1999 by Prince

1999 by Prince1999 is a double-length album by Prince, released in late 1982. The album was born out of an extremely prolific songwriting period when there was reportedly four albums worth of material available. It was the fifth studio album by the Minnesota artist born Prince Rogers Nelson, who started his recording career in his late teens in the mid 1970s. This synthesizer and drum machine heavy album marked a decided change in Prince’s sound and contained his first charting hit singles. The album beats on a “computer” theme, which is reflected in the album’s instrumentation and various electronic sounds. Prince credited the movie Blade Runner as an influence on the album’s sound as well as the sets of the corresponding music videos.

Like all his previous albums, 1999 centers on deeply sexual subjects (some have said that Prince sings about sex like B.B. King sigs about the blues). However, this album also explored other issues, especially those of mortality and death.

The album is laid out in a very top-heavy fashion, with all the singles coming from the first two sides and sides three and four reserved for strictly album tracks. Further, whether by design or not, the four singles released from 1999 were released in the exact sequence that they appear on the album. The unique cover of the album not only contains symbols and art from past Prince albums, but also tributes his future backing band The Revolution.
 


1999 by Prince
Released: November 27, 1982 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Prince
Recorded: Kiowa Trail Home Studio, Chanhassen, MN &
Sunset Sound, Hollywood, CA, 1982
Side One Side Two
1999
Little Red Corvette
Delirious
Let’s Pretend We’re Married
D.M.S.R.
Side Three Side Four
Automatic
Something In the Water
(Does Not Compute)
Free
Lady Cab Driver
All the Critics Love U in New York
International Lover
Primary Musicians
Prince – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Drums
Dez Dickerson – Guitars, Vocals | Lisa Coleman – Lead & Backing Vocals

 
The title track, “1999” is an updated version of Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, with an updated notion of turning the Rapture into an excuse to party. On the track, Prince trades lead vocals with Lisa Coleman and Dez Dickerson and built the main riff around the melody of “Monday, Monday” by The Mamas & the Papas. Although the song has become one of his most enduring anthems, “1999” failed to reach the Top 40 when it was originally released.

The next song, “Little Red Corvette”, would become Prince’s first charting hit, peaking at #6 on the Billboard pop singles chart. The song nicely fuses a drum machine beat and slow synth buildup with a full pop hook during the choruses and a classic guitar solo by Dickerson. The highly allegorical lyrics tell of a one-night stand with a beautiful and promiscuous woman in a very poetic fashion;

“I guess I should’ve known by the way you parked your car sideways that it wouldn’t last…”

A couple more songs are even more highly sensualized. “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” is a long funk and R&B tune with such risque lyrics that Tipper Gore reportedly leaped from her couch to save her children’s ears from the raunch. “Automatic” extends to almost ten minutes, setting precedent for the 80s dance remixes which were frequently released on 7″ EPs. This synth-heavy song contains bondage-inspired lyrics, re-enacted in a music video banned from the new MTV.

Delirious single“Delirious” became another Top 10 hit, reaching #8. The song employs an electric version of upbeat country or rockabilly, with a catchy keyboard hook and a fair share of sexual metaphors, ending abruptly with the sound effect of a baby cooing. “Something In the Water (Does Not Compute)” is an ode to a harsh lover, while “Free” is a delicate piano ballad expressing patriotism for America and how fellow Americans should appreciate their freedom. This especially applies to freedom of speech, of which Prince understands the importance from the perspective of a “controversial” artist.

Side four of the album includes “Lady Cab Driver”, which features the vocalist angrily rattling off an endless litany of life’s disappointments above the female wailing of the “cab driver.” “All the Critics Love U in New York” is another experiment into the world of of synthesizers and features the Linn LM-1 drum machine. The closer, “International Lover” is another long sex-centric song to wrap up the double LP.

1999‘s critical and commercial success secured Prince a place in the public psyche, and launched him into the most successful phase of his long career. The album was followed 19 months later by Purple Rain, his most successful album ever, which was also accompanied by a major Hollywood movie.

~
R.A.
 

1982 Images

 

 

Marshall Crenshaw

Marshall Crenshaw, 1982Marshall Crenshaw writes songs that could be described as simple, traditional pop/rock songs with a hint of Rockabilly in the tradition of Buddy Holly and early Beatles. In fact, Crenshaw got his first break playing John Lennon in the off-Broadway production of the musical Beatlemania in the 1970s. All the while, Crenshaw was writing and recording original songs. In 1981 rockabilly artist Robert Gordon recorded Crenshaw’s “Someday, Someway” and scored a minor hit. Encouraged, Crenshaw wrote and recorded a full length LP with a three piece band. This eponymous album was well received by critics and fellow musicians when it was released in 1982.

The album spent six months on the charts peaking at #50 and selling over 400,000 copies. These are respectable stats for a debut album, but it was hardly a blockbuster. So why is this album significant? In a sea of artists trying to be the next Michael Jackson, Crenshaw just did his thing. At that time when he was being compared to the heavily synthesized music considered cutting edge, he may have sounded a bit old fashioned, but his songs have stood up over time and still sound fresh today.

A good song can be a reflection of what the writer is thinking, feeling or experiencing . Marshall Crenshaw manages to do that perfectly on this album. The songs are not complicated, they are put together with three musicians and accentuated with overdubs. There really is a beauty in simplicity when it’s done well. The lyrics are straightforward and forthright and while there is sometimes a bit of sarcasm, they are clever and always upbeat. Crenshaw’s style was not necessarily the “next big thing” in pop music, but he created one great album filled with refreshing, smart pop tunes that stood out from the rest.
 


