Archive for Mellow out 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: Glenn Frey- The Allnighter

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2018 by 80smetalman

When I begin a new year of my trip through the golden decade of heavy metal, I always start with albums that were made in the previous year but didn’t come to my attention until the said year. Because there were so many great albums in 1984, I didn’t get around to listening to a good number until 1985. One of these was “The Allnighter” from the late former Eagles guitarist/singer, Glenn Frey.

Reflecting back to early 1985, I used to wonder if I was a little unfair to both Glenn and one of his former bandmates who also released a solo album in this year. First, I was very much into all things metal and “The Allnighter” is definitely not metal. Furthermore, I was very much into the last two Eagles albums, “Hotel California” and “The Long Run” which did feature some harder rock than their early 1970s albums.

Glenn goes further away from his Eagles roots with this album as it’s a more mellower and somewhat bluesier sound. There are some ballads on here like “Let’s Go Home” and “Lover’s Moon.” Glenn’s voice has always been suited to these but it is also versatile enough for the faster songs. “Sexy Girl” is kind of in the middle here and he does sing it well. I recently heard a live version of it and it sounds better than the commercial version. However, the best song and one that I’ve come to appreciate far more in my aging years is “Smuggler’s Blues.” This song is proof that Frey can sing harder stuff, not that I had any doubt he couldn’t. What has really impressed me about it is the musicianship. Like his previous album, Glenn uses a ton of musicians on it, so I don’t know who does the guitar solos on the song but they are ace. Full marks to whoever played them. The song did feature on the mid 1980s TV show “Miami Vice.”

Track Listing:

  1. The Allnighter
  2. Sexy Girl
  3. I Got Love
  4. Somebody Else
  5. Lover’s Moon
  6. Smuggler’s Blues
  7. Let’s Go Home
  8. Better in the USA
  9. Living In Darkness
  10. New Love

Glenn Frey

Glenn Frey- lead vocals, guitar, bass, drums, piano, synthesizer

Josh Leo, Duncan Cameron- guitar

John ‘JR’ Robinson, Michael Huey, Larry Londin- drums

David Hood, Bryan Garofalo- bass

Greg Smith, Willie Bergman, Al Garth- saxophone

Vince Melamed, Allen Blazek, Barry Beckett- piano

Barry Beckett, David ‘Hawk’ Wollinski- synthesizer

Nick DeCaro- strings

Steve Foreman- percussion

Victor Feldman, Jack Tempchin, Oren Waters, Jack Galloway, Luke Waters- backing vocals

I might have mellowed a bit with age and while I like some of what’s on “The Allnighter,” it really isn’t my cup of tea. There are some good songs on it and it’s a great album to mellow out to or provide suitable background settings but I won’t put away my metal albums in favour of it.

Next post: I know I said at the beginning of the post that I’ll be starting with albums that came out originally in 1984 but I have to make an exception. Download is this weekend and I need the correct inspiration.

Kreator- Endless Pain

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Great Rock Albums of 1984: David Bowie- Tonight

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2018 by 80smetalman

Every year through the journey through the golden age of heavy metal, there is no doubt in my mind that I missed an album or two that was considered a great album in that year. One I nearly missed was the “Tonight” album from the legendary David Bowie. My (poor) excuse for this was the fact that I was so caught up in posting about all the great metal albums that this one nearly past me by.

Thinking back to said year, I remember when the single, “Blue Jean,” from the album first appeared on MTV, my reaction to the song was, “Hey, David has gone back to his more traditional roots that brought him fame, no pun intended, in the 1970s.” “Blue Jean” is considered a light rocker in my eyes and it is the best song on the album. Back then, it persuaded me that “Tonight” would be better than his previous album, “Let’s Dance,” so I went out an procured it. After a listen, I came to the conclusion that “Tonight” was better than “Let’s Dance,” but not that much better.

