Recently, I watched an interview of Kenny Loggins on YouTube about what he has been doing during the pandemic. One comment got me thinking. “No one is sitting around calling for a Kenny Loggins album,” he said. There was a time that the world was waiting for Loggins to produce new music. His solo career was hot, his tours were huge, he wrote and performed songs to popular films and other artists wanted to write hit singles with him.
Loggins has really enjoyed several careers. For me, it was his first 11 years that were his best. Like many other successful artists of one decade, continuing success is difficult to hang onto.
Fifty years ago, solo artist Loggins was making an album produced by former Buffalo Springfield member, Jim Messina. The collaborative effort was beyond what anyone hoped, it turned into a five-year partnership, as Loggins & Messina.
Kenny Loggins With Jim Messina Sittin In had the music world sit up and take notice. This was the era of the singer-songwriter and soft rock. On this album were “House at Pooh Corner”, “Danny’s Song”, “Nobody But You” and “Listen to a Country Song.”
What you got from this duo was a blend of pop, folk, country and Island music . These boys could rock too, as you would hear with songs like “Your Momma Don’t Dance” and “Angry Eyes” on their follow-up album Loggins & Messina. What separated them from many other artists was there ability to craft complex songs. Smartly, they recruited a talented and versatile band.
On their third album, Full Sail, “A Love Song” and “Watching the River Run” were the notable hits. After six studio albums and two live albums, the duo split up to work on solo careers.
Loggins was finally ready for his solo album. Celebrate Me Home arrived in 1977. The title track was the memorable song from what was a very middle of the road pop effort. Produced by Phil Ramone (Billy Joel, Chicago, Barry Manilow) and Bob James (theme from Taxi, Quincy Jones), the album was slick and polished, and somewhat of a disappointment. The track “Lady Luck” is my favorite.
Loggins’ real solo career started with Nightwatch (1978), the next album. Although it still sounds more adult contemporary than rock, it was a step in the right direction. “Easy Driver” is a peppy song, and “Whenever I Call You Friend” a duet with Stevie Nicks, was the big hit from the album. It is classic 1970s pop. The surprise was “What a Fool Believes”, a song Loggins co-wrote with Michael McDonald and was a number one hit for the Doobie Brothers.
Keep the Fire arrived in 1979 and was another solid step in Loggins’ career. The production was by Tom Dowd (Eric Clapton, Allman Brothers) who toughened Loggins’ sound. “This is It” co-written with Michael McDonald and “Keep the Fire” co-written with Loggins’ wife, were released as singles, but there are other fine pop-rock songs on the record. This is my favorite Kenny Loggins solo album. Loggins was riding the wave of laidback pop-rock like Fleetwood Mac, Christopher Cross, Ambrosia, the Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel and Chicago.
In 1982 he released his best album, High Adventure. Loggins worked with Steve Perry (Journey) on “Don’t Fight It,” one of his hardest rocking songs. Two other singles were “Heartlight” and “Heart to Heart,” which was written with Michael McDonald and David Foster, respectively.
In the 1980s he was really known by the film soundtracks he sang on.
“I’m Alright” from Caddyshack was a quirky song over the opening credits, with his vocal stutter, that became a hit. Loggins knew right away it was a good song.
Then came the film Footloose which produced the hit title song and “I’m Free.”
The biggest of all was “Danger Zone”, from Top Gun, co-written with Gorgio Moroder and Tom Hamilton. Loggins admitted some bad memories connected to this song since he did not get credit and was not paid royalties for 30 year. “Playing With the Boys” was his other song on the soundtrack.
He also provided “Nobody’s Fool” from Caddyshack II, which was more successful than the film.
As far as his other albums in the 1980s, Vox Human and Back to Avalon, resembled his very first album. These albums were slick and impersonal, constructed for hit singles, not great music. In the 1990s, Leap of Faith, was more of a return to his roots; Outside: From the Redwoods was a live release; and Return to Pooh Corner, was a reworking of some past songs along with other songs that fit the goal of a record that adults could shared with their kids. The Unimaginable Life was a tie-in to the book Loggins wrote with his wife. December was obviously a Christmas album, featuring a few Loggins songs and seasonal classics. More Songs From Pooh Corner contained numerous songs from films, aimed at the children’s audience. It’s About Time was a return to songs for adult contemporary audiences, using Michael McDonald, Richard Marx and others as writing partners. How About Now followed the same format as It’s About Time. All Join In was a children’s record for the Walt Disney label with a variety of songs like the Beatles “All Together Now” and Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”
For a brief time in the 2000s, Loggins was a member of Blue Sky Riders, a country trio, releasing two albums.
Today, Loggins is 73 years old. He has sporadically played shows with Jim Messina in the past couple of decades. He says that soul searching during the pandemic told him that he needed to stay creative, but that the days on the “hamster wheel” are over. He was asked if there would be a reunion of Loggins & Messina, he said probably not.
Kenny Loggins has been successful by any standard. Although I thought he sold out in the 1980s, no one can argue he had staying power. I have to admit, the Loggins & Messina period was my favorite. I’m of the time period.