The Malibu resident has gathered an all-star group of musicians and producer Richard Gibbs for his second solo album.
By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times
Malibu songwriter, bassist and ubiquitous pop vocalist Richard Page might have taken his time to come up with a second solo album. Or maybe it’s that with the release this month of “Peculiar Life” (his first since “Shelter Me” in 1995), Page is just signaling that he’s ready to take on the music business on his own terms now.
The singer, whose voice has fronted some of the top pop groups of the past 30 years, formed his first major band, Pages, with his buddy Steve George in the late ‘70s. After producing three albums in as many years, he formed a new group, Mr. Mister, with which he steered the No. 1 Billboard-charting album, “Welcome to the Real World,” in 1985. That album featured two hit singles, “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings,” that became anthems for a soft rock generation.
In between writing hit songs for the likes of The Pointer Sisters, Hall & Oates, Chaka Khan, Kenny Loggins and others, Page sang lead vocals for groups like Chicago and Toto, as well as being one of the busiest session vocalists in Los Angeles.
“I was lucky,” Page said in a phone interview with The Malibu Times. “I started in the studio scene in the ‘70s and there was just a fraternity of guys who did everything. You’d pass someone in the studio hallway, end up making friends and have access to the best people in the business.”
Those friendships included people like frequent collaborator David Foster, who has produced some of the most successful artists in the world, including (along with Page) Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson. Page said he’s come a long way from Keokuk, Iowa, where he was born, the son of an organist and a choir director.
“We ended up moving to Montgomery, Alabama when I was a kid, which was a strange place for a northerner to land,” Page said. “I played Pop Warner football with George Wallace, Jr.”
But he quickly headed west and was embraced by the music industry early on. One of those guys he would “pass in the hallway” was Richard Gibbs, the legendary session keyboardist, member of New Wave band Oingo Boingo, film composer and veteran music producer. Gibbs also happens to live near Page at Little Dume and jumped aboard when Page approached him to produce “Peculiar Life.”
“Rich has a perfect voice,” Gibbs said of working with the singer. “Beyond that, what people in the music business appreciate about him is his unerring sense of harmony and arrangement. He knows when to sing and what.
“He probably doesn’t remember one time when we worked together way back, but I sure do,” Gibbs continued. “I was doing some horn and vocal arrangements and hit a snag, and the producer said, ‘Let’s call the Pages.’ Rich came and started singing with his ideas and I just put all mine away. He knew exactly what to do.”
Gibbs said Page played him a demo last year of a song called “When You Come Around” and he instantly fell in love.
“This song had a very Indian feel, with a beautiful modal melody,” Gibbs said. “Rich had written it for someone else, but they never got that exotic feel. So I just popped it in my protocols rig and went to town. It was the beginning of a beautiful, creative relationship.”
The two Richards gathered a corps of all-star musicians-drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, percussionist Luis Conte, bassist Kevin McCormick and guitarist James Harrah-to create the album at Gibbs’ Woodshed studio.
Page is releasing “Peculiar Life” on his own Little Dume Music label-a nod to how much the music business has changed during 35 years.
“Unless you’re hip hop or R & B, you don’t need a label anymore,” he said. “You find your fans in other ways, and you don’t have to answer to someone else whose vision might not be yours.”
Of the new album’s title, Page said it reflects a time at which he has arrived in life that presents a dichotomy.
“I have one foot in the material world and one in the spiritual world,” he said. “I’m trying to understand the conflict. Why are we here? Are we happy?”
This last might be a rhetorical question, as Gibbs sounded jubilant describing the working relationship with Page.
“As a producer, the onus is usually on me to help show artists how a guitar and piano work together,” Gibbs said. “With Richard, the onus is on me to just get out of his way. His ideas are stunning.”
Questions of happiness aside, Page is certainly having fun. He currently is touring with ex-Beatle Ringo Starr and was part of Ringo’s 70th birthday bash at Radio City Music Hall last week.
“Paul [McCartney] came to sing ‘Birthday’ and Yoko [Ono] was there,” Page said. “Some of the boys from the E Street Band were there and we all sang ‘A Little Help From My Friends.’ Yeah, it was great music.”
“Peculiar Life” is available on iTunes and at the website www.littledumerecordings.com