Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this music junkie as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. Compact Discs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no files.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

New Order - Movement (1981)


German Import

I originally thought this album is Joy Division simply trying to find their way after the death of Ian Curtis. But then I heard bassist Peter Hook describe the album as "Joy Division music with New Order vocals" and his description is better than mine, so here you go:
So one could make the argument that Power, Corruption & Lies the first true New Order album and I'm okay with that.

My copy, a 2000 import reissue, has no liner notes and no bonus tracks.  

Press of the time:
  • Smash Hits (8 out of 10 - review by future Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant): "electronic but human (even romantic!)"
  • Billboard: "brooding, dark and slightly unnerving"
  • Trouser Press: "superior mood music"
  • Robert Christgau: (B+): "Very atmospheric--the spaceship as sepulcher, with a beat."
  • Record Mirror (★★★★): "a spell-binding record"

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart

Tracks: Of the 8 tracks here, my top picks are Dreams Never End, Senses, and Chosen Time which all at least give a hint of what was to come from the group.
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Unfortunately, I may have made a memory just this week. As I was listening to this disc, I grabbed my sophomore yearbook ('81-'82) off the shelf and mindlessly started flipping through pages. I visited my hometown last month for a funeral and, though it has been demolished for a few years, I finally saw firsthand that the high school building where I attended classes was nothing more than a grass field situated next to the brand new facility that had taken its place. Granted, the building I remember was built in 1949 and a dump even when I was in school, but just the fact that it was gone got to me. Looking through the yearbook and seeing interior and exterior pictures of the building, classrooms, gyms, etc. - soundtracked by this Joy Division-ish music - was depressing as hell. And then I started noticing photographs of students and teachers who are no longer with us and that did me in completely. Needless to say, I have sworn off both this album and high school yearbooks for a while, possibly a good, long while.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Waiting For The Sirens' Call (2005)
Get Ready (2001)
(the best of) New Order (1995)
(the rest of) New Order (1995)

Friday, November 26, 2021

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - I Love Rock 'N Roll (1981)


Note: the CD I listened to was the 2006 reissue with five bonus tracks and "bonus enhanced footage" which seems like something I'd find on a 1996 reissue, not 2006.

There are some great rock songs on this disc, but for me, it doesn't really hold up as an full album. Five of the ten tracks are cover tunes, but that doesn't bother me too much - it's what you'd expect from a garage band and, after all, good material is good material. To say the covers are the best tunes here may be stretching it a bit, but only a bit. But it's all good rock n' roll fun, Joan's attitude is contagious, and I think that's the point.

The cover photo is iconic and probably explains why I found heavy mascara so attractive on women throughout my high school and college years.

Press of the time:
  • Trouser Press: "well-conceived and cleanly executed"
  • Billboard: "Jett aims high and usually more than hits her target"
  • Rolling Stone (★★★½): "fuses both the yearning of girl groups and the slapdash ferocity of garage bands to the power and beat of heavy metal"
  • Stereo Review: "Judging from the record, Joan's main interests now are beating young men senseless and abandoning herself to the procreative urge."
  • Robert Christgau: B+
  • Musician: "represents all that's right with El Lay pop-rock"


Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #2
Peak on the Billboard Rock Album chart: #2
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #3
Peak on the Rolling Stone chart: #3

Tracks: let's rank 'em! (with the exception of Little Drummer Boy, which is an original take on a Christmas classic, but let's be honest, it was just tacked on to the end of a November release and was replaced by Oh Woe Is Me on later pressings)
  1. I Love Rock 'N Roll
  2. Crimson And Clover
  3. Nag
  4. Be Straight
  5. (I'm Gonna) Run Away
  6. Victim Of Circumstance
  7. Love Is Pain
  8. Bits And Pieces
  9. You're Too Possessive
Bonus tracks:
  1. Nag (with The Coasters)
  2. Summertime Blues 
  3. Louie Louie
  4. You Don't Know What You've Got
  5. Oh Woe Is Me
Note: even with the 5 bonus tracks, the entire disc clocks in at 44 minutes.

Bonus enhanced footage: 

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: During the spring semester of 1982, I participated on the crew/was an understudy for a high school production of To Kill A Mockingbird. (As I recall, the show was better than the phrase "high school production of To Kill A Mockingbird" would lead one to believe.) 


