Following on from yesterday’s post about the film “This Is England”, which was set in 1983, I reckon it’s time for another in my series of posts about my top ten albums of the year, having already covered 1982, 1987, 1995 and 2010…
1. Big Country “The Crossing”
The debut album from the Scottish rock band Big Country, put together by the late Stuart Adamson after his departure from Skids. Through use of the e-bow and effects which made Adamson and fellow guitarist Bruce Watson’s guitars sound reminiscent of bagpipes, the album boasted a sound strongly evocative of Scotland.
Four singles were released from the record, “Harvest Home”, “Fields Of Fire”, “In A Big Country” and the brilliant “Chance”. Even better, in my view, are the fantastic and atmospheric album tracks “The Storm” and “Porrohman”.
The original line-up which also featured bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki continued to make great music until their split in 2000. Adamson’s tragic death in 2001 looked to have put a full stop to the Big Country story but have since reconvened and released new music in 2013. None of it, however, has matched the breadth of vision found on their classic debut.
2. Cliff Richard “Silver”
To mark his then 25th anniversary in music Cliff Richard released the album “Silver”. Originally available in a box set that included both “Silver” and a bonus album entitled “Rock ‘N’ Roll Silver” (which contained newly recorded versions of classic rock ‘n’ roll tracks, including his own first hit from 1958, “Move It”).
A brilliant pop album, there were three hit singles present – “Never Say Die (Give A Little Bit More)”, “Baby You’re Dynamite” and “Please Don’t Fall In Love”. Other great tracks are “Love Stealer” and “Ocean Deep”. A cover of “The Golden Days Are Over” was released by Bucks Fizz and became a hit the following year.
3. Def Leppard “Pyromania”
Sheffield rock band Def Leppard’s third album, and the first to feature the line-up of singer Joe Elliott, drummer Rick Allen, bassist Rick Savage, and guitarists Steve Clark and Phil Collen.
Three singles were unleashed from this album in the UK – “Rock Of Ages”, “Too Late For Love” and the classic “Photograph” which received a great deal of airplay on MTV. Elsewhere the epic “Die Hard The Hunter” and “Billy’s Got A Gun” showed a different side to the band.
A number two hit in the USA, it’s fair to say that already the band’s sound had been polished from that found on the previous records and hints of the production sheen that would follow with 1987’s “Hysteria” can clearly be heard throughout. A very good hard rock album.
4. Dio “Holy Diver”
Following his acrimonious departure from Black Sabbath (there were arguments over the mixing of their “Live Evil” album) vocalist Ronnie James Dio formed a new band, under the name Dio, with drummer Vinny Appice (also ex-Black Sabbath) together with guitarist Vivian Campbell and bassist Jimmy Bain. “Holy Diver” was the new band’s debut album.
Possibly the highlight of Dio’s solo career, the record is certainly a classic ’80s heavy metal album. “Holy Diver” and “Rainbow In The Dark” were both released as singles, and the album’s other highlights include opening track “Stand Up And Shout” and my own favourite track, “Don’t Talk To Strangers”. Awesome vocals, solid bass, thunderous drums and pyrotechnic guitar – classic stuff!
5. Duran Duran “Seven And The Ragged Tiger”
Duran Duran’s third album, and their last by the original line-up until 2004, “Seven And The Ragged Tiger” continued the success of the previous year’s “Rio”, certainly in commercial terms if not with the critics.
Although the record produced three hit singles – “Union Of The Snake” (which reached number three), “New Moon On Monday” (number nine) and “The Reflex” (number one) the band had struggled to write new material, and overall the album doesn’t feel quite as consistently strong as their first two. Nonetheless, it is a very good pop album with some great material outside of the singles, including “The Seventh Stranger” and “Of Crime And Passion” – even the instrumental “Tiger Tiger” is worth it’s place.
A bit of trivia here – I can vividly recall (though don’t ask me why!) purchasing the 7″ vinyl single of “New Moon On Monday” from a local record shop at the same time as Led Zeppelin’s “Led Zeppelin III” album (with the unusual gatefold sleeve with rotating disc).
