Friday, January 25, 2013

Corey Hart: Young Man Running & Boy In The Box

"Hey Mister don't shadowbox with me cuz' I don't wanna someday be an old man cursing what I might have been."
-Corey Hart, In Your Soul from the recording Young Man Running [1988]-

X-file? One of the many unsolved X-Files along the way was whether or not David Duchovny and 1980s Canadian pop singer Corey Hart were of the same birth mother, perhaps the result of a mutual zygote.  I always found the two to be awfully similar in appearance. It may have been me, but I find things like this to amuse me.  This genetic coincidence has always been one of those "extreme possibilities."  But David Duchovny did spend a good deal of time in Canada for The X-Files.  And in science fiction anything is possible.

This post, originally intended to be something of a light-hearted offering, transformed from a simple idea into a full blown 80s music retrospective.  For fans of all things 80s, enjoy the memories.

It is without question, unlike Duran Duran, The Human League and Depeche Mode, pop star Corey Hart has been all but forgotten at least in the United States.  The Canadian pop rock star who left girls swooning is all but a faded distant memory to most fans of the 80s never mind the casual music fan. I'm not even sure most remember he wore his Sunglasses At Night.  How cool was this guy once upon a time? His big claim to fame was a pulsing, driving, delicious synthesizer delight. In fact, it's not until I started watching The X-Files again that I thought, "David Duchovny always reminded me of Corey Hart."

I'll have you know this random connection brought me back to my Fancave to dust off my collection of Corey Hart music.  I honestly haven't touched those CDs in years and most of you would probably agree I'd be better off.  But I refuse to bow to the pressure of my peers and relent to the sound sensations of 80s glories like those heralded by Corey Hart.  Mult-instrumentalist, singer/ songwriter Corey Hart penned a number of fine little pop gems along the way and was certainly not without talent.  The Montreal born native even penned songs for his wife Julie Masse and singer Celine Dion and was showered with awards for a solid decade.  The very X-Files-like back cover of Corey Hart's First Offense.

As I poured over my collection of Corey Hart, I immediately knew I would need to load iTunes with the very best and burn a CD for the sandcrawler rides about town and to further torture my children with my clearly square choice of music.   What I can't understand is how I can be scolded by a daughter who liked Justin Bieber and Katy Perry. Nevertheless, there was no messing around here people.  I had to get right to the heart [pun not intended actually] of the very best of Hart's work.

Fans of 80s music should know they cannot go wrong with the hits collection called Corey Hart: The Singles [1991].  That collection has almost everything you need.  But running down the list.  The aptly titled First Offense [1983], produced by Jon Astley, was a solid start for a newcomer and had the two pop gems Sunglasses At Night and It Ain't EnoughPeruvian Lady, She Got The Radio and a few others are sub par but may be worth a purchase.

Boy In The Box [1985] quickly followed suit with a lead-off ballad Never Surrender, a story about running away, and took full advantage of Hart's good looks at the registers. I recall my friends and I in high school thinking Boy In The Box was a pretty solid collection of pop songs.  On the whole, the album is one of two solid productions by Hart and would be worthy of a place on your 80s shelf.  The thrilling title track, the gorgeous Everything In My Heart, the stunningly seductive Eurasian Eyes [employed for the film 9 1/2 Weeks which says something], the aching Waiting For You, rockers Komrade Kiev and Silent Talking and even Water From The Moon are all perfect pop songs.  There really isn't a misstep in the bunch.  In fact, I always felt like British pop act Cutting Crew lifted Everything In My Heart for their recording The Scattering [1989] and renamed it Everything But My Pride.  It sounds incredibly close and many of you know I love Cutting Crew's Broadcast [1986], but that group took their liberties with Hart's song or so it seemed.  Well, like Broadcast, Boy In The Box is a classic.

Producer Jon Astley who recorded those first two Hart efforts did a couple of albums himself in much the same vain producer Rupert Hine dabbled outside of The Fixx on his own as a self-professed singer.  Astley, you might recall, came out with an excellent production called Everyone Loves The Pilot (Except The Crew) [1987; a great name for an album] and another recording called The Compleat Angler [1988].  Each effort yielded two wonderful pop singles including Jane's Getting Serious and Put This Love To The Test respectively.  Astley has mastered recordings for Led Zeppelin, Tears For Fears, Paul McCartney, The Boomtown Rats, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Level 42, Eric Clapton, Toto and even Bono.  Astley is an interesting character but he's an X-File for another day.

Corey Hart followed up Boy In The Box a year later with Fields Of Fire [1986], borrowing a refrain from Big Country's The Crossing [1983].  While Fields Of Fire certainly saw Hart maturing as a songwriter and vocalist it had its hits and misses and became an uneven follow-up.  The standouts include the striking I Am By Your Side, the terrifically wistful Take My Heart and a very effective and simple remake of Elvis Presley's Can't Help Falling In Love, one of the better remakes I've heard.  But if I'm to be honest the song was omitted from my self-made CD compilation.  Seriously, who hasn't remade that song?  If I never hear that song again it would be too soon.  Paul Young was one of the absolute finest vocalists to remake songs out of the UK, and he never remade that one and that's saying something.  But, he's a more likely X-file for another day too.

