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, June 12, 2021

The Psychedelic Furs - Talk Talk Talk (1981)

Note: the CD I listened to was the 2002 "expanded and enhanced" reissue with 3 bonus tracks.

This is a very noisy album. I normally like Steve Lillywhite's production, but some of the material here isn't well-served. That's too bad because there are some good hooks hidden among these tracks. I'm fairly confident my buddy Jim played me a few tracks from this album back in the early '80s, but at the time I would have been turned off by the screechy saxophone tone, the often disjunct guitar solos, Richard Butler's immediately recognizable voice, and the overall aggressiveness of the music. Fast forward a few years and I finally got it. I don't necessarily like it at times and I have to be in just the right mood to listen, but I get it. 

Press of the time:
  • Smash Hits (8 out of 10): "one of the most exciting sounds in contemporary rock"
  • Rolling Stone (★★★½): The Furs never fully grow up on this record, but that only leads to wonderful moments" 
  • Trouser Press: "great improvement over their first"
  • Musician: "lots of biting guitar, blaring sax and glorious echo"
  • Robert Christgau (A): "I loved the first Furs album because it seemed so disposable; I love this one because it doesn't."
  • Stereo Review: "I must confess that I rather enjoy the Furs' trashiness."

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #89
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #81
Peak on the Rolling Stone chart: #26

In The Village Voice's annual 'Pazz & Jop' critic's poll, this album placed a very respectable #15 for the year. 

Tracks in order of personal preference, plus bands I'm guessing were influenced by this album:
  1. Pretty in Pink (#43 UK) - As I once wrote, "The lyrics don't have anything to do with the [later] movie, but I'd sure watch a movie that was based on the lyrics."
  2. Into You Like A Train
  3. No Tears - beating R.E.M. to this kind of sound by a couple of years.
  4. She Is Mine
  5. Mr. Jones - sounding a bit like U2 here, or more likely, the other way around
  6. All Of This And Nothing - an arrangement that could have easily fit on any of the first three Duran2 albums. Or The Fixx.
  7. It Goes On
  8. I Wanna Sleep With You
  9. So Run Down
  10. Dumb Waiters (#59 UK)
Bonus tracks: Not much worth getting excited about. The single version of Mr. Jones, an "early version" of So Run Down, and a demo of All This And Nothing. How about throwing in the re-recorded version of Pretty in Pink for the movie soundtrack of the same name, Sony? The last track clocks in at 9:02. The demo of All of This and Nothing ends at 3:51 and, after a brief silence, is followed by a lengthy promo for the album which is Richard Butler introducing excerpts from Into You Like a Train, I Wanna Sleep With You, and Pretty in Pink. If I've already bought the album, do I need a hidden track encouraging me to buy the album? (my crack research department informs me the promo comes from an innovative flexi-disc sleeve for the 7" single of Dumb Waiters).

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Around the time this album was released in 1981, I was starting the season with my local summer swim club. I'd had a very successful campaign the previous year when I competed in the 14-and-under age category. However, in 1981 I moved up to the "senior division" which was open to anyone 15 and up. This meant I was now competing with members of high school and college swim teams who trained year-round, not kids like myself who just wanted something to do during the summer. As you can probably guess, the first place ribbons of 1980 were replaced with 8th place finishes in 1981. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the social aspects of the practices and meets, plus by the end of the summer I was in great physical shape heading into my sophomore year of high school. But none of that has much to do with this P Furs album other than coincidental timing, so never mind. As you were. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays - As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls (1981)

In December 1984, my then-girlfriend gave me this Metheny/Mays album as well as a Canadian Brass album as gifts. As we listened to this album, she explained to me that the 21 minute title track on side 1 was more-or-less a tone poem about the 1979 Red River Valley tornado outbreak. With that suggestion placed in my mind, of course I could hear what she was talking about, right down to the counting of storm casualties around the 14:45 mark. I had no reason not to believe this woman, but I never saw any written confirmation of her claims. To be fair, she was probably just parroting something she'd been told. Or maybe, since we were both going to college at the time in 'Tornado Alley,' she was trying to frighten me and I'll have to admit I was susceptible to such tactics at that age. 

