Lani Hall - Blush

Rudy

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They likely weren't released with the expectations that they would be hit records.
 

Michael Hagerty

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They likely weren't released with the expectations that they would be hit records.
Based on the push we'd see from A&M on every last one of them---and the Jazz Times piece on Lani, which contains this line, I'd argue that there was an expectation:

Between 1979 and 1982, she took an abrupt left turn with Double or Nothing, Blush, and Albany Park, three disco-fied albums, co-produced by Alpert, that sound like strained attempts to boost sales.
 

Bobberman

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And sadly radio airplay for them was very limited mostly on MOR/Easy listening stations and even on them they didn't last very long
 

Rudy

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Our easy listening stations locally wouldn't touch it. They were only into the really mushy "all violins, all the time" format.
 

Michael Hagerty

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I was programming an AM Adult Contemporary station at the time of BLUSH. My approach was really probably more accurately "Adult Top 40". I played whatever the Top 40 station was playing, minus their five hardest records. Those five slots, I'd usually go for a song that wasn't on Top 40's radar yet, but that I thought would sound good and might cross over. Given that ballad duets (Billy Preston & Syreeta "With You I'm Born Again") were crossing over, I thought "Come What May" could fly.
 

Bobberman

Well-Known Member
Given that ballad duets (Billy Preston & Syreeta "With You I'm Born Again") were crossing over, I thought "Come What May" could fly.
It probably would have Had there been the necessary promotion and other factors This could have propelled Lani to greater heights and Herb would have benefited more from his participation "Oh What might Have Been".
 

Harry

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It's not that they didn't try for a hit with "Come What May". They actually re-recorded it with the COLLECTIBLES album release and again put out a single of it.

And if that weren't enough, they also shopped it to the Latin market with the Spanish version, "Lo Que Siento Hoy Por Ti", again, redoing the vocals.
 

Bobberman

Well-Known Member
It's not that they didn't try for a hit with "Come What May". They actually re-recorded it with the COLLECTIBLES album release and again put out a single of it.

And if that weren't enough, they also shopped it to the Latin market with the Spanish version, "Lo Que Siento Hoy Por Ti", again, redoing the vocals.
I remember Come what may being played on an adult contemporary radio station in 84 ( The collectibles version) but I wasn't aware of the Spanish version until much much later. Again it should have been a hit but Radio was being fickle in the 80s and where I lived at the time automation and bean counters and other things were taking over and even though I knew it was getting worse for my favorite music getting forgotten and abandoned I held onto my hopes of being in radio and in 96 I
Onward I been able to keep playing songs like come what may and others to show everyone that there are many great songs that aren't Top 40 but worth listening to
 

Michael Hagerty

Well-Known Member
Here's what makes NO sense: "Come What May" was on the heels of "Rise". Herb was hot again. But nothing. I just checked my chart books. "Come What May" didn't even make the Adult Contemporary charts in Billboard---and that's a low bar. Plus---and if I knew this before, I'd forgotten it---NONE of Lani's albums ever made the Billboard 200 album charts---not even a week at #200.
 
No idea. In general, promotion people who couldn't deliver on songs the label believed in (whether it was their fault or not) were in fear of losing their gigs---and a decent number went from label to label after being bounced. My A&M rep (the late, great and wonderful Jan Basham) has been dead for 15 years, so I can't ask.

Uh, oh -- maybe the stress killed her!

(I shouldn't be cheeky about that -- sorry.)

Thanks again for all of your knowledge, tidbits and insights, Michael.
 

Michael Hagerty

Well-Known Member
Uh, oh -- maybe the stress killed her!

(I shouldn't be cheeky about that -- sorry.)

Thanks again for all of your knowledge, tidbits and insights, Michael.
You DO know that if you think better of something, you can edit it, right? I see this all the time online---make the joke, then the person says they shouldn't have said it, but goes ahead and posts it anyway.

Jan Basham died of cancer.
 
You DO know that if you think better of something, you can edit it, right? I see this all the time online---make the joke, then the person says they shouldn't have said it, but goes ahead and posts it anyway.

Jan Basham died of cancer.
It's too late for me to edit it now. It's been 18 min. (Rudy sets the limit on this forum to 15 min., it seems.)
 
