Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Forty Year Friday – CLOVER “LOVE ON THE WIRE”

Artist: CLOVER

[Welcome to Forty Year Friday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1977]

Last week I wrote about My Aim Is True, the debut album by Elvis Costello, which featured four members of Clover as his backing band: guitarist John McFee (soon to join The Doobie Brothers), keyboardist Sean Hopper (a founding member of Huey Lewis & The News), bassist Johnny Ciambotti and drummer Mickey Shine (replaced on their final LP by Tony Braunagel). This Northern California group had begun in the early ‘70s as a country-rock band and, after a pair of albums, several lineup changes and a new record deal in the UK, released two more excellent albums, Untitled (1976) and Love On The Wire (1977), before disbanding. They are now best remembered (if at all) for their two lead vocalists, Alex Call (who also played guitar and later co-wrote the Tommy Tutone smash hit “867-5309/Jenny” and penned “Little Too Little” for Pat Benatar & “Perfect World” for Huey Lewis & The News) and Huey Lewis (billed as Huey Louis, he also wailed on harmonica). Both of these albums eschewed their country-rock beginnings for a more polished melodic pop/rock sound with strong vocal harmonies, and it might surprise hard rock fans to know that they were produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who’s best known for his subsequent work with AC/DC and Def Leppard (among many others, including his longtime wife Shania Twain). In addition to their connection with Mr. Costello, Clover also toured with Thin Lizzy, forging a friendship between Huey and Lizzy’s frontman, Phil Lynott.

I’ve made no secret about how much I love Huey Lewis & The News, previously highlighting them in my No Guilt, Just Pleasure post, my Great Out Of The Gate series and last year’s Thirty Year Thursday feature on their fourth album, Fore. Needless to say, it was my connection to Huey & the boys that had me clamoring to hear what he did before forming The News, and I wasn’t disappointed when I finally found these records sometime in the early ‘90s. Alex Call handles most of the lead vocals, and he has a strong voice (occasionally reminding me of Jackson Browne), but Huey’s “rough-as-sandpaper and smooth-as-honey” vocals (as I once described them) are instantly recognizable whether he’s out front or just handling backing vocals. Love On The Wire includes a number of catchy tunes with earworm choruses, including album opener “Hearts Under Fire.” At 5:45 it might be a little too long for a bouncy, slightly jazzy pop tune, but it’s an excellent showcase for both singers and establishes McFee’s impressive six-string chops. Huey’s only solo vocal showcase is the slow, bluesy “Ain’t Nobody Own Nobody’s Soul.” Otherwise, Call’s is the main voice throughout. “Southern Belles” is a fun, upbeat shuffle with swirling organ, “Still Alive” verges on southern rock with guitar & harmonica handling what would typically be a dual-guitar attack and the propulsive “From Now On” is one of the most upbeat tracks, with a drum pattern bordering on disco. Their a capella performance of The Coasters classic “Keep On Rollin’,” written by the legendary songwriting team of Lieber & Stoller, begins with 45 seconds of silly studio banter, and is broken up in the middle by laughter (making me wonder what they were rollin’ during that recording session), but it doesn’t take away from an impressive doo-wop inspired vocal performance. A few other songs are pleasant yet mostly forgettable, but the album ends on a high note with their rendition of Ricky Nelson’s 1961 #1 single “Travelin’ Man.” It’s a nice homage to the ’50s/’60s TV idol/pop star who didn’t receive critical acclaim until years after his death in 1985, with an uptempo shuffle rhythm and a slightly rocked-up arrangement. I won’t argue that Clover is one of the all-time great bands, or that Love On The Wire is an undiscovered classic, but the musicianship was superb, they wrote some great songs, their music makes me smile and I’m always happy when I get to hear Huey Lewis sing. There are plenty of more heralded albums from 1977, but since it’s among my favorites and they were featured in my previous post, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to shine a light on this under-appreciated band.



18 comments on “Forty Year Friday – CLOVER “LOVE ON THE WIRE”

  1. kevin
    May 12, 2017

    Well, you’ve completely stumped me here. I have zero knowledge of this band other than seeing the name in a few Elvis Costello write-ups (like yours). It certainly sounds like 1977. I’m surprised I never heard this stuff on the radio as a kid. Reminds me a bit of Little Feat and Atlanta Rhythm Section. I’m intrigued. Nice find.


    • Thanks, Kevin. I seem to remember you not being much of a Huey Lewis fan, right? He’s really the reason why most people would be interested in (or aware of) Clover. Not sure how much radio play they got even though several of these songs would have fit in nicely on the radio at the time. I like your reference points for their sound. Good call.


  2. DanicaPiche
    May 12, 2017

    This is all new to me, Rich. Thanks for another excellent introduction. 🙂


    • My pleasure, Danica. This album (and band) isn’t well-known other than being a footnote for other artists, but it’s a really enjoyable record (and its predecessor is just as good).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 80smetalman
    May 12, 2017

    Some good songs here, I can hear the Thin Lizzy influence on “I’m Still Alive.”


  4. Alyson
    May 12, 2017

    Can’t believe that a band so closely associated with Elvis Costello is one I hadn’t heard of – Definitely worthy of further investigation as really like their (kind of familiar) sound. Thanks for the introduction and as every an excellent review.


    • Thanks, Alyson. Clover were one of those bands who would have been completely forgotten if not for the artists they’re associated with. As someone who always wants to know the history of the artists I love, it was a pleasure to find their final two albums all those years ago (and dirt-cheap too). There’s nothing earth-shattering on these albums but anyone who enjoys catchy music played by talented musicians & singers would find a lot to like. Sounds like that describes your reaction. I appreciate the feedback.


  5. Dean Vincent Micheli
    May 13, 2017

    Not sure why I never seeked this out considering I’ve known them to be the band from MAIT. These clips you added are nothing like I expected. I’m definitely going to dig deeper.


    • Hi Dean. Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad these songs were a pleasant surprise for you. At the very least this album and its predecessor are worth checking out. Their first two albums, from the early ’70s, are very good but Huey Lewis hadn’t joined yet.


  6. keepsmealive
    May 13, 2017

    Holy mackerel, why did I never pursue this? I LOVE Huey Lewis. I need this.


    • Hi Aaron. You should love this record and the one before it if you’re a Huey fan. Even though Alex Call handles most of the lead vocals you can hear Huey throughout, and many of the songs have a similar vibe to the first couple of Huey & The News albums. I hope they live up to the hype.


  7. Bill Van Orden
    May 13, 2017

    I AM A HUGE Huey Lewis fan… your description of sandpaper and honey fits him perfectly!!! —and I THANK you for uncovering these little nuggets for me… the band SCREAMS mid 70’s, and I am glad that this came first to hone their chops for the 80’s. This was EAR CANDY… Thank you Rich!


    • Hi Bill. I’m surprised that you weren’t aware of Clover, knowing how much you love Huey Lewis & The News. Many of these songs point the way toward the first couple of HL&TN albums but they have their own unique charms.


  8. stephen1001
    May 14, 2017

    I’m enjoying this series Rich – partially for reading about ones I’m already quite familiar with and partly for reading about ones like Clover that I’d like to become more familiar with!


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