Born In the U.S.A.
by Bruce Springsteen

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1984 Album of the Year

Born In the USA by Bruce SpringsteenBorn in the USA marked the height of commercial success for Bruce Springsteen. It sold over 30 million copies worldwide and spawned seven Top 10 singles, a record met but not surpassed. The album also spent a record 84 consecutive weeks in the Billboard Top 10. But here at Classic Rock Review, commercial success is but a minor factor in which albums we cover and how we cover them. To us, it is all about the quality of the music, especially in naming our albums of the year. Born In the USA contains traditional story-driven songs with contemporary production and entertaining melody and hooks, making it, in our opinion, the best album of 1984.

Springsteen had experienced vast commercial success with the Top 5 double album The River in 1980. In 1981, Springsteen was asked to write music for a film originally called “Born In the U.S.A.” (but eventually released as Light of Day in 1987). While working on his solo, introspective, album Nebraska, Springsteen merged the melody for a song called “Vietnam” with the film’s title and originally wanted to include it on that 1982 album but eventually concluded that it was out of place.

Recording sessions for Born In the USA date back to January 1982, nearly two and a half years before the album’s release. These sessions predate the release of Nebraska, as Springsteen was composing and recording a number of songs specifically intended for an album besides that dark folk album. In fact, by mid-1982 most of Born In the USA was already recorded with a few more tracks added in 1983 and a final track added in early 1984. In total, Springsteen wrote an estimated 70 songs for the album, with 12 making the final cut and several more used for B-sides such as “Shut Out the Light”, “Johnny Bye-Bye”, “Stand On It”, “Janey Don’t You Lose Heart”, and “Pink Cadillac”, which became a minor radio hit on its own.

After a new CD manufacturing plant was opened in Indiana, Born In the USA was the first compact disc manufactured in the United States (actually “born in the USA”!) All previous CDs had been manufactured in Japan.


Born In the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen
Released: June 4, 1984 (Columbia)
Produced by: Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin, Bruce Springsteen, & Steven Van Zandt
Recorded: The Power Station and The Hit Factory, New York, January 1982–March 1984
Side One Side Two
Born In the U.S.A.
Cover Me
Darlington County
Workin’ On the Highway
Downbound Train
I’m On Fire
No Surrender
Bobby Jean
I’m Goin’ Down
Glory Days
Dancing In the Dark
My Hometown
Primary Musicians
Bruce Springsteen – Lead Vocals, Guitars 
Roy Bittan – Piano, Synths, Vocals
Steven Van Zandt – Guitars, Mandolin, Vocals
Clarence Clemons – Sax, Percussion
Garry Tallent – Bass, Vocals
Max Weinberg – Drums, Vocals

The title track kicks off the album with spacey synths by Roy Bittan and a sanitized drum snare by Max Weinberg, world’s away from the folk of the past album. These intro sounds are nicely contrasted by Springsteen’s rough and strained rock vocals which belt out lyrics that deal with the cruel mistreatment of Vietnam veterans on their arrival back home. “Cover Me” is a bright pop song , albeit warmer than the opener and with some real bass presence by Garry Tallent. Springsteen originally wrote the song for Donna Summer but was urged by his manager, Jon Landau, to include it on the album and it peaked at #7 on the pop charts as a result.

“Darlington County” is a down-home track which seems to be slightly influenced by Creedence Clearwater Revival. It was recorded in the spring of 1982 and gets its title from an actual county in South Carolina. “Working on the Highway” is the weakest song on the first side, almost a cheap attempt at rockabilly. In contrast, “Downbound Train” is an excellent dark, folk song with the added bonus of an eerie synth organ in the background. One of the more legitimate Springsteen songs on the first side, the song is a melancholy lament to a lost spouse with vivid imagery throughout.

 
“I’m On Fire” is a short but potent ballad with great production techniques on the voice, synths, picked guitar, and brushed drums, making it an overall masterpiece of arrangement. One of the earliest songs recorded for the album, the song came together in an impromptu jam between Springsteen, Bittan, and Weinberg. The second side is more solid throughout than the first and starts with a couple of songs which would’ve fit perfectly on Springsteen’s late seventies albums. “No Surrender” is an upbeat song of youth that was originally cut from the album but was reinstated at the insistence of guitarist Steven Van Zandt, who was very keen of the song. “Bobby Jean” is the most underrated Springsteen song, well constructed with a piano riff, a driving bass, great melody and romantic lyrics. The vocals are delivered masterfully with lyrics that are pure Jersey and the bonus of being the first song to include a sax solo by Clarence Clemens. Some have interpreted the lyrics to be a goodbye tribute to Van Zandt, who had decided to leave the E Street Band by the time of its recording. “I’m Goin’ Down” contains Clemons’ second sax solo and, like “Working on the Highway”, this is totally retro (but done much better here).