For the first few songs, “Tonight” sounds like it was it was preformed by a late 1970s lounge act. Everything that comprises such a thing is present in these songs. It’s definitely music to mellow out to, however, I can not fault the first rate musicianship on the songs. It is why I can say that while theses songs aren’t exactly my cup of tea, they still provide good listening to if you are in the right mood. Two prime examples are the seven minute long opener, “Loving the Alien” and his mellowed cover of the Beach Boys classic, “God Only Knows.”

For those who have “Tonight” on vinyl or cassette, side two goes in a more harder rock direction starting with “Neighbourhood Threat.” This is a decent rocker and even more harder than the single “Blue Jean” and precisely the reason why it’s the hidden gem on the album. The single comes next and things pretty much carry on from there, although the remainder of the songs aren’t quite as hard rock as these two. Saying that, I do like the horns sound in “I Keep Forgettin.'” The second side is definitely the better side for me.

Track Listing:

  1. Loving the Alien
  2. Don’t Look Down
  3. God Only Knows
  4. Tonight
  5. Neighbourhood Threat
  6. Blue Jean
  7. Tumble and Twirl
  8. I Keep Forgettin’
  9. Dancing With the Big Boys

David Bowie

David Bowie- lead vocals

Derek Bramble- guitar, synthesizers, bass, backing vocals

Carlos Alomar- guitar

Omar Hakim- drums

Carmine Rojas- bass

Mark King- bass on “Tumble and Twirl”

Rob Yale- CMI on “Loving the Alien,” “Tonight” and “God Only Knows”

Guy St Ange-marimba

Sammy Figueroa- percussion

Tina Turner- vocals on “Tonight”

Iggy Pop- backing vocals on “Dancing With the Big Boys”

Robin Clark, George Simms, Curtis King- backing vocals

The Borneo Horns:

Stanley Harrison- alto and tenor saxophones

Lenny Pickett- tenor sax, clarinet

Steve Elson- baritone saxophone

Arif Mardison- string arrangements, synthesizers

Okay, David Bowie’s 1984 album “Tonight” doesn’t make me stop wanting to listen to “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Spiders From Mars” but it is, at least in my opinion, better than his more commercial album, “Let’s Dance.” While it’s not something I would want to listen to in conjunction with any metal album, it is still a good album to lay back, mellow out and appreciate the fine playing on it.

Next post: Tank- Honour & Blood

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Great Rock Albums of 1984: Randy Newman- Trouble in Paradise

Posted in 1980s, films, Humour, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2017 by 80smetalman

Forget Toy Story, forget his controversial 1977 hit, “Short People,” my favourite Randy Newman song has always been “I Love LA,” which is the opening track on his album “Trouble in Paradise.” Released in 1983, this album didn’t come to my attention til the following year, courtesy of MTV, which is why I’m posting it here.

Alert, “Trouble in Paradise” is not an album for hardcore metalheads. Randy has always been a piano player and a very good one to say the least. His chops can be heard all throughout the album. However, there is one guitar solo on it. It appears on the track, “The Blues,” and is played by Steve Lukather of Toto fame. An additional bonus to this song is that he duets with Paul Simon on it and both do a fine job.

Many of Randy Newman’s songs have an air of humour about them. With this album, “Same Girl” and “My Life is Good” are good, funny tracks and I have always been tickled by some of the lyrics in “Miami.” “Miami, Blue day, best dope in the world and it’s free.” However, he has a serious side. To my knowledge, the track “Christmas in Capetown” was the first song to talk about the Apartheid in South Africa. He deserves full kudos for that. “Real Emotional Girl” is more of a serious ballad as well.

Many guest artists appear on “Trouble in Paradise” including the two who appear on the track, “The Blues.” Of all the tracks, I do love the backing  vocals from Jennifer Warnes, Wendy Waldman and Linda Ronstadt on “I’m Different.” For me, while Randy is his normal self on the song, it’s the backing vocals from these three ladies who really make this song shine for me. Definitely the second best track on the album.

