Originally hailing from Toronto, Canada, psychedelic occult rock band Blood Ceremony were formed sometime in 2006 by guitarist Sean Kennedy, who recruited vocalist / flautist / organist Alia O’Brien, bassist Chris Landon and drummer Andrew Haust.
The band’s name was apparently taken from the English translation of the Spanish horror movie about the Countess Elizabeth Báthory from 1973 titled “Ceremonia Sangrienta”. This is rather appropriate in two ways. Firstly the band’s music is firmly rooted in the early Seventies, the likes of which you may have found on the legendary Vertigo label (particularly early Black Sabbath) as well occult rockers Black Widow and the great Jethro Tull, the latter thanks to O’Brien’s flute work. Secondly the band’s lyrical stance is concerned with all manner of occult themes – witchcraft, magick, devil worship etc.
The group’s debut album “Blood Ceremony” was released in 2008 and was followed in 2011 by the record through which I originally discovered the band, their second album “Living With The Ancients”. By thistime bassist Landon had been replaced by current bass player Lucas Gadke.
A further line-up change occurred prior to the recording of album number three “The Eldritch Dark” (2013), with Michael Carrillo taking over the drum stool from Haust. That record, influenced in part by classic horror film “The Wicker Man”, had a much less overt Black Sabbath influence than the first two, and continued the improvement in the band’s sound and material.
Now, following lead single “Old Fires”, comes the group’s fourth album – and second with the line-up of Kennedy, O’Brien, Gadke and Carrillo – titled “Lord Of Misrule”. The album kicks off with a fabulous seven-minute-plus song “The Devil’s Widow” which contains all that is great about this band. Doom metal style guitar riffing, progressive twists and turns, folky flute playing to rival that of the aforementioned Jethro Tull and a nicely sinister vocal delivery from the frontwoman – not to mention that it’s really catchy too.
Chief songwriter Kennedy has done a marvellous job here, as there is not one duff track and the album feels like a natural progression from the last one. Gadke and Carrillo provide solid foundations, but it is the material and guitar playing of Kennedy and the multi-talented performances of O’Brien that really give this band their magical retro-inspired sound.
Personal highlights on the album include “Loreley”, the acoustic “Things Present, Things Past”, the brilliant “The Weird Of Finistere”, “Half Moon Street” and “The Devil’s Widow”. The band have stayed true to their early Seventies vibe and pagan sensibilities whilst also managing to broaden their sonic scope. A great album that really appeals to my love of Seventies progressive and folk rock, great songwriting and, of course, matters related to paganism and the occult. Fabulous stuff and highly recommended…
“Lord Of Misrule” tracklist:
1. The Devil’s Widow / 2. Loreley / 3. The Rogue’s Lot / 4. Lord Of Misrule / 5. Half Moon Street / 6. The Weird Of Finistere / 7. Flower Phantoms / 8. Old Fires / 9. Things Present, Things Past
Legendary British heavy metal band Black Sabbath have been with us since 1968. Formed in Birmingham by guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, vocalist Ozzy Osbourne and drummer Bill Ward, the blues rock band was originally known as Earth. At the end of that year Iommi left briefly to join Jethro Tull, before returning to Earth early in 1969.
The band changed their name to Black Sabbath, apparently inspired by the Mario Bava film of the same name, and took a new musical direction. A recording contract followed and their eponymous debut album was one of the first albums to be released by the famous Vertigo record label.
Iommi has been an ever-present member since then, and indeed the original foursome lasted until 1977 when Osborne quit, only to return the following year for the “Never Say Die!” album. However in 1979 he was shown the door.
Numerous musicians have graced the ranks of the band since then, with perhaps the most notable being vocalist Ronnie James Dio (1979-1982, 1991-1992 and 2006-2010 – when the band traded under the moniker Heaven & Hell playing only Dio-era material (although they used the Black Sabbath name for the three new songs recorded for the 2007 “The Dio Years” compilation album). The other recording vocalists have been Ian Gillan (1982-1984), Glenn Hughes (1985-1986) and Tony Martin (1987-1991 and 1993-1997).
Osbourne himself served as vocalist from 1969-1977, 1978-1979, 1997-2006 and from 2011 to date, Butler has provided bass guitar from 1969-1985, 1990-1994 and 1997 to date, whilst Ward’s tenures were from 1969-1980, 1982-1985, 1994-1997, 1998, 2006 and 2011-2012.
