If you detect an aroma of romantic sweetness on Robert Palmer's new album Honey, there's a reason for it.
The British-born, Malta-raised and Switzerland-based singer and songwriter has a new love in his life.
"That's her on the cover," beams Palmer, pointing to the CD cover which features a glossy-lipped model kissing him on the cheek. "She's a player. She co-wrote Love Takes Time on the album."
Her name is Mary Ambrose and Palmer says they met 11 years ago in San Francisco, but only started seeing each following the dissolution of the singer's 20 year marriage.
"It's one of those wonderful things," says Palmer, in Toronto last week for a round of press to promote Honey. "It's the real deal. This is a peculiar thing to say, but our relationship had nothing to do with the breakdown of my marriage.
"I felt like I'd been asleep for a long, long time. I felt honor bound to see if I could still hold it together. Inevitably, I was just delaying the decision. You feel as though you're admitting defeat."
The 45-year-old Palmer -- who usually is close-lipped about his personal life -- says he and his 29-year-old love share a converted mill in Switzerland.
"My house is my big toy," he says, "I live 3000 feet up in the woods. The outside looks like Hansel & Gretel, and the inside is like The Jetsons. Milan is only 45 minutes away, so shopping for furniture is a gas."
Palmer says his new album was "honest and deliberate" in its romantic theme, as love inspired him to write his first album of original material since 1988's Heavy Nova.
"I like to strike when the time is right," explains Palmer, who pre-arranged all of the album's 14 songs before involving studio musicians for final takes. "I can't work on things academically. Without instinct, there's no point in me doing it."
The best example of Palmer's patience are on the two African music tracks that open Honey: Honey A and Honey B.
"Honey A is mbira music -- throat singing from Zimbabwe -- and it segues into dorze, which is in two keys at once," explains Palmer. "I wrote those two pieces in 1971, and they've sat on the shelf until now. I wrote them at the time I spent six months with these two African drummers that doubled as a firewalker act and needed a singer. We spent time rehearsing at Paco Rabanne's balloon factory, which he offered as an altruist as free rehearsal space for African musicians. It was an intriguing six months and some of the most fun I've ever had."
Despite recording a variety of styles on Honey, Palmer is resigned to the fact that most radio audiences may never hear it.
"I'm very aware -- especially now, of the intense compartmentalization of radio. What's going on in America is unbelievable. For me, it's a drag. I've got a new record, and the average listener doesn't get a chance to hear it.
"As an artist you have a choice of being played on either the Led Zep channel, the Pearl Jam channel, or the country channel," continues Palmer. "Yet the record company says I'm a Contemporary Hit Radio /Top 40 artist, but there are few CHR stations around. How are you going to get a contemporary hit if no one in the audience can hear it?"
Palmer says he's at a loss to explain the science of radio programming.
"If you hear something and you like it, you like it," says Palmer."It's as simple as that. Programming is the antithesis of what music's all about."
While touring is not in his immediate plans, a new album with the reunited Power Station is. He and original members John Taylor, Andy Taylor (no relation), and Tony Thompson have completed eight tracks for an album they hope to release in the Spring.
"After ten years, we remembered how much fun and what a party it was, and not the greed of the management," says Palmer. "Plus, we're writing the album together. The last time, when I came in , the songs were finished. The album -- as bad as it was -- was a Bernard Edwards rescue job."
As for the future for him and his new love, Palmer volunteers information without being prompted.
"No plans for marriage. No plans for children. Why spoil a great thing?"
Nick Krewen (Octobre 1994)