Time for Another 80’s Party: More Songs That Did Not Get a Lot of Top 40 Love

My fellow Georgia fans:  Early indications are that 2011 is going to be a long and dismal season.  All the more reason for us to take a break from it all.  So come join me today and let’s have a big 80’s party!!!  (Those of you who hate Georgia or just don’t care, you are more than welcome to join us too.  Pholdin’ Braves fans, you are also welcome to join us.  You especially need a party.)

It remains my contention that the best 80’s songs of all time are those that did not get very much in the way of Top 40 love.  I ran down some of these last year, and now I have a few more to add to the list.  Enjoy.

The Communards, “Don’t Leave Me This Way”  An old 70’s disco standard, originally recorded by Motown artist Thelma Houston (no relation to Whitney Houston), gets an 80’s makeover.  The Communards spent four weeks at the top of the British pop charts with this one.  But over here in the States they got very little if any Top 40 love; they spent one week at number 40 and were gone.  (In case this doesn’t work, here’s the link)

The Cars, “I’m Not The One”  The follow-up to the #7 hit “Tonight She Comes”, this one topped out at #32.  It originally appeared on the 1981 album Shake It Up, but was not released as a single.  A remixed version went onto The Cars’ Greatest Hits album and was released as a single in 1986.  (In case this doesn’t work, here’s the link)

Models, “Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight”  Not to be confused with the English punk band The Models, this is a band from Melbourne, Australia.  In 1985 this song hit #1 on the Australian pop charts and #3 on the New Zealand pop charts, but here in the States it only spent two weeks in the Top 40, topping out at #37.  This was their only US hit.

The Motels, “Shame”  The Motels are best known for the hits “Only the Lonely” (1982) and “Suddenly Last Summer” (1983), both of which hit #9.  This one went to #21 in the summer of 1985.

Kate Bush, “Running Up That Hill”  Kate Bush had a long and distinguished career in the UK, but here in the States this was her only Top 40 hit.  It topped out at #30.

Lisa Lisa, “I Wonder If I Take You Home”  Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam were an urban contemporary band that was big during the back half of the 80’s.  This was their debut hit, in the fall of 1985.    They would follow it up with “All Cried Out” (#8), “Head To Toe” (#1), and “Lost In Emotion” (#4).  Though it only hit #34, it would go on to become one of their most recognizable hits.  It has been sampled repeatedly by hip-hop artists down through the years.

Opus, “Live Is Life”  Opus is an Austrian band, and this is their signature hit.  It got lots of love in Europe and Canada, but here in the US it only hit #32.

Peter Gabriel, “In Your Eyes”  Peter Gabriel was the original lead singer of Genesis.  After his departure from the group in 1976, he had a long and successful solo career.  His biggest hits were “Sledgehammer” (#1) and “Big Time” (#8).  This one came between those two, and only hit #32.

Daryl Hall, “Foolish Pride”  In 1986, Daryl Hall briefly broke away from Hall and Oates to record the solo album Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine.  This album featured the hit “Dreamtime”, which went to #5, and this one, which went to #33.

Bananarama, “A Trick Of The Night”  Bananarama is best known for the hits “Cruel Summer” (#9, 1983), “Venus” (#1, 1986), and “I Heard A Rumour” (#4, 1987).  This is one of their better songs and should have gotten more love than it did.  It got some play in early 1987 but failed to catch even a whiff of the Top 40, topping out at #76.

A Nostalgic Win: The Lost Boys

The Lost Boys is not a movie that I ever saw, and it is not one that I plan on seeing anytime in the near present future.  It is a horror-ish movie about teenage vampires in California who bite people and cause them to turn into Harold Camping.  There is enough craziness out in California that I don’t need to worry about teenage vampires.  But the soundtrack is a classic 80’s soundtrack, right up there with 9 1/2 Weeks (objectionable movie, great soundtrack) and Pretty In Pink.

The soundtrack features “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me” by Roger Daltrey, which would later be remade by George Michael and Elton John.  It also features performances by INXS, Lou Gramm (former lead singer of Foreigner), and Echo and the Bunnymen, as well as lesser known artists Gerard McMann, Eddie and the Tide, and Tim Cappello.

There is enough craziness out in California without having to worry about teenage vampires.

In short, this album is a must-have for those of you who are nostalgic about movie soundtracks from the best decade of music gone by, the 80’s.

Time for Another 80’s Party: Movie Stars Who Thought They Could Sing

It has been too long since we’ve done one of these.  So crank up your computer speakers and come on over to Joe’s blog and get crunk to the sounds of the best decade of music gone by:  the 80’s!!!!!

