Well, here’s something deep. Often you’ll find that progressive rock bands have challenging material and / or subject matter in their music. Norwegian act Gazpacho are not, therefore, unique in that respect.
Past albums have recounted a story based on that of pioneering French aviator Antoine De Saint-Exupéry and his 1935 attempt to fly from Paris to Saigon (2009’s “Tick Tock”) and the tale of Atropos, one of the three goddesses of fate and destiny in Ancient Greek mythology (“Missa Atropos” from 2011). The band’s last studio album “Demon” (2014) were said to be based on “the mad ramblings left behind by an unknown tenant in an apartment in Prague.”
Formed in 1996 by vocalist Jan-Henrik Ohme, guitarist Jon-Arne Vilbo and keyboardist Thomas Andersen, Gazpacho have evolved over the years and now include violinist / guitarist Mikael Krømer (since 2004), bassist Kristian Torp (since 2005) and drummer Lars Erik Asp (since 2010).
The sextet’s latest release is the band’s ninth studio album, titled “Molok”. The theme for this record is, according to Andersen, “about a man that sometime around 1920 decides that wherever anyone worships a God they always seem to be worshipping stone in some form. Whether it is a grand cathedral, the stone in Mecca or Stonehenge. God seems to have been chased by his worshipers into stone never to return. This harkens back to Norwegian folk myths where if a troll was exposed to sunlight it would turn to stone but it also reflects the way God has been incommunicado for a very long time.”
As if that’s not conceptual enough, the group also state that “in a mechanistic view of the universe all events in the universe are a consequence of a previous event. This means that with enough information you should be able to calculate the past and the future and this is what he does. He names the machine ‘Molok’ after the biblical demon into whose jaws children were sacrificed because his machine crunches numbers. On solstice day he starts the machine and it quickly gains some form of intelligence as it races through history undergoing its own evolution.”
Oh, and just to add to the fun, the final track “Molok Rising” has a code embedded at the very end that plays a short noise but will also “cause the correction software that runs in all CD players to generate a random number every time the CD is played. If that number should correspond to the actual position of all electrons in the universe then technically the universe could be destroyed.” I think it’s fair to say that if you are reading this then this technical possibility has not yet actually occurred. Which is a relief!
Anyway, what about the music itself? In the past the band’s music has been likened to Marillion, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree and even A-ha – the latter most likely due to Ohme’s smooth vocal style.
There is some Greek sounding instrumentation in “Bela Kiss”, “Know Your Time” has some Norwegian folk stylings, whilst elsewhere can be found the sound of church bells, accordion and tribal drums.
There is some lovely soaring guitar work from Vilbo to be heard too, and plenty of lush keyboards courtesy of Andersen. The are some quite breathtakingly beautiful sections on this album.
Of the bands previously mentioned, Marillion are probably the best comparison – if looking at the work they have produced since Steve Hogarth took over the mic stand.
I’m not going to single out any tracks as highlights as this, in common with so much good music, is an album that takes a while to get under your skin and reveal itself fully. When it does, however, it reveals itself to be a full-bodied and mature piece of work that deserves to be heard by a wider audience than bands of this ilk often attract. “Molok” demands some time and concentration but is worth the effort. Exquisite…
1. Park Bench / 2. The Master’s Voice / 3. Bela Kiss / 4. Know Your Time / 5. Choir Of Ancestors / 6. ABC / 7. Algorithm / 8. Alarm / 9. Molok Rising
Just over a week ago I looked back at my favourite albums of 1988 and promised the final year of the Eighties would be up next.
Well, here it is. My list covering my personal top ten albums of the final year of that decade – 1989…
1. Aerosmith “Pump”
This was the year that I first got to see Boston hard rock legends Aerosmith live in concert, at the Birmingham N.E.C., and the year that they released what I believe to be their best ever album “Pump”.
This was the band’s tenth studio album, and their most successful to that point. In fact only “Get A Grip”, the follow-up from 1993, can match “Pump” in terms of chart performances and sales figures.
There were three chart singles in the UK from this record – “Janie’s Got A Gun”, “The Other Side” and “Love In An Elevator”, whilst the album contained other corkers such as “Young Lust”, “Monkey On My Back”, “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even” and my favourite “Hoodoo / Voodoo Medicine Man”.
The whole band were on fire, Steven Tyler’s vocals sounded great, Joe Perry looked like the guitar god that he was and this was one Aerosmith album that didn’t contain a single duff track.
2. Dan Reed Network “Slam”
This is a band that should have had a lot more success than they ultimately did. A multi-ethnic hard rock / funk group, Dan Reed Network’s second album “Slam” was produced by Nile Rodgers of Chic fame.
