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America's Greatest Hero

Joey Scarbury

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Album Review

Even if he had recorded a second album, Joey Scarbury would forever be known as the guy who sang "Theme from Greatest American Hero (Believe It or Not)." That tune was one of the last great TV themes with a vocal — and a vocal that told a narrative, as well — which would have made it enough of a novelty hit on its own, but it was also one of the great soft rock singles of the early '80s, lushly produced but never grandiose and boasting a killer, anthemic hook on its soaring chorus. It was a song that stuck around in your head for years after you heard it, the kind of song that was so good it would have overshadowed anything else Scarbury attempted to do in its wake. Perhaps he realized this, since Scarbury disappeared from public view after quickly recording and releasing his first and only album in 1981. That album was released on the success of "Theme from Greatest American Hero," so it should not be a surprise that it's called America's Greatest Hero, produced by Mike Post, one of the two co-authors of the song and one of the chief architects of the TV soft rock sound of the '80s. The other co-writer of "Believe It or Not" is Stephen Geyer, and he pens four other songs on this ten-track album, which also contains contributions from Dan Seals and a pre-fame Bruce Hornsby. Scarbury had a hand in writing only one tune on the record, the bouncy "Everything But Love," which is co-written by Geyer and signals that he's more of a studio singer than a driven craftsman; that's perfectly fine — he has a warm, appealing voice that's perfectly suited for this slick, soothing, expertly constructed and perfectly polished collection of easy-rolling L.A. soft pop. Anyone who has loved Scarbury's big hit throughout the years and already has a soft spot for soft rock will find America's Greatest Hero to be a small forgotten gem, the equivalent to the great lost Bertie Higgins album. Not that Scarbury has Higgins' narrative drive or weird fascination with the tropics — he is basically a frontman for Post and Geyer, bringing these lush surroundings to a mellow life — but he is as consistently entertaining as either Higgins or Rupert Holmes. Scarbury is a square, lacking Rupert Holmes' slyly perverted sense of humor, but that's part of the charm of America's Greatest Hero: it's tasteful and by the book, but it's executed extremely well, with an appealing surface sheen and a tuneful, engaging set of songs. No, there's nothing as great as "Theme from Greatest American Hero" — it's not the work of a craftsman like Robbie Dupree or Michael McDonald, and it's not as odd as Holmes or Higgins, but it's a terrific straight-ahead soft rock album from 1981, and those are hard to find. Thankfully, Joey Scarbury recorded this one album before fading away, and thankfully, Collectables reissued it in 2005, in the wake of "Believe It or Not"'s memorable appearance in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, because now this great forgotten soft rock album is finally available for those who crave good '80s soft rock. One final note: viewed in 2005, in the aftermath of the contentious 2004 presidential election, the cover art depicting blue and red states tied together by Joey in a white suit seems oddly prescient.

America's Greatest Hero, Joey Scarbury
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