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By 1981, Steve Lawrence was only in his mid-40s, but he was eight years removed from the status of a major label recording artist, having been swept out of record company corridors along with his peers when the bottom finally dropped out of pre-rock pop music in the early 1970s. Of course, he hadn't hung up his tux in the interim, and if Take It on Home -- the premiere release on Beverly Hills, CA, independent label Applause Records -- was any indication, he had kept his pipes in prime shape. Only a year after his mentor, Frank Sinatra, had scored a surprising success with John Kander and Fred Ebb's theme from the film New York, New York, Lawrence had the chutzpah to commission Don Costa to do a different arrangement and then led off the album with it, first teasing "Chicago" and then "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." And his version is credible; he even got the words right, which the Chairman of the Board never did. After that, it was a short step to besting Michael Jackson's then recent Top Ten version of "She's Out of My Life"; Lawrence demonstrates that it was possible -- and preferable -- to get through the song without crying. He is equally effective on such 1970s songs as the Rita Coolidge hits "We're All Alone" and "I'd Rather Leave While I'm in Love," Charlie Rich's "I Take It On Home," "Maybe This Time" from the film version of Cabaret, and "I Still Believe in Love" from the Broadway musical They're Playing Our Song. (It seemed like he'd been keeping his ears open throughout the decade, waiting for his chance.) But more interesting are the songs that weren't well-known previously, such as the break-up ballad "I Won't Break," written by Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, and Peter Allen, and the Michel Legrand/Dennis Lambert tribute to New York "You Had to Be There." Taken together, the collection demonstrates that if record companies were no longer interested in Steve Lawrence, it was their loss (and, of course, his fans').
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