While Carly Simon’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction this year was based largely on her most popular songs and albums in the ‘70s, her work in the ‘80s is also of a very high quality, and speaks to the breadth of her talent and creative spark. While her first album of the decade, Come Upstairs, was cut from the same cloth as much of her earlier work, she followed it with 1981’s Torch, a collection of standards and torch songs that displayed her versatility as a singer. Her 1985 album Spoiled Girl was full of modern accouterments of mid-’80s record making (read, gated drums, keyboards for days, and an overall compressed sound); she followed that with 1987’s Coming Around Again, a lovely return to the singer/songwriter vein that was more resurgence than retrenchment.
Let’s take a moment to fully appreciate some of the highlights Simon provided us in the decade by cueing up five of her best tracks:
“Coming Around Again”: This beautiful, wise Top 20 hit is one of Simon’s best songs from any era of her career. Written for the film version of Nora Ephron’s divorce novel Heartburn, the song covers the gamut of relationship experience, from luminous beginnings, through domesticity and heartbreak. At the end of it all, the singer takes a look around her and gives us a resigned sentiment: “I believe in love – what else can I do?” What else, indeed. Here’s an idea: lift the needle and play it back one more time.
“Jesse”: Some men are just irresistible, no matter how much trouble they cause. Jesse is one such man, regardless of how many fresh-cut flowers, cold wine, cologne or hours waiting by the phone are part of the conversation. He also makes a great subject for a pop song. Just listen.
“Hurt”: “Hurt” provides an interesting contradiction – Simon sings those wonderful, vulnerable lyrics by Al Jacobs and Jimmie Crane, but sounds so strong doing it. Practically invulnerable. It’s like she’s revealing a secret, or showing us she can express the depths of heartbreak without cracking her facade. It’s a standout track from her 1981 Torch album, a set of standards, recorded while she and James Taylor were ending their marriage. Perhaps that breakup provided all the inspiration she needed.
“Give Me All Night”: Another terrific single from 1987’s Coming Around Again album, “Give Me All Night” is a (short) list of demands – ones that cannot be refused.
“Tired of Being Blonde”: Though the production is so very ‘80s (synthesizers mixed atop more synthesizers), Simon’s delivery is defiant as she tells the story of a woman who grows sick of being just another piece of arm candy for a man who is more benefactor than boyfriend. This wasn't a big hit, but it certainly should have been.
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