Lani Hall - Blush

Discussion in 'A Small Circle of Friends: The Music Forum' started by David S, Aug 3, 2017.

  1. I want to follow up. YouTube is great for hearing music, right?

    Two recordings of her post-Sergio career do sound great:

    "Hello It's Me" (Todd Rundgren)

    And the "Love Song" from her first solo album sound really good too.

    I wouldn't describe the style of the backing (instruments and production) to be banal at all in those two selections. I suppose a more refined and adult sensibility is needed to properly appreciate it (which I now have).

    Her singing had a purity that was free of excessive ornamentation and forced self-consciousness or showing-off or anything. She really served each song she sang. If only her solo albums had more great songs!
  2. Todd Rundgren's piano songs like "Hello It's Me" was influenced by Laura Nyro. Lani should have sung Laura's songs like "Save the Country" "Stoned Soul Picnic" and "Poverty Train", etc. Laura also influenced Carole King's "It's Too Late."

    Check out this live BBC footage from 1971, 'A' dorian mode:
  3. Michael Hagerty

    Michael Hagerty Well-Known Member

    I completely agree with your assessment on production. I think really the only radio-worthy stuff was from BLUSH. The production values on "Where's Your Angel", "I Don't Want You To Go" and "Come What May" were right in line with what AC stations were playing in 1980.

    Your suggestion as to song selection, though, has me wondering what airplay would have been like. The material was too hip for the times for Adult Contemporary, and where it wasn't, we simply would have played the originals. And album rock would have ignored covers of artists they were already playing. And it's lack of airplay that stunted Lani's solo career, in my view.

    It might have been a problem with no solution, unfortunately. Lani was a 21-year-old singing music for 40-year-olds in Brasil '66---largely off the radar of rock fans as the world (and A&M) changed from the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967 onward. By the time she went solo in '72, she was surrounded by Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and others...and her stuff was mostly covers.

    The only thing I can think of that might have changed things would have been to get Lani's first solo album out a lot quicker than they did (there was a two-year gap between leaving Sergio and SUNDOWN LADY). Her participation in STILLNESS was minimal enough that they should have been working in parallel on Lani's debut. If she'd avoided the covers of well-known artists and songs, done her own material, plus fresh stuff from in-house A&M folks like Michel Colombier and Paul Williams, and gotten the album out in the fall of '70, with the appropriate promotional push, she could have been positioned as a hip female artist, beaten TAPESTRY to the stores by six months and been ahead of the Joni-Carly curve.
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  4. I just discovered what might be Lani's first (released) recording after leaving Sergio:
    "We Could Be Flying" from the Wings album by Michel Colombier. That was 1971. And it sounds great. I don't know if it could or should have been a hit. Someone (above in this thread) mentioned hearing it on a radio station at least a few times.

    Guest Appearances | Lani Hall :: On The Record

    She was merely a guest on that album, on that particular song. That wasn't released as a "LANI HALL" single, right?
    Hmm, maybe Herb even thought that her guesting on the Brass' "Summertime" could have helped jump start her career as a solo singing star.
    Herb Alpert presents ... Lani Hall !
  5. Michael Hagerty

    Michael Hagerty Well-Known Member

    Maybe with some trimming to the instrumental bridge, "We Could Be Flying" might have gotten some airplay---but probably only on Adult Contemporary. Album rock stations could have played it off the WINGS album in 1971 (they played pretty much anything they liked then), and didn't.
  6. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    "We Could Be Flying" definitely got airplay in Philadelphia on WFIL-FM or WIOQ (they changed call letters). I was working in a drug store at the time, while in college, and would take control of the radio when I could. It was usually set to the beautiful music station, the kind that all of the drug and card stores used to play.

    WFIL-FM was sort of a light-pop, what we'd consider Adult Contemporary today, playing current soft hits with soft-sounding oldies and some instrumentals thrown in.

