Tag: 1983

ABC – Beauty Stab

ARTIST: ABC

TITLE: Beauty Stab

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION:  #69 US, #12 UK

SINGLES: That Was Then but This Is Now (#89 US, #18 UK), S.O.S.(#39 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Ohh…no.

LINEUP: Martin Fry, Mark White, Stephen Singleton, with Andy Newmark, Alan Spenner, Howie casey, David Theodore, Luis Jardim

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A misfire of epic proportions. ABC ditches the orchestration and goes for (mostly) a rock motif. It bombs.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After the success of The Lexicon of Love, people were waiting with bated breath for their follow up. When the group released Beauty Stab, people were saying: “The hell?”,

After the opener (a classic sounding “That Was Then but This Is Now”, the album goes into a bunch of distorted and feedback guitars, That shocked the system, even though “Love’s a Dangerous Language” isn’t bad at all once that opener is over. It’s just that the marketplace, the fans, ok, everybody was expecting something more like their debut. The reaction in 1983 was a universal “ick”.

Now, listening in 2021, without any expectations, it’s a decent record. Not anywhere close to the rousing excellence of their debut, but it’s a bit more eclectic. Some of the lyrics are political, which again was against expectations. Maybe they shouldn’t have released this record at this time, but it’s nothing to throw out the window.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Martin Fry said he realized now he should have released a sequel to The Lexicon of Love and saved this for later. He’s probably right.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B:  You read the contemporary reviews and wonder if it’s as bad as they said back then. No, it’s not

Pink Floyd – The Final Cut

ARTIST: Pink Floyd

TITLE: The Final Cut (A Requiem for a Post War Dream by Roger Waters)

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION:  #6 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Not Now John (#7 US Mainstream, #30 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Doubtful unless you just play Pink Floyd on repeat.

LINEUP: Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters. Michael Kamen and Andy Bown played most of the keyboards. Others were here and there.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Falkland Island War inspires Waters to re-visit his father’s death and war in general.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is the Roger Waters Experience, for the most part. Taking some leftover songs from The Wall (yes, there were leftovers), enhancing the story, and then turning to the current (then) state of the world, Waters leads a stripped down Pink Floyd (really Gilmour with Mason on the record here and there) into the depths of melancholy.

This was highly anticipated, and for most people, it was a deeply depressing disappointment. Yes, there are some interesting musical ideas, but Waters arrangements and production re-treads most of the old Pink Floyd tricks of echo and sound effects.

It’s just…too much.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Gilmour really didn’t like the themes of this record and really didn’t want the leftover songs to be used. But he really didn’t have a lot of ideas, he admitted later.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, in a sense. “When the Tigers Broke Free” (#39 UK) was a single that was part of The Wall movie soundtrack, and it was added into the record as track four in the 2000’s.

GRADE C: I really can’t take this unrelenting bleakness. EXILED all but “Not Now John”

Richard Thompson – Hand of Kindness

ARTIST: Richard Thompson Hand_of_Kindness_(Richard_Thompson_album_-_cover_art)

TITLE: Hand of Kindness

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION:  #186

SINGLES: The Wrong Heartbeat, Tear Stained Letter

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I doubt it, really

LINEUP: Richard Thompson, Dave Pegg, Dave Mattacks, Simon Nicol, John Kirkpatrick, Aly Nichol, Pete Thomas, Pete Zorn.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After the breakup of his marriage and partnership with Linda Thompson, Richard Thompson releases his second official solo album and erases some of the gloom that inhabited the work with his ex-wife.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: No longer part of a duo (professionally and personally), Richard Thompson resumes his solo career in an unexpectedly bright sounding album. Reunited with his old bandmates (Pegg, Mattacks, and Nicol), and adding sax, accordion and violin, Thompson’s sound is somewhat jaunty. That masks some of the lyrical content about bad relationships and marital issues.

Yet, Thompson himself sounds sunny and energized. The opening “Tear Stained Letter” would have surprised anyone who had been following his duos with Linda Thompson, as here Thompson has a fire and wink in his voices. His guitar playing is stellar, of course, but he also allows his band chances to be out front as well.

The playing is fun for the most part, and while some songs are a bit down and depressing (can’t always be happy), the mood is upbeat. The songs aren’t his best for the most part, but the music world was glad he emerged relatively unscathed from his marital hell.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The guitar he’s holding on the cover was made by Danny Ferrington

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE B: Not the best song-wise, but it will please any Thompson fan.

