Tag: 1979

Supertramp – Breakfast in America

ARTIST: Supertramp 220px-Supertramp_-_Breakfast_in_America

TITLE: Breakfast in America

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION:  #1 US, #3 UK

SINGLES: The Logical Song (#6 US, #7 UK), Breakfast in America (#62 US, #9 UK), Goodbye Stranger (#15 US, #57 UK), Take the Long Way Home (#10 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Gone Hollywood

LINEUP: Rick Davies, Roger Hodgson, John Anthony Helliwell, Dougie Thompson, Bob Siebenberg

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After two sub-par albums following their breakthrough (to be covered in the compilation I will cover), Supertramp hit it out of the proverbial park.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Since their breakout in 1974, Supertramp had released two albums that didn’t light the world on fire, critically or commercially. While it wasn’t desperation as it was for Crime of the Century, it was possible that they were going to fade away if they didn’t release another successful record.

Well, consider this a success.

With four singles that are still played on rock stations, and well known by most everyone over 40 (maybe 30?), and deep cuts that are memorable without being ponderous or pretentious (for the most part), Breakfast in America is the album they needed, and probably their all-time legacy in music history.

Three of the four hits were anchored by Roger Hodgson’s falsetto voice, but the instrument that comes to fore is the electric piano of Rick Davies. The two also collaborate on vocals more (even though every song is credited to one or the other solely), making it seem like a true band effort. The rest of the group also add color and chops to the proceeding.

They didn’t throw away their prog tendencies (which does make some cuts linger a bit too long), and after their last two albums this was a welcome comeback to form where hooks and chops co-mingled.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Originally, the record was conceived as a discussion between Hodgson and Davies, but that was scrapped very early on.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with a live set.

GRADE A: It’s really an enduring album with just a few tracks that seem to linger a bit long, but it wouldn’t be proggy if it didn’t have those, would it?

Blackfoot – Strikes

ARTIST: Blackfoot 220px-Blackfoot_-_Strikes

TITLE: Strikes

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #42

SINGLES: Highway Song (#26), Train Train (#38)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover songs by Spirit, Blues Image and Free

LINEUP: Rickey Medlocke, Charlie Hargrett, Greg T. Walker, Jason Spires. Pat McCaffrey plays keyboards. Donna Davis, Pamela Vincent, and Cynthia Douglas sing backup Shorty Medlocke and Cub Koda play harmonica.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After many years and two failed albums, Southern rockers finally get some success.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Before this album came out, Blackfoot had been together off-and-on since the early 70’s, and had recorded two basically unheard albums in the mid-70’s. Leader Ricky Medlocke’s grandfather wrote “Train Train” and added the harmonica beginning which became the touchstone track for the band.

With only one other hit single to their credit (“Highway Song”), you’d be surprised that this album isn’t…bad at all. They cover three tracks that fit their style and the other originals aren’t slap-dash either.  What is odd that the two hits are the last two tracks on the album, with “Highway Song’ extended to 7 ½ minutes (the 70’s man). But you know, whatever. The production and the embellishments with the female backing vocals and some keyboards keep this away from strict guitar boogie.

Southern rock was waning, and Blackfoot was one of the last ones that carried the banner of that genre (along with .38 Special). While this isn’t award winning, for those who like that Southern rock type of boogie, you could do worse.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The last name of Rickey and Shorty was actually Medlock, but Shorty added the “e” and his grandson followed.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B: For a band that’s kind of an afterthought (and looked down upon at times), this is decent enough to keep around.

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

ARTIST: Joy Division Unknown_Pleasures_Joy_Division_LP_sleeve

TITLE: Unknown Pleasures

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #5 UK, #1 UK Indie (on rerelease)

SINGLES: None, “Transmission” was released about this same time.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Disorder, She’s Lost Control, Shadowplay

LINEUP: Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Iconic debut album from post-punk trailblazer.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is an iconic release in many ways. It’s the debut LP from a band that launched 1,000,000 goth and post punk kids (many of which will say they’ve always been into Joy Division even though they were born 10-20 years after this was released). It established Martin Hannett as a producer that takes risks and pushes the sonic envelope with his artists. And third, the front cover has launched another 1,000,000 Hot Topic T-shirts.

