Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man 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. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Various Artists - Here and Now: The Very Best of the 80s (2008)


UK 3-CD album set comprising a 56-track collection of some of the biggest hits from the biggest acts of the 1980's (and several songs you've never heard before). I bought this set off eBay to fill in a few holes in my collection. Why not just get those tunes from iTunes? Sometimes ebay is much cheaper than iTunes, plus I get to discover new tunes this way.

Disc 1 Tracks:
  • Never Gonna Give You Up - Rick Astley: Howdy Doody with the voice of Teddy Pendergrass. Great dance tune, but now I just think of being Rick-rolled.
  • Heaven Is A Place On Earth - Belinda Carlisle: I never liked this song.
  • Too Shy - Kajagoogoo: I've always loved this song. So much that I had the full Kajagoogoo LP White Feathers back in high school. Guess what the best song on the album was.
  • Poison Arrow - ABC: Smooth and sophisticated; just like me. Trevor Horn FTW.
  • Living On the Ceiling - Blancmange: I remember being annoyed when the video for this song came on MTV. I absolutely hated it. Pseudo-Middle-Eastern influenced, with bad lyrics sung by a guy who shouldn't be singing.
  • Come Back And Stay - Paul Young: Never much of a Paul Young fan. Just a covers artist. He has a good voice, he just couldn't pick material that suited it.
  • We Close Our Eyes - Go West: I always liked this song and was disappointed it wasn't a bigger hit (it didn't even reach the Top 40 here in the US). Listening now, I'm thinking that having the pounding, steady quarter note bass drum part up so close in the mix is rather sadistic. Still, it moves the whole song forward.
  • You Keep Me Hangin' On - Kim Wilde: Wilde's biggest hit and possibly her worst single. I prefer her stuff that was written for her by her brother and father, but I must be in the minority.
  • Tainted Love - Soft Cell: Another cover, this was a big hit and the all-time favorite song of my friend Scott. Me, I can take it or leave it.
  • I Think We're Alone Now - Tiffany: 3 covers in a row! I never had any need for Tiffany until she started making made-for-TV movies like the epic Mega Python vs. Gatoroid.
  • Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now - Starship: a.k.a. Love Theme from the motion picture Mannequin. It's bad and yet went to #1 in 1987. Never underestimate the poor aesthetic sensibilities of the general population.
  • Fantastic Day - Haircut 100: Ah, finally a listenable tune! This wonderful single is from one of my favorite '80s albums, Pelican West.
  • Everybody Wants To Rule The World - Tears For Fears: the shuffle that made me a Fears For Fears fan. I had Songs From The Big Chair on cassette. Also makes me think of the movie Real Genius.
  • I Won't Let The Sun Go Down On Me - Nik Kershaw: Not familiar with this one. It's a catchy reggae-influenced synth tune with lyrics about the Cold War.
  • Don't Talk To Me About Love - Altered Images: Not familiar with this one, either. Typical early 80's synth-pop. One of those popular UK bands (like Siouxsie And The Banshees and Echo And The Bunnymen) that never really hit big in the US.
  • Obsession - Animotion: Even with lots of synths and a strong dance beat, I've always been indifferent to this song. I'd dance to it in a club, but would change the radio station if it came on.
  • Down to Earth - Curiosity Killed The Cat: Not only have I never heard this song before buying these CDs, I've never even heard of the group until now. Too bad, because this is precisely the kind of song that I would have been crazy about in 1986. Smooth dance pop along the lines of The Style Council or The Blow Monkeys. Wish I had discovered this one earlier.
  • Shattered Dreams - Johnny Hates Jazz: Not a fan. Reminds of a hilarious review in Rolling Stone by David Wild: "Exactly why is it that Johnny hates jazz? Because it takes a certain amount of talent to play it? Or could it be because jazz tends to be less profitable than the sort of lamebrained, wimpy, Brit-boy pop-soul doggerel that this utterly unoriginal trio trades in? This is a band so bland, so thoroughly unimportant, that it makes its label mate Cutting Crew sound like Booker T. and the MGs. This may also be the first group to sound as though it had been influenced by Mike and the Mechanics – a rather unhealthy precedent. In case you haven't guessed, David hates Johnny Hates Jazz." (RS 529)
  • If I Was - Midge Ure: I knew of Ure through his association with Ultravox, I hadn't heard this song before. Apparently it was #1 in the UK in 1985. Not bad, but not great; Ultravox meets Flock Of Seagulls. I'm not surprised it didn't hit in the US.
Disc 2 Tracks:
  • Robert De Niro's Waiting - Bananarama: I like this group's music; maybe I shied away from them because I'm a musical snob and couldn't imagine liking a girl pop group with a ridiculous name (and yet I liked Kajagoogoo. Go figure). In any case, this is a fun song that was much bigger in the UK than in the US.
  • New Song - Howard Jones: Peppy, poppy, positive. Named the Happiest Song Of The '80s by one of my favorite blogs.
  • The Only Way Is Up - Yazz: Bad dance music by a British singer (Not to be confused with Yaz or Yazoo).
  • Wishing I Was Lucky - Wet Wet Wet: Never heard of Wet Wet Wet? Me neither. And for good reason.
  • Fade To Grey - Visage: A groundbreaking single that opened doors for synthpop in the '80s. Members of Visage later merged into Ultravox.
  • It's A Mystery - Toyah: Bad. Really bad. It's a mystery how this p.o.s. got included on these discs.
  • Breakout - Swing Out Sister: Always been a big fan of this song. I had the cassette of the group's album It's Better To Travel which included this hit. Unfortunately, the album was terribly uneven and made me lose interest in the group.
  • Addicted To Love - Robert Palmer: Loved this song even before I saw the iconic video.