Marshall Crenshaw by Marshall Crenshaw
Released: April 28, 1982 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Richard Gottehrer & Marshall Crenshaw
Recorded: Record Plant, New York, January 1982
Side One Side Two
There She Goes Again
Someday, Someway
Girls
I’ll Do Anything
Rockin’ Around in N.Y.C.
The Usual Thing
She Can’t Dance
Cynical Girl
Mary Anne
Soldier Of Love (Lay Down Your Arms)
Not For Me
Brand New Lover
Band Musicians
Marshall Crenshaw – Guitars, Vocals
Chis Donato – Bass | Robert Crenshaw – Drums

 
The album opens with “There She Goes Again” a melodic tune with a catchy chorus ” Will her heart ever be satisfied, there she goes again with another guy.” This is followed by the most recognized song on the album and Crenshaw’s only Top 40 hit, “Someday Someway”. Here we have another infectious melody and chorus that gets stuck in your head long after the music stops, showing how Crenshaw can craft a simple song into a pop masterpiece.
 

 
Later on the first side comes a pair of power pop tunes – “Girls, Girls Girls” and “I’ll Do Anything For You”, which are simple love songs that almost anyone can relate to. “Rockin Around In N.Y.C.” has a great rockabilly beat to help paint a euphoric scene of chasing down a dream.

There are a couple of songs here that bear an eerie resemblance to rock legend Buddy Holly. So much so that they may fool those who don’t know any better into thinking that it actually is the Crickets. The strongest of these is “Cynical Girl”, which starts out with a jangly Holly-ish melody and adds Crenshaw’s crisp, bouncy vocal settling into a steady rhythm with some cool lyrics;

“Well I hate TV, there’s gotta be somebody other than me who’s ready to write it off immediately…”

To date, Crenshaw has recorded nine more studio albums since his 1982 debut, but he has never quite reached the same level of popularity. However, several of his songs were covered through the years by many talented artists, a validation of Marshall Crenshaw’s songwriting talent.

~
Karyn Albano
 

1982 Images

 

 

Combat Rock by The Clash

Combat Rock by The ClashThe last significant album by The Clash came in 1982 with Combat Rock. The album follows the experimental triple album Sandinista!, which itself followed the double album London Calling. The original plan for this album was a double LP called “Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg”, but the idea was scrapped after internal wrangling when some band members were dissatisfied with the album’s mix by guitarist Mick Jones. Legendary engineer Glyn Johns was brought in to re-mix the album which was then reduced to its single LP form. Although much less experimental than Sandinista!, the band continues to explore many sub-genres on Combat Rock particularly those funk and Caribbean rhythms.

Led by singer/guitarist Joe Strummer, the band dove into social and political issues with both feet, including the catalogue number of the album, FMLN2, in honor of the El Salvador political party Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional, a communist organization formed in part by Cuba’s Fidel Castro in the late 1970s. I always find it fascinating when rebellious figures such as Strummer embrace parties and systems which would either neuter them or completely destroy them if they found themselves fully entrenched in that system. That being said, this idelogical approach to the material on the album makes it all the more interesting and unique, which is probably the most important attribute of a rock album.

Still, even though Combat Rock is filled with offbeat songs and experiments with sound collage, it was labeled by some as the Clash’s “sellout” album, particularly because of two radio friendly tracks on the first side. The album did reach the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic, spending over a year on the U.S. charts. Still, this was far from a conventional, commercial rock album with unique themes, asymetrical arrangements, and inner stress about differing musical approches which would eventually fracture the group permanently.
 


Combat Rock by The Clash
Released: May 14, 1982 (Epic)
Produced by: The Clash
Recorded: Ear Studios & Wessex Studios, London, Sep 1981 – April 1982
Side One Side Two
Know Your Rights
Car Jamming
Should I Stay Or Should I Go
Rock the Casbah
Red Angel Dragnet
Straight To Hell
Overpowered By Funk
Atom Tan
Sean Flynn
Ghetto Defendant
Inoculated City
Death Is a Star
Band Musicians
Joe Strummer – Guitars, Vocals | Mick Jones – Guitars, Vocals
Paul Simonon – Bass, Vocals | Topper Headon – Drums, Piano

 
The album begins with a “public service announcement” in the form of the satirical “Know Your Rights”. an upbeat ska bounce, new-wave percussive effects, and wet tremolo guitars give a light atmosphere which contrasts the cynical lyric, which recites three “rights” with absurd exceptions for each:

1.The right not to be killed. Murder is a crime, unless it is done by a policeman…
2.The right to food money, providing of course, you don’t mind a little investigation…
3.The right to free speech, as long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it…

“Car Jamming” follows with a choppy guitar riff that makes for a mock-dance beat. The song has interesting melody with background vocals by guest Ellen Foley and a distant, sustained lead guitar later on in the song. “Red Angel Dragnet” features spoken vocals by bassist Paul Simonon and a funky bass beat with slight reggae guitars. The song is laced with dark humor and contains quotes from the movie Taxi Driver.

Should I Stay or Should I Go single“Should I Stay or Should I Go” is a basic, riff-driven, rock song with a simple 4/4 drum beat and a catchy blues progression during the verse. This infectious song would become the band’s biggest hit and reach #1 in the U.K. Mick Jones performs lead vocals and the title was reportedly referring to his  impending departure from The Clash (although Jones has since denied this) and features some Spanish language backing vocals by Strummer, giving it a very unique edge. “Straight to Hell” is driven by rotating drum beat, leaving room for improvisation vocally and the slightly whining guitars. The song is very melodic, which adds to the surrealism of the dark lyric.

Cheap sound effects aside, “Rock the Casbah” is the best song on the album. The song is driven by the rhythms of drummer Topper Headon who contributes bass and the opening piano riff as well. Lyrically, the song borrows words and terms from various Middle Eastern languages and gives a fabulous account of a popular rebellion against a ban on rock music by the Sharif (or “king”). The video for the song was shot in Austin, Texas and includes a couple of U.S. Air Force jets, which were unwitting participants. A dance remix of the song called “Mustapha Dance” was released with many versions of the single.
 

