Thursday, April 7, 2016

"Spice of Life" by Manhattan Transfer

Song#:  1604
Date:  09/10/1983
Debut:  85
Peak:  40
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, R&B

Pop Bits:  After boosting their commercial appeal with their last two hit studio albums, Extensions and Mecca for Moderns, the Transfer decided to expand their sound even more and moved towards a more urban feel with their LP Bodies and Souls. This first single got things kicked off and it just barely became their fourth (and final) Pop Top 40 while hitting #5 at AC. Written by Rod Temperton, who just has major success writing material for Michael Jackson's Thriller, the song's contemporary R&B flare paid off when it reached #32 on the R&B chart. It probably didn't hurt that the song featured a harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder. The album didn't do quite as well as their previous efforts, but it hit a respectable #57.

ReduxReview:  I thoroughly enjoyed their Mecca for Moderns album with its #7 hit "Boy from New York City," so I was primed to run out and grab the new LP. When I first heard it along with this initial single, I wasn't sure if I liked it. But the more I played it, the more I dug it. Critics didn't much care for the LP, but I think it is their most sophisticated collection of contemporary pop. They have several brilliant moments including a song that group member Alan Paul co-wrote for the 1984 Olympics called "Code of Ethics." I think it is a highly underrated album and I thought this single should have done a lot better as well.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song would be their first to reach the R&B chart, but it would not be their last. Another Temperton composition, "Mystery," was issued as the follow-up single and it briefly made the R&B chart at #80. Again, it was another AC hit reaching #6, but unfortunately it didn't get on the Pop chart. The song got a lot more exposure when it was remade by Anita Baker for her 1986 hit album Rapture (#1 R&B, #11 Pop). Her version was not issued as a single.  2) In addition to the more contemporary material, the Transfer also included some more jazz-oriented tunes. One of them, "Why Not! (Manhattan Carnival)" would go on to win a Grammy award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. It was their fifth Grammy.



  1. It's impossible to overestimate the contribution Rod Temperton made to music in the 70s and 80s. While his songs from Thriller (especially the title cut) probably brought him the most bucks, I much preferred the songs he wrote for Heatwave, and the songs from Jackson's previous album Off The Wall (Temperton wrote the title cut and the fantastic Rock With You). The list of songs he wrote is very impressive - including Give Me The Night for George Benson, and Baby, Come To Me for Patti Austin and James Ingram - and it's unfortunate that he doesn't often get the recognition he so richly deserves.

    1. I agree. I don't think it was until the late 80s and early 90s that a songwriter who was not a performer could almost have the same name recognition and star potential as the artist that recorded their songs. Diane Warren comes to mind as someone who got widely famous from her songs, but was not a singer. Temperton should have been just as famous, but in the 70s and 80s, the songwriters were not necessarily getting their due outside of the music industry. I knew his name because I read album liner notes and he was included on a lot of them. I'm sure he is fine with it all, especially when he cashes his royalties checks, but he does deserve more recognition for his contributions.