The album’s stretch run has three of its most popular hits. “Glory Days” is an infectious pop song with a great hook and story-telling lyrics. There is a cool mandolin track buried deep in the mix and a unique, improvised ending that helped fuel interest in this otherwise simple song. “Dancing In the Dark” was the last song recorded for the album and the first released as a single. This is a pure 80’s synth pop song, but so unlike anything Springsteen had done before, that it has got to be respected. The melody and arrangement is masterful (with the possible exception of the mind-numbing drums), making this experiment deep into the realm of radio-friendly an overall success. The album concludes with the folk ballad “My Hometown”, which is a darker look at the scenes and characters in “Born to Run”, a decade earlier. While talking about riots and unemployment in a very Wood-Guthrie-like approach, the serene backing vocal chorus through the final verse gives a sense of hope through the despair. This last song was also the last Top 10 single from the album, reaching #6 in late 1985.

Born In the USA was nominated for three Grammy Awards and won one for Best Rock Vocal Performance. With this unprecedented level of success, Springsteen went on a major tour which helped spawn a five-record box set called Live/1975–85. Springsteen has continued to record and tour through the present day, but has not again reached the level of success or overall quality in the intervening three decades.

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1984 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

About Face by David Gilmour

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About Face by David GilmourThere are some musical creations that are astoundingly forgotten. David Gilmour’s 1984 solo album, About Face, is one of these. This is sad considering it just might be one of the better albums produced in the 1980s. Of course, it is impossible to discuss this album without touching on the era in which it was put together, as About Face was forged in the fire of Pink Floyd’s darkest hour. The band’s internal tensions had reached all-time highs and Gilmour was feuding internally with Roger Waters, after the latter accused the former of not contributing enough to the band. This was sadly ironic for Gilmour because he had complied (and even agreed) with Waters when he decided to kick Richard Wright out of Pink Floyd prior to the release of The Wall in 1979, for basically the same reason. So, in a true bout of rock and roll rebellion, Gilmour went off and created a solo album which served to prove Waters wrong by establishing that he could create music on his own and channel his anger about the situation at the same time. The result is nothing short of superb.

Co-produced by Bob Ezrin, this is the second solo record by Gilmour following his self-titled 1978 debut. The album is filled with great and diverse music and, in contrast to the recent Waters-dominated Pink Floyd era, it is not concerned with creating giant lyrical operas, just a solid collection of songs. Change is consistent throughout as each song goes in unique directions that are unexpected and pleasing to the ear. Gilmour explores sounds that he probably could not explore within the confines of Pink Floyd. The lyrics are soaked with subtle references to the Waters’ feud and many of the songs reflect the conflict.

Gilmour was backed by a solid core of musicians and also invited some famous contemporaries to work on the album with him, adding depth to his artistic work. A bit uneven sequentially, the earlier songs on the album are slightly superior to the closing tracks, but none of the tracks are by any means boring or without merit. With that in mind, let’s dive into the individual songs.


About Face by David Gilmour
Released: March 5, 1984 (Harvest)
Produced by: Bob Ezrin & David Gilmour
Recorded: Pathé Marconi Studio, Boulogne-Billancourt, France, 1983
Side One Side Two
Until We Sleep
Murder
Love On the Air
Blue Light
Out of the Blue
All Lovers Are Deranged
You Know I’m Right
Cruise
Let’s Get Metaphysical
Near the End
Primary Musicians
David Gilmour – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass  |  Ian Kewley – Piano, Organ
Pino Palladino – Bass  |  Jeff Porcaro – Drums, Percussion

The album opens with “Until We Sleep”, a great jam with some really fantastic guitar. The lyrics are a straightforward call to action, essentially saying to live your life to the fullest before you sleep, which is taken as meaning both literal sleep and metaphorical death. “Murder” may be the best overall song on the album. It starts off as a very somber folk song with some excellent fret-less bass by Pino Palladino. Then it crashes into a crescendo as other instruments join the fray. About three quarters of the way through the song it takes an abrupt change as the guitar becomes more pronounced and reverberates through the song. The lyrics describe Gilmour’s anger over the murder of John Lennon.