 
The second side contains less accessible, more niche tracks. On “Overpowered by Funk” it is hard to tell whether the band is embracing this cheesy new 80s sound or ridiculing it. The song features a “rap” by graffiti artist Futura 2000, who had accompanied the band on their 1981 European tour as a live, on-stage backdrop painter. “Atom Tan” sounds much like a Frank Zappa composition at first, but becomes quite repetitive and weak when it finally does break. “Sean Flynn” is distant but interesting, featuring diverse instrumentation including saxophone by Gary Barnacle and flute and xylophone by unidentified players.

The closest to pure reggae on the album, “Ghetto Defendant” contains some excellent percussion effects and spoken poetry by beat poet Alan Ginsburg, who performed on stage with the band during their New York shows. “Inoculated City” has pretty good melodies and harmonies throughout. It is a nice new-wave-ish tune with weird overtones, including a lifted sample from a commercial for a toilet bowl cleaner called “2000 Flushes”. “Death Is a Star” is a good closer for the album with distant, almost Syd Barret-era Pink Floyd aura. The song is topped by the piano of guest Tymon Dogg.

After Combat Rock, the Clash began to disintegrate. Drummer Headon was asked to leave the band just prior to the release of the album, and Jones would depart a year after its release. The band would never again reach the heights of the heyday in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

~
R.A.
 


1982 Images

 

 

Rock In a Hard Place by Aerosmith

Buy Rock In a Hard Place

Rock In a Hard Place by AerosmithRock In a Hard Place is considered by some to not be a “real” Aerosmith album because it is the only one to not include all five members. I have a hard time concurring as this has been one of my favorite Aerosmith albums for close to thirty years. It is a strong, edgy, and (most importantly) unique effort that captures a lot of dynamics surrounding the band’s situation perfectly. Though, many fans and critics lamented the departure of guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford and claimed that the band’s traditional chemistry was not present on this album. Perry left the band abruptly while in the middle of recording the previous album, Night In the Ruts and went on to form the Joe Perry Project. Whitford was still with the band at the beginning of this album’s sessions in 1981 but departed after recording just one track.

Of course, the music still sounds like Aerosmith because of the presence of Steven Tyler. But Tyler’s voice is strained throughout the album, something that may otherwise be a liability, but surprisingly this adds to the overall air of desperation throughout the mixes. It also adds to the feel that this is a straight-forward, no B.S. rock jam album, although certain facts seem to dispute this notion. Primarily, there was a very steep price tag ($1.5 million) in producing this album, and from that perspective it is understandable why so many may consider it a failure.

Perry and Whitford were replaced by guitarists Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay, who each brought a unique yet hard-rockin’ edge. This was especially true for Crespo, who co-wrote many of the songs on the album. Also, drummer Joey Kramer plays especially well on this album, holding together some of the looser compositions with a strong and steady rhythm.

 


Rock In a Hard Place by Aerosmith
Released: April 1, 1982 (Columbia)
Produced by: Jack Douglas, Steven Tyler, & Tony Bongiovi
Recorded: Record Plant, New York, 1981-1982
Side One Side Two
Jailbait
Lightning Strikes
Bitch’s Brew
Bolivian Ragamuffin
Cry Me a River
Prelude To Joanie
Joanie’s Butterfly
Rock in a Hard Place (Cheshire Cat)
Jig Is Up
Push Comes To Shove
Group Musicians
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Jimmy Crespo – Guitars, Vocals
Rick Dufay – Guitars
Tom Hamilton – Bass
Joey Kramer – Drums

 
The album starts in a frenzy with “Jailbait”, a collaboration by Tyler, Crespo, and Dufay. The song seems to be linked in many ways with “Bitch’s Brew” as it explicitly refers to it, is composed in a very loose lyrical fashion, and the subject matter seems to very similar – seduction and sex. Of these two, “Bitch’s Brew” is a lot more interesting due to its odd arrangement and Tyler’s vocals, which are particularly strained throughout, and he does a pretty impressive Bob Dylan impersonation during the final verse.

A slow, synthesized string introduces “Lightning Strikes”, a song written by longtime band collaborator Richard Supa about gangs and gang fights. This is the only track to feature Brad Whitford, who left the band during its recording in 1981. Whitford, who was a founding member of Aerosmith, is billed as simply an “additional musician” in the credits. The band created one of their earliest actual music videos for MTV and other networks with this song. Directed by Arnold Levine
 

 
“Bolivian Ragamuffin” is a heavy blue composition similar to the band’s material on Draw The Line. Crespo wails on a crying, slide electric throughout and this song seems to be the band at its most intense jamming on the album. A cover of Arthur Hamilton’s “Cry Me a River” lightens the mood a bit with a soft, jazzy, night club intro and opening verses. However, the song does explode later into a full-fledged strong rock interpretation while maintaining the basic, moody vibe.

The second side starts with, perhaps, the oddest Aerosmith song on record called “Joanie’s Butterfly”. Kicking off with a “Prelude” that includes a highly synthesized, barely audible, spoken voice above a chorus of quasi-Eastern chants by Tyler, the song proper breaks in with a more straight-forward, Eastern-flavored rhythm, with a strummed acoustic, layered percussion, a dulcimer, and more layered vocals. At about 1:45, the song breaks into a more rock-oriented arrangement with some really nice sonic changes straight through until the long ending crescendo with violin and various other string instruments. The song was co-written by producer Jack Douglas who is yet to reveal the true meaning (if any) of the odd lyrics which are extremely cryptic;

He was a kick ass rocking horse, he was a one horned, unicornucopia
Two, two in Utopia, three star, verge into infinity…

The album finishes strong with three well-produced rockers. The title song, “Rock In a Hard Place (Cheshire Cat)” is a fine rock song featuring the strongest performance on the album by bassist Tom Hamilton and more great guitar work by the two newcomers. “Jig Is Up” is one of the great forgotten classics of Aerosmith, with a solid rock sound not heard from the band since 1976’s Rocks, and a lyrical theme similar to the Stones’ “Brown Sugar”. The album closes with Tyler’s “Push Comes to Shove”, a completely undecipherable screed by the singer that is reportedly about his then girlfriend and future wife, but who knows to what end. Nonetheless, it is a pleasant listen in the Aerosmith-blues style and features some good piano by session man Paul Harris.