    I'd switch to that station when I got the chance, and my co-worker, a middle-aged lady wouldn't seem to care unless things got a little "loud". Well, every time "We Could Be Flying" came on, I'd have to man the volume control during the "wild" organ break in the middle. If I didn't, Betty would instantly hop up and change the station back to the Mantovani stuff.

    This copy of the "Emmanuel / We Could Be Flying" single on Discogs has a mark on the b-side, probably indicating that someone thought it was the plug side.

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  7. Michael Hagerty

    Michael Hagerty Well-Known Member

    I'd forgotten it ran 4:45. That's a killer, right there.
  8. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    The version on Lani's CLASSICS 19 (and SUN DOWN LADY)is just 3:55, as it eliminates a good bit of Colombier's orchestral stuff.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2017
  9. Yesterday, I just listened to an album that I haven't heard in a while, Genesis's Selling England by the Pound (from 1973 -- This was 6 or 7 years before that band or Phil Collins became really well-known and broke through to the mainstream and became a big commercial success.) There is a song that Phil actually sang lead on (amidst an album with Peter Gabriel's lead vocals) that he helped write with Mike Rutherford. Tony and Peter actually didn't want it on the Genesis album. But hearing it yesterday, I realized that it could have sounded great with another singer (not that Phil was a bad singer) -- maybe Lani!
    "More Fool Me" was in an early '70s folk singer-songwriter style with acoustic (12-string) guitar. In fact, that's likely what influenced Mike and Phil when they made that song; similar to Robert ("Percy") Plant's interests shifting from Blues to songs like "Goin' to California."

    Now, Genesis was never a "hip" or "cool" band (according to Phil, himself!), and back in 1973 they were just starting to gain their earliest (cult) American fans. If Lani had done a rendition of "More Fool Me" -- this was before almost anyone (particularly in the U.S.) at the time knew about Genesis -- maybe it would have had impact ?

    In fact, that song might fit better on/as a Lani Hall / early '70s American singer's release, than on an album with songs like "Firth of Fifth" and "Battle of Epping Forest" which is so overtly English/British in character.
    But, the opening song - "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight" (the almost-title track of the album) was written by Peter Gabriel (first half, at least, before the instrumental passages). I heard a cassette tape recording that Peter had made earlier in 1973 (summer?), playing the chords on a piano and singing nonsense lyrics and it's beautiful. Imagine if Lani sang that!

    Speaking of strange, complex, esoteric British Art Rock, I would have loved to hear Lani Hall sing songs by Gentle Giant like "The Face" (with some simplification made to the arrangement -- and maybe even removing the most "thorny" compositional passages that Kerry Minnear came up with) or "No God's a Man" (from Power and the Glory, 1973). I don't think Gentle Giant got too much airplay in the U.S. (or anywhere) around 1974 or so (or ever).
    + I'm working on an arrangement of "Interview" - which is the title track of the 2nd album that G.G. released after Power and the Glory. That used Modal-Jazz-like harmony.
  10. Michael Hagerty

    Michael Hagerty Well-Known Member

    Again, great from an artistic view, but the question was why Lani didn't have hits. I doubt that this would have changed that.
  11. Have you heard "More F
    Have you heard "More Fool Me"? I think that had some hit-making potential. But then again, you worked in radio back then, and not me. Mike Rutherford and Phil obviously went on to write many songs that became very popular and successful by the 1980s.
    Oh, here's another one that you might have heard: "Your Own Special Way" is a great love song that Mike wrote about/to/for his wife. That appeared on Wind and Wuthering.
  12. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    I actually could hear "More Fool Me" being given a treatment by Lani Hall, even with a similar arrangement (acoustic guitar and very little percussion). I don't know if it would have been hit material, but it would have been a great off-the-wall choice for an album track. How many would expect her to cover a song from a prog band, anyway? (Certainly not "Supper's Ready"! :laugh: )
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  13. Michael Hagerty

    Michael Hagerty Well-Known Member

    Intuitive Samba: I love your choices and you absolutely have great taste in music---but think about this...EVERYTHING Lani recorded had hit-making potential....the strongest being the singles from BLUSH. The question is what would have worked, when, with so much in her favor, it never did.

