Monday, January 4, 2016


Davis was one of those guys that showed up on the charts every couple of years in the '70's and '80's with a decent-sized hit, but remained somewhat anonymous. Sometimes he had country in his sound, sometimes pop, and he even had a rather big, incongruous synthesizer in a couple of tunes, obviously trying the new instrument out. Turns out the Mississippi native had lots of experience, leading bands through the '60's, becoming a songwriter and a studio guy, capable of his own productions. He was a bit of a gear head too, which accounts for the synth interest. He didn't like touring much, accounted for failure to break big. The old formula was/is get a single, then hit the road and it will grow and grow. Davis didn't do the last part, so songs such as Ride 'Em Cowboy, I Go Crazy, '65 Love Affair and Cool Night would do well, but never jump to the top.

Plus, Davis didn't quite know what he'd like to be. 1974's Ride 'Em Cowboy had a great little story about an old rodeo rider, and certainly fit in with what The Eagles were doing then in country rock. But then by '77's I Go Crazy, he was soft rock, and could have joined The Captain & Tennille. The re-birth in 1981 Cool Night and '65 Love Affair put him back in a better pop sound, and he might have made some more nice contemporary soul like Hall & Oates were doing. But what he did do is back off the recording scene and instead concentrate on writing. During the mid-'80's he actually had two big hits, as a guest vocalist on #1 country songs for Marie Osmond and Tanya Tucker, and was responsible for writing one of the top songs of the decade, 1985's smash Bop for Dan Seals, another #1, and also a cross-over hit on Adult Contemporary and pop stations.

There's no denying Davis had a way with a song, and a lot of production savvy as well. Maybe he was trying too hard for hits though, as several tracks here veer into the saccharine. Ride 'Em Cowboy is probably the best of the bunch, but the comprehensive set goes back to early stuff with his band The Reivers in 1970, his solo debut cover of The Jarmels' A Little Bit Of Soap and the underappreciated Love or Let Me Be Lonely, from '82.

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