Both Pete Townsend (lyrics) and Steve Winwood (organ) worked on the third song, “Love On the Air”. Its opening is reminiscent of Townsend’s own solo work, while most of the song sounds a bit more like a Townsend song viewed through a Gilmour prism as a great combination of the two artists’ work. After this comes “Blue Light” with a super jazzy intro. The use of horns in the song adds an unexpected and welcome element to the song that elevates it. This song is a great example of why someone like Gilmour does a solo album since I can’t imagine this song being done by Pink Floyd. Winwood also gets a great moment to shine while playing a smooth organ solo during this song.

 
Following “Blue Light” is another song with blue in the title, “Out of the Blue”, a slow, reflective piano-driven melody, led by keyboardist Ian Kewley. In the middle section of the song it picks up a bit but still relies on Gilmour’s vocals and the piano. “All Lovers Are Deranged” is the second Townsend-written song on the album. It is a wild counterpoint to “Love On the Air”, in title as well as music, as this song itself sounds a lot more like Gilmour’s own as he jams on the guitar throughout. “You Know I’m Right” is slower than other works on the album but has a lot of interesting layers to it, despite sounding a tad dated. Lyrically, Gilmour takes a direct shot at Waters, discussing one person who is unable to see another point of view in an argument;

Why should you bother with the other side / when you know that yours is right…”

“Cruise” is one of the most interesting songs on the album, as a tongue-in-cheek love song dedicated to a ballistic missile. With some Paul McCartney influence musically blended with 1980s elements like Palladino’s fret-less bass and a great Hammond organ by Kewley, the song unexpectedly adds some reggae elements near at the end, led by the drumming of Jeff Porcaro. Next comes a fantastic instrumental, “Let’s Get Metaphysical”. It starts with only an electric guitar and a piano, evoking a wonderful sense of the classical and modern coming together. Later, the song feels very orchestral in a great kind of way as it builds layers, almost as if Gilmour is telling the listener a story with instruments alone as he leads the listener through the different movements of the song. The album closes out with “Near the End”. There is an interesting use of bells in the song which add to its lullaby feeling. Again, the lyrics seem to directly address Roger Waters with lines like, “And there’s a stranger where once was a friend”. The song not only serves to end the album but in its own way it speaks to the end of the previous era of Pink Floyd.

In the thirty years since About Face was released it seems to have relatively vanished from many music lover’s horizons. This is a tragedy as the album not only encapsulates some of Gilmour’s finest work but also a dramatic period for him and Pink Floyd. His solo work is great and Roger Waters’ solo work has its merits as well. Although I must admit my personal opinion is that Gilmour’s focus on music makes his work superior to Waters, as Waters seems to focus a bit too much on his grand concepts that all seem to revolve around himself. That said the tragedy of this album and the situation as a whole for Pink Floyd is that none of them seem to recognize that their best work was done in a period when they all shared an equal amount of the creative process. Gilmour’s focus on music combined with Waters’ grand concepts created multiple masterpieces. That said, this album seemed to prove exactly what Gilmour wanted it to prove.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

1984 Images

 

Love at First Sting by Scorpions

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Love at First Sting by ScorpionsScorpions reached the peak of their long career with the 1984 album Love at First Sting. This album spawned the group’s best selling singles and peaked in the Top 10 of the American album charts. The album is also notable due to a couple of ancillary facts. The original cover art (shown here) was deemed unsuitable for certain retail outlets, forcing the group to re-package the album in some markets. This was one the first albums to be recorded wholly using digital technology. While on the technological cutting edge, this also caught some blow-back from some long time fans who felt the sound was too polished and metallic.

Scorpions were formed in 1965 by guitarist Rudolf Schenker, the only original member to remain through the decades. Vocalist Klaus Meine joined the group just prior to the release of their debut album Lonesome Crow in 1972. Through the seventies, Scorpions gained popularity, led by releases like 1976’s Virgin Killer and 1978’s Lovedrive. This latter album was the first to feature guitarist Matthias Jabs.

At the dawn of the eighties, the band’s popularity accelerated with the release of Animal Magnetism in 1980 and Blackout in 1982. During this period, Meine required surgery on his vocal cords and his future with the band was in doubt. But he eventually had a full recovery and came back stronger than ever as an MTV audience was exposed to this band.