It was the single “Tiger In A Dress” that first brought the band to my attention, and I was a big fan of the album by the time they secured a slot opening for the Rolling Stones on their “Urban Jungle” tour.
The group would go on to have bigger chart success in the UK with 1991 album “The Heat” before disappearing, but for me “Slam” is the best of the band’s three albums, with superb tracks like “Doin’ The Love Thing”, “Come Back Baby”, “All My Lovin'”, “Make It Easy” and “Stronger Than Steel” ensuring that the album still gets regular airings on my system.
3. Eric Clapton “Journeyman”
I’d not been a particular fan of Eric Clapton’s work, big hits such as “Layla” and “Cocaine” aside, until his eleventh solo studio album “Journeyman” came out and changed that, making me go back and discover all his past treasures.
A number of singles were released to promote the record, including “Pretending”, the excellent “Bad Love” and “No Alibis”.
The album mixed bluesy material with harder rocking tracks but worked brilliantly from start to finish and remains my favourite Clapton album, probably followed by “24 Nights” – the live album that chronicled his stints at the Royal Albert Hall in 1990/91 (and the unofficial recordings from those dates) – as it (and they) capture Clapton at one of the peaks of his powers.
The Cream years and Derek & The Dominoes are hugely important too, not forgetting the John Mayall album from 1966, but for quality songs, superb guitar playing and a great polished sound “Journeyman” is the one for me.
4. FM “Tough It Out”
A band new to me in 1989 were British melodic rockers FM. First introduced to my ears by their single “Bad Luck”, the band boasted great catchy rock songs with singalong choruses and really good instrumentation, all topped off my the wonderful voice of Steve Overland.
So impressed was I that, together with a mate, I saw the band perform on their subsequent UK tour twice in a week – in Bristol and Manchester – and they were just as good live as on record (in fact drummer Pete Jupp was even better than I expected).
As well as “Bad Luck”, the album produced two more singles in “Someday (You’ll Come Running)” and “Everytime I Think Of You” and was crammed full of top tunes, any one of which could conceivably have been a hit. The band are still making really good music to this day, but “Tough It Out” will likely always be the best to me, as it was perfect for the time.
5. King’s X “Gretchen Goes To Nebraska”
In all honesty I can’t remember for the life of me how I first discovered King’s X, though it was most likely from Tommy Vance’s brilliant radio show on BBC Radio 1, the Friday Rock Show, which was an invaluable resource in the days before the internet!
Regardless, I can recall picking up a vinyl copy of “Gretchen Goes To Nebraska”, the band’s second album, and being really impressed. The record contains different elements – Beatles-like vocal harmonies, heavy guitars, great melodies, psychedelic sounds, tight grooves, progressive passages etc.
Two singles were used to promote the record – “Over My Head” and “Summerland”, and other notable tracks include “Everybody Knows A Little Bit Of Something”, “Mission” and “Don’t Believe It (It’s Easier Said Than Done)”. Whilst not massively successful commercially the album is generally regarded as a highlight of the band’s catalogue.
6. Marillion “Season’s End”
Tape cassettes were still popular in 1989 and it was an impulse purchase in a motorway service station on a late night drive towards the end of that year that saw me picking up “Seasons End”, the first post-Fish album from Aylesbury progressive rock band Marillion.
I had already heard the lead single “Hooks In You”, which was similar in sound to “Incommunicado” (my least favourite Marillion single) and was interested to see what the rest of the album would sound like, if not expecting great things.
The good news was that “Hooks In You” didn’t give a true flavour of things. Epic numbers like “The King Of Sunset Town”, “Seasons End”, “Berlin” and the sublime “Easter” all went to demonstrate that there was very definitely life after Fish.
“The Uninvited Guest” was also released as a single, as was “Easter”, albeit in edited form. The latter remains one of the most beautiful Marillion songs, and the album a marker that this was a band that would continue to grow and expand their musical vision and produce stunning music for years to come.
7. Mötley Crüe “Dr. Feelgood”
Although for some it is the “Girls, Girls, Girls” album from 1987 that best represents Los Angeles hard rock band Mötley Crüe, for me it has to be “Dr. Feelgood”.
Producing five hit singles in the US – just two, “Dr. Feelgood” and “Without You” would be UK hits – the album became the biggest selling album of the band’s career.
The group were at the peak of their commercial career and cemented the record’s success by appearing at the one-off Moscow Music Peace Festival in August ’89 along with Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions and others and their own massive 154 date world tour from October ’89 through to August ’90.
Singer Vince Neil would leave the group before the next studio album and, although he was to return just a few years later, they would never recapture their former glories and sales successes and are currently undergoing their final world tour. But back in ’89 with albums tracks like “Rattlesnake Shake”, “Sticky Sweet”, “Kickstart My Heart” and “She Goes Down” the band were dynamite.
