Don’t blame Donny Osmond for digging into the vintage musical treasure chest.
On his new CD, “Love Songs of the `70s,” Osmond picked a dozen tunes from the era of bell-bottoms and platform shoes. He covers Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” Ace’s “How Long,” Barry Manilow’s “Mandy,” Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round in Circles,” the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love,” among others.
“I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time,” Osmond says by phone from his home in Utah. “I just didn’t think the timing was right. Unless I re-establish myself with other things, it looks like I’m hanging my head on the past.
“That wasn’t my intent,” says Osmond, who still looks youthful at 49. “This is my 55th album. I can look back. These are the songs that shaped my musical career.”
And he still does have a musical career. “Love Songs” is his fourth CD for Decca, the label he signed with after his triumphant turn as the star of the stage musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” for more than 2,000 performances.
Last year, he played Gaston in the Broadway production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” It was during that run, from September through December, that he recorded the vocals for “Love Songs.” He turned his dressing room into a makeshift studio.
In keeping with the yesteryear spirit of “Love Songs,” Osmond shares thoughts on pivotal periods, from the teen-idol days, the variety show with sister Marie, his 1977 album “Donald Clark Osmond,” the late `80s pop comeback, the “Joseph” blitz, his bout with social anxiety disorder and his resurgence on Decca.
Q: Talk about the teen-idol craziness, from the early Osmonds furor and the first few solo albums to the “Donny & Marie” TV extravaganza:
“To me those are two distinct, separate careers. When they first announced to me that they had decided to do a Donny and Marie show, I remember thinking, `There goes my solo career. There goes my recording career.’ It was something I couldn’t stop. It was a huge opportunity. In many perspectives it did amazing things to my career. In other points it did major damage to my career. The `Puppy Love’ career was huge. The TV show gave us such mass exposure, but it did exactly what I thought it would do. It killed my recording career.”
Q: In 1977 “Donald Clark Osmond” was released, a calculated attempt at taking you into adult musical territory, from the cover image of you with disarrayed hair to working with famed Motown writing-producing team Holland-Dozier-Holland. It flopped, and you didn’t record solo for 12 years.
“It was a little ahead of its time for who I was at the time and how I was singing ... I grew up with my brothers singing barbershop harmony, I was doing `One Bad Apple,’ `Puppy Love.’ Let’s be honest. I was listening to Stevie Wonder and other bands I love, but unless you’re out in clubs singing, those songs are not going to come across. I was a skinny kid at the time and very white bread. When the 1989 solo album came out, it was a different Donny that emerged. I guess it was good that there was that much time.”
Q: A dozen years later comes Donny Osmond and the mega comeback hit, “Soldier of Love.” Did you feel vindicated by that?
“Soldier of Love’ did absolutely nothing for me. It was a novelty. It didn’t mean that much despite the fact that it was a massive radio hit. The thing that meant more to me than `Soldier of Love’ was `Sacred Emotion.’ The follow-up single was a hit not because of a novelty, but because it was a great song.”
Q: But when your next album, “Eyes Don’t Lie,” bombed commercially, you did a 180 and took the lead role in the stage musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which earned you critical respect.
“The reason I wanted to do `Joseph’ is not many people remember the follow-up album. It was a great album. The reason it didn’t work was because of Capitol Records and its management changes. They didn’t care to push the album. So I took the risk with `Joseph.’ It was my move to establish myself in the industry as more than just a recording artist. If this is successful, I could come back as a legitimate recording artist. It was the bridge that took me to another facet of my career.”
Q: Then, in the midst of “Joseph” came your battle with social anxiety disorder, a debilitating fear of being in social situations, which you talk about in your autobiography, “Life Is Just What You Make It: My Story So Far.”
“There is that perfectionism that you can’t make a mistake otherwise you beat yourself up. Once I got my career back to standing-room-only shows, you’d think that would fix it, but it only made it worse `cause I couldn’t afford to lose it. I had everything back, and I couldn’t perform. What a dichotomy. I’m glad I went through it because of the light at the end of the tunnel. But I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”
Q: Finally, there’s the Decca resurgence. You’ve recorded a Broadway record, another conceptual covers album, a disc of original material and now “Love Songs of the `70s.” The label seems a good fit for you.
“I doubt any other label would let me do a Broadway record. I doubt any other label would let me do an album that I completely wrote and produced. I remember sitting down with the president of Decca ... and we came up with the `70s project. Let’s not try so hard to make the comeback of the `80s. Let’s not try so hard to prove yourself on Broadway. Back then I had to prove it to the industry and myself. With this one, I have nothing to prove. Let’s just enjoy the music now.”
// Notes from the Road
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