Featured album: Robert Palmer, “Addictions Vol.1” (1989)


AFDPJ revisits another Best Of from the late 1980s that, just like Steve Winwood’s “Chronicles”, wasn’t actually a straightforward compilation at all….

ROBERT PALMER “Addictions, Vol. 1” (1989)

  1. Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)  3.15
  2. Pride  4.05
  3. Addicted To Love  4.21
  4. Sweet Lies  3.05
  5. Woke Up Laughing  4.06
  6. Looking For Clues  4.54
  7. Some Guys Have All The Luck  3.06
  8. Some Like It Hot  5.05
  9. What’s It Take?  3.28
  10. Every Kinda People  3.26
  11. Johnny & Mary  4.05
  12. Simply Irresistible  4.18
  13. Style Kills  4.16


Stereotyped (wrongly, of course) as some kind of misogynistic dinosaur peddling vacuous AOR – entirely thanks to one misunderstood song, and one misunderstood video (Addicted To Love) – Robert Palmer had been making solo albums for 15 years by the time of this first retrospective.

In common with Steve Winwood, another Island Records stalwart of the 70s and 80s, he left the label after the biggest success of his career to date (in Palmer’s case, the Riptide album with its consecutive UK Top 10 hits including that song). While Winwood hooked up with Virgin America for Roll With It and enjoyed even greater (US) chart rewards, Robert Palmer signed with EMI and saw Heavy Nova generate a Billboard #2 smash in the form of Simply Irresistible (Addicted To Love on steroids, basically).

Both of those albums appeared in June 1988, yet while Chronicles was released in October 1987, before Winwood’s new label debut, Addictions didn’t show up until October 1989. Planned as a two-volume project, with the second instalment scheduled to follow 12 months later, it was a Best Of with a twist.

Look Ma, (almost) no hits! But you’ll recognise more tracks than you think…

Perhaps as a sign of the mutual respect between artist and (former) label, Palmer is given complete artistic license both in track selection and, crucially, in whether to go back and tinker with the original recordings. A noted perfectionist, with far more musicality and intelligence than the public or press ever gave him credit for, he approaches the concept with a rare enthusiasm and keen eye for making use of better technology to improve or update (usually both!) some of the material from his ’70s albums.

Most of the revisionism is subtle enough to go unnoticed by the casual listener, but it helps create a less uneven listening experience than Winwood’s Chronicles, where pristine state of the art recordings were interspersed with older recordings that suffered from comparatively primitive equipment. Addictions suffers from a similar where-are-the-hits problem, but does a smarter job of masking it. Many of Addictions tracks were also quite well-known through airplay, despite peaking outside the UK Top 40 (hands up everyone who thought Johnny & Mary – #44 in 1980 – was a major hit?).

The effect is more of a curated, selective trawl through a back catalogue with the artist themselves as your guide; Addictions Vol.1 works as a standalone Palmer album as much as a Greatest Hits, in fact probably more so. To be a definitive Greatest Hits, this collection would need to have I Didn’t Need To Turn You On (#9, 1986), She Makes My Day (#6, 1988), and at least something from the pre-1978 releases (there is no Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley for instance). Also the sleeve montage ironically references several albums and songs that aren’t on Addictions Vol.1 itself; Heavy Nova, I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On’s model covering her eyes, the razor from Change His Ways, Sneakin’ Sally… and the car featured on 1976’s Some People Can Do What They Like. Strange!

Robert Palmer, hard at work on the Addictions tracklisting. Possibly.

There are three genuine UK Top 40 solo hits featured, plus Some Like It Hot from his short-lived collaboration with Duran Duran’s John and Andy Taylor as The Power Station (a supergroup completed by Chic’s Tony Thompson on drums). The aforementioned Johnny & Mary, plus Every Kinda People, sounded and felt like big hits as well, which sometimes is just as important. That’s half the CD taken care of.

Any retrospective with commercial aspirations needs a focal point, be it a brand new recording, rarities from the vaults or something that serves as a fresh promotional tool. Step forward 1978’s Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor), remixed (due to Palmer’s dissatisfaction with the original production) and sounding contemporary enough to fit in with the sounds of 1989 and sit alongside Addicted To Love as proof of what an outstanding rock vocalist he could be.


Heavy Nova had been home to several singles during mid-1988 to early 1989, but only one of them appears on Addictions. Tellingly, it’s the raucous Simply Irresistible, a surprise UK chart flop, rather than the gorgeous ballad She Makes My Day. Which means Change His Ways, It Could Happen To You and American Top 20 hit Early In The Morning all miss out.

Stylistically, most of these omissions make some sort of sense, besides being EMI recordings; Woke Up Laughing and Pride showcase the “World Music” side of his output, while Some Like It Hot and What’s It Take are excellent examples of his ability to fashion an intense, funky performance when the track requires it.

It feels as though the choices are also coloured by Palmer’s determination to counter the lazy accusations made about him in the aftermath of Addicted To Love; a sense of making a point about how diverse, humourous, playful, experimental and richly musical his work had been all along.  The lack of a smooth, crooning ballad – Riptide’s title track had earned a profile on Radio 2 in 1986 and Heavy Nova developed his fascination with the genre – felt like a missing piece of the jigsaw, however. We do get Sweet Lies, a little Soundtrack curio that served as his final low-key release on Island in early 1988, shortly before the EMI era began, and doesn’t appear on any Robert Palmer studio album (cue some confusion on my part when Heavy Nova didn’t include the song!).

On stage in 1989…..”Hey Bob, your album’s gone in at #7!”….

Ultimately, the Addictions project proved a decent success, Vol. 1 reaching #7 in a congested pre-Christmas market. It was only the second Top 10 album of his career, and kept his profile high after the Heavy Nova campaign. Island got a big-seller for the lucrative Q4 of 1989, and EMI were well-placed to benefit with the next studio set. Quite an achievement to please both your old and new employers simultaneously!

This back and forth schedule between Island and EMI continued, with Vol. 2 of Addictions eventually being delayed until 1992 due to Don’t Explain, an ambitious double album of new recordings that spawned two more UK Top 10 hits and also reached the Top 10 itself in late 1990/early 1991.

Addictions Vol. 2 deserves a separate feature on its own someday. Watch this space!



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