    Again, I think it may well be that there was no answer...that being a 20-year-old singing to 45-year-olds during the formative rock years of 1966-70 simply put her out of position to become a credible hit-making artist in the 1970s.

    The great irony of A&M...a promotion and PR staff that largely resented the Carpenters managed to deliver five years worth of gold and platinum because Herb told them "do it"...couldn't even get close for Lani, on the same orders from the same guy.
  14. You flatter me : )

    I'll just end with one more suggestion of material: There was a band in England called The Action and George Martin even produced some early singles of theirs - that were R&B/Soul covers -- much in the style of the early Who ("Maximum R&B"). But, in 1967 they started writing some original songs - and they recorded demos and they are great. Look for Rolled Gold on CD.

    The first 7 songs are truly great: "Something to Say", "Brain" and two other tracks that had a hint of a Samba rhythm: "Icarus" and "Love is All" ; "Things You Cannot See", "Strange Roads" and "Come Around" are great.

    The Action - Brain (The Lost Recordings 1967/68)

    If that band had recorded (what was going to be their debut LP -- Previously they only released 45s) - it would have been one of the greatest albums of the era. George Martin even said that he couldn't understand how they didn't become a big success. So, anyway, if a singer like Lani had covered these songs (in, say, the 1970s) almost no one would have known the Action's (demo) recordings at the time. In fact, those recordings are still pretty obscure. Those Action songs were truly a buried treasure trove of songwriting from that great era and music scene (London, '60s).

    3 or so years later the lead singer, Reg King, recorded an album and I recently heard one of the tracks:
    "That Ain't Living"
    That sounds like Rod Stewart should have done that (c. 1971).

    Well, to this day -- someone should cover that material. Are any A&R / Producers listening? Our musical culture (the music scene -- even the industry) needs something like that to happen.
  15. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    As a music store operator for 40+ years and a Lani Hall fan, I think I can tell you why she didn't have any hits. It's because she just didn't have a sound that happened to strike the right emotional chord in the mass public, AND she also didn't get that lucky break that happens to every popular artist. She needed that perfect song and that perfect environment. It only takes one song -- like what happened to the Carpenters with "Close to You." If it wasn't for that song, they probably would never have had the rest of their hits. Once you get ONE hit, then you have a base to build on. Leaving Sergio, Lani changed her style, so she abandoned what base she might have had (plus, Sergio was done having hits by that time anyway).

    There are umpteen singers who have great material, songs that "should have" been hits, but they just don't hit that lucky right-place-in-the-right-time goal, and the artist fades away.

    I think Lani's biggest problem was, she just didn't have the type of sound that was selling commercially during the time her career was starting. She was too classy-sounding to fit into that "hippie" style that Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt and the like were exploring. If you think about other female singers who were popular in the '70s, Lani's music was much more "serious" sounding and not "light pop" along the lines of Abba, Olivia Newton John, and so on. She came off more as a serious singer, not a pop singer, so that's why she didn't make the pop charts. Most of the hit music in the '70s was just about anything but "serious." The only time she ever really seemed to be trying to go "mainstream" was on the title track of the Double or Nothing album, which could have been a dance hit given the right mix and promotion, but there again, her voice was just not what was selling in that time. It's almost as if she was TOO good a singer.

    I sold one, exactly ONE, Lani Hall album in my whole career.... it was a CD copy of her Classics album. A guy asked what type of music it was, and I said it's middle-of-the-road pop, and said the best comparison I could think of was Barbra Streisand. He bought the CD, and brought it back the next day saying he hated it and wanted to exchange it. Normally I wouldn't allow that but since he'd bought it on my recommendation, I let him trade it in. I still have that CD today.

