Robert Palmer's success - at last - must be as gratifying to his long faithful followers as it is to him.
But if success is changing him, blue-eyed soul singer Palmer doesn't show it. Sure, he has all the style and cool evident on his fine first album (Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley, featuring the talents of Little Feat in their prime behind him) but he's equally relaxed and unpretentious in person.
An eclectic stylist, Palmer has woven together elements of reggae, Tamla-Motown soul and rock'n'roll over five albums with impressive aplomb. But, as he explains, his latest Secrets is something a bit different.
"I've been on the road for six months with a five-piece band," says the blond, handsome Palmer, "and we arranged all the different sorts of songs I've got to suit the unit. It had such a good feel about it, to be able to do all those songs condensed into a small unit like that, that I just decided to take the group into the studio like that.
By the time we got into the studio, it was just a matter of performance, just like doing a gig. It was really neat."
It seems to have worked. Bad Case Of Loving You, Palmer's first single from the LP, took off even before the release of the record, assuring that Secrets will consolidate the new audience garnered by Every Kinda People from his last album.
But with critics howling from the first that Palmer was "The Great White Hope" of soul, did he find it frustrating that it took four highly acclaimed albums until the general public got the word?
"Subconsciously I guess I had something to do with maneuvering it to stay at a slow pace. Because once the business recognizes some kind of appeal in what you do, they then go out of their way to manipulate that into something finite, something repeatable.
I was never into that. I like to keep taking risks and trying different sounds. So it isn't like I have a recognizable sound.
But it's been really worthwhile to be patient about it, because it looks like on a large scale I'm going to be recognized as someone who makes songs.
The last song in the charts here (Every Kinda People) is very different from this new one, or stuff other people know like the Sneakin' Sally medley. But it all adds up and means I can do a whole range of stuff, and make a lot of variety in my show.
That may be the reason it's taken a while, because there's so much I like to do. But, by the time Secrets came around, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do and I learned a lot about how to make an album."
But Palmer denies being wholly influenced by soul, in fact now "finding rock'n'roll very appealing," he says. "It's funny, because people talk about influences, bu what they don't know is that a major influence can be just starting out in a band with a lousy PA system and having to shout all the time. That can influence you as much as any singer."
Rob Patterson (The Argus Press - 1980)