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.
Husband-and-wife team Marv and Rindy Ross were the heart of the early-‘80s pop/rock quintet Quarterflash. Though the Oregon band – originally known as Seafood Mama – has become somewhat forgotten over time, they separated themselves from the rest of the new-wave pack at the time in several different and unique ways. For starters, they took the unusual but creative step of including the guitar tunings for each track in the liner notes, making it easier for listeners to teach themselves the songs by ear. They also weren’t averse to showing off instrumentally, even closing their debut disc with a solo-heavy, eight-minute epic called “Williams Avenue” in an era when prog-rock had all but vanished and concise pop songs were the order of the day. Most prominently, however, the otherwise-all-male band was fronted by Rindy, who doubled as the band’s full-time saxophonist, female saxophone players being a real rarity in any era of mainstream pop music. [Only Candy Dulfer, who scored a fluke Top 40 hit alongside Eurythmics’ Dave A. Stewart in the early ‘90s with the instrumental “Lily Was Here” but is primarily known as a smooth-jazz artist, has come close to matching Rindy’s success in that area.]
The band’s 1981 self-titled debut, helmed by John Boylan (who had produced several hit albums for Little River Band and co-produced one of the most famous classic-rock albums of all, the self-titled debut from Boston) and released on the then-still-brand-new Geffen label, opens with the band’s all-time biggest hit, a re-recording of a formerly self-distributed local single in Oregon, “Harden My Heart.” Opening with a brief but effectively-mood-setting sax solo from Rindy, the sultry, slow-burning soulful rocker – not unlike what you’d get if you put the respective sounds of Pat Benatar and Spandau Ballet into a blender with just a pinch of Eric Clapton’s blues-rock – was an immediate hit on the airwaves, rocketing all the way into the Top Three. [The single’s B-side “Don’t Be Lonely,” sadly doesn’t appear on this disc, but it did find its way onto LP via the soundtrack of Cameron Crowe’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the band also contributing the title theme to the Ron Howard-directed silver-screen Michael Keaton/Henry Winkler comedy Night Shift.]
But, despite common misconception, the band was far from being a one-hit wonder, and the next cut on the album was a Top Twenty hit in its own right: the fiery rock of “Find Another Fool,” which easily rivalled anything Benatar was making at the time, packing all the sass and attitude of “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” but coupling it with a pounding, danceable rhythm comparable to Scandal’s “Goodbye to You” for a more hip-shaking affair.
Though Rindy was the primary face of the band and also shines on the minor hit “Right Kind of Love” (the main guitar riff of which would be right at home on any early Heart album) and the bare-bones ballad “Love Should Be So Kind,” the quintet actually boasted a second lead singer in vocalist/guitarist Jack Charles, who both pens and sings the prettiest ballad here, “Critical Times,” which is noticeably softer than anything else on the disc but boasts one of the album’s strongest melodies and provides a nice cool-down after the aggressive “Find Another Fool.”
The band’s follow-up album, 1983’s Take Another Picture, wasn’t quite as much of a chart success, but was arguably even stronger from start to finish than its predecessor and did yield an additional Top Twenty hit for the band in its opening cut, the pounding, sultry strut of “Take Me to Heart,” which boasts an absolutely ingenious pre-chorus that ends with everything dropping out except for the bass drum and several layers of handclaps.
The dynamic follow-up single, the title cut, is a throwback to “Find Another Fool” in its danceable driving rock, but the song inexplicably stalled at #58. It's most certainly worth noting here that the band was truly one of the most captivating and exciting live bands of the early '80s - for those of you too young to have seen them in their prime, you can find several Quarterflash concerts from 1981 to 1984 available for viewing in their entirety on YouTube, which I highly recommend checking out, particularly their 1984 show at The Palace - and would regularly dazzle audiences with their energy (Marv especially, the guitarist regularly darting back and forth across the stage during the faster numbers as he played away) and their creative stage routines. "Take Another Picture" in particular was always a huge live favorite of the band's fans, not in the least due to the band's fun tradition of having Rindy use the song's instrumental break to venture out into the audiences with a camera and snap Polaroids of randomly-selected fans dancing along to the song to give them as concert mementos, a tradition that was even continued during the band's performance of the song on the live-sketch-comedy series Fridays.
Strong hooks continue to pop up over the remainder of the disc, be it the slow, smoky grooves of “Shane,” the wistful, near-Dan Fogelberg-like soft-pop of “Eye to Eye,” the driving rocker “It Don’t Move Me” (featuring Joe Walsh on slide guitar), the marching rhythms of the very catchy “Make It Shine" (also featured on the soundtrack to Gremlins) or the Jack Charles-fronted stadium-rock of “One More Round to Go,” and the album ends in stirring fashion with the brief but powerful “It All Becomes Clear.”
Though the band would disband in 1985 after being dropped by Geffen following the poor commercial response to their third album, Back into Blue, the band would re-emerge in 1991 – with Marv and Rindy the only returning members – and have released three additional albums, 2013’s Love Is a Road being the most recent.