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.
Paul Williams -- sure.

But, based on what I am familiar with hearing by Mr. Colombier --
I would say that he was a movie score composer (of incidental music) and not a Pop songwriter, at least not a hit songwriter, I.M.O.
(Unless he wrote a hit song that I am not aware of … ? )
 

Michael Hagerty

Well-Known Member
Paul Williams -- sure.

But, based on what I am familiar with hearing by Mr. Colombier --
I would say that he was a movie score composer (of incidental music) and not a Pop songwriter, at least not a hit songwriter, I.M.O.
(Unless he wrote a hit song that I am not aware of … ? )
Hit song, no---but he wrote this with Paul Williams:



Might have been interesting to hear more from them and others in the A&M/Almo world who could have written original material for Lani.
 
In the recent Jazz Times article, Lani is quoted stating that she didn't like the songs on the dance-Pop albums like Blush.
I wonder, then, whose idea was that -- who choose those songs - Herb?
 

Michael Hagerty

Well-Known Member
In the recent Jazz Times article, Lani is quoted stating that she didn't like the songs on the dance-Pop albums like Blush.
I wonder, then, whose idea was that -- who choose those songs - Herb?
That's usually the producer. In this case, Allee Willis. And since Allee wrote or co-wrote every track on that album, I'd say that's a good bet. The question then is who chose Allee.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
For reference, and preservation in case it disappears, here's the text of the Jazz Times article:

Jazz Times said:
For youngsters of the ’60s, the term “easy listening” denoted music for the square and old. It meant Andy Williams, the Lettermen, doctors’ waiting rooms, and the Zenith Stereo Console in the family den.

But Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66 made easy listening hip. Led by a young, bearded pianist from the state of Rio de Janeiro, the instrumental and vocal sextet fused Brazilian jazz with breezy sunshine pop. The music seemed designed to pour from an open-topped convertible as it whizzed toward Laguna Beach. Hits from Brazil took their place next to “The Fool on the Hill,” “Goin’ Out of My Head,” and “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” Everything pulsed with bossa rhythms and brimmed with tunefulness.

“The sound of Brasil ’66,” to quote Mendes, was the cool, cloudless voice of lead singer Lani Hall. A Chicago girl in her early twenties, Hall sang in phonetic Portuguese as well as English. In a 1968 TV appearance, she stands nearly a head shorter than her vocal cohort, Karen Philipp, a swaying, statuesque blonde who later posed in Playboy. But Hall draws the attention. In orange bell-bottoms, with brown hair spilling past her shoulders, she looks like an introverted, wistful college girl. Her singing is unadorned, almost vibrato-free, quietly sexy, and mysterious; one could project onto her whatever fantasy one wished.

Brasil ’66 remains iconic; Craft Recordings has just reissued the group’s Greatest Hits on vinyl. It includes Jorge Ben’s “Mas Que Nada,” which Mendes launched as an eternal dance hit. But Hall’s solo career has been sporadic. After leaving Mendes in January 1971, she made a series of albums for A&M, produced by the label’s co-founder, trumpeter Herb Alpert, Hall’s husband and one of the music industry’s towering masterminds. With his Mexican-flavored band, the Tijuana Brass, Alpert created one of the most influential sounds of the ’60s. Yet despite a Grammy, Hall’s records made her more of a cult figure than a star. On three occasions she has withdrawn from the business for years.

Since 2007, however, she and Alpert have toured the world with a trio. Though somewhat in his shadow, Hall is deeply respected. Maureen McGovern, the classic-pop songbird whose voice has been compared to a Stradivarius, calls her “a singer’s singer.” In 1967, Hall delighted the renowned Brazilian songwriter and musician Dori Caymmi when she sang lead on the Brasil ’66 version of his song, “Like a Lover.” It became a standard. “For us Brazilian composers at the time, like Edu Lobo, Milton Nascimento, and I, Brasil ’66 was great exposure,” Caymmi says. “Lani was an incredible part of this moment. We are very thankful to her because she performed our music in a beautiful way.” Hall’s own English lyrics for “Empty Faces” (Nascimento) and Lobo’s “Crystal Illusions” and “To Say Goodbye” gave those songs American lives.


