Now I have stumbled across Grapefruit’s latest “a journey through” offering, released during the summer of 2016, is “I’m A Freak, Baby… : A Journey Through The British Heavy Psych And Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-72”. Now, granted the use of the word “underground” doesn’t apply to all the music contained in this latest triple set, any more than it really did with the prior two, as there are a number of very well-known acts featured in each. However, I do think that the majority of the material presented for us to immerse ourselves in is likely to be unfamiliar to many, if not most, listeners.
First, though, let’s look at the more familiar fare. Disc one brings us “Do It” by The Pink Fairies and “Cherry Red” by The Groundhogs, the second disc contains Deep Purple’s “Fireball” along with tracks from the Edgar Broughton Band and the Move, whilst the final disc bears “Gypsy” from Uriah Heep, Fleetwood Mac’s “The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown)” as well as tracks from Taste and The Yardbirds. All great tracks and, to be honest, the easy recognition of these numbers helps to balance against the unknown songs spread across the rest of the three discs.
Amongst the acts that are less well-known are a number that can already be found nestled within my music library. These include the opening nine-plus minute “All In Your Mind” by Stray, which was covered by heavy metal legends Iron Maiden on the b-side of their 1990 hit “Holy Smoke”. Others I was already at least partly familiar with include Chicken Shack’s “Going Down”, “Heart Without A Home” by Blonde On Blonde, The Gun’s “Race With The Devil” and “Escalator” from Sam Gopal featuring future Motörhead leader Lemmy on vocals and guitar.
Moving on to the new-to-me artists, I particularly enjoyed the offerings from The Iron Maiden (“Falling”) (not to be confused with the above-mentioned metal band, Dark (“Zero Time”), The Kult (“Occult”), Jerusalem (“Primitive Man”), Barnabus (“Apocalypse”), Egor (“Street”), Cycle (“Father Of Time”) and Irish band Skid Row (“Go, I’m Never Gonna Let You)”) – the latter being the late guitar ace Gary Moore’s first professional band.
I should also make mention of “Sweet Mistress Of Pain”, a track credited to Hawkwind Zoo. Also known under the alternate title of “Kiss Of The Velvet Whip”, this was recorded in late 1969 by the newly-formed band just prior to their name change, dropping the “Zoo” to become simply Hawkwind – a band synonymous with psychedelic music if ever there was one.
Oddly, although I would consider myself more of a rock fan than folk fan, I think on balance that I’ll likely listen to the “Dust On The Nettles” set more often than this one.
As with the folk anthology the sound quality varies a little, but this is a small price to pay for having some real rarities present. Whilst the former set included a massive sixty-three songs, “I’m A Freak…” contains just forty-eight. However, with a running time of just a few minutes shy of four hours there’s not much to complain about. Well worth digging into…
“I’m A Freak, Baby… : A Journey Through The British Heavy Psych And Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-72” tracklist:
1. All In Your Mind / 2. Cast A Spell / 3. Hot Smoke And Sassafras / 4. My Son’s Alive / 5. Going Down / 6. Father Of Time / 7. I’m Coming Home / 8. Do It / 9. Time Machine / 10. Cherry Red / 11. I’m A Freak / 12. Rock My Soul / 13. Sweet Mistress Of Pain / 14. Nightmare / 15. Falling / 16. Apocalypse
1. Stray / 2. The Open Mind / 3. The Moochie / 4. Crushed Butler / 5. Chicken Shack / 6. Cycle / 7. The Deviants / 8. The Pink Fairies / 9. Factory / 10. The Groundhogs / 11. Wicked Lady / 12. Charge / 13. Hawkwind Zoo / 14. Stonehouse / 15. The Iron Maiden / 16. Barnabus