6. Genesis “Genesis”
Following the August release of the menacing single “Mama”, Genesis’s twelfth studio album arrived in October. Composed more collaboratively than previously, “Genesis” was a polished combination of pop sensibility and progressive rock overtones.
Alongside further hits in the form of “That’s All” and “Illegal Alien” can be found the ballad “Throwing It All Away” and the two-part progressive epic “Home By The Sea” / “Second Home By The Sea”. A mixed bag for sure, but a very good album and a pointer to the commercial heights the band (not to mention outside projects by band members Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford) would reach later in the decade.
7. Marillion “Script For A Jester’s Tear”
The debut album from Aylesbury band Marillion, “Script For A Jester’s Tear” was a superb progressive rock album with echoes of the classic progressive rock bands of the 1970s.
Preceded by the non-album single “Market Square Heroes” (which itself featured the classic seventeen minute non-album track “Grendel” as the b-side of the 12″ single release), the album boasted two further singles in “He Knows You Know” and “Garden Party”.
The entire album is essential, but special mention must go to “Chelsea Monday, “Forgotten Sons” and, of course, the brilliant “Script For A Jester’s Tear”.
8. Status Quo “Back To Back”
“Back To Back” was the band’s sixteenth studio album – and last to feature founding member, bassist Alan Lancaster. Continuing with the more pop/rock sound found on the previous album, this one featured four hit singles. “Ol’ Rag Blues” reached number nine, “A Mess Of Blues” number fifteen, a re-recorded version of “Going Down Town Tonight” hit number twenty, and the controversial “Marguerita Time” hit number three.
Few would argue that this is a classic Status Quo album, but it has it’s moments, and if listened to simply in terms of the songs it’s actually very good. “Can’t Be Done” and “Win Or Lose” are both really catchy, “Too Close To The Ground” a great bluesy ballad and “No Contract” a decent heavier rock number.
9. Thin Lizzy “Thunder And Lightning”
The final studio album to be released under the Thin Lizzy banner, “Thunder And Lightning” was also the band’s heaviest record.
After guitarist Snowy White left the band, vocalist / bassist Phil Lynott recruited John Sykes from NWOBHM band Tygers Of Pan Tang as his replacement – joining drummer Brian Downey, guitarist Scott Gorham and keyboardist Darren Wharton. ALthough the majority of the material for this album was written before his arrival, Sykes’ guitar sound, together with his heavier approach, helped shape the sound of the album.
He also co-wrote the single “Cold Sweat” and produced a dazzling guitar solo to go with it. Other excellent tracks on this record include “The Holy War”, “Bad Habits”, “Baby Please Don’t Go” and “The Sun Goes Down”. Not just the heaviest, but also one of the best Thin Lizzy albums.
10. ZZ Top “Eliminator”
Ah, the little ol’ band from Texas, ZZ Top. The band – guitarist / vocalist Billy Gibbons, bassist / vocalist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard – were practically unknown in the UK prior to their eighth album “Eliminator”.
At heart a blues rock band, the trio had experimented with synthesizers on their previous album, but their use, together with sequencers and a drum machine came into their own with this record.
This, combined with clever marketing involving a trilogy of music videos, starring their Eliminator car (a souped up 1933 Ford coupe) and several leggy models, helped bring the band to a much wider audience. The videos, for the singles “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs” received a huge amount of exposure on MTV.
Aside from those singles, the album featured two further singles in “Got Me Under Pressure” and “TV Dinners” alongside my own favourites – a slow burning blues number “Need You Tonight”, the up-tempo “Bad Girl” and the unusual, percussion-heavy “Thug”.
1983, then. Margaret Thatcher wins a second term as British Prime Minister with a landslide victory, Liverpool won the First Division and Manchester United the F.A. Cup, and top film releases included “Return Of The Jedi”, “Flashdance” and “Octopussy”…