Infidels by Bob Dylan

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Infidels by Bob DylanIn 1983, Bob Dylan released his studio album, Infidels. With this, Dylan received his highest critical and commercial success in nearly a decade. Still, through time, Infidels received criticism for not including some classic tracks like “Foot of Pride”, “Someone’s Got a Hold of My Heart” and “Blind Willie McTell”, which were both recorded for this album but ultimately omitted. The latter of these would not be released until an outtakes album in 1991 but has come to be considered a true classic in Dylan’s expansive portfolio.

Late in the 1970s, Dylan became an evangelical Christian and, after dedicating three months of discipleship, he decided to release a trilogy of Gospel influenced music. Slow Train Coming (1979) was well-received critically, won Dylan a Grammy award for the song “Gotta Serve Somebody”, and marked his first work with Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler. The subsequent albums Saved (1980) and Shot of Love (1981) were less regarded by critics and fans.

Co-produced by Knofler, Infidels was seen as a return to Dylan’s secular music roots. He initially wanted to self-produce the album but capitulated due to his lack of knowledge of emerging recording technology. Dylan had spoken with David Bowie, Frank Zappa, and Elvis Costello about producing this album before hiring Knopfler.

 


Infidels by Bob Dylan
Released: October 27, 1983 (Columbia)
Produced by: Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan
Recorded: The Power Station, New York City, April-May 1983
Side One Side Two
Jokerman
Sweetheart Like You
Neighborhood Bully
License to Kill
Man of Peace
Union Sundown
I and I
Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight
Primary Musicians
Bob Dylan – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Harmonica
Mark Knopfler – Guitars
Mick Taylor – Guitars
Alan Clark – Piano, Keyboards
Robbie Shakespeare – Bass
Sly Dunbar – Drums, Percussion

 

The album begins with its strongest tune, “Jokerman”, which is musically led by Robbie Shakespeare‘s thumping bass and the subtle duo guitars of Knopfler and former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor. Meanwhile, Dylan provides potent lyrics and great melody and, although very repetitive, the song has much forward motion due to the increasing vocal intensity as well as the subtle building of musical arrangement and fine harmonica leads late in the song. Released as a single in 1984, “Jokerman” simultaneously spawned Dylan’s MTV-era music video. “Sweetheart Like You” follows as a rather standard ballad with a good hook. Knofler’s influence is very evident in its arrangement which also features keyboardist Alan Clark.

Much of the material on Infidels has a solid rock or pop arrangement, displaying how far musically Dylan had strayed from the folk or roots based music he proliferated in the 1960s while still touching on the topical issues of the day. “Neighborhood Bully” has a new wave edge with a bit of Southern-style guitar slide while lyrically using sarcasm to defend Israel’s right to exist. “License to Kill” closes the first side as a slow and steady rocker with plenty of twangy and guitar motion with lyrics that address man’s relationship to the environment.

Bob Dylan in 1983

The surprising rock arrangements continue into the second side with the layered electric guitar riffs, Hammond organ of “Man of Peace” and the crisp rocker “Union Sundown”, with Clark providing some nice rocking piano in mix and guest Clydie King adding some backing vocals. “I and I” is an interesting tune with subtle verses and more forceful choruses, making it perhaps the best song on the album’s second side. The album concludes with the pleasant, upbeat ballad, “Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight”, a purely traditional love song.

A gold selling record, Infidels Reach the Top 20 in the US and the Top 10 in the UK. This achievement would mark the artist’s best success in the decade of the 1980s up until the 1989 release of the classic Oh Mercy.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1983 albums.

 

Sports by Huey Lewis & the News

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Sports by Huey Lewis and the NewsHuey Lewis and the News found their peak of commercial success with their third album, Sports. Released in the Autumn of 1983, the album topped the Billboard album charts the following year and spawned five Top 20 hits which remained on the charts and mainstream pop radio well into 1985. The album is a collection of original songs by Lewis and the band as well as songs written or co-written by composers outside the group, while maintaining an astonishing cohesion throughout.

The roots of the group date back to 1972 when Lewis, a vocalist and harmonica player joined the San Francisco area jazz-funk group Clover along with keyboardist Sean Hopper. Clover had a lengthy career through the 1970s and recorded several albums with minor success in the US And UK. When Lewis departed in 1977, the group became the original backing band for Elvis Costello’s debut album, My Aim Is True. Meanwhile, Lewis and Hopper began collaborating with another Bay Area jazz-funk group called Soundhole, with members including saxophonist and guitarist Johnny Colla, bassist Mario Cipollina and drummer Bill Gibson. In 1978, Huey Lewis & The American Express was officially formed with lead guitarist Chris Hayes becoming the sixth and final member in 1979. After a record deal with Chrysalis Records was secured, the group modified their name with the release of the self-titled LP Huey Lewis and the News in 1980. A second studio album, Picture This was self-produced and released in 1982 with gold-level success fueled by the breakout singles “Do You Believe in Love” and “Workin’ for a Livin'”.

Recording for Sports began immediately after the completion of Picture This with producer Bill Szymczyk assisting in production. Due to reorganization at Chrysalis, the band employed the strategy of holding back the master tapes and biding their time performing at small venues while the label got their affairs in order and were in a position to fully promote the album.

 


Sports by Huey Lewis & the News
Released: September 15, 1983 (Chrysalis)
Produced by: Bill Szymczyk, Huey Lewis and the News
Recorded: Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA; Record Plant, Sausalito, CA & The Automatt, San Francisco, 1983
Side One Side Two
The Heart of Rock n’ Roll
Heart and Soul
Bad Is Bad
I Want a New Drug
Walkin’ On a Thin Line
Finally Found a Home
If This Is It
You Crack Me Up
Honky Tonk Blues
Group Musicians
Huey Lewis – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Chris Hayes – Guitars, Vocals
Johnny Colla – Saxophone, Guitars, Vocals
Sean Hopper – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Mario Cipollina – Bass
Bill Gibson – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

 

“The Heart of Rock n’ Roll” starts the album with a thumping heartbeat sound to launch the thematic (albeit somewhat tacky) anthem. Musically, it employs the faux eighties funk rock that permeates this album but worked well in the mid eighties pop scene. While equally as popular, “Heart and Soul” is of much higher quality overall. Co-written by Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn of the band Exile, this classic rocker uses a repeated riff but with strategic arrangements throughout, including the mid section where the deadened guitar and bass make for a simple but effective bridge. Further, the song features probably the best vocals by Lewis overall on the album.

