Album Reviews

Deodato: Night Cruiser/Happy Hour (Robinsongs)

deodato

Deodato
Night Cruiser/Happy Hour
Robinsongs/Cherry Red

By 1980, Brazilian pianist Eumir Deodato was a well-established name in the music world. His career began in the Jazz scene, but in the Seventies he moved into the more contemporary realm of pop, disco, and R&B, and by the end of the decade, he had become established as both a superb solo act and as a chart-topping producer, including being responsible for kicking off the run of international success of Kool & The Gang. This twofer collects the first two Deodato solo records of the new decade, Night Cruiser and Happy Hour.

Night Cruiser, released in 1980, captures Deodato blending disco, funk, and jazz into a seemingly natural amalgam. An instrumental affair, Night Cruiser features epic numbers that are heavy on groove yet easy on the ears. “Love Magic” and “Skatin’” are Smooth Jazz, bordering on Easy Listening, while the title track and “Uncle Funk” are straight funk numbers. The grooves are deep and enjoyable, and though by this time disco had fallen out of popularity, Deodato deftly took its best elements and made something quite fresh and enjoyable with them.

Happy Hour, released in 1982, is a straight up contemporary R&B record. This time around, he employs two superb female vocalists, Camille and Kelly Barretto. It’s a fun, upbeat affair that once again is heavy on groove, especially on “Keep On Movin’” and “Happy Hour.”  His mellow take on “Tears Of A Clown” highlights the melancholy that is often lost on the listener—it’s an extremely sad song, and this slowed-down version draws that sadness out into the open. The closing “I Never Get Enough” is the draw here, a gorgeous love song that so encapsulates Deodato’s best production techniques: warm vocals, gentle yet seductive bass, and an overall lush production that never loses its freshness after repeated listens.

After the release of Happy Hour, Deodato began to focus more on his production work than his solo career, only releasing solo albums quite infrequently. He would release one more album for Warner Brothers—1984’s Motion—before quietly retiring, returning twenty-six years later with 2010’s The Crossing. Night Cruiser and Happy Hour might have been the mark of the end of his solo career, but they’re both fine records that hold up quite nicely three decades later, showing that Deodato was and is a songwriting powerhouse.

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