AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione [-] It is interesting how the pop divas of the ’70s and ’80s took some risks, Olivia Newton-John with “Soul Kiss”; Linda Ronstadt singing in Spanish or performing with Nelson Riddle; and Helen Reddy’s 1983 project, Imagination. This is her longtime producer Joe Wissert taking Reddy where Kim Fowley attempted to go on Ear Candy, and doing an amazing job. “Handsome Dudes” is not the first time Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil are covered by Reddy, but it works better than “Songs” on Love Song for Jeffrey. The Dane Jeffries title track might as well be the Go Gos or Missing Persons; it’s a really great new wave pop tune, served up on a vinyl 12″ with an extended dance remix for good measure. Side two is more of this new-styled radio pop, and both “Looks Like Love” and “The Way I Feel” are among the best work Helen Reddy has ever created. Both songs should have been huge hits, and the entire album is more sophisticated in idea and execution than any that came before except, perhaps, Live in London. There is real drama throughout “Guess You Had to Be There” and serious depth in the vocal, the naïve sheen of hits like “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)” and “Angie Baby” traded in for sweeping pathos. “Yesterday Can’t Hurt Me” is Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter delivering a solid and driving composition more defined than their work with the Grass Roots. Wendy Waldman and Eric Kaz have already struck artistic gold with the aforementioned “The Way I Feel,” and Reddy goes back to that well for the album’s conclusion, “Heartbeat.” It’s another snappy, moving, modern-sounding delight. With superb songwriting, crisp production, and her best rock performance on record, Imagination is one of Helen Reddy’s finest albums. Not as popular as those which contained her chart hits, Imagination is worth seeking out. It’s a sleeper that deserves another shot at success. Each song works in its own way, Randy Goodrum’s “A Winner in Your Eyes” just another of the great numbers on this move to MCA after a long run on Capitol. Very impressive. https://www.allmusic.com/album/imagination-mw0000839195
Smooth are the performances and orchestration on this 1978 double-vinyl set. There is no date of this performance by Helen Reddy, recorded at the London Palladium. This expands her greatest-hits album and allows the entertainer to display her personality as well as some of her deeper album tracks. Of the 26 songs here, only Leon Russell and Harriet Schock share the distinction of having two compositions each covered by the songstress. Russell’s “This Masquerade” and “Bluebird” follow Ralph Shuckett’s “Rhythm Rhapsody” to start the concert off. Reddy sprinkles a hit or two per side until the medley, adding nuggets like Gale Garnett’s timeless “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine,” which is a perfect selection for Reddy to sing and her audience to hear. Harriet Schock’s “Mama” from the Music, Music album is one of the longest tracks at four minutes-plus, and gets a lengthy audience response. Cilla Black’s 1964 hit “You’re My World,” like the aforementioned Gale Garnett hit from the same year, suits Reddy well. Live in London is a title used by scores of artists, from the Beach Boys to Petula Clark, Deep Purple, April Wine, Judy Garland, Glen Campbell, and so many others. This recording has lead guitarist Lenny Coltun conducting the Gordon Rose Orchestra with guitarist Ritchie Zito, keyboard player Tom Hensley, and others supplying the sound. Reddy gives renditions of Billy Joel’s “The Entertainer,” “Poor Little Fool” by Jeff Lynne, who shows up on the All This and World War II soundtrack with Reddy and who wrote this dramatic number for her, as well as Adam Miller’s “The West End Circus.” There’s Alan O’Day’s unconventional “Angie Baby” to open side two, and the song works better live, oozing with a thick and smooth sound. Producers John Palladino and Helen Reddy do a commendable job of capturing so many instruments and vocals and putting them into a wonderful mix. The album gets high marks for sound quality and performance, a classy snapshot of Helen Reddy’s complete repertoire of hits from 1971-1977 with the exception of “Somewhere in the Night” and the flip of “I Can’t Hear You No More,” “Music Is My Life.” For the fans of Helen Reddy this is a treat and a very necessary part of her collection.
AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione [-] Helen Reddy’s second album contains two originals, as well as covers of material by John Lennon, Carole King and Toni Stern, Randy Newman, Donovan Leitch, Leon Russell, and Alex Harvey. Over the years Reddy would continue to cover material by Carole King, Leon Russell, and Harvey; both she and Bette Midler covering Harvey’s “Delta Dawn,” with Reddy getting the chart hit. Here her rendition of his “Tulsa Turnaround” is intriguing and gives a good indication of the direction her music would take. These are very personal readings of Paul Parrish’s”Time” and Leon Russell’s “I Don’t Remember My Childhood”; the accompaniment is laid-back and subdued, unlike Reddy’s Love Song for Jeffrey album. Producer Larry Marks has a haunting foundation for David Blue’s “Come on John,” and one wonders if like Mama Cass on “I Call Your Name” or Janis Joplin’s “Happy Birthday John Lennon,” Reddy isn’t singing this to the Beatle? Her rendition of Lennon’s solo tune, “How?,” is a rarity for the singer — and as sparse as the Plastic Ono Band, minus what backed her on the soundtrack to All This and World War II when she performed “Fool on the Hill.” The album Helen Reddy has a cover photo of the vocalist wearing a red and blue dress in ankle-deep water, a resting point before her cluster of Top 40 recordings. Donovan’s “New Year’s Resolution” and Carole King/Toni Stern’s “No Sad Songs” give the singer a platform to help craft her sound. It’s a nice glimpse of the naïve side of Reddy and a pleasant listening experience, though it was the only one of her early albums not to find representation on her Greatest Hits. Because there was no big hit on the record, it is not as well known as her other recordings, but it definitely has charm and is an essential part of her collection of music. https://www.allmusic.com/…/helen-reddy-capitol…
My review of CENTER STAGE by Helen AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione [-] Center Stage is a masterful album from Helen Reddy, combining, as she says in the liner notes, “two areas of my career: the recording studio and the theatrical stage.” There are 14 selections, all from different shows, beginning with Cole Porter’s “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” from Anything Goes to “The Party’s Over” from Bells Are Ringing. The former, in particular, is culture shock for Reddy’s radio fan base. It is like nothing the fans of her hits are used to, and for Cole Porter’s legion of fans, it might be equally jolting. The voice so recognizable as an adult contemporary pop vehicle does what Reddy’s friend Petula Clark did on the soundtrack to Goodbye, Mr. Chips, an album composed by Leslie Bricusse and conducted by John Williams: it makes a transition. “I Still Believe in Love” is more of what the fans know and love. After all, it’s Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager penning the tune from They’re Playing Our Song. It’s followed by “A Boy Like You,” a Weil/Hughes composition from Street Scene, and both tracks two and three are her hit “You and Me Against the World”revisited, her emotive voice plucking the heartstrings. “Surrender” changes the pace; a five-piece vocal ensemble consisting of Peyce Byron, Sabrina Cowans, Michele Mais, Wayne Moore, and Brenda Silas Moore push the artist to heights she hasn’t sought on her hits. It’s one of the highlights of the disc, and a career moment in her vast repertoire. Richard Hillman duets with the singer on “You’re Just in Love” from Call Me Madam, and it is exquisite. Bruce Kimmel’s production is seamless, and this collection becomes more special as the listener goes deeper into the disc. Joseph Baker arranges and conducts “Tell Me It’s Not True,” a special performance here, as Reddy states in the liner notes, she has “sung it so many times on Broadway and in the West End.” “Tell Me It’s Not True” and “Speak Low” give the singer a new arena to play in; to those not familiar with the works from where this material was culled, the album works simply as a new Helen Reddy disc, but with a twist. Sade should be so classy decades after her initial fame.Steven Orich’s orchestrations are impeccable, as are the arrangements by Ron Abel. There was