From 1974 to the present, Hall has lived a California dream as the wife of one of music’s richest men and biggest philanthropists. The Alperts share a vast Malibu estate between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean. I sat with Hall this past autumn in their plush, earth-toned living room, decorated with Alpert’s paintings and sculptures. An ebullient 73, she looks 20 years younger. Periodically, her husband glanced in to keep an eye on things.

Their home is a world away from the apartment where Lani (pronounced LAH-ni, an abbreviation of her given name, Leilani) grew up, in Chicago’s working-class Albany Park. A Russian factory worker and his Polish wife were her parents.

“I came from a very volatile home,” she said. “I never felt safe. My mom was not well psychologically or physically, and was unpredictable and scary. I remember thinking to myself, ‘It can only get better than this!’ School was hard for me. I was an outsider.”

Hall found solace in singing; June Christy, Anita O’Day, Ruth Olay, and Barbra Streisand became her idols. But she kept her interest a secret until a friend dropped by unannounced and overheard her. Hall’s pal was a waitress at Mother Blues, a Chicago club where the greats of folk, jazz, and comedy performed. When Hall came in on open-mic night, her friend plied her with drinks, then pushed her onstage. In attendance was John Brown, who ran a nearby coffeehouse, the Centaur. He asked Hall to sing there on weekends. Her friend answered for her: “She’ll do it!”

Early in the engagement, Hall had returned to Mother Blues to see Brasil ’65, an all-Brazilian group. It made her yearn to sing that music. The leader, Sérgio Mendes, was in the States hoping to mine the booming bossa nova craze. But Brasil ’65 hadn’t caught on, and most of the musicians had flown home. Richard Adler, Mendes’ business partner, suggested Americanizing the group by adding vocals in English. Hearing about Hall, Mendes went to the Centaur. After her set, he invited the 19-year-old to sing with him.

Months later, after much woodshedding in a Los Angeles rehearsal space, Brasil ’66 was born. A Brazilian singer, Bibi Vogel, had become Hall’s counterpart. Adler arranged an audition with Alpert and his A&M partner, Jerry Moss. They signed the group, and Alpert came aboard to produce. “Herb contributed a lot,” Mendes says today, “because he had a lot of experience in the studio, much more than I did. He made some great suggestions.” One of them was to double-track Hall’s voice, a new and popular sound. Vogel was barely heard.

A&M released the album with a golden imprimatur: Herb Alpert Presents Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66. The cover depicts them as cool hipsters in evening wear, posed in a forest. Alpert had the band open for the Tijuana Brass at Madison Square Garden and elsewhere. Mendes’ record hit the Top 10.

Amid almost nonstop touring and TV, Hall mastered a flow of intricately arranged songs, many in Portuguese. She couldn’t speak it, so she asked band members to repeat phrases over and over until she could mimic them. I mentioned her tender delivery of “Viola Enluarada” (Moonlit Guitar), Marcos and Paulo Sérgio Valle’s poetic song of protest against Brazil’s military dictatorship. Surely Hall had studied the translation? “Uh-oh, I’m in trouble!” she said, laughing. “I probably knew what it meant when we recorded it, but it doesn’t matter. It’s in the music. Sometimes I’ll be singing a song in Portuguese and I think, ‘It really sounds like I know what I’m singing, doesn’t it?’”

The real Brazilian, Bibi Vogel, had left quickly, replaced by Janis Hansen, a chorus singer from The Andy Williams Show. “Sérgio would tell them all, ‘Try to sound like Lani, follow her,’” Hall explained. “Sometimes they didn’t take it so well. I don’t blame them. We roomed together. So I was living with these people.”

Other resentments were brewing. In 2004, Hansen told writer Steve Stanley that Mendes traveled first-class while lodging the band in “ratholes, just the worst hotels.” A grueling itinerary for cheesy pay, she said, had exhausted them all: “We just wanted to have him be more generous with us.” Once approached, said Hansen, “he got really pissed and fired everybody.”

But according to Hall, an exodus had already been planned. “I remember Janis saying that we all could be a group and be our own bosses. They wanted me to go with them. Without thinking it through, I agreed.”

