(Originally posted on http://theaaronelyareview.tumblr.com on November 29th, 2009)
When it came time for me to decide what to do as my first review, I felt it was only appropriate that I reviewed the first CD I ever owned. That said, it was also a CD that would, essentially, help determine the course of my musical existence. While that last part might seem a little “dramatic”, it’s really quite true.
I give you…’We Are In Love’ by Harry Connick, Jr.: The Aaron Elya Review.
‘We Are In Love’
Harry Connick, Jr.
Released: July 3rd, 1990
Produced by Harry Connick, Jr & Marc Shaiman
Run Time: 52:51
‘We Are In Love’ (WAIL) was released the same day as ‘Lofty’s Roach Souffle‘, a trio album recorded by Harry, Ben Wolfe, and Shannon Powell. Releasing multiple albums on the same day would become a familiar treat later in Harry’s recording career (11 & 25; 30 & Songs I Heard; Oh My Nola & Chanson du Vieux Carre were all released as pairs).
The first CD I ever had in my collection was actually the Soup Dragons 1992 release ‘Divine Thing‘. Someone at church had found it left in a classroom and since no one claimed it, it ended up going home with me. WAIL, however, was the first CD I ever PURCHASED, so I give it the full credit for being my “first CD”. Here it is in it’s original jewel case, original insert and album artwork.
I still love the “fish tie”! Oh, and the hair…MAN, did I want that hair-do!! The case, artwork, and disc itself have survived my teen years, a move from Michigan to Georgia, my 20′s, and countless reorganization attempts on my CD rack.
Okay, on to the review…
WAIL starts off with quite a bang! The title track is 2:44 of high energy, fast moving swing. Those three famous orchestra hits really set the tempo for the ENTIRE record. It’s also our first chance to experience Harry’s songwriting on this album.
Following the opening big-band number is ‘Only ‘Cause I Don’t Have You‘ which is a beautifully orchestrated, 3/4 time ballad. The mixing of melodic and harmonic tones creates a haunting and soothing musical experience (as the entire album does).
For many of Harry’s fans who jumped on the bandwagon with the release of this album, ‘Recipe For Love‘ is the song that really drew us in. It’s the song that, in an era of really crappy pop music (this is pre-Nirvana, remember), gave radio stations a breath of fresh air…something different to offer it’s listeners. Harry, himself, quipped in his ‘Singin’ & Swingin‘ video that ‘Recipe‘ isn’t the typical pop radio song. The innocence of the lyrics, the crisp arrangement of the big band, and the up-beat rhythm make for an early album treat. ‘Recipe‘ still, to this day, remains one of the centerpieces of not only WAIL, but of Harry’s entire discography…and is easily one of my top 10 favorite songs of all time (another blog for another day…trust me).
Other ballads will follow on WAIL such as ‘Drifting‘, ‘A Nightingale Sang In Berkely Square‘ (which would later be sampled on his 1994 funk project, ‘She‘), ‘Just A Boy‘, ‘I’ll Dream Of You Again‘ (which Harry sang a verse of on his 1992 ‘Cheers’ appearance), and ‘Buried In Blue‘. What I like about these ballads is not just the fact of how well performed they are, but the actual placement of them on the record. If you look at the track listing, they’re placed in even numbered track spots on the album. It’s REALLY the essence of the construction of the album…the tempo of WAIL is dictated by this track placement. It’s a feature of WAIL that I’ve always liked. If I ever get to meet and talk to Harry, this would be a question I’d like to ask him. I’ve met him three times after concerts, but as you can imagine, I was a just bumbling idiot-fan with a sharpie.
‘Forever For Now‘ starts off with a creepy guitar and trombone duet. Adding to that is the trademark sizzling jazz high-hat and walking bass. Track 5 takes you on a seemingly dark yet hopeful jazz journey. This is the song that, as a young 12 year old trombone player, I tried to most emulate. Especially the upper-range trombone + plunger solo at the end. Absolute genius.
One of the more unique tracks on WAIL (and in Harry’s entire catalog) is ‘Heavenly‘. A strictly “voice only” piece featuring several layers of harmonized voices…which, by the way, are ALL Harry’s. It’s a romantic, peppy, finger-snapping, story of the “Man In The Moon” being in love with the “Girl in the world”…and she reciprocates! It’s a throw back to the era of doo-wop but with a moden flare that only Harry can deliver. On the last note, Harry belts out a note WAY up in his register…the icing on the cake!
The last “fast” song on the album is Harry’s version of the Cole Porter classic ‘It’s Alright With Me‘. As impressive as this song is on this album (featuring solos from guitarist Russell Malone, Ben Wolfe, Shannon Powell, and Harry himself), those of us who were fortunate enough to see Harry in concert in the early to mid 90′s know just how amazing this song was to see in person! The core arrangement has always been the same, but the placement of the song in any given set made it a great closer, a great opener, and a great “encore song” (depending on which concert you saw). This was also one of the songs he performed on his 1990 SNL appearance.
In the time it’s taken me to write all of this, I’ve listened to WAIL almost three times in it’s entirety. I don’t listen to this album often enough, quite honestly. It’s a masterpiece from start to finish. In many ways, WAIL was kind of the “measuring stick” to which all future Harry albums would be compared. Harry, however, had BIGGER plans. Bigger bands, bigger sounds, bigger vocals, and bigger success awaited him. This album really put Harry Connick, Jr. on the map…and we had yet to unfold it. The best was yet to come.