Panned by most critics, fans, and band members themselves, Rock In a Hard Place may well be an underrated gem in the long career of one of America’s most storied bands. Still, purists lament that it is the only release which deviates from the five man lineup that was the band before and would be the band again. In 1984, Aerosmith embarked on a reunion tour which brought Perry and Whitford back into the fold and the original lineup remains in tact to this day.

~

 

1982 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1982 albums.
 

Tug Of War by Paul McCartney

Tug Of War by Paul McCartneyThe naive belief that one could end war by political correctness at a time when no major wars were occurring in the Western world may be the best way to describe the underlying theme of Tug Of War, the 1982 album by Paul McCartney. It comes in the wake of many events including the death of John Lennon and the dissolution of McCartney’s post-Beatles group, Wings. In fact, the earliest sessions for Tug Of War (in late 1980) were actually intended for the final Wings album. But following Lennon’s assassination, recording was suspended and that album was never completed. Lacking direction, McCartney called in Beatles producer George Martin to work on his material for the first time since the “Fab Four” broke up.

Reuniting with Martin guaranteed that the album would receive much attention. Much of the production is rich and rewarding, as one would expect from a George Martin production. However, the creative muse from McCartney seems contrived at times. Aside from the songs with his ex-Wings band mates, there are two collaborations with Stevie Wonder, one with Carl Perkins, and one with fellow Beatle, Ringo Starr.

As a whole, the album is almost interesting musically but not cohesive in the slightest. In total, there is about half of a great album here of well-produced and melodic songs. This shows that there was great potential in this reunion of McCartney and Martin. But then there’s the rest of the album which sounds like it should have been reserved for some kind of celebrity collection.
 


Tug Of War by Paul McCartney
Released: April 26, 1982 (EMI)
Produced by: George Martin
Recorded: AIR Studios, London, 1981
Side One Side Two
Tug Of War
Take It Away
Somebody Who Cares
What’s That You’re Doing?
Here Today
Ballroom Dancing
The Pound Is Sinking
Wanderlust
Get It
Be What You See (Link)
Dress Me Up As a Robber
Ebony and Ivory
Primary Musicians
Paul McCartney – Lead Vocals, Bass, Keyboards
Eric Stewart – Guitars, Vocals | Denny Laine – Guitars
George Martin – Piano | Stevie Wonder – Keyboards, Vocals
Steve Gadd – Drums

 
In March 1982, McCartney’s duet with Stevie Wonder, “Ebony and Ivory”, was released to broad acclaim. It reached #1 in many countries and consequently, Tug Of War immediately hit #1 on the album charts when it was released in April. The song uses the allegory of the ebony (black) and ivory (white) keys on a piano to make a statement on racial harmony, in a quite simplistic and tacky way. Still, it was a very popular song and the second most popular of McCartney’s entire career behind the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”. The other collaboration with Wonder is “What’s That You’re Doing?”, a song that is quite off-putting because of the cheap electronics brought to the forefront. For the amount of talent between these two geniuses, this is really a low quality, throwaway track, extended way too long in length with sounds generated as if a couple of teenagers got a hold of a synthesizer.

“Here Today” was written as a bittersweet folk melody in memoriam of John Lennon with a string arrangement by Martin. But these fall short of magic and even the song written in tribute to Lennon seemed fluffy and lacking true substance, as if McCartney wrote the song he thought people wanted him to write rather than something deep and REAL. Some have compared the opening title song, “Tug of War” to Lennon’s “Imagine”, but that is a bit generous. It is a fine enough song, with good melody and interesting changes, but it is far from a classic.

“Take It Away” may be the last great Wings song, and it is certainly the best song on the album. It contains elements that harken back to greats like “Listen to What the Man Said”, with sonic supremacy, excellent vocal choruses, and just the right brass added at just the right time. The song starts as  reggae but morphs into something for show-style. If the rest of the album was of this quality, it would have been a great album
 

 
The second side opens with a few fine tracks, starting with the fun “Ballroom Dancing”, which is  well-produced with great sonic flavorings throughout. “The Pound Is Sinking” is a good acoustic song with a country and western type rhythm edged with a elements of doomy-ness and theatrics reminiscent to early Genesis. “Wanderlust” is a great piano song with good production and excellent vocals. It nods towards McCartney’s 1979 marijuana bust in Japan without getting too specific.

“Get It” is a duet with Carl Perkins, that is not totally unpleasant, but out of place here among some of the finer compositions. A weird “link” called “Be What You See” leads to “Dress Me Up As a Robber”, a funked-up disco with high-pitched vocals, which again calls into question some of the selections on this album (he should let Earth, Wind, and Fire be Earth, Wind, and Fire) The only really interesting part is the lead, Spanish-style acoustic.

In the end, Tug Of War would end up being the crossroads between McCartney’s fine albums of the seventies and the rather forgettable albums of the eighties.

~
R.A.
 


1982 Images

 

 

The Number Of the Beast
by Iron Maiden

Buy The Number Of the Beast

The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden As we’ve mentioned before on this site, Classic Rock Review does not like to stray too far from mainstream rock and pop when selecting which albums we review. But in some exceptional cases, we feel compelled to explore albums which have had longstanding influence over the passage of time, especially when that influence transcends the specific genre of the artist. The Number Of the Beast is such an album by Iron Maiden. It has been routinely ranked among the greatest heavy metal albums of all time and topped the charts in the U.K., being one of the first albums to move into more commercial territory in a genre that got close to zero airplay at the time. A showcase for producer Martin Birch, the album possesses a crisp yet strong song that jived perfectly with the tastes of hard rock fans in 1982.

