Music Review: Arif Mardin – All My Friends Are Here
By DAVID BOWLING
Arif Mardin passed away June 25, 2006 at the age of 74. His life journey began in Istanbul, Turkey in 1932 and when it ended in New York he had become recognized as a songwriter, record label administrator, and one of the legendary producers to grace The American music scene.
He spent well over three decades with the Atlantic label rising to the position of Senior Vice President. He produced albums by a virtual who’s who of artists including The Rascals, Carly Simon, Willie Nelson, David Bowie, Queen, Diana Ross, The Bee Gees, Aretha Franklin, Judy Collins, Hall & Oates, Norah Jones, Ringo Starr, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, and dozens of others. It all added up to over forty gold and platinum sales awards plus 11 Grammy’s.
The latest album to bear his name was a long time in the making and unfortunately needed to be completed after his death. All My Firends Are Here contains music that spanned his career. Martin began assembling this collection of eclectic songs in response to his cancer diagnosis which would ultimately claim his life.
“Dual Blues” is a composition that goes back to his student days at Berklee. Amy Kohn provides the vocal for this sultry story of a female detective. “Chez Twang’s” also travels back to his student days. It has a New Orleans feel and Dr. John was a perfect choice to provide the vocal.
There are a number of other excellent tracks. “Call A Soft Voice” is a poignant song written about the sorrow of his mothers advancing age and is vocalized perfectly by Carly Simon. The track “Willie’s After Hours (Long Star Blues)” was recorded in 1973 by Mardin and Willie Nelson and began as a blues piece. He would add some swing elements to it years later. “So Blue” fuses Chaka Khan’s soulful vocal with the instrumental prowess of David Sanborn to create a jazzy feel.
The title song was created as a vehicle for many of the artists he had produced over the years in order for them to be a part of this project. It is a sprawling affair with the likes of Phil Collins, Hall & Oates, Boy Meets Girl, Barry Gibb, and members of The Average White Band and The Rascals sharing the vocal duties.
The only non original Mardin track was “The Greatest Ears In Town” which was written by Bette Midler and Marc Shaiman. It is a clever and funny tune which presents his life in song. Midler shares vocal duties with Barry Gibb.
The album comes to a satisfying conclusion with Mardin sitting at the piano just playing his composition “Wistful.”
The packaging is excellent. A booklet presents a concise biography of Mardin and the evolution of each track plus the CD disc resembles an Atlantic Label 45 from the sixties which is a nice touch.
All My Friends Are Here was a labor of love that just scratches the surface of the genius that was Arif Mardin.