Tag: 1979

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.

Talking Heads – Fear of Music

ARTIST: Talking Heads                            Talking_Heads-Fear_of_Music

TITLE: Fear of Music

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #21 US, #33 UK

SINGLES: I Zimbra (#28 Dance), Cities, Life During Wartime (#80 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Memories Can Wait, Heaven

LINEUP: David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz with help from Brian Eno

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Another big leap forward, as the Talking Heads play with rhythms and sounds from outside the normal rock element.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Talking Heads could have recorded variations of their first two albums and gone along quite nicely, thank you, but David Byrne was always wanting to expand his sonic palette and utilize sounds and rhythms not usually associated with popular music.

Mostly it’s successful, with songs about cities, heaven, newspapers, nuclear war, electric guitars, crimes against the state, and a Dada tone poem. The band, along with Brian Eno, follows along with an expanded range of sounds, funky rhythms, and experiments. Even with the melancholy nature of the lyrics, the playing is joyous and light, except when it needs to be heavy and foreboding (as in “Memories Can Wait”).

There’s only one track that doesn’t work – the album closer “Drugs”, though I get what they were after. It wouldn’t be the last time that a Talking Heads album closer misfired.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The basic tracks were recorded in two days in Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz’s loft.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, an outtake and some alternate versions of tracks. 

GRADE: A: Another masterwork by the Talking Heads, who were just on top of their game.

Journey – Evolution

ARTIST: Journey                      220px-Journey_Evolution

TITLE: Evolution

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #20

SINGLES: Just the Same Way (#58), Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’ (#16), City of the Angels, Too Late (#70)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably, since you bought it in high school.

LINEUP: Steve Perry, Neal Schon, Gregg Rolie, Ross Valory, Steve Smith

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album by the pop / rock version of Journey finds the band very comfortable in their persona, and wrote better songs this time around.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: To be frank, the deep cuts for Journey aren’t something of magical wonder waiting to be discovered, but on this, their second album with Steve Perry, at least they’re competently written.

This is a band you bought for the hits, and while the chart action doesn’t signify it, this definitely was and is a hit based on the songs you hear on the radio to this day. “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’” has the all time “nah nah nah nah nah” chorus that even the most curmudgeonly of classic rock resisters has to appreciate (if not sing along).

Perry is definitely more in control of this band, as he wrote or co-wrote every track ((and even got a co-writing credit on Schon’s guitar intro to “Too Late”. Perry sang lead on every track but one, as Gregg Rolie stepped away from the spotlight.

It’s a decent nostalgic classic rock record for geezers like me.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: More personnel turnover, as Aynsley Dunbar decamped for the Jefferson Starship, and former Ronnie Montrose, Jean-Luc Ponty and Focus(!) drummer Steve Smith joined.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B: The fact that you sing along with the choruses is proof enough the hits are good. The filler tracks don’t suck, which is an improvement.

Graham Parker – Squeezing Out Sparks

ARTIST: Graham Parker       Squeezing_out_sparks_cover

TITLE: Squeezing Out Sparks

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #40 US, #18 UK

SINGLES: Protection, Local Girls, Nobody Hurts You

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: You Can’t Be Too Strong

LINEUP: Graham Parker, Brinsley Schwarz, Martin Belmont, Bob Andrews, Steve Goulding, Andrew Bodnar

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Free from his first record contract, Parker releases his master stroke, full of bile, and surprising tenderness.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After three good-to-great studio albums, followed by a mess of a live record for a contractual obligation (The Parkerilla, not available now and don’t bother), Graham Parker and his backing band The Rumour come out swinging with the best, most complete record of his career.

Parker’s songs have their typical bite, and his energy pulls the band along so that they’re equally urgent on most of the cuts. Only on the tender “You Can’t Be Too Strong”, which many thought of as an anti-abortion song (when Parker said it’s more of a questioning song than anything, and is from the point of view of the man who isn’t strong to face his responsibilities), does Parker let his guard down.

Else, Parker’s still the angry young (ish) man of the UK scene at this time, even madder than Elvis Costello. This is the record to have by him; it’s a great time piece and stands up now.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: National Review named “You Can’t Be Too Strong” as one of its top Conservative songs – which Parker roundly disputed and showed that the NR is horrible at understanding pop culture.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Oh, yes. Live Sparks is the album played live (which makes me sad that I didn’t see him at this time), with a cover of “I Want You Back”, and his all-time bilious single “Mercury Poisoning” 

GRADE: A: It smokes, to this day.

 

 

20/20 – 20/20

ARTIST: 20/20                         R-1213210-1370911704-5407.jpeg

TITLE: 20/20

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #138

SINGLES: Cheri, Tell Me Why (Can’t Understand You)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, please.

LINEUP: Steve Allen, Ron Flynt, Chris Silaygi, Mike Gallo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Another heartland power-pop band (though this one formed in LA with guys from Oklahoma) met with critical acclaim but little success.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Shining harmonies, some tight guitars, interesting keyboard flourishes, and hooky tunes. With all of those elements in its favor, 20/20 became more of a legend than a success. Well, they were a legend in certain power pop circles. They never had success.

Fans of the Shoes and other like-minded bands were dazzled by the potential of 20/20, especially since they had the blessing of Bomp! Records (who put out their first single). But they didn’t hit with the general public, except for some limited play on power pop friendly stations.

It’s also kind of an uneven album. The faster cuts seem to not have as much polish and substitute energy for hooks, and for a band that thrives on hooks and polish, that’s an issue to my ears. Most of this is prime power pop, but really for connoisseurs only. Still, I’m a connoisseur.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Mike Gallo, who had the name and the idea, met Steve Allen and Ron Flynt (who were from Tulsa). Gallo was then asked to leave after or during the recording of the album. Ah, well.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: It was released on a combo CD with their second album. At times, that CD went for $30 or more. 

GRADE: A-: Enough good to outweigh the unconvincing tracks.

Motorhead – Bomber

ARTIST: Motorhead          Motörhead_-_Bomber_(1979)

TITLE: Bomber

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #12 UK

SINGLES: Bomber (#34 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Stone Dead Forever, Dead Men Tell No Tales

LINEUP: Lemmy, Fast Eddie, Philthy Animal

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Followup to Motorhead’s breakthrough gives us more of the same, but, what’s really wrong with that?

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The riffs are there, but not as stunning and mind-blowing. The sleaze is still there, and Lemmy’s still Lemmy.

It doesn’t reach the height of Overkill. There’s not a ‘last chance urgency’ on some of the tracks. The band had secured themselves, and cranked out some good tracks, but there’s definitely some filler creeping in here in the middle of each side.

Bomber’s a good Motorhead album, and really that’s about all you need to know.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Producer Jimmy Miller was often late for sessions due to his heroin addiction. Heroin was the subject of “Dead Men Tell No Tales”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes – a b-side, live tracks, and alternate mixes.

GRADE: B+: It’s an album lost between a couple of classics, but it’s good for some riffin’ and head bangin’.