Archive for hard rock

Great Rock Albums of 1985: Van Morrison- A Sense of Wonder

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2018 by 80smetalman

Here’s another example of how I was so focused on heavy metal in early 1985 that I didn’t fully appreciate a good non-metal album. I have to admit, back then I didn’t have much experience of the legend that is Van Morrison. My most memorable experience of him was his performance in the film, “The Last Waltz” where he sang with The Band. Other than that, what I knew of him was virtually zero.

While by 1985, I had become totally fed up with commercial radio, I have to thank it for this one. The single from the 1985 album, “A Sense of Wonder,” “Tore Down a la Rimbaud” got a considerable amount of airplay in the early part of the year. It was only after a few listens that I got past my “it’s not metal” mentality and realized that “Hey, this song is pretty good.” However, for some reason, I never bought the album, which was a bit of a shame because I missed out on a good one.

Wikapedia puts Van’s “A Sense of Wonder” album in the category of Celtic Soul. Well the man is from Northern Ireland and he does put his soul into the album so it’s hard to disagree with that label. Back then, I would have put it into either or both of the categories of soft rock or mellow out rock. It covers both. While the deafening power chords I was so into in 1985 and still am today are absent, one can’t fault the quality of the musicianship on it. Here’s another myth I believed about Van which this album has obliterated. I thought that he only sang because that’s what he did in “The Last Waltz.” But he plays guitar and piano and rather well judging from the instrumentals “Evening Meditation” and “Boffyflow and Spike,” the latter sounding like true Irish folk music.

While the single remains my favourite song on the album, the rest of the album keeps up as well. In my opinion, “Ancient of Days” could have been released as a single too because it’s almost as good. After the first mentioned instrumental, he goes very almost gospel soul softer though I think the title track goes on a bit too long for me. The second instrumental does pick things up a pace after and “If You Only Knew” keeps that pace going with “A New Kind of Man” closing the album out with a good feeling.

Track Listing:

  1. Tore Down a la Rimbaud
  2. Ancient of Days
  3. Evening Meditation
  4. The Master’s Eyes
  5. What Would I Do
  6. A Sense of Wonder
  7. Boffyflow and Spike
  8. If You Only Knew
  9. Let the Slave (Incorporating the Price of Experience)
  10. A New Kind of Man

Van Morrison

Van Morrison- vocals, guitar and piano

John Allair- organ

Bob Doll- trumpet

Tom Donlinger- drums

Pee Wee Ellis- tenor saxophone

David Hayes- bass

Chris Michie- guitar

Pauline Lazano- backing vocals

Bianca Thornton- backing vocals

The group Moving Hearts performs on tracks 6 and 7

I’m now a believer. Again, it could be me mellowing a tiny bit with age but I now appreciate how good the “A Sense of Wonder” album from Van Morrison really is. Perhaps I should delve into his discography a little more.

Next post: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers- Southern Accents

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Great Rock Albums of 1985: The Wrestling Album

Posted in Humour, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2018 by 80smetalman

Big question: Is my memory not as good as I thought or is Wikopedia not as accurate as they are believed to be? For more than thirty-three years, I was convinced that “The Wrestling Album” came out in the early part of 1985. However, Wikopedia claims it came out in the November of that year. Anyway, when in 1985 the album came out doesn’t really matter, it did and it provided an amusing alternative. Besides, it was still better than a lot of the commercial synth crap that was around.

“The Wrestling Album” came out in a bid to take advantage of the “Rock and Wrestling Connection” which was established the previous year with Cyndi Lauper. She doesn’t sing on this album, with the exception of Rick Derringer’s “Real American,” the wrestlers do. Many of the big WWE, although back then it was still the WWF, who were around at the time have songs, some of them are quite good. The best ones in my view are “Grab Them Cakes” by Junkyard Dog and credit where due, “Eat Your Heart Out Rick Springfield” by bad guy manager Jimmy ‘The Mouth of the South’ Hart. Wrestling commentator Mean Gene Okerlund does do a pretty good rendition of “Tutti Fruitti.” Derringer’s song, like most of the ones sung by the wrestlers is done in a punk/new wave fashion but he does do a reasonably cool guitar solo on it. After all, that’s what makes Rick great! Furthermore, all the main WWE wrestlers perform on the first track, “Land of a Thousand Dances” which got considerable airplay on MTV. But the album isn’t just music, in between the tracks, you get some funny commentary from Vince McMahon, Gene Okerlund and wrestler, actor and the man who would eventually come to be governor of Minnesota, Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura.