The original foursome reunited in late 2011 after Heaven & Hell had ended as a result of Dio’s death from cancer in 2010. Unfortunately, for reasons that the four don’t seem to be able to agree on even the cause of, Ward pulled out of the reunion in early 2012 and was replaced on tour by drummer Tommy Clufetos who’d worked with Osbourne on his 2010 solo album “Scream”. Keyboardist / rhythm guitarist Adam Wakeman, who also appeared on “Scream” also appeared on tour.
When Iommi, Butler and Osbourne entered the studio in the summer of 2012, however, they enlisted the services of former Rage Against The Machine drummer Brad Wilk as a session player.
The resulting record, titled “13” surfaced in 2013, and was the band’s nineteenth studio record and the first full album of new Black Sabbath material since 1995’s “Forbidden”.
A big hit, “13” was planned to be followed up by a new album in 2015. However, it has since transpired that the three founding members could not agree on doing so with Iommi laying the blame on Butler, stating that he had “…so many riffs. I wrote a whole load of stuff for another album and we met up in L.A. but the others… well, Geezer didn’t particularly want to do another album…”, whilst Osbourne for his part said “…I’m 67 in December, it would take three or four years to write and record an album,and so we decided just to do a farewell tour…” Given that “13” was recorded in the space of six months this latter claim seems a little suspect. Nonetheless, the band are nowworking their way through their final “The End” world tour.
For those of us who wanted to hear more after the excellent “13” album there is good news. Whilst the deluxe version of “13” boasted twelve tracks (as opposed to the regular edition’s eight), it turns out that the band actually recorded sixteen. And so it is that the remaining four tracks have been released as an EP, also called “The End”, with the addition of four live tracks.
So, how does it hold up and is it a fitting end to the band’s long career? Well opener “Season Of The Dead” is seven-plus minutes of excellence. Iommi’s riffing is peerless, Osbourne’s multi-tracked vocals are spot on and Butler and Wilk provide a solid and thunderous rhythm section. There are some tasty martial rhythms in the guitar and drum parts too. Why this didn’t make it onto “13” is a complete mystery!
“Cry All Night” is just under seven minutes of doom metal at its finest and “Take Me Home” features a nice acoustic guitar solo from Iommi on top of another of his trademark riffs.
Meanwhile “Isolated Man” is blessed with an incredibly catchy riff that dominates the final minute of the track, following another great Iommi solo. I could have happily listened to that riff for another minute or two at the end to be honest!
Of the four live tracks, the near-ten-minute “God Is Dead?” is sonically poor – bootleg quality really – and sadly highlights the deficiencies in Osbourne’s live vocal abilities these days.
“Under The Sun” sounds better, as do the final two tracks, though Osbourne still struggles. Only one of these four songs, “God Is Dead?”, made it onto the band’s 2013 live album “Live… Gathered In Their Masses” so it’s nice to have versions of two more “13” tracks performed live, but realistically it’s only going to be the four studio songs that receive repeat plays here in the shadows.
So, half of it holds up to “13” – even betters some of it – and that same half is a fitting end to the Black Sabbath story. It’s just a shame about the second half. Shame the three of them couldn’t have agreed to record a proper final studio release, as I expect that would have been a far better epitaph to this great band…
“The End” tracklist:
1. Season Of The Dead / 2. Cry All Night / 3. Take Me Home / 4. Isolated Man / 5. God Is Dead? / 6. Under The Sun / 7. End Of The Beginning / 8. Age Of Reason
1 – 4 recorded during “13” sessions (2012/13) / 5, 7 & 8 originally from “13” (2013) / 6 originally from “Vol. 4” (1972)
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”.
No blog for a few days as I have been busy decorating and room moving, as the kids are getting bigger and wanting more space, leading to the wife and I converting our dining room into our new master bedroom. That part’s now achieved (more to do though…) so normal service now being resumed.
Continuing my trawl backwards through the Seventies, having examined my favourite albums of 1979, today I present to you my top ten albums of 1978…
Bruce Springsteen “Darkness On The Edge Of Town”
Following the huge success of 1975’s breakthrough album “Born To Run” was never going to be easy, and enduring a legal battle with his former manager kept Springsteen out of the studio until late 1977.
