Archive for September, 2018

Great? Rock Albums of 1985: The Power Station

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2018 by 80smetalman

If I had been writing this blog thirty years ago, as the albums were coming out, this one off album from The Power Station would not have been included. Thinking back to then, when I heard the first single, “Some Like It Hot,” I thought, “No thanks.” To me it was just another synth pop song, only this one had a cool guitar solo. What also didn’t help was that the band featured two members of Duran Duran. In 1985, metalheads and Duranies were at odds with one another, so this was another reason not to like this band. However, throughout the many years, The Power Station have slowly grown enough on me that I was willing to include them.

On the subject of Duran Duran, I didn’t want to admit it back then but they were all talented musicians, John and Andy Taylor especially. It was only very recently I learned that they weren’t actually brothers. I will not take the fact they are so talented away from them but that doesn’t change the fact that they music that didn’t appeal to me. Anyway, what the Taylors did here was to get with drummer Tony Thompson from the band Chic and a lead singer named Robert Palmer and together, they put out an album that wasn’t too bad.

Another criticism aimed at The Power Station by metalheads back in 1985 was to do with the second single, the cover of T-Rex’s “Get It On (Bang a Gong).” Metalheads argued that they had totally butchered a classic T-Rex song but was that assessment fair? In my view, there are portions of this version of said classic that would have Marc Bolan spinning in his grave. Especially that woo-hoo-hoo part at the beginning. However, they do remain true to the basics of the song. The guitar comes through very clear and while not as good as the original, it still has me bobbing away to it when it’s played. Furthermore, it does have me wanting to include John Taylor in that ever expanding list of underrated guitarists.

Most of the remainder of the album is still too synth pop for me, even after all these many years. There are a good number of keyboard and brass players who contribute which makes it possible. It does have some flashes of more heavier rock. I like the intro and the guitar solo on “Communication” and their cover of “Harvest for the World” is nicely done. I could call that track more soft rock. However, going against the grain of the rest of the album is the track “Murderess.” This is a hard rocker, well it is in terms of this band but it does make the hidden gem the best song on the album. In spite of the fact that I still am not a huge Power Station fan but I can’t fault their musicianship either. These guys, especially John, were serious about music and the playing on it was top notch, credit where it’s due there.

Track Listing:

  1. Some Like It Hot
  2. Murderess
  3. Lonely Tonight
  4. Communication
  5. Get It On (Bang a Gong)
  6. Go to Zero
  7. Harvest For the World
  8. Still In Your Heart

The Power Station

Robert Palmer- vocals

John Taylor- guitar

Andy Taylor- bass

Tony Thompson- drums

At first, I thought it was a case of me mellowing with age but while I am more open and accepting of the Power Station these days, this album still doesn’t quite do it for me. Saying that, there are some good moments and the musicianship on the album is first rate.

Next post: I’m away on a client holiday with work so the next post won’t be until next week. When it is, it will be: Night Ranger- Seven Wishes

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rock-Roll-Children-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1609763556/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1538295806&sr=1-1&keywords=michael+d+lefevre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Rock Albums of 1985: Dire Straits- Brothers in Arms

Posted in 1980s, Concerts, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2018 by 80smetalman

The arrival of “Brothers in Arms” by Dire Straits in the summer of 1985 brought many different reactions to people. Back then, I couldn’t help but laugh at teens who thought they were the brand new sensation of the 1980s. More than one of these was completely dumbfounded when I told them that Dire Straits had been on the go since 1978 and had four prior albums. Old time followers though, upon hearing this album accused the band of abandoning their original sound and going too new wave. Some even went onto say that Dire Straits had sold out. I never thought that though I realize now that particular label got banded around too much.

“Money for Nothing” was the first big single from “Brothers in Arms” and it seemed to be on every time I switched on MTV. It also got lots of radio airplay and that was one piece of evidence used by hardcore followers to insist the band sold out. Further evidence was the fact that Sting sang accompanying vocals on the song. If you want to know my thoughts, (and you do want to know my thoughts), I never thought this song was a sell out. Furthermore, I thought Sting did a damn good job on the vocals and I have always loved the fuzz guitar throughout the song. Okay, it didn’t dislodge “Sultans of Swing” off my top spot for my favourite Dire Straits songs, it didn’t even make the top three, but it is a good song.