The album itself features a powerful, almost angry, Ian Curtis’ brooding, at times monotone baritone over a band that was sparse and open in their arrangements, which belied a sophistication of approach (especially in Peter Hook’s bass work, check the work in “She’s Lost Control”). Hannett added a lot of effects and interesting recording approaches to add depth to the songs, but the main sound is the three musicians backing Curtis.

At first, this album didn’t break the bank, though that may be to Factory pressing up only 10,000 and selling out of 5,000 within a fortnight. After Curtis’ suicide, it raced up the charts.

While some may find the record too dour and moody, and at times repetitive or monotonous, for the most part it’s brilliant, with tracks such as “She’s Lost Control” (not the more familiar 12” version, but a spare and haunting track), “Disorder” and “Shadowplay” put it among the best post-punk ever had to offer.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They originally were named Warsaw, and their first release was titles “An Idea for Living”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with a live show appended.

 GRADE A: While a couple of tracks linger on a bit long, there’s an argument that can be made this is the pinnacle post-punk album

Public Image, Ltd. – Metal Box / Second Edition

ARTIST: Public Image, Ltd.  220px-PIL_-_Metal_Box_original

TITLE: Metal Box / Second Edition

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #18 UK

SINGLES: Death Disco (Swan Lake on the album) (#20 UK), Memories (#46 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, nothing hit the radio here.

LINEUP: John Lydon, Keith Levene, Jah Wobble, Richard Dudanski. David Humphrey and Martin Atkins also drummed. They went through 3 drummers in a year.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The pinnacle of the original vision of PiL, post punk, and the 70s UK ‘new wave’.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Just as the Sex Pistols influenced countless of bands that eventually exceeded their vision and scope, Public Image Ltd. also influenced countless bands that exceeded their vision and scope. But unlike the Pistols, very few, if any, released an album as essential and seminal as this.

From the packaging (originally three 12” singles packed in a metal film canister), to the sound (deep deep bass, jagged sharp guitar, atmospheric synths, wailing and intense vocals), to the attitude (zero fucks given, at all), PiL’s second album was vital to the evolution of punk, new wave, and rock in general. 220px-PiLSecondEdition

The opening cut, “Albatross”, is a 10 1/2-minute improvisation (Lydon free formed lyrics while the Levine spewed jagged-sharp guitar on a groove set out by Wobble and David Humphrey) that is menacing and compelling. The first five cuts on the album (the first 3 sides of the single set) are landmark post-punk. Then the second part of the record kicks in, throws that all away, and forces you to stand up and notice them experiment with sounds, chants, and form.

There’s something about this album that makes you come back to it. Wobble’s bass, Levine’s synths and guitar, Lydon’s lyrics, and the excellent drumming by the rotating crew all make it a landmark of rock.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The packaging of Metal Box was intended to make it difficult to listen to. There was only wafer thin paper between the records and the canister snugly fit the albums.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A+: A record that points the way to the future of pop, new wave, and rock in the 80’s and beyond.

The Human League – Reproduction

ARTIST: The Human League 220px-Human-League-Reproduction

TITLE: Reproduction

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #34 UK

SINGLES: Empire State Human (#62)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover You Lost That Loving Feeling

LINEUP: Maryn Ware, Ian Craig Marsh, Philip Oakey.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Electropop synth group releases tentative album featuring their synthy doodling.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After a couple of years of noodling around as The Future, The Human League changed their name, recorded a single and then their first record as a trio. The goal was to expand electronic pop to the charts while remaining experimental.

Sure, Jan.

While “Empire State Human” was kind of successful, the rest of the record seemed lacking in hooks, or excitement, or really any experimentation that wasn’t already out there in the world. The lyrics are also daft and too arty.