With a huge number of songs written and recorded, the eventual album was pared down to ten tracks, including singles “Prove It All Night”, “Badlands” and “The Promised Land”. Twenty two further recordings would surface in 2010 on the album “The Promise” – a collection of outtakes from the “Darkness…” sessions.
Back in ’78 the original album also contained future classics in the shape of “Racing In The Street”, “Streets Of Fire”, “Adam Raised A Cain” and, of course, the title track.
A less epic, more immediate sounding album than its predecessor, “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” is the least accessible of the two, but arguably the better artistically. Regardless, it remains a cracking and indispensable Springsteen record.
2. Jeff Wayne “The War Of The Worlds”
I think it was in the early Eighties that I first heard “Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds” (to give it its full title). I loved it straight away and still listen to it quite often today.
A musical retelling of the famous 1897 science fiction novel from English author H.G. Wells, this double album featured a number of high-profile performers including actor Richard Burton, and singers Justin Hayward, Phil Lynott, David Essex and Julie Covington.
Unusually for a double concept album, which itself spent nearly 300 weeks in the UK charts, it also produced a hit single – “Forever Autumn”.
With great packaging, well told story, great performances and superb compositions – very catchy songs and motifs – this is a classic album beyond doubt.
3. Jethro Tull “Heavy Horses”
This is an album that I have got into quite recently. In fact, it’s fair to say that the album has only really resonated with me since moving to the countryside and connecting with the natural world more.
The band’s eleventh studio album, this one is the middle piece of a trilogy of folk rock albums looking at themes surrounding nature and the effects of the changing world – the others being “Songs From The Wood” (1977) and “Stormwatch” (1979).
Group leader Ian Anderson had himself moved onto a farm and this is likely to have influenced his thinking and songwriting at the time. Whilst “Songs…” celebrated the enduring quality of nature “Heavy Horses” concerned itself with increasing industrialisation at the expense of the natural world.
Although the record was released in April of ’78 many have remarked that it has an autumnal feeling, and certainly I would have to agree that it does seem to fit that time of year particularly well, but is an excellent listen at any time of year.
“Moths” was released as a single from this album, and is one of the more folky tracks here, along with the likes of “Rover” and “Weathercock”, but the band’s progressive leanings still show through on songs like “No Lullaby” and “Heavy Horses”.
A truly great Jethro Tull album.
4. Kate Bush “The Kick Inside” / “Lionheart”
The first of two albums released in 1978 by a nineteen year old Kate Bush, debut record “The Kick Inside” was followed within nine months by “Lionheart”, with both making the UK top ten.
“The Kick Inside” contained the number one hit single “Wuthering Heights” and the beautiful “The Man With The Child In His Eyes”, the latter written when Bush was just thirteen years old. Other great songs here include “James And The Cold Gun”, “Feel It” and “Them Heavy People”.
On “Lionheart”, meanwhile, can be found a further two singles – “Hammer Horror” and “Wow“. Other notable tracks are “Oh England My Lionheart”, “Symphony In Blue” and “In The Warm Room”.
Bush herself was unhappy with how the second album turned out, as she felt that it was rushed under pressure from the record company. However, these two records mark an incredible year for the young artist who was destined to go on and create much more marvellous and inspirational music.
5. Queen “Jazz”
This was the seventh album from Queen, and their last studio album of the Seventies.
Released in November, the album’s release had been preceded by the double A side single “Bicycle Race” / “Fat Bottomed Girls” in October.
The album also contains “Don’t Stop Me Now”, another hit single for the group, as well as highlights such as “Let Me Entertain You” and “Dreamers Ball”. “Fun It”, a funky track, showed the direction the band would embrace wholeheartedly for 1982’s controversial “Hot Space” record.
If only May and Taylor could follow Deacon’s lead and stop tarnishing the Queen name in the present day. The collaboration with Paul Rodgers was a worthy, if ill-advised, effort, but the tours etc. with Adam Lambert and any number of guest singers that they have insisted in inflicting on the public since Mercury’s death are lamentable. Both could produce decent solo work – indeed Taylor’s most recent solo album is rather good – and I am unconvinced by the regular mantra that “Freddie would have approved”.
Still, “Jazz” is one of the band’s best records, from a time when they embraced a whole variety of genres on their albums, and is as good to listen to today as ever.
6. Rainbow “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll”
The third album from Ritchie Blackmore’s band, and the last to feature the wonderful vocals of Ronnie James Dio.