In fact, “Money for Nothing,” isn’t even my favourite song on this album! That honour goes to the next song on the album, “Walk of Life.” Sure, there’s a heavy keyboard sound on it but it wasn’t done in that choppy synth pop style. Got to give full marks to Alan Clark and Guy Fletcher on it, they play it very well. Plus the song just has a vibe that grabs me and has me nodding along to the melody. Maybe also the American sports themed video on MTV might have had some influence on me too.

Unfortunately, after the those two songs and a cool opener, “So Far Away” is a more traditional sounding Dire Straits song for me, the album goes a little downhill on the next couple of songs. While the sax playing of Michael Brecker on “Your Latest Trick” is very good, it doesn’t redeem the song to a point where I can say, “Hey, this is good.” Nor do things improve with the next track, “Why Worry.” Both of these songs could be put on an album called, “Dire Straits Does Elevator Music” for that’s what they remind of.

Fortunately, the album improves to more familiar Dire Straits territory after that. While there are still elements of elevator music on “Ride Across the River,” at least Mark Knopfler let’s his guitar do some singing on it and I do like the jungle rhythms in the background. Then for a complete change, there is a country music sounding acoustic guitar intro on “The Man’s Too Strong” before going into more Dire Straits sounding guitar rock. This track will have you saying, “This is more like it” and my vote for hidden gem on the album. However, it does get some stiff competition for that honour from the next track, “One World.” More of the old Dire Straits here and again, Mr Knopfler isn’t afraid to let loose on the guitar. Those two songs all lead to the end which is carried out very somberly but nicely by the title track.

Track Listing:

  1. So Far Away
  2. Money For Nothing
  3. Walk of Life
  4. Your Latest Trick
  5. Why Worry
  6. Ride Across the River
  7. The Man’s Too Strong
  8. One World
  9. Brothers in Arms

Dire Straits

Mark Knopfler- lead guitar, lead vocals

Alan Clark- keyboards

Omar Hakim- drums

John Illsley- bass, backing vocals

Guy Fletcher- keyboards, backing vocals

Additional Musicians

Sting- vocals on “Money for Nothing”

Michael Brecker- saxophone on “Your Latest Trick”

Randy Brecker- trumpet

Malcolm Duncan- saxophone

Jimmy Maelen- percussion

Mike Mainieri- vibraphone, keyboards

David Plews- trumpet

Jack Sonni- guitar synthesizer on “The Man’s Too Strong”

It was on the tour for this album when I finally got to see Dire Straits live. It was a good show but and they played “Sultans of Swing”  as well as several songs from this album. There was a good mix of old and new followers there too. However, my big hang up about that evening was they didn’t play my number two and three DS songs, “Skateaway” and “Industrial Disease.” You can’t have everything I suppose. Still, no matter which side of the fence you sit on for “Brothers in Arms,” I have to say that it’s not a bad album.

Next post: The Power Station

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rock-Roll-Children-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1609763556/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1537988591&sr=1-1&keywords=michael+d+lefevre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Rock Albums of 1985: Petra- Beat the System

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2018 by 80smetalman

In the summer of 1985, a friend of mine, who was a Born Again Christian, invited me to go see the Christian rock band Petra, in attempt to bring me back to the fold. Having nothing better to do, I went and I must say that I really enjoyed it. It didn’t matter that they were singing about religion nor was I in any way annoyed when they stopped halfway through their show to present a brief slide show on the missionary work they were doing in Africa. I thought Petra were good enough for me to give their album “Beat the System” a listen.

While I wasn’t disappointed with the album, I had to say that at the time, it wasn’t the hard rock I had heard them play live. “Beat the System” is more on the lines of progressive rock bands such as Survivor and Marillion and that’s not a bad thing at all. One song that backs up my assertion is the second track, “Computer Brains.” It is done in the 80s style of the time while not going as far as being synth pop. Saying that, I do wish the guitar solo had been a little louder on it because another memory I took from the concert was that Bob Hartman is pretty good on the six string. But you can’t fault the keyboard work on this and some of the other songs.

“Clean” is a more harder track, maybe the hardest one on the album. It would have been a blinder if they had turned up the guitars a bit more but it has a catchy vibe. Next comes the hidden gem, “It is Finished.” The song is about the crucifixion of Jesus but this song has all the tools, except one, to be a great prog-metal jam. It has some cool keyboard notes to intro and a great metal rhythm to bang your head to. Greg Volz’s vocals might be the best on the album here. Everything there almost, what holds it back from being a brilliant prog-metal tune is the absence of any guitar solo. That would have propelled it through the ionosphere. If I was a Sunday School teacher and wanted to teach about the crucifixion, I would have definitely used this song.