Blah in the first degree except for a couple of high notes on a few tracks.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They released a single before this (“Being Boiled / Circus of Death”) and re-recorded the latter for this album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. The first single, a B-side, and a quite boring instrumental EP.

GRADE C: If you’re into non-poppy electropop, be my guest.

Nick Lowe – Labour of Lust

RTIST: Nick Lowe               220px-Labouroflust

TITLE: Labour of Lust

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #31 US, #42 UK

SINGLES: Cracking Up (#34 UK), Cruel to Be Kind (#12 US, #12 UK), Switchboard Susan (#107 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nope

LINEUP: Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner, Terry Williams. The Attactions play on a track, and Huey Lewis (!) plays harominca on one.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: It’s basically a Rockpile album with Nick Lowe’s songs and this was his commercial peak.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Rockpile was a working band, but the two principals (Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe) were on different labels. No worry, record two records at the same time! Why not? (Dave Edmunds’ Repeat When Necessary was recorded at the same time).

Nick Lowe was the wit and the songwriter – he had supplied songs to several new wave acts but he saved his most famous song here. “Cruel to Be Kind” is a blessing and a curse. It’s what casual fans know about Lowe, if they even know who performs it. Rockpile and Lowe are more than that, and the produce a varied set that has a semi-country twinge, but tracks like “Big Kick, Plain Scrap!” and “Switchboard Susan” don’t sound like the hit, but are nice records in their own right.

As the industry had a lot of arena bloat and disco around, a simple rock album like this may have been a godsend, but frankly a couple tracks aren’t as focused and fall flat.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Two versions. The UK version had “Endless Gray Ribbon” instead of “American Squirm” (recorded with Elvis Costello and band). The US version is better for “Squirm” but the sequencing is a bit off.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. “American Squirm” and another B-side are now along with the UK version.

 GRADE B+: I’m not as bowled over as I was with the first one, but there’s plenty of good stuff here, like “Switchboard Susan”.

Paul Collins Beat – The Beat

ARTIST: Paul Collins’ Beat        220px-The_Beat_LP

TITLE:  The Beat

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Let Me Into Your Life, Don’t Wait Up for Me, Rock ‘N Roll Girl

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None, but I mixed You Won’t Be Happy a million billion times

LINEUP: Paul Collins, Steven Huff, Larry Whitman, Michael Ruiz

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A slice of power-pop heaven from one of the Nerves. It fell to almost deaf ears.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Despite appearances on American Bandstand, and a lot of critical acclaim, this outstanding power pop record didn’t sell or make many dents on FM radio airplay. The question of why needs to be answered, but there’s no accounting for taste.

Through the grooves (and now digital bits), Paul Collins and his band (which initially was The Beat just like the UK ska-band, thus forcing a Paul Collins Beat moniker here and an English Beat moniker there) plays through these power pop songs with gusto and verve. Melodies, harmonies, and hooks are in abundance. Many tracks leave you singing or humming them well after the record is done.

There’s one misstep here, a slow piano ballad which sounds like it should be on a Journey album or something. Aside from that, there’s not a miss as the catchy songs roll past you in a rush.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He was part of the Nerves with Peter Case and Jack Lee. The Nerves more famous for being namechecked by every Power Pop historian than anything they recorded (which was only four songs).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: One extra track that should have replaced the ballad.

 GRADE: A: What Power Pop could be!

Adam & the Ants – Dirk Wears White Sox

ARTIST: Adam & the Ants              220px-DirkWearsWhiteSoxOriginalCover

TITLE:  Dirk Wears White Sox

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #16 UK

SINGLES: None from the original album or recordings. Later additions Zerox (#45 UK), Cartrouble (edited) (#33 UK), and the B-side EP (#46 UK) hit the UK charts.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not in the original form

LINEUP: Adam Ant, Dave Barbarossa, Matthew Ashman, Andrew Warren

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Early Ants lineup is raw and shambly and make for an inconsistent album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Before Adam Ant found his sound (and before the original Ants went with Malcolm McLaren to form Bow Wow Wow), the Ants released their debut record to some airplay and sales, yet it seemed an odd document.

