He was the third person – after Elton John and Donna Summer – signed to David Geffen’s Geffen Records. Between 1982 and 1999, he issued four highly regarded solo albums in addition to two other albums with a group called Rosie and five single releases. The solo albums, Demos (Rondor, 1981), Missin’ Twenty Grand (EMI America, 1982, produced by Lasley), Raindance (EMI America, 1984, produced by Don Was), and Soldiers on the Moon (Agenda, 1990, produced by Jeffrey Weber), all have received substantial critical acclaim. In 2000, he issued Back to Blue-Eyed Soul (ZACODA), a retrospective of his work featuring rare recordings dating back to 1966.
Music critic Dave Marsh described Back to Blue-Eyed Soul as "the Basement Tapes of high-pitched heartbreak. The great falsetto singer David Lasley…put this together by rummaging through his 35-year career. Call it the best Smokey Robinson CD of the 21st century." Also in 2000, Expansion Records, the highly regarded soul/smooth jazz label, released a new Lasley recording in the United Kingdom called Expectations of Love. In 2001, Expectations of Love was released in the U.S.
on the Thursday Market Music label, garnering praise from New York's Next Magazine which said, "Lasley hasn't lost his knack for writing and performing timeless and soulful R&B ballads and pop tunes." Lasley has also seen a resurgence of interest in his career in Japan during the last few years. Three of his solo works and two Rosie albums were re-issued by Japanese labels, including Missin’ Twenty Grand with four bonus cuts from Raindance (Toshiba-Emi Ltd., distributed by Vivid Sound Corporation), Demos featuring most of the original songs plus 18 bonus cuts (Cool Sound), Soldiers on the Moon with five bonus cuts (Cool Sound), Rosie’s Last Dance (Cool Sound), and Rosie's Better Late Than Never (BMG Japan). In 2005, Cool Sound issued Demos Vol. 2 – Take A Look, featuring Lasley's early recordings of songs from his critically acclaimed Missin' Twenty Grand and Raindance albums as well as unreleased works. Boasting a rich, versatile voice and an astounding four-octave vocal range, Lasley sings mainly in his distinctive higher register.
He was named with Smokey Robinson as one of the music industry's five top falsetto singers by Esquire magazine. His voice has been compared on more than one occasion to Laura Nyro’s, and his vocal style has also been likened to Dusty Springfield's. A review of Missin’ Twenty Grand by respected New York Times critic Stephen Holden characterized his voice as “a passionate, penetrating falsetto which he shades with an unusually expressive authority.” Chicago Magazine’s Lloyd Sachs’ review of Missin’ Twenty Grand enthused, “A better white-soul album hasn’t come out in years; a better white falsetto you have not heard in a longer time than that. Don’t miss it.” Lasley was born in Michigan and grew up in a small town about 250 miles from Detroit in a musically inclined family.
Lasley’s first group, The Utopias, which included his younger sister, Julie, patterned itself after “girl groups” like The Raindrops, The Jelly Beans and The Dixie Cups. “My roots were firmly established at a young age by the songs and styles of Frankie Lymon, Carole King, Ellie Greenwich, Darlene Love, Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield,” Lasley has noted. When Lasley and his sister were still teenagers, The Utopias signed to Detroit’s Fortune Records, where they recorded their first local hit, “Welcome (Baby, To My Heart),” in 1966, followed by “Good Friends Forever” (1967) on Hi Q, a Fortune subsidiary. In addition to recording, The Utopias performed on Swingin' Time and other local television programs and in R&B clubs in Detroit (like the Twenty Grand) and nearby Canada. Lasley also began composing around this time.
In 1970, Lasley expanded his geographic and artistic horizons when he joined the cast of the hit musical Hair, initially performing with the Detroit company and then with the touring company. He left the show in 1972, moving to New York City to appear in the Broadway musical Dude and several off-Broadway productions. Over the next few years, he lent his talents as a background vocalist and vocal arranger to the music industry’s top artists. He also formed his own group, Rosie, with fellow Hair alumni Lana Marrano, who wrote lyrics to Lasley’s music for the trio’s two recordings, and Lynn Pitney.
Rosie’s first album, Better Late Than Never (RCA, 1976), features the classic Lasley/Marrano composition “Roll Me Through the Rushes,” later a big song for Chaka Khan on a 1978 recording on which Lasley sang background vocals along with legendary session singer and gospel great Cissy Houston. Rosie’s second and final album was Last Dance, which contains mainly Lasley/Marrano songs but also includes “I See Home” (later recorded by Patti LaBelle), which Lasley composed with a new song-writing partner, Allee Willis. Lasley and Willis continued to collaborate for many years. While the two Rosie recordings were just minor successes, Lasley himself emerged as one of the busiest and most successful backup singers in the business during the mid-1970s. The songs on which his backing vocals appear numbers well into the hundreds.
Among them are his work in a quartet of singers (which included Luther Vandross) that performed on most of Chic’s (“Everybody Dance,” “Le Freak,” “I Want Your Love”) and Sister Sledge’s (“We Are Family,” “He’s the Greatest Dancer”) recordings. Other hits from around this time on which he performed lead and/or back-up were “Native New Yorker” (Odyssey), “Paradise” (Bionic Boogie), “Take Me Home” (Cher), “You're My Choice Tonight” (Teddy Pendergrass), and “I Really Didn’t Mean It,” “So Amazing,” and “Stop to Love” (Luther Vandross), to name just a few. It should also be noted that Lasley was the un-credited group vocals “voice” for The Ramones on most of the tracks for their classic recordings The Ramones Leave Home and Rocket to Russia. In 1977, Lasley began touring and recording with James Taylor, an association that has lasted to this day. Over the years, he has also toured with Todd Rundgren, Melissa Manchester and Bonnie Raitt, for whom he has sung backing vocals on many albums.
