Tag Archives: AC/DC

1977 – My Top Ten Albums Of The Year

OK, so still gradually working back through the Seventies, and here are my top ten albums released back in 1977…

  1. AC/DC “Let There Be Rock”
AC/DC - Let There Be Rock
AC/DC – Let There Be Rock

The third album to be released world-wide by the band, and their fourth in Australia, “Let There Be Rock” was a big step forward in terms of the group’s sound and style with more guitar solos – and just guitar in general – than before.

The record contains a number of bonafide classic AC/DC songs, including “Whole Lotta Rosie”, “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be”, “Bad Boy Boogie” and “Let There Be Rock” itself. The first and last of these were released as singles, along with “Dog Eat Dog”, though only “Whole Lotta Rosie” troubled the lower reaches of the charts in the UK.

An excellent AC/DC record, one of the best from not only the Bon Scott fronted era but the band’s entire history.

2. Billy Joel “The Stranger”

Billy Joel - The Stranger
Billy Joel – The Stranger

A much more restrained affair than the aforementioned AC/DC record, Billy Joel’s fifth studio album “The Stranger” is nonetheless also one of the very best in the artists’ entire catalogue.

Four tracks were released as successful singles in the US – “Just The Way You Are”, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”, “She’s Always A Woman” and “Only The Good Die Young” – and the first three of those made the UK top forty too.

Those songs are timeless, and the album remains one of Joel’s best-selling efforts. For me, though, aside from the singles the best of the album can be found in the haunting “The Stranger” and the fantastic “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant”, a real storyteller of a song, which was a highlight of his live set when I was lucky enough to catch it on the 1990 “Storm Front” tour.

3. Fleetwood Mac “Rumours”

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

Surely one of the best known and most loved albums of the decade, Fleetwood Mac’s eleventh studio album was the one that saw their international success continue to build upon that achieved two years earlier with their self-titled album – which had introduced Stevie Nicks and Lyndsay Buckingham to the band’s ranks.

To date “Rumours” has sold in excess of forty million copies, taking it into the top ten best-selling albums of all time, actually at number eight. A number one album in the UK, the record spawned four hit singles – “Go Your Own Way“, “Dreams”, “Don’t Stop” and “You Make Loving Fun” – and still had room for classic tracks such as “Songbird”, “The Chain” and “Gold Dust Woman”.

Most folk probably know all about the drama that surrounded the recording of this album, with marriages and relationships imploding, affairs going on and the songs being about (and aimed) each other. That they managed to make a record at all was a triumph over adversity. To have made such a timeless classic is remarkable. A simply brilliant album.

4. Heart “Little Queen”

Heart - Little Queen
Heart – Little Queen

Before they had huge melodic rock hits in the late Eighties, Seattle band Heart were sometimes compared to British legends Led Zeppelin in terms of their fusion of hard rock and acoustics and use of light and shade in their material.

This was only the group’s second studio album release, and appeared during a time of difficulty for the band. When their first album had reached a million sales the group’s record label took out an advertisement to celebrate that the Wilson sisters, Ann and Nancy, took offence to, finding it to be sexist and insulting. That lead to a stand-off between group and label over the recordings for their planned second album “Magazine” for which the group had recorded, but not finished, just five new songs.

The label nonetheless released those recordings, padded out with a b-side and some live tracks just a month before “Little Queen” hit the shelves before legal action meant that it was swiftly withdrawn. Eventually the band re-recorded and finished “Magazine” and it was released in 1978.

“Little Queen” meanwhile kicked off with the storming “Barracuda”, a song inspired by reactions to the advertisement that caused the furore in the first place. That song was the lead single from the album, followed by “Little Queen” and “Kick It Out”. Elsewhere the beautiful “Love Alive” and “Dream Of The Archer” were among the acoustic based numbers that would draw comparison with Led Zeppelin, as would the more bombastic closer “Go On Cry”.

Not the high point of the band’s career in terms of sales success, although it still managed triple platinum in the US, but one of their stronger albums artistically speaking. Great stuff.

5. Jethro Tull “Songs From The Wood”

Jethro Tull - Songs From The Wood
Jethro Tull – Songs From The Wood

As mentioned in my post on 1978, “Songs From The Wood” was the first in a loose trilogy of folk rock albums on themes surrounding nature and the changing world. It’s also probably my favourite of the three records.

Containing a trio of singles – “The Whistler”, “Songs From The Wood” and the winter-themed “Ring Out Solstice Bells”, none of which achieved much in the way of chart success – as well as other cracking tunes like “Jack-In-The-Green”, “Velvet Green” and the superb “Pibroch (Cap In Hand)” this is a great record best summed up by the text of an advertisement at the time, which read “…a new album of old magic… inspired by the thought that perhaps nature isn’t as gentle as we’d like to believe… takes as its theme the natural and supernatural inhabitants of the woodlands of old England… warm and friendly, harsh and bitter by turns. Find a quiet spot and listen to it soon.” An excellent album.

6. KISS “Love Gun”

KISS - Love Gun
KISS – Love Gun

From the depth of Jethro Tull to the shallowness of KISS! Let’s be honest, KISS songs are all about love and sex and having a great time, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

“Love Gun” was the American hard rock band’s sixth studio album. Released just a few months before “Alive II”, their second double live record, and with the folly of the four individual solo albums to come in 1978, this was the last great early albums before the slump leading up to concept album “Music From The Elder” in 1981.

While they were at the top of their game, however, KISS were excellent. “Christine Sixteen”, “Love Gun” and a cover of The Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me” retitled as “Then She Kissed Me” were released as singles, and other classic tracks on the record include opener “I Stole Your Love”, “Shock Me” and “Tomorrow And Tonight”.