“Bad Is Bad” is a modern doo-wop / soul track with cool organ Hopper, bluesy guitars by Hayes and a potent harmonica solo by Lewis with lyrics that are both jocular and profound. The song was written in the late 1970s while Lewis was working with Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy and that group did perform it live a few times half a decade before it was recorded for Sports. “I Want a New Drug” is another slightly clever theme which at once normalizes and demonizes drug use. Musically, there are dueling guitars over the simplest, cheezy-est synth rhythm, a method later “borrowed” by Ray Parker Jr. for the Ghostbuster theme song. “Walking On a Thin Line” was co-written by Andre Pessis and Kevin Wells of Clover and it starts with a haunting synth bass before breaking into an upbeat pop rocker with good melody and a semi-serious message about a Vietnam veteran’s post-war stress.

Huey Lewis and the News in 1983

The later part of the album tends to thin out on quality material. The lone exception is the hit song “If This Is It”, which features strong guitar-driven rock elements, some doo-wop backing vocals and fantastic lead vocals melody and chorus hook. The song is sandwiched between the pop-rock boilerplate “Finally Found a Home” and the more hyper new-wave synth rocker, “You Crack Me Up”. The album ends quite oddly with a cover of Hank Williams’ late 1940s Country hit “Honky Tonk Blues”, which does little to advance the original but is a nice place to showcase Hopper’s piano playing skills.

Sports was a hit worldwide but Huey Lewis and the News continued their rapid work schedule, scoring the Academy Award nominated theme song for the 1985 film Back to the Future and following up Sports with the similar pop-rocker Fore! in 1986, which was nearly as big of a hit as its predecessor.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1983 albums.

 

An Innocent Man by Billy Joel

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An Innocent Man by Billy JoelBilly Joel took a musical detour by forging an album of interpretive styles on An Innocent Man, his ninth studio album. Here, Joel pays homage to various musical styles which were popular during his formative years in the late 1950s and early 1960s, while finely showcasing his own music diversity and vocal skills. Despite being unique in his catalog, this album continued Joel’s streak of Grammy-nominated albums and top commercial success, with An Innocent Man spaning six Top 40 hits.

The heavy material and rich production of Joel’s 1982 release, The Nylon Curtain was an overall exhausting experience for this artist. Further, Joel was recently divorced and found himself single for the first time following his rise to international fame. Joel said he felt like a teenager again and thus reverted back to the various popular music styles of those years. In early 1983, he quickly wrote several compositions, each in a distinct style and/or as a tribute to a distinct artist.

Although this album was stylistically different than anything Joel had done before, for his backing group he maintained the same personnel he had performed with since the mid 1970s and once again brought in producer Phil Ramone, who had produced Joel’s five previous albums.

 


An Innocent Man by Billy Joel
Released: August 8, 1983 (Columbia)
Produced by: Phil Ramone
Recorded: Chelsea Sound and A&R Recording, New York, Spring 1983
Side One Side Two
Easy Money
An Innocent Man
The Longest Time
This Night
Tell Her About It
Uptown Girl
Careless Talk
Christie Lee
Leave a Tender Moment Alone
Keeping the Faith
Primary Musicians
Billy Joel – Lead Vocals, Piano, Keyboards
Russell Javors – Guitars
Mark Rivera – Saxophone, Percussion, Vocals
Doug Stegmeyer – Bass
Liberty DeVitto – Drums

 

An Innocent Man is bookmarked by two of its more upbeat tracks, starting with “Easy Money”, a homage to Wilson Pickett and/or James Brown. Musically this song features guest Leon Pendarvis on Hammond B3 organ and a generous amount of soulful brass, and although not released as single, this album opener was immediately featured as the theme of a major motion picture of the same name, starring Rodney Dangerfield. The title song, “An Innocent Man”, is an absolute masterpiece. In fact, this soulful and dynamic ballad may well be Joel’s best overall song of the entire decade of the 1980s. It is a masterpiece of production and arrangement as it migrates from a simple bass and percussion arrangement into a majestic ensemble as the song climaxes. Vocally, Joel hits the absolute top of his range during the choruses and admits that he was not able to hit those notes again.

Another vocal milestone, “The Longest Time” is a doo-wop track with a plethora of harmonized vocals all done by Joel himself. Aside from the vocals, the song uses a very sparse musical arrangement made of just plucked bass, brushed snare, and finger snaps. “This Night” continues the 1950s doo-wop homage with an inventive adaption of Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Pathetique” sonata during the chorus, making Beethoven the only artist to receive a co-writing credit with Joel on this album. Motown-influence “Tell Her About It” completes the original first side as brass takes lead over Joel’s piano rhythms and the thumping bass of Doug Stegmeyer. The lead single from the album, this hit #1 on the American pop charts.

Billy Joel Band 1983

The consistent drum beat of Liberty DeVitto drives the Four Seasons-esque “Uptown Girl”. Here, Joel introduces yet another “voice”, straining his upper range throughout while staying melodic and catchy. This Top 10 song and its video also served as an allegory for Joel’s new relationship with model Christie Brinkley, who appeared in the video and would ultimately become Joel’s wife in 1985. “Careless Talk” features more great melodies and counter harmonies, choppy rhythms, and a bit of an unexpected diversion through the bridge, while the first wave rocker “Christie Lee” is highlighted by a couple of short sax solos by Mark Rivera. The pleasant and moderate ballad “Leave a Tender Moment Alone” lyrically explores awkward banter while featuring more exquisite melodies by Joel ethereal harmonica by Toots Thielemans. The album concludes with “Keeping the Faith” which, while lyrically anchored in the early sixties, is really modern sounding eighties pop song led by the sleek guitar riff of Russell Javors as well as a contemporary brass arrangement.

