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Sembello, Michael - 1983 Bossa Nova Hotel

ARTIST: Sembello, Michael
ALBUM: Bossa Nova Hotel
LABEL: Warner Bros
SERIAL: 23920-1
YEAR: 1983
CD REISSUE: 1990, Warner Music (Japan), WPCP-3481 * 2007, Wounded Bird, WOU 3920


LINEUP: Michael Sembello - everything * Vinnie Colaiuta - drums * Danny Sembello - bass, keyboards * Nathan Watts - bass * Don Freeman - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Automatic Man * 02 First Time * 03 Cowboy * 04 It's Over * 05 Maniac * 06 Godzilla * 07 Talk * 08 Cadillac * 09 Lay Back * 10 Superman


East Coast native Sembello got his break as part of Stevie Wonder's band in the 70's after years of honing his musical skills on any instrument imaginable. This break led to a solo deal with Warner Bros with whom Sembello recorded his debut in 1983. Sembello has led an ambitious career to say the least, experimenting with different genres and languages but none has reached the levels of this. Using a heavily synthesized sound Sembello recorded an album very much in the vein of then contemporary artists such as Kenny Loggins, Christopher Cross and Michael McDonald, AOR of the easiest sort. One of the albums tracks, 'Maniac' was one of the biggest singles of the year, after featuring in the film 'Flashdance'.

The Songs
Sembello reserves perhaps the best cut first, with 'Automatic Man'. Everything about the track is synthesizer, drums, bass, backing vocals etc. The melody is never lacking, and so evident you might find yourself repeating this one frequently! Ace guitar solo from Sembello adds AOR flavour, along with his reserved vocals. 'First Time' is smooth West Coast MOR with a relaxed chorus and well timed harmonies. 'Cowboy' toys with some old west rhythms, not exactly agreeable, but innovative. 'It's Over' has some keyboard sounds not unlike Wham! were using in 83. A mature sense of melody and melodrama raises it above such fluff fortunately. 'Maniac' is still a classic AOR single, if well worn. A thrilling guitar solo and use of the term 'danger zone' give it the momentum. 'Godzilla' concerns the monster itself, using jungle style synths and a more upbeat tone. A disjointed series of various solo's gives it a strange atmosphere. 'Talk' is as laid back as soft AOR gets, very lush string arrangements and a vocal duet with Cruz Baca Sembello. 'Cadillac' notches up a classic chorus, great buildup in between. More notably another synthesizer overdose. 'Lay Back' and 'Superman' are another pair of easy listening light AOR, by now the McDonald-Cross comparisons are inevitable. Must be those strings.

In Summary
The album succeeded on the back of 'Maniac', which allegedly is the third biggest selling single off a soundtrack ever, gaining Sembello a Grammy. Sembello went on to produce movie soundtracks and work with musicians like Michael Jackson, Barbara Striesand, Diana Ross and Laura Brannigan. His own music has met with little interest but he has gone on to sing in every possible language according to his website, quenching his 'thirsting and burning for spiritual realization and world harmony.' As far as his AOR output goes, 'Bossa Nova Hotel' is a genuine success when it comes to the lighter side of the genre. If you enjoy that aspect, then this is essential.

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#1 | Eric on December 27 2007 20:22:09
The somewhat 'Gay' cover turned me off a little bit at the time, but I have been going through a 80's pop period in the last few weeks and this really is a good album, enough to make me want to pull out my 'hightop' Rebock tennis shoesThumbs Up and loose a few pounds to fit in the old stonewashed jeans. Ok, going overboard... Still a very good record!
#2 | richardb on June 13 2008 12:47:20
I love 'Automatic man' highly infectious chorus even if it does sound a little dated. For my sins I also enjoy listening to Matthew Wilder's 'I don't speak the language'. Well worth checking out Eric when you're next in your 80's pop phase Eric..

Richard B
#3 | swazi on January 30 2012 14:02:55
His 1986 release "Without Walls" is spinning over here right at this moment. Very good Westcoast AOR as well! But very rare and expensive, I am afraid. Sad

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