Al Jarreau's "Breakin' Away" is a touchstone song for me, considering my choices in music. I mean, not only does its namesake album have one of the most iconic covers in the AOR genre (I don't know of any person who could make pink and white look so cool as a fashion statement; he'd be perfect in Ueno Park in the spring!), "Breakin' Away" the single is an uplifting number whose first few bars can still elicit happy comfortable shivers up and down my spine. The entire song is one joyous walk in a city park with jazz in the fresh air and soul in my feet. And of course, there are the wonderfully velvety vocals from Jarreau who I still miss dearly some 3.5 years after his passing.
Since then, my love for Jarreau has grown through "Mornin'", "After All" and the theme song from "Moonlighting" among other highlights from his career. I may be exaggerating here, but I think that if it hadn't been for songs like "Breakin' Away", my entry into the world of Japanese City Pop and its own AOR genre wouldn't have been as easy (-listening) as it was. Indeed, there were people involved in the creation of "Breakin' Away" and the rest of the album who have had their own involvement in the urban contemporary scene of that time in Japan such as Airplay (David Foster and Jay Graydon), Jeff Porcaro from TOTO, and Jerry Hey probably among some of the other musicians. In fact, Graydon helped in the creation of the song along with Jarreau and Tom Canning.
The album was released on June 30, 1981. Strangely enough, my last ROY article was on Hall & Oates' "Private Eyes" which came out in late August that year around a month after my return from that fateful trip to Japan. "Breakin' Away" was released only a few days before I headed on out with my graduating class from Japanese Language School. It hit No. 1 on the US R&B and Jazz charts and broke into Billboard's Top Ten at No. 9.
Since it was released at the end of June that year, why not go with what was hot on the Oricon singles chart as of July 1st? Here are the Top 3.
1. Chiharu Matsuyama -- Nagai Yoru
2. Masahiko Kondo -- Blue Jeans Memory
3. Toshihiko Tahara -- Kimi ni Kettei!
To finish off, I will never forget Jarreau's appearance on Canada's venerable "SCTV" comedy show in a parody of "The Jazz Singer". Here he is singing another track from the album, "We're In This Love Together" which was also released as a single.