However, music scholar Mervyn Cooke, in his fine book Pat Metheny: The ECM Years, 1975-1984, contradicts that claim:  

Finally, after much searching, I came across this brief mention in Texas Monthly magazine:

Texas Monthly, June 1982, pp. 208, 210

Touring records indicate that Metheny had a date in Monroe, LA on April 10, 1979, but that's close enough as the storm moved east after hitting the Wichita Falls area. So which interpretation is correct? Hell if I know. Pick one. Or make one up yourself. Metheny didn't return requests for comment, most likely owing to the fact that I'm lazy and didn't make any such requests. 

But enough of titles - let's move on to the music. Sure the title track can be a bit of a chore, but overall I like Metheny albums around this time when Brazilian vocalist/percussionist Nana Vasconcelos was a sideman. I really dig his contributions - plus he was a good influence on Metheny's writing, particularly evident in tracks 4 and 5, "It's For You" and Estupenda Gra├ža (which roughly translates as 'amazing grace' and there's bits of that in there). And, other than the title track, there's a lot of acoustic instruments on this album, which adds a timelessness to this now 40 year old release.

Press of the time:
  • Rolling Stone (★★★★): "a fantastic, ambitious piece of music"
  • Billboard: "sweeping guitar, keyboard and synthesizer tapestries"
  • Record World: "Touching on rock, jazz and ethnic styles, they've created an LP for varied formats"
  • Stereo Review: "quite pleasant to hear when you're in a float-away mood."
  • Musician: "Half of this record I find frivolous and self-serving, though not in the extreme. Fortunately, every record has two sides, and the second is a success."
  • High Fidelity: "All this has been done before and better by the Mahavishnu Orchestra."
I wouldn't mind hearing the 4:35 edit of Wichita on this 7"

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #50
Peak on the Billboard Jazz Album chart: #1
Peak on CashBox album chart: #61
Peak on CashBox Jazz album chart: #2
Peak on the Rolling Stone chart: #36

Tracks: My favorite cut is track 4, "It's For You" and it's not even a close race even though, as noted by the reviewer for Musician magazine above, the tracks that make up what was side 2 of the album (tracks 2-5) are all quite enjoyable. As for the title track, I prefer the shorter version offered up on the live Travels album. It's got an very tuneful theme that, unfortunately, is never expanded or explored. 

Curiously, both September Fifteenth and "It's for You" (tracks 3 & 4) appear in the soundtrack of the 1985 road trip comedy, Fandango.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: The relationship between me and the above-mentioned "then-girlfriend" was probably doomed from the start as I was 18 and wanting to sow some wild oats while she was 23 and wanting to settle down and start a family. We lasted 7 or 8 months. It all made for a confusing and enlightening freshman year of college for myself.

I also had a good friend in college who was a huge Metheny fan. He had Metheny's entire catalog on prerecorded cassettes and was eager to share said tapes and talk about Metheny anytime, anyplace. If his social media feeds are factual, he remains a huge fan to this day. When I met this guy, the only Metheny I had previously heard was the Offramp album, so I eagerly lapped earlier ECM jewels like American Garage and Pat Metheny Group, then First Circle was released and I was hooked. Hearing all those great albums in my late teens is probably why I still prefer Metheny's ECM recordings to his later stuff. And ultimately, in a bizarre, cosmic coincidence, that huge Metheny fan later ended up marrying the very same "then-girlfriend" who originally gave me this Wichita album back in '84. Life sure is a funny old dog.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Brecker Brothers - Straphangin' (1981)

Even though I became a Michael Brecker fan a few years after this release (via Steps Ahead) and one of my high school band directors always talked about The Brecker Brothers, I overlooked this album in the early '80s. My mistake. This is funky good stuff that would have fit right alongside the Spyro Gyra and Tom Scott albums I was enjoying at the time. Ah, well - better late than never and all that. Stellar playing throughout - in addition to Mike and Randy, the band included Marcus Miller on bass, Manolo Badrena on percussion, and Barry Finnerty on guitar.

