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Katt, Billy - 1982 Secret Smiles

ARTIST: Katt, Billy
ALBUM: Secret Smiles
YEAR: 1982


LINEUP: William 'Billy' Katt - lead and backing vocals, guitars * Guitars - Bobby Donati, John Goux, John McFee, Steve Trovato * Keyboards - Sandy Berman * Bass & backing vocals - Mark B. Murphy * Drums - Chet McCracken, David Platshon * Percussion - Tony Papa * Strings, Horns - Mike Linn * Backing Vocals - Sandy Berman, Rosemary Butler, Billy Kirkland

TRACK LISTING: 01 Sleeping Beauty * 02 A Girl Like You * 03 Secret Smiles * 04 China * 05 One Night * 06 Nobody's Fool * 07 Winter Love * 08 Wrote A Letter * 09 By The Sea

Sometimes when I think I've heard everything and there are no surprises from the early 80's AOR scene left to be unearthed, something like this album presents itself. Upon discovering this album on a well known AOR blog I have to admit I had no idea this existed at all. Of course William Katt was riding high during 1982 as the star of 'The Greatest American Hero' (alongside 'Eddie and the Cruisers' Michael Pare) which apparently was enough to secure him a record deal with MCA. This came at a time when a slew of fellow actors were trying to cross over into the pop scene, with the likes of John Schneider, Scott Baio and Jeff Conaway taking a punt with varying success. Out of all of them Katt's effort is by far the best, both musically and vocally. At first the inclination is to laugh at the typical album cover and Katt cutting a disc in itself, but this is prime 1982 West Coast and there's nothing negative that can be aimed at it.

The Songs
Katt sets his agenda immediately with the exquisite AOR of 'Sleeping Beauty', a track steeped in prime 1982 West Coast elements. This could have been taken off a Nielsen-Pearson album or even a Keane Brother's affair, enough to whet the most jaded fans appetite. Katt's vocals rank with those artists themselves, very impressively handled. 'A Girl Like You' is an upbeat pop workout with a ton of horns in the mix, still very catchy and showing plenty of variety. The title track was a minor hit, a sentimental ballad with obligatory sax which would please fans of lighter AOR fixtures like Paul Davis or Bertie Higgins. It pales however with the seven minute epic 'China', where Katt pulls out all the stops. Beginning as an atmospheric ballad, the pace soon heats up, with surging keyboard runs and Katt trying to make sense of the mysterious bastion of communism. 'China you're political with me, don't get political with me!' Katt wails in a way that recalls Steve Walsh and Kansas so much that I was convinced this was a leftover from 'Audio Visions'. A definite pomp classic. Things get even better with the classic chorus of 'One Night', which has similarities to the best of England Dan and John Ford Coley. What a great song this one is, the hook is AOR royalty. If that wasn't enough 'Nobody's Fool' is just as good, so close to Greg Guidry's debut in sound it's almost amazing. The chorus truly had me thinking I was listening to the wrong album. Given the huge following of Guidry here at Glory Daze this should be a compulsory listen. 'Winter Love' does a superb job of evoking a bleak winter scene through its music, this one bringing the likes of John O'Banion to mind, only better in my opinion. 'Wrote A Letter' is a rocker by comparison, this one in the same vein as David Kent or even the recently reviewed Hobin. Katt chooses to end the album with another plaintive track, 'By The Sea' throwing in more horns and sweeping arrangements, to the point I feel like I'm watching the waves myself! I could imagine Peter Beckett having a stab at this one.

In Summary
What a revelation Katt is here. Sadly the album was largely forgotten and before long Katt found himself starring in films like 'House' and 'White Ghost' following the demise of 'Greatest American Hero'. He pulls off the early 80's AOR hero flawlessly however, leading me to wonder what other gems are yet to be heard from other actors. Maybe albums by Perry King or Daniel J. Travanti? Whatever the case download this one immediately for a fix of AOR brilliance.

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#1 | gdazegod on June 20 2012 07:20:57
YouTube Video:
#2 | kim_hp on June 22 2012 01:52:16
...and so I did. Yes, this is another goodie to be filed alongside classics from John O'Banion, Jesse Colin Young, Jon Stevens and similar early 80's AOR heroes. Tracks like "Sleeping Beauty", "China" and the fantastic "Winter Love" are right up there with the best of the aforementioned artists. Brilliant.
#3 | swazi on June 28 2012 11:37:57
Really awesome music! Long lost, but what a gem!
#4 | Sandy Berman on April 19 2013 02:54:56
I am so glad that you liked this... we worked very hard on it but as it turned out, the powers that be at MCA decided not to promote it.. and released the album on the SAME DAY as Michael Jackson's "Thriller".

Talk about being overshadowed!

Note the players on it included members of the Doobie Brothers and the Motels.

I'm particularly proud of my keyboard work on "China" as well it's arrangement (ALL the arrangements are mine).

Here's the title track..
#5 | gdazegod on April 19 2013 06:03:28
Thanks for the input Sandy. Good to see your login registration come through earlier today..

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