    I was thinking of songs I loved that should have been hits. One of them was by Paper Lace, a one-hit-wonder band who hit Number One with "The Night Chicago Died." A follow-up single was called "So What If I Am?" It was a great rockin' single, catchy, had a hummable chorus and a great beat and sounded like one of those songs that would be a smash hit at concerts because you could sing along with it. What happened? It didn't even make the charts. And today you can't even buy it (I've looked). I still think it's a great song. But it didn't have that magic "whatever" that would have pulled it up the charts.
  16. Thank you Mike Blakesley for the insights.
    Only one copy was sold and that got returned -- geez.

    Lani had some commercial success and popularity in the early 1980s in Spanish-speaking Latin America, I think, right?

    Well, overall -- Lani's fanbase was Brasil '66 fans. I suppose the safest move she could have made was to continue singing the material that she sang with Sergio in the 1960s. I don't think Sergio could have prevented her from doing those songs (in live performances), since Sergio didn't compose/write them. Maybe the arrangements (which were Sergio's intellectual property -- or Herb/A&M's?) would have had to have been altered. For one thing, "What the World Needs is Love" works best with the slower tempo, not the frenetic Vegas-type treatment that Sergio gave it on Ye Me Le
    . Actually, I've made an arrangement that uses modulation and uses the modal instrumental Samba-Jazz intro but slows down for the verses/vocals when they come in.

    I have an idea for a promo poster for gigs (or even album cover) that shows her with a bright colour umbrella like the cover photo of Look Around titled:
    "Herb Alpert presents ...

    Lani Hall!"

    Oh well, what could have been.
  17. Yeah, a "pastel"-coloured umbrella. Look of Love is such a wonderful album cover. (I know, there's a thread on favourite Brasil '66 album art.)

    Michael Hagerty is framing Lani's career prospects and cultural impact in terms of reaching a boomer Rock audience. The landscape of Pop culture and the Music Industry was changing rapidly (Particularly, Monterey Pop Festival was a watershed, along with Seargent Pepper, et al). Sure, the boomers (and the Rock audience) was very big, and the record (and live concert) industry was growing in the early 1970s. But those 30 and 40 -year olds who were into A&M records in the 1960s were a market demographic, too. In fact, that was largely the same market demographic segment that was into the Carpenters, right?

    Plus, Lani has loved Brasilian music since she started hearing it in 1966 (upon meeting Sergio). I suppose the main difference such a career track in the 1970s could have had for Lani would be that there was no Sergio, plus the emphasis would be on Lani as the center-point (focal point of attention). She would emerge in her own wright.
    But the audience (market/fanbase) for that music would have been fragmented between Sergio's continuing Brasil '77 and Lani's live concerts.
    Back in the 1960s, the way I'd describe the way Lani was presented, visually on-stage (on TV appearances, and live concerts) was almost as an ornament to Sergio, who was the center-piece of attention. Sure, Sergio appreciated and knew how important her vocals were to the sound (the records, particularly).
    It's funny how Sergio looked like he was from the Eighteen-sixties (1860s), in the nineteen-sixties. Maybe her new backing pianist should have worn a top hat (like Abe Lincoln)!
    Nowadays, watching YouTube, I do like those mid-1960s Mod fashions (that I see in the TV appearances of Brasil '66, particularly the first lineup with Janis). But maybe in the early '70s that was considered too out-of-style and "straight" -- but maybe not in the eyes of the A&M record buyers who were in their 40s.

    Maybe Lani could have been hyped (ahem, marketed) as "The Most Beautiful voice in Pop Music" . But, on second thought that would invite scrutiny and a lot of pressure on her. (In my imaginary parallel universe, I can envision Lani as having achieved the status of being remembered as The definitive American (female) singer of the 1970s. What a fantastical vision!) Maybe hype like that is a bit like how Bruce Springsteen was declared as "THE Future of Rock 'n Roll" by Time (and/or Newsweek cover stories).

