By Cait Brennan
Like a lot of artists who were huge in the early ‘70s, David Cassidy didn’t get much respect. The magnetic and charming breakout star of The Partridge Family topped the charts with his TV band and made waves as a solo artist as well. Modern audiences weaned on prefab TV pop stars may find it difficult to understand the extent of Cassidy’s fame at its peak. On one weekend in 1973, Cassidy sold out six consecutive shows at Wembley Stadium (capacity 82,000) and had similar sellout audiences at arenas around the world. Far more complex than the million-dollar teenybopper albatross they hung around his neck, Cassidy tried offroading it with Broadway plays, a TV series, and tons of other media appearances. In the UK and Europe, his later ‘70s albums continued to do well, but in his home country, David Cassidy was a man that was a little too undercover.
It’s a shame, then, that American audiences never got to hear Romance, Cassidy’s 1985 album for Arista Records. His only studio album of that decade, Romance is a bold re-invention that became a Top 20 hit in the UK and launched a couple of memorable hit singles that should’ve been hits at home, too.
After Cassidy’s successful Broadway run as the titular character in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, he moved back to the UK, hoping to rekindle his recording career. Happily, Cassidy found an enthusiastic and gifted collaborator in producer, bassist and songwriter Alan Tarney, who produced some of the most memorable ‘70s and ‘80s hits by Cliff Richard (“Dreamin’,” “A Little In Love,” “Wired For Sound”); Leo Sayer (“More Than I Can Say”); Squeeze (“Annie Get Your Gun) ;and a little song called “Take On Me” by a lovely band of lithe lads called a-ha. He’d also had a memorable hit of his own, “No Time To Lose” by the Tarney-Spencer Band. After the obligatory ‘80s feathered hair highlights, Cassidy and Tarney went to work writing a nice batch of hooky, contemporary songs to flesh out in the studio.
The results were heartening. Romance is certainly as good as, if not better than, any pop record from 1985, with elements of Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, George Michael, Paul Young, and other sounds of the day. Indeed the ex-Wham! vocalist made a huge contribution to the album’s success, singing a prominent “answer” vocal on the single “The Last Kiss,” trading lyrics with an epic vocal by Cassidy. The combination of the veteran pop star and the hot young star on the rise was too much for radio to resist; the gorgeous synth-driven ballad “The Last Kiss” was a top 10 hit in the UK and Europe. Surely some Arista exec in Los Angeles was kicking himself, probably spilling a not-inconsequential amount of cocaine in the process.
Another up-and-comer, Basia, sings the duet “Romance (Let Your Heart Go),” and “She Knows All About Boys” was another single that did well in parts of Europe. Cassidy and Tarney’s songs strike the perfect tone and the singer is in especially strong voice here, belting the high notes and cultivating that tremulous tenderness that made ‘70s hearts swoon.
The ten songs on Romance will surprise listeners who know Cassidy only through his early 1970s Bell Records output. For American music fans who love the sounds of the mid-’80s, Romance will feel like discovering a great alternate-universe hit record from that era, doubtless inducing a rash of false memories of that California Cooler-drenched weekend in Cabo with Rob Lowe and a giraffe or something. And whether you’re a Brit on a trip down memory lane or you’re hearing the album for the first time, it’s an enjoyable trip back to the ‘80s and a lovely, underappreciated moment in David Cassidy’s enduring career.
Romance was reissued by Real Gone Music on October 2 and is available to order from their website.