“Voice in the Wind” is an all right song but let’s skip to the big feature of “Beat the System.” In 1991, you might have heard a KISS song called “God Gave Rock and Roll To You” compliments of the movie, “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.” Well Petra recorded this Russ Ballard written hit twice, the second time on this album. I don’t mean to anger KISS fans but I have to say that I prefer Petra’s version. KISS tried to make theirs sound to ballad-like and commercial. While Petra’s version seems more choppy, it works well. I’ll let everyone have a listen and decide for themselves.

The rest of the album is more of Jesus lyrics sung to some rather good progressive rock. The closer, “Adonai,” is a good an album closer as any. In the end, this is a good album and it proves that belief in a spiritual being has no bearing on how well anyone can sing or play music. “Beat the System” is simply good progressive rock.

Track Listing:

  1. Beat the System
  2. Computer Brain
  3. Clean
  4. It is Finished
  5. Voice in the Wind
  6. God Gave Rock and Roll to You
  7. Witch Hunt
  8. Hollow Eyes
  9. Speak to the Sky
  10. Adonai

Petra

Greg X Volz- lead vocals

Bob Hartman- guitars

Rhett Lawrence- synthesizers

John Lawry- synthesizers

Carl Marsh- keyboards, drums, bass

Did I come back to God as a result of Petra? No, but it wasn’t anything down to this cool band who have a great album and were cool to see live. What ended any desire to go back to the flock was the attitude of my friend and some of his “Christian” friends. Being a week after the great Live Aid, I had to hear these people put it down because the bands were all heathen rockers. One person said the bands should have given ten percent of their earnings to Africa. I wonder if this person gave that much of his. Damn hypocrite! That ended any idea of me burning my records and coming back to Jesus. Though, I feel I never really left him.

Next post: Kim MItchell- Akimbo Alogo

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rock-Roll-Children-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1609763556/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1537470169&sr=1-1&keywords=michael+d+lefevre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Rock Albums of 1985: Weird Al Yankovic- Dare To Be Stupid

Posted in 1980s, Humour, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2018 by 80smetalman

After the big success of his 1984 album, “In 3D,” it was only expected that the King of Parody, Weird Al Yankovic, release an album in 1985. Therefore, many people like me eagerly awaited and grabbed “Dare to be Stupid” as soon as it came out. Even though some critics said that the new album wasn’t as good as its predecessor, (what do they know?), I still really like this album.

First let us start with the parodies. Opening the album is what has been said one of his best songs, “Like a Surgeon,” which is a parody of the then Madonna classic, “Like a Virgin.” For all the things I might say about Madonna, I have to give her credit here. Not  only did she give Weird Al her blessing to make a take off on her song, she collaborated on “Like a Surgeon.” Reportedly, this was the only time that he used ideas from outside artists on any of his songs. Whatever the case,  the song is a hoot and so is the video for it.

Other artists who gets the parody treatment are Huey Lewis and the News, the Kinks and Cyndi Lauper. The Huey Lewis song which gets it is “I Want a New Drug” in the form of “I Want a New Duck” and the song is actually about a duck. Listen to the lyrics and you’ll be rolling around in laughter but that’s what Weird Al does best. Back in 1985, some Star Wars fans took offense at his parody of the Kinks classic, “Lola” with “Yoda.” The song shows that at least he saw the film. No 80smetalman points for guessing which Cyndi Lauper song he would parody. Thinking about it, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was probably to golden of an opportunity for him and “Girls Just Wanna Have Lunch” is a great send off. It sounds like he’s singing off key on the song but I think that’s just the weird in Weird Al.

Something which always gets overlooked in regards to Weird Al is the fact that he does have musical talent. All of his parodies sound like the original. “I Want a New Duck” and “Yoda” sound almost exactly as they could have been done by the original artists. It’s his seemingly non parodies where his talent can be seen more. I shouldn’t call some of these non-parodies because they are parodies in a different way. The style in which the title track is that of Devo and the very funny “One More Minute” sounds like an Elvis Presley ballad. However, the lyrics in that song will crack you up. Staying with that one, it sounds like a lamentation of a guy who has been dumped by his girl but in typical Weird Al style, he goes above and beyond. Sure, I’ve been dumped but I never considered burning down the malt shop we went to because it reminded me of her.