After the tremendous success of An Innocent Man, Joel worked with Columbia records to release the double-length compilation Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and 2, which ultimately became one of the best-selling albums to that date in American music history and marked the absolute apex of Joel’s long and successful career.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1983 albums.

 

Holy Diver by Dio

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Holy Diver by Dio Holy Diver is the 1983 debut studio album by Dio, led by veteran rock vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Drawing on the influences of multiple contemporaries in pop and rock music, this platinum selling album has been historically viewed as a hallmark moment in the evolution of heavy metal, a genre which proliferated through the decade of the 1980s. Dio’s lyrics center on the topics o good and evil and draw from subjects from classic heroic adventure elements to some of the dark realities of contemporary life.

Ronnie Jame Dio became the second lead vocalist for Black Sabbath in late 1979, as that group’s original vocalist Ozzy Osbourne embarked on his own solo career. With Dio, the group found a commercial rebound as both 1980’s Heaven and Hell and 1981’s Mob Rules became Top 40, Gold selling albums. However, during the mixing of 1982’s live album, disagreements ensued which resulted in both Dio and drummer Vinny Appice leaving the band. Both wanted to form a new band, so Dio recruited his former Rainbow band mate, bassist Jimmy Bain and (following the Ozzy Osbourne model) recruited a young, then unknown guitarist named Vivian Campbell to complete the rock quartet.

By the time Campbell joined, most of the material which would appear on Holy Diver had already been composed. Dio had long been courted by Warner Bros. records to work on a solo project, so production and recording arrangements swiftly fell into place.

 


Holy Diver by Dio
Released: May 25, 1983 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Ronnie James Dio
Recorded: Sound City Studios, Van Nuys, CA, 1983
Side One Side Two
Stand Up and Shout
Holy Diver
Gypsy
Caught in the Middle
Don’t Talk to Strangers
Straight Through the Heart
Invisible
Rainbow In the Dark
Shame on the Night
Group Musicians
Ronnie James Dio – Lead Vocals, Synthesizers
Vivian Campbell – Guitars
Jimmy Bain – Bass, Keyboards
Vinny Apice – Drums

 

Holy Diver kicks off with the straight up, hard rocking “Stand Up and Shout”, a song of rebellion containing all the prime elements which would come define 80s metal – straight-forward message, flamboyant vocals, crunchy riffing under whining leads and plenty of animated drum fills. The title song is introduced by a long atmospheric intro before the marching riff-driven music enters. A unique anthem of the day which has grown to be one of Dio’s most popular tracks, “Holy Diver” features the first of many excellent, deliberative guitar leads by Campbell. “Gypsy” is delivered in blistering fashion, while “Caught in the Middle” is a more melodic rocker and it displays the group at its tightest with fine delivery and great production. “Don’t Talk to Strangers” features a quiet, melodramatic acoustic intro with Dio’s vocals hitting an especially high register before the band launches into full gear for this side one closer.

Ronnie James Dio in 1983

The original side two is the real heart of the album, where Dio the group really gels at their best. “Straight Through the Heart” was co-written by Bain and features some great musical rudiments with strategic stops and fills by Appice and a cool, melodic bridge. The most unique moment on album is the intro to “Invisible” with a heavily flanged guitar and dry vocals soon contrasted by the heavy jam and majestic vocals of the song proper. Later on, Campbell’s lead patiently works its way in before he unleashes some fine fingerboard effects, while Dio’s lyrical profiency is on full display;

she was a photograph just ripped in half, a smile inside a frown…”

The most accessible rock song on the album is “Rainbow in the Dark”, which features a prominent keyboard riff by Dio and a catchy hook and theme which seems to reference Dio’s late seventies rock band. A radio favorite and charting rock track, “Rainbow in the Dark” is anchored by a doomy yet uplifting guitar riff which blends especially well with the later guitar lead. “Shame on the Night” seems to have borrowed the opening howl from Deep Purple’s classic “Hush” (perhaps another veiled shot at ex-band mate Ritchie Blackmore?). This closing track has a slow and sloshy delivery which gives Dio’s vocal full frontal expression and the differing sections in bridge and extended coda also give this a definitive prog rock feel.

Building on the commercial and critical success of Holy Diver, the group delivered a similarly effective follow up with 1984’s The Last in Line and continued on as a successful group through most of the eighties decade.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1983 albums.

 

Reach the Beach by The Fixx

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Reach the Beach by The FixxThe British pop group hit their peak with the 1983 release of the album Reach the Beach, their second studio album and most successful commercially. This record contains accessible songs built on some catchy pop/rock melodies and some innovative use of synthesizers and other effects. Surprisingly, the production of this successful album came during a time of transition as the group was changing bass players with about half of the tracks not including bass at all.

The band originated with the name The Portraits in 1979 when vocalist Cy Curnin and drummer Adam Woods formed the band while in college in London. Along with keyboardist Rupert Greenall, The Portraits had some minor success, releasing a couple of singles before disbanding late in 1980 and soon reforming as The Fixx with guitarist Jamie West-Oram and bassist Charlie Barrett. The group independently released the single “Lost Planes” in February 1981, which caught the attention of MCA Records who offered a contract to the group. Their successful 1982 debut album, Shuttered Room, featured the charting hits “Stand or Fall” and “Red Skies”.

Recording for Reach the Beach began later in 1982 with producer Rupert Hine. Barrett had been replaced on the previous tour by Alfie Agius, who began the recording sessions as the group’s bassist but left the group before the album was completed.

