When most folks mention the whole yacht rock thing, they usually bring up songs like "What a Fool Believes" or "Sailing." But as my Christian Yacht Rock feature from last year proved, my love and knowledge for this kind of music goes way past the obvious hits of the style.
Just when I think I've collected most of the killer records that fall under the yacht rock flag, Facebook groups like AOR Westcoast/Yacht Rock/Soul/Funk Until the Mid-'80s remind me that I need to keep digging. The following list features some less known yacht rock tunes that deserve your undivided attention. Well, only if you're into this sort of groove.
Dwayne Ford, "Lovin' and Losin' You," from Needless Freaking (Epic Records, 1981)
Produced by David Foster, Dwayne Ford's "Lovin' and Losin' You" sounds like a 50/50 mix of Maxus and early Toto, and I'm 100% fine with that. If you can track down a copy of Ford's Needless Freaking album, jump on it.
Raydio, "You Can't Change That," from Rock On (Arista Records, 1979)
Best known for his chart-topping "Ghostbusters" single from 1984, Ray Parker, Jr. has also enjoyed a career as a session guitarist and as the leader of Raydio, a funky R&B band that released four studio albums from 1978 - 1981. This cut reached the Top 10 pop chart in '79, but has largely been forgotten in the years since. It's a shame, since the track is a light and breezy jam that would fit beautifully on any yacht rock playlist.
Steve Winwood, "Hold On," from Steve Winwood (Island Records, 1977)
Sung gorgeously by Steve Winwood, and co-written by his former Traffic cohort Jim Capaldi, "Hold On" rides a buttery groove by drummer Andy Newmark (Sly & The Family Stone) and bassist Willie Weeks (Donny Hathaway).
Bobby Caldwell, "To Know What I've Got," from Cat in the Hat (Clouds, 1980)
The man behind the late '70s soul standard "What You Won't Do for Love," Bobby Caldwell's discography features its fair share of groove gems. "To Know What I've Got" is less known than some of his bigger radio singles, but no less potent.
Patrick Simmons, "Why You Givin' Up," from Arcade (Elektra Records, 1983)
You know him from his guitar and vocal work as an original member of The Doobie Brothers, but Patrick Simmons also released an overlooked solo album in the early '80s that contained some melodic rock goodies. "Why You Givin' Up" finds Simmons being joined by his then Doobie Brother Michael McDonald on the background vocal tip. The end result of the collaboration is a yacht rock homerun.
Jeff Lorber, "Your Love Has Got Me," from It's a Fact (Arista Records, 1982)
Featuring smoothed-out performances from longtime Phil Collins tour backup singer Arnold McCuller and session ace Sylvia St. James, "Your Love Has Got Me" can be found on It's a Fact, keyboardist Jeff Lorber's debut album. The song's light jazz feel would complement any yacht rock mix you're putting together for a chill night at home.
Billy Joel, "Zanzibar," from 52nd Street (Columbia Records, 1978)
Speaking of jazz, that trumpet you hear on Billy Joel's "Zanzibar" comes courtesy of the great Freddie Hubbard. Lifted off Joel's 52nd Street album—a favorite amongst muso types—the song was part of the setlist in the legendary singer-songwriter's Shea Stadium finale performance in 2011. Joel might not be associated with the yacht rock thing, but this song certainly should be.
Rick Riso, "Gotta Have the Real Thing," from Gotta Have the Real Thing (Home Sweet Home, 1985)
Featured on my aforementioned Christian Yacht Rock list, Rick Riso is a vocalist I don't know anything about, but the title track to his Gotta Have the Real Thing album is a hook-heavy smooth rocker that has gotten a lot of spins on my Spotify.
Peter Allen, "Fly Away," from Bi-Coastal (A&M Records, 1980)
Another David Foster-produced beauty, "Fly Away" was written by Carole Bayer-Sayer, a singer-songwriter also behind smash singles from Melissa Manchester, Christopher Cross, and Neil Diamond, among others. The instrumentation and lush production on "Fly Away" is quintessential yacht rock.
Daft Punk feat. Todd Edwards, "Fragments of Time," from Random Access Memories (Columbia Records, 2013)
When I read the credits on their latest album and noticed guest musicians such as bassist Nathan East and drummers John Robinson and Omar Hakim making appearances, I found out that the two dudes in Daft Punk were just as liner notes-obssessed as I am. "Fragments of Time" is a summery ditty that would sound like a million bucks at a beach party on Ibiza.