    But early '70s album rock (underground) stations were eclectic and open-minded, right? One needn't necessarily have a hit single to have impact and success and gain a following. For many bands, it was about albums (and live concerts). It seems that much of the record industry was still stuck in thinking in terms of the supposed importance of a hit 45 (single) record and getting Top 40 airplay.

    But then again, in America - Led Zeppelin had a hit single with "Whole Lotta Love" , and Yes had "Roundabout" and E.L.P. had the Greg Lake songs like "Lucky Man" and "From the Beginning." In fact, I was surprised to learn that (back in 1973) Steely Dan's "Do it Again" got AM radio airplay. I grew up, accustomed to hearing that on FM "Classic Rock" format stations. It was a hi-fi 16-track production.

    Anyway, that kind of musical direction (continuing Samba-Jazz-Pop) and not trying to reach a Boomer rock audience -- would have been better than making Disco-sounding records with mediocre forgettable songs. In fact, if she became associated with Disco (like Donna Summer, and the Bee Gees) she would have been rapidly out-of-style by sometime in the 1980s.
  18. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    On her first Latin album called LANI (SP-30002), she did a "Sergio Mendes Medley".

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  19. Bobberman

    Bobberman Well-Known Member

    I love that medley and she sounded Excellent on it a friend of mine had it and played it for me a decade ago and it hooked me like all of Lani's music
  20. Michael Hagerty

    Michael Hagerty Well-Known Member

    Ultimately, it appears it wouldn't have made any difference. In the A&M Retro thread, Steve Sidoruk posted this from Billboard in 1976:
    A&M Retro

    Lani's lack of support for her own product ("no real intention of following through") doomed the first two albums...and a time-out for the birth of a child should never be called a "retirement", at least not publicly.

    Reading this article makes it clear to me, there never was going to be a there...there, beyond, perhaps, the odd near-miss single like "Never Say Never Again".
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  21. Yeah, I guess Lani wasn't interested in touring. She left Brasil '66 for the simple reason that she didn't want to do another (world) tour and be away from Herb. At least, that's the extent of what I've heard (from her, in a recent interview -- You can't have a relationship with someone if you're away -- or something to that effect.) It's not because she had a musical creative artistic disagreement with Sergio, or any personal bad blood, or because the last two Sergio Mendes Brasil '66 records weren't selling (though the 1970s Greatest Hits collection sold very well), or she had a big ego (She strikes me as having very little ego.) and was itching to be a star in her own,
    or that the Brasilian/Latin sound (rhythms) were uncool and out-of-style (in the American Pop Culture of 1971 -- I dunno, I wasn't around back then.). That music is perennial and Lani still loves it -- but why is that largely absent from her solo albums (particularly, the early ones)?

    Now, did she, or could she have sung in local L.A. venues in the early 1970s -- or appeared on TV shows (I can find few TV appearances on YouTube.)? (Sergio discovered her in 1965 or early '66 in a Chicago club, so maybe she could have sung somehow at Shelly's Manne-hole or _(what other L.A. Jazz clubs??)_ Paul McCartney did push/press for the Beatles to continue performing live, because it "keeps a band sharp" -- but even Paul realized how unusual the Beatles' situation was and was the last to throw in the towel on that in 1966. And it was Paul who was trying to find a way for the Beatles to perform live again (rooftop). And he toured with Wings in an in-announced way, at first. ) That way, Lani would have stayed in-town -- and not just any town, but the capital of the U.S. music industry -- and have been able to come home to Herb each day/night.
    If Herb was touring, then, she could have been involved as a singer in some way or another (as was the case in 1966 when B'66 started touring, with Tijuana). But, I guess, Herb was busy running A&M in the L.A. offices -- the Carpenters were the big business at the time for the label.