High Fidelity, September 1981, p. 85

The album cover photo was shot in a closed NYC subway station. More on that station and what it looked like recently: 

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #176
Peak on the Billboard Jazz LPs chart: #28
Peak on CashBox Jazz album chart: #12

Tracks: Seven originals - four from Randy and three written by Michael. Things get smokin' with the funky lead title track and never let up: Threesome is a slow burning waltz, Bathsheba a high-energy Latin number (today it's my favorite track), and Why Can't I Be There is pleasant soft rock/instrumental pop. The closest we get to straight-ahead jazz is track 6, Not Ethiopia. If I'd had this album on vinyl back in '81, I'm guessing I would have played side 1 (tracks 1-3) more than side 2.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Around the time this album was released in 1981, my sister graduated from high school. Commencement ceremonies were usually held in the football stadium situated on the southeastern side of the high school campus, but a few of my sister's classmates decided to spray some graffiti on a few campus buildings - this is why we can't have nice things - so the ceremony was moved to an alternate location: the county rodeo arena. Dirt floor, no air conditioning, angry parents - you get the picture. We survived and life went on, but the song chosen by the seniors for the class song that year was Free Bird. Effin' Free Bird. 

As my sister graduated, I was finishing up my freshman year of high school. My grades that semester? According to my personal archives (a.k.a. a shoebox of stuff my mother saved for me), here ya go:
  • Band: 93
  • Algebra: 83
  • American History: 94
  • Theatre Arts: 91
  • English: 83
  • Physical Science: 87
How in the world did I get a higher grade in history than my two electives? Sheesh. That right there is the sort of academic mediocrity that got this guy fast-tracked to a small, directional state university. But none of that school mess has much to do with this Brecker Bros. album other than coincidental timing, so never mind. As you were. 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Bill Nelson - Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam (1981)

EU Import. 

On Nelson's website, he refers to this 2005 Mercury remastered CD as the "definitive edition of the album."
"The music on this album was written during the latter part of 1978 and recorded at intervals between February and June of 1979. That it is only now publicly available I find ironic. Nevertheless, I am pleased that these tracks, which constitute approximately two thirds of the total material recorded for the album, have finally been acquitted... by mirrors if not by justice."
--Bill Nelson March 1981

I would say it's cutting edge stuff for '81, but the fact that it was written two years prior makes it all the more impressive. New wave-ish, experimental, edgy, power pop rock, synth-guitar, proto-post-punk. At first I thought it was like Bowie, then Devo, then Gary Numan, then Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club, then back to Devo, then back to Numan, then I got a headache and gave up trying to compare, which is ultimately an exercise in futility, no?

Around late 1982/early '83, I first discovered Bill Nelson through his 1982 album, The Love That Whirls (Diary of a Thinking Heart) which included the tracks Empire Of The Senses and Flaming Desire, neither of which were like anything I'd ever heard before. I then noticed Nelson's name listed as producer on a couple of Flock Of Seagull tunes. In any case, seeing this CD - Nelson's most successful solo album in the UK - gave me the opportunity to pick up some of Nelson's other work from that era. I've never listened to his earlier work with Be-Bop Deluxe (even though I consider that to be a top-shelf band name). This wouldn't be my preference for everyday listening, but if I'm in the right mood, it definitely scratches an itch. Nelson remains quite prolific, releasing up to 4 or 5 new albums a year.

Press of the time:
  • Smash Hits : "guitar-based powerglide rock and unfussy disco-tinged rhythm"

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Not released in US (peak on the UK chart: #7)

Tracks: I think the best track is White Sound. Also good are Living In My Limousine, Youth Of Nation On Fire, and Do You Dream In Colour (Nelson's highest charting solo single in the UK). I'm not much for Vertical Games.

