Review: “I Love A Party” by Russ Abbot (Vinyl, 1985)

Today’s POP RESCUE from a certainly uncertain fate is the 1985 second album “I Love A Party” by British singer, actor, and comedian, Russ Abbot. Does this album create a good atmosphere, or is it no laughing matter? Read on…

Russ Abbot - I Love A Party (1985) album cover
Russ Abbot – I Love A Party (1985) album

I know what you’re thinking: Russ Abbot. Russ Abbot! Russ Abbot? But yes, this is Russ riding the wave of his 1980’s television career, when he’d be making huge audiences laugh as a range of wacky characters alongside the late, great, actress Bella Emberg.

The album opens with lead single Atmosphere, which as his second ever single, gave him a #7 UK hit. It’s a mid-tempo song, which flows perfectly, and this no doubt helps it to be unashamedly catchy. At times, it might musically sound like it’s the demo of an unattended Bontempi keyboard, with your uncle singing along, but the song is well crafted, slick, and still fits the era that it was released.

This is followed by Runaround Sue which opens with a heavenly organ and harmonies before switching to a 50’s sound like something Shakin’ Stevens might have once recorded.

Let’s Go To The Disco follows this, and acted as the album’s third and final single. Unfortunately it failed to capture the success of the previous singles, and danced alone at #86 in the UK charts. It sounds a little bit like Ottawan, but it’s not as disco-y as I was hoping.

This is followed by a cover of The Village People’s hit Y.M.C.A, another big hit for the dancefloors. Vocally, Russ does a good job here, but he’s let down a bit by the backing track, which makes me think of cheap Sunfly Karaoke tracks.

Let’s Dance is up next, and this is a cover of the 1962 Chris Montez hit. Musically it’s solid: bouncing along and a pretty faithful cover, but Russ’ vocals are a bit flat, resulting in a kind of embarrassing Uncle singing at the wedding sound again.

This is followed by Una Paloma Blanca, which is a cover of the 1975 hit by The George Baker Selection. It’s a mid-tempo song, but the verses sound a bit flat, whilst the chorus carries some nice vocal harmonies.

Then on to Multiplication which sounds like Russ is auditioning for Playschool. It comes across as very childlike or comedic, and also reminded me somewhat of the Bombalurina album tracks. I don’t know why this exists.

Side One closes with a cover of Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday, and Russ actually does a pretty good job here. The version is light and bouncy and his vocals sit well with the various different parts of the song. Not quite Stevie, but it’s a nice ending to Side One.

Side Two opens with second single All Night Holiday. This scored Russ a #20 UK hit single in the summer of 1985, and whilst it’s not quite Atmosphere, it’s clearly more like a response to Black Lace’s Agadoo from the previous year. It reeks of cheap Spanish holiday party songs of the 1980s, but is quite good.

Monster Mash follows this, ensuring that even a Hallowe’en party is catered for by Russ. This version doesn’t stray far from the Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett UK hit version from 1973. Its a nice cover, but it doesn’t tread any new ground.

Next is Give It Up, a cover of the classic hit by KC And The Sunshine Band. Their version is superior of course, but the music in this version is good. Russ’ vocals are buried in the mix somewhat, so it doesn’t quite have that energy of the original.

At The Hop follows this, giving us a return to the ’50s sound again with this cover of the Danny And The Juniors track. Russ’ vocals sound perfect for this genre, but its inclusion here, along with Let’s Dance on side one, results in two song choices that don’t really fit with the 80s party theme.

Russ tackles Billy Joel next, with his version of Uptown Girl, except that it lacks the vocal power and energy of the original, or even (dare i say it) the Westlife version.

Following this is I’m In The Mood For Dancing, a hit for The Nolans, which is unsurprising, given that the writers behind this track, were also those behind Atmosphere and Let’s Go To The Disco. Musically, this track is fine, but Russ’ vocals feel buried again.

When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman follows this, a cover of the classic Dr Hook hit, and this time Russ does a good job. Again, his lower voice works well with this track, and he’s got some good backing vocals in place too. At times he stays safely down when the higher vocal parts are needed, but overall it’s a nice track, and there’s a lovely guitar in the intro.

The album closes with a Beach Boys Medley, and this really had no real value to add here. Russ is no Beach Boy, and the three songs used here vary – I Get Around is just awkward, Good Vibrations is the best of the three parts, and the sudden cut to end on Barbara Ann jars with the medley.

Russ Abbot – Atmosphere (1984) lead single.

Verdict

Over all, I think Russ can sing, and this album was clearly released as part of his success as a hit TV comedian, but I’m struggling to work out whether some of these songs are done for comedy, or in seriousness. This is the same feeling I get from Timmy Mallet on the Bombalurina album.

Around the time of this album there was even a computer game featuring one of Russ’ characters, Basildon Bond, and I guess that this game, this album, and the inevitable Russ Abbot Show success would make this album sound like a good idea.

If When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman had been released as a single instead of Let’s Go To The Disco, then I think he’d have had more success.

Rated 2 stars - A tough listen!
  • POP RESCUE 2020 RATING: 2 / 5
  • 1985 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #12
  • POP RESCUE COST: 50p from a Wood Green Animal Shelter charity store.

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