The leader of the crew was two years older than myself, had given himself the title "technical director," and was a pompous ass. One day after school that spring, the crew were setting lights for the play and the title song from this album came on the radio (it peaked at #1 in March '82). As we were wont to do, all of us were singing along as we went about our work. When the chorus came around, this so-called "technical director" belted out "I KNOW A HO! PUT ANOTHER DIME IN THE HO!" His new lyrics weren't as funny as he thought they were, but I was then condemned to hear them for the rest of my life whenever this song plays, including today's listening. 



Saturday, November 20, 2021

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Architecture and Morality (1981)


Note: the CD I listened to was the 2003 "digitally remastered edition" EU import.

At the surface, this sounds like some guys noodling around in the studio after binging on a few Joy Division, Gary Numan, and Neu albums. But after awhile, I started to appreciate the songs themselves and the writing more than the studio experimentation. With a nod to Kraftwerk, the band's choruses on this album are often wordless, synth riffs. According to the liner notes, this is the band's classic album, with band member Paul Humphreys saying, "To me this album was our finest hour." I wouldn't have loved this album back in 1981, but I would have recorded a few of the more poppish cuts to a cassette.  

As of this writing, the band is finishing up their "Architecture & More" tour celebrating the album's 40th anniversary.
  
Press of the time:
  • Smash Hits (9 out of 10): "the band's most impressive achievement to date"
  • Trouser Press: "If much of this album isn't very compelling, at least it's tantalizingly opaque."
  • Rolling Stone (★★½): "attractive but dull fare"
  • CashBox: "A little darker than past efforts, but the use of keyboard and choir are outstanding."
  • Billboard: "moody electronic explorations"
  • Record Mirror (★★★★): "well crafted, infectious pop songs."

Based on this ad, I'm guessing the album title and stairs
on the cover are allusions to the Tower of Babel?

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #144
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #97
Peak on the Rolling Stone chart: #43

Tracks: The opening track, The New Stone Age, is not very pleasant but I'm guessing that's what they were going for. In any case, it's my least favorite cut on the album. Things quickly turn around with the catchy She's Leaving, which reminds me of something from Speak and Spell. The best song on the album is easily Souvenir, which peaked on the UK charts at #3. The other two singles from the album, Joan Of Arc and Maid Of Orleans, both about Joan of Arc, made the top ten in the UK, as well. I prefer the former to the latter. The title track is more studio experimentation, but it is followed by Georgia, my second favorite tune on the album.

Bonus tracks: This CD contains 7 bonus tracks - an extended version of Souvenir along with some b-sides, none of which is detailed in the liner notes so I can't tell you anything more about them without an internet deep dive and I just ain't in the mood this morning. I like the extended Souvenir, but as for the rest, I'll take a pass.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: One day during a high school class in early 1982 (I'm thinking it was a required health course where we were lectured about gateway drugs, abstinence, and STDs by one of the school's athletic coaches who may have had personal experience with all three), a friend brought in a copy of Rolling Stone magazine, issue 362 - I distinctly remember Timothy Hutton on the cover. I looked at it during class and he told me to hold on to it and bring it back to him the next day. So instead of doing homework that evening, I perused the magazine. It was my first time to ever look through a full issue and I was hooked: that random classroom encounter quickly led to a subscription to Rolling Stone for young Mark - one he kept through the early '90s.

What's Rolling Stone magazine got to do with this OMD album? Well, I would have heard some of this music decades earlier than I actually did if CBS Records would have sent this promo record to me, which was advertised in one of the first issues I received in in my new subscription:


I'm not bitter about the fact that I wasn't one of the first five thousand, but I would like a refund of my dollar (plus 20¢ for the stamp while you're at it). I'm fairly certain I wasn't the only person who paid $1 and didn't get a record, which makes me question the above claim that "we stand to take a loss on this."

Friday, November 12, 2021

Grover Washington, Jr. - Come Morning (1981)



Note: this release was originally purchased as an LP, later replaced by a Japanese import CD.

I don't remember from whom I borrowed the vinyl albums, but somehow I ended up with a C-90 cassette with this album on one side and its 1980 predecessor, Winelight, on the other. Now that I think about it, it might have been a C-60 tape with some creative dubbing/editing involved, but in any case - lemmetellya I wore it out in the '80s everywhere I could play the thing: car stereohome/dorm stereoWalkman. And those songs still get plenty of play to this day. Once I moved to compact discs, I bought a CD of Washington's 1985 greatest hits compilation, foolishly thinking that disc would replace the aforementioned tape and I wouldn't need to buy separate CDs of those two albums, both of which I now own on CD, of course.