(Raitt has recorded several of Lasley’s songs including “Got You On My Mind” from Streetlights and “I Ain’t Gonna Let You Break My Heart Again” from Nick of Time, which he co-wrote with his sister and erstwhile Utopias partner, Julie. Of this latter song, Raitt has commented, “I waited a long time to be grown-up enough to sing [it].") Lasley continued to write by himself and with partners besides Marrano and Willis, including Don Paul Yowell, Luther Vandross, Michael Kamen, Peter Allen, Felix Cavaleri, Gary Wright, Robin Lerner, Kathy Wakefield, Kiki Dee, Josh Kadison, Sophie Hawkins, Boz Scaggs and others. He worked as a sought-after background vocalist and arranger and sang lead vocals on a number of songs featured in films, among them “Teamwork” (a familiar tune in many aerobics classes during the 1980s) from Body Rock, “Stay Gold“ (The Outsiders), “The Black Stallion” (The Black Stallion), and “Hollywood Cowboy” (City Slickers). Additionally, his voice was heard nightly on Broadway for a time in a recorded song called “The Snow,” a Tennessee Williams poem set to music by Hair co-creator Galt McDermot that was featured in a play called Vieux Carre. In 1981, Lasley issued Demos, the first of his solo releases.
A two-LP set, Demos is, literally, a collection of demos showcasing his versatility as a singer/songwriter, plus versions of a few of his hit songs by the original performers, including “Lead Me On,” “Jojo” and “Dark Side of Your Soul” (Kiki Dee). As a solo artist, however, Lasley really came into his own in 1982 with the widely praised Missin’ Twenty Grand, which takes an uncompromising look back at his early years in Detroit as a teenager breaking into the music business. Music critic Dave Marsh described the album as “one of the finest of the year.” In another review of the album, Marsh added, "’On Third Street’ is as good a confessional song as Joni Mitchell's ever written.... Beautiful music in the best sense." According to music critic Don Shewey, Missin’ Twenty Grand was “the finest blue-eyed soul album since Boz Scaggs’ Silk Degrees.” A review in High Fidelity magazine said that the album was “noteworthy in much the same way that Rickie Lee Jones’ debut was, because it combines a high level of vocal and compositional craftsmanship with a very personal approach... an impressive, panoramic debut.” The New York Times’ Stephen Holden said, “The wide-open emotionality of Mr.
Lasley’s singing, combined with his confessional lyrics and the way his tunes blend the style of Motown with more sophisticated Broadway and Hollywood influences, recalls the pop style of Laura Nyro’s classic late-60’s albums.” Adding to Missin’ Twenty Grand’s allure were guest appearances by The Who's legendary Pete Townshend, who contributed guitar sounds to the album's "Roommate," and James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt, who -- in a nice twist -- performed background vocals for Lasley on "Got to Find Love" and "If I Had My Wish Tonight," respectively. The latter song was a hit single, reaching Number 36 on Billboard's Hot 100. Missin’ Twenty Grand was followed two years later by Raindance. Unlike Twenty Grand, which features more organic music from piano and electric/acoustic bass and guitar, Raindance's sound is far more in the techno-pop vein. The use of synthesizers, an Emulator, and a Fairlight -- as well as the inclusion of a Lasley-esque rap number -- put Raindance well ahead of its time.
One critic wrote, "The strength of this album comes from Lasley's..... sense of harmony and poetry." The recording -- particularly "Saved By Love" and "Where Does That Boy Hang Out?" -- was a big hit in Europe, making the list of Britain’s The Face magazine’s Top 20 albums of 1984 along with Prince’s Purple Rain and Madonna’s Like a Virgin. Lasley’s Soldiers on the Moon was released in 1990. An all-star lineup of talent joined Lasley on the CD, which was one of the inaugural releases from Agenda Records.
Luther Vandross provided vocal arrangements, Rita Coolidge performed a duet ("Give My Heart Back to Me"), and the musicians included pianist David Benoit, drummer Jeff Porcaro, and percussionist Luis Conte. Among Soldiers' outstanding numbers is Carole King's "It's Too Late," which was described by one critic as offering "a totally fresh interpretation that makes this timeless song sound like a hit all over again." During the last ten years, in addition to his work on Back to Blue-Eyed Soul, Expectations of Love, Demos Vol. 2 – Take A Look and the Japanese re-issues, Lasley has toured regularly with James Taylor. His web site's "Tales From the Road -- David's Reports from the James Taylor Tour" was a big hit with fans of his and Taylor's during the 2001 and 2003 tours.
Lasley has remained a highly regarded songwriter, session singer and arranger. He has worked frequently with Bonnie Raitt, performing on her Nick of Time, Luck of the Draw and Longing in Their Hearts albums. Bette Midler’s “From A Distance” featured not only his background vocals but also his vocal arrangement contributions. He has performed and recorded with, among others, Michael McDonald, Huey Lewis, Olivia Newton-John, Elton John, Julio Iglesias, Boy George, Dr.
John, Timothy Schmidt, Vonda Shepard, Jennifer Warnes, Neil Diamond, Aaron Neville, Amanda Marshall, Brenda Russell, Janet Jackson, Shawn Colvin and Jewel. copyright David Lasley-Thursday Market Music Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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