Finally, in 1989, Deborah Harry released an album that was not only produced by Blondie's main producer, Mike Chapman, but was every bit as strong as `Parallel Lines
', `Eat to the Beat
' and `Autoamerican
'. `Def, Dumb and Blonde' is Harry at the peak of her enigmatic powers, tapping punk, new wave, dance, pop and 60s girl bands to create a delectably assured whole.
Curiously, the weakest song on the album is the opening single, `I Want That Man' (written by Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie from The Thompson Twins), which was a huge hit in a number of countries outside the US. In comparison to the rest of the album, it is overly frivolous and frothy, plus it suffers from piano-heavy production that dates it rather badly. While it is certainly not bad, the rest of the record is much better.
This set of 15 songs features no less than eight first rate Harry/ Chris Stein (Blondie guitarist and former long time partner) compositions. The album could have comprised only these and the first two singles and it would still have been brilliant. `Maybe for Sure' and `He Is So' are dreamy, haunting new wave pop partners. `Get Your Way' is an awesome dance rocker with a quirky, attitude-heavy rap break. `Bike Boy' is a screeching mid-70s punk rocker and `Brite Side' is an almost-ballad, full of the beautifully poetic turns of phrase that are uniquely Deborah Harry (though the mix featured in the closing credits of the 80s/90s TV series, `Wiseguy' was better). But the pièce de résistance is the stunning, epic closing track, `End of the Run', a spoken word reminiscence on a time of leather jackets, guitars and cars - Harry has never been heard in finer voice than this.
The remaining tracks, by other writers, are all very fine. `Comic Books' (a cover of a song by 70s New York punk rockers, The Fast) and `Forced to Live' are punk companion pieces to `Bike Boy', while `Calmarie', a slow bossa nova styled piece co-written by Brazillian jazz percussionist, Naná Vasconcelos, sports Harry in an utterly virtuosic vocal performance.
`Def, Dumb and Blonde' is one of the very best things Deborah Harry has ever recorded, with and without Blondie. It is clear evidence of the benefits of working with a producer that `gets' the artist - which her previous solo project producers evidently did not. It might have been a relative commercial flop, but it is an absolute must for any rock collection.