    In retrospect, it's clear to me that she (and anyone involved, at A&M, etc.) should have forgotten about being a mainstream Pop singing success in the U.S. and seeking L.A. commercial radio airplay and instead been a Jazz singer.
    I bet, if she had the right material, she could have been very cherished in France. Maybe she and Herb could have gotten a nice Chateau in France or Riviera, or something. Many American Jazz musicians went to Europe in the '60s and '70s. There was a more serious musical culture in Europe. Europe, and Japan (and Latin America, too) seems to cherish and be receptive to the cultural richness of the U.S. more than commercial mainstream American media outlets are supportive of.

    One crazy idea would have been to join the New Santana band (that did Welcome, particularly "Yours is the Light" in 1973). I bet Carlos would have loved Lani('s voice). Flora Purim, was the guest vocalist on there and wasn't touring with Santana('s band).
    But Lani didn't want to tour and be away from her beloved. She also became a mother in 1975.
  22. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    I don't think Lani would have fit with the Santana sound at all....her voice is a dominant force on whatever she records, but Santana records are always dominated by the guitar and percussion. Try to imagine Lani singing "Oye Como Va" -- it sounds like a train wreck in my head.

    By the time of Welcome and Caravanserai, Santana had moved to where the vocals were even LESS important than they had been on the early albums, so a powerful singer like Lani would have stuck out like a sore thumb.
  23. Michael Hagerty

    Michael Hagerty Well-Known Member

    Intuitive: A lot of truth in what you write. Lani was hampered by the fact that she and Herb didn't go public as a couple until 1973-74. It's only been in some fairly recent interviews that either of them has let slip that the relationship goes back further. So she really couldn't have been open about her reasons at the time.

    As for jazz, by the early 70s, the trend was toward rock-jazz fusion...not a comfortable space for Lani, either. And I agree with Mike about Santana.

    The good news is that she's found her comfort zone the past ten years, recording and performing with Herb for a core of appreciative fans. We should all be so blessed.
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  24. Ah! - so you are familiar with the Welcome album. That was out-of-print for a while, incredibly -- yet I think it's some of Santana's best music.
    I cited "Yours is the Light" because it's a Samba -- and it's the strongest composition on that album, I.M.O.

    But "Oye Como Va" -- it's a chorus of voices singing that one - not one lead vocalist.
    When I think about it now, Lani's cool-toned smooth voice could have worked for the verses of "Evil Ways" maybe. Well, the Santana band by 1973 was doing some of the more famous earlier songs, but they had newer material. I really was just thinking of "Yours is the Light", in particular. But Mike sounds like he does indeed know the relatively obscure Welcome album.

    I get the names of the various Latin-American and Brasilian musical styles confused. I think Tito Puente did what's called "Mambo" right?

    Salsa, Afro-Cuban, (I know what a Tango is.), Cha-cha, Rhumba. To many gingos like me, I just lumped them together into my mind under the header of "Latin." Recently, I've learned a lot about Brasilian (not Spanish-speaking Latin American) music, starting with the Brasil '66 albums and doing YouTube / Googling research. I got to hear Elis Regina, etc. Now Elis is a powerful singer. She owned the stage. I don't know if Lani's voice was acoustically as powerful as Elis's - but then again I never heard Lani sing in-person.
  25. It seems that Shelly's Manne-Hole moved in 1971 or 1972 to a new location and that only lasted a year. I don't know how many Jazz clubs were still viable in American cities (other than NYC, maybe) in the early 1970s - particularly L.A. By the 1960s more Americans were staying home watching T.V. and many Jazz players went to Europe. The old bread-and-butter club gigs were drying up. And yes, Rock and Jazz-Fusion -- as you said.

    Yes, indeed. Other than her bout with Epstein-Barr - I think she's happy with her life. She's certainly had a great marriage, by any outward available indication.
    She wouldn't have probably liked being a big celebrity anyway.

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