Tag: 1981

Modern English – Mesh and Lace

ARTIST: Modern English 220px-Mesh_&_Lace_cover

TITLE: Mesh and Lace

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #5 UK Indie

SINGLES: None on the album, but they’re bonus tracks.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not on this one

LINEUP: Robbie Grey, Gary McDowell, Michael Conroy, Richard Brown, Stephen Walker

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Post-punk band is Joy Division-lite, all mood and atmosphere with only a few compelling tracks.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Forming in 1979, signed by 4AD in 1980, and releasing this in 1981, Modern English were fast-tracked into the post-punk world and the Joy Division sector of that world. Their debut album contains none of their singles (I never understand this), and only a few album cuts rise to the occasion.

Atmosphere and mood are the keywords here. Everything is moody and stark and while some melodies and other parts escape, most of the time they’re hidden in the mood, whether it’s a slow or fast tempo. Also, the intros to the songs are long and tedious at times. You know, setting the mood for art and all.

If you missed this, don’t worry. Nothing here reminds me of their MTV hit. If you’re into the moody pre-goth post-punk era, indulge at your whim.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They used to be The Lepers, but changed that quickly. Also, the title cut was a B-side that didn’t make the album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with singles and B-sides. Weirdly, one of the singles (“Gathering Dust” (#36 UK Indie)) starts the deluxe CD. The other singles added were “Swans on Glass” (#46 UK Indie) and “Smiles and Laughter” (#16 UK Indie).

GRADE C+: All depends on your love for moody gothy post-punk. The bonus cuts make the package much more palatable.

Ozzy Osbourne – Diary of a Madman

ARTIST: Ozzy Osbourne

TITLE: Diary of a Madman

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #16 US, #14 UK

SINGLES: Tonight, Flying High Again (#2 Mainstream), Over the Mountain (#38 Mainstream)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads, Bob Daisley, Lee Kerslake, Johnny Cook on keyboards.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Ozzy’s second album as a solo artist utilizes the strengths of his band and shows his creative juices weren’t spent after his first solo album.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Showing that the Blizzard of Ozz wasn’t a fluke, Diary of a Madman continues his creative roll. Utilizing the talents of Randy Rhoads’ flashy guitar, Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake as lyricists and songwriting foils, and his ability to get convincingly deep inside his Ozzy character, Osbourne creates another record worthy of his legacy.

Rhoads comes into his own here, propelling many of the songs with his guitar and his sound. Even potentially trite ballads like “You Can’t Kill Rock & Roll” shine with his drive and sound.

The downfall of this album is that the songs, while good to great, go on too long. There were only eight of ‘em, and I know you gotta fill an album, but why not write a ninth to cut down on some of the length so it doesn’t sound too bloated?

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Again, Sharon Osborne reared her head, withholding credits and firing Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake after this album was in the can. On the original releases, the only people credited properly were Ozzy and Randy

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: As with his debut, the 2002 remaster replaces Daisley and Kerslake out of spite. Avoid.

 GRADE B+: Had the songs been tighter, it would have been an easy A-.

Jim Steinman – Bad for Good

ARTIST: Jim Steinman          JSteinman_Bad

TITLE: Bad For Good

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #63 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: Rock and Roll Dreams Come True (#32, #14 Mainstream, #52 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Meatloaf did cover a lot of these songs on later albums, and so did other artists.

LINEUP: Jim Steinman, Rory Dodd, Karla DeVito, Todd Rundgren, Davey Johnston, Kasim Sulton, Max Weinberg, Roy Bittan, Roger Powell, Ellen Foley, Larry Fast, and many more.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Meatloaf’s songwriter recorded the planned followup on his own after Mr. Loaf lost his voice. He’s no Meat, that’s for sure.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Jim Steinman was the lunatic that came up with Bat Out of Hell for Meatloaf, and when it came time for the followup Meatloaf was out of commission due to voice issues and drugs. So, not wanting to wait, Steinman gathered musicians and producers and did the damn thing himself.

He should have waited for Meatloaf. Steinman’s vocal limitations are noticeable from the jump, and even with Rory Dodd helping his voice was still a liability. The structure of the record is almost the sing – spoken word pieces, a duet with a hot girl – long winded pieces – a storyline. This one was ostensibly about Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Yeah, whatever.

It’s bombastic, and would have been a decent Meatloaf vehicle. But here, it’s just bombast without redemption. Only a couple tracks are worthy of keeping, really.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The irony is that later in 1981, Meatloaf’s followup, with Steinman songs, came out. He needed these songs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Not really, but the single “Rock and Roll Dreams Come True” came packaged as an EP with the original vinyl. The single and B-side are the last two tracks on the CD.