Simply put, if you liked Winelight, you'll like Come Morning. (I do and I do.) Same writers, same musicians, same producers. The main difference is that Come Morning contains a Bob Marley cover and instead of Bill Withers on vocals, we get Grady Tate.


Press of the time:
  • Musician: "the first great Urban Contemporary album"
  • Billboard: "The albums [sic] strength lies in the impeccable playing of Washington and the featured musicians"
  • CashBox: "light, sax-filled urban jazz sound that's so easy on the ears"
  • Record World: "follows the blueprint of his hit-making 'Winelight' LP"
  • Stereo Review: "as easy and as comfortable to sink into as a warm bath."

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #28
Peak on the Billboard Jazz LPs chart: #1
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #31
Peak on the CashBox Jazz Albums chart: #1
Peak on the Rolling Stone chart: #28

Tracks:

Tracks 2, 3, 5, and 6 are included on the aforementioned Anthology, but all the tracks are good 'n smooth.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: One of three places to buy records and tapes in my small hometown was the downtown Radio Shack. I spent many hours in that place not only looking for music purchases, but checking out all the cool electronic gear, accessories, and circuitry gadgets in the place. At least once I overstayed my welcome and was run out of the store by the owner's wife. She was a cranky old thing, but I think the real reason I was asked to leave was because I wasn't spending any money. So I would climb on my blue Sears 10 speed bike and pedal, still penniless, back home.

Late one afternoon when I was visiting said Radio Shack after school, a young teacher I recognized from school walked in. His name was Mr. Kennedy and he taught science at the school although I never had any classes with him. I believe he was only at the school for the 1981-82 school year. In any case, it's always rare to see teachers in the wild so I took particular notice. To be fair, he probably didn't know who I was and couldn't have cared less that I was there. The only reason I mention Mr. Kennedy is because he bought a cassette of Come Morning that afternoon and suddenly became much cooler in my opinion.

One weekend around 8-10 years back, I went on a vinyl buying binge and picked up a used copy of this album at Antone's in Austin for a buck. A few years later, I bought this CD and I passed that vinyl copy on to my son who had developed a love of GW Jr through the aforementioned Winelight album. He loves both albums, spins them often, and claims his 3 roommates love the albums as well. I'm doing what I can to spread light, love, and knowledge among Gen Z. Please remember these facts as you fill out your ballots for Father of the Year 2021.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Angela Bofill - Something About You (1981)


Japanese Import

I'm not sure if this album sounds incredible or if it simply is a good match with my aging, pre-existing tastes and does it really matter if I like it? Bofill has strong voice that is equal parts sweet and sexy, plus, for this album, she was paired with R&B writer/producer (and current drummer for Journey) Narada Michael Walden. Lots of smooth grooves and familiar names: Earl Klugh, Paulinho Da Costa, Andy Narell, and Tower of Power horns, as well as former American Idol host and current bassist for Journey, Randy Jackson. Wish I'd been turned on to this one back in '81 or, better yet, to Angel Of The Night back in '79. Why Bofill wasn't a constant presence on the pop and AC charts in the late '70s/early '80s is just one of those things I struggle to understand.

Press of the time:
 
  • US Billboard Top 200: #61
  • Billboard Jazz LPs: #4
  • Billboard R&B albums: #13
  • CashBox albums: #66
  • CashBox jazz albums: #5
  • Rolling Stone: #50

Tracks: Of the original ten tracks, there's not a stinker to be found on what was side one (tracks 1-5). The title track peaked at #21 on the R&B chart and the ballad Break It To Me Gently should have cracked the top ten on the pop chart and been a #1 AC hit for Bofill. There's also fantastic cover of Earl Klugh's song Balladina to which lyrics have been added and retitled You Should Know By Now.

Side two starts off strong with Only Love and there's a beautiful cover of The Stylistics tune Stop Look Listen. The only tune I don't care much for is Holdin' Out For Love (#26 R&B) and that's mainly because of the dated arrangement - it just doesn't fit on this album.  The album closes with Time To Say Goodbye, a sublime ballad written by Bofill that reminds me of the sort of thing Anita Baker would be recording later in the decade.