Track Listing:

  1. I Love LA
  2. Christmas in Capetown
  3. The Blues
  4. Same Girl
  5. Mikey’s
  6. My Life is Good
  7. Miami
  8. Real Emotional Girl
  9. Take Me Back
  10. There’s a Party at My House
  11. I’m Different
  12. Song for the Dead

Randy Newman

Randy Newman- vocals, piano

Steve Lukather- guitar

Jennifer Warnes- vocals

Don Henley- vocals

Larry Williams- horns

Steve Madalo- horns

Jon Smith- horns

Ralph Grierson- piano

Neil Larson- piano

David Paich- keyboards

Michael Boddicker- keyboards

Nathan East- bass

Jeff Porcaro- drums

Larry Castro- percussion

Paulinho Da Costa- percussion

Christine McVie- backing vocals

Wendy Waldman- backing vocals

Lindsey Buckingham- backing vocals

Bob Seger- backing vocals

Linda Rondstadt- backing vocals

Rickie Lee Jones- backing vocals

Paul Simon- vocals on “The Blues”

Waddy Watchell- guitar

I won’t say that “Trouble in Paradise” is a great album to mellow out to but it does have its moments there. While Randy Newman is not as zany as Weird Al Yankovic, there is a good deal of humour if you listen for it. It’s a good album just to sit back and enjoy.

Next post; The Cars- Heartbeat City

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Great Pop Albums of 1984: Julian Lennon- Valotte

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2017 by 80smetalman

I’m taking a lead from a post from Rich and posting about one of my not guilty pleasures. By 1984, I was in full heavy metal mode and it might surprise some that I would even entertain a pop sounding album. My counter is that having been (and still am) a big fan of The Beatles, I thought an album by the son of the great John Lennon, whose life had been so tragically snuffed out just over three years prior, was worth a listen. To be frank, I do like Julian Lennon’s debut album, “Valotte.” While it’s called pop on Wikapedia, I have always and will continue to call it mellow out rock because that’s what it exactly is.

Julian’s old man’s influence can be heard straight away on the opening title track of the album and its head rises now and again throughout the album. My first reaction to the opening track was that he was trying to sound like his father and while there isn’t anything wrong with that, I was wondering on my first listen way back then that would there be any originality from the son. I can say there is. On the track, “On the Phone,” there is a venture near the waters of progressive rock and I do like the intro. The next track “Space” is an appropriate title for that song, It does sound rather spacey and goes even further into the prog rock zone.

“Well I Don’t Know” is for sure a pop tune but it does have the only true guitar solo I can discern on the album. (There is some lead guitar bridges in other songs but that’s all.) Unfortunately, as I am no longer in possession of the album and Wikapedia doesn’t say which guitarist plays the solo, we’ll never know. The next pop song is the big single from “Valotte” called “Too Late for Goodbyes,” which got a lot of play on radio and MTV at the time. Listening to it again after so many years, I do notice that he does walk the tightrope between sounding commercial pop and his father’s influences rather well. It is probably the best tune for a radio hit. But I much like better, songs like “Lonely” with the cool sax solo which is the highlight of this mellow tune. “Say You’re Wrong” goes more into 80s synth pop and while not terrible, is unspectacular. “Jesse” is the hardest track on “Valotte.” It’s not heavy, not even close, but there is an upbeat tempo and some cool guitar bridges on it. The closer, “Let Me Be” is interesting. It’s a kind of ragtime piano tune that’s only just over two minutes but it is the best way to close the album out. I think Julian might have been going for a non serious exit here.

Track Listing:

  1. Valotte
  2. O.K. for You
  3. On the Phone
  4. Space
  5. Well I Don’t Know
  6. Too Late for Goodbyes
  7. Lonely
  8. Say You’re Wrong
  9. Jesse
  10. Let Me Be

Julian Lennon

Julian Lennon- lead and backing vocals, bass, keyboards, drums

Justin Clayton- guitar

Carlton Morales- guitar

Barry Beckett- keyboards

David Lebolt- keyboards

Peter Wood- keyboards

Roger Hawkins- drums

Steve Holley- drums, percussion

David Hood- bass

Marcus Miller- bass

Carmine Rojas- bass

Robert Mac Donald- percussion

Rory Dodd- backing vocals

Eric Taylor- backing vocals

Jon Faddis- trumpet

Joe Shepley- trumpet

Michael Brecker- saxophone

George Young- saxophone

Lawrence Feldman- saxophone

Ron Cuber- saxophone

Guest Musicians

Jean ‘Toots’ Theilmans- harmonica on “Too Late For Goodbyes”