7. Meat Loaf “Bat Out Of Hell”

Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell
Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell

As with Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”, this one probably needs little introduction and is also in the top ten best-selling albums of all time, this time at number five.

The record was the first collaboration between Meat Loaf and songwriter Jim Steinman, which because of its enormous success has cast something of a shadow over Meat Loaf’s subsequent recording career.

Of the seven songs on the album four were issued as singles. In the US there were top forty placings for “You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)”, the ever-brilliant “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” and “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad”, whilst here in the UK the first two of those, plus “Bat Out Of Hell” (albeit not until 1979), also made the top forty and all are live favourites to this day.

The remaining three songs, “Heaven Can Wait”, “All Revved Up With No Place To Go” and “For Crying Out Loud”, round out this definitive Meat Loaf album that still stands out as something very special nearly forty years later.

8. Motörhead “Motörhead”

Motörhead - Motörhead
Motörhead – Motörhead

The self-titled debut album from Lemmy’s band Motörhead wasn’t really their debut album at all. The record that they recorded first was 1976’s “On Parole” but the record company behind it, United Artists, shelved it and that album didn’t see the light of day until the tail end of 1979, by which time both “Overkill” and “Bomber” had brought the band chart success in the top thirty album chart.

“Motörhead” was recorded one weekend in early 1977, with the band about to call it a day and break up. Given a couple of days recording time by Chiswick label boss Ted Carroll they re-recorded the majority of “On Parole” (7 of the 9 original tracks) with the addition of a couple of additional numbers.

The song “Motörhead” was released as a single. Technically a cover version, the song was written by Lemmy during his time as a member of Hawkwind and appeared on the b-side to that band’s 1975 single “Kings Of Speed”.

The first recording by the legendary line-up of Lemmy, “Fast” Eddie Clarke and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor, the album isn’t blessed with the best production job or performances (“On Parole” may just edge it) but is an excellent snapshot of the band on their way to becoming one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time.

9. Slade “Whatever Happened To Slade

Slade - Whatever Happened To Slade
Slade – Whatever Happened To Slade

Often viewed as a singles band, no doubt due to their extraordinary run of chart hits in the early Seventies, Slade made some very good albums in their time. One of the best, in my opinion, was this one although ironically it was their first album not to chart since their first flush of success. Even 1976’s “Nobody’s Fools” had managed number fourteen but by March 1977 when “Whatever Happened To…” was released the band’s popularity had declined markedly.

A more straight ahead rock album than much of their previous work, this album contains some great songs. Some of these – the tongue-tripping opener “Be” and “One Eyed Jacks With Moustaches” – I had been introduced to via a taped copy of the “Alive Vol. 2” album from a friend, whilst I first heard the single “Gypsy Roadhog” on the 1980 compilation “Slade Smashes”. Other cracking songs on the record included “When Fantasy Calls”, “She’s Got The Lot” and “It Ain’t Love But It Ain’t Bad”.

The reissued CD version from 2007 also included a number of non-album singles and b-sides from 1977/78 including “Give Us A Goal”, “Burning In The Heat Of Love” and the Elvis Presley tribute “My Baby Left Me / That’s Alright” to make a great album even better.

10. Status Quo “Rockin’ All Over The World”

Status Quo - Rockin' All Over The World
Status Quo – Rockin’ All Over The World

Released during November 1977,  “Rockin’ All Over The World” was Status Quo’s tenth studio album and reached number five in the UK album chart.

Two singles were issued – “Rockin’ All Over The World” which saw the infamous bass playing puppet used when Alan Lancaster was unable / unwilling to fly back from Australia to film the video for the song, and “Rockers Rollin'” – although the latter, a double a-side with “Hold You Back” was not released in the UK.

Recently a remixed version of the album has been issued, so I have already written at some length about this record. Suffice it to say that, despite the lightweight sound of the album, it has remained a much-loved album since I first discovered it around 1981/82 whilst amassing the band’s back catalogue after getting their 1981 album “Never Too Late”.

In the usual round-up of events in this year we find James Callaghan as British Prime Minister and Jimmy Carter becoming President of the USA (replacing Gerald Ford). Liverpool won the old First Division for the tenth time but lost to Manchester United in final of the FA Cup. Top film releases of 1977 included “Star Wars”, “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind”, “Saturday Night Fever” and the James Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me”.

Look out for 1976 in the (fairly) near future…

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1979 – My Top Ten Albums Of The Year

OK, so when I recently finished my look back at my favourite albums from the Eighties with my top ten from 1989 I wasn’t sure whether to next tackle the Nineties (having already looked at 1995 some time ago) or the Seventies (again, 1975 has already been covered).

Well, decision made – it’s the Seventies, but this time I’m going to start at the end of the decade and work my way back from 1979 to 1970. As I have mentioned previously we are now in territory where I have come to appreciate these records in retrospect, not having been exposed to the majority of them when they first appeared.

Without further ado, therefore, here are (in alphabetical order) my personal favourite ten albums released during 1979…

1. AC/DC “Highway To Hell”

AC/DC - Highway To Hell
AC/DC – Highway To Hell

The band’s fifth studio album to be released outside of Australia, and what was to prove to be lead singer Bon Scott’s last, as he died in 1980 during early sessions for what would become “Back In Black”.

I can remember having the vinyl copy of this record and playing it a lot back in the early 80s when I was beginning my love of / obsession with (delete as appropriate!) music, having been turned onto the band through my regular Friday night engagements with BBC Radio 1 and Tommy Vance’s fabulous Friday Rock Show.

Aside from the classic title track which was a number 56 single in the UK, “Girls Got Rhythm” would also be a hit reaching number 29.

