Personnel: Al Jarreau (vocals); Steve Lukather, Dean Parks (guitars); Jay Graydon (guitars, synthesizer); Lon Price (alto saxophone); Jerry Hey (trumpet, flugelhorn); Chuck Findley (trumpet); Bill Reichenbach (trombone); Tom Scott (horns); Milchio Leviev (piano); David Foster (piano, synthesizer); Tom Canning, Michael Omartian (piano, synthesizers); Michael Boddicker, Peter Robinson, Larry Williams (synthesizers); Abe Laboriel, Neil Steubenhaus (bass); Steve Gadd (drums); Bob Zimmitt (percussion); Richard Page, Steve George, Bill Champlin (background vocals).
Engineers include: Joe Bogan, Jay Graydon, Humberto Gatica.
Recorded at Dawnbreaker Studios, San Fernando, California; Sunset Sound and Pasha Music, Hollywood, California.
Released in 1981, Breakin' Away is not only a great follow-up to This Time, it all but perfected the effort. With an amazing batch of songs, producer/artist chemistry, and top-level players, Breakin' Away became the standard bearer of the L.A. pop and R&B sound. "Closer to Your Love" comes off as a tougher, more confident version of the songs from the previous album. However, in short order, Breakin' Away assumes its own identity with brilliant results. Everything works so well here that the hit, the pleasing "We're in This Love Together," comes off as the weak link. "Easy," with its gorgeous and subtle Latin flourishes, has Jarreau's purposeful delivery coming off oddly poignant in its joy and beauty. The bittersweet "My Old Friend" has him giving a charming and understated reading with gorgeous synth signatures that speak volumes. Most of Breakin' Away has Jarreau in great spirits and giving one great performance after another, like the powerful and melody-rich title song. Like his best albums, this gives Jarreau plenty of room to exercise his chops. He struts through the funky and elegant "Roof Garden," and on the impressive "(Round, Round, Round) Blue Rondo a la Turk" he offers great scats and whimsical lyrics. For the final track, Jarreau brings new life to "Teach Me Tonight" and it has a sweeping, dreamy arrangement. Produced by Jay Graydon, Breakin' Away is a great album and informed a lot of Jarreau's subsequent efforts. ~ Jason Elias