While it’s very easy not to take the album seriously, I can also see that those behind the album, especially Cyndi’s then manager David Wolf, made sure the songs were done right. He got Derringer and Meat Loaf producer Jim Steinman to produce the album. I have to admit, they do a good job on it, no matter how much I want to burst out laughing whenever I hear “Captain Lou’s History of Music/Captain Lou” by Lou Albano. Then again, I have never dismissed humour in music and there’s a lot to be had with “The Wrestling Album.”

Track Listing:

  1. The Wrestlers- Land of a Thousand Dances
  2. Junkyard Dog- Grab Them Cakes
  3. Rick Derringer- Real American
  4. Jimmy Hart- Eat Your Heart Out Rick Springfield
  5. Captain Lou Albano and George ‘The Animal’ Steele- Captain Lou’s History of Music/Captain Lou
  6. WWF All Stars- Hulk Hogan’s Theme
  7. ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper- For Everybody
  8. Mean Gene Okerlund- Tutti Fruitti
  9. Hillbilly Jim- Don’t Go Messin’ With a Country Boy
  10. Nikolai Volkf- Cara Mia

Rick Derringer

Jim Steinman

Frank Zappa once asked, “Does humour belong in music?” My answer to this has always been an emphatic, “Yes!” “The Wrestling Album” is a very fun album and you can’t fault the quality of the songs even if the singers aren’t “ahem,” top notch. It did provide a humourous break in the action back in 85.

Next post: Van Morrison- A Sense of Wonder

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Great Rock Albums of 1985: Don Henley- Building the Perfect Beast

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2018 by 80smetalman

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that I was not as musically open minded as I thought I was in the early part of 1985. While I make no justification for this, I do think the reason might have been that I was in longing after the wave of heavy metal that was played on commercial radio throughout 1984 became non existent in the early part of the following year. That was probably why I poo-pooed the “Building the Perfect Beast” album from Don Henley. Being honest, I was in Eagles mode (even though they had split up five years earlier) with not just Don but all former members of this iconic band. I expected all of their solo material to resemble the classic “Hotel California” and the singles from this album didn’t do that. So, I ignored it until a friend lent it to me and I had a listen. Then I realized what I fool I had been.

Sure, the big single “The Boys of Summer” doesn’t sound like “Hotel California” but the musicianship on the song is simply fabulous. There is some great guitar work from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell and Don’s voice is clean on this and all of the tracks. I have really come to like this track in my later years.

Upon further reflection back to 1985, I think that I put music into categories of heavy metal and synth pop. “Building the Perfect Beast” not being metal, I put it into the other category. Again I say “Fool!” at least to myself anyway. There is absolutely nothing synth pop about this album. If anything, there are tracks that take me back to The Eagles more country rock sound from the early 1970s. Tracks that bear evidence to this are the fast paced “Man With a Mission” and my vote for hidden gem, “You’re Not Drinking Enough.” For some reason, that track reminds me of the Eagles’ classic, “Take Me to the Limit.” But it does say “Early Eagles” all through the song. Thinking back to early 85, at the time I was dating a woman who had a drinking problem and now I’m linking this song with that. “Not Enough Love in the World” is another example of what I am trying to talk about. In fact this track would have fitted perfectly on the Eagles’ “Long Road From Eden” album.

One reason for why this album sounds as good as it does is that Don got a load of well known singers and musicians to guest on it. While you know it is definitely Don Henley on every track, these guests, have a look below to see who, add to the quality of the album for sure.