 


Reach the Beach by The Fixx
Released: May 15, 1983 (MCA)
Produced by: Rupert Hine
Recorded: Farmyard Studios, Buckinghamshire, England, 1982-1983
Side One Side Two
One Thing Leads to Another
The Sign of Fire
Running
Saved by Zero
Opinions
Reach the Beach
Changing
Liner
Privilege
Outside
Group Musicians
Cy Curnin – Lead Vocal
Jamie West-Oram – Guitars
Rupert Greenall – Keyboards
Adam Woods – Drums, Percussion

 

The album begins with its (and the group’s) biggest hit. Starting with the funky guitar and bass riffing, “One Thing Leads to Another” has a steady beat and melodic lead vocals accented by effects throughout the verses. Accompanied by a successful MTV video, “One Thing Leads to Another” reached #4 on the US pop charts and topped the charts in Canada. “The Sign of Fire” follows as another upbeat funk/dance tune with an ascending/descending link between its two predominant chords for a pleasant hypnotizing movement effect. There are some inventive passages as we get through the mid section of the song, which is the only one to feature future band member Dan K. Brown on bass. The spastic and disjointed “Running” follows with heavy new wave elements and some more melodic passages.

While as simple and straight forward as other tracks on this album, the futuristic “Saved by Zero” feels much deeper both sonically and lyrically. This is due to strategic synth effects which blend with Curnin’s vocal embellishments along with the jittery guitar riffs of West-Oram. Lyrically, the song is about finding simplicity with the loss of material things and “the release you get when you have nothing left to lose”. “Opinions” closes the fine first side of the record, built on Curnin’s near a-capella vocals in the intro verse and a musical arrangement which slowly emerges underneath until the song finally fully materializes about halfway through.

The Fixx 1983

The album’s original second side features lesser known tracks. The title track “Reach the Beach” is a deliberative synth/pop song, led by the simple keyboard riff and synth bass of Greenall along with several sonic electronic sections. “Changing” is the first real filler but “Liner” works as an electronic representation of funk and soul with Agius adding some proficient slap bass and Greenall replicating a horn section on synth. “Privilege” is a quasi-kraut-rocker with some interesting dynamics and a nice use of disparate, simple motifs as the song progresses, while the closer “Outside” is shepherded by the steady but interesting beat by Woods. This acts as a backbone to the slow and sloshy guitar riffing of Jamie West-Oram and Curnin’s soulful lead vocals.

Reach the Beach peaked in the Top 10 on the Billboard album charts and was eventually certified multi-platinum with sales in the millions. The group continued with modest success through the late 1980s and into the 1990s but never again reached the commercial heights of this album.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1983 albums.

 

Synchronicity by The Police

1983 Album of the Year

Synchronicity by The PoliceThe Police saved the best for last with 1983’s Synchronicity, ending their short five year and five album recording career with their masterpiece. And although the album was once again co-produced by Hugh Padgham,  as on 1981’s Ghost In the Machine, it marked a significant shift away from the dominant reggae/ska influences of the band’s first four albums. The album got it’s title from the theory of synchronicity by Carl Jung, who believed that life was not a series of random events but rather an expression of a deeper order, which led to the insights that a person was both embedded in an orderly framework and was the focus of that orderly framework. The end result was a potent blend that hit all the major criteria (in our opinion, of course) that make a truly great album – an entertaining, original, timely, cerebral, and human collection of music. For these reasons, Synchronicity is our clear choice for 1983’s album of the year.

Like many great albums, Synchronicity was born out of struggle and strife. The marriages of both bassist/vocalist Sting and guitarist Andy Summers had recently failed and, after half a decade of constant touring and recording, the once tight-knit trio had begun to conflict with each other. The group took a break in 1982 in order to pursue outside projects. Sting was starting to land bit parts in films while Summers collaborated with former King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp on the instrumental album I Advance Masked. Drummer Stewart Copeland composed the musical score for the film Rumble Fish which spawned the radio hit single “Don’t Box Me In”. But as each member found their own success, that only served to widen wedge among The Police as a group and all had pretty much resolved that the band’s demise was soon imminent. So the group resolved to make a final masterpiece born out of the stress of the looming break-up. It wasn’t easy, as the three band members recorded their parts in separate rooms for the basic tracks and Padgham added subsequent overdubs with only one member in the studio at a time.

The result is diverse and daring, with the most experimental tracks of the album front-loaded on side one and the “hits” reserved for the second side. With this one last best shot of showing the world everything they were capable of doing, both in performance and production. The music contains a plethora of rhythms, from reggae, blues, and African to straight up pop/rock, while the theme is about things past or ending and the scope migrates from the global to the personal.

 


Synchronicity by The Police
Released: June 1, 1983 (A & M)
Produced by: Hugh Padgham & The Police
Recorded: Le Studio, Quebec, Canada, December 1982-February 1983
Side One Side Two
Synchronicity I
Walking In Your Footsteps
O My God
Mother
Miss Gradenko
Synchronicity II
Every Breath You Take
King of Pain
Wrapped Around Your Finger
Tea In the Sahara
Murder By Numbers
Band Musicians
Sting – Lead Vocals, Bass, Keyboards, Oboe, Saxophone
Andy Summers – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Stewart Copeland – Drums & Percussion

 

“Synchronicity I” starts the album with a synthesized arpeggio pattern accented by a driving bass and drum beat. It is a rather simple and direct (albeit frantic) piece with some multi-vocal parts and harmonies by Sting that lyrically introduce Jung’s theory of the “collective unconscious”. “Walking In Your Footsteps” follows with native percussion and a good melody above the oddest of simplistic arrangements. The lyrics relate extinct dinosaurs to modern day humans and the then-common theme of humanity’s ultimate nuclear destruction.

The first song on the album to contain a somewhat traditional arrangement, “O My God” is bass driven throughout with a bit of funk guitar chords, some light synth pads, and strong and soulful vocals. The song is a real showcase for Sting with the bass, the anguished lyrics and voice, and the outtro saxophone solo above an improvised-sounding ending. “Mother” is a Summers composition that sounds like a cross between The Velvet Underground and Alice Cooper. Summers vocals are raw, yet weirdly entertaining and some horn sounds are added to intensify the “insanity vibe”. Copeland gets his own composition with “Miss Gradenko”, a return musically to the band’s reggae / new wave fusion. Short and deliberate with a great bass and very measured but effective lead guitar, the lyrics tell of a romance in the middle of a communist bureaucracy wrought by paranoia in the Kremlin.
 

