November of 1972 saw the release of Notebook, The Partridge Family's seventh album. Less bubblegum flavored than previous efforts, Notebook had the distinction of being the first Partridge Family album to feature no photo or artist's representation of the characters of the show. The album's cover, simulating a piece of notebook paper (including a 3-hole punch), had a stripped-down look which could be seen as indicative of the record's content. The music on Notebook was more adult-contemporary than Shopping Bag. In fact, this album could almost be considered a companion piece to Sound Magazine. The familiar harpsichord, which became known as the staple sound of The Partridge Family, is seldom heard on Notebook. Instead, the arrangements are lean, the keyboard parts mainly played on pianos and organs, and the acoustic guitar is given more emphasis. Let's examine the songs.
Side One begins with Friend and a Lover, written by Wes Farrell, Danny Janssen and Bobby Hart. The song starts with a fuzzy lead guitar lick, which carries us into the "na-na" vocal parts. This is a flat out rocker, reminiscent of Lay It On The Line from the Up To Date album. It is one of the strongest Partridge songs ever released and features a very simple arrangement. There is some very primal piano playing courtesy of Mike Melvoin, who really hammers those ivories. We shift gears a bit with Walking In the Rain, a more familiar sounding tune. Writer's credits go to Barry Mann, Phil Spector and Cynthia Weil. John Bahler's background vocal arrangement complements David Cassidy's performance perfectly. Hal Blaine turns the song around at the end with a tasty lick, bringing us back into the final choruses.
Next up is Take Good Care of Her, a sensitive tune by Danny Janssen and Bobby Hart. A clean electric guitar, with just a touch of vibrato, introduces the song along with tender background vocals. The production here is tentative and airy. The musicians really hold back in the first verse, helping to create the mood of the song. When the chorus hits, however, the energy is restored with horn lines and clever rhythm. The music thus far on Notebook could be considered adult-contemporary, at least for the era. The carnivalesque approach that we know and love from the earlier albums seems to be missing. Fortunately, the album's next cut provides us with some desperately needed candy to counter the sacharrine that we've been receiving up to this point.
Together We're Better is a bonafide Partridge Family classic in every sense of the word. It is fondly remembered from Episode 52 with Season Hubley. The organ riff that opens the song conjures up visions of merry-go-rounds and amusement parks (the song was also featured in Episode 66 with Mary Ann Mobley). Written by Tony Romeo, Together We're Better is a melodic feast, with clever chord inversions and progressions. The song features wonderful orchestration and deliciously intricate background vocals. Anyone questioning the technique or ability that went into creating the music for The Partridge Family is challenged to listen to this song and decipher its anatomy. You'll be surprised to find how complex the arrangements are. If there is ever another "best of" or "greatest hits" package of Partridge tunes released, this song should definitely be among the selections.
Looking Through The Eyes of Love, written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, takes us back to the mood originally set by the album's first few tracks. The verses, as in Take Good Care of Her, are delicate, and it is in the choruses that the song comes alive. An excellent example of pop dynamics, Looking Through The Eyes of Love features very melodic harmonies, solid bass work, and some signature Cassidy vocal stylings. Just listen to the way he sings "eyes of loo-ove" and "looks at mee-eeeeuhh". Classic.
A staccato acoustic guitar indicates that Maybe Someday has hit the speakers. This song, written by Austin Roberts and John Michael Hill, has a very strong pre-chorus featuring tight vocal harmonies and percussion. Dramatic string swells take us into the chorus. The lyrical content of the song has a kind of Romeo and Juliet "no one understands us" quality. This tale of tormented love works well within the framework of the album.
We begin Side Two with a cover version of Mann & Weil's We Gotta Get Out of This Place, made famous by Eric Burdon and The Animals. This is a strange choice for a cover, since the original version was a very gritty rock tune. In fact, to make the song more "Partridge", vocal arranger John Bahler substituted the chorus' organ riff with background vocals. This gives the tune more pop appeal. However, the underlying mood of the song is a bit dark for The Partridge Family, and comes off a bit contrived. Storybook Love brings us to much more familiar territory. Not only does the song, written by Wes Farrell and Adam Miller, feature the staple harpsichord, but also a harp in the intro! Love Must Be The Answer, one of the more infectious songs on Notebook, begins with an acoustic guitar strumming. The "la-la" background vocals come in next, inviting us to sing along. The tune was written by Farrell, Peggy Clinger and Johnny Cymbal, and even features some latino-esque shouting at the end.
We return to a somber mood with Something's Wrong, written by Farrell, Janssen and Hart. This mournful tune features a delicate arrangement which emphasizes the background vocals. The chorus is strong, with the orchestration accenting the lead vocal. The tender mood of the verses is contrasted well here. The chorus provides a resolution, giving the song a sense of movement. Cassidy gets a chance to stretch out his vocal cords, too.
The album closes with a tender track called As Long As You're There. Penned by Adam Miller, the song is one of the more under-produced Partridge tunes. This gives the vocals dominance in the performance. The background vocals are arranged like a string section, while the guitars provide the groove for the song. In the solo, a country-esque electric guitar plays sparse licks while the background vocals imitate string lines. The song works well, proving that you don't need over-the-top orchestration to carry a song. All in all, Notebook is one of the more listenable Partridge Family albums. It doesn't get too sickly sweet, therefore leaving the listener with a musical toothache. By late 1972, music was changing. The soft sounds of bubblegum rock were still going strong, but new grooves were beginning to infiltrate the musical scene. In fact, the funky sounds of the clavinet would make their way onto the final Partridge Family album. But for now, the harpichord, acoustic guitar and orchestra reign supreme in the Partridge universe. When one reflects on this era, it is easy to see why we are so nostalgic for it.
Produced by Wes Farrell for Coral Rock Productions, Inc.
Rhythm tracks arranged by Wes Farrell
Strings and Horns arranged by Mike Melvoin
Vocal background arranged by John Bahler
Recorded at Western Recorders (Studio 2) Los Angeles
Engineered by Bob Kovach
Assistant Engineer - Winston Wong
Guitars: Larry Carlton, Louie Shelton, Dennis Budimer, Tommy Tedesco
Drums: Hal Blaine
Bass: Max Bennett & Joe Osborne
Keyboards: Mike Melvoin & Larry Knechtel
Background voices: John Bahler, Tom Bahler, Jackie Ward & Ron Hicklin
Partridge Family vocals by Shirley Jones & David Cassidy
Howard Pattow is the guitarist and founder of Sound Magazine, the Partridge Family tribute band.
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