For those who were growing tired of the London punk scene by the end of the 1970s, a new wave of British heavy metal was being forged among several bands and championed by a publication called Sounds magazine. Aside from Iron Maiden, one of these bands was called Samson,  that band had a dynamic lead singer named Bruce Dickinson. As Iron Maiden was on the verge of international breakthrough following their second major label album,Killers in 1981, Dickinson was asked to join the band to replace lead vocalist Paul Di’Anno. This was an extremely bold move, as the band was well on their way to success, but Birch recognized the importance of a grandiose frontman for what the band was trying to achieve.

The primary songwriter for the band was bassist Steve Harris, who came up with many of the diverse themes on the album, including the controversial title and title song. With the addition of Dickinson and his wide range on vocals, Harris was also free to explore many different styles and genres sonically. Unlike previous albums, most of the material on Number Of the Beast was written in pre-production rather than worked out over a series of live gigs. Because of the complex nature of the songs, the band was left with only five weeks to record, mix, and, master the album after taking so long to rehearse.
 


The Number Of the Beast by Iron Maiden
Released: March 22, 1982 (EMI)
Produced by: Martin Birch
Recorded: Battery Studios, London, January-March 1982
Side One Side Two
Invaders
Children Of the Damned
The Prisoner
22 Acacia Avenue
The Number Of the Beast
Rin For the Hills
Gangland
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Band Musicians
Bruce Dickinson – Lead Vocals
Steve Harris – Bass, Vocals
Dave Murray – Guitars
Adrian Smith – Guitars, Vocals
Clive Burr – Drums, Percussion

 
The album’s opening track “Invaders” was actually one of the last songs constructed, hurridly to fill out the album. Although some in the band had lamented that this was not the strongest possible track to open up the album, it performs an adequate task for setting up the listener. For a doomier follow-up, “Children of the Damned” bridges a theme from the past which may have come from early era Black Sabbath, with music of the future like that of later era Metallica. The song is loosely based on the film of the same name.

The Prisoner television series“The Prisoner” was also inspired by previous pop culture, this time a British television show of the same name from the late 1960s. It features dialogue from that show in the song’s intro. The song was co-written by guitarist Adrian Smith and is one of the finest tracks on the album musically. It features integral guitar work and a very melodic vocal during the choruses. “22 Acacia Avenue” closes out the first side as the second song in the “Charlotte the Harlot” saga, which was originally written by Smith several years earlier, while playing in his old band, Urchin. According to Smith, Steve Harris remembered hearing the song at an Urchin concert in a local park, and modified it for The Number of the Beast album.

The title track was considered by some as evidence that Iron Maiden were a Satanic band, but Harris, the song’s author had long contended that was never the intention as it was inspired by a nightmare. The track opens with a spoken rendition of passages from the Biblical book of Revelations by actor Barry Clayton. The song itself employs and odd time signature, and one of the most famous “screams” in rock n’ roll history.
 

 
“Run to the Hills” was driven by a great rhythm led by drummer Clive Burr. It was released as a single prior to the album’s release and was a surprise top ten hit in the U.K. The song attempts to give a balanced view of the disputes that occurred between European settlers in the New World and American Indian tribes during the days of westward expansion, with different rhythms and tempos symbolizing the differing points of view. The closing song “Hallowed Be Thy Name” is one of the most celebrated pieces of the band’s catalog. It opens with a doomy atmosphere before breaking into a sequence of harmonized guitar riffs by Harris and Dave Murray and an strong performance by Dickinson.

Although some moments on the album are clearly stronger than others, the intensity of The Number Of the Beast never lets up. Peerless for its time, the album represented a high-water mark for this style of heavy metal, which would be replicated often throughout the rest of the decade but never quite equaled.

~

1982 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1982 albums.

 

Thriller by Michael Jackson

Thriller by Michael Jackson Thriller is the sixth studio album by Michael Jackson and the best selling album of all time. Seven of the nine songs on the album were released as singles and each one of those seven reached the top ten on the pop charts. The album went on to win an unprecedented eight Grammy awards, was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the all time top seller worldwide, was instrumental in providing racial harmony among music fans, made the most amount of money ever for a single performing artist, and was given credit by many in the recording industry for boosting sales industry-wide. So, why have so many of us loathed this record for three decades?

After listening to this back to front several times in preparation for this review, I may have an answer and it isn’t the music itself. In fact, I think this more mature and objective version of myself can honestly say that Thriller is quite fine musically. It hits the sweet spot in the genre we used to call “soul” (now referred to as R&B) and most of the songs are melodic, entertaining, and well composed. And then there is the title song “Thriller” and its monstrosity of a video (pun intended) where Michael Jackson and the hype machine jumped the proverbial shark. Why, Michael, why? You already had the best video ever made with “Billie Jean” and had shown you can do the choreographed dance thing on another video. There comes a point when one has to learn to just accept success and move on to other things.

The album was produced by Jackson and Quincy Jones and the two reportedly butted heads throughout the production process, which took seven solid months. Jones produced Jackson’s previous album, Off the Wall in 1979, but felt that it was too “disco” for the early 1980s. Jackson had felt that album did not get the proper acclaim that it deserved and was on a mission to make something which simply could not be ignored by the critics. Jackson and Jones worked on about thirty songs in total and nine were chosen for inclusion on the album. Jackson ultimately “wrote” four of these songs, but not by committing anything to paper. Instead, he would dictate directly into a sound recorder and commit his songs to memory for further performance.
 