If his songs aren’t spoofing an artist’s song or musical style, they’re doing it to aspects of life. “This Is the Life” is a send off on rich people’s life style and “Slime Creatures From Outer Space” pays hilarious tribute to 1950s Sci-Fi films. However, my favourite in this category is “Cable TV” which by 1985 was becoming a nationwide household phenomenon. Nowadays, most Americans have hundreds of channels but often times still nothing to watch. There’s also a cover of the theme song to the cartoon “George of the Jungle,” I like it and like “In 3D” he puts popular contemporary at the time songs to polka music. ZZ Top and Twisted Sister along with many others get the polka treatment. Only this time, it closes the album and probably the most appropriate song to do so.

Track Listing:

  1. Like a Surgeon
  2. Dare to be Stupid
  3. I Want a New Duck
  4. One More Minute
  5. Yoda
  6. George of the Jungle
  7. Slime Creatures From Outer Space
  8. Girls Just Wanna Have Lunch
  9. This is the Life
  10. Cable TV
  11. Hooked on Polkas

Weird Al Yankovic

Weird Al Yankovic- lead vocals, accordion, keyboards

Rick Derringer- guitar, production

Steve Jay- bass, banjo, backing vocals

Jim West- guitar, backing vocals

John ‘Bermuda’ Schwartz- drums percussion

Ignore the critics, to me “Dare To Be Stupid” is just as zany and well done as any of Weird Al’s other albums. While songs will have you in stitches, try to appreciate just how musically talented he really is.

Next post: Petra- Beat the System

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rock-Roll-Children-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1609763556/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1537086656&sr=1-1&keywords=michael+d+lefevre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Rock Albums of 1985: George Thorogood- Maverick

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2018 by 80smetalman

By May of 1985, I had conceded that the anti-metal brigade had won as far as commercial radio and MTV was concerned. It was a rarity then to see or hear any metal played on mainstream media. The only time I would really listen to any radio was during my eight hour shift at a parking lot in Atlantic City. While I lamented the lack of metal, there was some good rock tunes on radio, many from recently visited albums of this year. Then sometime in May, while listening to radio on my shift, I was treated to the first single from George Thorogood, “I Drink Alone,” from his “Maverick” album and that made eight hours of commercial radio much more bearable.

“I Drink Alone” is my all time favourite George Thorogood song. While the more ignorant claimed that the song was more of his usual same sounding stuff, I begged to differ. Yes, his voice is trademark and the riffs might sound familiar but if so, who the hell cares? He plays a blinder on it and one can’t fault the guitar solo at all. What I like just as much is his innuendos towards famous alcoholic drinks. Since the song is about a guy who enjoys drinking alone, he mentions his drinking pals; his buddy Weiser, pals Jack Daniels and partner Jimmy Beam and friends Johnny Walker and his brothers Black and Red. Then there’s the only family member who will drink with him, his Old Grandad. All very clever and I wonder if George collected any advertising royalties for mentioning these products in his song.

Looking at the rest of the “Maverick” album, it is business as usual from George Thorogood and the Destroyers. The first three songs are the best, the middle one the big single although the third track, “Willie and the Hand-jive” was also released as a single and it’s a great blues boogie song too. Saying that, I do prefer the opener, Gear Jammer.” The remainder of the album, while not as brilliant as the first three songs, doesn’t deteriorate the album in any way. “Long Gone” is more of what George and the Destroyers do best and the spotlight is on saxophonist Hank Carter who makes the mark. My vote for hidden gem on “Maverick” has to be “Woman With the Blues.” The song slows down a lot and while it gives the impression that George shouldn’t sing ballads, which it’s not, he still sounds okay. However, it’s his more famous guitar riffing on it that makes the track a hidden gem.

Apart from the boogie/blues, it can be said that there is a 1950s sound to some of the songs on the album. Yes, I can picture Ritchie Cunningham and friends dancing to “Dixie Fried” at Arnold’s but then again, there is another great Thorogood guitar solo on it but that’s not the point. My point here is that George records songs by some of the greats from that era, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, John Lee Hooker and Carl Perkins. He was criticized, (there will always be people who will), for not writing many of his songs. I won’t explore why this is the case, my guess is that he loved those songs so much that he wanted to record them. It doesn’t mean that he couldn’t write songs because the ones he does write are some of the best on the album. The opener, the big single and hidden gem all prove it. The ones he didn’t write are all performed well and I’m sure those who wrote them would have given him the thumbs up on each of them.