a hint of this when Reddy performed “The Fool on the Hill” for the 1976 soundtrack All This and World War II, but not on the scale she gives us 22 years later. Dusty Springfield tracked Where Am I Going, Olivia Newton-John gave us Warm and Tender, there’s the Linda Ronstadt/Nelson Riddle trilogy, and Petula Clark’s The Other Man’s Grass Is Always Greener (the album, not the title track), but where those albums were conscious efforts by the singers to move into a new direction, this is Helen Reddy giving the world the scene she is into — the theater. Dionne Warwick gave us hits from Bacharach & David’s Promises Promises, but Reddy chooses “Knowing When to Leave” from that Broadway musical. The song selection is tremendous, and the performance is a milestone for a singer who has already conquered other formats.Center Stage is a delightful treat and will be a considered a classic years down the road, on that you can be sure. https://www.allmusic.com/album/center-stage-mw0000044015?fbclid=IwAR2-xDj2czcvsrZQczHCnDV4-j_JSNGi0ytb9h7l-iJyL6ObgJyKBqZ3Jq0
by Joe Viglione
In 1987, Capitol re-released this ten-song disc on CD with five additional tracks, including Helen Reddy’s last three hit singles; this vinyl set contains the ten biggest tunes that built the singer’s legend. Just as George Martin remixed the songs by the group America that he did not originally produce for their “best of,” some of these productions feel like different mixes rather than the sound radio listeners were familiar with. It’s the same voice, and the same musicians; however, “I Am Woman” has more pronounced horns, bigger drums, and Reddy’s voice is clearer than on the original album. It certainly sounds like a superior mix, not what radio listeners were used to, unless the mastering job on this Greatest Hits release contains more defined mastering than the 45 rpm. There’s a special thanks to producer Joe Wissert, so it is very likely he expanded the sound of the Jay Senter recording from her second album; Larry Marks’ work from her debut, I Don’t Know How to Love Him; and possibly some of the Tom Catalano productions as well. Hearing these ten powerful hits together is a strong argument against Reddy’s detractors — she climbed the charts with about as many songs as her friend Petula Clark, and both were embraced by adult contemporary radio. Leon Russell’s “Bluebird” is absent, but the sublime Harriet Schock composition “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady” is here, the last of her singles from this era to go Top Ten, and second to last adult contemporary number one. It’s a brilliant tune, and striking performance. Francesco Scavullo did the photography, as he did for so many stars, from Janis Joplin to Barbara Streisand and Diana Ross. “You and Me Against the World” is moving and soulful, taking a Paul Williams composition and showing some of the heart Reddy would bring to her Center Stage disc many years later. The original vinyl ten-song version of Helen Reddy’s Greatest Hits is a concise package culled from six of her first seven albums. https://www.allmusic.com/album/helen-reddys-greatest-hits-mw0000453464
THANKS ERIC GRIGS FOR APPRECIATING MY WRITINGS: “Sure, I understand it’s a schmaltzy product, but it fits in beautifully alongside the earnest, breezy early 80s soft pop that was dominating radio at the time, so you have to greet it with that type of listening ear. Collaborator Joe Wissert provides lush production on it, pushing Australian-American Reddy to branch out in unexpected ways. Particularly, the title track: a floating synth dream that Joe Viglione of
AllMusic remarked “might as well be the Go-Gos or Missing Persons; it’s a really great new wave pop tune, served up on a vinyl 12” with and extended dance remix for good measure.” We are talking about Helen Reddy, right? The same Reddy that People magazine disparagingly called the “1970s Queen of Housewife Rock?” Yes. If I had one critique of the song, the chorus needs a better hook—but the verses are mesmerizing. The music captures an etherial, dreamy quality that’s hard to get right. Suddenly, steel drums are dropped in that shouldn’t work at all, but somehow they fit brilliantly with the soft pulsating vibrations of the synthesized beats.