Martin Briley- guitar on “Too Late For Goodbyes”

Dennis Herring- guitar on “Jesse”

In one respect, Julian Lennon couldn’t win with the critics on “Valotte.” The either said he was trying to be too much like his father or not enough. While his father’s influence is there, he does have his own stamp on the album, even if it is a very mellow album. While I wouldn’t listen to it travelling to or from Bloodstock, if I was younger, I would use it in the same ways teenage boys used “Beth” by KISS in the 1970s or “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” in the late 80s. The album is all right.

Next post: The Alarm- Declaration

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Great? Rock Albums of 1983: Chris DeBurgh- The Getaway

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2016 by 80smetalman

The_Getaway

Don’t bother scrolling down to see if I’ve written “April Fool” at the bottom of the post, I am seriously posting about this album because I actually bought it in 1983. There is a cautionary moral to my tale. Throughout my entire record buying life, I had one record buying rule: Never buy an entire album on account of one song. This rule has probably saved me lots of money over the years  but one time, in 1983, I broke my rule and the result was Chris DeBurgh, “The Getaway.”

In May of that year, Chris’s best known hit, “Don’t Pay the Ferryman” got a considerable amount of airplay on the radio and I liked it. I liked the rather rock sounding lead guitar breaks between the verses along with fantasy quest sounding lyrics. Plus I liked eerie introduction to the song, the keyboards and acoustic guitar got my attention straight away. My point, “Don’t Pay the Ferryman” is a decent rock song. Now, I could blame it on my lack of living space whilst still in the marines as normally, I would have bought the song on 45. (Remember those?) However, I didn’t want to risk the record breaking while packed with all my stuff for that final trip home, so I bought “The Getaway” on cassette.

In tradition of the time, “Don’t Pay the Ferryman” opens the album. The joke here is that I could have stopped the tape there but I didn’t. Sometimes, I think that maybe I should have. After the big hit, the next three songs are totally mellow out love song ballad type things. None of them really grabs my interest. Then things speed up for the next two songs. Both “The Getaway” and “Ship to Shore” are not ballads but still not rock. They are both trendy pop songs and though I’ve heard worse, nothing to get excited about. Then after another ballad, things take a slightly interesting turn.

“The Borderline” is a ballad but the lyrics are quite interesting. The song is about two lovers who live in neighbouring countries who are about to go to war. Since the nations of Europe fought like cats and dogs from the fall of the Roman Empire until World War 2, this situation probably happened a lot. Another nice surprise is as the song nears the end, you are treated to a rather decent guitar solo. The credits don’t say who plays it but hats of to whoever it was. After “Where Peaceful Waters Flow,” which sounds like it has a choir harmonizing on it, comes the closer in three parts. The beginning called “Revolution” sets the song up for its glorious middle where that guitarist gets to shine again on “Light a Fire.” This part is the rockingest on the album and maybe a metal band should cover just those two minutes. Then in typical fashion on the album, “Liberty” is another ballad to end the song, except I have come to like the keyboard exit that ends the album in a eerie manner similar to how the album started. So, with “The Getaway,” we have a good beginning and a half decent end to the album. It’s just the in between that lets it down.