There were plenty of songs on the record that were about girls and sex, including the aforementioned “Girls Got Rhythm”, “Beating Around The Bush”, “Love Hungry Man” and “Touch Too Much”, for this then-teenage boy to envisage, whilst the band attracted controversy subsequently with the final track “Night Prowler” as it became associated with the case of Los Angeles serial killer Richard Ramirez – a fan of the band – who had been nicknamed the Night Stalker.

Regardless, this album – produced by legendary producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange – is a classic hard rock record and one of AC/DC’s very best.

2. The Clash “London Calling”

The Clash - London Calling
The Clash – London Calling

It would be nice to bolster my street cred by claiming to have been into bands like The Clash, Joy Division, Stiff Little Fingers or the Specials in the late 70s, but the truth is I was never that cool! Even when I started to get into music in secondary school (where I started in September ’79) it was mainly rock, metal and pop music that I listened to. In retrospect, however, I have investigated and come to appreciate many acts that passed me by at the time, including The Clash.

Released just a couple of weeks before the year’s end, “London Calling” was the band’s third album and saw them moving further away from their punk rock roots and embracing a variety of styles including reggae, ska and rockabilly, and it was the fusing of reggae and punk that initially drew me to the record.

Whilst single “Train In Vain” didn’t chart in the UK, “London Calling” itself just missed the top ten, reaching number 11. With nineteen tracks spread across four sides of vinyl in its original double album format, there is a lot of value for money to be had here, with some of the best tracks being “The Guns Of Brixton”, “Lover’s Rock”, “Lost In The Supermarket”, “Spanish Bombs” and, of course, “London Calling”.

3. Cozy Powell “Over The Top”

Cozy Powell - Over The Top
Cozy Powell – Over The Top

An instrumental album, this one was one of my favourites for attempting to play along to on the drums – sounding I suspect nothing like the great man himself.

Hailing from Cirencester, Powell became one of rock’s most well-known and loved drummers for his work with bands such as Rainbow, Michael Schenker Group, Whitesnake and Black Sabbath. “Over The Top” was his first – and best – solo album and featured contributions from Gary Moore, Bernie Marsden, Don Airey, Clem Clempson and Jack Bruce.

Kicking off with a version of “Theme One”, originally a single for Van Der Graaf Generator in 1972 and used weekly as link music on Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show, the album is full of actually memorable instrumental numbers, with some great performances from all concerned.

Naturally the drums are the focus and nowhere is this more the case than on the closing track “Over The Top” which incorporates Tchaikovsky melodies with original themes written by Airey and Powell and some simply thunderous drum soloing. Undoubtedly this is a record for drummers, or at least fans of drumming, but it is still strong enough in my opinion to hold its own in this list.

4. Led Zeppelin “In Through The Out Door”

Led Zeppelin - In Through The Out Door
Led Zeppelin – In Through The Out Door

Released in August of ’79, this would prove to be the final studio album from Led Zeppelin (leaving aside the outtakes collection “Coda”) as drummer John Bonham died in September of the following year.

Less guitar-heavy than the preceding album 1976’s “Presence”, there was more influence on the sound and material from singer Robert Plant and bassist / keyboardist John Paul Jones as the pair experimented with a new synthesizer that Jones had obtained and guitarist Jimmy Page and Bonham allegedly battled their addictions to heroin and alcohol respectively.

Whilst admittedly different in sound to the rest of Zeppelin’s work I still love this record. Favourite tracks include the opening “In The Evening”, the keyboard-heavy “Carouselambra” and “Fool In The Rain” (with some fantastic syncopated drumming). The closing two tracks “All My Love” and “I’m Gonna Crawl” are slow burn numbers, with the latter having a definite blues edge and the former perhaps pointing towards Plant’s early solo material.

Not as essential as “Physical Graffiti” or “Led Zeppelin IV” but any Led Zeppelin album is worthwhile and better than anything that many bands could ever produce.

5. Motörhead “Overkill” / “Bomber”

Motörhead - Overkill
Motörhead – Overkill

As I did with Saxon’s two releases of 1980 I’m cheating slightly by including two albums by Lemmy and his crew – “Overkill” came out in March ’79 and “Bomber” followed in October.

For may folk the band’s golden era was when the line-up saw Lemmy joined by guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clark and drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor – the version of the band responsible for 1977’s self-titled album as well as “Overkill”, “Bomber”, “Ace Of Spades” and “Iron Fist”.

“Overkill” contained two singles “No Class” (number 61) and the title track (number 39), whilst the title track from “Bomber”  (number 34) was the sole single from that record. I can remember seeing the band on BBC’s “Top Of The Pops” numerous times in the late 70s / early 80s.

The group’s classic live album “No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith” contains six tracks from this pair of records in its ten tracks and many of the cuts here remain in the band’s live repertoire to this day including “Bomber”, “Stay Clean”, “Metropolis”, “No Class” and “Overkill”. Simply essential heavy metal.

6. Rainbow “Down To Earth”

Rainbow - Down To Earth
Rainbow – Down To Earth

July 1979 saw the release of “Down To Earth”, the fourth studio album from Ritchie Blackmore’s post-Deep Purple band Rainbow.

Following original singer Ronnie James Dio’s departure at the end of 1978 the album had been recorded by Blackmore, drummer Cozy Powell, keyboardist Don Airey and bassist Roger Glover. Glover wrote lyrics for all the songs and then singer Graham Bonnet was hired and recorded the vocal parts on top of the already near-complete record.

Two singles were released from the album, which saw Blackmore pursuing a more commercial sound. “Since You Been Gone” reached number 6 in the UK and “All Night Long” got to number 5.

