have warned about was the 45 picture sleeve cover, it was a scary picture of him made up like a blond Richard Simmons. Yup, definitely a big mistake. Not as big a mistake as Chicago's remake of 25 or 6 to 4 though.
2. They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

An upbeat track caked in Omartian's big production. When the Karate Kid part 2 Producers approached Cetera for a song, he first pitched this track. The Producers weren't biting so Cetera handed over "Glory of Love". The rest is history. "Make 'Em" simply extols the virtues of American girls and gives some needed energy to the proceedings. A glossy trifle of pop rock fun but Cetera's high voice didn't carry as much weight on fast cuts so I kind of miss the Chicago horns. Focus power Peter-san!

3. Glory of Love (Love Theme for the Karate Kid part II)

Would Ralph Macchio and Tamilyn Tomita have found love without the help of Cetera? Probably, but it sounded better when backed by one of the greatest ballads of the decade. Released ahead of the album to fit in with the timing of the Karate Kid sequel, the song continued the Cetera / David Foster awesomeness that started with Chicago 16 and 17. It so closely resembled the other love songs they had done, most people weren't aware it wasn't Chicago. The whole "I am a man who will fight for your honor" bit was incredibly memorable. The classic video mixed movie scenes, rice paper walls and super close ups of Peter Cetera's hands. While watching the video you'll see a lot more of Cetera's chin juttin' singing, the result of a beat down he received at Dodger Stadium for being a rock and roll Cubs fan. The song shot to #1 on the charts, Cetera's first solo hit.

4. Queen of the Masquerade Ball

Lots of songs about being caught in situations on this album, the ladies in "Big Mistake" don't find out the bad news until the next morning. In "Queen of the Masquerade Ball" the woman is a coffee achiever who hides her loneliness because, uh, that's just what she does. I imagine Cetera himself probably felt a bit in flux having just been booted/leaving Chicago. As they say in Star Trek V, "Everyone has a secret pain." Or maybe a public pain since this was big music news back then. When Chicago 18 and Peter Cetera went head to head, Cetera came out on top with two #1 hits and a Platinum record. What was this song about again? And I never got the lyric about "Mohair shoes". It's the 80's dude, sing about loafers or what Bo Knows or something.

5. Daddy's Girl

Oh, the magic of Three Men and a Baby. With fathers like Ted Danson, Tom Selleck and Steve Guttenberg involved how can anything go wrong? Cetera liked to write songs about his kids apparently because he did the same thing on the next album One More Story. It's one of the best songs on the album with its bubbly synths and bouyant melody. With a precious song like this, I bet he had some serious empty nest syndrome when his kid moved out which probably happened by now.

6. The Next Time I Fall

King Pete scored another #1 smash with this duet, the second single. Being out of Chicago meant he didn't have to whisper sweet nothings with another dude a 'la Hard Habit To Break and Christian pop singer Amy Grant was definitely better looking than Bill Champlin. A breakthru for Grant who was able to parlay the exposure to a successful Pop career. Cetera got into a special club having a number one single as a solo artist, with a group and now as a duet. This might be one of those duets where the two singers recorded in different studios without meeting. Grant once said when she met Cetera, she said something to the effect of thanking him for the years of hit songs which inadvertently pointed out their age difference. Careerwise, everybody's a winner here. Except those dancers in the video, what the hell is going on there?

7. Wake Up To Love

After all these sad songs there had to be another upbeat moment so this slight ditty does the trick. This jam makes me want to hit that dance floor and do the Cetera dance as seen here. (It's all about the shoulder action). I like that this is one of those type of songs you hear in a tv movie where people dance like its the best thing ever when in reality no one would think of dancin' to this bland cut.

8. Solitude / Solitaire

Finally Cetera tackles his situation directly and nothing says "on your own" like this song title. Has a real "movie soundtrack" feel to this track like the song that plays for 20 seconds in the background of a scene yet shows up as a full cut on the soundtrack release. Then you think, "I don't remember this song in the movie" and yet there it is. Like Peter Cetera's No Explanations on the Pretty Woman soundtrack. I have no idea where that song plays in the movie but there it is uncut on the soundtrack. One of the catchier songs that has stuck in my mind, I think of this one sometimes when doing something on my own. A nice feeling of independence on this track.

9. Only Love Knows Why

Another broken heart for Pete, this guy gets sad when he's in chasing love and he's sad when he gets dumped. Just no pleasing him. After 8 songs of either being infatuated or being told to hit the bricks, Cetera just throws his giant sized hands in the air and says "Only Love Knows Why". A nice ballad and the fourth single from this fine record. On ballads, Cetera's voice has a certain nobleness to it that comes off well.

Peter Cetera went on to record more solo albums, the follow up One More Story (1988) was the best of the bunch as he took on some Steve Winwoodisms to deliver snazzy adult contemporary pop. David Foster and Cetera would work on occassion together as well but would not recapture the heights of "Glory of Love". Michael Omartian's slicked out synth and electric drum heavy style proved a good fit for Cetera. For me, the partnership of David Foster and Peter Cetera were one of my favorite songwriting pairings so here's a medley of Foster and Cetera.

David Foster and Peter Cetera "Medley"


Arsenette said...

Aww geez I had this album and loved it though I always wondered wtf was with the way he spoke LOL. Weird weird way of singing too but then again he had a unique sound.

Mr. Mike said...

Yeah, he had a unique sound that even the guy who replaced him in Chicago couldn't quite replicate. He is an original.