Our theme today:  Movie/TV stars who thought they could sing.

Can you imagine what it would be like if, say, Tom Hanks or Russell Crowe or Johnny Depp were to grab a mike and bust out singing?  Ugh.  Didn’t think so.  Well, that didn’t stop any of these guys.  So join us today on our excursion into the infamy of 80’s movie stars attempting to sing.

First, we have Eddie Murphy.  He actually comes pretty close to putting in a somewhat passable attempt at singing with “Party All The Time”:

[Alas, the evil people at Sony Music Entertainment have restricted these videos so that they will not embed.  Therefore, we have no choice but to do this the old-fashioned way.  Here’s the link.]

Now we have Patrick Swayze from “Dirty Dancing”.  It wasn’t enough for him to be a hot young movie star; he also had to try to convince us that he could sing.  Fail.  Here is “She’s Like the Wind”:

[Here’s the link for this one.]

Next up is Don Johnson of Miami Vice fame.  I’m looking for a sign that he can sing.  Here is “Heartbeat”:

[Here’s the link.]

And to close out our little excursion into the world of celebrity singing infamy, we have our most egregious offender, Bruce Willis.  Hey, if you don’t respect yourself ain’t nobody gonna give a hootie-hoot.  Here is “Respect Yourself”:

[Here’s the link.]

If any of you out there have any other examples of 80’s movie/TV star singing infamy that need to be added to this list, then please feel free to mention them in the comments.  Also, if any of you disagree with my assessment of these movie/TV stars’ singing ability or lack thereof, you are more than welcome to offer your opinions in the comments.

One and Done: Jono’s Guide to the Best 80’s Songs You’ve Probably Never Heard

Some of the best 80’s songs of all time are those that stayed in the lower decks of the Top 40.  Today our theme is “One and Done” as we take a look at some of the greatest one-and-done hits from the 80’s–songs that debuted into the Top 40 and only lasted for a week or two or maybe more before dropping out.  You may have never heard of these songs before–you have now.  Forget Miley Cyrus.  Forget Justin Bieber.  These are the songs and the stars you need to be listening to.  Thanks to Youtube, I was able to find videos for each of these songs.  So crank up the volume on your PC and prepare to be blessed with these blasts from the past.

Cutting Crew, “One for the Mockingbird” The follow-up to Cutting Crew’s 1986 #1 smash “I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight”, this song debuted into the Top 40 in 1987 at No. 38 and was gone the next week.  Cutting Crew would recover with their next single, “I’ve Been in Love Before”; after an inauspicious start it rallied to the #9 position.

Ray Parker Jr., “Girls Are More Fun” Ray “Whoyagonnacall” Parker Jr. had a long and distinguished musical career.  As part of the group Raydio, he was in on the hits “Jack and Jill” (#8, 1978) and “You Can’t Change That” (#9, 1979).  As a solo singer, he had the hits “The Other Woman”, (#4, 1982), “I Still Can’t Get Over Loving You” (#12, 1983), and “Jamie” (#14, 1984), but was best known for the #1 smash “Ghostbusters” (which, incidentally, got him sued by Huey Lewis for allegedly lifting the bass line from “I Want a New Drug”.  They settled out of court.  In 2001 Ray Parker Jr. sued Huey Lewis for allegedly violating the terms of their settlement.  Gotta love these two).  The follow-up to “Ghostbusters”, this one debuted at #39 in the spring of 1985, crept up to #34, then dropped out.

Device, “Hanging on a Heart Attack” Device was fueled by the musical prowess of Holly Knight, one of the most accomplished female songwriters of the 80’s, with a little help from a couple of her friends.  After a promising start, “Hanging on a Heart Attack” inexplicably bogged down at No. 35, slipped a notch to No. 36, then dropped out the next week.  “Who Says”, the follow-up single, got some MTV play (this was back in the days when MTV actually played music videos) but failed to catch even a whiff of the Top 40.  After Device broke up, Holly Knight released a couple of solo albums in the late 80’s, including her own version of “Love is a Battlefield” which she had written for Pat Benatar back in the day.

The Hooters, “Where Do The Children Go” The Hooters (not to be confused with that sports bar with the scantily clad waitresses–a “hooter” is a sort of keyboard harmonica that features prominently in the sound of this band) got lots of play in the mid 80’s with “And We Danced” (#21, 1985) and “Day By Day” (#18, 1986).  “Where Do The Children Go”, featuring background vocals by Patty Smyth of Scandal, debuted into the Top 40 at No. 38 in the summer of 1986 and was gone the next week.  The Hooters were never seen or heard from again.