As an aside, I did feel at the time that if I was ever to have a tattoo on my bicep it would be of the dagger / snake motif on the album cover. It never happened but then never say never…
8. Paul McCartney “Flowers In The Dirt”
I am not a massive fan of the former Beatle’s solo work, it seems to be more miss than hit in terms of quality to my ears. However, in terms of a single body of work I do find his “Flowers In The Dirt” to be head and shoulders above anything else in his solo career.
His sixteenth studio album outside of the Beatles – therefore including solo and Wings albums – it was his most successful since “Tug Of War” in 1982 and produced four UK hit singles in “My Brave Face” (number 18), “This One” (18), “Put It There” (32) and “Figure Of Eight” (42).
McCartney collaborated with Elvis Costello on four of the album’s twelve tracks and Costello also sang on “You Want Her Too”. The album was released to great critical acclaim and was followed by McCartney’s first big tour in a decade, with 103 shows between September ’89 and July ’90. The tour was captured by the fantastic double live album “Tripping The Live Fantastic” in 1990.
“Flowers In The Dirt” meanwhile is a really good adult pop record, with at least the first ten tracks being of the highest quality, including my particular favourites “Distractions”, “You Want Her Too”, “This One” and “We Got Married”.
9. Rolling Stones “Steel Wheels”
“Steel Wheels” was the Rolling Stones nineteenth studio album (twenty-first in the US) and first since the patchy “Dirty Work” in 1986.
Preceded by the hit single “Mixed Emotions” the album saw the light of day in August, two days before their huge 115 date “Steel Wheels” / “Urban Jungle” world tour kicked off in the US. I was lucky enough to catch the band perform in Cardiff on that tour, and they were excellent.
“Steel Wheels” is my favourite Rolling Stones album from the eighties, feeling more consistent in quality than the others released during that particular decade. More singles were released from the record including “Rock And A Hard Place”, “Almost Hear You Sigh” and “Terrifying” and other great tracks on the album are “Can’t Be Seen”, “Sad Sad Sad”, “Slipping Away” and the unusual and brilliant Eastern-flavoured “Continental Drift”. Great stuff.
10. Whitesnake “Slip Of The Tongue”
Released in November ’89, “Slip Of The Tongue” was Whitesnake’s eighth studio album, and the follow-up to the hugely successful “1987” album which had seen David Coverdale’s band move away from the bluesy rock on the early albums into a pristine sounding hard rock band and made them big stars in the US.
None of the musicians who had appeared on “1987” were members of the band by the time Coverdale came to record “Slip Of The Tongue” as he had recruited new band members for the “1987” tour. Touring guitarist Vivian Campbell had subsequently quit, and due to a wrist injury the then-current sole remaining guitarist Adrian Vandenberg was unable to participate either.
As a result guitar maestro Steve Vai was brought on board to record all the guitar parts on the album and join Vandenberg in the line-up for the next world tour. Although at the time Coverdale was quoted as saying that Vai was “weaving sonic tapestries from hell” he was later to remark that “Slip Of The Tongue” was the least Whitesnake sounding record in his band’s catalogue.
There is much truth to that, and for many Vai’s playing (or over-playing, depending on your point of view) was the problem and I will admit that I wonder how much better the album might have sounded had Vandenberg performed on it instead of Vai.
Despite that, this is still a good record. As with the previous album, this one also had a re-recording of an older Whitesnake song present, and issued as a single, in “Fool For Your Loving” (originally recorded in 1980). The other UK singles, both hits in 1990, were “The Deeper The Love” and “Now You’re Gone”.
There is plenty of Coverdale’s trademark humour / sexism (delete as appropriate) on tracks like “Slow Poke Music”, “Cheap An’ Nasty” and “Kittens Got Claws” – sample lyric “…you wear those skin-tight dresses with your g-string tuned to A…”. In addition there are some brilliant epic sounding tunes, “Sailing Ships” and “Judgement Day” being the pick of the bunch. Not the best Whitesnake album perhaps, but still way better than most hard rock albums from the time.
Politics, football and movies is 1989? – Margaret Thatcher was in her third term as the Prime Minister of the UK, reaching a decade in the job in May, whilst George Bush became President of the USA in January. In football Arsenal won the old First Division and the FA Cup went to Liverpool. In cinemas, top films released included “Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade”, “Batman” and “Back To The Future Part II”.
Elsewhere, tragedy struck in April during the FA Cup match between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool when 96 died as a result of the Hillsborough Disaster, a fatwā was declared over Salman Rushdie’s controversial novel “The Satanic Verses”, the BBC dropped TV series “Doctor Who” after twenty-six years and Sky began broadcasting in the UK for the first time.
