Carl Anderson - Protocol (Reissue)

Carl Anderson
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During the 1980s, Carl Anderson's immense talent was only matched by the wild inconsistency of the music he released. His debut album, Absence Without Love, was a major disappointment for fans who had waited nearly a decade after his seminal performance as Judas in the blockbuster movie Jesus Christ Superstar. And the follow up album, On and On, was only slightly better.  Though he had teamed with first rate talent in making those albums, neither remotely did justice to his vocal stylings.  But all the elements aligned in 1985 with Protocol, by far his best album of the decade and one of the most consistently enjoyable albums by a male soul vocalist that year.  Teaming with producers Patrick Henderson, Al McKay (of Earth, Wind & Fire) and Gary Taylor, he fashioned an album that made good on the promise that was hinted at in his Superstar performance but was suppressed in his earlier solo work.

During the 1980s, Carl Anderson's immense talent was only matched by the wild inconsistency of the music he released. His debut album, Absence Without Love, was a major disappointment for fans who had waited nearly a decade after his seminal performance as Judas in the blockbuster movie Jesus Christ Superstar. And the follow up album, On and On, was only slightly better.  Though he had teamed with first rate talent in making those albums, neither remotely did justice to his vocal stylings.  But all the elements aligned in 1985 with Protocol, by far his best album of the decade and one of the most consistently enjoyable albums by a male soul vocalist that year.  Teaming with producers Patrick Henderson, Al McKay (of Earth, Wind & Fire) and Gary Taylor, he fashioned an album that made good on the promise that was hinted at in his Superstar performance but was suppressed in his earlier solo work.

McKay brought the opening cut, "Can't Stop This Feeling," to the project and immediately created the greatest four minutes Anderson had ever recorded.  The upbeat number was uber-infectious and Anderson tore it up with a a wonderful vocal performance.  It was an auspicious opening to the album, but it was by no means the only high point.  Unlike Anderson's earlier discs, Protocol included ballads that appeared tailor made for his expressive crooning. "Still Thinking of You" and "One More Time With Feeling" were top notch, and "Saving My Love For You" was a chillingly simple and beautful coda to the disc. Some of the mid-80s Kashif-like production on "Let's Talk" and "Girl I Won't Say No" sound a bit over the top now, but are more than offset by the subtler work on the dance number "What Will Happen Now" and the very nice "Love On Ice."

Clearly the material on Protocol was better that Anderson had had before, but there was also an obvious change in his approach to the disc -- an increased comfort in driving the music where he wanted vocally -- and it resulted in a great ride for listeners.  Unfortunately, the album never received the promotion or attention it deserved, as for most popular music fans the introduction to Carl Anderson occurred a year later on the inferior "Friends and Lovers" duet with Gloria Loring and the accompanying slapped-together album.  But Protocol did set the stage for the future direction Anderson would take with his career and several strong subsequent recordings over the next decade on MCA and GRP Records.

Kudos to the gang at FunkyTownGrooves for reissuing this hidden gem of an album (with bonus cuts to boot).  Protocol  sounds as good in 2010 as it did a quarter century ago.  It was a welcome addition to the soul world back then but, more than anything, Protocol answered the question that so many had been asking after Carl Anderson's first two album misfires: it showed that Carl Anderson really was a unique talent who could move beyond his Jesus Christ Superstar coming out party to become one of the most enjoyable male vocalists of his era.  Highly recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 

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