1. Bogeyman / 2. Fireball / 3. Primitive Man / 4. Love In The Rain / 5. Trust / 6. Rhubarb! / 7. Dream / 8. Skullcrusher / 9. Zero Time / 10. Jehovah / 11. Brontosaurus / 12. Bring It To Jerome / 13. Mr. Make Believe / 14. Flash / 15. Street Walking Woman / 16. Go, I’m Never Gonna Let You
1. Writing On The Wall / 2. Deep Purple / 3. Jerusalem / 4. Edgar Broughton Band / 5. Hellmet / 6. Second Hand / 7. Little Free Rock / 8. Iron Claw / 9. Dark / 10. The Velvet Frogs / 11. The Move / 12. Stack Waddy / 13. Samuel Prody / 14. Bare Sole / 15. The Phoenix / 16. Skid Row
1. Race With The Devil / 2. Heart Without A Home / 3. Ascension Day / 4. Street / 5. Escalator / 6. Gypsy / 7. Garden Of My Mind / 8. Think About It / 9. Trying To Find My Way Back Home / 10. Yellow Cave Woman / 11. Too Old / 12. The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown) / 13. Twisted Trip Woman / 14. Occult / 15. Born On The Wrong Side Of Time / 16. Hollis Brown
1. The Gun / 2. Blonde On Blonde / 3. Third World War / 4. Egor / 5. Sam Gopal / 6. Uriah Heep / 7. The Mickey Finn / 8. The Yardbirds / 9. Morning After / 10. Velvett Fogg / 11. Andromeda / 12. Fleetwood Mac / 13. Sweet Slag / 14. The Kult / 15. Taste / 16. Fusion Farm
This week I’ve been listening to “The Illusion’s Reckoning”, the debut release from a new project named Mantra Vega. The band was put together by former Mostly Autumn singer Heather Findlay and keyboardist Dave Kerzner from Sound Of Contact.
Since Findlay left Mostly Autumn back in 2010 she has released an EP titled “The Phoenix Suite” in 2011, a live album with guitarist Chris Johnson in 2012 and an acoustic album of reworked songs called “Songs From The Old Kitchen” later that same year. I have to confess to not being over keen on “The Phoenix Suite”, which was quite a departure from her work with the excellent Mostly Autumn, much preferring the latter acoustic recording.
Since then things have been pretty quiet until the single “Island” was issued in the summer of 2015 as a taster for the then-upcoming album. The song is rather reminiscent of “Rumours”-era Fleetwood Mac, which is no bad thing!
Given her background with Mostly Autumn, with Findlay joining forces with Kerzner from progressive rock band Sound Of Contact you might have expected Mantra Vega to be full-on progressive rock too. Certainly the comparisons with Findlay’s earlier work are there, the epic sweep of “Veil Of Ghosts” or “Lake Sunday” being two examples, but the sonic palette is perhaps a little broader in terms of style than her old band.
Joining the pair on the album are drummer Alex Cromarty (Mostly Autumn), bassist Stuart Fletcher (Halo Blind), the aforementioned guitarist Johnson (Mostly Autumn, Halo Blind) – all three of whom are also members of the Heather Findlay Band – and guitarist Dave Kilminster (Steven Wilson).
In addition the album boasts contributions from various guests including multi-instrumentalists Angela Gordon (Mostly Autumn) and Troy Donockley (Nightwish) amongst others.
According to the band’s website the record is “a concept album which flows more like a film score than a more typically linear piece. The album’s journey is painted with far-reaching audio moodscapes, which in their diversity, purposely echo thoughtful lyrical themes. The album is delivered in a predominantly crossover-progressive rock package, but at times takes on a hard rock, contemporary, retro, and even acoustic, folksy twist…”. Well, the first part sounds suitably grandiose for a progressive rock outfit for sure, but the description of the actual music is pretty bang on, I’d say.
My favourite tracks here are the dreamy “Island”, “Veil Of Ghosts”, the Led Zeppelin-like “Mountain Spring”, “I’ve Seen Your Star” and the near-ten-minute “The Illusion’s Reckoning” which features a guitar solo from Arjen Lucassen.