Alpert, no doubt fearing the crash of one of A&M’s star acts, convinced Hall to plead for her job back. “He told me that Sérgio was the visionary and that we could not duplicate his sound and ideas,” Hall said. She had to acknowledge that Mendes had made her career possible, nurtured her talent, “and introduced me to the love of my life.” With a further push from Alpert—who did, after all, co-own the record company—Mendes rehired Hall.

Everyone else was replaced. Now Hall had a new singing partner, Karen Philipp. In Hansen’s absence, her recently recorded spotlight—“The Look of Love” from the James Bond film Casino Royale—went to No. 4 and took Brasil ’66 to the Oscars. Hansen and ex-Mendes percussionist José Soares were busy forming the Carnival, a Fifth Dimension-inspired sunshine-pop band. It folded after one album. But Mendes sailed on. Brasil ’66 opened for Frank Sinatra and traveled from Las Vegas to Japan to Brazil—although according to author Zuza Homem de Mello, one of the country’s foremost musical authorities, “Sérgio was never a success in Brazil after he decided to live in the U.S.”

Eager to keep the band maturing, Mendes had cut back on its double-tracked vocal sound in favor of more solos by him and the girls. Sometimes he sang in Portuguese while Hall shadowed him in English. A top West Coast arranger, Dave Grusin, layered on horns and swirling strings. Mendes added a new vocalist: Gracinha Leporace, his future wife. On the group’s eighth album, Stillness, recorded in 1970, Brasil ’66 has a darker, more enigmatic sound, with few familiar songs.

Sales had dwindled. And Alpert wasn’t pleased. But another matter was on his mind. He and Hall were now a couple, although Alpert and his first wife had not yet divorced. “Herb asked me to leave the group to see if we had something,” said Hall. “I was gone 11 months out of the year. It wasn’t a way to have a relationship.”

Late that year, Hall told Mendes she was quitting. “It didn’t lay well at all,” she said. “I think he was upset with Herb and me.”

Brasil ’66 didn’t last much longer. As Mendes plotted his next move, Hall took a three-year hiatus. Alpert’s divorce took place and he and Hall wed. I asked her what it was like for a former working-class girl to enter a kingdom of enormous wealth.

“Well,” she said, “for three years I used my own money. I didn’t want to take Herb’s. And then I ran out of money.” After a pause, she continued: “I’m not a spender. I know the value of money and I don’t want to waste it, so it didn’t seem to be an issue for me.”

In 1974, Alpert produced her first solo album on A&M. Sun Down Lady cast her as a singer of moody pop-folk by Don McLean, Joni Mitchell, and others. “I wanted to sound a little more forceful,” she said. “At times I think I sound angry. I couldn’t sing that way with Brasil ’66.”

Hall’s LPs kept coming with no particular focus; she sang Brazilian songs, a soft-rock “Send in the Clowns,” and chart-aimed tunes of dubious distinction. How much she had blossomed expressively is made clearest on the sprawlingly dramatic “At the Ballet,” from the musical A Chorus Line. She takes on the confessions of three young women who tell of how dance class had saved them from tortured home lives. “I’m in there somewhere,” said Hall, who sings ferociously of adolescent turmoil and of finding a place where “everything is beautiful.”

But in an age of singer/songwriters, she was primarily an interpreter, and the releases did not perform as hoped. Between 1979 and 1982, she took an abrupt left turn with Double or Nothing, Blush, and Albany Park, three disco-fied albums, co-produced by Alpert, that sound like strained attempts to boost sales. One single, “Where’s Your Angel?,” did nip at the bottom of the charts. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, no! I’m not excited about this because I don’t want to be singing these songs!’” An album she wholeheartedly loved, the all-Brazilian A Brazileira, was only released abroad.

Whatever her disappointments, she admits that a career “was not on my mind. Herb and I were deeply in love, and that’s what I wanted.” The couple also had a young daughter, Aria. “I did little tours,” Hall said, “but being alone up there wasn’t comfortable for me. I didn’t want to talk to the audience.” Laughing, she added: “When I was with Sérgio I didn’t have to talk to anybody. And today, with Herb, he does the talking. Fine and dandy!”