OK, so that all of the eighties done. So what’s next? Seventies? Nineties?… Time will tell…
Having recently looked back to my favourite ten albums of 1985, thirty years ago, I thought this time I’d go back one year further and take a look through my top ten albums released during 1984…
Bryan Adams “Reckless”
Hitting the shelves at the tail end of the year, this was Adams’s fourth studio album and really marks his breakthrough into the big time.
The record contains no less than six hit singles, including “Run To You”, “Heaven” and the classic “Summer Of ’69”, although the majority of these weren’t released until 1985.
Great to sing along to, this is a bona-fide classic rock / pop album from start to finish that definitely stands the test of time.
2. Bruce Springsteen “Born In The U.S.A.”
Released during the summer of ’84, “Born In The U.S.A.” was the album that introduced me to Springsteen’s music.
In total there were seven singles released from the record, including feel-good sounding tracks such as “Glory Days”, “Dancing In The Dark” and “Cover Me”.
The title track itself, whilst sounding anthemic, was in fact a look at the negative effects of the Vietnam War and treatment of those who’d fought that war once they returned home to America. Other introspective sounding songs included “I’m On Fire” and “My Hometown”. Still my favourite Springsteen album, this was on cassette (remember them?) that was often to be found in my Walkman that year.
3. Frankie Goes To Hollywood “Welcome To The Pleasuredome”
Now here’s a group that burned very brightly before burning out before long! Although FGTH would release a second studio album with “Liverpool” two years later, it’s their debut that remains a pop classic.
However, how much the band themselves had to do with the record is open to some debate. Certainly producer Trevor Horn is said to have replaced much, if not all, of the band’s instrumental performances with those by session musicians and his production and mixing work is likely the magic ingredient here.
The album contains versions of four hit singles – “Relax” (famously banned by the BBC after comments from DJ Mike Read), “Two Tribes”, “The Power Of Love” and “Welcome To The Pleasure Dome”. I say versions of because there were numerous mixes of these tracks released across various 7″, 12″ and cassette singles at the time, including a sixteen minute version of “Relax” that I seem to recall driving my parents mad with! And do you remember all the “Frankie Says…” t-shirts that seemed to be everywhere?
The album as a whole isn’t consistently brilliant, but with covers of “War” and Springsteen’s “Born To Run” alongside the aforementioned tracks (the title track lasting thirteen minutes) it’s still a really good listen even now.
4. Iron Maiden “Powerslave”
Maiden’s fifth studio album, and my second favourite of those featuring the vocals of Bruce Dickinson during his first spell with the band, “Powerslave” came with an excellent Egyptian-themed cover by regular contributor Derek Riggs.
The record itself contained just eight tracks including one instrumental number, the appropriately named “Losfer Words”. The first two songs, “Aces High” and “2 Minutes To Midnight” were top twenty hit singles, but my personal favourites were to be found on side two – “Back In The Village” (inspired by cult TV series “The Prisoner”), “Powerslave” and the Samuel Taylor Coleridge inspired near-fourteen minute tour-de-force “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”. Classic British heavy metal.
5. Madonna “Like A Virgin”
Madonna’s second album, released in November ’84, was the one that really made her a household name. A definite step up from her self-titled debut from the previous year, the album received an excellent production job courtesy of Chic man Nile Rodgers.
Madonna’s sexy yet controversial appearance at the MTV’s first VMA show debuted the title track some two months before either single or album were released.
Originally containing nine tracks (“Into The Groove” from the film “Desperately Seeking Susan” was added to the record the following year after its success as a single), there were initially four hit singles – “Like A Virgin”, “Material Girl”, “Angel” and “Dress You Up”.
Although not quite as successful sales-wise as 1987’s “True Blue” this quite brilliant pop record remains, alongside “Like A Prayer”, my joint favourite Madonna album
6. Marillion “Fugazi”
Progressive rock legends Marillion released their second album “Fugazi” in March of this year.
Although for many the highlight of the band’s Fish-led era would be 1985’s concept album “Misplaced Childhood”, there is still much to recommend this album, not least what qualifies as my favourite cover design (by artist Mark Wilkinson), even though it is in truth the weaker of the group’s initial series of albums.
Kicking off with the blistering single “Assassing”, the record contains seven mostly lengthy songs – the shortest by far being the other single “Punch & Judy” – with my personal favourites being the aforementioned “Assassing” together with “Incubus”, “She Chameleon” and “Fugazi”.
7. Nik Kershaw “The Riddle”
Well here’s an album that I bought by mistake! I remember going into a Bristol record shop (I think it was HMV) late in the year to buy the cassette single (otherwise known as a cassingle ) of Kershaw’s hit “The Riddle” and being sold the cassette of the album instead.