Wang Chung, “Hypnotize Me” Wang Chung is best known for their hits “Dance Hall Days” (#16, 1984) and “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” (#2, 1986).  This one, from the soundtrack of the movie “Innerspace”, debuted at No. 36 in the summer of 1987, slipped a notch to No. 37, then dropped out the next week.

Club Nouveau, “Why You Treat Me So Bad” In 1986, the group Timex Social Club went to #8 with the hit “Rumors”.  Unfortunately for them, Timex wasn’t too thrilled about this, so they changed their name to “The Social Club”.  This didn’t work out quite so well for them and they broke up shortly thereafter.  A couple of Timex Social Club members went on to form the group Club Nouveau, which went to #1 in 1987 with “Lean On Me”, a remake of Bill Withers’ #1 hit from 1972.  “Why You Treat Me So Bad” was the follow-up.  It debuted at No. 39 in late 1987 and was gone the next week.

Laura Branigan, “Spanish Eddie” Laura Branigan is best known for the hits “Gloria” (#2, 1982) and “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” (#12, 1983, this one was hers before it was ever Michael Bolton’s).  She got some play in late 1984 and early 1985 with “Self Control” (#4) and “The Lucky One” (#20).  “Spanish Eddie” debuted at No. 40 in the fall of 1985, stalled out at No. 40 for a couple of weeks, and then was gone.

Alas, Laura Branigan is no longer with us.  She died in 2004 of a brain aneurysm.

Cock Robin, “When Your Heart is Weak” Cock Robin came originally from California.  They had a great deal of success abroad, but they never did anything here in the U. S.  This was their only U. S. hit; it debuted at No. 37 in the summer of 1985, inched up to No. 35, then dropped out.

Duran Duran, “Skin Trade” Duran Duran was huge in the early 80’s, then went on hiatus in 1985 as the members went on to pursue separate projects.  John Taylor and Andy Taylor joined Robert Palmer to form The Power Station, while Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes, and Roger Taylor recorded an album of their own under the name Arcadia.  When John and Andy Taylor did not rejoin, opting instead to pursue their own solo projects, the remaining three went on and recorded a new album under the name Duran Duran.  This album was called “Notorious”; the title track was a #2 hit in 1987.  “Skin Trade”, the follow-up, debuted at No. 39 in 1987 and dropped out the next week.  [Whoops:  The embedding on this one has been disabled.  The video is still out there, though.  Here’s the link.]

Glass Tiger, “I Will Be There” Glass Tiger is a Canadian band best known for the hits “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone” (#2, 1986) and “Someday” (#7, 1986).  “I Will Be There” debuted at No. 40 in 1987, bogged down at No. 34, and then dropped out.  (Notice in the video how the band is performing on the frozen tops of the Canadian Rockies.  Anyone else out there wonder how their instruments would make out under such extreme conditions?  And how were they able to perform up there with no sound equipment except for their instruments?)

David & David, “Welcome to the Boomtown” This one debuted at No. 40 back in 1986, crept up to No. 37, then dropped out.  David & David broke up after this and went on to work with other musicians.  They would collaborate with Sheryl Crow on her debut album “Tuesday Night Music Club”.

Okay, the party’s over.  That’s enough for one day.  Those of you who are looking at this while at work:  You’re not getting paid to look at Youtube.  Get back to work.

Music Review: Cori Moon, I Will Sing

If you have been around 7:22 or other similar church environments in the Atlanta area over the past decade, then you have more than likely been exposed to the vocals of Cori Moon somewhere along the line.  Here is one of the finest female vocalists in all of Atlanta–and now, after all these years, she has her very own CD.  It is not yet available in stores, but you can download it from iTunes.

The album is a 6-song EP consisting of worship songs old and new, some you probably know and some you probably don’t, and some that were written expressly for this album.  A voice like Cori Moon’s needs to be the focal point of an album such as this, and indeed it is.  In these musical arrangements, you get none of the overproduced schlock which is so prevalent with CCM female vocalists; instead you have refreshingly minimalistic acoustic arrangements which place the voice of Cori Moon front and center for the duration of the album.

So I would strongly recommend that you check out Cori Moon, and then go to iTunes and download this album.

[The reviewer was furnished with a copy of this CD.  Thanks for hooking a brother up.]