 
“Synchronicity II” is the best song on the album and the one song were The Police break into a full-fledged, hard rock arrangement. From the beginning wailing vocals of Sting to the fantastic guitar textures by Summers, switching from chords to note patterns seamlessly. The musical tone follows the lyrics closely, which describe a man’s working day and domestic life and compares it to the seemingly unrelated Loch Ness monster, making this a more true title song than “Synchronicity I”. Overall, this song which reached the Top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic, sounds like no other Police song and is a true classic of the 1980s.

The album’s second side begins with “Every Breath You Take”, a song almost totally built on Summers’ sonic texture with Sting’s simplistic rhyming on top. The bridge contains some well-placed piano notes and Copeland shows great restraint by the utter basic-ness of his drum beat, on this song which is actually rather up-tempo but deceptively throws a vibe of a ballad. Overall, “Every Breath You Take” became one of most successful singles ever, topping the Billboard charts for nine weeks and the song won Song of the Year at the 1984 Grammy Awards.

King Of Pain single“King of Pain” is a simple sing-song tune which morphs into a Caribbean grove accented by some more pure rock. The song displays the instrumental genius of the band and production quality of Padgham and contains a rather traditional (and excellent) rock guitar lead by Summers. Lyrically, Sting references painful everyday occurrences to symbolize the frustrations of everyday life with the narrator sees his fate as predetermined. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” is a classic ballad with excellent ambiance, sort of like “Every Breath You Take” from a different point of view – but with superior lyrics which references mythological and literary characters.

The bass driven “Tea in the Sahara” concluded the original LP (which omitted “Murder By Numbers”) and kind of brings the overall scene to a conclusion in the desert. Sting’s performance is more solo than anywhere else on the album, with the bass leading the way and the lyrics based on the novel The Sheltering Sky. A long drum intro starts the closer “Murder by Numbers”, co-written by Sting and Summers. The tune eventually fully kicks in as a cabret number with lyrics comparing political power to the development of a serial killer.

Synchronicity reached number one in many countries and was nominated for the “Album of the Year” Grammy. The Police set off on a world on a year-long world tour, which ended with a hiatus that was effectively the end of the group. The trio did reconvene in 1986 to record a new album, but after a half-hearted attempt, that project was abandoned. The Police would not fully reunite until 2007, over two decades after their break.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1983 albums.

 

Pyromania by Def Leppard

Pyromania by Def LeppardDef Leppard struck gold (well, actually diamond) with their third LP Pyromania. The album was a phenomenal success, eventually selling over ten million copies in the U.S. and being certified “diamond” by the RIAA. The album had a tremendous amount of support from their record label, which gave the band and producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange a year to record and an over $1 million budget. This meant the album would have to sell over a million copies just to break even, which was an amazing leap of faith being that the previous album by Lange and the band, 1981’s High n’ Dry, did not do so well commercially. But the gamble paid off as Pyromania sold more than 100,000 copies per week during the calendar year of 1983 and the radio-ready blend of stadium anthems brought the quasi-heavy-metal band to a mainstream audience.

Although recorded meticulously by Lange and mastered for the dominant sound of early eighties rock, the album falls short be a rock masterpiece if not for some sonic glitches, particularly the constant drilling crack-shot of the snare drum, performed by drummer Rick Allen. It seems at places like Lange tries a little to hard to recreate his “AC/DC” sound, when he would have done better just letting the talent of Def Leppard shine through. Most talented here are guitarist Steve Clark and lead vocalist Joe Elliot, who were complemented by the rich vocal harmonies and “guitar orchestra” by the rest of the band.

When recording of Pyromania began, original guitarist Pete Willis was still on board and his rhythm guitar tracks appear on all songs. Willis was fired midway through the recording sessions for excessive alcohol abuse and replaced by Phil Collen, who immediately contributed the lead guitar for the song “Stagefright” on his second day on the job.

 


Pyromania by Def Leppard
Released: January 20, 1983 (Vertigo)
Produced by: Robert John “Mutt” Lange
Recorded: Park Gates Studios & Battery Studios, London, January–November 1982
Side One Side Two
Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)
Photograph
Stagefright
Too Late for Love
Die Hard the Hunter
Foolin’
Rock of Ages
Comin’ Under Fire
Action! Not Words
Billy’s Got a Gun
Band Musicians
Joe Elliot – Lead Vocals  |  Steve Clark – Guitars
Phil Collen – Guitars  |  Rick Savage – Bass  |  Rick Allen – Drums

 

Written by bassist Rick Savage “Stagefright” is a complete, upbeat composition which works perfectly with the established Pyromania sound. Aside from some fake live crowd effects, which is the song’s only real drawback, the overall vibe of hyper sugar-fueled rock is reached eloquently. This pace is set by the opener “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)”, which contains a dramatic beginning part that goes through a couple of variations before Clark’s fine main riff kicks in on this anthem would probably fit any classic eighties rock album.

The group shows the compositional diversity when they first retreat to slower, darker, and more measured music in “Too Late for Love”. Written by all members of the band (including Willis and Lange) and reminiscent of some material from their 1980 debut album On Through the Night, “Too Late for Love” is a very high quality and potent song which reached #9 on the Mainstream Rock charts. The only real weak spot on the album’s first side is the closer “Die Hard the Hunter”, which starts with some fake air raid effects and sounds forced and dated. An attempt to be super-melodramatic, the song lacks focus even when it later breaks in full “AC/DC” mode and feels a bit drawn out overall.
 