Finally, the second must-own production for the library is Hart's underrated, under appreciated and essentially discarded work Young Man Running [1988].  Two years later and his selections are more sophisticated but just as melodic.  Spot You In A Coalmine and Don't Take Me To The Racetrack are upbeat numbers you'll find on his best of collection as well as here.  But the best songs for my money, hands down, some of which can only be found here, are in no particular order the fantastically reflective, even nostalgic In Your Soul [this one is a pensive beauty], the gorgeous Still In Love, No Love Lost, the yearning Chase The Sun and the incredibly moving Truth Will Set You Free, a gay anthem open for other interpretations.  Truth even received a work over by Hart in 2012 with newly recorded vocals and an entirely restructured track by 1 Love.  Young Man Running is a wonderful production.  I can't tell you how many times I saw that one in a dusty bargain bin and thought to myself, what a shame.  Hart was proud of that effort and deservedly so.  A lot of effort was put into it.  Pulling out those songs last night and hearing them again reminded me why I loved them so much.  They are timeless and well-produced, while Boy In The Box may sound a little dated with its synth-heavy compositions, Young Man Running flows with a kind of grace to it. Minor quibbles aside, those two efforts are the classics.

Bang! [1990] arrived with a fizzle and I can't say I was all that impressed myself honestly.  Attitude & Virtue [1992] had a similar effect on me.  Apart from A Little Love from Bang! and maybe two tracks from the latter I felt like Hart lost his touch a little.

Corey Hart [1996] and Jade [1999] are also on my shelf.  Jade is in the wrapping still so I have no idea, but I did give Corey Hart a listen last night and it is a production filled with what Hart does best now - ballads. There were easily a good handful of songs including his remake of Love Hurts I enjoyed and will give that self-titled work another look.  I have heard Break The Chain and the lovely French duet La Bas with his wife Julie Masse, both are from Jade, and are very good.

By now you're probably slack-jawed that someone could have that much passion for Corey Hart let alone write about him.  Well, only at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic I say. Up next, Led Zeppelin.  Honest,ly my music tastes are all over the bloody map.  I swear.

But to give Corey Hart his due there's something to be said in the titles of two of his finest moments.  Both Boy In The Box and Young Man Running reflect a journey and offer expressions of a man and his creative place.  Without the world of American Idol there aren't many artists who could claim success and self-propel themselves to a fairly lengthy solo career in music on sheer talent alone at a time when an industry ate pop stars for breakfast and no one ever heard of iTunes.

Corey Hart Discography: First Offense [1983]/ Boy In The Box [1985] */ Fields Of Fire [1986]/ Young Man Running [1988] */ Bang! [1990]/ The Singles [1991] */ Attitude & Virtue [1992]/ Corey Hart [1996]/ Jade [1998]. * essential


Troy L. Foreman said...


Although not a massive Corey Hart fan, I do own his first two albums and from what I remember, I enjoyed them alot. Haven't listened to them in a while, but I may have to dust them off and give them a listen again thanks to your blog.

I can see why people could think they look alike, it does seem kind of interesting to think about it. :)

As with you, I have a very eclectic taste in music as well. I have about a 20 minute commute to work in the morning via our metro system, so I listen to music to and from work. Just to give you an idea of what is on my iPhone...these are some of teh tracks I listened to this morning:

Oh Yea by Bat For Lashes
Extra Lovable - Prince
Champagne Life - Ne Yo
God Only Knows - The Beach Boys
Here to Stay - Korn
My Baby Must Be a Magician - The Marvelettes

that's just a couple of the songs. :)

Great post!

le0pard13 said...

As usual, another awesome music post, my friend.

@ Troy: kudos for the playlist. Anything that includes My Baby Must Be a Magician by The Marvelettes & The Beach Boys' God Only Knows is aces by me.

Friday is a perfect day for these kinds of posts ;-). Thanks, guys.

SFF said...

Ah, great list of music.

I always have me a major supply of Prince on hand if needed.

Like you, I hadn't listened to my Hart CDs in years. I'm enjoying them for the moment. It will be ephemeral I'm sure, but I do really enjoy some of his selections.

And thank you L13.

Gents, while we're on the subject, here is a run down of my general playlist of late either while driving in the car and listening to the self-made CDs or listening to the ipod for a run.

My son is mostly on board with me so we've been leaning to the heavier stuff. He prefers it and I enjoy it immensely too.

Led Zeppelin [Misty Mountain, Stairway, Immigrant Song - you name it]
Soundgarden [basically Superunknown]
STP [Sour Girl and other assorted classics]
Smashing Pumpkins [1979, Disarm, etc..]
Emiliani Torrini [icelandic singer ... beautiful voice]
Iceland's Of Monsters And Men
Mumford And Sons
Corey Hart
The Offspring
That about covers it at the moment.
You both have a great weekend.

Unknown said...

Wow, and here I thought only people in Canada knew of Corey Hart. Growing up in the Great White North we were inundated with Hart videos 24/7 when he hit it big. I haven't listened to his stuff in ages but I do remember when he exploded in Canada.

And thank you for pointing out the striking similarities between him and David Duchovny! It is downright eerie how much they look like each other.

Now, if you wanna really dig deep into '80s Canadian pop music, you should do something on Gowan! : )

SFF said...

Ha. J.D. That's funny. Yes, I woould have to admit my Canadian music affections are devoid of Gowan.

Off the top of my head I can go as far as Rush and Moving Pictures. Great work.

Glass Tiger not so much, but don't forget me when I'm gone.

Oh and the fantastic Safety Dance by Men Without Hats!

Cheers pal. Loved your Megaforce piece despite never having seen it. I guess it looked cheesy to me even as a kid.

Anonymous said...

First of all, the pout. Second, the hair. Third, the white t-shirt.

I have made this connection long, long before you did. If you put Corey Hart in one Fly Chamber and David Duchovny in the other you get David Duchovny singing Sunglasses and Corey Hart Californicating in X-Files with Gillian Anderson.

Anonymous said...

Boy in the X-Box.

SFF said...

That's pretty funny. I like that.

Yeah, it was one of those things I always noticed about the two and how closely they resembled one another. Finally thought I'd write an amusing post about it.