Archive for synth pop

Great Rock Albums of 1984: John Parr

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, soundtracks, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2017 by 80smetalman

History has always misrepresented English rocker John Parr. For the masses, he is considered a one hit wonder, that one hit being the title track of the soundtrack for the film “St. Elmo’s Fire.” If you were to judge him on that song alone, you would have thought him to be just another 80s synth pop singer. However, I know that this wasn’t the case and most, possibly all the songs, on his 1984 self titled debut album are better. In fact, the “St Elmo’s Fire” track only appears on the UK release and not the US Atlantic records one, which was what I experienced. My conclusion here is that the album is just fine without it.

Long before there was a “St Elmo’s Fire,” (that film didn’t come out until 1985 and it will take a lot of convincing from you the masses for me to visit the soundtrack), I was already familiar with Mr Parr. The first single from the album, “Naughty Naughty” received a good amount of air play on both radio and MTV. It’s a rocker and for me, that song defines John Parr.

Fortunately, his album follows suit along with the song I just talked about. In fact the only hint of synth pop on the album is the track “Love Grammar” and I stress only a hint. Even that song has its hard rocking moments as well as a cool guitar solo from John himself. That’s another thing about him, he can shred a little too as well as sing. The rest is pretty much straight forward hard rock. (Am I using that phrase too much in my posts?) In this case, it does define the album very well. One great example of this is the track, “Treat Me Like and Animal.” Now that song is hard rock, no debate. There is a ballad right after, “She’s Gonna Love You to Death” but there are some decent guitars in the song. The album then returns to more rock ground after that with a rather cool intro on the track, “Revenge” and some cool hard guitars on it. I’m glad they did it that way and not try to use synths as was the custom of the time. The keyboards on the track are more progressive rock than anything. The rest of the album pretty much follows along the path with the possible exceptions “Heartbreaker” and the closer, “Don’t Leave YOur Mark on Me” which sound like they could have been songs for a 1980s film soundtrack. But even these on has their rocking moments. What you get here is a cool rock album from John Parr.

Track Listing:

  1. Magical
  2. Naughty Naughty
  3. Love Grammar
  4. Treat Me Like an Animal
  5. She’s Gonna Love You to Death
  6. Revenge
  7. Heartbreaker
  8. Somebody Stole My Thunder
  9. Don’t Leave Your Mark on Me

John Parr

John Parr- lead vocals, lead guitar, African sounds

Pete Solley- organ

Christopher Marra- guitar

Brad Lang- bass

Colin Farley- bass on tracks 3 and 7

Jon Cook- keyboards

Richard Cottle- keyboards tracks 3,4 and 6

Jonathon J Jeczalik- synthesizer

The Kick Horns- horns

Graham Broad- drums, percussion, African sounds

Simon Phillips- drums on tracks 3 and 7

Chuck Kirkpatrick and John Sombataro- backing vocals

So forget “St Elmo’s Fire,” I never watched the film anyway. Have a listen to this debut album from John Parr. I guarantee you’ll enjoy it much more.

Next post: Tommy Shaw- Girls With Guns

To buy Rock and Roll Children go to: https://www.amazon.com/Rock-Roll-Children-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1609763556/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1501322174&sr=8-5&keywords=michael+d+lefevre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great Rock Albums of 1984: Jefferson Starship- Nuclear Furniture

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2017 by 80smetalman

For me in 1984, Jefferson Starship, being my favourite band in the world since 1977, would come to a cross roads with me in the form of the album “Nuclear Furniture.” As previously stated enough times that you’re all sick of reading it, my musical tastes were getting much heavier. With “Nuclear Furniture,” the band began to shy away from the hard rock of their previous three albums. However, I wasn’t going to demote them straight away and there was enough good material on the album to keep them at my number one.

First let us start out with the weak. The first single from the album, “No Way Out” while miles better than the vast majority of synth pop coming out at the time, it lacked the power chords I was now craving. Craig Chaquico does save the song with one of his decent guitar solos. Then again, he does it with many of the songs, even the ones where it’s not essential. The other songs that might fall into the same category as “No Way Out” have something else that makes them great, with the possible exception of  “Magician.” I was getting more and more politically aware in 1984 and seeking out music that reflected my beliefs. There are some great songs that do this. Two of them are about nuclear destruction, “Champion,” one of my favourites and “Showdown.” Grace Slick’s vocals make the latter song sound that much better. Again, lyrically, “Assassin” is a great song. It might have been better placed in the late 90s as it could be applied to school shootings. The song is about a stranger in the neighbourhood who turns out to be a killer. “Live and Let Live” speaks to me personally, not politically and without going into great personal detail, took a load of withheld anger from me. With the track, “Connection,” the song clearly trumpets my theory of what would happen if Jesus and Mohammed had actually met each other. While these songs might not be hard rockers, the lyrics really make you think.