Track Listing:

  1. Gear Jammer
  2. I Drink Alone
  3. Willie and the Hand-Jive
  4. What a Price
  5. Long Gone
  6. Dixie Fried
  7. Crawlin’ King Snake
  8. Memphis/Little Marie
  9. Woman With the Blues
  10. Go Go Go
  11. The Ballad of Maverick

George Thorogood

George Thorogood- guitar, lead vocals

Hank Carter- saxophone, harmony vocals

Billy Blough- bass

Jeff Simon- drums, percussion

George Thorogood was an oasis in a land barren of good music, at least as far as mainstream media was concerned. Whether or not you think “Maverick” was his best album, it still demonstrated that he could play with the best of them.

Next post: Weird Al Yankovic- Dare to be Stupid

To buy Rock And Roll Children, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rock-Roll-Children-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1609763556/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1536744478&sr=1-2&keywords=michael+d+lefevre

 

Great Rock Albums of 1985: Fiona

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2018 by 80smetalman

New Jersey has always been divided into North and South. The Southern part, where I’m from, has always been Philadelphia oriented while the Northern part has always been New York oriented. This has always been the case when supporting sports teams and it seems has been the case for music. It’s probably another reason why Beru Revue’s popularity never went beyond the Philadelphia- South Jersey area and it is also why more people living in South Jersey at the time were more into The Hooters than they were into Northern New Jersey singer Fiona.

Fiona (Flanagan)’s debut album appeared in early 1985 and from what I remember, her label, Atlantic, seemed to be doing everything they could to push the album and its single, “Talk to Me.” Unfortunately, the highest the single got was #64. Fortunately, the album did slightly better. Examining the album, I know there are some good to decent rock tunes. “Hang Your Heart on Me” is a decent opener for the album. It does the job in obtaining your interest and the mentioned single does have a cool sax solo on it. I think the problem with it was that it was too mainstream for metalheads and too rock for trendies. The best rocking track is the third one, “You’re No Angel,” which boasts Fiona’s best vocals and a really cool guitar solo. “James” is also a decent rocker although her vocals aren’t quite as good on it. For me, “Rescue You” sounds too 80s synth pop for me but her vocals are okay and there’s another good guitar solo on it. Then there’s the closer, “The Na Na Song.” I have to say that it is probably one of the best album closing tracks of all time. True, the second half on the song is mostly comprised of her singing, “Na na, na na na na na” but it, with the harder rocking does great to take the song and the album to it’s natural conclusion.

In spite of some good rock tunes and some great musicianship on the album, what let’s this album is Fiona herself. I won’t be as harsh as my sister who simply says Fiona can’t sing, I will say that she’s not a great vocalist. Take “James” for instance. When she’s singing the more power rock parts, her voice is okay but it’s when she tries to go more melodic, her voice lets the song down. The same can be said on “Over Now,” which is a shame in a way because that song has the best guitar solo on the album. Her vocal weakness comes through the most on the power ballad, “Love Makes You Blind.” Her voice isn’t up to it. I don’t want to be cruel to her so I’ll put forward this perspective. Instead of being made to sing more commercial ready, it would have been better for her if she had fronted a proper heavy metal band which her vocal ability is more suited for. That’s my verdict anyway.

Track Listing:

  1. Hang Your Heart On Me
  2. Talk to Me
  3. You’re No Angel
  4. Rescue You
  5. James
  6. Love Makes You Blind
  7. Over Now
  8. The Na Na Song

Fiona

Fiona- lead vocals

Bobby Messano- guitar

Gregory Tebbitt- guitar

Benjy King- keyboard

Alan Hurwitz- keyboard

Peter Zale- keyboard

Joe Franco- drums, percussion

Donnie Kisselbach- bass

Schuyler Deale- bass

Rick Bell- saxophone

Elena Aazan- backing vocals

Tom Flanagan- backing vocals

Peppi Marchello- backing vocals

Louie Merlino- backing vocals

‘The Mob’- backing vocals

Tara O’Boyle- backing vocals

Jimmy Wilcox- backing vocals

Fiona wasn’t the big commercial success Atlantic Records was hoping for in 1985 and I’ve given clues as to why. In spite of that, her debut album is still pretty good and worth a listen.

BTW, I hope people out there aren’t taking this to mean that heavy metal singers aren’t as good as those who aren’t. Many mainstream vocalists can’t sing metal.

Next post: George Thorogood- Maverick

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rock-Roll-Children-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1609763556/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1536483187&sr=1-3&keywords=michael+d+lefevre