I still haven’t done the West Coast drive between LA and San Fran, but I know which music I’ll have on in the Pontiac Firebird when I do: it’s a toss-up between Steely Dan and Eric Tagg.
Probably best known for his work with guitarist Lee Ritenour on the Rit and Rit 2 albums, Tagg possesses a soulful, velvety voice, pitched somewhere between Stevie Wonder and Donald Fagen (some have also drawn comparisons to David Pack and George Michael).
To these ears, his compositions also sound superior to a lot of similar material. He released three solo albums in the ’70s/early ’80s, the best of which (Dreamwalkin’) was produced by Ritenour.
Tagg was born in Chicago but spent his formative musical years in Holland singing with Dutch bands Rainbow Train and Beehive. Gravitating to LA in the mid-’70s, he embarked on a solo career and joined Ritenour for their successful double act.
But over the last 30 years he’s slowly retreated from public life, mainly devoting himself to writing Christian songs from his Texas base. Let’s go back to that golden time for West Coast music, the early ’80s, and focus on six of Eric’s best from the era.
Warning: the following tunes may contain soothing harmonies, cool chords, smooth melodies…
6. ‘Marianne (I Was Only Joking)’ (1982)
Subtle, mellow composition with a superb vocal, from Tagg’s ‘Dreamwalkin‘ solo LP.
5. ‘Is It You?’ (1981)
Released as a single under Lee Ritenour’s name in April 1981, it reached the dizzy heights of #15 on the US pop charts. A classic slow jam with one of the best middle-eights of the ’80s.
4. ‘Promises Promises’ (1982)
Funky bit of pop/soul with Bill Champlin on back-ups. Wouldn’t have sounded out of place on The Dude or even Thriller.
3. ‘Mr Briefcase’ (1981)
A classic drum performance from Jeff Porcaro on another single from Rit.
2. ‘Marzipan’ (1982)
This gorgeous slice of pop/soul, with a winning set of chord changes in the verse, was recently covered (pretty well) by US neo-soul crooner Eric Roberson.
1. ‘Just Another Dream’ (1982)
Another richly-chorded delight with more than a hint of ‘My Cherie Amour’ about it. Sublime keyboard work from David Foster, some classic Lee rhythm guitar and a great arrangement.