Bonus tracks: 7 of 'em, all b-sides, mostly from the Living In My Limousine 12" and the double 7-inch release for Youth Of Nation On Fire. Curiously, nothing from the Sound The Ritual Echo (Atmospheres For Dreaming) album mentioned in the above ad.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Around the time this album was released in 1981, I was recruited to run the spotlight at various events at my school, i.e., variety/talent shows, spring recitals, elementary school presentations, and the drill team's annual spring dance show. This normally involved two of us climbing up tall ladders to the "attic" high above the auditorium floor and running the spot. I usually handled the awkward movement of the spot while the other sucker would change the color of the lighting and focus the beam. I wasn't much of an actor but enjoyed the theater life, so why not? It kept me out of the house. Even though the school I attended was replaced by a new high school built almost 20 years ago, that old school auditorium building still stands (it's gotta be 70-80 years old as of this writing and was already a dump when I attended) and those ladders are probably still there; I pray no one has to use them. But that really doesn't have much to do with this album other than coincidental timing (and maybe "get on the beam"??), so never mind. As you were.  

Main entrance to my high school in the early 1980's.
The auditorium mentioned is the structure on the left.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Various Artists - Now That's What I Call Music! 1981: The Millennium Series (1999)

UK Import

Musically, the UK had a very different 1981 than I, so while this two disc set has some very familiar tunes, there are tracks with which I was previously unfamiliar. All 36 tracks were hits in the UK while only 11 reached the US Top 40. Kudos for great sequencing through different genres - there's a reggae/ska section, a country(ish) section, an R&B section, etc.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Not released in US

