Archive for synth pop

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: Loverboy- Keep It Up

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2016 by 80smetalman

KeepitupLB

Before I begin, let me thank a gentleman named Damien for coming in with the big save. While my memory of the 1980s is pretty good or at least I like to think so, there have been some big albums I have probably missed out. If it hadn’t been for Damien, I would have missed out on the live Pat Benatar album and the “Keep It Up” album from Loverboy.

The first two tracks from the album brought all of the memories flooding back to me. I remember “Hot Girls in Love” back in the day and thought it was a really cool song, it still is and I curse my memory for letting it slip. The same with “Strike Zone.” This is one of the harder songs on the album and takes me back to their first album. I do like the guitar work on this song, praise be to Paul Dean on it. Probably why it’s my favourite track on the album.

Many of the other songs on “Keep It Up” in my mind, attempt to straddle the line between 1970s progressive rock and 1980s synth pop. Take track three for instance. “It’s Never Easy” has a really cool progressive style keyboard intro and has me thinking, well done. Then the song goes into that pop sort of feel and this seems to be accented by the vocals. I don’t know if Mike Reno is trying to sing a ballad or a rock song here. Still the song is redeemed with another great Dean guitar solo and it ends with the progressive keyboards that match the beginning.

“Queen of the Broken Hearts” is another example. A good song but for me it’s a case of Meatloaf’s “I’ll Do Anything for Love” meets Loverboy’s own “Working for the Weekend” from the “Get Lucky” album.  It might sound like a strange combination here but somehow it works and works well. I think that’s the theme of “Keep It Up.” It is more keyboarded and not as hard rock as Loverboy’s previous two albums but it’s still enjoyable.

Track Listing:

  1. Hot Girls in Love
  2. Strike Zone
  3. It’s Never Easy
  4. Chance of a Lifetime
  5. Queen of the Broken Hearts
  6. Prime of Your Life
  7. Passion Pit
  8. One Sided Love Affair
  9. Meltdown
Loverboy

Loverboy

Mike Reno- vocals

Paul Dean- guitar, vocals

Doug Johnson- keyboards

Scott Smith- bass, vocals

Matt Frenette- drums

Loverboy’s third album is not quite as good as the first two but it’s still a good album nonetheless. While the attempt to straddle the line isn’t completely successful, it’s not a failure. If it wasn’t for the over saturation of keyboards, this would be a good hard rocking album. Still, at least I got to rekindle the memory of “Hot Girls in Love.”

Next post: Bonnie Tyler- Faster Than The Speed of Night

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

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Great Rock Albums of 1983: Stevie Nicks- The Wild Heart

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 5, 2016 by 80smetalman

220px-Wild_heart

When I first heard the first single, “Stand Back,” to Stevie Nicks’s 1983 album, “The Wild Heart,” I have to admit that I was rather blown away. There was an energy behind this song that I can’t explain, especially as it’s not done with hard guitar power chords. Her voice matches this song very well and please, no comments about Stevie sounding like a sheep. Needless to say, “Stand Back” is my all time favourite Stevie Nicks song but I often wonder how it would sound if it guitars dominated the supporting music as opposed to keyboards and of course a cranking guitar solo.

Keyboards is the theme of “The Wild Heart” album since it was the oncoming trend of the decade. However, having the quality musicians who play on the album, the keyboards are  done intelligently. Then again, all of the songs have the same quality musicianship in each of them. The title track opens things very well and sets the tone for the rest of the album. This is quickly followed by the second single from the album, “If Anyone Falls.” Not a bad song, very over done with the keyboards but it doesn’t hold a candle to “Stand Back.” “Gate and Garden” is more of a ballad but there is a guitar solo on it and that saves the song. An interesting note is the track, “Enchanted.” This song is reminiscent of the song “Dreams” from the classic Fleetwood Mac “Rumours” album.

After my favourite song, Stevie once again teams up with Tom Petty like she did on her previous album, “Belladonna.” Written by Petty, “I Will Run to You” opens with a promising guitar riff but for me, it doesn’t quite have the magic they produced on “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” but it does have a few catchy hooks, so it’s not a bad song. The rockiest song here is “Nothing Ever Changes.” The only song where I can hear guitar over the keyboards. Then again, Don Felder does play guitar on the track and is allowed to play a small solo but it is the saxophone that stands out the most for this track. “Nothing Ever Changes” is the climax to the album because the final two songs don’t really do anything for me.