Track Listing:

  1. The Boys of Summer
  2. You Can’t Make Love
  3. Man With a Mission
  4. You’re Not Drinking Enough
  5. Not Enough Love in the World
  6. Building the Perfect Beast
  7. All She Wants to Do is Dance
  8. A Month of Sundays
  9. Sunset Grill
  10. Drivin’ With Your Eyes Closed
  11. Land of the Living

Don Henley

Don Henley- lead vocals, percussion (tracks 5,6,9), drums (tracks 2-4,7), keyboards (track 6)

Danny ‘Kootch’ Kortchmar- guitars, organ (4), synthesizers (tracks 1,3,6), percussion (tracks 6,9,10), keyboards (9), synthesizer guitar and horn solos (8), ormichard (4), horns (3)

Additional Musicians

Mike Campbell- guitar, synthesizer track 1

Lyndsey Buckingham- guitar, backing vocals track 2

Charlie Sexton- guitar track 3

Tim Drummond- bass (tracks 4&5)

Pino Pallindino- bass (tracks 2,9,10)

Larry Klein- bass track 1

Jim Keltner- drums track 8

Ian Wallace- drums track 5

Kevin McCormick- African drums track 6

Randy Newman- synthesizer track 8

David Paich- synthesizer (track 7) piano (track 4 & 8)

Steve Porcaro- synthesizer (track 1 &4)

Benmont Tench- synthesizer (track 8), keyboards (track 2&5)

Albhy Galuten- synthesizer, Synclavier track 6

Michael Boddicker- synthesizer track 8

Bill Cuomo- synthesizer, percussion track 10

Backing Vocals:

Belinda Carlisle- track 3

Michael O’Donahue, Waddy Watchel, JD Souther, Carla Olson- track 6

Patty Smyth- track 6, 8-10

Martha Davis- tracks 6&7

Marie Pascale Elfman, Dominique Manicelli- track 9

Sam Moore- track 4

Brian Dear, I owe you a thanks for giving me this classic Don Henley album to listen to. Otherwise, I would have been enslaved to my ignorance that “Building the Perfect Beast” was another 80s synth pop album. It is clearly not and full marks to Don for it.

Next post: The Wrestling Album

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Great Rock Albums of 1985: Giuffira

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

A band that caught mine and many other people’s attention was Giuffria with their self titled debut album. The band was originally formed as a side project by keyboards player Greg Giuffria after he left his former band Angel. A band I had heard great things about back in the day but never got around to listening to. Back to Giuffria, their first single, “Call to the Heart” did get a lot of airplay and according to recorded history, number fifteen in the charts. It was one of those ballads that the ladies seemed to really like but it had some good progressive rock hooks as well as a guitar solo to grab the attention of men. If I’m honest, I liked the song but it really wasn’t heavy enough for me.

Everything that Giuffria was capable of doing can be found in the opening track of the album, “Do Me Right.” It starts with some classic 1970s sounding progressive rock via a great keyboard intro. Then the song carries on with some great vocals backed up by a more than capable rhythm section before guitarist Craig Goldy hammers out his best solo on the album. It’s definitely my favourite track.

The two hardest tracks on the album are “Don’t Tear Me Down” and “Dance” and it is probably a good thing that those two songs were back to back after the forementioned ballad. It proved to doubters that they could rock as much as anyone. Things go slightly softer and more melodic, bordering on commercial after that with the remainder of the songs, “Turn Me On” being the harder rocking exception. Goldy and Giuffria really cook with guitar and keyboard on that one. “The Awakening” is rather amusing, with the children’s choir and keyboards giving it that Saturday horror film feel. Saying that, the talent of this band pulls up the quality  of each song making them more enjoyable.

No matter what you think of the songs, you can’t deny that this was one talented band. David Glen Eisley had a voice that was as good as many lead singers in that day. The keyboard skills of Greg Giuffria show themselves in every song. Chuck Wright and Alan Krigger are very good rhythm section and as for the guitarist, Craig Goldy, his playing on the album leaves me to conclude that it was no wonder why he was head hunted to join Dio a year later.