CD 1:
  1. Queen and David Bowie - Under Pressure (#1 UK, #29 US)
    Because my cooler older cousin played a cassette of Queen's greatest hits in his Z28, I quickly bought my own copy because I knew and liked all the tunes. And then, at the end of side one, I discovered this wonderful new collaboration.
  2. Ultravox - Vienna (#2 UK)
    I don't remember hearing this song in '81, but I bought an import copy of this LP a few years later and fell in love with this moody techno track. It slows down, it speeds up, it's got an electric viola solo, I don't know what the lyrics are about, but I still dig the thing.
  3. The Specials - Ghost Town (#1 UK)
    While the lyrics are depressing as hell, it's got a great groove and there's no denying this is Jerry Dammers' major opus. When we first shut down for the pandemic in March 2020, this song was in my head all the time and I'll bet I wasn't the only one.
  4. UB40 - One In Ten (#7 UK)
    Hadn't heard this song until I purchased this compilation. More reggae/dub than ska, this is still a great follow-up to the previous Specials track. A slow reggae track that uses a sax solo where the chorus should be. Depressing lyrics again - around 1 in 10 people were unemployed in England when the song was written/released.
  5. Blondie - The Tide Is High (#1 UK, #1 US)
    Wrapping up the ska/reggae-lite section of the compilation with this tune. A fantastic cover of a 1967 rocksteady b-side. While Debbie Harry drolly delivers the goods, the real star for me is the arrangement - a cross between reggae and mariachi.
  6. Duran Duran - Girls On Film (#5 UK)
    I came to Duran's earlier tunes only after I had fallen in love with the later Rio album. I don't think this tune quite measures up to Rio's standards and could use less guitar and more synth, but I still like the thing. Today I'm focusing on John Taylor's bass playing and it is fantastic.
  7. Soft Cell - Tainted Love (#1 UK, #8 US)
    I had never heard anything like this cover tune when it hit American radio. I had never heard of the band and I didn't know what a 'tainted love' was, but that didn't stop me from digging the programmed synth arrangement. It was a big hit and the all-time favorite song of my friend Scott. Me, I still like it, but I've heard it plenty. Thankfully, the version on this disc doesn't segue into the group's unnecessary cover of Where Did Our Love Go.
  8. Human League - Love Action (I Believe In Love) (#3 UK)
    The entire Dare album is required listening for me every summer. This is one of the highlights of that album. I have questions, though: Was it released as a single in the US? If not, why? Was an extended 12" single mix produced other than what's on the Love And Dancing remix album? If so, why don't I have a copy? 
  9. Starsound - ABBA Medley (#2 UK, #67 US)
    Oh boy did we love our novelty medleys in the early '80s. If it wasn't Starsound (AKA Stars on 45), it was "Hooked On" something or other, or a Beatles movie tune medley, or a Beach Boys medley, et al. I loved all of 'em back then, but now I'd rather hear the whole versions of the original songs. What's amazing about this particular single is how close the voices match the original ABBA vocals. The line-up of tunes as follows:
    • Stars On 45
    • Voulez-Vous
    • SOS
    • Bang-A-Boomerang
    • Money, Money, Money
    • Knowing Me, Knowing You
    • Fernando
    • The Winner Takes It All
    • Super Trouper
    • Stars On 45
  10. Spandau Ballet - Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On) (#3 UK)
    I prefer the group's later blue-eyed soul work, but this is one of the better tunes from the group's first two albums. Still, Haircut 100 did it better.
  11. Philip Lynott - Yellow Pearl (Top Of The Pops Theme) (#14 UK)
    Lynott was a bassist and vocalist for Thin Lizzy, but this song sounds like no Thin Lizzy tune I've ever heard (granted, I haven't head many TL tunes, and this single was co-written by Midge Ure, who is well-represented on this first disc). Sounds more like an outtake/b-side from ELO's Time album to these ears. A fantastic choice for a TV theme for a lipsynch show, though.
  12. David Bowie - Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (#20 UK)
    Bowie is well-represented on this first disc, as well. I once succinctly described the entire Scary Monsters album as "all tension, no release" (probably because of Robert Fripp's guitar work). I'm sure that was the point of the music, but I have to be in a very particular mood to listen to any track from it. Doesn't mean it's not quality stuff, though.
  13. Godley And Creme - Under Your Thumb (#3 UK)
    I had not heard this tune before purchasing these CDs. I like the arrangement, the verse meanders a bit, but what a wonderful chorus. Dark lyrics, but a new and welcome surprise from these discs, nonetheless.
  14. Visage - Fade To Grey (#8 UK)
    A groundbreaking single that opened doors for synthpop in the '80s. This studio group was masterminded by Midge Ure (his influence is obvious) and Blitz club host Steve Strange along with other members of Ultravox and Magazine.
  15. ABC - Tears Are Not Enough (#19 UK)
    One of many standout cuts on a packed Lexicon of Love album. Suave and sophisticated, just like me. Not released as a single in the US and that's just dumb (it was the b-side of Poison Arrow).
  16. Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin - It's My Party (#1 UK, #72 US)
    Not the Dave Stewart from Eurythmics, but just as synthish. Dark and moody, perfectly suited to the lyrics. It eerily sounds like something tragic might happen to Johnny by the end of the night. I keep waiting for it to get moving but it keeps me in suspense until a popish ending hits at the 2:47 mark and the anticipation is delicious. I love a cover that changes up the original and this cover certainly does just that.
  17. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - Souvenir (#3 UK)
    With a wordless chorus, this early synthpop tune has hooks for days and often takes up residence in my head for hours. This duo knew what they were doing from the get-go, it just took awhile for the US audience to catch on.
  18. Vangelis - Chariots Of Fire (#12 UK, #1 US)
    Sadly overplayed (at the time) and over-mocked (since). The soundtrack album is fantastic rainy day music as well as my introduction to the synth-washed New Aged genre.  The single would have been totally different if the exact same music had been scored for strings.  Not many of my high school friends shared my appreciation for this music; in fact, one of them once told me, "My mom has that album." which sounds exactly like a put down a teenager would use.  
CD 2:
  1. Phil Collins - In The Air Tonight (#2 UK. #19 US)