Still, it proved to be a lucky accident as this is a great pop record. Further hits followed the title track, with both “Wide Boy” and “Don Quixote” making it into the top ten singles chart. All three are excellent examples of Kershaw’s ability to write brilliantly catchy melodies (Chesney Hawkes’s one and only hit “The One And Only” from 1991 being yet another).
Whilst the final track “Save The Whale” perhaps sees the quality drop, album tracks such as “City Of Angels”, “You Might” and “Wild Horses” further demonstrate just what a great writer and musician Nik Kershaw is.
8. Prince & The Revolution “Purple Rain”
Prince’s sixth album, credited to Prince & The Revolution, was the soundtrack to his film debut – starring as The Kid in the movie “Purple Rain” – and would go on to become his most successful album, selling over 22 million copies to date.
As with most albums that Prince has released (and ignoring the numerous ones that he hasn’t) there were several planned versions containing differing running orders and even versions of songs before the final nine track record was issued.
Of those nine tracks, five would be hit singles – the stark “When Doves Cry”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, Take Me With U”, the epic “Purple Rain” itself and “I Would Die 4 U” – all but one of which would be top ten singles chart hits in the UK.
9. Scorpions “Love At First Sting”
The second Scorpions album that I bought, after 1982’s “Blackout”, “Love At First Sting” saw the band embrace the MTV era with the release of the “First Sting” video EP which featured videos for three songs from the record – “Rock You Like A Hurricane”, “Still Loving You” and “I’m Leaving You” plus “No One Like You” from “Blackout”.
A further three tracks made it onto 7″ – “Big City Nights”, “Bad Boys Running Wild” and “Coming Home” – whilst my favourite album tracks are “Crossfire” and “The Same Thrill”.
Along with music videos featuring scantily clad women, the album had a cover that continued in the tradition of previously suggestive Scorpions covers such as “In Trance”, the controversial “Virgin Killer”, “Animal Magnetism”and “Lovedrive” – but leaving the visuals aside this remains a great 80s hard rock record.
10. Van Halen “1984”
Speaking of scantily clad females, check out the video (not to mention the single sleeve itself) for Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher”, the fourth single to be lifted from the band’s album “1984”.
The band’s most successful record to date, “1984” (which was depicted as “MCMLXXXIV” on the cover) would be the last full-length studio album to feature the line-up of guitarist Eddie Van Halen and drumming brother Alex Van Halen with original vocalist David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony.
As well as the singles – “Panama”, “I’ll Wait” and mega-hit “Jump” were the other three – the synthesizer-heavy platter also contained some less commercial material with the likes of “Girl Gone Bad”, “House Of Pain” and “Drop Dead Legs”,
A perfect combination of Eddie’s riffs and trademark guitar pyrotechnics, underpinned by Alex’s thunderous drums (especially on the aforementioned “Hot For Teacher”) and Anthony’s solid bass playing and topped off with Roth’s flamboyant delivery, this is the last truly great Van Halen album.
Elsewhere in 1984 I attended my very first in a long line of Status Quo concerts on their “End Of The Road” tour. Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister in the UK and Ronald Reagan was nearing the end of his first term of office as President of the USA. In football Liverpool won the old First Division, League Cup and European Cup, with the FA Cup going to Everton. And cinema-wise, top films released included “Ghostbusters”, “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Gremlins”.
There was an article in the press this week talking about the fact that it was thirty years ago this week that “Live Aid” took place in London and Philadelphia. Not only that, but the event itself took place thirty years (give or take a few months) after the birth or rock ‘n’ roll – if you accept the popular view that rock ‘n’ roll began with Elvis Presley’s first trip to Sun Studios.
I suppose the scary thing is that in many ways “Live Aid” seems fresh in the memory – not so much like it was yesterday, but certainly not thirty years ago. By contrast, I am certain that when I sat down to watch the event unfold on the BBC the rock ‘n’ roll recordings of the 1950s – indeed most stuff from the 1960s and even early 1970s – seemed almost prehistoric to me! Bizarre, then, that my record collection now contains recordings from way back in the 1920s through to today.
Anyway, I have digressed somewhat. Today I am looking back to the year of “Live Aid” – 1985 – and my top ten albums released during that twelve months. So, listed alphabetically, here we go…
1. Dire Straits “Brothers In Arms”
Dire Straits’ fifth studio album, and without doubt one of the most popular releases of the CD era, with over 30 million copies sold.
Coming three years after the band’s previous studio album, it was unusual in that the track lengths on the CD and cassette versions were longer than those on the vinyl LP due to the limitations of available space on the vinyl.
