David Pack may not be an obvious addition on a site devoted to Soul Music. After all, a guy best known as the voice behind mellow pop hits like "Holding On To Yesterday" and "You're the Only Woman" as part of the group Ambrosia wouldn't exactly be expected to be listed between the O'Jays and the Persuasions.
However a deeper look at Pack's career and body of work shows a soulful element lurking behind the radio friendly pop that came from Ambrosia. While arranged in a pop/adult contemporary fashion, hits like "How Much I Feel" and "Biggest Part of Me" could have as easily been soul hits, maybe even because - not despite - of Pack's irresistable tenor voice (think of a white Howard Hewett). But Pack showed his real soul only after Ambrosia broke up in the early 80s. His debut album Everywhere You Go included a career gem, a mournful soulful ballad sung with Michael McDonald and James Ingram called "I Just Can't Let Go." Urban radio didn't touch it until Patti Austin covered it several years later, but it was one of 1985's best soul songs and should be sought out (a slightly remade version is included on Ambrosia's anthology album).
Pack also proved himself a fine soul producer, creating Austin's finest and most consistent post-Quincy solo effort, The Real Me, in 1988. He spent most of the 90s on various projects as a producer, songwriter or guest vocalist (most notably on David Benoit's Hit "The Secret of You") and also on various community and Christian outreach projects. In 2003 Pack quietly released a long-awaited sophomore album, Unborn, overseas. He then signed with Peak/Concord Records to prepare his first major release in two decades, titled The Secret of Movin' On, working with many of his musical friends including Ann Wilson of Heart, Dewey Bunnell of America and Journey's Steve Perry, who produced the disc.
Secret will not likely make Pack any new soul music converts, as it is aimed straight at the adult contemporary market, but it is a well written and played album with a number of excellent performances and fine production work by Perry. The title cut (a duet with Wilson) is a treat that hearkens back to the day when pop radio was filled with fine songs by acoustic-based singer/songwriters. It is also a truly wonderful vocal performance by both Pack and Wilson, who sound great together. While that cut is the album's best song, the rest of the disc is uniformly strong. Pack includes very different remakes of two of his biggest hits, with a mild island beat backing "Biggest Part of Me" and a more electric cover of "You're the Only Woman." Better are his duet with Perry "A Brand New Start" and his acoustic ballad "When Your Love Was Almost Mine." He then steps out of the AC mold and moves headfirst into Smooth Jazz territory with "Think of U," a duet with Benoit, and on the closing number, the pretty instrumental "Elizabeth."
I'll admit that I was way off if I expected David Pack to be releasing a soul album in 2005, but he has always been such an underrated singer and songwriter that I was right in looking forward to the disc. Outside of newcomers like John Mayer and Amos Lee, it's pretty difficult to find new male pop singer/songwriters creating albums as uniformly strong as were being made by the cadre of great performers who dominated the pop charts 30 years ago. It is even more surprising to find an artist like Pack, without a contract for two decades, standing beside this list of promising newcomers by releasing such a confident, thoroughly pleasing album as The Secret of Movin' On. A truly welcome return of a great singer and a highly recommended album.
By Chris Rizik