GRADE C-: The importance of a vocalist has never been more apparent than here.

Adam & the Ants – Prince Charming

ARTIST: Adam & the Ants            220px-Adam_and_the_Ants_Prince_Charming

TITLE: Prince Charming

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #94 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: Stand and Deliver (#38 Dance, #1 UK), Prince Charming (#1 UK), Ant Rap (#3 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nope

LINEUP: Adam Ant, Marco Pirroni, Merrick, Terry Lee Miall, Gary Tibbs

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Oof. What a disappointment.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting with horn charts, “Scorpios” kicks off the record on a hopeful note, but soon, as the song devolves into a cluttered mess, you know something was up.

What was up? Instead of a record chock full of fun and exuberant songs, Prince Charming became a vehicle to deliver a great single (“Stand and Deliver”), a so-so single (the title track, way too repetitive), a good deep cut with a goofy name “Picasso Visita El Planeta De Los Simios”, and unfished, hacky gunk and what sounds like leftovers from his previous albums.

On what planet would “Ant Rap” work? Not this one.

The songs are slight, repetitive, and unfocused. The production is messy. The second side grinds to a boring halt. Adam & the Ants weren’t supposed to be boring, but there’s even a song about sex that puts you to sleep.

The Ants split soon after, with Adam taking Marco along for a solo career. Thank goodness he had “Stand and Deliver”.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There’s a hidden cut called “The Lost Hawaiians” which isn’t really worth the mystery surrounding it.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Demos. Joy. Unpolished demos of unfinished songs. Hooray!

 GRADE D+: Two good tracks, one fair track, dreck, and the mother-f’n “Ant Rap”.

 

The Fall – Slates

ARTIST: The Fall                                  220px-The_Fall_Slates

TITLE: Slates

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: It was a six-song EP. A contemporaneous single was a bonus track.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I really doubt it.

LINEUP: Mark E. Smith, Marc Riley, Craig Scanlon, Steve Hanley, Paul Hanley with Dave Tucker and Kay Carroll.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: An EP released betwixt albums that showcases the band in fine form.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A hard record to find for years, this six song EP featured some songs that were some of their best work in the early 80’s.

The songs, as usual, sound shambling and unpredictable, with Smith’s voice lording over the proceedings spouting lyrics that are at times repetitive, and other times dense and impossible. “Prole Art Threat” is a good example of the latter.

The key cut is the final one, “Leave the Capitol”, where Smith eviscerates London and all it stands for. I wish it was longer, but these six tracks fit together well.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: I missed this at first, so I had to go back and grab it. Sorry for those following along in order with me. All one of you.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with Peel Sessions and the “Lie Dream of a Casino Soul” single (#5 UK Indy).

 GRADE A: With only six tracks, it’s taut and there’s no room for shenanigans – except the usual Fall shenanigans.

Joe Jackson – Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive

ARTIST: Joe Jackson

TITLE: Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive  220px-Jumpinjive

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #42 US, #12 UK

SINGLES: Jumpin’ Jive (#43 UK), Jack You’re Dead

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: All of these are swing-era hit songs

LINEUP: Joe Jackson, Pete Thomas, Raul D’Oliveira, Nick Weldon, Dave Bitelli, Graham Maby, Larry Tolfree.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After he broke up his angry-young-man band, Jackson goes swing (!?!) It was probably a fun record to make.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The swing music era always has affectionados, and revivals every now and then pop up in space and time. Joe Jackson loved the jump blues and swing, so why not put out an album of covers of his favorite songs.

Featuring songs made famous by Louis Jordan, Glenn Miller, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, and others, Jackson leads a competent swing band through the paces in what sounds like a fun time.

Yet after a couple of plays, what you want to do is find the originals (which is now much, much easier in the streaming world) than listen to Jackson’s versions. (His voice isn’t always built for these songs). So a fun concept, the tour was probably a hoot, but these aren’t the originals and that’s what you really want.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After this tour, Jackson changed directions again, keeping Graham Maby as the only continuum between his first band and 1982.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE: C+: It’s fun, but it doesn’t have staying power since the originals are the ones you need to seek out.

20/20 – Look Out!

ARTIST: 20/20                                      R-2470935-1285873847.jpeg

TITLE: Look Out!

