Great Rock Albums of 1983: 38 Special- Tour de Force

38_Special_-_Tour_de_Force

“Tour de Force” proves what I probably said about albums by 38 Special in previous posts. Each new album is not as good as the ones before. Going back to the very first 38 Special album I listened to, “Rockin’ Into the Night” was outstanding, their best album ever. The next one, “Wild Eyed Southern Boys” was an excellent album and “Special Forces was somewhere between good and very good. However, the 1983 “Tour de Force” album was just good.

Another thing which I have said in the past was my belief that if the single opens the album, then the album may not be up to much because that has always been a trick of one hit wonders. In the case of this album, the first three tracks are the singles that were released on the album. Of those three, the middle one, “Back Where You Belong,” is the best. That song is more the 38 Special I had come to know and love back then. A good opening hard riff with a cool guitar solo, full marks there. Saying that, “If I’d Been the One” is a decent enough song but I’ve never been impressed with the third track, “One Time for Old Times.”

Here is a case where instead of one song not making an entire album, it’s two. I won’t include “Back Where You Belong” because it is a great song. However, after those three singles, things definitely turn up a few notches for the good. “See Me In Your Eyes” starts to return things to a normality with 38 Special and then “Twentieth Century Fox” is a complete rocker. The exact same thing can be said for the tracks that follow on after that. “Long Distance Affair” and the closer, “Undercover Lover” are fine rocking tracks with the latter song, when it closes out the album, leaves you with an all’s well that ends well feeling towards the album.

I must also add that “I Oughta Let Go” is more of a Southern boogie number which proves that at this time, the band hadn’t completely abandoned their Southern Rock roots. But my brain has me wondering if the decline in each album is down to cause and effect. With “Rockin’ Into the Night,” Donnie Van Zant sings lead on five songs and Don Barnes three and one cracking instrumental. On the ensuing albums, the number of Van Zant leads lessen and Barnes sings lead on more. On “Tour de Force” Donnie Van Zant only sings lead on three songs with Barnes the other six. Now, I’m not knocking Don Barnes, he is a great vocalist and I should have included him in my list of great rhythm guitarists but Donnie Van Zant definitely brings an energy to the songs he sings. So, I wonder that if they kept it as it was on the first album, there wouldn’t have been such a noticeable decline. Oh yes, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because it remains true on “Tour de Force.” Jeff Carlisi is a very underrated guitarist.

Track Listing:

  1. If I’d Been the One
  2. Back Where You Belong
  3. One Time for Old Times
  4.  See Me in Your Eyes
  5. Twentieth Century Fox
  6. Long Distance Affair
  7. I Oughta Let Go
  8. One of the Lonely Ones
  9. Undercover Lover
38 Special

38 Special

Don Barnes- lead vocals, guitar

Donnie Van Zant- lead vocals

Jeff Carlisi- lead guitar, steel guitar

Larry Junstrom- bass

Steve Brookins- drums

Jack Grondin- drums

Carol Bristow- backing vocals

Lu Moss- backing vocals

Jimmy Markham- harmonica

38 Special were at a cross roads at this point in time. I remember tearing my hair out trying to convince my friend that they were not a top forty band and that they were a cool Southern Rock band like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet. I’m not sure if he ever believed me but while this album may lead one to think that they had sold out, there is enough on this good album to show that hadn’t.

Next post: Rolling Stones- Undercover

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

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2 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1983: 38 Special- Tour de Force”

  1. I have always like 38 Special. Being from the south, I have always enjoyed great Southern Rock. Not sure they were in the same league as Lynyrd Skynyrd, but they were pretty good. And I agree, that the albums did tend to not be as good with each release. Their earlier stuff is the best.

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