Lost Classics? The Pointer Sisters
The Pointer Sisters had an enviable run at the top of the charts in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Their hits included “Neutron Dance” and the most famous cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire.” The albums that all of these songs appeared on were produced by 1970s über-producer Richard Perry. One of the most successful music producers ever, Perry was no stranger to the upper reaches of the charts – he produced the hit albums Ringo (1973) for Ringo Starr, No Secrets (1972) for Carly Simon and many others.
Oddly, one Pointer Sisters album with Perry at the helm made no impression at all – in fact, when Priority was released in 1979, it disappeared virtually without a trace. The sisters were still riding high off the No. 1 smash “Fire” and its album Energy from the previous year when Perry took them into the studio for this followup.
Priority is of interest because its songs are all rock covers – the Pointers tackle tunes by Ian Hunter, Bob Seger, Graham Parker, Richard Thompson, the Band and the Rolling Stones. And Perry surrounded them with hot L.A. session musicians like guitarists Waddy Wachtel and Dan Dugmore, drummer Rick Marotta (all of them played with Linda Ronstadt), Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne and, on a few songs, Stones pianist Nicky Hopkins.
Of course, with all of this high-powered artillery, the songs do rock. After the intro to Seger’s “All Your Love,” you expect Ronstadt to start belting it out. But the Pointer Sisters (they take turns on lead vocals) get lost in the shuffle – they seem rather clueless as to what to do with Hunter’s “Who Do You Love” or Keith Richards’ signature “Happy.” The one that does seem to work is “The Fever” by their old buddy Bruce Springsteen.
Undaunted, Perry and the sisters would rebound in 1980 with “He’s So Shy,” in 1981 with “Slow Hand,” and in 1984 with the blockbuster album Break Out (with “Neutron Dance,” “Jump (For My Love)” and “I’m So Excited.” I once gave a cassette copy of Priority to somebody in a bar band, suggesting they learn some of these songs; after doing so, they did rather well for themselves. But they eventually broke up – like the Pointer Sisters.