Track Listing:

  1. The Wild Heart
  2. If Anyone Falls
  3. Gate and Garden
  4. Enchanted
  5. Nightbird
  6. Stand Back
  7. I Will Run to You
  8. Nothing Ever Changes
  9. Sable on Blonde
  10. Beauty and the Beast
Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks- vocals

Lori Nicks- backing vocals

Sharon Celani- backing vocals

Guest Musicians

Tom Petty- guitar, vocals on track 7

Sandy Stewart- piano, keyboards, backing vocals on tracks 1,3,5,6,8,9

Mike Campbell- guitar on track 7

Benmont Trench- keyboards, organ on tracks 3-5, 7

Howie Epstein- bass on track 7

Stan Lynch- drums on track 7

Mick Fleetwood- drums on track 9

Steve Lukather- drums on track 6

Don Felder- guitar on track 8

Prince- keyboards on track 6

There were many session musicians on the album as well but the list would be extremely long.

In 1983, Stevie Nicks was probably the most successful of the members of Fleetwood Mac on solo projects, probably the most successful of all time. What was best about her voice was that it could stretch to sing a range of music. While she shows this with “The Wild Heart” album, I often wonder what she would sound like with a metal band.

Next post: Heart- Passionworks

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

 

Great Rock Albums of 1983: Joe Jackson- Night and Day

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, television, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2016 by 80smetalman

220px-Night_and_day_JJ

What I liked about the “Night and Day” album by Joe Jackson in 1983 was the fact that it was different. While rock was busy dividing and sub-dividing itself into categories and sub categories, including my beloved heavy metal, Joe went out and made an album that you really can’t put anywhere. Of course, as was the style of the time, so called music officianadoes simply called it new wave. That is very lazy in my humble opinion. I just appreciate it the album because it was so unique although the fine musicianship of Joe and his band had something to do with it as well.

My first experience with Joe Jackson came a year earlier with the song many know him best for, “Is She Really Going Out With Him.” Why I never visited any of his previous albums, I’ll never know but it was the “Night and Day” album that made an impression on me. Funny thing is that this album is a contrast to the mentioned song as that song is more of a hard rock tune and this album has definite hints of jazz and combined with some of the sarcasm with some of the lyrics, reminds me a little of the great Frank Zappa.

Let’s start with what many people know, the two singles “Steppin’ Out” and “Breaking Us in Two.” In 1983, a lot of people played the former song before going on nights out and I don’t blame them. It is a great song to get you in the mood. The latter song is more of a ballad type and I get the impression that it’s about a relationship on the rocks. While slower than the other songs on the album, it’s definitely not soppy and is a decent song.

Singles aside, the rest of the album holds up very well. All songs are definitely played very well here. Many of them are piano dominated with his best efforts heard on the track “Cancer,” one of my favourites on the album. He just goes to town on the ivories for the final two or three minutes of the song. Furthermore, I love the assertion the song makes that every thing will be found to cause cancer. The way scientists are going on these days, that song is a bit of a prophecy fulfilled. He also sarcastically sings about television in with “T.V. Age” and “Real Men” was written in response to the emerging gay community in New York. As you have probably guessed by now, I do take a specific interest in albums’ opening and closing songs. For me, they can make or break an album. Both of the positioned tracks on “Night and Day” pass my mark. “Another World” grabs your attention from the start and “A Slow Song” takes the album out on a sublime note. Overall, this album is proof that music didn’t need to be categorized to be good.

Track Listing:

  1. Another World
  2. Chinatown
  3. TV Age
  4. Target
  5. Steppin’ Out
  6. Breaking Us in Two
  7. Cancer
  8. Real Men
  9. A Slow Song
Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson- vocals, pianos, organ, alto saxophone, harmonica, synthesizer, vibraphone

Sue Hadjopoulos- flute, percussion, congas, xylophone, timbale, bells, bongos, backing vocals

Graham Maby- bass, percussion, backing vocals

Grace Milan- vocals

Ed Roynesdal- keyboards, violin

Larry Tolfree- timbale, percussion, drums

Richard Torre- percussion, clave, bongos, cowbell

Al Weisman- vocals

There’s a very interesting thing about the “Night and Day” album. As you go through the list of musicians on it, there’s not one guitar mentioned. Normally, the metalhead in me would scream, “Wot, no guitars!” That leads to another question: How can an album not have any guitars on it and sound this good? The answer is down to the musical genius that is Joe Jackson.

