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.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Cars - Original Album Series (2009)


I've already got a 2 disc greatest hits set and I've previously written that "The Cars were always a better singles band than an album band." So why would I buy this 5 disc set of full albums? This price tag called out to me and I simply couldn't resist the siren song:

Such a deal.  This box set from Rhino Records contains The Cars' five studio albums from 1978-1984.

THE CARS (1978)
9 tracks, 36 minutes

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #18
Peak on CashBox album chart: #19

U.S. charted singles: Pop
Just What I Needed27
My Best Friend's Girl35
Good Times Roll41

A classic. I usually use this album's release date (June 6, 1978) as the birthdate of what we now call "'80s music." And for good reason, this was rock music, but not quite rock music. Or maybe I'd just never heard New Wave music before The Cars. There's something different about it. Regardless, Ric Ocasek can write a hooks and this album is full of them. There's also Ocasek's quirky voice singing sarcastic lyrics that would appeal to any teenager. A fantastic debut album with almost every song a winner. According to the liner notes of the aforementioned greatest hits set, guitarist Elliot Easton said, "We used to joke that the first album should be called The Cars Greatest Hits."

In retrospect, it's hard to believe that the singles weren't bigger hits and that radio favorites Don't Cha Stop, You're All I've Got Tonight, Bye Bye Love, and Moving In Stereo weren't released as singles. To be honest, I'm not that wild about Moving In Stereo, but now it's so closely tied to the infamous pool scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High that I give it a pass. Rolling Stone placed this album #353 in the latest incarnation (2020) of their "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list and at #16 in their list of "The 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time." I'm good with both those rankings (not that they asked me).

CANDY-O (1979)
11 tracks, 37 minutes

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #3
Peak on CashBox album chart: #3

U.S. charted singles: Pop
Let's Go14
It's All I Can Do41

Second verse, same as the first? Not quite, but not a sophomore slump, either. When you've got a classic debut album, that's hard to follow up. So while there are hooks and a fantastic opening track here, there's just not as many hooks available throughout. In their place, understandably, there's filler. But they stuck to their formula and, for the most part it works again. It's probably not fair to compare this album to the debut, but I can't help myself.

Side one (tracks 1-6) has the stronger tracks (the singles and the title track), but also the weakest tracks on the album (Since I Held You and Shoo Be Doo). Side two (tracks 7-11) is power popish and more consistent throughout, but the 5 tracks all blend together for me so, while I enjoy them and don't skip any, none stands out above the others although I sometimes hear the last song, Dangerous Type, on the local classic rock station. Recommendation: put the top down on the convertible, pop your collars, put on your Wayfarers, head out on the highway, and blast the first two Cars albums back-to-back. It turns out The Cars is the perfect name for this crew.

It goes without saying, but this band sure had some great album covers.

10 tracks, 41 minutes

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #5
Peak on CashBox album chart: #9

U.S. charted single: Pop
Touch and Go37

So here's the sophomore slump, one album late. Every artist has the right to venture out, grow, and try new things, but likewise, every fan has the right not to like it. The songwriting is denser and quirkier, while the hooks are fewer.

Rolling Stone review
I've been told that this is one of those albums that gets better with every listen; I'm not buying it. But it isn't all bad. I like Touch And Go, Gimme Some Slack, Misfit Kid, and Up And Down. For the rest, I can't muster much enthusiasm, particularly when compared to the rest of the band's Ĺ“uvre.

SHAKE IT UP (1981)
10 tracks, 36 minutes

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #9
Peak on the Billboard Rock Album chart: #2
Peak on CashBox album chart: #9

U.S. charted singles: Pop Rock Dance
Shake It Up4214
Since You're Gone4124
Victim of Love

While I'll readily admit that the band's debut album is their best, this album is my favorite by the group; I wouldn't argue with the theory that I bought this box set mainly for this particular CD. Probably because it was the first Cars album I ever purchased (on cassette, back when I didn't buy many albums) and the title track is so dang good. The hooks are back and while the drum machines date this music now, it was new to these ears in 1981. Since all the hits were on side one, that side was listened to slightly more often than side two. So while there's a couple of filler tracks on side two, I still know all the words.

I've shared this story before, so forgive me as I self-plagiarize: Either Shake It Up or Since You're Gone was the first song I ever heard on a personal stereo. During my sophomore year in high school in the fall of 1981, I was in either science or health class and a friend named Mark had a Shake It Up cassette and a new Sony Walkman 2 (like the one below, which ran about $200 at the time; $500 today with inflation). I gave it a listen (during class, of course) and couldn't believe I was able to hear the music that loudly while the teacher couldn't hear a thing. My teenaged life was changed. I'll never forget those orange headphones.

10 tracks, 39 minutes

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #3
Peak on the Billboard Rock Album chart: #1
Peak on CashBox album chart: #5

U.S. charted singles: Pop Rock Dance AC
You Might Think7114

Hello Again20228
It's Not The Night

Why Can't I Have You3311

I wasn't a fan of You Might Think, this album's lead single (not a fan of its stalker video, either). So I didn't buy this album but I did dub a friend's copy later in the spring of 1984. I loved Hello Again and Magic and would just listen to those two tracks over and over; they're still two of my favorite Cars songs. Admittedly, I never gave this album much of a chance and I think it's because of all the slower tracks (and yes, I usually skip Drive and Why Can't I Have You <yawn>). I normally like producer Mutt Lange's work, but don't think he was a good fit for this group. In addition to Drive and Hello Again, I like Looking For Love and the title track. I'm obviously in the minority with my opinions because this was the group's best album in terms of charting positions.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Move Like This (2011)
Anthology: Just What I Needed (1995)

1 comment:

  1. Acquiring all The Cars music anyone could ever need for $14 is a steal but you already knew that.

    Downloading the same five albums on iTunes would cost $49 and occupy just under 400MB on a hard dirve.

    Or, somewhat illogically, spend just $40 and download the The Cars Studio Collection: 1979-1987 and get those same five albums plus the band's sixth and final studio album, Door To Door. The six albums in iTunes format would need a little less than 500MB or half of 1GB of digital storage.

    On the other end of the spectrum, both cost and size wise, the same six album bundle can be downloaded at HDTracks in extreme hi-resolution FLAC for $130 which is a $20 discount over buying the six albums on their own. The hard drive cast? An astounding 8.9GB!!