The Ants (and Adam) were influenced by the sex boutiques in London at the time for their look and some of their lyrics (see the B-side “Whip in My Valise”), and this gave them a lot of press (good and bad). Yet the record seems a bit scattered with some inspired bits, and some bits that just didn’t work. Many times, those bits were in the 220px-AdamandtheAntsDirkWearsWhiteSoxsame song.

It’s kind of shocking to hear Adam Ant with a less than coherent music vision (even if you didn’t like the vision, at least he had one later on). The vision would come together soon, with some excellent singles following this album. This is decent for those who like the immediate post-punk era, and for those who want to hear the nascent Adam Ant mewl about stuff and things.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The first Adam and the Ants recordings were for the movie Jubilee and are rare and collectable now. Not to say that they’re good…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. The 1983 re-issue (for the US market) swapped the singles for a couple of songs, and truncated “Cartrouble” to the second, better half. The current issue has everything and a couple of new mixes. 

GRADE: B-: You can her something, but Adam hadn’t quite settled into his successful sound yet.

Cheap Trick – At Budokan

ARTIST: Cheap Trick 220px-CheapTrick_Live_atBudokan

TITLE: At Budokan

YEAR RELEASED: 1979 (1978 in Japan)

CHART ACTION: #4 US, #29 UK

SINGLES: I Want You to Want Me (#7 US, #29 UK), Ain’t That a Shame (#35 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Surrender and most of the great songs from the first three records,

LINEUP: Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson, Bun E Carlos

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The live record, made originally for the Japanese market, changed their career trajectory, and for good reason.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The first three Cheap Trick albums were excellent, mainly because the band had worked out almost all of the songs early in their career and honed them to fine power-pop and rock goodness.

Sporadically popular here in the states, they were beloved in Japan, and recorded a live record for the Japanese market. The original ten song album burned turntables in Japan, and import copies sold 30,00 copies. What captured the fancy of radio and the public was the live version of “I Want You to Want Me”, which turned the song from a quirky power pop tune to a rock classic.

The playing is strong, the crowd is energized, and the band feeds off of it giving a great performance of their material. It’s what a live album should be.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Japanese fans repeat “Crying…Crying…Crying” during “I Want You to Want Me” to simulate the echo on the original release.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The definitive version is the 19-track CD released in the 90’s, with basically the concert in the proper running order and capturing the entire essence of it. 

GRADE: A+:  A touchstone live album for an entire generation (and beyond).

Christopher Cross – Christopher Cross

ARTIST: Christopher Cross        220px-Christopher_cross

TITLE: Christopher Cross

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #6 US, #14 UK

SINGLES: Ride Like the Wind (#2 US, #69 UK), Sailing (#1 US, #48 UK), Never Be the Same (#15 US), Say You’ll Be Mine (#20 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Really Don’t Know

LINEUP: Christopher Cross and the best session players of the time, including Larry Carlton, Lenny Castro, Victor Feldman, Jay Graydon, Michael McDonald, Rob Meurer, Michael Omartian, Andy Salmon and Tommy Taylor.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A debut album that may have been the apex of mellow, well played and engineered music now called “Yacht Rock”.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Nine well-crafted, polished, well-played, exquisitely produced and engineered songs. A few of them are earworms (the filler isn’t particularly catchy, nor exciting). And the addition of Michael McDonald on backing vocals on two tracks was genius.

Here’s the deal – the album is OK, weighted down by some clunky ballads, and really more of a nostalgic boat ride into the past than anything fresh or exciting. There aren’t any hidden gems, unless you haven’t heard “I Really Don’t Know” – the other track with Michael McDonald. You probably know what you’re going to get, so you truly like this, or you like this ironically, or you don’t.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It was one of the first digitally recorded albums.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B:  No doubt the apex of 70’s soft rock.