Archive for synth pop

Great Rock Albums of 1985: Jeff Beck- Flash

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2018 by 80smetalman

For many years leading up to 1985, I was always intending to explore the work of Jeff Beck. One guy I knew from high school was heavily into him and when I was in the service, one of my fellow marines remarked, “That white boy can really play a guitar.” However for some reason, I never got around to listening to him. At least until 1985 when I heard about this album.

Jeff Beck’s “Flash” album was one of the very few albums I bought because of MTV. The single, “People Get Ready,” which featured Rod Stewart on the vocals got considerable airplay. What I liked about the song was the fact that Rod’s vocals went very well with Jeff’s guitar work although I knew that from Rod’s album from the previous year. However, in this video, Jeff doesn’t pop up in a hotel room to play his guitar solo.

Most of the album does conform to what was then a more commercial 1980’s sound although I won’t go as far as to call any track here synth pop. The closest tracks to that are the opener, “Ambitious” but I hear a hint of reggae in that song and the instrumental, “Escape.” One reason I wouldn’t call the latter song synth pop is because Jan Hammer assumes the keyboards duties on that track and he and Jeff make some interesting music.  In each of those songs though, he does with a guitar what he does best and flails away with some great licks. The remainder of the album, bar one song, goes more funk. “Stop Look and Listen” and “Get Workin'” are prime examples here and while good, Jeff’s guitar solos make them sound even better.

Now let’s talk about my favourite track on the album. The second track, “Gets Us All in the End” is a true rocker in every sense of the word. When I first heard the song, the vocals sounded so familiar that I thought Jeff used a metal singer for the track. In actuality, the vocals are done by Wet Willie singer, Jimmy Hall, who also sings on three other tracks as well. While this is an excellent album, imagine what it could have been if there were more tracks like this one.

Track Listing:

  1. Ambitious
  2. Gets Us All in the End
  3. Escape
  4. People Get Ready
  5. Stop Look and Listen
  6. Get Workin’
  7. Ecstasy
  8. Night After Night
  9. You Know, We Know

Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck- guitars, lead vocals tracks 6 and 8

Jimmy Hall- lead vocals tracks 1,2,5 and 7

Rod Stewart- lead vocals, track 4

Jan Hammer- keyboards, track 3

Tony Hymas- keyboards, track 9

Dave Hitchings- keyboards

Robert Sabino- keyboards

Carmine Appice- drums

Jay Burnett- drums

Jimmy Bralower- drums

Barry DeSouza- drums

Tony ‘Thunder’ Smith- drums

Doug Wimbish- bass

Tina B- backing vocals

Curtis King- backing vocals

David Simms- backing vocals

Frank Simms- backing vocals

George Simms- backing vocals

David Spinner- backing vocals

Maybe this single will bring back memories:

And of course my favorite track:

I wonder how many people remember that Jeff Beck/Rod Stewart collaboration on “People Get Ready.” It was the song which turned my eye to this album and I’m glad it did. Jeff put out a great album here with “Flash.”

Next post: INXS- Listen Like Thieves

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Great Rock Albums of 1985: Foreigner- Agent Provocateur

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2018 by 80smetalman

While in 1985, most of the world was excited about Foreigner releasing their first studio in nearly four years, I was a little skeptical. My skepticism was based on the logic that my final memories from Foreigner “4” was their famous ballad, “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and when my introduction to the new “Agent Provocateur” album was another ballad, I concluded that Foreigner had gone the way of REO Speedwagon and was simply content to achieve commercial success through ballads. No matter how good everyone thought “I Want to Know What Love Is” and it is a good song, I had prematurely drawn the conclusion that the new album would be mainly ballads and that Foreigner had foregone their hard rock roots which had brought them so much success in the past.

Fortunately, my sister did buy the album and gave me a listen to it and my skepticism was removed. Let me be frank, in my mind, “Agent Provocateur” comes nowhere close to classics like my personal favourite, “Double Vision,” but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad album. True, there are more ballads on here than I would have liked, the previously mentioned single and “That Was Yesterday,” another song which brought Foreigner top 40 success. Plus, “Growing Up the Hard Way,” while not a ballad is over done with the synthesizer and I can’t help thinking how much better that song would have been if there was a stronger power chord from a guitar on it. However, there is evidence a plenty on “Agent Provocateur” to show that the band hadn’t totally forgotten where they came from.