Thriller by Michael Jackson
Released: November 30, 1982 (Epic)
Produced by: Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson
Recorded: Westlake Studios, Los Angeles, April-November 1982
Side One Side Two
Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
Baby Be Mine
The Girl Is Mine
Thriller
Beat It
Billie Jean
Human Nature
PYT (Pretty Young Thing)
The Lady In My Life
Primary Musicians
Michael Jacksson – Lead Vocals, Percussion
Rod Temperton – Keyboards | Steve Porcaro – Keyboardss | Louis Johnson – Bass

 
The album starts off with “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”, an excellent funk piece written by Michael Jackson. The song was originally recorded in 1978 and later slated to be recorded by Michael’s sister La Toya, but Jackson eventually decided to keep it for himself. “Baby Be Mine” follows, written by keyboardist Rod Temperton, famed for writing the song “Rock With You”, the biggest hit from Off the Wall.

The Girl Is Mine single“The Girl Is Mine” is a duet with ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and was the first single released from the album in late 1982. Written by Jackson, it contains a nice mix of soft/pop instrumentation and lyrically tells of two friends’ fight over a woman, arguing over who loves her more, and concludes with a spoken rap. The song was recorded during the very first session for the album in April 1982. The song “Thriller” was written by Temperton and went through several names, including “Starlight” and “Midnight Man”, before settling on “Thriller” because of merchandising potential.

The second side kicks off with “Beat It”, the most rock-oriented song on the album, intentionally composed for cross-over appeal. The song contains a strong anti-gang-violence message and features a guitar lead by Eddie Van Halen. “Billie Jean” is the finest composition on the album by Jackson with its nice mixture of uptempo funk and somber themes of paranoia and obsession. The signature bass line was played by Louis Johnson and the song employed some unique recording techniques, including Jackson singing vocal overdubs through a six-foot-long cardboard tube and jazz saxophonist Tom Scott playing the lyricon, a rare, wind-controlled analog synthesizer.
 

 
“Human Nature” is an excellent ballad and true highlight on the album. Written by Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro and lyrisist John Bettis, the song has moody and introspective lyrics and haunting, beautiful music and melody. It is the last great moment on the album, which concludes with a couple of relatively weaker songs. Although released as a single, “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” is really a throw-away filler, best remembered for the backing vocals by Michael’s sisters La Toya and Janet. “The Lady in My Life” is a soulful ballad by Temperton, but not quite as strong as some of the earlier tracks on the album.

This infamous “Thriller” video moment, along with the burning accident while filming a Pepsi commercial that left Jackson scarred for life, came right near the beginning of 1984. Ironically, this turned out to be exactly at the midpoint of Jackson’s life (08/29/58-06/25/09) and may have been the inception of the freak show and tragic figure that Jackson became in the second half of his life, which is all the more tragic when you consider the genius this man displayed during the first half of his life. There is no denying that Thriller is the gold standard for pop albums and probably will never be topped commercially. At the time of death in 2009, the album had sold over 29 million copies, that is Platinum 58 times over.

~
R.A.
 


1982 Images

 

 

Signals by Rush

Buy Signals

Signals by RushSignals was the much anticipated ninth album by Rush, as it followed up the blockbuster 1981 album Moving Pictures. This album would be the first where they would depart from the band’s classic sound and migrate towards more “modern” genres of new wave, reggae, ska, and synth-driven pop music. When the album was finally released in September 1982, it was a bit of a disappointment for many of the longtime fans who grew  up with Rush’s classic sound and had really hoped the band would up the ante following the fantastic Moving Pictures with an even better album. They didn’t and it was not. That being said, Signals is still a very good album. It would also establish a pattern of disparate songwriting, such as one song that was the product of drummer Neil Peart jamming with some of the road crew, one with differing parts written by each of the three band members at completely separate locations, and one that included a sequenced bass and guitar part that producer Terry Brown so strongly objected to that he would never again produce a Rush album.

Rush had begun to experiment with synthesized technology as early as 1977’s A Farewell to Kings, when bassist and lead vocalist Geddy Lee played short synth parts. On subsequent albums the band slowly implemented more electronics, such as foot pedal triggers, to explore more complex arrangements while maintaining their core sound. On Signals, the band brought the synthesized sounds to the forefront, ushering in a new sound for the band which they would explore through the rest of the 1980s. Unlike those later albums, however, this album maintains a rock edge tinged in various sub-genres, which make it a unique and interesting listen. Guitarist Alex Lifeson is still very strong on this album as far as providing the predominent musical melodies.

Further, the lyrical content on this album was a far cry from the deep, philosophical epics of the band’s past. More contemporary and accessible topics were explored such as teen repression, peer pressure, old age, and modern professions.
 


Signals by Rush
Released: September 9, 1982 (Mercury)
Produced by: Rush and Terry Brown
Recorded: Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec, April-July 1982
Side One Side Two
Subdivisions
The Analog Kid
Chemistry
Digital Man
The Weapon
New World Man
Losing It
Countdown
Band Musicians
Geddy Lee – Lead Vocals, Bass, Keyboards, Synth Pedals
Alex Lifeson – Guitars, Synth Pedals
Neal Peart – Drums, Percussion

 
The song “Countdown” was the earliest written for this album, just months after the release of Moving Pictures. The band were invited to a V.I.P. viewing of the launching of the very first space shuttle, Columbia, in Florida in April 1981. This event would be the inspiration for the song which describes the launch in detail along with audio clips of some of the radio talk recorded during the maiden flight. The song, which closes the album, was later used as a “wake-up” song for astronauts during future space shuttle missions. “The Weapon” is a solid song, musically, which includes some sequenced parts and acts as another part in Peart’s disparate trilogy called “Fear”.

The album’s opener, “Subdivisions” is the most enduring song on Signals. This is especially due to the fantastic drumming by Peart, who stands out here more than anywhere else. With the advent of MTV, the band would produce their first music video for this song, which carries a duo meaning, exploring adolescent social constructs as well as urban geographical layouts. Lee also shines, with solid and melodic vocals topping a performance on synthesizer that includes two solos done on a Minimoog and interspersed bass guitar parts.
 