Track Listing:

  1. Don’t Pay the Ferryman
  2. The Island
  3. Crying and Laughing
  4. I’m Counting on You
  5. The Getaway
  6. Ship to Shore
  7. All the Love I Have Inside
  8. The Borderline
  9. Where Peaceful Waters Flow
  10. Revolution
  11. Light a Fire
  12. Liberty
Chris DeBurgh

Chris DeBurgh

Chris DeBurgh- vocals, guitar, piano

Rupert Hine- synthesizers, percussion, backing vocals

Jim Giblin- bass

Steve Negus- drums

Phil Palmer- guitars

Dave Caddick- piano on I’m Counting on You

Tim Wynveen- guitars

Anthony Thistlewaite- saxophone

Steven W Tayler- woodwinds, saxophone

Nigel Warren-Green- cello

Anthony Head, Sue Wilkinson, Diane Davison, Miriam Stockley- backing vocals

I have come to this conclusion, I theorize that Chris DeBurgh had the potential to be a great rock singer. Instead, he sang ballads and other mellow out songs. “The Getaway” is evidence of both. Still don’t do what I did and buy this album on account of a really good opening song.

Next post: Modern English- After the Snow

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Great Rock Albums of 1983: Todd Rundgren- The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2016 by 80smetalman

220px-Toddruntgrenbang

The first time I heard the song “Bang On the Drum All Day” by Todd Rundgren on the radio, I thought, “This is great! Todd is back.” I have been a big Todd Rundgren fan since 1978 when a friend enlightened me to the “Something/Anything” album. Adding to the euphoria brought on by listening to that album, he then released the “Hermit of Mink Hollow” album in said year. If I wasn’t a Rundgren convert before, I certainly was after hearing both of those great albums. Therefore, it was a no-brainer that I would be obtaining his newest offering in 1983.

toddsa

trhomh

In a fairy tale world, I would be telling you how great “The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect” is. Unfortunately, it’s not. It lacks the versatility that I have always liked Todd for. On the two previously mentioned albums, there is lots of progressive rock, hard rock, ballads and even a little heavy metal. “Metal?” you ask. Just listen to the track “Out of Control” off the “Hermit of Mink Hollow” album and you’ll see what I mean. Another thing great about Todd’s previous albums is that he brings a bit of humour to some of the songs on both. However, on this album, the only evidence of that is on the track “Emperor of the Highway,” which is the second best track behind “Bang On the Drum All Day.”

The funny thing is that the first four tracks all start off with a very catchy introduction but each of those tracks quickly turn bland after and one loses interest. They are all very keyboard dominated and pretty much sound the same. “Tin Soldier” picks things up a little and it’s the third best track. Then comes to the two best tracks and they redeem the album from the previous blandness. Sadly though, the last two tracks are a big let down following the big single. Maybe Todd should have made “Bang On the Drum All Day” the closer, it would have worked in my humble opinion.

In defense of Todd, now, unlike the Motorhead album, reading a little of the background history to this album was a good thing as far as Mr Rundgren is concerned. It turns out that “The Ever Tortured Artist Effect” was a contractual obligation album. Therefore, he didn’t put the time and effort into it as he did with his better albums. This would be his last album with Bearsville Records. So, with this new evidence taken into consideration, I can let him slide for this album not measuring up to the previous ones.

Track Listing:

  1. Hideaway
  2. Influenza
  3. Don’t Hurt Yourself
  4. There Goes Your Baybay
  5. Tin Soldier
  6. Emperor of the Highway
  7. Bang on the Drum All Day
  8. Drive
  9. Chant

thumbnail

Todd Rundgren- All instruments, vocals and production

All in all, “The Ever Tortured Artist Effect” isn’t horrible. It’s just not nearly as great as his best albums. Then again, when you record an album simply because you have to, it probably won’t be as good and you won’t put your best effort into it. Let it be known that my feelings for the posted album in no way detract from my assertion that Todd Rundgren should be in the Rock Hall of Fame.

On a separate note, when I learned about Lemmy’s passing last week, I thought that the metal hating UK newspaper, The Sun, would say little if anything at all about it. To my surprise, there was two pages dedicated to the great man and his contribution to music over the past forty years. Before we get to excited, one of the contributors did write about Lemmy’s limited vocal capability. He misses the point, Lemmy’s voice was perfect for the songs he sang. Let’s hear Olly Muirs try to sing “Ace of Spades.” Then again, the skeptic in me thinks that the main reason the paper ran so much about Lemmy is because he is seen as a British icon.

thesun

Next post: Bryan Adams- Cuts Like A Knife

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Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London.