It would be 1980 before Robert Palmer would even appear in the top 40 of the album chart in his native UK. But thankfully, by then, tangible recognition of his wide-ranging talents was a little easier to come by in America. On 23 October 1976, his third album Some People Can Do What They Like entered the US chart, just as its predecessors had. It would become his most successful to date.
Palmer’s debut set Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley inexplicably missed the UK charts, but spent a healthy 15 weeks on the American survey, even if it never climbed higher than No. 107. The follow-up Pressure Drop was something of a backward step, commercially speaking, with a No. 136 peak and a seven-week span. The new album would climb to No. 68 and did at least give him a UK album debut, albeit lasting just one week.
Some People… marked a significant step for the Yorkshire-born artist in being the first album he produced himself, taking the baton from Steve Smith. As before, he was ably accompanied by members of Little Feat, and by other such studio notables as Chuck Rainey and Jeff Porcaro.
Four Palmer originals made the track listing, two of them solo compositions (the title cut and ‘Keep In Touch’) and others with Alan Powell (‘Gotta Get A Grip On You (Part II)’) and Smith and Phill Brown (‘Off The Bone’). Little Feat frontman Lowell George didn’t play on the album this time, but was represented in Robert’s cover of his song ‘Spanish Moon,’ from the band’s own breakthrough album of 1974, Feats Don’t Fail Me Now.
Palmer’s love of American soul again came through on such cuts as Don Covay’s ‘Have Mercy,’ and he enjoyed some airplay with the single release of the often-covered ‘Man Smart (Woman Smarter).’ The track was first recorded in calypso style by King Radio as far back as 1936, and revived by Harry Belafonte in 1952.
Other recordings of ‘Man Smart’ followed by such names as Nina & Frederik and even actor Robert Mitchum; there were 1960s covers ranging as far and wide as those by Joan Baez and Roger Whittaker. A year after Palmer’s version, the Carpenters did one for their Passage album.
“This new album is a killer, it really is,” Palmer told the music paper Sounds as Some People… was released. “It’s nice because I don’t need to feel awkward when people come up to me and say they really like my stuff. I can say, thank you very much, that’s what I do and I do it to the best of my ability. I like it too.”
Some People Can Do What They Like can be bought here.
Follow the official Robert Palmer Best Of playlist.