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Heart & Soul

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Album Review

In the annals of new romantic history, riddled as it is with tales of debauched glam-ery and cosmetics-wielding bad boys, no story is more bizarre than the tale of Sal Solo. What's more — it's a wholesome one. While fronting the largely underrated Classix Nouveaux, skin-headed frontman Sal Solo had a revelation during one of the band's several extensive Eurasian tours. At the height of the Classix's popularity, Solo felt that there was something major missing from his life — despite the massive crowds the band was attracting (as many as 15,000 in Poland, and 25,000 in Helsinki, Finland) — and turned to Christianity for some answers and healing. During a 1983 Italian pilgrimage (with born-again Kajagoogoo bassist Nick Beggs!!!) Solo found God, and became a born-again Christian himself. This turn of events didn't end his musical career though, in fact, it jump-started a new one — Sal Solo, the contemporary Christian artist. He did continue on with Classix Nouveaux, recording and touring through 1985, but, as their popularity waned, Solo began concentrating more and more on his musical ministry. After an amicable dissolution of Classix (following two successful farewell shows in Spain and London), Solo took his first tentative steps into Christian music with the release of 1985's Heart & Soul. "Tentative" is certainly the word to use too, as Heart & Soul proved to be intelligently subtle in light of Solo's major, life-changing event. Where other popular-artists-turned-born-again-Christians of the era tended to water down their musical output in order to make room for their message, Sal Solo worked to further develop the stylistic trajectory he was on with Classix. Helped in large part by the musical muscle of former Classix bandmates Mik Sweeney, Rick Driscoll, and Paul Turley, Solo's solo debut was alight with perky synths, funky guitar and fleet-fingered bass. It had none of the saccharine or stodgy tendencies of other Christian bands of the period and, save for some of the lyrics, could easily be passed off as a fine late-period new wave record in its own right. The production was more spacious and detailed than any of the Classix's earlier work — choir backing, lush keyboard beds, and slow-developing melody lines dominated the bulk of Heart & Soul's offerings — and had more in common with the grown-up romantic stylings of Midge Ure's solo efforts than the angular disco of Duran Duran. Album opener "Heartbeat" and the surprise U.K. hit "Shout! Shout!" featured that classic Classix sound, while "San Damiano" and "Contact" explored a more world music-based palette. In 2006, El Records reissued Heart & Soul with five bonus tracks. Among them: Solo's controversial 1987 single "How Was I to Know" — a pro-life love song, sung from the viewpoint of an unwanted, unborn baby to its mother and, in Solo's own words, "...a record which more or less ended my commercial career." He was only partially right in that statement though. As Solo's less-secular direction certainly served to alienate some of his more superficial fans, stalwart supporters (both Christian and non) did indeed continue to love the man and his music — and they loved him enough to support a dozen albums that followed in the wake of Heart & Soul. ~ J. Scott McClintock, Rovi

Heart & Soul, Sal Solo
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