Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cassingle rewind: Toni Childs • Don't Walk Away

Label: A&M Records
Hot 100 peak: 72 in 1988

"What was I thinking?" index: 0 (none)

Tracks: "Don't Walk Away," "Hush"

// A SIDE // Not to be confused with the nose-chain-wearing Jane Child of "Don't Wanna Fall in Love" fame, Toni Childs is a would-be pop starlet whose excellent debut single was not in the right place at the right time. She was fleetingly a member of Berlin ("Take My Breath Away") before that group produced its first album, so she twice dodged hitting the big-time. "Don't Walk Away," from the album Union, is certainly one of the most obscure selections in my cassingle collection; the song stalled in the lower reaches of the Hot 100 and was her only appearance on that chart, although she did resurface with a dance chart hit in 1994. I only heard "Don't Walk Away" a few times on VH1 while watching for the school bus in the morning (so the cable network was good for something besides I love the 80s), and Childs' commanding delivery of the title lyric, combined with a synthy and brassy, driving pop-rock melody immediately seized the attention of a young pop fan. Listening to the song now for the first time in probably 17 years, I'm reminded of how striking it is, thanks in large part to Childs' big, distinctive voice; with the proper nudge, this well-honed tune surely would have scaled into the top 40. It's essentially a song about love and longing: "Time passes slowly, time passes on / Waiting for my man to call / When there's no man at all /Do I stand here waiting / For the earth to turn to dust," etc.

// B SIDE // The extra track, "Hush," has more of a world music feel; it's not a stretch to imagine Peter Gabriel singing it. "Hush" shares the same knack for melody as "Don't Walk Away" and sounds like something that might show up in the soundtrack to a female-oriented TV drama. This one isn't a B-side exclusive — it also appears on the Union album. For whatever reason, the extra track isn't named on the single's sleeve.

// C SIDE // A couple of other albums and compilations followed Union, and Childs is well represented at the major download sites. After playing the cassingle again (the wheels still turn, and it still sounds good!), I couldn't resist downloading "Don't Walk Away" — how much more broke would the music industry be if we didn't buy the same music in different formats?

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