    If you told kids in their 20's today that this song wasn't a #1 smash in 1981, they might not believe you. (It did top a digital chart in 2020, however.) This thing's got staying power, for sure. Other memories of this single have already appeared on this blog here.
  2. Roxy Music - Jealous Guy (#1 UK)
    Until I discovered the exquisite Avalon album, I was more familiar with Roxy Music album covers than their actual music. However, I learned a great deal about their influence on New Romantic music recently while reading Sweet Dreams: The Story of the New Romantics by Dylan Jones (recommended). This cover of a John Lennon tune was recorded as a posthumous tribute to the former Beatle. It's a quality cover with a wonderful sax solo from Andy Mackay. It was re-released in 1988 and peaked at #22 on the US adult contemporary chart.
  3. Elvis Costello - A Good Year For The Roses (#6 UK)
    A cover of a George Jones tune from Costello's country covers album, Almost Blue. Not really my thing. The album originally appeared with a warning label that read "WARNING: This album contains country & western music and may cause offence to narrow minded listeners." Aimed at folks like me, apparently.
  4. Squeeze - Labelled With Love (#4 UK)
    I loves me some Squeeze, but this is me, being a narrow minded listener again. Admittedly, this song is easier for me to take within the context of the entire classic East Side Story album. I'm usually don't pay much mind to lyrical content, but Chris Difford's lyrics are so good they're hard to ignore. Stuff like "He ate himself older, drunk himself dizzy" hits a little too close to home.
  5. The Jam - That's Entertainment (#21 UK)
    I like this tune and I can't exactly pinpoint the reasons why. There's not much to it, no solos, no bridge, not much drumming, the only electric guitar is a psychedlic backwards thing under the penultimate verse. Ah, well - we like what we like.
  6. Madness - The Return Of The Los Palmas 7 (#7 UK)
    Yet another song that was new to me. While not ska, this instrumental is what I would expect from this group - fun, upbeat, partyish.
  7. Kim Wilde - Kids in America (#2 UK, #25 US)
    From the first time I heard this song, I was a Kim Wilde fan, although that was mid '82, not 1981. I quickly bought her debut album which reminds me of the fall of 1982. I had recently gotten my driver's license and thought a lot of myself as I listened to a tape I made of Wilde's debut LP in my car as I drove me and some friends to early morning marching band practice. Good times. I hear this tune often and I've yet to tire of it.
  8. The Teardrop Explodes - Reward (#6 UK)
    I group this band with Echo & The Bunnymen in a category called "bands I should have listened to in the early '80s but never did." It wasn't that I wasn't exposed to them, I simply (mistakenly) chose not to listen to them much. Opportunity lost. The driving beat, the manic horns - this tune would have been right up my alley. Not to mention my New Waver wannabe persona might have been enhanced with a few band pinbacks on my jacket. 
  9. U2 - Gloria (#55 UK)
    Such a great tune. So good it opens not one, but two U2 albums: October and Under A Blood Red Sky. I really fell in love with it when I bought the latter album on cassette. Around the time of that live album's release, in an effort to woo a girl named Gloria, I gave her a copy of the cassette and told her to listen to the song titled Gloria. Needless to say, that effort didn't work. Mainly because it was a lame idea, but also because she was way out of my league.
  10. XTC - Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me) (#16 UK)
    Typical quirky pop from the mind of Andy Partridge. The misogynistic lyrics certainly haven't aged well, though.
  11. Steve Winwood - While You See A Chance (#45 UK, #7 US)
    A fantastic song and maybe my favorite of this compilation - always puts me in a good mood. It just seems to constantly move upward. Memories of this song are here and here.
  12. Four Tops - When She Was My Girl (#3 UK, #11 US)
    The group's 23rd Top 40 hit in the US. 23rd! It's always great to hear Levi Stubbs over those smooth background harmonies. Nominated for a Grammy in the Best R&B Song category, eventually losing to Grover Washington, Jr.'s Just The Two Of Us. 
  13. Kool & The Gang - Get Down On It (#3 UK, #10 US)
    Can we get a little more respect for K&TG and their legacy? 22 Top 40 hits and 42 Top 40 R&B hits in the US; 18 Top 40 hits in the UK. And I can't think of any tune of theirs I wouldn't be happy to hear right now, including this radio-friendly funk jam.
  14. Quincy Jones - Razzamatazz (#11 UK)
    Not released as a single in the US, it well shoulda been. Written by Rod Temperton, vocals by Patti Austin, backing band includes Herbie Hancock and Steve Lukather, horns from Jerry Hey, produced by Q. If that's not a perfect storm, I don't know what is. 
  15. Smokey Robinson - Being With You (#1 UK, #2 US)
    Smokey Robinson should be on money.
  16. Imagination - Body Talk (#4 UK)
    Not only was I previously unfamiliar with this tune, I was also completely unfamiliar with the band. This slowly slinks along with lots of falsetto. Nothing objectionable, but I'm not blown away, particularly following a Smokey tune.
  17. Michael Jackson - One Day In Your Life (#1 UK, #55 US)
    Originally released in 1975, re-released by Motown in 1981 to capitalize on the success of Off The Wall. To call the arrangement overblown is putting it mildly. It's not a bad tune in the Johnny Mathis adult contemporary tradition, but out of place here.
  18. Diana Ross & Lionel Richie - Endless Love (#7 UK, #1 US)
    This smash hit appeared on another 1981 compilation I featured a few months back. Here's what I wrote then:
    I don't particularly care for this song anymore, but I can sing both duet parts if you need that sort of thing. During fall 1981, I rode with a older neighbor (we'll call her Nancy because that was her name) to marching band rehearsal each morning. She'd drive to the local donut joint on the way and that's when I developed the decidedly unhealthy habit of starting each day with a popular caffeinated carbonated cola beverage. Nancy loved Endless Love endlessly and had the cassette of the movie soundtrack. So, for three months, she'd listen to the first track on side one (this song), then flip over the cassette and listen to the last track on side two (titled "Endless Love Reprise" but it was the same damn song), then back to side one, repeat ad nauseum. Never seen the movie and have no plans to change that fact. At least I got donuts.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: see above

