Dwight Twilley – Sexual (1986)


The opening track from the 1986 album Wild Dogs released by CBS Associated Records (In the 1980s to early 1990s, there was a CBS imprint label in the US known as CBS Associated Records. Tony Martell, veteran CBS and Epic Records A&R Vice President was head of this label and signed artists including Ozzy Osbourne, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Electric Light Orchestra, Joan Jett, and Henry Lee Summer. This label was a part of (Epic/Portrait/Associated) wing of sub labels at CBS which shared the same national and regional staff as the rest of Epic Records and was a part of the full CBS Records worldwide distribution system.). Available on iTunes now.

Badcat Records has a comprehensive run through of the album here:

Dwight Twilley’s one of those acts that consistently leaves me scratching my head … A supremely talented singer and songwriter, since the mid-1970s he’s released a stream of stunning albums that for the most part have been all but ignored by critics, radio, and the buying public. Naturally, 1986’s “Wild Dogs” meant with the same fate which was even more unfair given he’d finally managed to make a didn’t in public recognition via 1984’s “Jungle” album and the minor hit ‘Girls’. Unfortunately, Twilley’s follow-up took two years to see daylight, coming after he’d split ways with former label EMI America. The new collection found Twilley teamed with producer Val Garay who had recently enjoyed massive commercial success with Kim Carnes (Carnes provided back-up vocals on a couple of tracks). The marketing goal seems to have been something along the lines of using Garay’s heavily produced synthesizer dominant sound to modernize Twilley’s retro-pop sound. Judging by tracks like ‘Sexual’ and ‘Baby Girl’ the thought seems to have been applying the adult contemporary sheen Garay had brought to Carnes catalog would serve to capture the same audience for Twilley. Working with a less secure artist Garay probably would have simply steamrolled the artist into submission, but for the most part Twilley survived the partnership. Yeah, there were times when Garay’s production simply cluttered the aural landscape (‘Baby Girl’), but most of these Twilley originals were strong enough to survive with their dignity intact. As for enjoying commercial success by updating Twilley-s sound – needless to say, it didn’t happen. In spite of the fact the album included another first-rate collection of Twlley originals – exemplified by material like ‘Shooting Stars’ and ‘In My Dreams’ at least two thirds which had top-40 written all over them, fate intervened to ensure the set vanished without a trace. This time around Twilley had the misfortune to have signed a contract with Joe Isgro’s Private I label. The signing came just as Isgro got caught in a massive payola scandal that saw Private I collapse with Isgro being charged with 57 counts including racketeering, mail fraud, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. (In Isgro’s defense, when the case was tried in 1990, it was dismissed by the presiding federal judge on grounds of “outrageous government misconduct.”) Unfortunately, that finding did nothing to salvage Private I, or Twilley’s album. In the meantime Epic’s CBS Associated label picked up the album and released it with almost no promotion (I’ve never actually seen a stock copy of the album), ensuring instant commercial death.

– Built on one of those sterling melodies that Twilley seems to effortless churn out, ‘Sexual’ traded his normally subtle lyrics for a slightly more strident attack. Clearly written with an ear to commercial potential (check out Jerry Peterson’s strategically placed sax solos), the song had a hook to kill for, but someone seems to have overlooked the fact lots of radio stations were unlikely to play something as blatant as this one … Not that it wasn’t a great track. The song was in fact tapped for an instantly obscure single. rating: **** stars
– Returning to a more typical Twilley sound, ‘Wild Dogs’ was a rollicking rockers that sounded like a cross between a pissed off Buddy Holly and The Blasters. Always loved the references to recording equipment. rating: **** stars
– If you were going to write a top-40 song, ‘You Don’t Care’ would be a perfect template. Built on an instantly memorable melody with wonderful jangle rock guitars, tasteful synthesizers, and one of Twilley’s most earnest vocals, you just had to wonder how radio managed to miss this one. Near perfect pop !!! rating: ***** stars
– One of the problems Twilley’s always faced is that people don’t seem to think he can rock. Shame, since that’s a misconception as anyone who’s every heard ‘Hold On’ would know. Pulling a page out of the Tom Petty songwriting catalog (he also borrowed Petty’s marbles-in-your-mouth vocal delivery for this one), this one rocked out with a vengeance while retaining a highly commercial edge. Always loved the sweet backing vocals which I think featured Susan Cowsill. rating: **** stars
– Although it carried a Twilley credit, ‘Shooting Stars’ was reportedly one of the last songs Twilley wrote with Phil Seymour (who had died of lymphoma in 1993). The result was a gorgeous ballad that would have been even better had it not been subjected to Garay’s production touches – yeah, he almost managed to make it sound like a Kim Carnes tune. rating: *** stars
– A jittery, Buddy Holly-meets-new-wave styled rocker, ‘Baby Girl’ would have sounded wonderful on mid-1980s radio. My only complaint (same as before), Garay’s heavily produced synthesizer-based sound took some of the spotlight off of how good the underlying song was. If anyone cares, you can hear Kim Carnes on backing vocals. rating: *** stars
– One of the album highlights, ‘Ticket to My Dream’ was a growling, mid-tempo rocker with another hook that wouldn’t let go of your head and one of Twilley’s most impressive vocals. Funny, but for about a year I thought the song was ‘Ticket to Abilene’ … rating: **** stars
– Once it got through the gurgling opening synthesizers ‘Secret Place’ was revealed as one of the album’s most commercial pop songs. With an easy-going melody and another hopelessly catchy hook, this one would have made another nice single. rating: *** stars
– Showcasing Twilley’s best stuttering vocal, ‘Radio’ was another track that sounded like it was written for commercial exposure. Kicked along by a great Waddy Wachtel guitar solo, given a chance at radio play it would have been a massive success. ‘Course, no matter how inaccurate it may have been, being associated with a payola scandal killed that notion. rating: **** stars
– Built on a simple keyboard-based melody, the ballad ‘The Spider and the Fly’ was one of Twilley’s coolest songs. Try shaking this one out of your head !!! rating: **** stars

As mentioned, the set was released by CBS Associate which kicked out a single with little or no promotion. Frankly I’ve never actually seen a stock copy of the 45. There was also released as a 12″ single


7″ format
– 1986’s ‘Sexual’ b/w ‘Wild Dogs’ (CBS Associated catalog number ZS4 06050)

12″ format
– 1986’s ‘Sexual’ b/w ‘Sexual’ (CBS Associated catalog number ZAS 2036)

The sad fact of the matter is that as a result of his association with Isgro and Private I, Twilley found himself all but blacklisted throughout the music industry. In spite of Twilley’s immense talent, the resulting stigma (no matter how unjustified) meant no major label was going to come close to him.

“Wild Dogs” track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Sexual (Dwight Twilley) – 4:09
2.) Wild Dogs (Dwight Twilley) – 4:20
3.) You Don’t Care (Dwight Twilley) – 3:31
4.) Hold On (Dwight Twilley) – 4:15
5.) Shooting Stars (Dwight Twilley – Phil Seymour) – 4:20

(side 2)
1.) Baby Girl (Dwight Twilley) – 3:35
2.) Ticket to My Dream (Dwight Twilley) – 3:20
3.) Secret Place (Dwight Twilley) – 3:51
4.) Radio (Dwight Twilley) – 3:38
5.) The Spider and the Fly (Dwight Twilley) – 3:04


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