This weekend I was prepared to declare the vinyl selection at the Salvation Army on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn officially scrubbed of anything worthwhile -- but lo! After wading through scratched-up classical records and the lesser Barbra Streisand albums, there it was, in a plain white promo cover, this mysterious LP with the words "The Dukes, Bugatti & Musker" printed in faded blue ink. For 99 cents, I figured I could afford the risk. But when I put the needle down later, I experienced that special frisson of delight and horror that can come only from ... Yacht Rock. Indeed, what I'd tripped upon is the Holy Grail of the genre, the songwriting team of Dominic Bugatti and Frank Musker, who wrote hits for Air Supply and Chaka Khan, having their own one-off supersession of early 80s soft rock and blue-eyed R&B. They employ only the best of that era's precision LensCrafters LA session players, resulting in the distilled essence of Michael McDonald, Steely Dan, Michael Jackson, Christopher Cross, Air Supply, Toto, Al Jarreau and even Sade. I seriously doubt there's an electric bass used on this album that has frets or a headstock. The light-funk guitar licks and slap bass combo are ubiquitous throughout, as are quasi-Gibb Bros. vocals, cosmic synth filigrees and brittle disco beats. It's all here, in spades.
It takes some serious pretzel logic to justify this music as "good," of course, but you can find your own circuitous, taste-busting route to it. I'm sure Bumrocks has already trod this territory, knowing them. The best song, by far, is "Thank You for the Party," which I'd bet cash money was the inspiration for Ween's "Your Party," the David Sanborn-fueled ultralight soft rock tune from their latest, La Cucaracha. The nugget of eternal wisdom in the headline of this post comes from "The Excitement of the New," which sounds like the love theme for a Rocky sequel. Another lyrical highlight: Love is like a record/it's bound to get stale/if you play it over and over again. (That's a debatable metaphor, considering how many times I can keep listening to Hall & Oats' first album.) I've also included "Mystery Girl" (smooove) and "Love Dance" (R. Kelly, eat your heart out) because you'll invariably be begging me to post more of this once you've tasted the poison.
Thank You for the Party - The Dukes
Mystery Girl - The Dukes
The Excitement of the New - The Dukes
Love Dance - The Dukes
PS. This album is available only on Japanese import these days. Consider that Homeland Security at its best.