Next post: Golden Earring- Cut

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Great Rock Albums of 1983: Marillion- Script For a Jester’s Tear

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2016 by 80smetalman

Marillion_-_Script_for_a_Jester's_Tear

I had heard of Marillion in 1983 but didn’t actually hear them until their 1985, “Misplaced Childhood” album made a major breakthrough in the US. Even then, it would be another two years before I listened to their back catalog, which included this, their debut album, “Script for a Jester’s Tear.” I have to thank my first wife for giving me this opportunity as it was her albums that help me appreciate their early work. Actually, Marillion was the first concert we saw together as husband and wife but that story is better for another day.

One of my on going rants here on 80smetalman is that the progressive rock of the 1970s descended into the synth pop of the 1980s. I still believe this but somebody forgot to tell Marillion this was the case. “Script for a Jester’s Tear” proved that there was still some good progressive rock to be found in the 1980s. In fact, I will go as far as to say that legends from the decade before such as Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes, (I’ll be visiting an album of theirs in the near future) would be glad that Marillion carried on the torch of progressive rock far into a decade where it wasn’t as widely appreciated.

In the true spirit of progressive rock, the shortest track on the album is just a mere five minutes and twenty nine seconds, that track is “He Knows You Know.” It’s also why that song was released as a single. The next shortest track is over seven minutes long and the remaining ones are all more than eight. In each of those tracks, there is the great keyboard work of Mark Kelly in tandem with some impressive guitar playing from Steve Rothery. Those two elements are strongly supported by the rhythm section and the unmistakable voice of lead singer, Fish. They make all of those tracks ones where you just want to kick back and listen and just appreciate the musical efforts of the band. All good tracks but my personal favourite has to be “Garden Party,” most likely for the acoustic guitar followed by hard rock intro. One other point is that at the time, the track “Chelsea Monday” was criticised for having nonsense lyrics. If they do, who cares? The music, especially Rothery’s guitar solo more than compensates.

Track Listing:

  1. Script for a Jester’s Tear
  2. He Knows You Know
  3. The Web
  4. Garden Party
  5. Chelsea Monday
  6. Forgotten Sons
Marillion

Marillion

Fish- vocals

Steve Rothery- guitar

Mark Kelly- keyboards

Pete Trewavas- bass

Mick Pointer- drums

I think what Marillion achieved in 1983 was to provide a common ground for trendies who were able to look beyond what synth pop was offering and metalheads like me who still appreciate a bit of melody. For those, Marillion’s debut album has it all. The paradox is that while “Script for a Jester’s Tear” was a huge success in the UK, it hardly made a dent in the US. Then again, I’ll be visiting another UK band who in the same year, had an album that went multi- platinum in the US but only sold about 17 copies in the UK.

Next post: Big Country- The Crossing

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Great Rock Albums of 1983: Peter Gabriel- Security

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2016 by 80smetalman

Security_-_Peter_Gabriel

To be perfectly honest, Peter Gabriel pretty much escaped my listening ears throughout most of the 1980s. The reason was that by 1983, I was a full fledged metalhead and he was too soft for me. Sure, I heard some of his stuff compliments of radio, including, “Shock the Monkey,” the big hit from this album, “Security” and his 1980 hit, “Games Without Frontiers” continues to be my favourite song of his. It wasn’t until 1990, when my then wife, asked for his “Greatest Hits” album for Christmas, that I really started listening to him and that is the reason why I am posting about the “Security” album now.

This album is further proof that I might be mellowing with age a bit. I stress, a bit, just play a Slayer album and that will reinforce it. “Security” is a good progressive rock/new wave album. Note: I only call it new wave because to ignorant American record executives, anything that didn’t sound mainstream was branded such in 1983. Anyway, “Security” opens very mysteriously with “The Rhythm of the Heat,” where a subtle keyboard intro grabs your attention and fortunately, the song is strong enough to keep it. I especially like what they do with the drums at the end of the song. Those heavy drums appear again in the third track, “I Have the Touch” and are done just as nicely. Sandwiched between those two songs is the rather interesting “San Jacinto.” Listening to it, especially with the repeated lyric, “Hold the Line,” I ask myself if this song is about the battle in 1836 that gave Texas its independence from Mexico. I wonder because I’ve just finished watching the series of “Texas Rising.” Still, it’s probably the hardest song on the album, I do hear guitars on it.

