Personnel: Chris Rae, Phil Palmer (guitar); Alan Wakeman, Ronnie Ross , Henry Lowther (saxophone, brass); John Cameron, Ken Freeman (keyboards, synthesizer); Barry De Souza (drums); Tony Carr (percussion).
Liner Note Author: Phil Hendriks.
Arranger: John Cameron.
By 1980, David Essex seemed more comfortable on the theater stage (from whence, to all intents and purposes, he'd come) than in fulfilling his recording contract. His role in Evita had firmly re-established him in that world, while scoring and starring in the motorcycle movie Silver Dream Racer had taken him in another direction entirely. Yet Hot Love -- clearly written in the afterglow of the motorbiking experience -- emerged as Essex's worst performing album yet, while the Top 60 placing scratched from the title track disguises the speed with which history has forgotten it. In fact, Hot Love is nowhere near as bad as its subsequent obscurity suggests. The mood of the album is generally closer to the "Rock On"/"Lamplight" ideal that his old fans still yearned for than anything he'd done in recent years, with "Swim Against the Flow" emerging as another of the portentous epics that Essex is occasionally prone to come out with. Meanwhile, the somewhat second-hand nature of the actual song titles (ask T. Rex, Bryan Ferry, David Bowie, and Foreigner) was surely as deliberate as the cheeky musical borrowings that bubble around the album -- "I Luv Ya" basks in the shadow of Rod Stewart's "Hot Legs," "Talking With Your Body" could have been a latter-day Blockheads rocker, and "On My Bike" is an undisguised rewrite of occasional Essex sideman Chris Spedding's "Motorbikin'." Best of all, though, is "Zebra Kids," a light-hearted romp that includes a seemingly unscripted vocal breakdown, an exuberant carnival atmosphere, and is also one of the best songs the Kinks never cut. Equally fascinatingly, Essex's vocal is pitched perfectly to show how much David Bowie, too, lifted from Ray Davies. If Hot Love has any real failings, then, they lie not in the songs and performances, but in a production that was certainly up-to-date at the time, but has badly dated since then. Excuse (or even enjoy) that, and Hot Love will readily repay your indulgence. ~ Dave Thompson