 
The finest track on the first side, is the song which really put Def Leppard on the map as the lead single from Pyromania. On “Photograph”, Elliot’s vocals are at their pristine apex. The song was the band at their peak and commanded absolute attention in early 1983 as the ascending vocals over the chorus hook tell the typical story of stalking and envy which the music drives with a kinetic passion of action. Sonically, there are also some treats, especially during the measured pre-chorus, which contain some slight synths and a cow bell to compliment the heavily distorted guitar riff.

The album’s second side begins with “Foolin'”, which works as an quasi-acoustic ballad before migrating to a later heavy arrangement. Savage’s bass is more potent than on any other track and the song’s multi-part progression works towards the hook, which elevated the song to Top 40 status. The defacto title track, it is clear that everything this album was trying to accomplish is wrapped up in the song “Rock of Ages”. The most indelible moment on the album and one of the highlight’s of Def Leppard’s career. The song kicks off with a German-like nonsense phrase used as a count-in by Lange and it’s title originated from Elliot glancing at a children’s hymn book. There are some charms along the way, such as the almost comical background voices and laughs and the song finishes very strongly, making it the last great moment on the album.

The album closes with some rather mediocre material. “Comin’ Under Fire” could have been another hit song, with the thumping bass and kick beat under the choppy guitar chords of the verse along with the full-fledged chorus chant. “Action! Not Words” is simply terrible, almost a parody of 80s hair metal, and the album would have been better without this song. The melodramatic “Billy’s Got a Gun” completes the weak ending for this otherwise fine album and includes a weird synth percussion during the outro.

Following the breakthrough of Pyromania, the band began writing material for a follow-up, with Mutt Lange initially joining in the sessions. Tragedy struck on New Year’s Eve 1984 when Rick Allen lost his left arm in a car crash. It would take another three years until the band would complete their much anticipated follow-up Hysteria in mid 1987.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1983 albums.


1983 Images

 

Genesis

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Genesis 1983 albumAlthough it is titled like an eponymous debut, Genesis was actually the twelfth studio album by Genesis. The group decided to name it such because it is the first album on which all (three) members of the group helped compose each track. The album was a huge commercial success, reaching the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic (#1 in England), remaining on the charts for a full calendar year, and eventually selling several million copies worldwide. While the 1980s version of the group deviated from the artistic realm, they still managed to be original within the pop realm and stretched the boundaries of “radio friendly-ness” with Genesis.

The album was recorded and released in 1983 and came smack in the middle of a very odd situation for the band. Lead singer and drummer Phil Collins had released two phenomenally successful solo albums with Face Value and Hello, I Must Be Going along with a string of radio hits through 1981 and 1982. Collins had also played drums on two solo albums for former Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant and one album for former Genesis front man Peter Gabriel. Still Genesis, once a quintet which had lost two departing members in the late 1970s, remained a priority for the remaining three Collins, keyboardist Tony Banks and guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford.

The album was the second to be co-produced by Hugh Padgham as well as the second to be recorded at Fisher Lane Farm, a converted cowshed and cottage owned by the band. Collins’s early solo albums had a rather dark presence which carried over into the themes on Genesis. He also made heavy use of drums and well-effected percussion, giving the overall sound an edge while making it more accessible than most traditional, art/rock Genesis albums. In fact, one reviewer called this “a Genesis album for people who normally hate Genesis” and “great music for the masses”.

 


Genesis by Genesis
Released: October 3, 1983 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Genesis & Hugh Padgham
Recorded: Fisher Lane Farm, Surrey, England, May–August 1983
Side One Side Two
Mama
That’s All
Home by the Sea
Second Home by the Sea
Illegal Alien
Taking It All Too Hard
Just a Job to Do
Silver Rainbow
It’s Gonna Get Better
Band Musicians
Phil Collins – Lead Vocals, Drums, Percussion
Mike Rutherford – Guitars, Bass, Vocals
Tony Banks – Keyboards, Vocals

 

Right from the start with the opener “Mama”, it is clear that the band borrows from some of the minimalist arrangements and sonic effects of Collins recent solo work. This very mechanical and slowly moving song migrates from being quiet and haunting to becoming ever more intense, slowly building with instrumentation until a full rock arrangement finally kicks in about five minutes into the song. The first single from the album, “Mama” reached the Top 10 in several European countries. Like awakening from a bitter nightmare, the light and entertaining “That’s All” could not contrast more from the vibe of “Mama”. Light, warm, and piano-driven, the song is a happy-go-lucky way to express the lyrical misery and contains a great middle organ solo by Banks, which is only topped by the excellent outro guitar lead by Rutherford. “That’s All”, was the band’s first U.S. Top 10 hit, peaking at #6.

“Home by the Sea” is a melodic adventure song which may have fit well with some of the more theatrical cuts from years past. Rutherford does excellent on bass, mainly stepping away from the guitar to let Banks’s keyboards drive most of the music. Lyrically, the storytelling song is about a burglar who breaks into a house only to find it is a prison, haunted by the ghosts who capture the intruder and force him to listen to their stories for the rest of his life. The most progressive part of the album, the song combines with the mainly instrumental “Second Home By the Sea” as a two=part suite. However, this second part is basically subtraction by addition as it is laced by ever-present electronic drums and unfocused keyboards which drown out the main funk guitar.
 

 
The second side begins with “Illegal Alien”, containing a nice blend of electronic percussion and effects with bouncy keyboard motifs. This is all topped by Collins catchy melody and several other sonic goodies with a great middle section filled with Caribbean/reggae motifs. The lyrics take a rather comical look at the frustrations of an illegal immigrant with Collins even trying a bit of an Mexican accent.

One of the finest tracks on the album, “Taking It All Too Hard”, is a ballad with a real edge. A combination of strong rhythm with topical electric piano and emotional vocals, along with just a splash of complimentary backing vocals, the song really shines, especially during the chorus parts (one of which was the song opening). “Just a Job to Do” is a pure eighties pop song, sounding like it came right out of Miami Vice. Musically, it is a frantic funk with bass patterns topped by a cheesy synth with the great vocal hook once again carrying the song to respectability. Lyrically, it tells the story of a private investigator chasing down his subject.

