5 out of 5 Stars!
For those already familiar with my musical tastes, it will come as no shock that I have a fondness for raspy-voiced women, and singer/songwriter Kim Carnes is easily on my list of favorites. When Voyeur (Carnes’s seventh album) came out in 1982, I immediately thought it a masterpiece, and the vinyl rarely left my turntable for many weeks. And even after all these many years, I still believe it’s awesome.
Overall, this is Carnes’s heaviest, darkest, and “rockingest” album. Justifiably capitalizing on the success of 1981’s Mistaken Identity (which featured the breakthrough hit “Bette Davis Eyes”), Carnes put together another collection of tracks that continues along that same musical pathway, only with the volume occasionally turned up a notch. But the most important deviation, however, is that half of the songs on Mistaken Identity were penned by outside writers, whereas Carnes either wrote or co-wrote the majority of material on this follow-up.
Yet like the previous release, many of the songs here fall into either the AOR or keyboard-driven Pop category, the majority written in minor keys and given an almost eerie edge (the hit “Voyeur” with its controversial video that got banned for being “too suggestive,” as well as “Undertow,” “Say You Don’t Know Me,” “Merc Man,” “Take it on the Chin,” and the outstanding “Looker”), with the synth sounds being periodically akin to, for instance, The Cars on Heartbeat City. Apart from those tracks, Carnes also tossed in a few back-to-basics guitar-driven rockers (“The Arrangement,” “Thrill of the Grill,” and the bonus cut “Dead in my Tracks”) as well as emotional ballads (the stark “Breakin’ Away From Sanity” and the powerful “Does It Make You Remember?”).
Despite the differences in musical styles, however, each track is mixed to perfection and bundled into Carnes’s most cohesive package, thanks largely to the Prophet, Oberheim, and Arp synthesizers and the overall production magic, courtesy once again of Val Garay. Similar to Mistaken Identity, Garay’s production is often atmospheric, haunting, and on several tracks, almost sinister. And as always, Carnes’s vocals are top-notch, quirky, gravelly, and truly unique, while the musicians (including Bill Cuomo, Duane Hitchings, Josh Leo, Craig Krampf, and Waddy Wachtel, to name but a few of the more eminent contributors) play through the well-arranged tracks with utter professionalism.
For Carnes, this album proved a high benchmark. Indeed, after Voyeur, I recall being somewhat disappointed with each of her subsequent releases, as I was eagerly hoping for another to match Voyeur‘s power. But sadly, although Carnes always delivered rather above-average records throughout her later career with few exceptions, nothing came close to equaling Voyeur. A shame.
Regardless, this album remains a musical time capsule showing Carnes at the height of her career with everything (songwriting, musicianship, inspiration, drive) coming together to create the perfect disc.
“Does It Make You Remember?” one of my favorite songs asks.
My answer: Hell, yeah. I remember quite vividly, and I still LOVE it!