Track Listing:

  1. Do Me Right
  2. Call to the Heart
  3. Don’t Tear Me Down
  4. Dance
  5. Lonely in Love
  6. Trouble Again
  7. Turn Me On
  8. Line of Fire
  9. The Awakening
  10. Out of the Blue

Giuffira

David Glen Eisley- lead vocals, keyboards, harmonica

Greg Giuffria- keyboards, backing vocals

Craig Goldy- guitar

Chuck Wright- bass, backing vocals

Alan Krigger- drums, percussion

While doing a bit of research for the post, I had one rumour from 1985 quashed. In said year, Giuffria went on tour supporting legends Deep Purple. The rumour was that Purple kicked them off the tour because Giuffria was blowing them away every night. I have always found that hard to believe, especially as I saw Deep Purple in this year and they were superb. From what I’ve read, Ritchie Blackmore was a bit of an a””hole towards the band. He cut their stage time from 45 minutes nearly in half to 25, forbade them to play any guitar solos and they had to play with the arena lights on. Therefore, they left the tour on their own accord and I don’t blame them. While I missed my chance to see them live, this album is a good fall back.

Next post: Don Henley- Building the Perfect Beast

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Great Rock Albums of 1985: John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band- Tough All Over

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2018 by 80smetalman

Jon Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band was probably the biggest flash in the pan in 1985 but that didn’t stop their album, “Tough All Over,” from being good. Their first act of notoriety was to have a couple of songs, which they’re more known for on the soundtrack of the film “Eddie and the Cruisers.” Most of you who were living in the USA around this time might remember their two hits from that soundtrack, “On the Dark Side” and “The Warm Tender Years.” In fact, the band has been so identified with that film that many people thought that the title of the film was the actual name of the band. No, Eddie and the Cruisers has always been a fictitious band from the film. I’ve never seen the film but I have heard that there is a scene filmed along a road called Bay Avenue in Somers Point, NJ, where I lived for a year and was the next town over after I moved. Maybe I should watch it.

A shot of Bay Avenue in Somers Point

“Tough All Over” was the John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown’s attempt to break away from their association with the film and prove they could make good music on their own. In my most humble opinion, the album does prove that they are capable of making good music without the aid of a movie soundtrack. This is a good progressive, melodic rock album and I can definitely hear the comparisons made to Bruce Springsteen at the time. The best example of this is “Dixieland,” which starts with a cool sax solo but the entire song, the tempo, the vocals all permeate Bruce Springsteen. Many of the other tracks follow this vein but not quite as pronounced as “Dixieland.”

While Bruce might be an influence here, there is enough to say that the band aren’t just clones of the Boss. The title track and “Where the Action is” are catchy melodic rock vibes that can go on inside your head after the song finishes. “More Than Just One of the Boys” has a good opening riff and speaking of openers, “Voice of America’s Sons” does the job very well. The final two tracks are more bluesy mellower tunes but they do end the album okay. So, what you get here is a good melodic feel good rock album which doesn’t have me pining for any past soundtracks.

Track Listing:

  1. Voice of America’s Sons
  2. Tough All Over
  3. C-I-T-Y
  4. Where the Action Is
  5. Dixieland
  6. Strangers in Paradise
  7. Small Town Girl
  8. More Than Just One of the Boys
  9. Tex-Mex(Crystal Blue)

John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band

John Cafferty- lead vocals, guitar

Gary Gramolini- lead guitar

Patrick Lupo- bass

Kenny Jo Silva- drums

Bobby Catoia- piano, keyboards, synthesizers

Michael ‘Tunes’ Antunes- saxophone

And I thought I’d throw in a classic from Eddie and the Cruisers

Was it the association with the film? Was it because some thought they sounded too much like Bruce Springsteen? Or was it because that in 1985, the music world was divulging too much into synth pop and metal and there was no room for a straightforward melodic rock band? Whatever the reason, although I now know they had an album in 1988, I never heard from John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band again. However, this album “Tough All Over” was good enough for me to remember it after so many years.

Next post: John Fogerty- Centerfield

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Great Rock Albums of 1985: The Firm

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2018 by 80smetalman

For a good number of people in 1985, The Firm were considered a disappointment. This was because many people, including yours truly, thought that a band with both Paul Rodgers and Jimmy Page in it was going to be some sort of Led Zeppelin/Bad Company hybrid. The Firm’s debut album certainly wasn’t that. What Rodgers and Page did was make their own unique music with the help of a great rhythm section featuring Tony Franklin and Chris Slade.