Opening track, “Tooth and Nail” dispels any ideas that “Agent Provocateur” is going to be an album of ballads. It does its job of hooking the listener and is a good steady rock track. Even though the next three tracks after are the ballads and synth pop singles, one doesn’t lose interest as that opening tracks gives hope that there is more like that on the album. “Reaction to Action” does exactly that and it has the best guitar solo on the album. Therefore, it’s awarded the hidden gem for the album. I have a theory about the track “Stranger in My Own House.” I theorize that Lou Gramm and Mick Jones worried that people like me would think this album would be chuck full of ballads, so they recorded this song with that in mind. “Stranger in My Own House” is a good hard rocking track, probably the hardest on the album with another cool guitar solo. But I think they try too hard to be hard rock with Gramm doing more screaming than singing. While it’s a cool track, I want to say to Lou, “Relax man, you don’t have to prove you can still rock.”

“A Love in Vain” may return to the ballads but there is some good keyboards work on the track and a little guitar making a good 70s style progressive rock sounding song. Maybe that one should have been released as a single as it’s better than it successor, “Down on Love” which was. This one, while not bad, has too much of an 80s synth pop sound for me. “Two Different Worlds” is a definite ballad and it sort of combines the previous two tracks without the synth pop which is replaced with a decent guitar solo. That leaves the closer, “She’s Too Tough,” and though it brings the album full circle, the song reminds me too much of the Kenny Loggins single, “Danger Zone.”

Track Listing:

  1. Tooth and Nail
  2. That Was Yesterday
  3. I Want to Know What Love Is
  4. Growing Up the Hard Way
  5. Reaction to Action
  6. Stranger in My Own House
  7. A Love in Vain
  8. Down on Love
  9. Two Different Worlds
  10. She’s Too Tough

Foreigner

Lou Gramm- lead vocals, percussion

Mick Jones- guitar, synthesizer, keyboards, backing vocals

Rick Wills- bass, backing vocals

Dennis Elliot- drums

Like with Heart, the question here is, “Was Agent Provocateur” a sell out album for Foreigner?” Okay, they did have a number one single on it and while I might not think so, many other people out there did and it’s probably why it didn’t sell as big as some of their previous. My belief on the lack of sales was that Foreigner were trying to be all thing to all people and in a 1980s society which like to put things into nice neat categories, that didn’t sit well.

Next post: Marillion- Misplaced Childhood

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Great???? Rock Albums of 1985: Starship- Knee Deep in the Hoopla

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2018 by 80smetalman

Originally, I wasn’t going to post about this album. When I first heard tracks from the newly named Starship, (formerly Jefferson Starship) I thought, “OMG, how the mighty have fallen.” You see, from 1976-84, Jefferson Starship was my favourite band. Their albums during those years charted my own personal musical journey. The early albums from the mid to late 1970s, “Red Octopus,” “Spitfire” and “Earth” were much more progressive and considered by many to be mellow out rock. I never disagreed with this. However, there were even occasions on those albums, especially “Spitfire,” where they demonstrated they could rock out. That thought followed me into 1979 and then the early 80s where their albums, “Freedom At Point Zero,” “Modern Times” and “Winds of Change” were much more hard rock and I fully embraced the new sound as my own musical tastes were going harder.

Looking back to the past, some might argue that the 1984 “Nuclear Furniture” album was a sign of things to come with the Starship. It went back away from the total hard rock sound of the previous three albums but not as progressive as their 1970s ones. It had a more emerging 80s synth pop sound on some of the songs but not enough for me not to like it. Besides, the lyrics of many of the songs were more politically aware, something else I was getting into, so that album was okay. However, it was at this time rhythm guitarist and founding member Paul Kantner left the band and that would change the total dynamics of the band, starting with a law suit over the Jefferson moniker. If you remember when I posted about Paul’s passing, I stated that it was usually the songs he penned I liked the most on the albums.

In 1985, Starship appeared with the “Knee Deep in the Hoopla” album. I was curious and then I heard the first single, “We Built This City” on the radio and that was it. The lyrics might sing, “We built this city on rock and roll” but to me, a more accurate line would have been, “We built this city on top 40.” That song, established Starship as a top forty band with that song soaring in the charts. The second single, “Sarah,” was little better. The only thing that redeems it is Craig Chaquico hammers out a tidy guitar solo on it. But for the most part, I came to the conclusion in 1985 that Starship had sold out! Now, that label got banded about quite a lot back then and we can debate the semantics of it forever but what I did know was that I did not like their new sound.

Examining “Knee Deep in the Hoopla” further, it continues to be a top forty oriented synth pop album. Definitely not for me in 1985 and though I might have mellowed with age, it still doesn’t do it for me. The only songs which capture any interest for me are three of the middle ones, “Rock Myself to Sleep,” “Desperate Hearts” and “Private Room.” Kevin DuBrow from Quiet Riot fame sings backing vocals on “Rock Myself to Sleep” and that is the best song on the album for me. “Private Room isn’t too far behind but the rest of the album, with the possible exception of “Hearts of the World (Will Understand), doesn’t do it for me, even with Craig’s guitar solos.

