Dan Seals – Harbinger [1982]

Harbinger_dan_seals

American singer DAN SEALS achieved enormous success in America as Melodic Country artist during the second half of the ’80s, but the talented musician previously had a prominent background in Soft Rock music. Under the moniker ‘England Dan’ he was part of the duo England Dan & John Ford Coley which charted nine Adult Contemporary singles between 1976-79.

After the duo disbanded, Seals recorded his first solo LP still retaining the ‘England Dan’ name. It was an album intended to launch Seals in the mainstream rock&pop market and adult radio. But it’s this second release “Harbinger” which attracts our interest, as it was created during the golden age of seminal American AOR / Westcoast; between 1981-82.

For “Harbinger”, Atlantic Records put a big budget at Dan Seal’s service. Dan penned three songs, but one of the strengths of this release is the contribution of external songwriters, the cream of the cream around those years including Rick Bowles, David Foster, Jay Graydon and Glen Ballard just to name few. Add to this the L.A. ‘big guys’ Dann Huff, Randy Mccormick, David Hungate (Toto) and you get the picture. Just listen opener “Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind”. While Seals’ verses are the less remarkable thing of the song (because are mostly spoken) the chorus and the music is awesome. In the best early Toto feeling, this is a classy Westcoast tune crowned by a terrific lead guitar work all over the song.

“I Could Be Loving You Right Now” is a breezy, elegant Light AOR beauty, same with superb “It’s Not Gonna Be That Easy”, prime ’82 Westcoast of the highest order. Seal’s vocal part here is first class, with a sweet melodic harmony ruling the tune. Then the Bowles’ co-written “In My Heart” is a catchy, melodic little gem, followed by the Airplay cover “It Will Be Alright (written David Foster & Jay Graydon) done with a nice vibe.

If you wanna check how a radio-ready song was crafted in the first half of the ’80s, put “Once In A While” in your player. The chorus is pure AOR heaven, a melodic bliss to die for. As a movie soundtrack maniac, I always thought this track should have been part of a major film of the era. This song alone worth this disc. “Up To Me” blends – like few tracks recorded during this golden period of American music – AOR, pop and Westcoast in a magnificent way. This is feel-good music guys, the kind they never made anymore. Great vocal performance by Dan, and one of his best on the record. Is that master Huff on the guitar? What a tone man.

Another gem arrives with “Not Every Heart Succeeds”, AOR in the classic US way with a Player / Peter Beckett feel adorned with lovely keys and highly melodic verses. Wow. Midtempo “Bad News” has a little country smell – a style on which Seals will move after this record – but the guitar solo is rocking and punchy, while “Harbinger, Sage or Fool” adds acoustics to its soft rock atmospheres. These last two tracks, although good, are not in the same league of the previous, but that’s almost an impossible task judging the high level of what we have listened so far. This is already a stupendous album.

“Harbinger” is a terrific US AOR / Westcoast album rarely mentioned as one of the best recorded during the first half of the ’80s. Perhaps because Dan Seals turned a Country artist after this, but believe me, there’s lots of high quality stuff here. At least half of the record is a must have material for fans of the genre.
“Harbinger” was released in the US for the first time on CD only ten years ago.A Must…

Band Members
Dan Seals – Vocals
Dann Huff, Bobby Thompson, Duncan Cameron, Jon Goin, Larry Byrom, Rafe VanHoy, Steve Gibson – Guitars
Kelly Wilson, Bobby Ogden, Randy McCormick, Shane Keister, Farrell Morris – Keyboards
David Hungate, Jack Williams, Tom Robb, Bob Wray – Bass
James Stroud, Larne Landin – Drums
Farrell Morris – Percussion
Lisa Silver, Sherri Huffman, Dan Seals – Backing Vocals

Tracks
01. Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind
02. I Could Be Lovin’ You Right Now
03. It’s Not Gonna Be That Easy
04. In My Heart
05. It Will Be Alright
06. I Don’t Believe I’ll Fall In Love Again
07. Once In A While
08. Up To Me
09. Not Every Heart Succeeds
10. Bad News
11. Harbinger, Sage Or Fool

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