Genesis in 1983

Unfortunately, Genesis does not finish up on a very strong note. “Silver Rainbow” contains a big beat which feels very out of place among the other fine tracks on the album. When the song finally gains full focus, it sounds pleasant enough, but not enough to really carry it to respectability. The closer “It’s Gonna Get Better” tries too hard to make the most of synths and electronic effects and ultimately the album finishes much weaker than it potentially could have.

Following the release and success of Genesis Collins resumed his solo career, which would continue to produce hit songs and albums through the remainder of the decade. Rutherford followed suite with the formation of his solo studio group Mike + the Mechanics, which itself released several Top 40 hits in the mid 1980s, including the #1 single “The Living Years”. Like clockwork, Genesis returned three years later with the album Invisible Touch, another very successful album commercially.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1983 albums.

 

Eliminator by ZZ Top

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Eliminator by ZZ TopSince their inception in 1969, ZZ Top had a strong and successful career with decent album sales and scattered radio hits through the 1970s and into the early 1980s. With their eighth album in 1983, Eliminator, the group finally found major commercial success, topping charts worldwide and U.S. sales of over 10 million copies. Formulaic to a fault, the group and their manager/producer Bill Ham embraced a hybrid sound which blended their traditional Texas blues guitars with synths and sequencers. This updated eighties sound, combined with the directed use of image and video (featuring the customized 1930s Ford coupe and Dean Z electric guitars) brought ZZ Top their first real taste of fame.

The trio consists of guitarist and vocalist Billy Gibbons, bassist and vocalist Dusty Hill, and drummer Frank Beard. Formed in Houston in 1969, the group was signed to London Records in 1970 and released their debut album in 1971. Although centered around blues-rock, ZZ Top had experimented with several styles and lyrical motifs through their initial seven studio albums. In 1980, the band embarked on their first tour of Europe and gained some exposure to the electronic new wave/pop of the day. This experience heavily influenced much of the sonic qualities and song themes for Eliminator, as many of the songs were written backstage on that tour. The band then chose Memphis as the recording location because of the city’s musical tradition.

Sound engineer Linden Hudson researched popular song tempos, and suggested that 120 beats per minute was the most popular tempo in rock music, so most of the recorded Eliminator album was recorded at that tempo. This has since become know as “the people’s tempo”. Although this sort of sound manipulation may not go over well with all old-school blues and rock purists or blues-rock purists, the album does not contain one filler song, as each individual track works well as a stand-alone song. In fact, one can claim that the whole is much less than the sum of this album’s parts

 


Eliminator by ZZ Top
Released: March 23, 1983 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Bill Ham
Recorded: Ardent Studios, Memphis, Tennessee, 1982
Side One Side Two
Gimme All Your Lovin’
Got Me Under Pressure
Sharp Dressed Man
I Need You Tonight
I Got the Six
Legs
Thug
TV Dinners
Dirty Dog
If I Could Only Flag Her Down
Bad Girl
Group Musicians
Billy Gibbons – Guitar, Vocals
Dusty Hill – Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Frank Beard – Drums, Percussion

 

Beard’s simple rock drum beat sets the pace for the riff-driven “Gimme All Your Lovin'” (which in turn sets the pace for the album). Accented by a few guitar overdubs and pad synths, this opener contains one of the more famous leads by Gibbons and reached the Top 40 on the U.S. charts. “Got Me Under Pressure” follows and has become the most controversial song, not due to lyrical content, but due to allegations by Hudson that it was written and recorded by himself and Gibbons in one afternoon without the involvement or knowledge of the other two band members. Although the band members disputed much of his compositional accounts, Linden says he created the bass on a synthesizer, the drums on a drum machine, and helped Gibbons write the lyrics while Gibbons performed the guitars and vocals.

“Sharp Dressed Man” is the most catchy of the hit songs and utilizes a more traditional rock arrangement with some strange vocal effects being the only really synthesized parts. While on tour in England to support the album Degüello, the band members were impressed with the cool threads and overall sense of fashion. The song reached the Top Ten on the mainstream rock charts and has remained one of the band’s most famous songs.

ZZ Top in 1983

The best song on the album is “I Need You Tonight”, led by Gibbons’s really soulful and bluesy guitar with an effect-laden edge. Hill uses a real bass guitar (not a synth bass arpeggio) and the song contains some great melodies during the choruses, adding a splash of sweetness to this extended piece with an almost dark feel. The persistent reaching of Gibbons’ guitar, especially during the long instrumental sections, makes it a highlight of the album and even as the song ends, it feels like the bluesy guitar is reluctant to quit. The short but potent “I Got the Six” completes the first side as a full-fledged, good time party anthem.

The early part of the album’s second side is the best demonstration of the “synthesizer meets soul” sound which the group was aiming for on Eliminator. On “Legs” the synths are most prominent along with a consistent beat and very few chord changes. With a decent melody, clear hook, and some bluesy lead guitar licks, “Legs” was inspired by a real-life situation when the group spotted a young lady and spun the car around for a second look. But when she vanished Gibbons said, “That girl’s got legs, and she knows how to use them.” “Thug” is the most unabashed eighties-style, synth-heavy song, almost sounding experimental. “TV Dinners” contains organ-like synths good lead by Gibbons. Written late in the recording process, the song’s title was inspired by a woman in a Memphis nightclub, where the group went during a break in recording.

“Dirty Dog” is the best pure dance song on the second side, with a constant, rhythmic synth by Hill and the thump-thump-thump of the kick drum by Beard. This is the song where the attempted meshing fully came together.
“If I Could Only Flag Her Down” contains much of the same boogie feel from ZZ Top days of past. The closer “Bad Girl” is sung by Hill who uses a Little Richard-type, frantic voice in this almost live sounding, old time rocker.