What really angered me at the time and still does now is the reduction of Pete Sears to bass only. On those three early progressive albums, Pete shows his wizardry with the keyboards. I even equated him to the likes of Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman back in the late 1970s. For further clarification, listen to the tracks, “Love Too Good” off the “Earth” album and “Sandalphon” from “Red Octopus” and I think you’ll be convinced. So, why in the hell did they relegate him to bass. Peter Wolf who plays keys on the album doesn’t hold a candle to Pete.

Track Listing:

  1. We Built This City
  2. Sarah
  3. Tomorrow Doesn’t Matter Tonight
  4. Rock Myself to Sleep
  5. Desperate Heart
  6. Private Room
  7. Before I Go
  8. Hearts of the World (Will Understand)
  9. Love Rusts

Starship

Mickey Thomas- lead vocals

Grace Slick- lead vocals

Craig Chaquico- guitar

Pete Sears- bass

Donny Baldwin- drums

Additional Musicians

Peter Wolf- keyboards

Les Garland- DJ voice on “We Built This City”

Kevin Dubrow- backing vocals on “Rock Myself to Sleep”

Another occurrence which annoyed the shit out of me back then was when I heard a Starship concert broadcast on the radio. During the concert, they played their classic hit “Find Your Way Back” from the “Modern Times” album. That song possesses the band’s greatest guitar intro of all times. However, when they played it at this concert, that great intro was all synthed out. For me, that was the final nail in the coffin and while I will always have great memories of Jefferson Starship, Starship can be left on the shelf.

Next post: Pat Benatar- Tropico

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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

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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 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: Rodger Hodgson- In the Eye of the Storm

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2017 by 80smetalman

A friend, in 1984, announced that Supertramp had a new album out. I had to inform him that it wasn’t the case. Instead, thanks to the single, “Had a Dream (Sleeping With the Enemy), getting a fair amount of airplay on radio, I could tell him that former Supertramp guitar/vocalist Roger Hodgson had released his first solo album. One point to me, I think. Besides, my friend was a total Duranie and very anti- heavy metal.

I still feel the same way about Roger’s debut album, “In the Eye of the Storm,” now as I did back then. It could have been another Supertramp album. It became abundantly clear to me that Roger was the driving force behind the band and with his solo album, it was pretty much the same. Not that it’s a bad thing because it’s not. I’ve always liked Supertramp’s version of 1970s progressive rock. Nice keyboard work laced with some guitar done very creatively over rather long songs. I have this memory of Supertramp songs usually being in excess of five minutes, except for a few of the ones released as singles. It is the same on Roger’s album. Four of the seven songs are over seven minutes long and one is just a second below six. In a musical world where synth pop was emerging, I thought it was great to still hear some good progressive rock.

Though unusual for me, I have to say that “Had a Dream (Sleeping With the Enemy) is my favourite track. I liked it enough when radio cut huge chunks out of the song for airplay so the full eight minute plus version was even better. The entire progressive rock arsenal went into making this one. Some great keyboards with bouts of both acoustic and electric guitar with Hodgson’s unmistakable vocals. It all adds up to a great song. Of course, there are other nice songs too. I do like “In Jeopardy” as it is more classic Supertramp. “Hooked on a Problem” is an interesting one. The introduction reminds me of the classic, “The Logical Song” but transforms into sounding like a carnival. I would be repeating myself if I dissected every song, except for “Lovers in the Wind” which does nothing for me personally and credit where due, Roger definitely chose the right song for the closer.

Except for where noted below, I thought it was cool that he got Michael Shrieve of HSAS fame to play drums on the album, Roger plays all of the instruments himself on the album proving what a fine musician he is.

Track Listing:

  1. Had a Dream (Sleeping With the Enemy)
  2. In Jeopardy
  3. Lovers in the Wind
  4. Hooked on a Problem
  5. Give Me Love, Give Me Life
  6. I’m Not Afraid
  7. Only Because of You

Roger Hodgson

Roger Hodgson- vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass, drums on “Hooked on a Problem” and “Lovers in the Wind”

Michael Shrieve- drums, except on tracks 3 and 4

Ken Alldaryce- harmonica, backing vocals

Jimmy Johnson- fretless bass on “Lovers in the Wind” and “Only Because of You”

Claire Diament- female vocals on “Only Because of You”

Scott Page- saxophone on “Hooked on a Problem

Thinking back, I now realize that there was more great progressive rock back in the mid 80s than I allowed myself to believe. This debut album from Roger Hodgson is indisputable evidence of that.

Next Post: Soundtrack to Footloose

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