Aztec Camera – High Land, Hard Rain

ARTIST: Aztec Camera 220px-High_Land,_Hard_Rain

TITLE: High Land, Hard Rain

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: #129 US, #22 UK

SINGLES: Pillar to Post, Oblivious (#18 UK), Walk Out to Winter (#64 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I doubt

LINEUP: Roddy Frame, Campbell Owens, Craig Gannon, Bernie Clark, Dave Ruffy

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Melodic jangly pop rock written by a young Scottish wunderkind.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Roddy Frame was 16 when he formed Aztec Camera, and by his 19th birthday he was recording their debut album for Rough Trade. But this wasn’t some teenage love story – Frame was much like Michael Brown of the Left Banke and Emmit Rhodes of the Merry-Go-Round. He was writing sophisticated pop songs at a young age with complex themes and melodies.

The first track, “Oblivious”, is an all-timer. Written with a keen sense of melody, with a great hook, the arrangement is sophisticated and the lyrics are deft wordplay. It’s hard to believe that it’s not the work of someone with years of experience behind him.

The rest of the album isn’t as bright and pop-friendly as that track, but Frame and the band still have a maturity beyond their years, and the album sounds fresh especially when comparing to the more production and electronics heavy records of that time.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They released two singles in 1981 that aren’t really compiled anywhere.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, three additional B-sides.

GRADE A-: One all-timer and the rest decent-to-good pop songs. It’s well worth some spins.

The Replacements – Hootenanny

ARTIST: The Replacements 220px-The_Replacements_-_Hootenanny_cover

TITLE: Hootenanny

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Color Me Impressed, Within Your Reach

LINEUP: Paul Westerberg, Bob Stinson, Tommy Stinson, Chris Mars

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A shambolic record that epitomizes the Replacements at the time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s some growth and maturity by The Replacements here. Tracks like “Color Me Impressed”, “Within Your Reach” and “Willpower” expand their sonic horizons and sharpen their wit.

Then there’s the messes of “Treatment Bound” and the title track, “Hootenanny” where the band switches instruments for the heck of it. (They did that during their shows sometimes). And the outright stealing of some melodies during “Mr. Whirly”, also for a gag probably.

Is it entertaining? Yeah. Is it consistent? Nah. But “Within Your Reach” and “Color Me Impressed” are definitely all-timers for the group, and rock in general.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Lovelines” featured actual classified ads from the Minneapolis City pages.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few outtakes and alternate vocals.

GRADE B: Fun, but really messy and erratic.

Death Cult – Death Cult

ARTIST: Death Cult (The Cult)  Death-Cult-EP

TITLE: Death Cult

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: No

SINGLES: It started as a 4-track EP, and added tracks in 1988 and 1996

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Horse Nation was on their debut LP

LINEUP: Ian Astbury, Billy Duffy, Jamie Stewart. Ray Mondo played drums in the first sessions, then Nigel Preston played on the later cuts.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Tentative start by the future Cult find them feeling their way around their early sound.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The guitars aren’t as big, the production is simple, and the songs aren’t that great, but still, when Ian Astbury opens his mouth, you know it’s The Cult, albeit way early in their career when they were known as Death Cult.

Migrating from a couple of other bands (one being Southern Death Cult), the band soon to be known as The Cult recorded a four track EP that at least got them a little notice. Later they recorded a single “God’s Zoo”, which was a marked improvement. That lead to their debut record, where they repurposed a song here and cast the rest into history.

There are some high points here, but the flat production, meandering tracks, and the lack of redeeming kitsch makes this EP disposable to all except the curious. Death_Cult_(EP)

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The lead track of the EP proper, “Brothers Grimm”, was written by Duffy and Steve Abbot from UK Decay when they both were unemployed from their previous bands.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Originally it was a 4-track EP, then they added the “God’s Zoo” single, and then a BBC session that led up to their Dreamtime album as the Cult.

GRADE C-: For the curious only, except for “God’s Zoo” and maybe “Brothers Grimm” if I’m generous.

Swans – Filth

ARTIST: Swans                                     

TITLE: Filth

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: Are you serious?

SINGLES: None, but the EP Swans is appended.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Um….

LINEUP: Michael Gira, Jonathan Kane, Roli Mosimann, Norman Westberg, Harry Crosby

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pummeling your senses into oblivion.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I’ve had issues in adding some really out there and art damaged records to my catalog (See Throbbing Gristle, Einstruzende Neubauten, Foetus, etc. on Ugggh!) but Swans makes the cut, even though it is also grimly difficult and damaged.

Michael Gira and his band of noise terrorists do have song structures, and even songs that you can move a bit too. What they also have is a holy clatter and noise made by two drummers, two bassists, and a guitarist interested in making sheets of noise. Gira sings, er, shouts his tales of degradation and real-life horror. The effect is heightened by the use of repetition in both music and lyrics.