Although more poppy than the Dio-fronted albums, there is still plenty of hard rock to be found here, particularly on “Eyes Of The World”, “Love’s No Friend” and “Lost In Hollywood” whilst “Bad Girl” and “Makin’ Love” also have their moments. Blackmore’s playing is sublime in places and his riffs as instant as ever and with brilliant rhythm work from Powell and Glover and Bonnet’s distinctive voice on top this is a great hard rock album.

7. Sky “Sky”

Sky - Sky
Sky – Sky

I have my parents to thank for this entry, the second all-instrumental one to make this list. They had this record in their collection, and I think one of two others from Sky, and I can remember listening to this at home quite often.

A so-called supergroup, Sky were formed by classical guitarist John Williams, bassist Herbie Flowers, drummer / percussionist Tristan Fry, guitarist Kevin Peek and keyboardist Francis Monkman – all of whom had extensive experience in session work as well as having been members of various bands.

A progressive rock band in nature, the group’s debut album “Sky” features a mixture of styles featuring electric and acoustic instrumentation. The first side of the record contained five short numbers (all under four minutes) including two classical adaptations, but it is side two where the magic is to be found.

Written by Monkman, “Where Opposites Meet” is a five-part suite that I never get tired of hearing and love just as much today as when I first heard it. Absolutely superb!

8. Status Quo “Whatever You Want”

Status Quo - Whatever You Want
Status Quo – Whatever You Want

Another album that hit the shelves in the latter part of 1979, in this case October, “Whatever You Want” was Status Quo’s twelfth studio album and produced two top twenty singles in the UK. The title track “Whatever You Want” made number 4 and “Living On An Island” got to number 16.

One of my favourite Status Quo albums, this has some truly great songs alongside the hits. These include “Shady Lady”, “Your Smiling Face”, “Breaking Away” and the brilliant one-two of “Come Rock With Me” which segues beautifully into “Rockin’ On”. It was such a thrill for me when “Come Rock With Me” appeared in the band’s live set for a while!

The album was retitled “Now Hear This” in 1980 for the American market in an attempt to achieve some success there with a remixed and differently sequenced record. That version is very good but the UK original, with its classic album cover, is hard to beat.

Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt’s guitars mesh perfectly on their trademark boogie crunch, Rossi pulls off some great solos, the rhythm section of Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan are right on the money and keyboardist Andy Bown’s contributions are important too. Most importantly, though, there is not one duff track here – ten superb Status Quo tracks.

9. Thin Lizzy “Black Rose : A Rock Legend”

Thin Lizzy - Black Rose : A Rock Legend
Thin Lizzy – Black Rose : A Rock Legend

Coming the year after the release of the band’s seminal live album “Live And Dangerous”, this was Thin Lizzy’s ninth studio album.

With guitarist Gary Moore staying with the band long enough to make a full album – having had stints in the band in 1974 and 1977, the line-up was completed by vocalist / bassist Phil Lynott, guitarist Scott Gorham and drummer Brian Downey.

The record produced three hit singles in the UK – “Waiting For An Alibi” (number 9), “Do Anything You Want To” (number 14) and “Sarah” (number 24). Of the rest of the album, the best tracks are “Got To Give It Up”, “S & M” and the four-part celtic epic “Róisín Dubh (Black Rose) : A Rock Legend” which is one of the highlights of the band’s entire catalogue.

10. Whitesnake “Lovehunter”

Whitesnake - Lovehunter
Whitesnake – Lovehunter

“Lovehunter”, another October ’79 release, was the second album from former Deep Purple singer David Coverdale’s band Whitesnake.

Recorded at Clearwell Castle here in the Forest of Dean, the album spawned one single, the lead track “Long Way From Home”, the video for which featured drummer Ian Paice, who had joined the band after the album was recorded, along with Coverdale, Jon Lord, Micky Moody, Bernie Marsden and Neil Murray. This incarnation of the band would only last until late 1981 but produced a further three excellent studio records.

The album cover, designed by Cyprus-born fantasy artist Chris Achilleos, attracted some controversy for obvious reasons, but is really a fairly accurate representation of Coverdale’s lyrical direction in tracks such as “Lovehunter”, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Women”, “Mean Business” and “Medicine Man”.

Musically, this album is very much in the bluesy hard rock era of the band, with some wonderful guitar interplay between Moody and Marsden adding colour to the muscular rhythm section, all topped off by Coverdale’s fantastic voice.

That, then, is my favourite ten albums from 1979. Some of the albums that narrowly missed out on making it onto this list include southern rock band Blackfoot’s “Strikes”, the Police’s “Regatta De Blanc”, Scorpions’ “Lovedrive” and Cliff Richard’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll Juvenile”.

In the wider world in 1979 Margaret Thatcher replaced Labour leader James Callaghan as British Prime Minister whilst President of the USA was Jimmy Carter. Football-wise, Liverpool won the old First Division with Arsenal beating Manchester United for the FA Cup. In cinemas top film releases of the year included “The Amityville Horror”, “Rocky II” and the fantastic “Apocalypse Now”.

OK, that’s it… look out for 1978 coming up soon…

1980 – My Top Ten Albums Of The Year

Recently I looked back at my favourite albums from 1981. Having previously also looked at 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1987, I guess it’s time to start filling in the missing years from that decade in music.

So, back to the beginning today with 1980. As with any other year previous to 1981, which is when my love of music really began, the majority of the music here was discovered in retrospect…

  1. AC/DC “Back In Black”
AC/DC - Back In Black
AC/DC – Back In Black

The Australian band’s seventh studio album, released in the summer of 1980, this was the first record with Brian Johnson on vocals following the death of his predecessor Bon Scott in 1979.

Produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange, the record was to be a massive success and is one of the highest selling albums in history. Two tracks were released as singles in the UK and US – “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Back In Black” itself – both of which were top 40 hits, whilst the album featured very strong material in the shape of “Hells Bells”, “Shoot To Thrill”, “Given The Dog A Bone” and “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”.

One of the best albums in the AC/DC catalogue, and an excellent hard rock record in anyone’s book.

2. Adam And The Ants “Kings Of The Wild Frontier”

Adam And The Ants - Kings Of The Wild Frontier
Adam And The Ants – Kings Of The Wild Frontier

Although “Kings Of The Wild Frontier” was the second album from Adam And The Ants, following 1979’s “Dirk Wears White Sox”, this was the record that saw the band gaining huge chart success.

The band’s manager Malcolm McLaren recruited Ant’s band members to a new band, Bow Wow Wow, at the start of 1980 leading to a completely new line-up being recruited including guitarist Marco Pirroni who co-wrote all the tracks on the new album with Ant.

The record, released towards the end of the year, showcased the band’s new tribal sound, heavily influenced by the presence of two drummers in the line-up, and spawned three singles that all made it into the UK top three – “Dog Eat Dog”, “Antmusic” and the title track.

Other great tracks on this unique and brilliant record are “Ants Invasion”, “Physical (You’re So)” and “The Human Beings”. An 80s classic.

3. Black Sabbath “Heaven And Hell”

Black Sabbath - Heaven And Hell
Black Sabbath – Heaven And Hell

Just like AC/DC, Black Sabbath in 1980 were effectively looking to re-launch themselves with a new singer, in this case following the dismissal of Ozzy Osbourne after eleven  months of fruitless recording sessions. New singer Ronnie James Dio, who had previously been in the band Rainbow, brought a powerful and commanding vocal presence to the proceedings and was responsible for all the lyrics on the resulting “Heaven And Hell” album.

The record, which would become the band’s highest charting platter (making the top ten in the UK) was followed by two single releases in “Neon Knights” and “Die Young”, but it’s the album’s title track that is the real highlight here, and was usually extended beyond it’s initial seven minute duration when performed live in concert. Another classic heavy metal record.

4. Dire Straits “Making Movies”

Dire Straits - Making Movies
Dire Straits – Making Movies

Although vaguely aware of the single “Romeo And Juliet”, which was a hit in early 1981, I don’t think that Dire Straits really came across my radar until sometime around the release of their live 1984 album “Alchemy”.

Nonetheless, “Making Movies” now ranks at number three on my personal Dire Straits chart, behind “Brothers In Arms” and “Love Over Gold”.

A quite cinematic sounding record, “Making Movies” contains the excellent “Tunnel Of Love” and “Skateaway” (both also released as singles) as well as the delicate “Hand In Hand” and uptempo numbers “Expresso Love” and “Solid Rock”. Less vital, for me, is the closing “Les Boys”, a song about gay men performing cabaret in a German disco bar complete with “…leather straps… SS caps… a little S&M…”. That misstep aside, though, great album.

5. Gillan “Glory Road”

Gillan - Glory Road
Gillan – Glory Road

Former (and now-current) Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan’s band Gillan (which followed the more jazz rock flavoured Ian Gillan Band) released their third album “Glory Road” in October 1980.

The group had frequent appearances on BBC TV’s “Top Of The Pops” during the early 80s and this record featured two of their singles in “Sleeping On The Job” and “No Easy Way”.

The original vinyl release came with a free second record, titled “For Gillan Fans Only” which contained outtakes and specially recorded material and showcased the band’s humorous side.

On the album proper, my favourite tracks are “Time And Again”, “Nervous”, “On The Rocks”, “No Easy Way” and the brilliant “If You Believe Me”. With the free record this was superb value for money.

6. Iron Maiden “Iron Maiden”

Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden

The debut album from the Paul Di’Anno fronted Iron Maiden, this self-titled record contained a number of future classics.

Two top forty hit singles were present, “Sanctuary” and “Running Free”, whilst the title track would become a concert favourite.

“Phantom Of The Opera” – the band’s first long and complex number – was used for a time in advertisements for Duracell batteries and “Charlotte The Harlot” spawned a sequel on 1982’s breakthrough album “The Number Of The Beast”. Although only really hinting at the potential of this now legendary band, and not as good as follow-up “Killers”, this is still a very good debut album.

7. The Police “Zenyatta Mondatta”

The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta
The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta

Released a year and a day after previous album “Regatta De Blanc”, “Zenyatta Mondatta” was the third album by Sting’s former band The Police. The band, completed by guitarist Andy Summers and drummer extraordinaire Stewart Copeland, played a mixture of rock and reggae with some punk and jazz influences.

This particular album was recorded in Holland within four weeks, a period that also saw the band play concerts in Milton Keynes and Dublin, and they left for the next part of their 1980/1981 world tour on the same day that recording sessions finished!

Despite this, two of the band’s biggest hits came from this record, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” and the teaching experience / Lolita-inspired “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”. Other great tracks on this album included “When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around”, “Canary In A Coalmine” and “Shadows In The Rain”. One of The Police’s best albums.

8. Saxon “Wheels Of Steel” / “Strong Arm Of The Law”

Saxon - Wheels Of Steel
Saxon – Wheels Of Steel

Cheating slightly here, I suppose, by including two albums as one, but Yorkshire heavy metal band Saxon released their second album “Wheels Of Steel” in May 1980 and follow-up “Strong Arm Of The Law” at the beginning of September 1980. Both albums now form part of the band’s “holy trinity” of albums (together with 1981’s “Denim And Leather”).

“Wheels Of Steel” contained singles “747 (Strangers In The Night)”, “Suzie Hold On” and “Wheels Of Steel” as well as classic “Motorcycle Man” and “See The Light Shining”.