Findlay and Kerzner have come up with some great material here. I’m not familiar with the latter’s previous work, but the keyboards are great throughout the album. There are, naturally, plenty of echoes of the fabulous work that Findlay – who sings beautifully here – has produced in the past within these tracks.
At times musically soothing, sometimes harder edged, this is a great melodic progressive rock album, well worth investigating…
“The Illusion’s Reckoning” tracklist:
1. Every Corner / 2. Island / 3. Veil Of Ghosts / 4. Lake Sunday / 5. Mountain Spring / 6. In A Dream / 7. Learning To Be Light / 8. I’ve Seen Your Star / 9. Island (Reprise) / 10. The Illusion’s Reckoning / 11. Mountain Spring (acoustic version)
OK, so still gradually working back through the Seventies, and here are my top ten albums released back in 1977…
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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
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”
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”.
For this instalment of my top ten albums of the year I’m going back forty years to 1975. I was only 7 years old at the time, so the majority of this list has been discovered retrospectively once I started with my musical obsession at the start of the 80s…
1. Bruce Springsteen “Born To Run”
I first discovered Springsteen’s music through his mega-hit 1984 album “Born In The U.S.A.” and subsequent live box set “Live 1975-85”, and it on the latter that I first heard a good portion of his breakthrough third album “Born To Run”.
Whilst my favourite Springsteen albums are from his late 80s / early 90s period, this is still an undisputed classic album, and the indispensable tracks here include “Thunder Road”, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”, “Backstreets”, “Born To Run” and the epic “Jungleland”.
2. Eagles “One Of These Nights”
In the case of the Eagles it was through their greatest hits album that I was introduced to their music, with three of them coming from this, their fourth studio album.
“One Of These Nights” and “Take It To The Limit” are classic hits and “After The Thrill Is Gone” and the instrumental “Journey Of The Sorcerer” other high points, but the absolute highlight of this album is without doubt the near perfect hit song “Lyin’ Eyes” – great lyrics, perfect harmonies and always brilliant to sing along to.
3. Fleetwood Mac “Fleetwood Mac”
This album saw the band enter its third era following the initial Peter Green blues years and subsequent less revered period.
The first record to feature the now-classic line-up of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie and new recruits Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, this one was hugely successful and featured three hit singles in “Over My Head”, “Say You Love Me” and Nicks’ mystical “Rhiannon” as well as the beautiful and delicate “Landslide”.
4. Geoff Love & His Orchestra “Big Bond Movie Themes”
Now this is one that I did discover back in the 70s, though likely not for a few years after it first came out. Being a big fan of James Bond films for as long as I can remember I loved everything about this album – the music, the great arrangements and, of course, the brilliant 70s cover art.
I think it was the version of “Live And Let Die” that first struck a chord, but there really isn’t a duff track here. There are likely far more critically acclaimed and commercial successful album released in 1975, but this one will always have a place in my top ten of the year.
5. Led Zeppelin “Physical Graffiti”
Led Zeppelin’s sixth studio album, “Physical Graffiti” was originally intended to contain just 8 songs. However, once it became clear that they would not fit onto one vinyl record the band decided to add some tracks recorded during sessions for their previous three albums and make this a double record set containing 15 songs.
A mammoth album in every sense this is constantly jostling for position as number one Zeppelin album in my mind – fighting with “III” and “IV” for that honour. Musically all bases are covered from the epic “Kashmir” to the delicate “Bron-Yr-Aur” but every track here is essential!
6. Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here”
Following up the much celebrated classic “Dark Side Of The Moon” can’t have been an easy task, but despite what they described as tortuous and difficult time Pink Floyd rose to the challenge with “Wish You Were Here”.
Bookended by a brilliant 25 minute epic split into two sections, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts I-V” and “…Parts VI-IX”, were three other tracks – “Welcome To The Machine”, “Have A Cigar” and the superb title track. Classics all, making this one of the very best Floyd records.
7. Queen “A Night At The Opera”
Released at the tail end of the year, Queen’s fourth album was reputedly the most expensive album ever recorded at that point.