 
The song where Rush sounds the most like its old self is “The Analog Kid”, especially during the hyperactive intro riff and verses. Lifeson provides an excellent solo which introduces a climatic outro to the song. Both “The Analog Kid” and “Digital Man” were later reborn as characters in the 2004 comic Common Grounds. “Digital Man” has a reggae-based backing, which was a sore spot for Brown who was reluctant to leave behind the band’s past sound, while the band members wanted to explore such new musical directions. This song contains some of the most interesting bass playing on the album.

“Chemistry” is probably the weakest song on album, but an interesting “experiment” nonetheless. Each member wrote a different part of the song, including lyrics, from remote locations prior to the album sessions. The song was then compiled in sequence. It would be the last time to date (30 years and counting) that Lee or Lifeson would contribute lyrics to a Rush song. “Losing It” is another experimental song, bringing in a guest violinist Ben Mink on violin. The song is soft and melodic with calm virtuosity and melancholy lyrics and a writer and a dancer past their prime. Lifeson’s dramatic lead greatly enhances to the overall tension of the song.

“New World Man” returns back to the reggae influence, fused nicely with solid, new wave rock beats. the song became a surprise hit single for the band, peaking at #21 on the Billboard charts, the band’s highest charting single and only top 40 ‘hit” in the US. The song was the last composed for the album song on the album, as their goal was to write a song between 3:40 and 3:50 in length to keep the “sides” of the album fairly even. The song was written and recorded on the same day.

The album itself reached #10 on the Billboard album charts and was certified Platinum within two months of its release. The band then embarked on the biggest tour to date, criscrossing North America, Britain, and West Germany to support Signals through 1983.

~

1982 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1982 albums.


 

Pictures At Eleven by Robert Plant

Buy Pictures at Eleven

Pictures at Eleven by Robert PlantPictures At Eleven was sweet relief for Zeppelin-starved fans still in shock over John Bonham’s death and the break up of Led Zepplin when it was released as Robert Plant‘s debut solo album in June 1982. However, this album soon got lost in the shadow of later works by Plant, which is unfortunate because pound-for-pound, this may be his finest work as a solo artist. Unlike those later efforts, this album is not dominated by keyboards, which gives space musically for guitarist Robbie Blunt to really shine. The album also displays some fine drumming by Phil Collins, who took time off from a dual career as front man for Genesis and his own fledgling solo work to step into the unenviable position of being the first drummer to back Plant since the 1960s. But of course the true talent here is Plant himself. He stepped up to compose (along with Blount) some very interesting material which, while maintaining some traces of his previous life with Led Zeppelin, really takes a quantum leap into the new-wavish realm of the early 1980s.

Plant was in a unique state of mind during this period. He believed that the stardom in Led Zeppelin had in someway begotten the string of tragedies that struck his family in the late 1970s and, ultimately, Bonham with his death in 1980. In this light, he refused to perform any Zeppelin songs live and would not set out on a major tour until after he composed his second album, The Principle of Moments in 1983. For this debut solo album, Plant took the rock world by surprise, with a smoother and more stylized vocal style to complement the variety of diverse guitar motifs by Blount. Still, Plant maintained the same high energy and dynamic output with some signature ad-libs and majestic wailing, which made him one of the most esteemed vocalists in rock.

Pictures At Eleven was also Plant’s debut as a producer and it has held up sonically through three decades. One critique of the sound is the very weak presence of bass by Paul Martinez, as Plant really focused on the guitars and drums in the mix. However, the performances are so strong by Blount and Collins that Martinez is hardly missed.
 


Pictures At Eleven by Robert Plant
Released: June 28, 1982 (Swan Song)
Produced by: Robert Plant
Recorded: Rockfield Studios, Monmouth, Wales, 1982
Side One Side Two
Burning Down One Side
Moonlight In Samosa
Pledge Pin
Slow Dancer
Worse Than Detroit
Fat Lip
Like I’ve Never Been Gone
Mystery Title
Primary Musicians
Robert Plant – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Robbie Blount – Guitars
Jezz Woodroffe – Keyboards
Paul Martinez – Bass
Phil Collins – Drums

 
The songs on Pictures At Eleven is generally standard in lyrical content, focused heavily on love, sex, and heartbreak. However, the bulk of the songs have odd and unexplained titles. “Pledge Pin” is one such title, nicely driven by Collins’ drumming and percussive effects, the song contains slow driving of musical rudiments and a great vocal melody by Plant. This song also features some extended saxophone by Raphael Ravenscroft and became a popular track on AOR radio. “Moonlight in Samosa” is a soft and pleasant ballad lead by Plant’s relatively new “crooning” voice (which he first developed on Zeppelin’s final album In Through the Out Door) and Blount’s potpourri of guitar textures and styles. The song has a dramatic edge towards the end of the final verse.

Although most of the material is presented in a new fashion, there are two songs on that are most reflective of Led Zeppelin. “Slow Dancer” contains some vocal desperation and mechanically squeezed guitar riff. Couple this with the long, improvised length of song and you have an instant favorite for Zeppelin fans. This song features a fine performance by former Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell in lieu of Collins. “Burning Down One Side” makes the most immediate impact on the Zeppelin fan as this has a topical feel as a plausible extension of that band. This opening track was the most popular from the album but disappointingly failed to chart on either side of the Atlantic.
 

 
Two of the most interesting songs on the album kick off the second side. The bluesy “Worse Than Detroit” almost feels like Jimmy Page and John Bonham are playing at parts, but here is a jam by Robbie Blount and Phil Collins at their finest. A wild mid-section features harmonica by Plant, which is complemented later with the heavy slide riff of Blount. “Fat Lip” is almost the polar opposite of “Worse Than Detroit”. It contains some electronic percussion and fine guitar motifs interspersed between variations of vocal parts – not quite verses nor choruses – but a very unique arrangement. It is really the only song on the album where keyboardist Jezz Woodroffe is prominent and he co-wrote the song.