The album itself included five UK top thirty hit singles – “Money For Nothing”, “So Far Away”, “Walk Of Life”, “Your Latest Trick” and “Brothers In Arms” – as well as the excellent “Ride Across The River” amongst the remaining four tracks.
An excellent album, “Brothers In Arms” still sounds as good today as it did during the summer of ’85.
2. Heart “Heart”
Although this self-titled album was the band’s eighth studio release, “Heart” was their first number to reach number one in the US. This was Heart’s most commercially successful album and saw the band receive a makeover for photo shoots and the music videos to accompany the singles – four of which were US top tens – “What About Love”, “Never”, “These Dreams” and “Nothin’ At All”.
There were two different mixes of the tracks “Nothin’ At All” and “Never” and bizarrely different pressings of the record could contain any combination of them! Regardless, this is a great poppy rock record chock full of great tunes and deservedly brought the band to wider attention.
3. Kate Bush “Hounds Of Love”
Released three years after previous album “The Dreaming”, Kate Bush’s fifth album remains her most successful album (and one of her best-loved).
Preceded by the hit single “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)”, the album was released in August and went on to spawn a further three top 40 hit singles in “Cloudbusting”, “Hounds Of Love” and “The Big Sky”.
The real appeal of this record for me, however, lies in the second half with the seven section piece “The Ninth Wave” which is utterly brilliant and haunting even now. A fantastic piece of work.
4. Marillion “Misplaced Childhood”
Progressive rock band Marillion hit their commercial (though certainly not artistic) peak in 1985 with third album “Misplaced Childhood” and the hit singles from it – “Lavender”, “Heart Of Lothian” and the hugely popular “Kayleigh”.
A concept album, the vinyl record contained two sides of continuous music – although the individual songs contained within them are all listed separately. Aside from the singles the album contained two excellent lengthy multi-section numbers in “Bitter Suite” and “Blind Curve”.
It’s a toss-up between this one and “Script For A Jester’s Tear” as to which of the Fish era albums in prefer. Held up against the Steve Hogarth era albums as well would make things much harder! Regardless, “Misplaced Childhood” is an excellent album.
5. Phil Collins “No Jacket Required”
Perhaps there was something about 1985 that made artists particularly successful. This, Collins’s third studio album, was certainly his best-selling in the US – selling three times as many copies as the follow-up “…But Seriously” (although the latter was actually more successful in the UK and elsewhere).
Amongst the album’s ten tracks can be found five US hit singles (three Top 20 in the UK) including “Take Me Home”, ballad “One More Night” and the brass infused “Sussudio”.
Other standout songs on this, my favourite Collins solo album, are “Long Long Way To Go”, “Doesn’t Anybody Stay Together Anymore” and “Inside Out”.
6. The Power Station “The Power Station”
The Power Station were a relatively short-lived supergroup, put together in late 1984, by Duran Duran members Andy Taylor (guitars) and John Taylor (bass) with Chic drummer Tony Thompson. The trio originally planned to make an album with a revolving cast of vocalists but in the end decided to utilise the talents of Robert Palmer for the whole record.
With a harder rock sound than either Duran Duran or Chic, the group quickly found success with three hit singles released from the album – “Some Like It Hot”, a cover of T-Rex’s “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” and “Communication”.
Things didn’t last long however as, deciding to take advantage of the band’s sudden popularity, Palmer decided to record a new solo record and bailed out of the band before they hit the road, being replaced by Michael Des Barres before the band folded later in the year.
7. Rush “Power Windows”
“Power Windows” was Rush’s eleventh studio album and even managed a minor hit single in the UK with lead track “The Big Money”.
With the introduction of more synthesizers into the band’s sound than heard previously this gave the finished record a much more widescreen sound. This feels particularly effective on tracks such as “Manhattan Project” which tackles the subject of the US development of the atom bomb and it’s consequences.
Other songs looked at themes of escaping suburbia (“Middletown Dreams”), nationalism (“Territories”) and the superficiality of mainstream music (“Grand Designs”). My first, and still favourite, Rush album.
8. Saxon “Innocence Is No Excuse”
Far more polished in sound than the band’s previous records, and recorded at a time when the band were aiming for a more commercial sound, this would prove to be a divisive album amongst the band’s fan base.
Three singles were released – “Back On The Streets”, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Gypsy” and “Rockin’ Again” – whilst the album also contained the excellent “Devil Rides Out” and “Give It Everything You’ve Got” as well as the slower paced “Broken Heroes” which laments the fate of so many young men sent off to war.
A really good album that holds up better than some of Saxon’s other late 80s work and with some of their best album cover design too.
