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reDiscover Kim Carnes’ ‘Mistaken Identity’

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Los Angeles native Kim Carnes had been releasing records for fully ten years, starting with 1971’s ‘Rest On Me,’ when she came up with the album that would make her a platinum-selling celebrity in the US, and take her around the world. That album was ‘Mistaken Identity.’

Carnes had gradually been building her audience all the way through the 1970s, scoring a top 40 Adult Contemporary hit in 1975 with ‘You’re A Part Of Me’ and then, in 1976, having her third album ‘Sailin’’ produced by no less of a studio presence than Jerry Wexler. A remake of ‘Part Of Me’ with Gene Cotton became a top 40 pop hit in 1978 before 1980 brought the substantial acclaim of a top-five duet with Kenny Rogers on the ballad ‘Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer.’

Hot on its heels, Carnes’ ‘Romance Dance’ album gave her a top ten US single of her own with a remake of the Smokey Robinson song he’d recorded with the Miracles in 1967, ‘More Love.’ If Kim could get the recipe right for her next album, and come up with the right single from it, the chance to break internationally was really there — especially with her distinctively gruff voice, her skill as both a songwriter and an interpreter, and her striking looks.

With thanks to the Kim Carnes Fan Club, a historic letter written by the screen legend that Kim’s 1981 mega-hit was inspired by

She did indeed get it right. In March 1981, her version of Jackie DeShannon and Donna Weiss’ 1970s composition ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ made the US chart and became a national and international sensation. It topped the Hot 100 for an astounding nine weeks, became a global hit and would be named both Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the following year’s Grammys. It was some introduction to the album that soon followed.

‘Mistaken Identity,’ produced by Val Garay, included another chart single, ‘Draw Of The Cards,’ and 33 years on, stands up as a superior set of songs and a great listen. Carnes’ own title track retains its subtle power, as does her version of ‘When I’m Away From You,’ written by Scottish rocker Frankie Miller, and she can switch gear from the rocker ‘Break The Rules Tonite (Out Of School)’ to the reflective closing track ‘My Old Pals.’

In June 1981, the album took over from Styx’s ‘Paradise Theater’ to begin a four-week run atop The Billboard 200. Carnes would go on to release many other fine albums, including the follow-up ‘Voyeur’ and her one country chart entry, 1988’s ‘View From The House.’

These days, Kim lives and writes in Nashville, and has been playing live this summer. We’ve classed ‘Mistaken Identity’ as one of our reDiscovered Albums not because it wasn’t massively successful at the time, but because as many modern-day listeners as possible should have the chance to hear it.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Earl Melvin

    August 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    I bought this album the day I graduated from high school. I have been a fan ever since. Still have it, along with all of her other 80’s output. A totally under-rated artist in my opinion!

  2. Ulrich

    August 12, 2014 at 8:33 am

    What a great and classic album
    and still is. Much underated!

    Her version of “Don’t call it Love” is a bonafide classic.

  3. Guilherme

    August 31, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Good article! I’d like to add some comments.

    “Mistaken Identity” album got gold certif. from RIAA on 06/16/81 and platinum cert. on 07/16/81. The album spent #1 Pop Album on Billboard on 05/02/81 during 4 weeks.

    This album was reissued on CD by Factory Music USA on last year.

    The #1 LP hits continued, though none repeated the phenomenon. The follow-up “Draw Of The Cards” (#28) gave a prominence to a contagious, swirling organ-dominated sound that stalled inside the US Top 30. 1981 saw her score with “Mistaken Identity” (#60) in which powerful, mature, immediately identifiable contemporary sound was introduced. A fourth hi of sorts came in ’85 with Dolly Parton’s #3 country version of “Don’t Call It Love”. But beyond the singles, the album’s high point was the emotional “Miss you Tonite” with Kim’s voice aching above Bill Cuomo’s synthesized arpeggios to deliver one of the best vocals of her career.

    “The title of my album MISTAKEN IDENTITY is really a statement of the direction I want to go,” she explains. That does not mean she wants to be misunderstood but rather that she feels she has been misunderstood for too long. “Last year everyone pegged me as a country singer because Kenny is. But I want to keep a variety of styles because they all reflect different sides of me. I’ve always loved rock’n’roll. I’m not a manufactured product. I’ve made a point of changing.” – Kim confessed.

  4. Andrew McMeekin

    May 10, 2015 at 9:20 am

    The song ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ to many sums up the Eighties in just under 4 minutes.
    What was surprising was to see her mention on a youtube interview clip that the actual video for that song was 6 months too early for MTV !

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