Reviewed by Howard Pattow

Following the success of The Partridge Family Album was a tough act. Up To Date not only followed, but topped the success of its predecessor. The sophomore offering was released in February of 1971 and hit No. 3 on April 3. It stayed on the charts for 23 weeks. Up To Date would become the best-selling Partridge Family album (of that time, anyway). The production is extremely consistent, mixed with less reverb than the first album, which brings the performance closer to the listener. Up To Date contains many memorable songs, including two of The Partridge Family's biggest hits.

The first of those hits is the lead-off track, I'll Meet You Halfway, written by Wes Farrell and Gerry Goffin. The familiar arpeggiated piano lick begins the song, followed by sweeping strings. David Cassidy's vocal performance is controlled, dynamic and assured. Producer Wes Farrell knew just how to use Cassidy's talent to make the songs work. I'll Meet You Halfway is one of The Partridge Family's most perfect works. All the elements that define the music are evident here. The background vocal arrangement by John Bahler shines in the song's bridge and Hal Blaine's drumming brings us back to the chorus and absolutely soars to the finish. Tony Romeo's You Are Always On My Mind is one of the album's hidden treasures. The production here is lean, with no orchestra in sight, which gives the band and the vocalists the spotlight: Hal Blaine's distinctive tom-tom fills and hi-hat work, John Bahler's outstanding background vocal arrangement and Joe Osborne's bass playing. Another great example of Romeo's songwriting, the tune was inspired by the same relationship that inspired I Think I Love You. The honesty of the lyrics comes through and makes You Are Always On My Mind one of the best-loved Partridge Family songs.

The famous story behind Doesn't Somebody Want To Be Wanted is that David Cassidy did not want to record the song. He was persuaded, of course, yet adamantly refused to do the narrative in the song's bridge. Again, he was persuaded to do as he was told and The Partridge Family had one of their biggest hits. Apparently, Wes Farrell believed that a single featuring David's spoken voice would increase sales. He was right. The creative differences between Farrell and Cassidy can be said to have started here. As David's star begins to rise, he will have more and more say as to how he is presented to the public. But for the moment, Farrell has complete control over the direction of the performance. Another sparsely produced tune (no orchestration), Doesn't Somebody Want To Be Wanted was written by Wes Farrell, Jim Cretecos and Mike Appel and has one of the most instantly recognizable hook melodies in pop music. Musically, there are some bluesy guitar licks throughout the song which give the tune flavor, but for the most part, it is a pretty standard pop song.

I'm Here You're Here begins with a great piano lick which takes us into the first verse. The mood is tentative, with hushed lead vocals and a restrained performance from the band. The background vocals kick in with strong harmony, however, providing a dynamic which contrasts the verses. I'm Here You're Here has some great drumming, solid bass playing, and a strong performance from David Cassidy. This is truly a song which gives the Partridge sound credibility in the rock scene. As bubblegum as they were, some of the songs crafted for The Partridge Family were true rock tunes that were "watered down" to suit the palate of their young listeners. This treatment, however, did not detract from the craftsmanship of the performance and I'm Here You're Here, written by Farrell and Goffin, remains a testament to that fact. Umbrella Man has an infectious swinging groove and a great bass line from Joe Osborne. Written by Farrell, Cretecos, and Appel, Umbrella Man, like many of the album's songs, features no orchestration. David Cassidy belts out one of his most dynamic performances in this tune, singing loud and proud in the chorus then bringing it down for a breathy "love you....love you....". David Cassidy's first songwriter credit appears on Lay It On The Line, which he co-wrote with Farrell. The song features a basic three-chord pattern and is the only tune on Up To Date which features distortion on the guitar. This is an indication that Cassidy's personal music tastes were somewhat different than the pop he was making with The Partridge Family.

We begin Side Two with Tony Romeo's Morning Rider On The Road. This song features the autoharp and is one of the most beautiful songs written for The Partridge Family. Some of the lyrics are curious ("like an indian on the run....like a hobo in the sun" comes to mind), but the performance is wonderful. Gentle acoustic guitar and string orchestration steal the show, and the vocal performances by Cassidy and Bahler & Co. are mesmerizing. That'll Be The Day, also by Romeo, features some skillfully played guitar and harpsichord licks. The background vocals are strong in the choruses, and the listener is urged to sing along. There's No Doubt In My Mind, another Farrell and Goffin tune, is complemented by clever orchestration, giving the song a dramatic turn. The background vocals almost play like a string line here. The sensitive She'd Rather Have The Rain has some beautiful chord changes and a dynamic arrangement that brings out the subtleties of the performance. Writer's credits go to to Terry Cashman and Tommy West (Only A Moment Ago, Every Song Is You).

The album finishes with I'll Leave Myself A Little Time, a folk-like tune written by Steve Dossick. Strong acoustic guitar playing carries most of the song, and the harmonies in the chorus are classic Partridge Family. Up To Date is a very "up" album. All of the arrangements have a very strong pop feel. It is clear that the intention was to create a high-energy collection of tunes that would spotlight David Cassidy's vocals and give The Partridge Family sound an identity. Up To Date remains one of the three most popular Partridge Family albums, alongside Album and Sound Magazine. One cannot deny the irresistible pop appeal of the songs, and after careful listening, nor would one try.

Up To Date

Produced by Wes Farrell for Coral Rock Productions

Rhythm Tracks by Wes Farrell

Vocal Arrangements by John Bahler, Ron Hicklin, Jackie Ward & Tom Bahler

Strings and Horns arranged by Mike Melvoin

Hal Blaine - Drums
Joe Osborne - Bass
Mike Melvoin - Keyboards
Dennis Budimir - Guitar
Louie Shelton - Guitar

Recorded at Western Recorders (Studio 2), Los Angeles

Engineered by Bob Kovach

Partridge Family vocals by Shirley Jones and David Cassidy

Howard Pattow keeps the music of The Partridge Family "up to date" as the producer and guitarist for Sound Magazine, the Partridge Family Tribute Band.

Back to the Album Guide