Album review: PAUL SABU – Heartbreak & Only Child

Rock Candy Records Remasters [Release date 07.08.20]

From the moment he burst onto the disco music scene in the late seventies, the legend that is Paul Sabu has been inundated with accolades… “best this…”, “best that…”, but he never truly turned the recognition of his peer group into fame and fortune. And, as is often the case, his talent as a writer and performer only gained genuine public awareness through his songwriting and production for other artists and in other musical forums.

It’s been good to see his work being remastered and reissued as we moved through the early years of the new millenium. And no one does it quite like Rock Candy. Never mind the bonus tracks, essays and colour pics, it’s the cutting edge remastering that does it.

The early eighties were a particularly fertile period for Sabu. His alter ego, Kidd Glove, showed he was just as capable of wrapping his versatile vocals around a few, sophisticated slices of AOR as he was hitting the high notes hard and fast. His foreceful, melodic timbre, a roughed up version of Sammy Hagar’s distinctive, born-to-rock’n'roll tenor, was perfect for delivering MTV formula rock songs.

Surprisingly, the Kidd Glove album failed to gain commercial traction, and so he moved straight into Heartbreak, released under the Sabu name the following year (1985), with virtually the same band. The critics loved its marriage of melody to hard rock. ‘Breakin Out’, ‘Hot Flash’ and ‘New Girl In Town’ are glorious tracks that still pack a considerable wallop today.  ***1/2

Three years later, recognising that fans wanted nothing more than to be swept up in the emotion of a vertiginous chorus, written in the image of a Desmond Child or a Jack Ponti, Sabu put together his magnum opus, Only Child.

Sabu had learned his lessons the hard way. Popular acclaim was the target. And that remastering job makes the gutsy urgency of of ‘Just Ask’ and ‘I Wanna Touch’ sound dynamic, clear and pin sharp, later mainlining us into the adrenaline rush of ‘I Believe In You’, and ‘Save A Place in Yourt Heart’, unwrapping both songs’ full potential. It was career highpoint that still resonates today.  ****

Each remaster carries a welcome weight of bonus tracks. Nine on “Heartbreak”… many of which had originally made their way onto movie soundtracks. And four on “Only Child”, doubling the number added to previous reissues.

Judged together, these two albums saw Sabu at a creative peak. His later material matched up, but never surpassed it.

Review by Brian McGowan

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