Bonus tracks: 
  1. Never Wanna Be Without Your Love - a duet with Narada Michael Walden released in 1983 under Walden's name "with Angela Bofill"
  2. Esperando Al Amor - Spanish version of track 7, Holdin' Out For Love, released as a 12" single in 1982
  3. Love Light - a gorgeous cover of a Yutaka Yokokura tune. Produced by Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen, so this samba is more jazz-tinged and drenched in electric piano.
  4. Rhythm Of Your Mind - I can't find any additional info on this Bofill-penned filler tune, but the production leads me to believe this is also a Grusin/Rosen/GRP cut.



Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Around the time this album was released in 1981, I was scheduled to be on the lighting crew for my high school's fall production of Grease. I had attended after school rehearsals and diligently honed my spotlight skills. However, when I took on this responsibility, my mother warned me that if I didn't bring home straight A's for the first grading period of the school year, she would pull me from the production. (Public schools in Texas later adopted a "no pass no play" policy, but my mother was ahead of the curve with her own "no A no play" edict). I wasn't too concerned despite the fact I was spending around 20 hours a week outside of school with band and theater rehearsals/performances.

What follows is ridiculously unbelievable yet 100% true: I had a horrible history 'teacher' during my sophomore year who literally didn't teach, he would sit at his desk and read the newspaper or organize/catalog his stamp collection while he played reel-to-reel tapes of himself lecturing, recorded years earlier. No real instruction to speak of, but he proudly boasted that all his students would get a grade of 85 on their first report card while we became 'accustomed to his teaching style.' Like many bad high school teachers to this day, he excused away his poor instructional methods by claiming that he was simply "getting the students ready for college." Sheesh. 

Anyway, an 85 certainly wasn't the A that my mother expected, but I thought I was in the clear because nobody in my grade level would be making straight A's that term. I was mistaken. Despite my pleading and explaining, my mother yanked me from that show and sent me in tears to the director as I explained my situation. Then I was less than pleased with my mother (for keeping her word?) while the drama director hated my whole family because we disrupted her show preparations. A most unpleasant time around our house. But that really doesn't have much to do with this wonderful album other than coincidental timing, so never mind. As you were.  

Saturday, October 30, 2021

U2 - October (1981)


Note: the CD I listened to was not one of the 2001 or 2008 reissues.

In an earlier post, I wrote "U2 has always been about sound rather than songs" and while I probably lifted that comment directly from some critic, the sentiment certainly rings true on this release. I prefer earlier U2 albums to anything post-Joshua Tree and while this one suffers a bit from the dreaded sophomore slump and a bit of bad luck, I like to spin it every now and then.

I'm not much for lyrics, but Bono's notebook with early lyric drafts for this album turned up missing after a March 1981 show at a Portland bar. So Bono had to quickly scramble to write new lyrics for the album which explains the lyrics, which lean heavily on familiar Christian imagery, yet somehow aren't as preachy as the stuff Bono would ultimately write. That kindasorta explains why we get a song titled Rejoice and then an entirely different song (Scarlet) where the only lyric is "rejoice."
Yes, there were Bibles dotted around the room during the recording. There was a fair amount of that. But I was so busy trying to pull teeth - trying to make an album - that it sort of washed over me. It was completely chaotic and mad in the studio and, obviously, Bono's lyrics being lost contributed to the atmosphere.
But back to the music. To my ears, October is a U2 album where the band plays as a band, with each member having equal value. In later releases, I feel the rhythm section is undervalued, but not here. This makes the arrangements better in my opinion and, in this particular case, creates an emphasis on the rhythmic aspects of the music and yes, sound rather than songs.

"The Green Tornado"?? And Larry doesn't even rate a surname?

Press of the time:
  • Trouser Press: "this is a damned good record"
  • Musician: "Deliriously melodic, rhythmically insistent"
  • Billboard: "This much anticipated second album continues in the vein established by the first."
  • Record World: "expands its textural and dynamic boundaries"
  • Robert Christgau (B-): "As they push past twenty their ambitions are showing, and suddenly the hope-addicts whiff both commerce and pretension."
  • Record Mirror (★★★): "This is U2 in purgatory."
 
Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #104
Peak on the Billboard Rock Album chart: #28
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #102
Peak on the Rolling Stone chart: #25

In The Village Voice's annual 'Pazz & Jop' critic's list, this album placed at #39 for 1981.

Tracks: From what was side one (tracks 1-5), my top picks are Gloria, I Fall Down, and Rejoice. Track 6, Tomorrow, is beautiful but far too heart-wrenching for me to even go into and then they pair it with the somber title track. I want to skip both to spare my emotions, but I can never bring myself to do so. Of the remaining tracks, I prefer Stranger In A Strange Land and the aforementioned Scarlet.



Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Around the time this album was released in 1981, I was wrapping up my second season of high school marching band. We performed at every football game, but the team went 6-4 that fall and missed out on a playoff berth, ending our early morning marching rehearsals the first week of November. Incidentally, I didn't have much else happening on Friday nights at the time, so it didn't matter to me that my weekends were suddenly free. 

The marching band's show theme that year was a based on the Six Flags over Texas (the actual historical flags, not the theme park chain). So we played a Spanish song, a French song, Deep In The Heart Of Texas, etc., representing all six countries ending with an arrangement of Neil Diamond's "America." During that last song, we dressed up the tallest guy in the band in an Uncle Sam outfit and marched him out waving an America flag so the crowd would feel obligated to stand and applaud - a tried and true marching band method for receiving a standing ovation. The history of Texas as told through the six flags was a creative idea for a show, but you sure as hell couldn't do it in this day and age as we played the traditional song Dixie during the CSA portion of the show. Not only that, we formed a huge rebel flag on the field while playing that damn song


The adults involved should have known better. In my own defense, I was just a 15 year old kid doing what he was told, like any average student playing the game of school. In terms of social awareness, it was a very different time - which, admittedly, isn't the best excuse - but 40 years on, it's certainly embarrassing but hardly surprising: as of this writing, my hometown still has a confederate monument on the courthouse square. Shameful. However, a politically incorrect marching drill has absolutely nothing to do with this U2 album other than coincidental timing and the fact that the boys of U2 would never stand for such nonsense, so never mind. As you were.  

Previously revisited for the blog:

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Depeche Mode - Speak & Spell (1981)


Note: the CD I listened to was the 2006 reissue. EU import.

What gives, Mark? Weren't you once dismissive of a Depeche Mode compilation? And you say you're not much of a DM fan?

All that's true, but I am a fan of Vince Clarke and that makes all the difference with this CD. I once read this album described as "Yaz(oo) with Dave Gahan singing instead of Allison Moyet." Well, not exactly, but pretty darn close (particularly on track 10, Any Second Now). And that's fine with me because Clarke is one of the best synthpop songsmiths and has been proving that fact for 40+ years now, most of those years as a member of the duo Erasure.

This is a collection of three-or-four chord pop tunes that's very easy going down and it's made even better when you allow yourself to remember the band was around 19 years old when they wrote and sequenced/performed it. Many DM fans don't particularly care for it, much like Squeeze fans generally disregard their first album. I like it just fine, just don't ask me to interpret the album cover ya. I think the 7 out 10 rating from Smash Hits (below) is on the money.

Press of the time:
  • Smash Hits (7 out of 10): "melody, uncluttered electronics and nice voices in humanising harmony"
  • Trouser Press: "a simple, predictable sonic palette"
  • Record Mirror (★★★★★): "a charming, cheeky collection of compulsive dance tunes"
  • Rolling Stone (★★½): "PG-rated fluff"
  • Stereo Review: "At its best, 'Speak and Spell' suggests what an AT&T switching station might sound like from inside the main transformer."
 
Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #192

"feisty synthesizers and wry lyric outlook"

 
Tracks:
  • Meilleure mode: New Life, Just Can't Get Enough, What's Your Name?, Big Muff
  • Bonne mode: I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead, Puppets, Nodisco, Dreaming Of Me
  • Mauvaise mode: Boys Say Go!, Photographic, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Any Second Now (voices)
I feel that Puppets, Photographic, and Tora! Tora! Tora! would appeal to later Depeche Mode fans, but not much more than those.


Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None. The 1981 edition of Mark probably wouldn't have enjoyed this as much as the 1983 edition, who would have absolutely loved it. 


Previously revisited for the blog:
The Singles 86>98 (1998)