The album’s first single, “Radioactive,” put many metalheads off exploring them more. This is a shame because I knew that there would be better things to come on the album and I was right. This is not to say that there isn’t anything wrong with “Radioactive,” it’s a good song in it’s own right. It was just the fact that many people were expecting the song to be the love child of “Stairway to Heaven” and “Bad Company” and “Radioactive” doesn’t come close. I still like the song.

Once one has thrown away their expectations of what they thought this album was going to sound like and listen to it with an open mind, one would find that it’s a damn good album. Okay, it’s definitely not heavy metal, more of a straight forward rock album and if you listen closely, you can still hear some Bad Company influence. Especially in the songs “Make or Break, which is the hidden gem and “Satisfaction Guaranteed.” Furthermore, while Jimmy Page doesn’t nail down the solos like in the old Zeppelin classics like “Stairway” or “Whole Lotta Love,” he still shows he can wail on the guitar. It’s just with The Firm, it’s not as pronounced like it was with his former band. “Money Can’t Buy” is a fine example.

Proof that Rodgers, Page, Franklin and Slade were determined to forge their own path in the rock world is their cover of the Righteous Brothers classic, “You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” The coolest part in the song is Jimmy’s guitar solo supported by Tony on the fretless bass, good stuff. Also, Paul’s vocals are as good as ever on every song on this album.

Track Listing:

  1. Closer
  2. Make or Break
  3. Someone to Love
  4. Together
  5. Radioactive
  6. You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling
  7. Money Can’t Buy
  8. Satisfaction Guaranteed
  9. Midnight Moonlight

Paul Rodgers- lead vocals, guitars

Jimmy Page- lead guitar

Tony Franklin- bass, keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals

Chris Slade- drums, percussion

Does anyone have a time machine I could borrow? If so, I would like to go back in time and say to all of those people who rejected The Firm back in 1985 because they didn’t sound like former bands, “Look, they’re not like Bad Company or Led Zeppelin, get over it!” Because their first album shows what they can do on their own.

Next post: John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band- Tough All Over

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Great Rock Albums of 1985: David Lee Roth- Crazy From the Heat

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2018 by 80smetalman

Here’s a thought, I wonder if David Lee Roth had some sort of deal with MTV back in 1984 and 85. The first video shown on the channel in 1984 was  the debut video for Van Halen’s “Jump.” One year later, the first video shown in the new year for 1985 was from the video from David’s solo album, “Crazy From the Heat,” the Beach Boys’ classic, “California Girls.” This seems too much of a coincidence for me and I wonder if David did have some sort of deal with MTV.

The first noticeable thing about “California Girls” is that it sounds nothing like the Beach Boys nor Van Halen. David puts his own spin on the song and I think he does a very good job on it. That is if you cast aside the predictable girls in bikinis video for the song. He sings very well on not just this but all songs even if sometimes one can’t take him seriously. On the other three songs on this four song EP, he departs even further from what he did with Van Halen and heavy metal in general.

With two of the remaining three songs, David tries to be a 1940s era type big band singer. Always being more the showman as opposed to the singer, his personality does burst through more than his vocal ability but he does sing very well on it. Full credit, he’s a more versatile singer than what he was often given credit for back then or even today. As for the final song, “Coconut Grove” I have always had trouble getting into that one but the reason is not down to David. Three of the four songs are good for me and it doesn’t matter that the entire EP is less than fourteen minutes.

Track Listing:

  1. Easy Street
  2. Medley: Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody
  3. California Girls
  4. Coconut Grove

David Lee Roth

David Lee Roth- vocals

Dean Parks- guitar on “Coconut Grove”

Eddie Martinez, Sid McGinnis- guitars

Willie Weeks- bass

John Robinson- drums

Sammy Figueroa- percussion

James Newton Howard- keyboards on “Coconut Grove”

Edgar Winter- keyboards, saxophone, backing vocals on tracks 1&2

Brian Mann- keyboards

Carl Wilson, Christopher Cross- backing vocals on “California Girls”

David Lee Roth’s debut solo album sparked a lot of rumours in regards to his relationship with Van Halen. It has been said that the success of “Crazy From the Heat” inspired him to go solo. Maybe it did. All I know that this is a cool little album.

Next post: The Firm

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