Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986, which now shifts to the releases I didn’t discover until after 1986]
Artist: PETER CETERA
Not that it was really necessary, but I already defended my love of Peter Cetera’s solo career in last year’s No Guilt, Just Pleasure post. While a lot of people are dismissive of the ballads & soft rock hits he recorded with Chicago and as a solo artist, I enjoy them just as much as Chicago’s more groundbreaking earlier work. Sure, some of the songs are schmaltzy & sappy, but I could listen to that distinctive tenor sing just about anything and always end up with a smile on my face. He released his self-titled debut solo album in 1981 during a lull in Chicago’s career, when the hits had dried up and their future was uncertain. It’s a very good and underrated record but, other than one Mainstream Rock radio hit, it was a commercial disappointment. A year later, with a streamlined sound thanks to producer David Foster, the band resurrected their career with the multi-platinum Chicago 16, and followed that up in 1984 with the even more successful Chicago 17. Thanks to six hit singles from those albums, all of them featuring Cetera’s one-of-a-kind vocals, they were on top of the world again…until personality conflicts led to Cetera’s departure. He wasted no time in re-launching his solo career with Solitude/Solitaire, continuing the hit parade of the previous few years.
This album is best known for the two #1 singles that define Cetera’s solo career for many people: “Glory Of Love,” the ballad/love theme from The Karate Kid, Part II (co-written with his then-wife & David Foster), and “The Next Time I Fall,” his duet with crossover Christian Pop singer Amy Grant. Had these songs been performed by almost any other mainstream pop singer I probably would have dismissed them, but because of his unmistakable vocals I unabashedly adore them both. I’m sure he made many female listeners believe that he was the man who would fight for their honor, and the next time he fell in love it would, in fact, be with them. Album closer “Only Love Knows Why” is the only other song that fits the mold of the two big hits but, in spite of being another very strong ballad, it was only a minor Adult Contemporary hit. The rest of the album is mostly upbeat rock/pop with the expected synthetic sheen of the era. “Big Mistake” shows off a more aggressive vocal approach that fans of his previous album (as well as Chicago songs like “Stay The Night” & “Along Comes A Woman”) would enjoy, and “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To” is a radio-friendly track which might have been a hit had his fans & record label not been clamoring for more ballads. “Queen Of The Masquerade Ball,” “Daddy’s Girl” and “Wake Up To Love” are all essentially synth-pop songs with repetitive grooves that are elevated by his voice and some catchy melodies. Only the title track falls flat for me. I realize I’m unlikely to convince anyone, especially stubborn rock fans and people who hate ‘80s pop music, that Peter Cetera’s solo material is worth checking out, but if you ever loved his voice during his Chicago years you’ll find a lot to enjoy in his solo discography, and Solitude/Solitaire is a great place to start. Beyond that, I highly recommend his 1992 album World Falling Down, which I believe is one of the greatest post-breakup albums ever released and the pinnacle of his post-Chicago career.