Now for the rockers, “Shining in the Moonlight” is a straight ahead one of those bringing back memories of those previous three albums, “Freedom at Point Zero,” “Modern Times” and “Winds of Change.” The other two are not only cool rockers in my book but also have political lyrics I like. “Rose Goes to Yale” is a short but powerful rocker that makes a great point while rocking out to it. However, my favourite track on the album has to be “Laying It on the Line.” A great intro and even though it is a little synthed in places, I don’t mind. A cool guitar solo and to my knowledge, it is the only song anywhere to mention what had happened to my marine buddies in Lebanon some seven months earlier.

“Got US boys on foreign soil,

“Spillin’ their blood to keep the peace.” 

Track Listing:

  1. Laying It On the Line
  2. No Way Out
  3. Sorry Me, Sorry You
  4. Live and Let Live
  5. Connection
  6. Rose Goes to Yale
  7. Magician
  8. Assassin
  9. Shining in the Moonlight
  10. Showdown
  11. Champion

Jefferson Starship

Mickey Thomas- vocals

Grace Slick- vocals

Craig Chaquico- lead guitar, backing vocals

Paul Kantner- rhythm guitar, vocals, banjo

Pete Sears- bass, keyboards

David Freiberg- keyboards, vocals

Donny Baldwin- drums, percussion, backing vocals

Paul Kantner- Jefferson Starship

In spite of “Nuclear Furniture” being a decent album, Jefferson Starship would cease to be my favourite band in 1984. This was because that Paul Kantner would leave the band shortly after the album’s release. Not only that, he would take the Jefferson moniker with him after a lawsuit. Like I said when I posted about Kantner’s death last year, it was always his songs on the albums I preferred the most. After he left, the band would morph into Starship and I definitely didn’t like what I heard on their next album. I want to like Jefferson Starship as I always have remembered them.

Next post: Greg Kihn Band- Khintagious

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great(ish) Rock Albums of 1984: Rod Stewart- Camouflage

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2017 by 80smetalman

Rod Stewart has always been a top forty artist in my book. He’s had a string of hits over the past four decades, some of them I actually liked, especially during the 1970s and 80s. I confessed to this fact when I visited his 1982 “Tonight I’m Yours” album some time ago. One of those singles I like happened to be the single, “Infatuation,” from the 1984 album, “Camouflage.” The song does venture  towards the new wave/hard rock borderland and even more so with the guitar solo by Jeff Beck. That brings me to the video for the song. Rod continues his string of cheesy videos that started with “Young Turks” where everyone is dancing on the hoods of cars and carries on with “Infatuation. In this video, Jeff Beck pops up in the hotel room from out of nowhere to play his solo. I understand that Mike LeBrain has had the same problem. Whenever he stays in a hotel room, Jeff Beck shows up. To quote a title from another song on “Camouflage,” some guys have all the luck.

After the opener, “Infatuation,” things go downhill pretty fast. While, I applaud Rod Stewart for a decent single at first, with the next track, I’m ready to place a bounty on his head for his act of sacrilege. He covers the Free classic “All Right Now” and it is a totally synthed out version. If he had kept to the script set down by Free, his voice would have carried the song but with all the synthesizers, I have to say, “No Rod!” But that’s not the only cover he has destroyed. On track four, he sings a cover of the Todd Rungren classic, “Can We Still Be Friends.” Like “All Right Now” there’s nothing wrong with his voice on the song but again, the synthesizers ruin it for me. While this sacrilege isn’t as bad, it’s still bad enough that even Jeff Beck’s guitar solo can’t save it.

Jeff does improve things with a solo on the track after, “Bad For You.” This one is more in line with the opener and sounds quite good. “Heart is On the Line” is one of those pop sounding songs that isn’t bad but it’s not one I want to listen to over and over. “The title track is much more sharper. Rod’s voice takes control of it and therefore the synths that appear on it are only in the background. Plus there’s a good use of horns adding a bit of diversity. Had Jeff belted out a solo on it, it might have been my favourite track. The closer, “Trouble” typifies how unbalanced “Camouflage” is. The keyboard intro makes you feel it’s going to be a cool prog rock song only to fade away into a ballad. Now, Rod has always been able to sing a good ballad and does so here but the intro leaves me disappointed with the rest of the song.

Track Listing:

  1. Infatuation
  2. All Right Now
  3. Some Guys Have All the Luck
  4. Can We Still Be Friends
  5. Bad For You
  6. Heart is On the Line
  7. Camouflage
  8. Trouble

Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart- vocals

Jeff Beck- guitar

Jim Cregan- guitar

Robin LeMesurier- guitar

Michael Landau- guitar

Jay Davis- bass

Tony Brock- drums

Kevin Savigar- keyboards

Michael Omartian- keyboards, percussion, backing vocals

Jimmy Zavala- harmonica

Gary Herbig- saxophone

Jerry Hey, Chuck Finley, Kim Hutchcroft, Charlie Loper, Gary Grant- horns

Was “Camouflage” great? I tend not to think so, however, it could have been so if there weren’t so many synth versions of classic rock songs. The songs that are good are but others let the album down. It seems here, he was comfortable being a top forty singer.

Next post: Roger Waters- The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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