  • Start! - The Jam: With a bass line shamelessly lifted from The Beatles' Taxman, this is fun stuff from the mod revival band. Paul Weller has an unusual voice, but is a great songwriter (except for this song, which should have led to a lawsuit from George Harrison).
  • Prince Charming - Adam And The Ants: Of all the great songs from Adam And The Ants, why would they pick this one for inclusion here? It's not terrible, but not the group's best effort, either.
  • Come On Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners: It's hard to listen to this song now, but back in 1982 it was catchy and different, just what I was looking for. However, it wasn't catchy enough to lead me to buy the album Too-Rye-Ay. In 2009, VH1 placed the song at number 1 in their 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of The Eighties.
  • Dance Hall Days - Wang Chung: I always liked this song when it came on the radio, especially the mysterious way the vocals were put way down in the mix. Never owned a recording of it until now, though. Maybe my second favorite Wang Chung song after To Live And Die In LA.
  • The Riddle - Nik Kershaw: Never heard this before. Not very memorable. In feel, it reminds me of Matthew Wilder's Break my Stride with a Irish tin whistle thrown in.
  • Misfit - Curiosity Killed The Cat: There's absolutely no acceptable reason why I haven't heard this before. Perfect late-'80s pop. I'm ready to give this song the title of "Best '80s song I didn't hear until 2011". The lyrics are typical late '80s rubbish (Misfit! Misfit! Freak that's on the street!), but musically, it's a great pop song. I watched the video on YouTube and was surprised to see Andy Warhol doing his best imitation of Bob Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues.
  • You Came - Kim Wilde: Not familiar with this 1988 single because I gave up on Wilde in '86 when she covered Keep Me Hangin' On (see above). It's not bad, but not as strong as her early '80s material.
  • Together Forever - Rick Astley: My favorite Rick Astley song (of course, I think I've only heard two and they're both on these discs).
  • Mad World - Tears For Fears: This is not my favorite TFF song, but its haunting melody stays with you for awhile.
  • Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home) - Paul Young: In a just world, crimes like this cover would be punishable by law. Why, Paul, why? Why would you butcher a Marvin Gaye classic? Shame on you.
  • If I Could Turn Back Time - Cher: Pass.
Disc 3 Tracks:
  • Dancing On The Ceiling - Lionel Richie: By the time this was released (1986), I was done with Richie. Could this mess come from the same person who wrote the funk classic Brickhouse?!?
  • Somebody's Watching Me - Rockwell: A novelty song in its time, it has now become a parody of itself thanks to GEICO ads. I wonder if we would have ever heard of this song if Michael Jackson hadn't sung the chorus.
  • Farewell My Summer Love - Michael Jackson: Speaking of MJ... This was song was recorded in 1973, released as a single in 1984, and understandably forgotten in 1985.
  • If You Let Me Stay - Terence Trent D'Arby: I would have preferred if they had included Wishing Well instead of this song, but it's good r&b music especially considering it was released in '87. I think I recently read that this artist changed his name. He once bragged that he was going to be bigger than The Beatles. Maybe changing his name was his way of separating himself from that failed predication.
  • I Don't Wanna Dance - Eddy Grant: Evidently, Eddy had hits in the UK prior to Electric Avenue. This is typical '80s reggae, which isn't saying much.
  • System Addict - Five Star: Bad British synth r&b. Avoid if possible.
  • Sign Of The Times - The Belle Stars: I've heard this song before on another compilation disc. A poor man's Bananarama. Not much to it. The band would find later success covering Iko Iko for The Rain Man soundtrack.
  • Smalltown Boy - Bronski Beat: The first openly gay song I can remember. Its themes of alienation,family rejection, and homophobia most likely kept it from being a big hit in the US. As a tolerant culture, the US has come a long way since 1984, but still has miles to go.
  • The Look Of Love - ABC: I never get tired of this one. Check out my memory of this song here.
  • Intro: Happy Birthday - Altered Images: A fun song. Makes me think of the movie Sixteen Candles.
  • Get Down On It - Kool & The Gang: now that's what I'm talkin' 'bout! Get your back up off the wall!
  • I'm Coming Out - Diana Ross: Coming from the tail end of the disco age, this is basically a Chic song sung by Diana Ross. Because it was written and produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, it is awesome.
  • It's Raining Men - The Weather Girls: I don't think this was meant to be a gay anthem, but that's what it has become. It's just silliness.
  • Mama Used To Say - Junior: What a fantastic bass line on this overlooked early '80s funk tune.
  • Something About You - Level 42: One of my favorite '80s tunes. Mark King plays hella bass.
  • Wordy Rappinghood - Tom Tom Club: If they had stopped with Genius Of Love, Tom tom Club would go down in history as one of the greatest one-off groups of all time. Unfortunately, they thought they had more to say. Interesting to listen to at the time, painful now.
  • I'm Still Standing - Elton John: Typical '80s EJ fluff as he tried to replicate his success in the '70s by updating his sound. It didn't work as far as I'm concerned, but other people must have liked it.
  • Up Where We Belong - Jennifer Warnes & Joe Cocker: I'm not usually fond of sappy ballads, but I have to confess a soft spot for this song.
(Note: this last disc has some interesting sequencing, doesn't it?)

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Included above. The Here And Now tours are huge annual events in the UK. That would be a fun road (& air & train) trip.

1 comment:

  1. I definitely recommend Altered Images and Curiosity Killed The Cat for further listening. I slept on AI at the time but was into CKTC. A post earlier this year on Martin's View made me seek out their CDs.

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