A Nostalgic Win: The Psychedelic Furs, Forever Now

Forever Now by the Psychedelic Furs was one of my favorite albums back when I was in high school.  Okay, it was a few years old by the time I made it to high school–it came out in 1982 and I did not start high school until 1986–but I liked it just the same.  And if you give it a listen you will see that it certainly beats the crap out of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers.

The edition that I now have is a remastered version that came out in 2002.  The original artwork from the UK version of this album has been restored, and six new bonus tracks have been added, including the B-sides “Aeroplane” and “I Don’t Want to Be Your Shadow”, and live versions of “President Gas” and “No Easy Street”.

This album was the breakthrough album for The Psychedelic Furs.  They had already won something of a cult following with their previous two albums The Psychedelic Furs and Talk Talk Talk, but it was this album that put them on the map.  “Love My Way” peaked just outside the Top 40 on the UK singles chart and at No. 44 on the US singles chart, and the album spent seven months on the Billboard albums chart.

The album features the work of Todd Rundgren as producer.  Steve Lillywhite produced the first two Psychedelic Furs albums and didn’t want to do any more with them.  Also, the Psychedelic Furs were looking to incorporate the synthesizer sound which back then was just starting to become popular and which would go on to become one of the defining characteristics of 80’s music, and they chose Todd Rundgren to help them go in that direction.

High points of the album include “Forever Now”, which leads off the album establishing the new, streamlined synthesizer sound to follow.  “President Gas” is a strong rock anthem with a cello break inspired by Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring midway through the song.  (By the way, the title “President Gas” is a not-so-flattering reference to Reagan.)  “Love My Way”, the hit single, is a cross between a ballad and a dance track and is defined by a marimba line that runs throughout the song.

Mainstream success followed on the heels of Forever Now, and it changed the sound of the Psychedelic Furs in many ways.  Midnight to Midnight (1987) was the Psychedelic Furs’ most widely successful album here in the US, yet many critics question the artistic quality of it.  The Psychedelic Furs themselves regret the changes to their sound which resulted from increased commercial success.  (Personally, I have no problem with Midnight to Midnight.  But even if it is just a bunch of commercialized schlock, this schlock still beats the hell out of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers.)  Forever Now captures the Psychedelic Furs in that ideal state as they were in transition from an artistic band with a small cult following to a mainstream success, and able to enjoy the best of both worlds.

So to all you high school kids out there:  Put away your Miley Cyrus and Jonas Brothers.  They’re just not worth the time or trouble.  It’s time to give some props to the Psychedelic Furs.

Music Review: Coldplay, Viva La Vida

Viva La Vida is the long-awaited fourth album from Coldplay.  Released in 2008, this album comes three years on the heels of X&Y.  There have long been rumblings that this would be a different kind of Coldplay album, and when you listen you will see that this is true.  Though this album has its share of arena-rock moments, these by no means make up the bulk of the album as they do on previous Coldplay releases.  There are no obvious made-for-radio songs which feature Chris Martin in falsetto like “Clocks” or “Speed of Sound” on this album.  The album as a whole has a sort of old-world Spanish flair which is vaguely reminiscent of Tears For Fears’s 1995 effort Raoul and the Kings of Spain.

The album leads off with “Life in Technicolor”, a broad, sweeping instrumental introduction which sets the table for everything that is to follow.  Those of you who are familiar with Hillsong United should feel at home with this, as it resembles the instrumental introductions which appear on some of their albums.  Other high points of the album include “Lost!”, which consists entirely of vocals, organ, and clapping.  “Viva La Vida”, the title track and lead single, is a soaring rock anthem powered entirely by strings and bells.  “Violet Hill” is a more traditional Coldplay rock song, a brooding affair laced with pianos and distorted guitar.

With this album, Coldplay broke out of the mold that was set with their first three albums.  Just like Florida’s football program, Coldplay is only getting started with the promise of even greater things to come.

Music Review: The B-52s, Funplex

So what do you call it when one of the premier party bands of the 80s returns after a 16-year hiatus sounding almost exactly the same as before, as if the passage of time had not altered them in any way?  Not a bad thing, actually.  There have been many changes in the world since 1992 when the B-52s released their last full-length studio album, and not all of them have been good.  In light of this, it definitely helps to know that something out there has not changed.

Right from the opening track you will see that this is the exact same B-52s sound that you have come to know and love.  Fred Schneider’s distinctive half-sung, half-spoken vocals sound exactly the same as ever, and Kate Pearson and Cindy Strickland are whooping it up just like ex-high school cheerleaders.  (Yes, Cindy Strickland is back.  She took a pass on “Good Stuff” in 1992, but she’s back in action this time around.)  It is only towards the middle of the album that the electronic influence starts to kick in and remind us that we are indeed still here in 2008.