Saturday, May 8, 2021

The Tubes - The Completion Backward Principle (1981)

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

While the corporate motivation theme of the album packaging ("credibility, growth, direction") gets an eyeroll from me these days, I still dig the use of a pic of a floating PVC tee on the album cover.  

Even though I was vaguely aware of The Tubes from their duet with Olivia Newton-John on the Xanadu soundtrack, my formal introduction to the group happened a few years later when Jim, a high school buddy, loaned me his cassette of The Completion Backward Principle, a tasty collection of catchy, high gloss power pop. I wore that tape out. And then returned it. Sorry, Jim.

Comparisons to Toto and Chicago are appropriate, mainly due to David Foster's participation: production as well as co-writing four of the ten tunes here. Foster is also somewhat known for bringing in session musicians if the band isn't meeting his standards. That must go over well. Toto guitarist Steve Lukather was brought in to co-write and do the guitar work on the album's second single, Talk To Ya Later, which 'bubbled under' at #101 on the pop chart, but peaked at #7 on the rock chart. And the lead single, a ballad titled Don't Want To Wait Anymore (#35 pop, #22 rock) sounds like it could have been lifted directly from a Foster-produced Chicago album and/or included in a cheesy '80s summer movie as the love theme. The critics didn't like that, but young Mark sure did. And still does.

The band would stick with Foster for another album, Outside Inside, which would yield the band's biggest hit, She's A Beauty. I had that on vinyl back in '83 and would be happy to find a used CD copy of the thing.

Press of the time:
  • CashBox: "Producer David Foster has tightened up all the loose ends"
  • Rolling Stone (★★★½): "The Tubes have constructed a swell 1981 model"
  • Stereo Review: "Kinky bands need hits too."
  • Musician: "sound like outtakes from Toto Variety Hour"
  • Trouser Press: "have been studying Top 40 stalwarts like the Doobies and Hall & Oates"
  • High Fidelity: "delivering barbs in a fully integrated musical style."
  • Record Mirror (no stars): "There are 10 tracks on this LP and no songs."

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #36
Peak on the Billboard Rock Album chart: #11
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #37
Peak on the Rolling Stone album chart: #27


Personal Memory Associated with this CD: As mentioned earlier, before I purchased my own copy of The Completion Backward Principle my buddy Jim lent me his prerecorded cassette of this release. And while it was a 1981 release, I didn't discover it until about 2 years later with the borrowing of said cassette. Brings back great memories of riding around in my car singing Sushi Girl at the top of my lungs with the windows down. Said tape got a lot of play in the Markmobile on my way to and from my job at the local Burger King, admittedly not a difficult job to land. 