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

 

CHART ACTION: #127

SINGLES: Strange Side of Love,

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only if you adore power pop

LINEUP: Steve Allen, Ron Flynt, Joel Turrisi, Chris Silagyi.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from relocated Midwestern power-pop quartet is hooky and melodic

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Power pop was either a hit or miss (usually a miss) on the charts, since it fell in between radio-friendly rock, pop, and adult contemporary and only the catchiest tracks could catch on with the radio.

Which means a band like 20/20, who had catchy hooks, harmonies, and interesting songs and melodies, didn’t catch a break in the era when the Top 40 was transitioning away from disco and into new wave and arena rock.

This second foray by the band covers a lot of the same ground as their debut. Some of the tracks near the end didn’t work as well in reality as in concept, and at times it felt like a slight re-write of the first one. Still, there was enough here that it could have done better on the charts had radio taken a flyer on it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They added a new drummer, and after the album only Allen and Flynt remained.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Two extra tracks.

 GRADE: B+: A few duds near the end, otherwise another good representation of power pop.

The Neville Brothers – Fiyo on the Bayou

ARTIST: The Neville Brothers    220px-Neville.fiyo.bayou

TITLE: Fiyo on the Bayou

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Sitting in Limbo

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Brother John / Iko Iko

LINEUP: Art, Cyril, Charles, Aaron and Charmaine Neville with a bunch of New Orleans session musicans (including Art’s son Ivan).

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A better album from the Neville’s than their debut as a group.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Compared to the greatness of the Meters, to Aaron’s ballad work, and other projects the Nevilles have been associated with, this album still seems a bit of a letdown.

Yet, it’s joyous, and has room for old New Orleans standards (“Brother John / Iko Iko”), Aaron’s balladeering (“The Ten Commandments of Love” and “Mona Lisa”), and a cover of the Meters “Hey Pocky Way” and “Fire on the Bayou”.

What’s bothering me a bit is the way the horns are charted and produced – it seems too generic and sterile for me on some cuts. To me, the horns should have been looser and more in the groove. Here they just seem added on. That’s a downgrade – which is a shame because the underlying funk is there.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Meters released an album called Fire on the Bayou. If it worked once…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B:  Blame this on the horn charts, but it’s good for a quick funky fix.

U2 – October

ARTIST: U2                                     220px-U2_October

TITLE: October

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #104 US, #11 UK

SINGLES: Fire (#35 UK), Gloria (#55 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: With a Shout

LINEUP: Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Disappointing second album sounds rushed and unfocused. Narrator: It was.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After getting acclaim for Boy, it seemed nothing went right for U2 when recording their second album. Famously, Bono’s lyric ideas were stolen, and he had to come up with lyrics basically on the spot without his ideas and notes. They came right from a tour to the sessions, and didn’t have many ideas.

They’re lucky some songs sounded as good as they did. “With a Shout”, “Gloria”, and “I Threw a Brick Through a Window” are just as good as anything on their first record, with the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. all contributing new ideas and sounds into their sonic palette.

Yet, as a whole, it’s unsatisfying. The lyrics and music sometimes don’t meld very well (understandable), and had they had more time, they may have turned out something as good as their debut. They didn’t have the time, and it showed.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Also, there was an existential crisis in the band. Bono, the Edge, and Mullen were involved in a group called The Shalom Fellowship, and began to question rock-and-roll and its lifestyle.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Singles, b-sides, BBC sessions, live cuts. You know the drill. 

GRADE: C+-: Three great cuts save this album, and probably saved the group.

Def Leppard – High ‘n’ Dry

ARTIST: Def Leppard                     220px-Def_Leppard_-_High_'n'_Dry

TITLE: High ‘n’ Dry

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #38 US, #26 UK

SINGLES: Let It Go (#34 Rock), Bringing on the Heartbreak (#61)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night)

LINEUP: Joe Elliott, Steve Clark, Pete Willis, Rick Savage, Rick Allen

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A commercial and MTV breakthrough for the hard-rockin’, hard-livin’ band – at least in the US.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While still showing inconsistency and still sporting a few lackluster songs, Def Leppard’s second album started the process of their US domination.

The video for “Bringing on the Heartbreak” brought US fans to the band, even if the single didn’t make a radio impact. That showed the band could slow down and be emotional and powerful, while still showing the heaviness that hard rock fans wanted.

The second side is a bit lackluster, but overall this is a slight improvement from their debut and has a few all-timer songs. This may be the best place to start for those dipping in past the hits collections.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Still not streaming, for no damn good reason as I can see.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a B-side (great) and an unneeded ‘enhancement’ of “Bringing on the Heartbreak”

GRADE: B:  It’s the same grade as the debut, as the whole second side isn’t that hot all in all, but I’d start here for an immersion of Deep Leppard.