Love at First Sting by Scorpions
Released: March 27, 1984 (Harvest)
Produced by: Dieter Dierks
Recorded: Dierks Studios, Germany, 1983–1984
Side One Side Two
Bad Boys Running Wild
Rock You Like a Hurricane
I’m Leaving You
Coming Home
The Same Thrill
Big City Nights
As Soon as the Good Times Roll
Crossfire
Still Loving You
Group Musicians
Klaus Meine – Lead Vocals
Rudolf Schenker – Guitars, Vocals
Matthias Jabs – Guitars
Francis Buchholz – Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Herman Rarebell – Drums, Vocals

Love at First String was produced by the group’s long time collaborator, Dieter Dierks, and recorded at his studios in Pullheim Stommeln, Germany. Co-written by drummer Herman Rarebell, the opener “Bad Boys Running Wild” starts with a screaming lead and steady riff but falls into a lame and dated chorus. “Rock You Like a Hurricane” brings things back with great sonic qualities and melodies and a fantastic guitar lead by Schenker. A staple of 80s hard rock, the song reached #25 on the pop charts and its sex-charged lyrics include the album’s title.

“I’m Leaving You” is a decent rock song with good vocals and variations of melodic sections over a steady rock arrangement. “Coming Home” is a bit more complex as a multi-part track which starts as a soft ballad before breaking into a frenzied rocker led by the drums of Rarebell and a harmonized mocking-vocal guitar riff. “The Same Thrill” finishes off side one as an almost punk song in the way it noisily comes in and does not relent throughout.

The album’s second side is far more solid and even than the first. On “Big City Nights” the duo riff approach works well, along with a thumping bass by Francis Buchholz and dynamic vocals with a decent hook by Meine. “As Soon As the Good Times Roll” is a moderately slow and unique tune which contains some reggae elements in its approach, while “Crossfire” has a darker feel, led by the marching drum roll throughout with some good harmonies in the hook and rapid fire guitar phrases.

The intro to the ballad “Still Loving You” is the true highlight of the album due to the masterful guitar work of Schenker and Jabs. Dramatic but not tacky, this ninth and final track brings the whole album up to another level as an indelible love song which sounds as fresh and bright thirty years on as it did in 1984.

Love at First Sting reach the Top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic and Scorpions toured extensively in the wake of its success, forging a live album along the way. The group’s output and popularity remained high throughout the decade and well into the 1990s.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

1984 Images

Reckless by Bryan Adams

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Reckless by Bryan AdamsReckless was the first album by a Canadian artist to sell more than one million units within Canada. Not to mention that this fourth studio album by Bryan Adams was also a major commercial success well beyond the Canadian borders, charting near the top worldwide and spawning six singles which each reached into the top 15 of Billboard‘s pop charts in the U.S. All of the ten tracks on the album were co-written by Adams and his longtime composing partner Jim Vallence and it firmly displays the masterful ability of this songwriting team to tap into the pop/rock, radio-friendly vibe of the middle eighties.

 
Adams dropped out of high school in his mid teens and was working and recording as a professional musician by age 16. In 1978, Adams met Vallance, former drummer of the group Prism, in a Vancouver music store. Vallance had resolved to focus on a career as a studio musician and songwriter and by year’s end the team had landed Adams a contract with A&M records. His self-titled debut album was released in early 1980 and Adams’ second album, You Want It You Got It, was released the following year, both to very minor success. Released in 1983, Cuts Like a Knife contained four radio hits with adjoining videos, setting up Adams and Vallance for a blockbuster follow-up.

Co-produced by Bob Clearmountain, the sessions for Reckless began in March 1984 with daily songwriting sessions in Vallance’s home studio. A group of initial tracks were recorded but Adams was unhappy with the sound and took a month off and came back with some new songs and new ideas for the record. Once completed, the album was a particularly strong showcase for the layered guitars of Keith Scott and has a pristine sonic quality that holds up 30 years later.