Ad from my junior yearbook.
That particular BK location has since closed;
the building is currently a Mexican food restaurant.

It was a minimum wage job, which, at the time, was $3.35/hr.  (Then price of a Whopper w/tax: $1.41). I was fortunate/entitled and didn't have to work; my parents provided me with everything I needed. However, I wanted to buy a new trumpet as I had decided to major in music at college, had a burgeoning record buying habit to support, all my other friends were working part-time jobs, I didn't have any girlfriends, so why not?

Buttons worn on my polyester knit Burger King uniform, ca. 1983-84

As you can guess, it's fairly easy to move up quickly in such a turnover-rich environment. So, within a matter of months I had progressed from stock boy to cook to the choice non-management job position: drive-thru cashier - most likely because I could correctly add, substract, and therefore make change.

Burger King drive-thru: The dream job of children everywhere.

At the time, the restaurant's hours were from 10:30 AM until 9 PM (to the best of my recollection) which seems hard to believe now with many fast food places open 24 hours a day. During my time there, I remember three new ideas rolled out by the corporate offices: 1) a salad bar, 2) breakfast, 3) "late night" drive-thru open after 9 PM. The salad bar didn't last long, but the other two are still around.

I worked that job for the first seven months of 1983, had to quit to accommodate the time commitments of extracurricular activities during my senior year of high school, then picked up again the following summer after I had graduated but before I left town to start college adventures. The Tubes tape would have been on heavy rotation in my Pioneer deck during that first go-round at the drive-thru. Like this Tubes album, two other tapes of the time immediately take me back to that job: Cuts Like A Knife and Chicago 16.

Previously revisited for the blog:
The Best of The Tubes 1981-1987 (1991)

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers - Hard Promises (1981)

Some of the press for this album's release focused on its price point:

Musician, July 1981, p. 43

Adjusted for inflation, 1981's $8.98 is today's $26.17. As of this writing, list price of new vinyl of Hard Promises is $24.98 so that's pretty darn close. All of which has absolutely nothing to do with the music, but I was curious so there ya go. 

There's some fun rockers on here, but I find myself zeroing in on Benmont Tench's organ work which seemingly holds all the arrangements together. Overall, this album is front-loaded and doesn't stand up to repeated, active listening but it's fine for background music or if you've got a Petty shuffle playing on the back porch. The critics liked it better than me:

Press of the time:
  • Smash Hits: "mastered that balance between muscle and elegance"
  • Rolling Stone (★★★★): "rescued and transfigured by Petty's newly soulful singing"
  • Trouser Press: "his most modest effort yet"
  • Musician: "sounds Byrdsy, with a dollop of Merle Haggard"
  • High Fidelity: "another hard-won victory"

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #5
Peak on the Billboard Rock Album chart: #1
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #4
Peak on the Rolling Stone chart: #1

Tracks: The album's singles got airplay aplenty (at least on the stations I was listening to in '81). The first three tracks all charted in Billboard: The Waiting (#19 pop, #1 rock), A Woman In Love (#79 pop, #5 rock), and Nightwatchman (#21 rock). I like all three of those, particularly Nightwatchman which might be the best cut on the album. Of the remaining filler tracks, I like Kings Road, The Criminal Kind, and Letting You Go, the latter sounding like something Nick Lowe might have written. I'm not a fan when Petty oddly affects an exaggerated (Southern? Dylan?) accent such as in Something Big - I don't see the point. Speaking of Petty's voice: while I don't care much for track 8, Insider, I gotta admit Petty's voice paired well with that of Stevie Nicks; I'm glad they recorded together. If I'd owned this album in '81, I feel sure I would have spun side 1 much more often than side 2.

For more information on the brief life of the CD longbox,
go visit The Legend of the Longbox.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None.

Previously revisited for the blog: