High Adventure

Kenny Loggins

Columbia Records, 1982

http://kennyloggins.com

REVIEW BY: Mark Feldman

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/16/2001

Kenny Loggins is often given a bad rap for being one of the poster children for the cultural rock and roll revolution gone corporate. Having begun his career as a long-haired sensitive folkie and half of the duo with Poco's Jim Messina, he discovered in the mid-'80s that writing movie themes is really where the money is at, and he's never really been the same since.

But the career of Kenny Loggins as an independent movie-less songwriter ended with a bang. Unlike his late '70s solo releases (which aren't bad, don't get me wrong, but can get awfully depressing at times), High Adventure is brimming with energy and vitality. From the opening heavy metal-like intro to "Don't Fight It," a duet with Journey's Steve Perry that was a minor hit, to the exotic new-wave influenced synthesizers of "It Must Be Imagination," this album has 1982 written all over it.

And as can be expected from an early '80s pop album, the hits were all classics. "Don't Fight It" is an exciting romp featuring, as previously mentioned, some blistering guitar work and both Loggins and Perry screeching their hearts out like there was no tomorrow. "Welcome To Heartlight" (not to be confused with Neil Diamond's theme from E.T. which was a hit around the same time) features a campfire-like verse leading unexpectedly into more blistering guitar work in the chorus. A children's choir rounds out the final refrain - campy, indeed.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But the most classy of the classics was undoubtedly "Heart To Heart," one of the great singles of the '80s that has mysteriously been lost to time. The jazz-pop influences of Loggins' many collaborations with the Doobie Brothers' Michael McDonald (more on that later) are quite apparent here, in fact you can even hear McDonald singing backup, but unlike most of Loggins' lame attempts at a musical sequel to "What A Fool Believes" (a song he and McDonald co-wrote and both recorded, but McDonald ended up with the version that became a platinum-selling single, whereas Loggins' version most definitely did not), this one actually stands on its own as a terrific song, pop perfectionism at its finest, not a note wasted as it meanders through its seamless sections of structure.

As for the rest of the album, it is the other McDonald collaboration, "I Gotta Try," that stands out. Again, McDonald's version was the hit, but in this case Loggins' version is the superior one, as he sings it with so much enthusiasm that you almost forget how stale the subject matter is (whoop-de-doo, another song about believing in yourself…) And like "Heart To Heart," this is a fun song to play on the piano, too. "If That's Not What You're Looking For" is the other monster cut, fat '80s synthesizers, dense, multi-tracked vocals, and yet more blistering guitar work all rolled into one fun-filled package. Todd Rundgren would be proud.

But as much as the upbeat songs had improved from their counterparts on Loggins' late '70s records like Nightwatch and Keep The Fire, Loggins had simultaneously lost his ability to write a good ballad. "It Must Be Imagination" is kind of Duran Duran lite, if such a thing is possible, all effects, but very repetitive and little of lasting substance. "Only A Miracle," an ode to his newborn son, may have an applaudable subject for a song, but it doesn't take from its extreme sappiness. And "The More We Try," on which Loggins apparently had forgotten how to sing above a whisper or write more than one verse, is also way, way too drenched in synthesized strings for its own good. The sweeping, soulful textures of the slow songs on his earlier records like "Set Me Free," "Who's Right, Who's Wrong," or even the duet with Stevie Nicks "Whenever I Call You Friend," are nowhere to be seen on High Adventure, and they are sorely missed.

All in all, it's mostly a wash, and whether High Adventure is a better or worse record than other Loggins records depends entirely on what mood you're in. This is an easy album to like, full of ear candy, and if you have the vinyl version, the slow songs are conveniently at the end of each side for easy skipping. And although much of it hasn't aged as nicely as one might hope, as a period piece or simply something to play air guitar or drums to, it's hard to beat.

Rating: B

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© 2001 Mark Feldman and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.