Hot Chocolate – Every 1’s A Winner (1978)

“Every day I bless the day that you got through to me”

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Tired of waiting for inspiration to strike on a record to write about, this new dollar bin acquisition will have to do (actually $5.99). I’ll confess to getting hip to “Every 1’s A Winner” via some acute music supervision—the song appeared in at least two films in recent years, and made me rethink the band after getting easily fatigued by their re-hit of “You Sexy Thing” from a 90s Miramax feel-goodie. I also want to be more open to disco era stuff, and still have a lot to hear and learn. I’m pretty certain I won’t like all of it as much as the title track, but hoping for some good deep cuts…

It’s the guitar riff that got me, and probably what hooked everyone else to the song. But the bass is killer too, and at first I figured the keyboard was simulating a horn section, until an actual one comes in. It’s all impeccably produced by Mickie Most, who I know best from his recording of the supremely silly glam rock band Mud. I’m not sure it’s much of a song as written, but the personality of the individual components elevate it, and if there’s a cover out there I don’t want to hear it. “Confetti Day” is unexpected, with an almost tropical vibe and the verses oddly spoken, but still adequately funky. Synth-heavy situations can put me off, but a real, crisp drum sound goes a long way in selling me on a disco groove, and the overall effect on these first two songs are decidedly human. “Love is the Answer One More Time” is a piano ballad about senseless urban violence, with gospel-ish backup vocals, and another satisfying snare snap. For a few minutes one could believe a song might actually hasten religious tolerance, and this one could use some airplay today. After a full LP side of his originals, Errol Brown is clearly a thoughtful writer and beautifully understated singer, particularly heartbreaking on “Sometimes It Hurts To Be Friend,” about a lifelong longing for a lover.

Weirdly, side two is almost completely comprised of tunes by other writers (thanks to one of those situations where some territories get an inexplicable variation on the original UK track listing) but “So You Win Again” really showcases Brown as a singer. I grew up enduring Russ Ballard songs for Argent, Rainbow and KISS, though I don’t know this—the band’s only #1—since it wasn’t one in America. After the winning streak of the first side, this and “I’ll Put You Together Again” seem too written—overly produced with string arrangements, and calculated to be hits, and in one case they pulled it off. “Stay With Me” is more like it, with an irresistible groove penned by other members of the band. “I’m Going To Make You Feel Like a Woman” by the same three isn’t quite as good, but in general the band knows how to write to their own strengths. A song called “Put Your Love In Me” might have been yucky had Giorgio Moroder produced it for Donna Summer, but coming from Brown it’s a rather moody piece with some otherworldly sounds, evidently to evoke the “heaven” he’s reaching for.

After several posts of feeling like a crank from music letting me down, it’s refreshing to be caught off guard and delighted by a record—though I think they could have exploited that sweet guitar sound a bit more. The first half in particular sounds like a band with a vision, and not knowing their career, the songs by outside writers might very well be a big part of who they are. I’m not gonna run out a collect ‘em all, but there’s no chance I’ll be able to resist calling this one a winner.

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