Saxon - Strong Arm Of The Law
Saxon – Strong Arm Of The Law

Of the two, however, “Strong Arm Of The Law” is the stronger. Although it only contains one single, the title track, amongst the album tracks there are numerous classics including “Heavy Metal Thunder”, “20,000 Ft.”, “Hungry Years”, “Sixth Form Girls” and the ever excellent “Dallas 1 PM”. A golden era for the band, that’s for sure.

9. Status Quo “Just Supposin’…”

Status Quo - Just Supposin'...
Status Quo – Just Supposin’…

The thirteenth studio album from British rock band Status Quo, “Just Supposin’…” was actually recorded at the same sessions that produced the follow-up, 1981’s “Never Too Late” album.

It was this record, though, that contained the stronger songs. UK top twenty hit singles “Lies”, “Don’t Drive My Car” (those two as a double A side), “What You’re Proposing” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll” (which was released after the “Never Too Late” album) are all present and correct.

In addition there are the quite brilliant album tracks “Run To Mummy”, “Over The Edge” and my personal favourite “The Wild Ones”. Taken together with the subsequent album and those recording sessions were seriously productive, and this is one of my favourite Status Quo albums to this day.

10. Thin Lizzy “Chinatown”

Thin Lizzy - Chinatown
Thin Lizzy – Chinatown

Following 1979’s classic “Black Rose (A Rock Legend)” album, which finally harnessed the excellent Gary Moore in the studio for the band, was never going to be an easy task for Thin Lizzy.

For many the band’s tenth studio outing “Chinatown” is something of a disappointment. Moore had left the band (again) and been replaced by former Pink Floyd touring guitarist Snowy White, whilst keyboards had also been added to the band’s sound.

Having got into the group via 1981’s compilation album “The Adventures Of…” I was already familiar with this album’s two hit singles “Chinatown” and “Killer On The Loose” before obtaining a copy of the album itself.

Although the latter stages of the record is pretty good, it’s probably fair to say that the record’s best material is on side one (as it was in those days) as that contained both singles, the anthemic “We Will Be Strong”, the catchy “Sweetheart” and “Sugar Blues” which featured some brilliant drum work from Brian Downey. So, not the band’s best work, but a Thin Lizzy album is always welcome on the turntable.

That’s my top ten albums of 1980 then. Margaret Thatcher was in her first full calendar year as the Prime Minister in the UK whilst Jimmy Carter was in his final year as President of the USA. In football Liverpool won the old First Division with the FA Cup going to West Ham. Cinema-wise, top films released included “The Empire Strikes Back”, “9 To 5” and “Airplane!”.

Look out for my round-up for 1986, coming soon…

1981 – My Top Ten Albums Of The Year

I’m returning today to my occasional top ten albums of the year posts, and to what is probably my favourite decade in music – a period of time that started a few months into my secondary school career and ended when I was a fully fledged grown up – the 1980s.

I’ve already covered five years (1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1987) so, without further ado, listed alphabetically, these are my favourite ten albums of 1981…

  1. AC/DC “For Those About To Rock”
AC/DC - For Those About To Rock
AC/DC – For Those About To Rock

Released late in the year, this was the first AC/DC album to make it into my collection, having heard the single “Let’s Get It Up”.

Following the monumentally successful “Back In Black” album (released in the summer of 1980) must have been some task, but the band certainly rose to the challenge.

The second single to come from the record was the title track, an epic number with thunderous final section featuring a twenty-one cannon salute – apparently inspired by cannons being fired during the televised wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana which occurred during the recording of the album – and has become a highlight of the band’s live shows.

Other favourites on the record are “Inject The Venom”, “Evil Walks” and “C.O.D.”. An excellent hard rock album.

2. Black Sabbath “Mob Rules”

Black Sabbath - Mob Rules
Black Sabbath – Mob Rules

“Mob Rules” was the second studio album to feature Ronnie James Dio as vocalist and the first to feature new drummer Vinny Appice.

A heavy sounding record than the preceding “Heaven And Hell”, the album contained two hit singles with “Turn Up The Night” making number 37 in the UK and the title track hitting number 46 along with other great tracks like “The Sign Of The Southern Cross” and “Voodoo”.

3. Blackfoot “Marauder”

Blackfoot - Marauder
Blackfoot – Marauder

Jacksonville, Florida based southern rock band Blackfoot came to my attention when they released a double pack 7″ featuring the “Dry County” single and a free live single recorded at the Monsters Of Rock festival at Castle Donington in August 1981.

The parent album “Marauder” was the last studio release to feature the classic line-up of Rickey Medlocke, Charlie Hargrett, Greg T. Walker and Jakson Spires.

Favourite tracks on this excellent record include “Good Morning”, “Diary Of A Workingman”, “Too Hard To Handle”, “Fly Away” and “Rattlesnake Rock ‘N’ Roller”. The classic live album “Highway Song – Live”, recorded in Europe and released in 1982 would be the last release before the band decided to change their sound to chase chart success, ironically leading to diminishing returns both commercially and artistically – but this album remains a classic of the genre.

4. Def Leppard “High ‘N’ Dry”

Def Leppard - High 'N' Dry
Def Leppard – High ‘N’ Dry

The second album from Sheffield hard rock band Def Leppard, “High ‘N’ Dry” saw the group team up with legendary producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange for the first time and start to show the qualities that would break the band into the big time with 1983’s “Pyromania” and 1987’s “Hysteria” albums.

Two singles were released to promote the album, “Let It Go” and “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” – the latter became a minor hit when issued in remixed form in 1984 and was covered in 2002 by pop singer Mariah Carey.

