Neil Sedaka: Solitaire

Sedaka was back, but his audience had yet to tune in

Neil Sedaka’s commercial re-emergence wasn’t fully realized until 1975’s “Laughter in the Rain” topped the American chart, but the seeds of his comeback were sewn four years earlier with the aptly titled Emergence and this 1972 follow-up. The album takes its title from Sedaka’s temporary departure from songwriting partner Howard Greenfield; Sedaka wrote and worked instead with Phil Cody, and recorded the album in England with a nascent 10cc. (Graham Gouldman, with whom Sedaka had become friendly, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley had been producing pop and bubblegum sides throughout the early ‘70s, including a stint cutting sides for the legendary Kasenetz-Katz team; a collection of their early productions can be found on Strawberry Bubblegum.)

By the time that Sedaka joined the crew at their Strawberry Studios, they’d waxed a number of hits, including “Neanderthal Man” as Hotlegs, and “Umbopo” as Doctor Father. It was the latter that drew Sedaka to Gouldman, and ultimately to the studio in early 1972. The album was heavily influenced by the soulful singer-songwriter strut that Sedaka’s friend Carole King had launched with the previous year’s Tapestry and which Elton John was heating up at the same time. John would sign Sedaka to his Rocket label two years later, and with songs from this and two other UK albums in tow, Sedaka’s U.S. comeback set sail. The opening “That’s When the Music Takes Me” speaks directly of Sedaka’s everlasting faith in music, and cracked the Top 40 upon its U.S. re-release.

The album’s title track was also reused on Sedaka’s U.S. comeback album, Sedaka’s Back; it became a hit single for Andy Williams, and later the Carpenters. It’s one of several tracks (including “Don’t Let it Mess Your Mind” and “Better Days are Coming”) which found their way into other artists’ repertoires. Sedaka may have only then been regaining his footing as a performer, but his legendary songwriting chops were clearly undiminished by the commercial layoff. Sedaka sounds renewed as he sings bluesy pop invitations to love, sweet pop confections of spiritual freedom, contented moments of optimism, and introspective thoughts of disillusion. Sedaka never again sounded quite so free and effortless, as his commercial re-emergence weighed on both his songwriting and performance. [©2017 Hyperbolium]