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Articles Home » 1987 Articles » Willis, Bruce - 1987 The Return Of Bruno
Willis, Bruce - 1987 The Return Of Bruno

ARTIST: Willis, Bruce
ALBUM: The Return Of Bruno
LABEL: Motown
YEAR: 1987


LINEUP: Bruce Willis - vocals, harmonica

Additional Musicians: Dann Huff, Danny Grenier, Duane Scicqua - guitars * Dave Chamberlin - bass * Steve Thomas, Alan Pasqua, Greg Philligaines - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Comin' Right Up * 02 Respect Yourself * 03 Down In Hollywood * 04 Young Blood * 05 Under The Boardwalk * 06 Secret Agent Man/James Bond Is Back * 07 Jackpot (Bruno's Bop) * 08 Fun Time * 09 Lose Myself * 10 Flirting With Disaster


Following on the heels of fellow superstar actor-turned musician Don Johnson, was Bruce Willis, who found significant fame in the 1980's comedy 'Moonlighting' with Cybil Shepherd (I do recall Bruce guesting in 'Miami Vice' and getting blown away though!). Willis sang on a commercial for wine cooler Seagram, which along with his new found celebrity, was enough to convince Motown records that Willis should be offered his own record. The results were worthwhile to say the least, as Willis tackled originals and pop standards with subdued conviction. While not AOR, there is one resounding nod to the genre with 'Flirting With Disaster'. Adding such notable session men like Huff, Pasqua and Philliigaines gave the music a professional touch. Such an album was bound to be ridiculed, and was, but deserved (like Don Johnson) an unbiased hearing. Thumbing noses at the ridicule, the album went platinum in the US. Not bad indeed.

The Songs
'Comin' Right Up' is convincing funk, dominated by a slew of horns, and sharply melodic, AOR or not. Bruce plays it debonair- 'All alone? Don't Be nervous. Bruno's here baby, at your service' - rather convincingly! The first cover 'Respect Yourself' was a top five hit, and who can forget the classic video in which Bruce paraded around the bar with his mop handle as a microphone? 'Down In Hollywood' is a 1979 composition written by Ry Cooder, given sax-heavy treatment and delivered in tough fashion by the trying-to-sound-streetwise Willis. Bruce attempts the Leiber and Stoller standard 'Young Blood', and succeeds with an rousing 80's style version of a 50's classic. To be honest I could do without 'Under The Boardwalk', but it's fairly well sung as Bruce attempts a higher key, backed by The Temptations. It's interesting to hear 80's synths mixed with such a definitive 60's pop song. There's no call for the 60's novelty 'Secret Agent Man/James Bond Is Back' however. Willis' written contribution is the sped up jive of 'Jackpot (Bruno's Bop)' and backed by Allen Toussaint's funk rock 'Fun Time', make for an energetic pairing. Super cool Bruce turns to near AOR for 'Lose Myself', but actually goes all the way with 'Flirting With Disaster'. With Dan Huff contributing dazzling melodic guitar fills and bolstered by a perfect chorus, this ranks with the best of Don Johnson's 'Heartbeat'. Choice lyrics - 'strike the match, light the fuse, blow the hatch, feel the bruise' - it comes on like the soundtrack for every 80's action film. Maybe Bruce should have gone all the way and made this full on AOR.

In Summary
The album was accompanied by a mock documentary with the same title as the album, in which Willis played Bruno Radolini 'an unsung hero of rock 'n' roll'. Almost like Don Johnson's concept film for the 'Heartbeat' video then? This has endured more abuse than that though, now regarded as a typical 80's excess, and a novelty to collectors of bad albums. What would they know? Willis is well up to the task and even recorded a follow up, 1989's 'If It Don't Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger'. This would appeal to many 80's AOR fans, simply because of the noted players, and the very 80's delivery of all involved. It even makes the older covers listenable and 'Flirting With Disaster' just might shock you. Forget the hacks, this is a credible musical escapade.

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