Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Hot Chocolate - Man To Man (1976)

Don't stop it now....

  

Released August 1976

After two largely socio-political "message" albums in their debut brace, this was the album which saw Hot Chocolate move into more of a pop/r'n'b group, with a mix of mostly funky party groovers and a couple of lush ballads. There is a disco-ish vibe throughout but it is a muscular, solid one, as opposed to overtly commercial. This is still a good album. I remember seeing them live in 1976 and they showcased this album and put on an enjoyable, highly credible show.

TRACK LISTING

1. Heaven Is In The Back Seat Of My Cadillac
2. Living On A Shoe String
3. Sugar Daddy
4. Man To Man
5. You Could've Been A Lady
6. Sex Appeal
7. Harry
8. Don't Stop It Now
9. Seventeen Years Of Age                                    

The opener, Heaven Is In The Back Seat Of My Cadillac is a wonderful slice of grinding, funky pop. It was a hit single and you can hear why. It is full of hooks both vocally and musically. the social message is not completely dead, however, and Living On A Shoe String addresses wealth disparity. It has a huge, thumping bass line, killer brass parts and a brooding, slow burning beat. It is a great track that shows Hot Chocolate at their best - serious but also soulful and funky. Sugar Daddy is a frantic, congas-driven and highly infectious funk workout.

Man To Man sees the first pop/soul ballad of the album. This was also a successful hit single. Despite its mournful, yearning subject matter (a relationship split) it is strangely catchy in a stately sort of way. Errol Brown's vocal is superb and the strings augment the slow pulse of the backing beautifully. The old Brother Louie spoken vocal bit makes an appearance too. You Could've Been A Lady had been a single back in the early seventies before the group made it big, and it gets an updating here, unsurprising as it would not be familiar to many of the group's new fans. It is largely faithful to the original and it always was a great, upbeat, captivating track.

Sex Appeal is another lively but bassy and brassy funker. Harry is a deep, strong slow number with a bit of a jazzy feel in its brass interjections at times but it is dominated by that typically Hot Chocolate big, pumping sound. I loved the ebullient Don't Stop It Now as a hit single back in 1976, but it is a blatant attempt at a You Sexy Thing re-write. It also has a few hints of The Staple Singers' If You're Ready (Come Go With Me) in its basic riff too. Seventeen Years Of Age ends the album on a haunting note with a sad ballad. As on the title track, the strings dominate the backing.

This was still a really good album, but it was possibly the group's last album to have genuine quality material throughout its track listing. There is a case for the next album, however, as well.

B-