This is not for everyone – probably not for most people. But if you get it (and it may take a while) it’s worth a ride. 

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Michael Gira said he wanted the music to obliterate, just because it felt good. Mission accomplished.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Several different packages, and some have their debut EP along with this album

 GRADE B+: I get this, not that I’m going to put it on to cook dinner (unless I have to tenderize something with a mallet).

Billy Bragg – Life’s a Riot with Spy vs. Spy

ARTIST: Billy Bragg                    220px-Life's_a_riot

TITLE: Life’s a Riot with Spy vs. Spy

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: #30 UK

SINGLES: It’s kind of an EP in length, though it made the LP charts in the UK.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Milkman of Human Kindness, A New England

LINEUP: Billy Bragg

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First seven song collection from Billy Bragg, alone with his guitar and voice.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Billy Bragg had a failed career as a punk rocker in Riff Raff, and dropped out of the British Army, before busking around London and playing small concerts with just him and his electric guitar. He alternated love songs and political rants and grew a fan base. After some intrigue behind the scenes, this became a hit in the UK.

These seven songs don’t lack for a lack of instrumentation. Bragg’s guitar and voice make up for that in passion and heart. The songs are fully formed – at times sentimental – at times angry. He’s a pure heart in the music business and it shows here, and his lyrical game was on point from the beginning.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was mastered at 45 RPM, and John Peel first played a track at the wrong speed. Oops.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, outtakes and demos that double the length.

 GRADE A-: Two of the tracks are all timers, and the rest aren’t that bad, once you get used to the solo guitar and voice.

Jason & the Scorchers – Fervor

ARTIST: Jason & the Scorchers          220px-Jason-scorchers-fervor

TITLE:  Fervor

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None – it was an EP

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Help There’s a Fire, Absolutely Sweet Marie

LINEUP: Jason Ringenberg, Perry Baggs, Warner Hodges, Jeff Johnson. Michael Stipe backs up on a track.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A band to put the ROCK in country-rock, the Scorchers created a proto alt-country sound with some hot rock guitar and cool country ballads.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: From Cornfield, USA (Sheffield, IL), Jason Ringenberg journeyed to Nashville and formed the Scorchers as a raw rock band with definite country leanings. After a four-track EP that was more style than substance, EMI put out this seven track EP to whet the appetite of the public.

The Dylan cover “Absolutely Sweet Marie” kills, as does the original “Help There’s a Fire” (remade from the original EP). They show their range with “Pray for Me, Mama (I’m a Gypsy Now)”, where Jason sings a sad country song.

Warner Hodges’ guitar work on electric and steel is stellar. Jason’s croon fits every song. It’s seven tracks of fun.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The four track EP, Reckless Country Soul (credited to Jason & the Nashville Scorchers), is on a compilation called Wildfires & Misfires)

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but it’s on an EMI Years compilation though

 GRADE: A-: It’s a damn roadhouse party in seven tracks.

U2 – War

ARTIST: U2                           220px-U2_War_album_cover (1)

TITLE:  War

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: #12 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: New Year’s Day (#53 US, #2 Mainstream, #10 UK), Sunday Bloody Sunday (#7 Mainstream), Two Hearts Beat As One (#12 Mainstream, #18 UK), Surrender (#27 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Seconds, “40”

LINEUP: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen with a little help from Kenny Fradley, Steve Wickham, and the Coconuts

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: U2 coalesces all of its strengths into one unifying force, creating an album that put them on the map all over the world and MTV too.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Beginning with a martial snare drum, and ending with a plaintive Psalm, U2 recovered from the uneven October with a classic that focused their sound, their lyrics, and their attitude.

Each member of U2 plays with a fire and passion befitting the songs, especially Larry Mullen on drums. He varies his sounds and attack to suit each track, but never interferes with the other elements. Bassist Adam Clayton’s work with Mullen creates a very solid rhythm section, allowing the Edge’s guitar (and e-piano) space to color and shape the tracks. “New Year’s Day” is one of THE tracks of the rock era.

Bono gets a little heavy handed and preachy in a couple songs (it IS Bono) which makes a couple songs less than stellar, but most every track is worthy of heavy play. This is where to start – it’s the bedrock of U2 for years to come.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Edge sings the first two stanzas of “Seconds”. I…I did not know that. Also, the Coconuts (from King Creole’s band) sing backup in three tracks

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, B-sides and remixes.

 GRADE: A: Had Bono reigned himself a skosh on a couple tracks, it would have been an A+