Huey Lewis And The News - 1991 Hard At Play

richardbrichardb Poole, Dorset


ARTIST: Huey Lewis (And The News)
ALBUM: Hard At Play
LABEL: Capitol/EMI
SERIAL: CDP-7-93355-2
YEAR: 1991


LINEUP: Huey Lewis - harmonica, vocals * Mario Cipollina - bass * Johnny Colla - guitar, saxophone, backing vocals * Bill Gibson - percussion, drums, backing vocals * Chris Hayes - guitar, backing vocals * Sean Hopper - keyboards, backing vocals

Additional Musicians: Mike Duke, David Fredericks, Gospel Hummingbirds - background vocals * John McFee - guitar

TRACK LISTING: 01 Build Me Up * 02 It Hit Me Like A Hammer * 03 Attitude * 04 he Don't Know * 05 Couple Days Off * 06 That's Not Me * 07 We Should Be Making Love * 08 Best Of Me * 09 Do You Love Me, Or What? * 10 Don't Look Back * 11 Time Ain't Money



Despite 'Sports' being one of the biggest selling albums of the 1980's and appearing on an iconic movie soundtrack, was it ever fashionable to like Huey Lewis?

I guess with several multi-platinum albums under his belt, it was indeed, to quote his lyrics 'Hip To Be Square' (a line I often repeat to our teenage son).

However, when 'Small World' hit the shelves in 1988, Lewis appeared to be losing his golden (or should that be multi-platinum?) touch. Sales were disappointing by his previous standards and despite extensive touring, it only managed to shift just over a million copies worldwide.

Presumably this didn't measure up to the high expectations of his record label executives and this resulted in him ending his deal with Chrysalis.

The Songs

'Hard At Play' was released at the start of 1991 and at this stage in his career, perhaps Lewis had decided in his own words 'Hell, I've made enough money, now I wanna have some fun.'.

Certainly there's some infectious enthusiasm contained in the grooves of this album. Lewis still had one eye on the US charts though, hence the continued use of outside writers.

The opener 'Build Me Up' has a solid backbeat underpinned by some razor sharp guitar and Lewis's familiar rasping vocal delivery (weaned on a diet of Marlboro and Jack Daniels no doubt). He's excellent throughout this album. It's certainly heavier than anything on 'Small World' which was rather lightweight by comparison.

Next up is 'It Hit Me Like A Hammer', (a Mutt Lange co-write) which is mid paced AOR, with some great vocal harmonies on the chorus and a searing guitar solo in the mid-section. It even managed to make a dent in the US charts, despite the rather pretentious video promoting it.

'Attitude' is sprightly, although with more of a bluesier flavour (surprisingly written by Max Carl). This is followed by a soulful delivery from Lewis on 'He Don't Know' which slows down proceedings.

The other hit single from the album 'Couple Days Off', shakes things up and is a lively, fun listen. You'll simultaneously be tapping your foot whilst reaching for your air guitar on this number. The subject nature has universal appeal (unless you're a workaholic). Let's face it, I'm sure we could all do with a couple of days (or months) off work. I also urge you to check out the tongue in cheek video on Youtube. If that doesn't make you smile nothing will.

'That's Not Me' maintains the upbeat mood, keyboards are more prominent here and because of its catchy chorus and radio friendly credentials, would have made obvious hit single material.

The sultry 'We Should Be Making Love' features yet another great vocal delivery from Huey, and slows down proceedings to allow you to catch your breath or reach for strong coffee.

The keyboard driven 'Best Of Me' with its memorable chorus and exquisite harmonies is another prime example of the melodic, radio friendly AOR that Huey Lewis and the News are known for.

It's then back to the blues with the closing triumvirate of 'Do You Love Me Or What?', 'Don't Look Back' and 'Time Ain't Money', all characterised by precision tight musical arrangements and impressive harmonies.

In Summary

I've always had a soft spot for Huey Lewis, as he's achieved his success as a result of sheer hard work and concentrating on the strength of his music, rather than focusing on his PR image.

I saw him play live in London with the missus many years ago and can testify that he and his band are a class act - probably one of the most enjoyable gigs I've been to.

For those of you that are familiar with his 80's output, if you haven't yet given 'Hard At Play' a listen, I urge you to do so, you won't be disappointed.

All written content on this website belongs to copyright. Duplication elsewhere on the Internet is strictly prohibited, unless specific permission is granted.

Sign In or Register to comment.