Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Motels - All Four One - 1982

Much of this album was recorded for an unreleased record. I had no idea that was the in case until doing some research. Read the wikipedia entry.

"After the mild success of their second album Careful, The Motels went back into the studio in early 1981 to record album three with the then up and coming producer Val Garay. The band at this time consisted of Martha Davis on vocals and guitar, Tim McGovern on lead guitar, Marty Jourard on keyboards, Michael Goodroe on bass and Brian Glascock on drums.

Wanting to stretch the limits as to what they could do artistically and musically, the band recorded some of its most dark and heavy music to date. Despite having Garay as producer for the album, the songs were basically arranged and handled by McGovern. The results were mixed. While some arrangements on the tracks were outstanding rock numbers ("Mission of Mercy," "Schneekin'" and "So L.A."), some were a little too experimental and not as well produced ("Sweet Destiny" and the first version of "Only the Lonely"). Neither the band nor Garay ever submitted any of the recordings to Capitol Records while the recording process was going on. When the band submitted the final tapes to Capitol, the label rejected it stating that it was "not commercial," essentially meaning it was a dead record.

The band had begun getting local gigs in the L.A. area to try out their new material, but by the end of 1981, McGovern officially left the band for personal and private reasons, leaving The Motels without a lead guitarist.

Unwilling to give up, the remaining members forged on back into the studio with Val Garay at the controls. This time Garay had more liberty to mold the band's sound to a more commercial venue. Studio musicians were added to fill the lead guitar void for several of the tracks, as well as to flesh out the sound of the recordings. Adrian Peritore (who went by the name Guy Perry because his former producer had misspelled his name on an album cover) was hired in late January and played lead guitar to some of the tracks, including "He Hit Me."

The album was retitled All Four One because the band had recorded four albums but one would not be released, and also because the four remaining members had stayed together to complete the album ("all for one and one for all!"). it was released in April 1982 on Capitol Records.

The result was the biggest selling album for The Motels. The album spurred both American and International hits. The album was certified gold in several countries including the United States and Canada by the end of 1982. The hits from the album included "Mission of Mercy," "Only the Lonely," "Take the L," "Forever Mine," "So L.A.," and "Art Fails."

I usually don't just rip off stuff from Wikipedia, but I thought this story was interesting enough that I figured it was worth the copy and paste job.

So enough about what some Wikipedia writer says about the record, let's get on to what I think about the record. Let me just start by saying that I think Martha Davis has one of the great voices in pop music, especially in the 80's.

"Mission Of Mercy" starts the record off with some upbeat new wave synth and guitar driven pop. As a song, it is okay, but certainly not great. It does introduce you to Martha's voice in a way that some may not be used to because this is a rock and roll song and not a slow ballad like "Only The Lonely" or "Suddenly Last Summer".

"Take The L" is going to sound like more familiar territory as the band slows down a little. The passionate singing that drove The Motels to the top is also present here. The song is a nice transition from the opening rocker and "Only The Lonely" because it still kind of rock. It is a sort of hybrid of the two styles and works nicely into "Only The Lonely".

"Only The Lonley" is a pitch perfect song from those opening keyboard notes and Martha's sultry vocals to the end fade out on the saxophone. I love the opening lyrics and over the simple notes. I love the way Davis sings and pronounces "No intention". For some reason that bit has stuck with me sense I first heard the song as a kid. Then when the drum kicks in and she sings "We lied" I get warm fuzzies all over. Part of that is nostalgia, but I'm pretty sure I felt that when I heard this song back in 1982. The the bridge, let's not forget that great saxophone solo. I've mentioned it before here on the blog, but the 80's had some great saxophone music. This being one of the prime examples.

"At Fails" starts out with a slight Asian theme going on. Maybe I'm just hearing things, but I get a Kyoto song vibe from it. Think "Hong Kong Garden" from Siouxsie, but a little more new wave and Californian. I like this track.

Track 5 "Change My Mind" is a torch song in every sense of the word. I picture Martha Davis on a lonely stage in a small club, spotlit illuminating her face and ruby red lipstick accenting the image. If you saw Dark City with Jennifery Connelly playing a club singer, that is what comes to mind. I think you might consider this the real hidden gem of the record if you only know their radio hits.


Side 2 starts off with a favorite new wave topic, Los Angeles. Brings to mind songs like "Walking in LA" by Missing Persons. Overall I can't say the song is great, but I do actually really like the way the chorus unfolds. The rest of the song is kind of forgettable.

"Tragic Surf" has a whole surf thing going for it. Another great product of the West Coast. The song is very dramatic in the vein of the great car accident tragedy songs of the 50's and 60's.

The band continues their exploration of different styles on "Apocalypso". Here's they mix calypso with an ominous heavy rock sound. The Sax on this is more haunting on this track. There is a sense of impending doom, which makes for an interesting combination. The song is big, ballsy and full.

While track five may be my pick for a hidden gem, this track gives it a good run for it's money. "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)" is a darkly disturbing song that is catchy and unforgettable. Once you hear it I don't think you'll be able to put it out of your mind, because the lyrics about this weird abusive relationship are very unsettling. In a weird way it is sort of a twisted cousin to "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar.

"Forever Mine" starts off reminding me of "A Town Called Malice" with it's bouncy rythms. I don't want to oversell the song getting you excited that it as good as "Malice" because it certainly is not. It just has an upbeat feel, which ends the record on a high note. I'm sure the logic in the track sequencing had something to do with not wanting to end on the super dark note of "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)"

So there you have it, a rather full run down of the entire record. Haven't done that in a while. Now get to listening and see what you think.

Enjoy!

01 Mission of Mercy
02 Take The L
03 Only The Lonely
04 Art Fails
05 Change My Mind
06 So L.A.
07 Tragic Surf
08 Apocalypso
09 He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)
10 Forever Mine

All Four One - Side 1.zip
All Four One - Side 2.zip

5 comments:

Matracas said...

Thanks a lot for the info. I know the motels only had like 2 major hit singles...but I've always wondered what a full album sounded like.

Spencer said...

Hope you like it. I have "Little Robbers" as well all ready to post and write about at some point. That is the follow up to this with their other hit, "Suddenly Last Summer".

Douglas said...

Thanks for posting this and giving your take on it. I'm going to listen to the songs I never heard on the radio. BTW, I'm having trouble finding anything on the self-titled release from 1979. I remember liking 'total control' and 'dressing up'.

Spencer said...

Never heard that release. If I ever see it I'll be sure to pick it up.

Managorth Anora said...

Wow, nice "links."