Fly Away is a labor of love that celebrates the art of one of the most talented musicians ever to appear on the pop scene -- David Foster. Tomi Malm is the arranger and producer extraordinaire who reinvented a number of classics from Foster’s amazing songbook. Malm’s inventive and original takes are brought to life by a cast of superior musicians and singers.
The album kicks off with an intense orchestral intro written by Malm that segues into “In The Stone”. This powerful cover of the Earth, Wind & Fire classic is respectful to the original yet presents new, exciting elements. The legendary Bill Champlin’s unmistakable voice adds some soul to this funky jam while being supported by the smoking Danish All Star Horns and a rhythm section including John “JR” Robinson on drums, Nathan East on bass and Paul Jackson Jr. on guitar. “JR”, the man behind countless Foster and Quincy Jones productions, is the rhythmic force behind several tracks on the album, joined by some of the best bass players in the biz including East, Abe Laboriel and Neil Stubenhaus.
Next, Malm slows down the atmosphere with “No Explanation”. Originally performed by Peter Cetera for the Pretty Woman soundtrack, Foster co-wrote this ballad with singer/songwriter Bill LaBounty. What a treat to listen to LaBounty’s take on his own song. The acoustic setting is perfect for LaBounty’s evocative singing, supported by the wonderful harmonica of Tollak Ollestad. The result is pure bliss.
Boz Scaggs and Foster co-wrote some of the best pop music of the last 30 years. Two great examples are the pop/soul ditty “Jojo” and the sweet ballad “Look What You’ve Done To Me”. Here, “Jojo” is performed by the great Arnold McCuller of James Taylor fame. This track oozes class from beginning to end with soulful vocals, a pulsing rhythm section and refined horns. The icing on this smooth cake is the elegant flugelhorn solo by Jan Glaesel.
In the past, David Foster has said “Look What You’ve Done To Me” is one of his best songs ever. For this reason, when Contante & Sonante respectfully approached him to play on this record he was asked to add his magic to this particular song. Cecily Gardner’s voice caresses the listener on this jazzy take with support from Foster’s acoustic piano. Ramon Stagnaro’s guitar and Brandon Fields' warm saxophone are fantastic additions to another winner on this album.
Foster has often been called the “King of Ballads” and “The Colour Of My Love” helped define that distinction. Malm’s brilliant arrangement reinvented the song which is performed by the amazing Frank Adahl. The Swedish virtuoso infuses strength and soul into the song and truly brings it one step higher. There are echoes of EW&F in this rendition while the delicate piano intro was borrowed from another classic, “On Christmas Morning”, co-written by Foster with Kenny Loggins.
“Heart To Heart” is an evergreen written by Foster along with Loggins and Michael McDonald. This quality pop gem has been faithfully covered with singer/songwriter Jeff Pescetto on lead vocals. It’s an intricate chart with a beautiful melody that flows wonderfully with some great guitars courtesy of Paul Jackson Jr. and Dan Warner. Adding to the mix is an amazing saxophone solo from Brandon Fields.
The title track, “Fly Away”, is one of Foster’s lesser known masterpieces. Originally on Peter Allen’s masterpiece album Bi-Coastal, it is here given a jazzy/pop treatment, with some interesting time changes. Veteran singer/songwriter Robbie Dupree adds his own stamp to the song, giving the listener sweet echoes of the West Coast pop scene of the late seventies. The final result is embellished with wonderful horns and a great sax solo courtesy of Italian jazzman Fabrizio Mandolini. Let’s not overlook the great work on percussion here and on other tracks by session great Michito Sanchez.
One of the highlights of this tribute is Ole Borud’s amazing take on the Chaka Khan classic “Through The Fire.” Even Foster was impressed when he first listened to this version. Again, the new arrangement brings the famous song into another dimension. Borud’s vocals are amazing and the setting is modern and could easily become a radio hit. Michael Landau's and Dan Warner’s various guitars add even more fire to the tune.
When Contante & Sonante was making a wish list of possible special guests, two names immediately came up -- Jay Graydon and Jeremy Lubbock. Both performers are noted for their immense talent and special contributions to Foster’s career. Luckily, both agreed to appear on the album. Lubbock masterfully produced and arranged a haunting cover of “The Best Of Me”, a song he co-wrote with Foster and Richard Marx. Lisa Lovbrand, a very talented Swedish up-and-coming singer/actress, beautifully performed the song with Lubbock backing her up on the acoustic piano.
Graydon can be heard playing his trademark guitar on the Airplay classic “Nothing You Can Do About It”. This song is another showcase for Frank Adahl’s voice as well as The Danish All Star Horns. Adahl’s pyrotechnic singing puts his signature on the song, which is also enriched by refined piano and rhodes playing.
“Whatever We Imagine” was co-written by Jeremy Lubbock and Foster. Originally sung by James Ingram, this time around it is in the hands of world class singer Bill Cantos. Cantos’ voice caresses the tune to enhance its positive lyrics and meaning creating another acoustic pop masterpiece.
The collaboration between Chicago and David Foster was fundamental to both careers. Instead of selecting one hit from their successful albums produced by Foster, Contante & Sonante picked an unreleased track from Chicago 18, “When Will The World Be Like Lovers”. Here, Malm paints the rock side of Foster’s work. A carpet of terrific guitars played by Michael Landau and Porty backs up an all-star performance by many of the singers appearing on Fly Away. The powerful groove on this song is courtesy of the rhythm machine of John “JR” Robinson and Abe Laboriel.
Another extraordinary contribution from David Foster was the unreleased song “Live Each Day” that closes the album. This song has special meaning because it presents a
never-heard-before vocal performance by the late Warren Wiebe. Contante & Sonante is in a way the home of Warren Wiebe’s memory, and “Live Each Day” really brings things full circle. This breathtaking ballad comes directly from Foster’s vaults and was recorded at Chartmaker in the nineties. Malm added a stripped-down arrangement with just a piano and some guitars to put the spotlight on Wiebe’s timeless singing. It’s the best way to end a magnificent tribute to an outstanding musician and human being, David Foster.