Tuesday, September 13, 2011

45. Alexander O'Neal, "A Broken Heart Can Mend" (1985)


I have always liked this album opener from Alexander O'Neal's first, self-titled album so much I don't even remember much else from the rest of it. Produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis at one of those breakout points in a career where anything they touched was somehow turning to gold—commercially too, but more importantly just churning out sparkling brilliant gems everywhere, aka "height of their powers"—this glows with assurance and swanky aplomb, from its first seconds. It starts as a little throb that quickly swells into a gorgeous 3D landscape of texture and tone and beats and chanting backup singers. By the time O'Neal steps to the mike a lot of the work has already been done. But that doesn't mean he gets to coast along, and he doesn't, bringing his heavy soul man croon to bear on most delicate points, and soaring. Because the message here, as the chanters in the background insistently remind us over and over, is clearly one of hope: "A broken heart can mend." Then the keyboard washes come to occupy a role almost as a kind of divine call-and-respondent stopped by from heaven to accentuate this positive, crashing on the beach of a glorious mess and cascading across the sands like it just doesn't matter. Wave your hands in the air. I know I'm getting carried away but I can't help myself. This is such a slab of beauty. I don't think O'Neal ever matched it, and Jam & Lewis—well, I don't think I have anything else by them ahead on this list. But there are certain tracks by the S.O.S. Band and Janet Jackson that probably could and should have made it, based on the criteria that got this one here. But this will do. Oh yes it will.

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