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Articles Home » 1983 Articles » 38 Special - 1983 Tour De Force
38 Special - 1983 Tour De Force

ARTIST: 38 Special
ALBUM: Tour De Force
SERIAL: SP 4971, 394 971-1 , 75021 3310-2 (CD)
YEAR: 1983


LINEUP: Donnie Van Zant - vocals * Don Barnes - vocals, guitar * Jeff Carlisi - guitar, steel guitar * Larry Junstrom - bass * Jack Grondin - drums * Steve Brookins - drums

Guests: Steve Mc Ray - keyboards * Carol Bristow, Lu Moss - background vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 If I'd Been The One * 02 Back Where You Belong * 03 One Time For Old Times * 04 See Me In Your Eyes * 05 Twentieth Century Fox * 06 Long Distance Affair * 07 I Oughta Let Go * 08 One Of The Lonely Ones * 09 Undercover Lover


38 Special had been on an upward curve in the late 70's and early 80's, delivering a radio ready Southern AOR blend that was certainly working for them. 1982's 'Special Forces' had provided platinum success, the single 'Caught Up In You' going top 10. They had by this stage fully escaped the shadow of the mighty Lynyrd Skynyrd and claimed their own place in rock's mainstream. All of this must have been very satisfying, but the attendant record company pressure to deliver more success was not far behind. How did they handle this?

The Songs
'If I'd Been The One' sets the tone with an abundance of melody and momentum, perfect AOR and only slighly lighter than period Molly Hatchet or Blackfoot. The effortless chorus deserves special mention. 'Back Where You Belong' is more riffy but no less AOR and followed the album opener into the top 20 on Billboard. Anthemic, melodic and memorable stuff. 'One Time For Old Times' is a little smoother, the more prominent keyboards providing luxurious surroundings. Once again the AOR appeal is resounding. A blues picking intro belies the riff laden AOR to follow in the form of 'See Me In Your Eyes', the melody effortless yet again. No backing vocals lends a sparseness to the chorus that works for the song, an intense midsong bridge adding extra magic to proceedings. Coffee meter overloading at this point. No surprise then that '20th Century Fox' turns the heat up further, a furious melodic boogie and the first clear reminder that they are a Southern band. 'Long Distance Affair' returns to outright AOR, hooks to make a killer whale nervous and those keys filling up the sound at just the right time. Another storming chorus delivered in half-time, not unlike Le Roux. 'I Oughta Let Go' brings on the Southern funk, chicken scratch guitar motifs and soulful female backing vocals being the hallmarks here. Charming enough but not remarkable. 'One Of The Lonely Ones' pours the AOR melody back into the coffee mug, effortless melody becoming a theme running through the album. These songs do not sound forced, if they were feeling pressure it doesn't show in the music. The midtempo Southern thud of 'Undercover Lover' closes out the album, calling Molly Hatchet to mind. Barnstorming closer, laced with the kind of fluid soloing found throughout the album.

In Summary
'Tour De Force' was a success by any measure. Double platinum and two top twenty hits, this is an example of where the right team won - a great AOR release that got the results it deserved. The same cannot be said for Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet though, despite releasing very strong AOR efforts around this time. Meanwhile, 38 Special were flying very high indeed, and would continue that trajectory for a while longer. If you enjoy AOR with Southern leanings, this album and most of their catalogue is recommended.

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#1 | Eric on March 29 2012 00:08:52
Good album. Didn't Bruce Springsteen's ex-wife appear in the video for 'If I'd Been The One'?
#2 | jeffrey343 on March 29 2012 05:06:38
Glad to see more 38 Special here. I've been writing reviews for a couple of their earlier ones in my head lately. I listen to this one a lot - just played it two days ago as a matter of fact (with their other similar-era albums). They definitely went almost a total AOR route here, with 'Twentieth Century Fox', 'Undercover Lover', and especially 'I Oughta Let Go' offering the strongest hints of their earlier material. 'I Oughta Let Go' wouldn't sound out of place on a country radio station, actually - I like it more now than I did back in '83. It's hard to pick a favorite from their albums from 'Wild-Eyed Southern Boys' to 'Strength In Numbers', but this might eke out those other three (barely). All four of those albums would head out to a desert island with me.

I do wonder, however, if this is really the music these guys wanted to make. Sure, they got rich making it, and most other bands who were active in the 70s went this route too by the mid 80s. But it seems like Van Zant went from being the primary singer to a definite background role. And their material after 'Strength In Numbers' was a definite departure from that sound.

And it was Springsteen's ex-wife Julianne Phillips who was in that video. It was before they were married, and it was her first big break. She was later in a TV show called 'Sisters' that my wife liked to watch.
#3 | super80boy on January 17 2016 16:02:47
Both sides of the album start exceptionally strong, but it's side two's non-single songs ('Twentieth Century', 'Long Distance Affair' and 'One Of The Lonely Ones') that really make this album great. I agree, there seems to be none of that perceived pressure to deliver, just another effortless blend of melody and powerful vocals.
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