Following Eliminator′s release, the band embarked on a worldwide tour which was extremely successful, breaking many records. ZZ Top’s next album, 1985’s Afterburner was another commercial success and utilized much of the same “synthesizer meets soul” formula. In fact, the band embraced this sound so strongly in the 1980s that they re-mastered their first six albums with 80s style echo and drum machines, much unlike their original album sound, in a 1987 box set called Six Pack.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1983 albums.

1983 Images

 

Frontiers by Journey

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Frontiers by JourneyAlthough not quite the commercial blockbuster of their previous album Escape, Journey‘s 1983 album Frontiers was a very close second commercially. The album reached #2 on the US charts, would garner four Top 40 singles and has been certified platinum six times over. The album also became the band’s most successful in the UK. The band was led by the unique and soulful vocals of front-man Steve Perry and the effect-heavy soaring guitars of Neil Schon, who had discovered how to fully crack the commercial scene with a sound which was once considered quite edgy.

Musically on Frontiers, the band made a concerted effort to move away from (albeit very slightly) the consistent, commercial formula which they had forged over their recent previous albums. However, they may have chosen the wrong direction in which to deviate from the pop/rock sound, primarily by making this album more synth-heavy than anything previously. Although he had emerged as the band’s chief songwriter, Jonathan Cain has a bit over the overall vibe with his keyboard work, and it caused some missed opportunities with the album’s sound. Further, bassist Ross Valory abandoned his unique, fret-less buzz which he had mastered on Escape for a more traditional rhythm sound. This would be Valory’s final album with Journey for over a decade, as he and drummer Steve Smith were replaced in 1985, only to return for the Journey mid-nineties reunion a decade later.

Left out of the final cut of the album was the future hit “Only the Young”, which eventually appeared on the soundtrack to the 1985 film Vision Quest and reached the Top Ten. This song is dominated by a consistent, almost-acoustic riff, a strong rhythm, guitar textures and vocal melodies along with with a striking message – “only the young can say they’re free to fly away…” – which shows just how talented Journey can be when all the elements are maximized.

 


Frontiers by Journey
Released: February 22, 1983 (Columbia)
Produced by: Kevin Elson & Mike Stone
Recorded: Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, Ca. Autumn 1982
Side One Side Two
Separate Ways
Send Her My Love
Chain Reaction
After the Fall
Faithfully
Edge of the Blade
Troubled Child
Back Talk
Frontiers
Rubicon
Band Musicians
Steve Perry – Lead Vocals
Neal Schon – Guitars, Vocals
Jonathon Cain – Piano, Keyboards, Guitar, Vocals
Ross Valory – Bass, Vocals
Steve Smith – Drums, Percussion

 

Sequentially, the album is quite out of balance, with all five songs from the original first side released as singles (and all becoming radio hits), while none of the five from side two received any significant radio play. “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” starts things off, with Cain’s keyboard riff biting and eerie, like if Pink Floyd went pop. This couples with Schon’s rifle-sharp guitar track during the song proper to make for a very powerful and driving rhythm. Written in early 1982, “Separate Ways” is the oldest composition on the album and it peaked at #8 on the charts, making it the highest charting hit on the album. The calm “Send Her My Love” follows as the album’s first ballad. The song is built on a bluesy piano riff which is accented brilliantly by subtle guitar licks and some swelling sonic textures from all directions. Perry’s melody is left to carry the tune pretty much throughout until it breaks into more intense outro led by Schon’s lead guitar.

The middle of side one contains a couple of strong rockers. “Chain Reaction” is kind of boilerplate on the surface but is executed brilliantly by the band, giving it a unique edge. The rich vocal harmonies above this most guitar and riff heavy of tracks, gives it an air that it could have been an eighties hair metal classic if performed by the right group. “After the Fall” is a true pop gem, very rich and melodic throughout. This song is led by Perry’s vocals, which are at their absolute peak here, and brought out perfectly by the rest of band playing a reserved, supporting role. In between the vocals, the guitar and keyboard harmonized riff acts as a perfect counter-melody and “After the Fall” is one of the few tracks on the album where Valory’s bass is clear and up-front. The real highlight of the song is the commencement of third verse, which demonstrates how pure performance can overtake lack of fresh lyrics.
 

 
The first side concludes with “Faithfully”, the all-time, ultimate “power ballad”. While very slow and deliberate, the song packs a mighty punch, especially as it builds towards a perfect climax at the end. Written solely by Cain, the “rolling” piano riff was inspired by the sound of wheels constantly present while traveling on tour, with the simple lyrical message of keeping a relationship together while touring in a rock band. While the song is totally Cain’s in composition, the performance is carried mainly by Perry and Schon and this hit song reached #12 on the charts.

Journey 1983

The second side is much less even than the first. “Edge of the Blade” sounds like it falls about ten minutes short of the hour, in both composition and production. While there are some good individual elements to this song, as a whole it doesn’t work at the quality we expect from Journey. “Troubled Child” is a bit better, although built on rather cheesy synths (which otherwise might have been some good riffing). The song has a dark and soulful core and is a bit off-beat, which makes it interesting. Drummer Smith added a strong enough drum pattern to take a songwriting credit for “Back Talk”, a song which takes an almost-Van-Halen-like approach musically and sounds like it would fit in perfectly with some type of theatre production lyrically. The title song “Frontiers” is the weakest song on the album and may be as close to filler as you’ll hear on a Journey album.

Make a move across the Rubicon, futures knockin’ at your door
Take your time and choose the road you want, opportunity is yours

The closer “Rubicon” is the only true gem on the second side. Musically choppy and moody but lyrically inspired (this could have been a theme for a Rocky film), the song possesses a great theme and concept which, even while very synth heavy, makes it feel like a true rock anthem which could have existed in many eras.

At the top of their commercial game after the success of Frontiers, Journey made a common mistake – they took too much time off and got lost from the musical scene. Perry did put out a very successful solo album called Street Talk in 1984, and the band released a songs for Soundtrack albums (including “Only the Young”) during that time period. But by the time the band returned for their next studio album, Raised on Radio in 1986 (without Valory and Smith), it was clear that the golden age of the band was over.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1983 albums.