A critical and commercial success, the record contained two hit singles in “You’re My Best Friend” and the band’s most famous song “Bohemian Rhapsody”, together with the beautiful “Love Of My Life”, Roger Taylor’s “I’m In Love With My Car” and the vitriolic “Death On Two Legs (Dedicated To…)”.
8. Rainbow “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow”
In late 1974 Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore started work on a planned solo album. Once the album “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow” was finished he soon quit Purple and launched his new band which featured vocalist Ronnie James Dio.
Although not the best Rainbow album (surely that has to be the following year’s “Rising”?) this is still a great rock record and contains two stone cold classics amongst its 9 tracks – “Man On The Silver Mountain” and the longest and best track “Catch The Rainbow”.
9. Status Quo “On The Level”
The band’s eighth studio album, and featuring the classic frantic four line-up of Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan, this is just one of a series of brilliant albums that contain no filler whatsoever.
Four of the ten tracks have featured fairly regularly in the group’s live set over the decades since – “Down Down”, “Bye Bye Johnny”, “Most Of The Time” and “Little Lady” – and of the rest the pick of the bunch for me would be “I Saw The Light”, “Nightride” and Parfitt’s ballad “Where I Am”.
10. Thin Lizzy “Fighting”
Although it would subsequently be overshadowed by the following album “Jailbreak”, Thin Lizzy’s fifth album “Fighting” nonetheless qualifies as one of the band’s best studio outings.
The second record to feature what many would call the classic line-up of Phil Lynott, Scott Gorham, Brian Robertson and Brian Downey, this was a definite step forward and highlights included “Wild One”, “King’s Vengeance” alongside bona-fide classics “Suicide” and Lizzy’s cover of Bob Seger’s song “Rosalie”.
So OK, I can’t claim to remember much of this music at the time, but have certainly grown to appreciate it over the subsequent years. But what of the events of 1975? Well, 7 year old me wouldn’t have been aware, I suspect, but the Prime Minister was Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, Derby County won the old First Division, and top film releases included “Jaws”, “The Return Of The Pink Panther” and “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”.
Welcome to the second in my occasional series of posts on the subject of my favourite top ten albums from a particular year. This is not a reflection of the most successful releases of the year, simply my personal favourites.
1987 was a much, much harder year to choose a top ten from than my previous list, 1995. Don’t get me wrong, 1995 was a great year for me personally, not least as my first born made his appearance that summer, but I find myself going back to the mid-late ’80s more often when revisiting the music of years gone by. Is that because the music in 1987 was so much better, or is it a case of that year having more resonance for me in terms of nostalgia (after all, I was 19, working, earning money, able to drive, young, free and single…) I wonder?
Without further ado, then, here are my favourite ten albums of 1987 (in alphabetical order)…
1. Aerosmith “Permanent Vacation”
This album marked a turning point in Aerosmith’s career. Whether it was a positive thing or not depends on your point of view. With perhaps one eye on MTV and the singles charts, it was the first record on which the band had input from outside songwriters. On the plus side this meant that songs such as “Rag Doll”, “Angel” and “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” were the biggest hit singles of the band’s history up to that point, but conversely also lead indirectly to the band’s latter-day low point (in my view) of “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”.
Certainly the album marked a solid return of Aerosmith with Joe Perry back in the saddle after their false start with the underwhelming “Done With Mirrors” two years earlier, and had some great material in addition to the aforementioned singles, such as “Magic Touch” and “Hangman Jury”. Better was to come with the album “Pump” but that wouldn’t be until ’89.
2. Def Leppard “Hysteria”
Three years in the making, this was the album that many thought would never see the light of day. Drummer Rick Allen had lost his left arm in a car accident on New Year’s Eve in 1984 during early sessions for the album, the follow-up to 1983’s successful “Pyromania”. He subsequently developed a way of playing using electronic triggers and returned to recording and performing live with the band. Jim Steinman, famous for his work with Meat Loaf, was originally brought in the produce the album, but after this failed to produce the desired results, and the band were unable to produce the sound they were looking for themselves, they were able to persuade Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who had produced the previous album, to return to the producer’s chair.