Things seem to slow down after “Shock the Monkey.” The remaining songs aren’t as catchy as their predecessors but still worth listening to. “Lay Your Hands on Me” has some good moments with the chorus and what becomes the trademark heavy drums. The two combine to close out the song very memorably.

One label you can not give to this album is synth pop. Sure, keyboards dominate the album but they’re done very well. Peter Gabriel shows that he is a true talent with the songs on it, both as a singer and as a writer, leaving me to agree with several people who claim that the true talent went when he left Genesis. Having been given the “And Then There Were Three” album in 1983, I would be inclined to agree.

Track Listing:

  1. The Rhythm of the Heat
  2. San Jacinto
  3. I Have the Touch
  4. The Family and the Fishing Net
  5. Shock the Monkey
  6. Lay Your Hands on Me
  7. Wallflower
  8. Kiss of Life
Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel- vocals, electric piano, programming

Tony Levin- bass, stick

David Rhodes- guitar

Jerry Marotta- drums, percussion

Larry Fast- synthesizers

I won’t say that I’m fully converted to Peter Gabriel, but I do like this album. With what was to pass as mainstream in the golden decade, I am glad to discover that there were some artists who played true progressive rock without selling out, unlike Gabriel’s previous band.

Next post: The Police- Synchronicity

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Great Rock Albums of 1983: Missing Persons- Spring Session M

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2016 by 80smetalman

Missing_Persons_-_Spring_Session_M

Whenever someone says new wave in the 1980s, the first artist to enter my brain is Missing Persons. For me, they were everything I thought new wave was back then. They weren’t hard or heavy like metal but they didn’t sound like a trendy top forty band or even synth pop. They were completely different in a good way. Furthermore, Missing Persons was a band who could actually play well. Then again, any band that features the likes of Terry Bozzio, Warren Cuccurullo and Patrick O’Hearn has to be good. If those names sound familiar it is because these three played with Frank Zappa throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s and as we know, Zappa always had the best musicians playing for him. So it was quite clear that Missing Persons weren’t going to be a Tinseltown Rebellion band that Frank recorded a good parody about.

Before I launch into the fullness of Missing Persons’ 1983 album, “Spring Session M,” I would start with the singles from the album. The first one I heard on the radio upon my return from serving in the Far East was “Words.” My first impression of it was that the lead singer was trying to sound like a fourteen year old girl. At first, I thought it was amusing but listening behind the vocals, I heard the music and it sounded okay. The guitar wasn’t heavy on a bang your head along to it scale but enough to catch my interest. The synthesizers were used very intelligently without taking over. My conclusion was that it was a good song after all. However, the third single, “Walking in LA” has a guitar hook that definitely works and Dale Bozzio’s voice sounds much better on it. The other single, “Destination Unknown” is a more way out there song with some good keyboard hooks. Those were enough to get me to listen to the rest of the album and I wasn’t disappointed.

Dale Bozzio

Dale Bozzio

The rest of the album is as solid as the three singles. The songs are just hard enough to catch the ear of this metalhead and think, “This is okay” and the keyboards and synthesizers are done just as intelligently. Dale Bozio does not sound like a fourteen year old on the other songs, in fact her vocals are quite decent. Her best effort is on the track, “Tears.” However, the rest of the band plays consistently well throughout the entire album. The two opening tracks seem to stand out the most although “Bad Streets” is probably the closest they come to a rocker. It is the heaviest song on the album and done very well and Cuccurullo does hammer out a pretty cool guitar solo.

Track Listing:

  1. Noticeable One
  2. Windows
  3. It Ain’t None of Your Business
  4. Destination Unknown
  5. Walking in LA
  6. U.S. Drag
  7. Tears
  8. Here and Now
  9. Words
  10. Bad Streets
  11. Rock and Roll Expression
  12. No Way Out
Missing Persons

Missing Persons

Dale Bozzio- vocals

Terry Bozzio- drums, backing vocals, percussion, synthesizer

Warren Cuccurullo- guitar, backing vocals

Chuck Wild- keyboards, synthesizers

Patrick O’Hearn- bass, keyboards, synthesizers

If new wave had continued in this direction, I would have been more into it. Missing Persons were talented musicians all as shown in the album “Spring Session M.” Unfortunately, things went down hill fast after this and my musical tastes went in a harder direction.

Next post: AC/DC- Flick of the Switch

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