Michael Bolton – Michael Bolton (1983)

Michael Bolton album cover
Michael Bolton album cover

The phenomenon of changed musical identity has always been one that I have found interesting. If you follow someone long enough, you might see evolutionary changes in their musical style or new influences over a long period of time. With Micheal Bolton, the change was abrupt, but not before his best (and forgotten) rock album was almost a hit in 1983.

As a member of a hard rock band called Blackjack, Bolton was typical of the black leather jacket big hair ’80s rock star. Even as a hard rock performer, he was writing sweet pop songs on the side (“How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” for Laura Branigan).

It may not have been obscured then in the fog of smoke machines and stage lights, but the pop sensibilities Bolton honed with writing pop songs were part of what made Michael Bolton better than the average glam album circa 1983. His rock albums were for the most part unspectacular, except for Michael Bolton, they were almost unknown to all but his hardcore fans. It would be the first time also that he would use a stage name as oppose to his real name: Michael Bolotin.

Michael Bolton cracked the US top 100 mostly on the strength of “Fool’s Game”. That single like the bulk of the album sounded vaguely familiar like the best corporate rock of the day, but with more soulful and impassioned vocals. Grandiose rockers like “Back in My Arms Again” and “Can’t Hold on, Can’t Let Go” followed the template of Foreigner (by then already a cliche), but it was clear that Bolton’s voice may have been too big for even his arena rock aspirations.

For whatever reasons the album had only one single. A tour supporting the album was cut short after only a few shows. This may be why an album with more than a few chart-friendly songs was shelved so quickly.

That’s funny because no one would have ever suspected that a few albums later and less than 10 years Bolton would be one of the biggest blue eyed soul singers of the CD era. I can’t help but wonder if some of the backlash against the success of Bolton comes from the fact that he almost all but hid his hard rock origins. If you can find it Micheal Bolton is worth seeking out. It might make you forget the ’90s if only for 45 minutes.

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