Graded on a Curve:
Leo Sayer,
Endless Flight

A few observations about Leo Sayer’s big breakthrough LP, 1976’s Endless Flight:

1. The cover will scare the shit out of you. Leo looks like some kind of heretofore unknown beastie leaping from the top of a kapok tree onto a party of unsuspecting Amazonian explorers, with the intention of sodomizing the lot. “What is that ungodly shriek?” asks Explorer A. “My God,” cries Explorer B, “it’s wearing suspenders!” “Shoot it in the afro!” howls Explorer C, tossing haversack and pith helmet to the winds before disappearing into the jaguar-infested underbrush.

I can see the headline in the London Times: Expedition Set Upon By Horrifying Creature followed by the subhead Sole Survivor: “It Was Singing “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” as It Tore Sir Pleatherbottom’s Guts Out!”

For a prank, I once taped a life-sized enlargement of the cover to the ceiling above my college dorm-room mate’s bed. When he awoke he let loose with a terrified scream and fled the room wearing nothing but his underpants, never to be seen again. Last I heard he was living in Harrisburg, PA, in his old bedroom in his parent’s house. Seems he’s flinchy and refuses to leave the house much, and when he does, he spends a lot of time looking uneasily into the sky.

2. Endless Flight is remarkably easy on the ears. I was prepared to despise it, but get this: even the title track, an Andrew “Worst Singer-Songwriter to Ever Come Out of LA” Gold cover, passes muster in an Elton John kinda way. And believe me when I say Andrew’s version is purest ear torture. Which makes Leo, what exactly? I’ll tell you. A pretty good interpreter of the popular song.

3. Further proof of this: Given its title, I expected “Reflections” to be Barry Manilow-school folderol. Or the B side to Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch.” What I was waiting for is the kind of song you run away from in vain, because it scuttles along on six legs and regurgitates bone-dissolving treacle into your ear holes, sorta like the mutating Jeff Goldblum in The Fly. Turns out it’s a very likable, if hardly definitive, take on the 1967 Diana Ross & The Supremes hit. Leo reminds me of Michael Jackson, and that’s very nice.

4. Sayer acquits himself on a couple of noncovers as well.“How Much Love” is a frothy, string-saturated pop-disco number that falls into the same category as Captain Fantastic’s “Philadelphia Freedom.” As for “Hold on To My Love,” I’m not sure I want to. Is it circumcised? But it’s a pretty darn good pop boogie tune, and comes complete with rollicking piano and lots of husky sax blurt. I generally think of Sayer as one of pop’s legendary wimps, but he sure puffs out his chest on this one.

5. “When I Need You” was a cloying smash hit and there was literally no place on our planet you could avoid it, although ethnologists say it’s unknown to Albanians. I actually considered emigrating to Albania for just this reason. Then I read about how every Albanian household has a “shower goat,” and I reconsidered. “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” also struck pop pay dirt and wouldn’t sound all that out of place as the B side of a KC and the Sunshine Band single. And I don’t mean that as an insult.

6. Look: there’s really no point in going on about the music on this album. It’s lightweight pop froth, mindless fluff for people whose Platonic Ideal of the musical artist is a subpar Elton John (as in he lacks Elton’s flair and élan, as well as a lyricist as weird as Bernie Taupin) with an afro.

The album cover, different story. You could spend hours devising scenarios to explain it. Has poor Leo been dropped out of an airplane, sans parachute? Is he the unholy spawn of Richard Simmons’ and a Sunda flying lemur? Or a man clinging to the exterior of a 95th floor office window, screaming to be let in?

If every picture tells a story, the front of Endless Flight tells dozens. And to this critic, that makes it a no brainer: buy it for the cover!

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B-

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