It all adds up to the fun, garish, B-movie/surfboard/kitsch sound that has been distinctive of the B-52s ever since their inception back in the late 70s.  So don’t worry about war in the Middle East, high gas prices, the housing crunch, the credit crisis, the impending economic troubles, etc.  Just put on this CD and know that somewhere out there the party’s still rollicking along exactly as it was back in happier times.

Music Review: Counting Crows, Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

This is the Counting Crows’ first all-new studio album in six years, since Hard Candy back in 2002.

This is a quasi-concept album.  It is divided into two halves, which are, as the title suggests, “Saturday Night” and “Sunday Morning”.  Lead singer Adam Duritz explains the basis for the concept as follows:  “Saturday night is when you sin, and Sunday morning is when you regret.  Sinning is often done very loudly, angrily, bitterly, violently.”  Thus it is that the first half of the album pulses with a loud, throbbing, guitar-driven energy.  The songs are about losing yourself in the party scene, trying to experience some sort of connectedness with others, and trying to find some sort of meaning–all of which the party scene promises but fails miserably to deliver.  The climax of this half of the album is the song “Cowboys”, in which the protagonist is so determined to find some sort of meaning in life and relationship with others that he becomes a serial killer:  “Oh, I will make you look at me!”

On the second half of the album, the tone changes drastically.  The mood is much quieter and more reflective here.  The songs deal with the themes of regret, going to bed with the wrong woman but waking up alone anyway, being stuck in a relationship that you can’t handle, recognizing that there are reasons why women should stay away from you (“You Can’t Count On Me”), longing for an old love, and finally ending on the hopeful note of recognizing that there is still a life out there to be lived.

This album has a little of everything that we loved them for in the early days:  the sparse, reflective sound of the debut album August and Everything After, and the hard, driving sound of Recovering the Satellites.  All in all, this album marks an excellent addition to the Counting Crows’ body of work.

Music Review: Neil Diamond, Home Before Dark

Believe it or not, Neil Diamond was the Justin Timberlake of his day.  He had the following of teenage girls who all considered him to be undeniably sexy; the only difference between him and Justin Timberlake was that he could actually sing.

And then, a strange thing happened.  All those teenage girls and others who followed Neil Diamond back in his early days grew into adults with jobs, families, and other responsibilities.  These fans continued to track with Neil Diamond as time went on, but despite his best efforts he failed to gain any traction with younger fans.

So in 2005, when Neil Diamond decided he wanted to do a new album, he went out and got producer Rick Rubin.  Rick Rubin has worked with several well-known musicians over the years, but is best known nowadays for his work with Jay-Z.  Did that mean that Neil Diamond was in the process of thugging out?  No, it only meant that this album, 12 Songs, would be the best he had done in almost three decades.  It featured a very stripped-down sound consisting of Neil Diamond, the guitar, and other sparse instrumentation.  It was much more well received than anything he had done in three decades, debuting at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 album chart.

Home Before Dark picks up right where 12 Songs left off, continuing the sparse, minimalist sound that worked so well on 12 Songs.  This time around, the songs are themed around love, second chances, and coming home after a lifetime of traveling far and wide through this world and this game called life.

The album leads off with “If I Don’t See You Again”, which sets the table for what is to follow with the idea that “it’s been a hell of a ride”.  Next up is “Pretty Amazing Grace”, a song about love and redemption and second chances.  Those of you who were fortunate enough to catch this season of American Idol had the opportunity to hear this song performed live.  The theme of redemption and second chances continues with “One More Bite of the Apple”.  Following this are several infectious, folksy songs including “Whose Hands Are These”, “No Words”, and “The Power of Two”.  These songs could easily pass for some of the best of Neil Diamond’s standards, songs such as “Sweet Caroline” or “Song Sung Blue”.  “Slow It Down” slows it down in preparation for the final song, and “Home Before Dark” ties everything together in a powerful closing statement about having traveled far and wide in this world and this game called life, and struggling to get “home before dark”.

Neil Diamond wrote a book’s worth of material to go in the liner notes for this album, but if you take the time to read it you will gain a full appreciation for the process he went through to conceive these songs and bring them to life on this album.

If you like Neil Diamond, then prepare to be impressed by some of the best work that he has done in over three decades.  Somehow I don’t think Justin Timberlake will be sounding quite this good when he’s 67.