by Jeff Fiedler
Albums from the Lost & Found is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which contributor Jeff Fiedler reviews and helps us rediscover great pop albums that seem to have been lost to time.
Upon finishing his work with Olsson, Paul Davis would return to his solo career, scoring one last hit on Bang (the #23-charting “Do Right”) before signing a new deal with Arista Records and making his label debut with 1981’s Cool Night.
By the time Cool Night was released, Davis was still best known as the singer and songwriter of “I Go Crazy,” and for good reason: you just can’t top a love song as note-perfect and chilling as “I Go Crazy” is, and while follow-up singles like “Sweet Life” and “Do Right” were quite good in their own right, they failed to return Davis to the Top Ten.
Cool Night would turn Davis’ fortunes around, however, spawning not just one, but three Top 40 hits, including his biggest hit yet. His excellent cover of the Friends of Distinction’s “Love or Let Me Be Lonely” would stop at #40, but it’s nearly every bit as good as the #6-charting original.
Much more successful was the album’s title cut, a gently swaying ballad that was Davis’ most beautiful composition in years. It’s not nearly as slow or as sultry as “I Go Crazy,” but it’s just as dreamy (even in its lead-guitar breaks), and its melody (featuring a much unexpected key change) is nothing short of brilliant. (At the risk of sounding older than my years, they truly don’t write melodies anymore like the kind in “Cool Night.”) The song would stop just barely shy of the Top Ten, peaking at #11, and would remain a staple on adult-contemporary radio for much of the ‘80s, though it’s sadly disappeared from the dial in the ensuing decades.
But Davis wasn’t done there. He’d not only return to the Top Ten for the first time in three years but he’d best the #7 peak of "I Go Crazy" by one spot and score his biggest hit to date with the album’s second-side opener, the effervescent pop of “’65 Love Affair,” which fuses a charmingly nostalgia-minded lyric looking back on a more simple time to a bouncy, synth-laden musical bed complete with handclaps, a perfect added touch. Like many of Davis’ finest productions, the single continues to build in charm as it goes on, and the track peaks in an acapella bridge that unexpectedly but cleverly interweaves a doo-wop-tinged “street corner serenade” with a chorus of cheerleaders (who repeatedly chant “Go, go! Go, team, go!”) and sound effects from a football game.
Davis was more than just a great singles artist, though, and there are quite a few other cuts here that seem like missed opportunities at another hit, especially the wildly catchy closer “We’re Still Together,” which serves as a nice way to wrap up an album side that began with the nostalgic “’65 Love Affair.” The R&B groove of “Oriental Eyes,” the vaguely-Christopher Cross-like “You Came to Me,” and “Somebody’s Gettin’ to You” also make for memorable non-singles.
Strangely enough, Davis would never release another album after Cool Night (but then again, there is something to be admired about choosing to go out on top, and Davis did exactly that), though he would make a big splash in the country world in the mid-‘80s, penning the massive hit “Bop” – easily one of the greatest country singles of the ‘80s and a song that’s very much identifiable as Davis’ songwriting, boasting the same kind of nostalgia-laced lyric and lovely melody that made “’65 Love Affair” so irresistible – for Dan Seals (formerly one-half of the ‘70s pop duo England Dan and John Ford Coley of “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” fame.) Davis would also briefly return to recording to cut a pair of chart-topping duets with Marie Osmond (“You’re Still New to Me”) and Tanya Tucker (“I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love”) in the late ‘80s, but, perhaps in part due to a mugging in 1986 that resulted in Davis getting shot in the stomach, he would end up quietly retreating from the limelight once more and remaining musically inactive up until his death in 2008 (only one day after his 60th birthday.)