Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Remembering and Celebrating Carl Anderson

February this year at The Wild Reed is dedicated to singer and actor Carl Anderson, who was born on February 27, 1945 and died on February 23, 2004 at age 58.

You know, I like to think that in some parallel universe Carl has the superstar status which in this universe was inexplicably denied him. This despite the fact that he possessed a vocal range, elasticity, and sensuality that matched, and often bettered, those of his contemporaries Freddie Jackson, El Debarge, and Luther Vandross. As the Funky Town Grooves website notes, “Carl Anderson was a singer with great range, clarity of diction . . . [and] that rare ability to sing flawlessly from a technical standpoint [while] still communicat[ing] character and emotion.”

I dare say that for most people, Carl Anderson is best remembered for playing Judas Iscariot in the 1973 film adaptation (right) and numerous stage productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar. More about Carl’s groundbreaking portrayal of Judas in future posts.

Today I share Chris Rizik’s overview of Carl’s career, first published on the Soul Tracks website in 2014. Enjoy!


The music world had an auspicious introduction to Carl Anderson through his 1973 appearance in the movie version of Jesus Christ Superstar. While the media first focused on the casting of an African American in the role of Judas, Anderson stole the show with his brooding portrayal of the deceptive Apostle and his memorable versions of “Heaven on Their Minds” and the title track. It appeared that the popular music world would soon have a new superstar.

What happened next was . . . nothing. Continuing to focus on stage appearances, Anderson didn’t record his first solo album for nearly a decade, signing with Columbia and releasing the mediocre Absence With Out Love in 1983. He teamed with Skip Scarborough for the slightly better On and On in 1984. Both albums suffered from less than stellar material and a mish-mash of styles. However, Anderson made up for them on 1985's Protocol, working with Patrick Henderson and Earth Wind and Fire alum Al McKay on a wonderful album that began his transition to a true urban adult contemporary sound and featuring his best song to date, “Can't Stop This Feeling.”

Unfortunately, all three albums stiffed on the charts, and it appeared that Anderson's time with Columbia would end. Then a saccharine duet he recorded with soap opera star Gloria Loring, “Friends and Lovers,” became an unexpected #1 pop hit, and Columbia hurriedly released Carl Anderson, a disaster of an album aimed at the pop adult contemporary crowd.

Anderson next moved to MCA for An Act of Love, a solid album that moved him closer to the developing smooth jazz genre but which received virtually no attention, resulting in this great song stylist being again stuck without a record contract. Then jazz label GRP signed Anderson to cut a pure smooth jazz CD, teaming him with Rippingtons’ lead Russ Freeman. Pieces of a Heart was both a critical and commercial success. It was the first of three albums on GRP and the beginning of a new career for Anderson as the guest vocalist du jour in the smooth jazz world. His work with the Rippingtons, Nancy Wilson, Eric Marianthal and others throughout the 90s kept him busy, even as his records were only scoring moderate success.

His final recording, the live Why We Are Here, is a nice introduction for new fans to his smooth jazz work and coverage of standards. His version of “Who Can I Turn To?” may be a career moment, and is certainly worth the price of the disc. It has made Why We Are Here a much sought after disc.

On February 23, 2004, Carl Anderson died after an 8-month struggle with leukemia.

– Chris Rizik


In closing, I share "I'm All About You," one of my favorite tracks from Carl's last studio album, 1996's Heavy Weather / Sunlight Again.

Written by Tom Keane and Eric Pressly, "I'm All About You" features a memorable "breakdown" section by Jeffrey Calamusa and spirited backing vocals by Catte Adams, Katrina Perkins, and Natalie Jackson. Enjoy!

I let your love into my life
Now I'm livin' for you
It's your soul shining through
Every little thing you do

So close, I can't deny
You're the reason for the joy in my life
Ooh, it's true, it all comes down to you
You're the one thing I believe in till the day I die

(Live in white, every time)
(It's in my heart, come at night)
(And it's why I'm all about you)
You know, you know, you know, you know
(Kiss me so tenderly, let your sun shine on me)
(Let you know that I'm all about)
I am all about you, baby

Now or never
Be the same
You're a part of me forever
When you're gone, I still can't feel
The touch of my true lover
So strong, love all night long
So much deeper, no, it can't be wrong
Ooh, it's true, it all comes down to you
You're the one thing I believe in till the day I die

I'm so into you
You are my life
Ooh, my baby, now I know what it feels like
(All my love, I wanna give it)
(All my love, I wanna give you, baby)
(Love is what we should believe in)
(Live and love, oh, let it lift you, baby)
(All my love, I'm gonna give it)
(All my love, I'm gonna give you, baby)
The only thing that feels right is you and me tonight, yeah

Oh, baby

All night with ya, baby

NEXT: Carl Anderson: “Pure Quality”

For more of Carl Anderson at The Wild Reed, see:
Carl Anderson: "One of the Most Enjoyable Male Vocalists of His Era"
With Love Inside
Carl Anderson
Acts of Love . . . Carl's and Mine
Introducing . . . the Carl Anderson Appreciation Group
Forbidden Lover
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)

1 comment:

Amy Danzeisen said...

Very cool, Michael! I can't believe we all missed out on him. I'm sharing this with my Mom too.