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Articles Home » 1980 Articles » Palmer, Robert - 1980 Clues
Palmer, Robert - 1980 Clues

ARTIST: Palmer, Robert
ALBUM: Clues
LABEL: Island
YEAR: 1980
CD REISSUE: 1989, Island, IMCD 21


LINEUP: Robert Palmer - vocals, bass, guitar, percussion, keyboards * Chris Frantz, Dony Wynn - percussion, drums * Andy Fraser, Paul Gardner - bass * Alan Mansfield, Kenny Mazur - guitar * Gary Numan, Jack Waldman - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Looking For Clues * 02 Sulky Girl * 03 Johnny And Mary * 04 What Do You Care * 05 I Dream Of Wires * 06 Woke Up Laughing * 07 Not A Second Time * 08 Found You Now

Never an easy artist to categorize, with the exception of his mid-80's MTV success, Robert Palmer was always something of a cult artist on the fringes of soul, rock and pop styles. As a long time fan, I never knew what to expect from a new Palmer release, although his later work with Power Station as well as the singles 'Addicted To Love' and 'Simply Irresistible' left me wondering if he hadn't sold out to commercial forces once and for all. Of course Palmer wasn't new to the charts scoring moderate hits with the sunny 'Every Kinda People' in 1978, the over played rocker 'Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)' and a cover of Todd Rundgren's 'Can We Still Be Friends' in 1979, but the pop experimentation was gone with the 1986 album 'Riptide' which seemed tailor made for the MTV generation. So with this said, which Robert Palmer album do I recommend for the uninitiated? It's a toss up between his stunning 1974 debut 'Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley' and the groundbreaking 'Clues'. Both are excellent and show very different sides to his music, but let's start with 'Clues' for no particular reason other than it's my personal favourite!

The Songs
Paying close attention to the new wave electronic scene spearheaded by The Human League and Gary Numan, 'Clues' was a benchmark for the creative pop music yet to come from Palmer. The bouncy 'Looking For Clues' and 'Johnny And Mary' which both charted in the UK but did nothing in the States, are good examples of Palmer's fresh take on the new electronic sound, but he didn't exactly leave the rock behind either as evident on 'Sulky Girl' and side two's 'Not A Second Time' with guitar taking the lead for a refreshing change of pace. For my money the Gary Numan cover of 'I Dream Of Wires' with Mr. Numan himself on keyboards is the albums winner. Atmospheric and icy cold, the feeling of desolation created by Numan's electronics and Palmer's monotone vocals are a perfect combination and I only wish they had experimented further with a full LP's worth of material. As good as 'Clues' is, such a collaboration would have made for a fascinating record.

In Summary
Like the singles that came from the album, 'Clues' didn't do much business in the United States although Robert Palmer had enough draw to do a theater tour with rave reviews while the general public remained.. shall we say clueless? Palmer would continue to experiment with electronics and dance music on his next couple of studio albums before he would attain superstar status with 'Addicted To Love'. In the music business nothing lasts forever and the 90's were not as kind to Palmer. Over time his well publicized bouts with alcoholism would increase eventually leading to a heart attack in Paris in 2003.

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