“Like I’ve Never Been Gone” is a true ballad with just a flair of Spanish styling by Blount. This song is a little overdrawn but still not totally unpleasant. “Mystery Title” closes the album with a zany guitar riff that predominates the beginning of the song gives way to some very interesting and diverse parts in near schizo fashion, although it all somehow works.

Pictures At Eleven was a solid and successful launching of Plant’s solo career and, although it didn’t contain any really popular individual songs, it was probably the most solid and consistent album he put out.

~

1982 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1982 music.

 

Diver Down by Van Halen

Diver Down by Van HalenWith their 5th album, Van Halen decided to take a less intense approach. Diver Down was developed by accident as the band, exhausted from constant touring and the production of four studio albums in three years, decided to put out a cover single in lieu of a new album. At the beginning of 1982, they recorded and released a cover of Roy Orbinson’s “(Oh) Pretty Woman” and it shot up to number one on the mainstream rock charts, their highest charting single to date. As no good deed goes unpunished, the band’s label (Warner Brothers) started to pressure Van Halen to record a full album to take advantage of this new level of pop fame. Eventually the band capitulated and Diver Down was recorded, mixed, mastered, and released in less than three months.

By all traditional metrics, this should be an awful album. It is a 31-minute (extremely short to be considered an “LP”) hodge-podge of cover songs, short instrumental pieces, and demos from the band’s earliest days, wrapped around just a few new original numbers. But there is an undeniable charm which makes this somehow all gel into one of the more interesting Van Halen albums. Although guitarist Eddie Van Halen admits that making the album was a lot of fun, he also states that it is his least favorite album because of all the cover songs stating, “I’d rather have a bomb with one of my own songs than a hit with someone else’s.” However, some critics have noted that cover songs, starting with “You Really Got Me” from the band’s 1978 debut album, are the perfect mechanism for the band to showcase their unique sound.

Lead vocalist David Lee Roth said the album’s title was meant to imply that “there was something going on (with the band) underneath the surface that’s not apparent to your eyes.” The simple album cover uses the marine flag to advise boats that a diver is currently submerged in the area.

 


Diver Down by Van Halen
Released: April 14, 1982 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Ted Templeman
Recorded: Sunset Sound & Warner Studios, Los Angeles, January-March 1982
Side One Side Two
Where Have All the Good Times Gone?
Hang Em’ High
Cathedral
Secrets
Intruder
(Oh) Pretty Woman
Dancing In the Street
Little Guitars
Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)
The Full Bug
Happy Trails
Band Musicians
David Lee Roth – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Synths, Harmonica
Eddie Van Halen – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass, Vocals | Alex Van Halen – Drums

 
The album begins with a driving cover of the Kinks 1965 song “Where Have All the Good Times Gone.” Roth pointed out that the band learned to play in their barroom days by covering a whole bunch of Kinks songs from a compilation album he owned. “Hang ‘Em High Dave” is a reworked version of a 1977 song called “Last Night”, and is the song which most reflects back to the traditional Van Halen song with fast pace driven by drummer Alex Van Halen. Eddie Van Halen has lamented that the recorded version of his solo is sub-par to his typical live performance.

Eddie’s first solo instrumental on the album is “Cathedral”, which got its name because he thought the volume-knob effects he used created something similar to the sound of “a Catholic church organ.” This acts as an intro to the fantastic original “Secrets”, the best song on the album. Here the true talent of Van Halen is best showcased in this calm and subtle setting which highlights Roth’s melodic vocals and Eddie Van Halen’s crisp and biting guitar solo. The song, which has been described as the “lightest” the band has ever recorded, has the quality of being at once a melancholy and hopeful.
 

 
“(Oh) Pretty Woman” was the first song for which Van Halen made a video to be played on the new MTV network, and in turn the video became the first to be banned by that network because of its portrayal of the as the “almost theological figure” of a Samurai warrior and because a woman (later revealed to be a drag queen) appears to be molested throughout the video. Roth directed the video but found that the single version of the song was much too short to be compatible, so he composed an intro to the song on synthesizer called “Intruder” and the band recorded it as part of the album.

Dancing In the Street single“Dancing In the Street” was the cover song originally intended to be the single at the beginning of 1982, but Eddie Van Halen was having trouble coming up with a signature riff for the song and “(Oh) Pretty Woman” fit that goal much more easily. When the band decided to do a full album, Eddie revisited this song and came up with some interesting synth effects, giving it an almost “updated disco” feel. This is also one of the few songs on the album which displays the signature backing vocals of Eddie Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony. The last true highlight of the album is “Little Guitars”, which was actually split into two tracks on the original album with Eddie Van Halen playing a flamenco acoustic intro. The song proper is driven by a steady drum beat that backs up several riff variations before settling in with a choppy riff and more interesting rudiments and passages throughout the song.

Unfortunately, the weakest material on the album is reserved for its conclusion. “Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)” was done as a laugh when Roth recorded a radio broadcast with the original 1924 version of he song. The Van Halen’s enlisted their father Jan Van Halen to play clarinet on the song. “The Full Bug” sounds unfocused and incomplete with the only true highlight being the short acoustic intro by Roth. The album concludes with the joke “Happy Trails”, a fully vocal performance of the Dale Evans stand, that actually breaks down to laughter near the end.

The band’s previous album, 1981’s Fair Warning was a dark and intense record and Diver Down acted as an almost polar opposite counterpart to lighten the mood. This album also brought the band to a wider commercial audience, setting the stage for their blockbuster  album, 1984.

~
R.A.
 
NOTE: Modern Rock Review reviewed Van Halen’s new album today, A Different Kind of Truth.
 

 

 
1982 Images