When the album was finally released in August 1987, preceded in the UK by the hit single “Animal”, it was a triumph. Lange’s state of the art production together with superb material helped to spawn seven hit singles from the album’s twelve tracks, and the album itself went on to sell over 20 million copies. There simply isn’t a single duff track on this album – indeed for a while it was easily the most played record on my stereo – but my personal favourites would be “Rocket”, “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, “Hysteria” and the epic “Gods Of War”.
3. Fleetwood Mac “Tango In The Night”
Released five years after the band’s previous album “Mirage”, “Tango In The Night” became their second-biggest selling album (the classic “Rumours” being the biggest).
Featuring six hit singles, the album reached the number 1 spot in the UK on three separate occasions during 1987/88. The pressure of being largely responsible for the album coming to fruition lead to Lindsay Buckingham leaving the band shortly before the following world tour, which featured new members Rick Vito and Billy Burnette in his place.
My favourite tracks on the album include the hits “Big Love”, “Everywhere”, “Little Lies” and “Family Man”, as well as the distinctive Buckingham number “Caroline” and Christine McVie’s gentle “Mystified”.
4. Guns N’ Roses “Appetite For Destruction”
The debut album from Los Angeles band Guns N’ Roses is a classic hard rock record, and the only album to feature the original line-up of singer Axl Rose, guitarists Slash and Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan and Steven Adler on drums. There was some controversy over the original cover art (shown here) by American artist Robert Williams showing a robot rapist which was replaced after some stores refused to stock the album.
The music speaks for itself. Although the band would reach their creative height with the ambitious “Use Your Illusion” albums, this was the sound of a band in full flight and all pulling together – something that sadly wouldn’t last. From the classic opener “Welcome To The Jungle” through “Paradise City”, the classic ballad “Sweet Child O’ Mine” through to the orgasmic “Rocket Queen” (listen closely to that one!) and every track in between, this is simply a brilliant album. Essential.
5. Jethro Tull “Crest Of A Knave”
Jethro Tull’s sixteenth studio album was their first for three years, and their most successful since 1971’s “Aqualung”. Bizarrely, the album was awarded a Grammy Award for “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental” in 1989. This was the one and only time that this particular Grammy award was given, such was the controversy over Tull winning the award that many expected Metallica to win for their “…And Justice For All” album.
This was not an album that I warmed to immediately, unlike all the others on this list, as Tull were not a band I was familiar with at the time. In fact, when I first heard the single “She Said She Was A Dancer” I thought it was a new song by Dire Straits! However, with the benefit of time and an appreciation of the rich musical legacy of the band, this is an album that has really grown on me. This is definitely an album to immerse oneself in, and I particularly enjoy the longer tracks, “Farm On The Freeway”, “Mountain Men” and especially the superb ten minute long “Budapest”.
6. Level 42 “Running In The Family”
From their beginnings as a jazz-funk band, Level 42 had steadily refined their sound to encompass a much more accessible pop flavour, and the band reached the pinnacle of their success with the release of the “Running In The Family” album. Five hit singles (four of them reached the top ten) underlined this point. Guitarist Boon Gould and his drummer brother Phil Gould both left the band during 1987 leaving just singer/bassist Mark King and keyboardist Mike Lindup. This coincided with the start of the band’s decline and none of their subsequent records would reach the heights they managed with “Running In The Family”.
A solid pop record from start to finish, the best tracks were the first five (all of which were singles) – “Lessons In Love”, “Children Say”, “Running In The Family”, the brilliant ballad “It’s Over” and “To Be With You Again”, plus the funky “Fashion Fever”.
7. Prince “Sign O’ The Times”
Following the release of “Parade” in 1986, Prince began recording new material for an album to be titled “Dream Factory”. Unhappy, Prince decided to hire his backing band, The Revolution, and begin new recordings on his own. Initially he intended to release an album titled “Camille”. A change of mind saw songs from both planned albums incorporated into a new project – a triple album to be called “Crystal Ball” – however, his record company were less than keen and persuaded Prince to trim the album. The resulting double album was given the title “Sign O’ The Times”.