9. Simple Minds “Once Upon A Time”
“Once Upon A Time” followed Simple Minds’ huge success with “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from the soundtrack of “The Breakfast Club” in early 1985 – a track that they had to be persuaded to record by their record label! It seems that as a result the band decided not to include it on the album – which as with others here was the peak of their commercial success.
Four Top 20 singles were on the album, though. “Alive And Kicking”, “Sanctify Yourself”, “All The Things She Said” and “Ghostdancing”, as well as excellent album tracks like “I Wish You Were Here” and “Oh Jungleland”.
10. Various Artists “Miami Vice”
The US crime drama TV series “Miami Vice”, starring Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas as Crockett and Tubbs was massively successful in the late 80s from its debut in September 1984.
Part of the show’s unique appeal was the use of lots of current popular music alongside compositions by Jan Hammer as well as the attention to detail and iconic visual style.
This compilation album brought together five instrumental tracks from Jan Hammer, including the the theme tune, as well as songs that had been used in the show like Glenn Frey’s “Smuggler’s Blues” and “In The Air Tonight” from Phil Collins.
Perhaps not a brilliant compilation album, but it makes my top ten partly by virtue of my love of the show itself. Incidentally, in addition some of the artists whose albums appear on this list either had music featured in the show (Dire Straits, Kate Bush) or had music featured and appeared on the show themselves too (Phil Collins, The Power Station).
OK, so “Live Aid” aside, what else was happening in 1985? Well, Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister, Everton won the old First Division with the FA Cup going to Manchester United, and top films released included “Back To The Future”, “Rambo : First Blood Part II” and “The Goonies”.
Following on from yesterday’s post about the film “This Is England”, which was set in 1983, I reckon it’s time for another in my series of posts about my top ten albums of the year, having already covered 1982, 1987, 1995 and 2010…
1. Big Country “The Crossing”
The debut album from the Scottish rock band Big Country, put together by the late Stuart Adamson after his departure from Skids. Through use of the e-bow and effects which made Adamson and fellow guitarist Bruce Watson’s guitars sound reminiscent of bagpipes, the album boasted a sound strongly evocative of Scotland.
Four singles were released from the record, “Harvest Home”, “Fields Of Fire”, “In A Big Country” and the brilliant “Chance”. Even better, in my view, are the fantastic and atmospheric album tracks “The Storm” and “Porrohman”.
The original line-up which also featured bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki continued to make great music until their split in 2000. Adamson’s tragic death in 2001 looked to have put a full stop to the Big Country story but have since reconvened and released new music in 2013. None of it, however, has matched the breadth of vision found on their classic debut.
2. Cliff Richard “Silver”
To mark his then 25th anniversary in music Cliff Richard released the album “Silver”. Originally available in a box set that included both “Silver” and a bonus album entitled “Rock ‘N’ Roll Silver” (which contained newly recorded versions of classic rock ‘n’ roll tracks, including his own first hit from 1958, “Move It”).
A brilliant pop album, there were three hit singles present – “Never Say Die (Give A Little Bit More)”, “Baby You’re Dynamite” and “Please Don’t Fall In Love”. Other great tracks are “Love Stealer” and “Ocean Deep”. A cover of “The Golden Days Are Over” was released by Bucks Fizz and became a hit the following year.
3. Def Leppard “Pyromania”
Sheffield rock band Def Leppard’s third album, and the first to feature the line-up of singer Joe Elliott, drummer Rick Allen, bassist Rick Savage, and guitarists Steve Clark and Phil Collen.
Three singles were unleashed from this album in the UK – “Rock Of Ages”, “Too Late For Love” and the classic “Photograph” which received a great deal of airplay on MTV. Elsewhere the epic “Die Hard The Hunter” and “Billy’s Got A Gun” showed a different side to the band.
A number two hit in the USA, it’s fair to say that already the band’s sound had been polished from that found on the previous records and hints of the production sheen that would follow with 1987’s “Hysteria” can clearly be heard throughout. A very good hard rock album.
4. Dio “Holy Diver”
Following his acrimonious departure from Black Sabbath (there were arguments over the mixing of their “Live Evil” album) vocalist Ronnie James Dio formed a new band, under the name Dio, with drummer Vinny Appice (also ex-Black Sabbath) together with guitarist Vivian Campbell and bassist Jimmy Bain. “Holy Diver” was the new band’s debut album.
Possibly the highlight of Dio’s solo career, the record is certainly a classic ’80s heavy metal album. “Holy Diver” and “Rainbow In The Dark” were both released as singles, and the album’s other highlights include opening track “Stand Up And Shout” and my own favourite track, “Don’t Talk To Strangers”. Awesome vocals, solid bass, thunderous drums and pyrotechnic guitar – classic stuff!
