Cliff Richard ‎– I’m No Hero (1980)

I’m No Hero is a studio album by Cliff Richard, released in September 1980 on EMI Records. It was the first of Richard’s two consecutive albums produced by Alan Tarney, who wrote eight of the ten songs. Tarney wrote Cliff’s prior hit “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” a UK #1 that consolidated the singer’s career renaissance (launched by his 1976 hit “Devil Woman.”) This album follows in the vein of that song and reflects Tarney’s contemporary work with Leo Sayer and Barbara Dickson.

I’m No Hero generated two hits, “Dreamin'” and “A Little in Love.” Between those, Richard charted with “Suddenly,” a ballad duet with Olivia Newton-John from the 1980 romantic musical comedy Xanadu. All three singles entered the Billboard Top 20 and marked the height of Cliff’s profile in the US market.

Recording and Production

I’m No Hero was recorded during May and June 1980 at Riverside Recordings, London, and mixed at Roundhouse Studios, London, by engineer Ashley Howe. Tarney produced this album months after the transatlantic success of “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” a 1979 single written by Tarney and produced by longtime Richard associate (and Shadows guitarist) Bruce Welch. That single, though stylistically more in line with the I’m No Hero material, was added at the last minute to Richard’s 1979 album Rock ‘N’ Roll Juvenile, a rockier set produced by Terry Britten.

I’m No Hero was the first of two back-to-back Richard albums produced by Tarney, who also produced his 1981 release Wired for Sound. Their ties extended eight years prior, when Cliff recorded Tarney’s “Living in Harmony” for a 1972 single. Starting with his 1977 release Every Face Tells a Story, Richard used at least one Tarney song per album. That album contains the Tarney/Spencer composition “Give Me Love Your Way” and the Tarney/Welch “Hey Mr. Dream Maker,” also recorded by Newton-John. Tarney also supplied the title-track to Cliff’s 1978 release Green Light.

As a producer, Tarney’s profile had risen gradually since 1976, when he co-produced the first Tarney & Spencer album on Bradley’s Records (their subsequent two albums on A&M were produced by David Kershenbaum). In 1979, he produced the album Where to Now for singer/songwriter Charlie Dore. That and the final (non-album) Tarney/Spencer single, a rearranged version of the Everly Brother’s “Cathy’s Clown,” marked Tarney’s move away from the American west coast influence of the 1978/79 Tarney/Spencer albums Three’s a Crowd  and Run for Your Life. “Cathy’s Clown,” with its glowing keyboards and airy vocals, is most indicative of the sound Tarney created on his subsequent work with Richard.

Just prior to the I’m No Hero sessions, Tarney produced the albums Living in a Fantasy by Leo Sayer and The Barbara Dickson Album by Scottish singer Barbara Dickson. Sayer co-wrote “Dreaming” with Tarney, who presented the song to Cliff. With the chart success of “Pilot of the Airwaves” (Dore), “January February” (Dickson), “More Than I Can Say” (Sayer) and the three Cliff singles, Tarney had his hands on six transatlantic Top 20 hits during 1979/80.

Album Cover

Original UK copies of I’m No Hero are housed in a gatefold sleeve with airbrushed images of Cliff in a boxing match. The front depicts him nervously approaching his larger opponent. On the vertical inner-spread, he smiles down at the viewer with a winning gesture, his opponent down on the ground. The back shows him from behind in a Letterman jacket (red with yellow trim) that sports the slogan “I’m no hero.” The artwork is credited to one Karen Mezek.

The UK EMI release (cat# EMA 796) includes lyrics on the vertical inner-spread. The LP sides are labelled Round I and Round II.

In the US, I’m No Hero was issued on EMI America in a single sleeve with an alternate cover. The front shows a medium shot of Cliff (blue shirt) looking sideways before a dim-lit blue backdrop, his outline highlighted by an off-camera pink light. The back shows a close-up of Cliff (white dotted shirt), again looking sideways in the same setting; a jagged green strip cuts this image along the left edge. The lighting and color scheme are similar to his video for the lead-off single, “Dreaming.”

The American cover was designed by UA art director Bill Burks, responsible for more than 200 cover visuals between 1975 and 1989. His prior credits include albums by the Ebony Rhythm Funk Campaign, Bobbi Humphrey, Jorge Dalto (Chevere), Bobby Hutcherson, Robbie Krieger, Noel Pointer, Maxine Nightingale, Tina Turner, Dusty Springfield, Horace Silver, and Whitesnake. Visually, his design on I’m No Hero is most similar to his work on 1980/81 albums by Ronnie Laws ‎(Every Generation), Unity (s/t), and Kwick ‎(To the Point), which all use angled lighting in dim settings. Cliff’s pose is reminiscent of another Burks cover, the 1979 EMI America release This Is Hot by Philly disco singer Pamala Stanley.

A1. Take Another Look (4:10)
A2. Anything I Can Do (4:00)
A3. A Little in Love (3:38)
A4. Here (3:47)
A5. Give a Little Bit More (3:33)
B1. In the Night* (3:45)
B2. I’m No Hero (3:22)
B3. Dreaming** (3:37)
B4. A Heart Will Break Tonight (3:56)
B5. Everyman (4:06)

*Keep On Looking

Cliff Richard – vocals
Alan Tarney – bass, guitars, arrangements
Trevor Spencer – drums
Michael Boddicker, Nick Glennie-Smith – keyboards

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