Also featured on “High ‘N’ Dry” are the great album tracks “Another Hit And Run”, “No No No”, “Lady Strange” and the instrumental “Switch 625”.

5. Duran Duran “Duran Duran”

Duran Duran - Duran Duran
Duran Duran – Duran Duran

Duran Duran’s self-titled debut album was released in the summer of 1981, having been preceded by singles “Planet Earth” and “Careless Memories”.

Something of a guilty pleasure at the time – my circle of mates at school were all heavily into rock music, with favourite bands being Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, The Sweet, Slade, Saxon and Iron Maiden – but this fantastic new romantic pop album remains one of my favourites of the era.

A further hit single followed in the form of “Girls On Film” and the band’s 12″ remixes, often known as “night versions”, and popular videos certainly helped the album’s success. My favourite non-single tracks on the record include “Friends Of Mine”, “Sound Of Thunder”, “Anyone Out There” and “Night Boat”. Excellent.

6. Foreigner “4”

Foreigner - 4
Foreigner – 4

The third album on this list produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange (AC/DC and Def Leppard being the other two), this particular record is probably best known for the hit single “Waiting For A Girl Like You” which reached number 3 in the UK.

Two other tracks were released as singles in the UK – “Urgent” and “Juke Box Hero” – and it was through hearing the latter of BBC Radio One’s “Friday Rock Show” that I got into the band. The best-selling album of the band’s career and an excellent melodic rock record.

7. Iron Maiden “Killers”

Iron Maiden - Killers
Iron Maiden – Killers

The band’s second album, “Killers” was to be the final one to feature original vocalist Paul Di’Anno before his sacking and replacement with Bruce Dickinson.

I’d say that this record also has my favourite cover, by Derek Riggs, of any of the Iron Maiden albums to date.

Musically, the album built on the strengths of the previous year’s debut and was written almost solely by bassist and founder Steve Harris (the exception being the title track, co-written with Di’Anno).

There are two singles from the album in “Purgatory” and “Twilight Zone” – the latter of which was not originally included on the record, being included on the US version and later CD reissue. Other great tracks here include two instrumentals “The Ides Of March” and “Genghis Khan” as well as songs like “Wrathchild”, “Innocent Exile” and “Murders In The Rue Morgue”.

8. Rainbow “Difficult To Cure”

Rainbow - Difficult To Cure
Rainbow – Difficult To Cure

The fifth studio album from Ritchie Blackmore’s band, this one was the first to feature third lead vocalist Joe Lynn Turner, saw the band’s sound continue to become more commercial in approach.

There were two singles from the record – “Can’t Happen Here” and “I Surrender” – to hit the UK top twenty, and this was an album that spent a lot of time in my Sony Walkman.

Hits aside, my favourite tracks are “No Release”, “Spotlight Kid” and “Difficult To Cure” itself, which was a fabulous reworking of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

9. Saxon “Denim And Leather”

Saxon - Denim And Leather
Saxon – Denim And Leather

“Denim And Leather” was Saxon’s fourth album, and the third of their “holy trinity” to hit the shelves in just eighteen months.

Three singles were issued – “Princess Of The Night”, “Never Surrender” and “And The Bands Played On”. The latter became the band’s most successful single to date and describes their experiences when playing at the inaugural Monsters Of Rock festival the previous year.

“Play It Loud” and “Midnight Rider” are great album tracks, but the title track is one of the best and a firm live favourite through the years since.

10. Status Quo “Never Too Late”

Status Quo - Never Too Late
Status Quo – Never Too Late

The first Status Quo album that I owned – received instead of a chocolate egg for Easter ’81 – I had been introduced to the band by hit single “Something ‘Bout You Baby I LIke”.

Apparently recorded during the same sessions that spawned 1980’s “Just Supposin'” album, “Never Too Late” is often regarded as the weaker of the two – indeed the follow-up single to “Something…” was taken from “Just Supposin'”! This was also the last album to be recorded featuring the “frantic four” of Rossi, Parfitt, Lancaster and Coghlan.

Nevertheless, with material like “Riverside”, “Long Ago”, “Mountain Lady” and my personal favourite “Take Me Away” this is still a very good Status Quo album.

In the wider world, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister in the UK and Ronald Reagan became President of the USA – replacing Jimmy Carter. In football the old first division champions were Aston Villa, with Tottenham Hotspur winning the FA Cup. On the big screen the top films of the year were “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”, “On Golden Pond” and “Superman II”.

1995 – My Top Ten Albums Of The Year

“It was twenty years ago today…” so go the lyrics to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Well, it may not be to the day, but it’s now twenty years since 1995 – although it doesn’t feel like it!

I’ve been thinking for a while about posting an irregular series on the subject of my favourite ten albums from a particular year, and figure that 1995 is as good a place to start as any other.

So here, in no particular order (it’s hard enough to narrow my choices down to the small number required for this as it is!) I present for you, my favourite ten albums of 1995…

1. Bon Jovi “These Days”

Bon Jovi - These Days
Bon Jovi – These Days

This was Bon Jovi’s sixth studio album. The first since 1992’s “Keep The Faith” and the departure of long serving bass player Alec John Such, this release is generally regarded to be the band’s darkest record to date.

Five hit singles were released in the UK, all but one reaching the top 10 (“Hey God” made number 13). A consistently good record, there isn’t a duff track here, highlights include “This Ain’t A Love Song”, “(It’s Hard) Letting You Go”, “Something For The Pain” and the title track with my favourite being “My Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Arms”

2. Gary Moore “Blues For Greeny”

Gary Moore - Blues For Greeny
Gary Moore – Blues For Greeny

Gary Moore’s third album since the former Thin Lizzy guitarist’s career had seen him turning from hard rock to blues, this one saw him paying tribute to Peter Green, founder of Fleetwood Mac.