5. Duran Duran “Seven And The Ragged Tiger”
Duran Duran’s third album, and their last by the original line-up until 2004, “Seven And The Ragged Tiger” continued the success of the previous year’s “Rio”, certainly in commercial terms if not with the critics.
Although the record produced three hit singles – “Union Of The Snake” (which reached number three), “New Moon On Monday” (number nine) and “The Reflex” (number one) the band had struggled to write new material, and overall the album doesn’t feel quite as consistently strong as their first two. Nonetheless, it is a very good pop album with some great material outside of the singles, including “The Seventh Stranger” and “Of Crime And Passion” – even the instrumental “Tiger Tiger” is worth it’s place.
A bit of trivia here – I can vividly recall (though don’t ask me why!) purchasing the 7″ vinyl single of “New Moon On Monday” from a local record shop at the same time as Led Zeppelin’s “Led Zeppelin III” album (with the unusual gatefold sleeve with rotating disc).
6. Genesis “Genesis”
Following the August release of the menacing single “Mama”, Genesis’s twelfth studio album arrived in October. Composed more collaboratively than previously, “Genesis” was a polished combination of pop sensibility and progressive rock overtones.
Alongside further hits in the form of “That’s All” and “Illegal Alien” can be found the ballad “Throwing It All Away” and the two-part progressive epic “Home By The Sea” / “Second Home By The Sea”. A mixed bag for sure, but a very good album and a pointer to the commercial heights the band (not to mention outside projects by band members Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford) would reach later in the decade.
7. Marillion “Script For A Jester’s Tear”
The debut album from Aylesbury band Marillion, “Script For A Jester’s Tear” was a superb progressive rock album with echoes of the classic progressive rock bands of the 1970s.
Preceded by the non-album single “Market Square Heroes” (which itself featured the classic seventeen minute non-album track “Grendel” as the b-side of the 12″ single release), the album boasted two further singles in “He Knows You Know” and “Garden Party”.
The entire album is essential, but special mention must go to “Chelsea Monday, “Forgotten Sons” and, of course, the brilliant “Script For A Jester’s Tear”.
8. Status Quo “Back To Back”
“Back To Back” was the band’s sixteenth studio album – and last to feature founding member, bassist Alan Lancaster. Continuing with the more pop/rock sound found on the previous album, this one featured four hit singles. “Ol’ Rag Blues” reached number nine, “A Mess Of Blues” number fifteen, a re-recorded version of “Going Down Town Tonight” hit number twenty, and the controversial “Marguerita Time” hit number three.
Few would argue that this is a classic Status Quo album, but it has it’s moments, and if listened to simply in terms of the songs it’s actually very good. “Can’t Be Done” and “Win Or Lose” are both really catchy, “Too Close To The Ground” a great bluesy ballad and “No Contract” a decent heavier rock number.
9. Thin Lizzy “Thunder And Lightning”
The final studio album to be released under the Thin Lizzy banner, “Thunder And Lightning” was also the band’s heaviest record.
After guitarist Snowy White left the band, vocalist / bassist Phil Lynott recruited John Sykes from NWOBHM band Tygers Of Pan Tang as his replacement – joining drummer Brian Downey, guitarist Scott Gorham and keyboardist Darren Wharton. ALthough the majority of the material for this album was written before his arrival, Sykes’ guitar sound, together with his heavier approach, helped shape the sound of the album.
He also co-wrote the single “Cold Sweat” and produced a dazzling guitar solo to go with it. Other excellent tracks on this record include “The Holy War”, “Bad Habits”, “Baby Please Don’t Go” and “The Sun Goes Down”. Not just the heaviest, but also one of the best Thin Lizzy albums.
10. ZZ Top “Eliminator”
Ah, the little ol’ band from Texas, ZZ Top. The band – guitarist / vocalist Billy Gibbons, bassist / vocalist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard – were practically unknown in the UK prior to their eighth album “Eliminator”.
At heart a blues rock band, the trio had experimented with synthesizers on their previous album, but their use, together with sequencers and a drum machine came into their own with this record.
This, combined with clever marketing involving a trilogy of music videos, starring their Eliminator car (a souped up 1933 Ford coupe) and several leggy models, helped bring the band to a much wider audience. The videos, for the singles “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs” received a huge amount of exposure on MTV.
Aside from those singles, the album featured two further singles in “Got Me Under Pressure” and “TV Dinners” alongside my own favourites – a slow burning blues number “Need You Tonight”, the up-tempo “Bad Girl” and the unusual, percussion-heavy “Thug”.
1983, then. Margaret Thatcher wins a second term as British Prime Minister with a landslide victory, Liverpool won the First Division and Manchester United the F.A. Cup, and top film releases included “Return Of The Jedi”, “Flashdance” and “Octopussy”…