Reckless by Bryan Adams
Released: November 5, 1984 (A&M)
Produced by: Bob Clearmountain & Bryan Adams
Recorded: Little Mountain Sound Studios, Vancouver, March–August 1984
Side One Side Two
One Night Love Affair
She’s Only Happy When She’s Dancin’
Run to You
Heaven
Somebody
Summer of ’69
Kids Wanna Rock
It’s Only Love
Long Gone
Ain’t Gonna Cry
Primary Musicians
Bryan Adams – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano  |  Keith Scott – Guitars, Vocals
Tommy Mandel – Keyboards  |  Dave Taylor – Bass  |  Pat Steward – Drums, Vocals

Although nowhere near the hit of some of the other tracks, the opener “One Night Love Affair” is possibly the best overall track on the album and captures mid-eighties mainstream rock at its finest. The song contains great, ethereal guitars throughout above the simple base riff and direct beat by drummer Pat Steward. The song’s arrangement changes at sonically strategic times through the later verses as the sound wall is built masterfully by Clearmountain. Unfortunately, the mood is quickly broken by “She’s Only Happy When She’s Dancin'”, the only real overt filler on Reckless, unfortunately placed so early on the album.

The last song to be recorded for the album but the first of its string of hit singles, “Run to You” has just a tinge of surreal darkness in the rotating riff of this otherwise mainstream pop song. The highlight of the track is a harmonized guitar lead by Scott during the bridge. “Heaven” is the lone “power ballad” on the album. While Adams would focus on such ballads later in his career, this was still something of a novelty when it was recorded in 1983 for the soundtrack for the film A Night in Heaven and features former Journey drummer Steve Smith. Nearly two years later, the song was re-released as the third single from Reckless and topped the charts in June 1985.

Book-ending the sides are another couple of more hits from the album. “Somebody” is a good pop-rocker, with an easily catchy hook that makes it a rock anthem. “Summer of ’69” is a story-telling song that struck a chord in the summer of ’85 as a nostalgic look at the “best days of my life”. This latter song almost didn’t make it on the album because neither Adams nor Vallance originally thought it was a strong enough.

“Kids Wanna Rock” sounds to be influenced by ZZ Top, with a bit of a Tex-Mex blues vibe through its guitars, further accented by the upbeat bluesy lead section. “It’s Only Love” was a happy accident when Tina Turner was touring in Vancouver during the final week of recording and agreed to come in the studio and perform co-lead vocals. The result was the final hit from the album in January 1986. Reckless concludes with a couple of forgotten gems. “Long Gone” is another good bluesy rock song in a style which would later emulated by artists like Tommy Conwell and even includes an impressive harmonica solo by Adams. “Ain’t Gonna Cry” is new wave in tempo but rock in approach due to the heavy guitars, penny-whistle organ by Tommy Mandel and the good driving bass by Dave Taylor. The song’s finale breaks down into a noisy implosion, given this otherwise polished album an improvised conclusion.

In total, Reckless has sold more than 12 million copies worldwide and is Adams’ best-selling album in the United States. Following the album’s release, Adams embarked on a two year world tour and would not follow-up with a new studio album until 1987. A 30th Anniversary edition of the album, featuring previously unreleased material, is slated for release in November 2014.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

1984 Images

 

Private Dancer by Tina Turner

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Private Dancer by Tina TurnerThe story surrounding Tina Turner and her remarkable comeback with Private Dancer is the stuff of Hollywood movies. In fact, it was a Hollywood movie, and this remarkable vocalist who got her start nearly three decades earlier made the biggest commercial splash of her career in 1984. The fifth overall solo album from Turner since leaving her ex-husband Ike’s band in 1976, this was Turner’s debut for Capitol Records after she had absurdly been left without a recording contract during several previous years. When the album that so many record executives were hesitant to make was finally released to the public, it was a tremendous smash world wide.

Just a few years earlier, no one could have imagined that this longtime star of the soul genre would become the top performer on the pop charts, and do so without compromising her musical repertoire. In the late 1970s, Turner made her living through various television appearances and Las Vegas-style gigs and her initial solo albums reflected this strategy musically. In 1982, Turner met A&R man, John Carter, who promised her a new record deal.

Carter also set about finding the right songs for Turner, which she recorded at several different studios and with several different producers. However, while recording was in process a new regime of executives at Capitol and initially planned to drop Turner. The new label president called Roger Davies and summarily dropped Tina Turner from the roster. Carter fought hard to keep her on and the label was more than rewarded when Private Dancer spawned seven singles.