Her solo career still held surprises. In the early ’80s, Hall recorded the title song for the James Bond film Never Say Never Again; Alpert co-produced the session with Mendes, who had apparently forgiven the couple. Thereafter, José Quintana, Alpert’s Mexican producer, suggested to Hall that they record in Spanish. Lani, followed by Lani Hall and Es Fácil Amar, found her singing synthesized, commercial Latin pop. The albums did well in the Latin market—and Hall found herself halfheartedly back on the road. Finally, she said, she stared at herself in her dressing-room mirror in Venezuela and thought, “What are you doing here? Does it matter to you that much that they like the way you sing? Is that more important to you than being at home with your loved ones?”

Dissatisfaction and illness conspired to force her off the stage. In 1985, Hall was struck by the chronic Epstein-Barr virus, which causes severe fatigue and throat inflammation and attacks the immune system. The following February she was due at the Grammys; Es Fácil Amar had been nominated for Best Latin Pop Performance. “I was in bed all day,” she said. “I mustered up some energy and I went. And I won!”

But she no longer had the strength to sing. Told there was no cure, she stubbornly sought out alternative treatments. For 12 years, the public heard nothing of Hall. Then, in 1998, came Brasil Nativo, the album many of her fans had dreamed she would someday make. Co-produced with great taste by Hall and Alpert, it features songs by Dori Caymmi (who was there to play and sing), Edu Lobo, and other Brazilians. Hall contributes her most eloquent English lyrics, along with slow, intense reconceptions of the normally upbeat “Mas Que Nada” and Jobim’s “Waters of March.” Her Mendes-era coolness had gone; in its place was a scarred worldliness and a palpable ache.

Afterward, she vanished again. Alpert was facing his own health issues, which occupied them both for four years. The trumpeter had shifted his focus from music-making to art and the lavishly generous Herb Alpert Foundation. Hall had turned to writing. Her efforts yielded a book, Emotional Memoirs & Short Stories. It reveals turbulent feelings; she even tells of her ordeal with breast-implant surgery. HuffPost reviewer Jay Weston said he’d been “riveted … She brought the power of her remarkable voice to the printed page.”

Still, Hall missed singing. Around 2007, with sickness behind them, the couple discussed performing again. “If not now, when?” she asked. “This is the time—while we’re healthy, while we still have our faculties.”

They formed a band and hit the road with instant success. Their 2013 album Steppin’ Out won a Grammy. But these days, said Hall, they’re making music for the love of it, with no eye on the prize: “Now we’re relaxed, and we’re just sharing our gifts. If you receive them, great.” During her Brasil ’66 medley, she noted proudly, “the audience goes nuts!”

Being with Herb, she said, has made the rigors of touring seem fun. “We were just on the road, playing every night in a different place. I’m so grateful to the life I have, it’s hard for me to believe at times.”

At this point, Alpert walked in and gently alerted her: The band was waiting in their home studio. It was time to rehearse for the next round of gigs.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
Hit song, no---but he wrote this with Paul Williams:



Might have been interesting to hear more from them and others in the A&M/Almo world who could have written original material for Lani.
I've relayed this here before, but the station I listened to (and ultimately worked for) played "We Could Be Flying". It was on the playlist when I was still working in a drug store and the older lady who worked there couldn't stand the wild organ part in the middle. I'd hear it come on and work my way to the radio to turn it down at that point so she wouldn't change the station. That part is known as an irritant in soft-music circles.

There are of course two different iterations of Lani's "We Could Be Flying". The first happened on the WINGS album with a lot of orchestral flourishes from Mr. Colombier. The stripped-down version came on SUN DOWN LADY, and I believe that was what was on the single that was sent to radio.
 
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Rudy

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That's usually the producer. In this case, Allee Willis. And since Allee wrote or co-wrote every track on that album, I'd say that's a good bet. The question then is who chose Allee.
Allee would have been fresh off her work with Maurice White and Earth Wind & Fire. (She co-wrote the hits "September," "In The Stone" and "Boogie Wonderland" with Maurice White and others including Al McKay, John Lind and David Foster.) Could be someone was trying to capture that same magic with Lani's album...?
 
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