The album is made up solely of cover versions of tracks written by Green. As always, Moore’s guitar playing is excellent – superb technique and sublime feel, with “Driftin'”, “I Loved Another Woman” and “The Supernatural” being personal highlights – the latter showcasing the stunning sustain that Moore was able to wring from his instrument.

3. James House “Days Gone By”

James House - Days Gone By
James House – Days Gone By

I first began to appreciate country music in the early 90s, thanks in no small part to cable TV channel CMT. One of the artists that I was introduces to through CMT was James House, an American country artist. “Days Gone By” was his third album, features backing vocals from country stars Raul Malo of The Mavericks and Trisha Yearwood, and is full of absoultely brilliant songs, half of which were released as singles in the US. My favourite tracks are the fantastic “Little By Little”, “A Real Good Way To Wind Up Lonesome” and the biggest hit “This Is Me Missing You”

4. AC/DC “Ballbreaker”

AC/DC - Ballbreaker
AC/DC – Ballbreaker

The first new AC/DC album in five years, “Ballbreaker” is just what you would expect from the band. The record was produced by the founder of Def Jam Records, Rick Rubin, a man known for revitalising many of the acts he had produced.

This album contains the usual mix of catchy riffs, solid rhythm section, Angus Young’s lead guitar work and Brian Johnson’s gruff deliver of some gloriously non politically correct lyrics, particularly on tracks such as “Cover You In Oil”! Other highlights include the number one single “Hard As A Rock” and “Hail Caesar”

5. Oasis “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?”

Oasis - (What's The Story) Morning Glory?
Oasis – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

Recorded at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?” was the second album by Oasis, and easily their best – by my reckoning at least. In 1995 Oasis became one of the biggest bands in the UK, and they enjoyed no less than six single releases from this album – although two only reached the lower end of the charts, there were two number 1 hits (“Some Might Say” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger”) and two made number 2 (“Roll With It” and “Wonderwall”), and the album itself went on to sell in the region of 22 million copies. A record that can truly be described as a modern classic.

6. Paul Weller “Stanley Road”

Paul Weller - Stanley Road
Paul Weller – Stanley Road

The third solo album from Paul Weller, former frontman of The Jam and The Style Council, “Stanley Road” features guest appearances from Noel Gallagher (Oasis) and Steve Winwood (Spencer Davis Group / Traffic).

Aside from great numbers such as “The Changingman”, “Broken Stones”, “Porcelain Gods” and “Out Of The Sinking”, Weller’s finest hour also includes the beautiful “You Do Something To Me”

7. Shania Twain “The Woman In Me”

Shania Twain - The Woman In Me
Shania Twain – The Woman In Me

The second country album to feature here, Shania Twain’s “The Woman In Me” was here second album release. However, whereas her first album two years earlier had contained generic country, and only one co-write credit for Twain, this time she co-wrote all but two tracks, and was solely credited for one of the others. The other huge difference was the involvement of legendary producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange (AC/DC / Def Leppard / Bryan Adams). Lange was heavily involved in the writing as well as producing the album, and as a result of their mutual efforts the record went on to sell around 20 million copies and spawned eight hit singles, including three number 1 singles in the US. It would be three more years before pop remixes saw Twain become a big hit in the UK, but for those of us aware of her in ’95, this album shone with diamonds including “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?”, “You Win My Love”, “Any Man Of Mine”, “The Woman In Me (Needs The Man In You)” and “(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here!”

8. UFO “Walk On Water”

UFO - Walk On Water
UFO – Walk On Water

Although not a commercial success, this album from legendary British hard rock band UFO was notable for the return of lead guitarist Michael Schenker to the band, alongside singer Phil Mogg, bassist Pete Way, drummer Andy Parker and keyboard/guitar player Paul Raymond for the first time since the late 70s.

Although he subsequently left again just a handful of shows into the band’s world tour (before returning, leaving, returning… on and off until finally leaving again in 2003), the guitarist’s presence lifted the band and they produced their strongest album for a while. My favourite tracks are “Venus”, “Pushed To The Limit” and “Running On Empty”, and the inclusion of re-recordings of two of the group’s classic songs (“Doctor Doctor” and “Lights Out”) doesn’t hurt – though the “bonus tracks”, one each from Mogg/Way, Michael Schenker Group and the Paul Raymond Project are rather out of place.

9. Brother Cane “Seeds”

Brother Cane - Seeds
Brother Cane – Seeds

Probably the least known album (and band) here, “Seeds” was the second album from US southern rock band Brother Cane. Led by singer / guitarist Damon Johnson, the band had a degree of success in the US, with lead single from this album reaching the number 1 spot, although the album itself didn’t fare too well. A shame, as it’s full of great tracks like “Kerosene”, “And Fools Shine On” and “Hung On A Rope”. Johnson has since played with Alice Cooper before becoming a member of Thin Lizzy / Black Star Riders.

10. Prince “The Gold Experience”

Prince - The Gold Experience
Prince – The Gold Experience

Released during the time when Prince had fallen out with his record label, Warner Bros., and adopted an unpronounceable symbol as his name, “The Gold Experience” was arguably the last really great album released by him. Although not as strong as 91’s “Diamonds & Pearls” or 92’s “Symbol”, and certainly not as good as 87’s “Sign O’ The Times”, there is some excellent material on offer here – “Endorphinmachine”, “Pussy Control”, hit single “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” and “Shhh” all being classic Prince tracks.

So there we have it – my top ten albums of 1995. A year in which John Major was British Prime Minister, Blackburn Rovers won the Premier League, and top film releases included “Die Hard 3”, “Toy Story” and “GoldenEye”…