The majority of the record was recorded by the trio of Blackmore, Dio and drummer Cozy Powell in 1977 before bassist Bob Daisley and keyboardist David Stone joined the line-up.
The album made number 6 in the UK, whilst two singles also charted – “L.A. Connection” at number 40 and “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll” at number 33.
Hits aside, however, the best of the album included “Kill The King”, “The Shed (Subtle)”, “Rainbow Eyes” and the brilliant “Gates Of Babylon”. The band’s sound would take a turn towards more commercial territory by the time of their next album, leaving this as the last of their epic and expansive hard rock records. Essential listening.
7. Rush “Hemispheres”
Recorded just down the road from here, at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, “Hemispheres” was Canadian band Rush’s sixth studio album.
As with the group’s previous three albums, this one contains a lengthy track alongside some more concise tracks.
In the case of “Hemispheres”, the lengthy track is the sci-fi opener “Cygnus X-1 Book II : Hemispheres” which comes in at just over eighteen minutes. Book I had closed the group’s 1977 album “A Farewell To Kings” and was itself ten minutes in length.
“Circumstances”, at under four minutes, was the album’s shortest song, with single “The Trees” being next at nearly five. That just left closing instrumental track “La Villa Strangiato”, subtitled “An Exercise In Self-Indulgence” which is over nine and a half minutes long.
So, four tracks totalling thirty-six minutes. A fairly average length for a Rush record in the Seventies, but the music is of such quality that this is anything but an average album. Excellent.
8. Status Quo “If You Can’t Stand The Heat…”
The eleventh studio album from the group saw Status Quo incorporating a brass section and female backing singers into their sound for the first time, resulting in a record that is very much of its time.
Featuring two hit singles – “Again And Again” and “Accident Prone” – this is quite a poppy sounding record from the band (perhaps indicating that Francis Rossi had the upper hand during recording sessions?), though thankfully much fuller sounding than the previous year’s “Rockin’ All Over The World”. Nonetheless it still makes for a good listen.
“I’m Givin’ Up My Worryin'”, “Oh! What A Night”, “Stones”, “Let Me Fly” are all great catchy songs and “Long Legged Linda” and “Like A Good Girl” up the tempo nicely.
Incidentally, the ballad “Someone Show Me Home” reappeared as “Someone Show Me” on Rossi’s 1996 solo album “King Of The Doghouse”, though I personally prefer the original version found here. The band would return in 1979 with the much harder rocking “Whatever You Want” album.
9. Van Halen “Van Halen”
Released in February ’78, this was the debut album from California band Van Halen.
One of the great debuts in hard rock history, “Van Halen” contains tracks that have become live staples for the group ever since, including two hit singles – “Runnin’ With The Devil” and “You Really Got Me”, as well as the likes of “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” and “Jamie’s Cryin'”.
And let’s not forget the revolutionary instrumental guitar extravaganza that is “Eruption”! It sounds as fresh and exciting today as the day I first heard it. Eddie Van Halen is on fire throughout this record and the rest of the band are non too shabby either. Classic!
10. Whitesnake “Trouble”
I remember buying a cheap reissue of this on a cassette in the early Eighties, probably around the time of “Saints & Sinners”, and not being too sure about it to begin with.
Over the years since then, however, I have grown to love this album, and probably enjoy it more than “Ready An’ Willing” and “Come An’ Get It” to be honest.
Released during the same year as David Coverdale’s second solo album “Northwinds”, “Trouble” was the first record credited to Whitesnake and features the same personnel as 1979 album “Lovehunter” – another favourite.
Both the excellent “Lie Down (A Modern Love Song)” (not so much suggestive as blatant lyrically!) and “The Time Is Right For Love” were released as singles, although neither charted, and the album itself only made number 50 in the UK. A slow-burn version of the Beatles’ “Day Tripper”, instrumental “Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick” and tracks like “Love To Keep You Warm”, “Nighthawk (Vampire Blues)” and the title track, together with stellar performances from all involved all contributed to a fabulous first record from this now legendary rock band.
The usual round-up of events in this year include James Callaghan as British Prime Minister and Jimmy Carter as President of the USA, Nottingham Forest winning the old First Division and Ipswich Town beating Arsenal for the FA Cup, and top film releases of the year included “Grease”, “Superman” and the powerful “The Deer Hunter”.
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”…