Although it’s up against stiff competition from within his extensive catalogue of released and unreleased albums, “Sign O’ The Times” quickly became, and has remained, my favourite Prince album. Kicking off with the stark and brilliant title track, the quality keeps on coming. The songs feature a variety of moods and tempos, but my own favourite tracks are “Sign O’ The Times”, “Housequake”, “Hot Thing”, “U Got The Look”, “If I Was Your Girlfriend”, “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” and the excellent “The Cross”
8. Rush “Hold Your Fire”
The twelfth studio album from progressive rock band Rush, “Hold Your Fire” continued the synthesizer-heavy direction of the preceding album, “Power Windows”. A major attraction for me was the fantastic percussive performance of drummer Neil Peart, but all three band members excel on this record, and for the most part the songs are top notch too (with my only real reservation being over the track “Tai Shan”). Opener “Force Ten” is an up-tempo rock track. Singles “Time Stand Still” (featuring Aimee Mann) and “Prime Mover” showed the band’s musical chops within memorable song structures, my favourite track “Mission” is the proggiest track on the album with time changes aplenty and album closer “High Water” is also excellent.
9. U2 “The Joshua Tree”
Following the more experimental “The Unforgettable Fire” album in 1984, U2, and singer Bono in particular, found themselves inspired by all things American and a new-found interest in roots music, and so, despite the reservations of guitarist The Edge, chose to pursue these themes and a more American bluesy sound for “The Joshua Tree”. The resulting album is, without doubt, the group’s most successful, with 25 million copies sold. More importantly though, the band’s music would in future struggle to have the same resonance and emotional impact found in the eleven tracks here.
Although the first three tracks are most well known (“Where The Streets Have No Name”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With Or Without You”) having all been top ten singles, it’s the rest of the album that really shines for me. The sparse arrangements of “Running To Stand Still” and “Mothers Of The Disappeared”, the up-tempo “In God’s Country”, with the evocative “Bullet The Blue Sky” being the pick of the bunch.
10. Whitesnake “1987”
Following 1984’s “Slide It In” album, singer David Coverdale, new guitarist John Sykes and bassist Neil Murray recruited drummer Aynsley Dunbar and began sessions for the next Whitesnake album. When Coverdale suffered a sinus infection the resulting surgery meant that proceedings became severely delayed, and a rift began to form between Coverdale and Sykes. Thus, when the album was eventually finished, Coverdale fired the rest of the band and replaced them with guitarists Adrain Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell, bassist Rudy Sarzo and drummer Tommy Aldridge. It was this line-up that toured the world in support of the album and appeared in the band’s famous trilogy of MTV-friendly music videos (featuring actress and future Mrs. Coverdale, Tawny Kitaen) for singles “Still Of The Night”, “Here I Go Again” and “Is This Love”.
Also known as “Serpens Albus” and “Whitesnake”, this was the band’s seventh studio album, and the one that made the band hugely successful around the world. Moving further away from their blues rock sound and showcasing a new harder rock direction, the album featured radical re-workings of two tracks from their 1982 “Saints & Sinners” album in the form of “Here I Go Again” and”Crying In The Rain”. These, along with the very Led Zeppelin-like “Still Of The Night”, ballad “Looking For Love” and up-tempo rockers “Bad Boys” and “Children Of The Night” captured Coverdale as vocal rock god, perfectly matched by the incendiary fretwork of Sykes. A fabulous hard rock album.
There you go – my top ten albums of 1987. This was a year in which Margaret Thatcher was re-elected for her third term as British Prime Minister, Everton won the old First Division, “The Simpsons” appeared on TV for the first time, and top film releases included “Good Morning, Vietnam”, “The Secret Of My Success”, “The Living Daylights” and “Fatal Attraction”…