Private Dancer by Tina Turner
Released: May 29, 1984 (Capital)
Produced by: Terry Britten, John Carter, Leon Chancler, Wilton Felder, Rupert Hine, Joe Sample, Greg Walsh & Martyn Ware
Recorded: England, 1983-1984
Side One Side Two
I Might Have Been Queen
What’s Love Got to Do With It
Show Some Love
I Can’t Stand the Rain
Private Dancer
Let’s Stay Together
Better Be Good to Me
Steel Claw
Help!
1984
Primary Musicians
Tina Turner – Lead Vocals  |  Terry Britten – Guitars, Vocals
Rupert Hine – Bass, Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals  |  Jack Bruno – Drums

Bassist and producer Rupert Hine was enlisted to work on several tracks on Private Dancer, starting with the opener “I Might Have Been Queen”. The song was co-written by Jamie West-Oram, lead guitarist of The Fixx, a band which Hine had recently produced with great success. The song was written specifically for Turner and its lyrics reflect Turner’s belief in reincarnation. “What’s Love Got to Do with It” is the most popularly sustained song from the album, due in part to the later movie of the same name. Turner’s vocal and melodic delivery are masterful in both their ascent and constraint. Written by guitarist Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, the song topped the charts in the Summer of 1984 and marked the undeniable moment of Turner’s comeback success.

“Show Some Respect” is another song written by Britten with a decidedly eighties synth and funk approach. One of the later songs released as a single, this track became a Top 40 hit in 1985. Britten also produced the next track, “I Can’t Stand the Rain”, a remake of of the 1974 hit for Ann Peebles. The album’s title song was written by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, who wrote the song for his band’s Love Over Gold album, but ultimately decided he didn’t want to sing a song from a female perspective. Ironically, Knopler is the only member of Dire Straits not to appear on Turner’s version of the song, which also features a guitar solo by the legendary Jeff Beck.

Private Dancer‘s second side begins with a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”, which turner released in late 1983, well ahead of the album. While Turner remains faithful to the original, she also adds some unique delivery to this track which topped the Billboard Dance chart. “Better Be Good to Me” is the most pop/rock oriented song on the album, originally intended for Pat Benatar. Produced by Hine and composed by the team of Holly Knight, Mike Chapman, and Nicky Chinn, the song reached #5 on the pop charts.

The album winds down with three lesser known recordings. “Steel Claw” was written by Paul Brady and features a lineup similar to “Private Dancer”, with members of Dire Straits (sans Knopfler) and Beck adding a solo. The Beatles’ “Help!” is delivered in a gospel-tinged by Turner, in a rendition she had been working on since the early eighties. David Bowie’s “1984” concludes the album as an electronic track that pays homage during the actual year it was written about.

Private Dancer reached the Top 10 in over a dozen countries, sold over eight million copies, and won four Grammy’s for Turner. Capitalizing on this immense popularity, Turner went on a World tour through 1985, which included over 170 dates on three continents.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

 

Slide It In by Whitesnake

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Slide It In by WhitesnakeWhitesnake made its first real splash with the release of their sixth album, Slide It In in 1984. Although the album was far from a blockbuster hit, a second version of the album finally established Whitesnake in America and set the stage for greater future success. Under the tutelage of producer Martin Birch, the group found the perfect sound for the mid-eighties hard rock audience. However, this pivotal album for the band was actually constructed during a time of shifting personnel for Whitesnake, with lineup shifts around founder and front man David Coverdale before, during, and after the record’s production.

In 1978, Coverdale founded Whitesnake as a solo project following his brief gig as Deep Purple’s lead vocalist. The new band’s earliest sound utilized some of the blues-rock basics of British groups years earlier. Joining Coverdale in this new band was fellow Deep Purple member Jon Lord on keyboards, guitarist Micky Moody, and a rotating rhythm section. Whitesnake’s first four albums did well in the UK but failed to make any waves in the US. In 1981 guitarist Mel Galley, who had spent a dozen years with the band Trapeze, became the group’s second guitarist and was on board for the recording of the 1982 release Saints and Sinners, the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful album to date.

First recorded in late 1983, Slide It In cam out as two distinct mixes, each with differing personnel. After the group’s new American label Geffen objected to the “flat sounding” mix on the UK release, Coverdale fired Moody and bassist Colin Hodgkinson and had their parts re-recorded by new members John Sykes and Neil Murray respectively, before the entire album was re-mixed and re-sequenced for a U.S. release. While the newer mix was sonically superior overall, some fans lament that it diminishes the presence of Lord’s keyboards and the overall bass guitar.


Slide It In by Whitesnake
Released: January 1984 (Geffen)
Produced by: Martin Birch
Recorded: 1983
Side One Side Two
Slide It In
Slow and Easy
Love Ain’t No Stranger
All or Nothing
Gambler
Guilty of Love
Hungry for Love
Give Me More Time
Spit It Out
Standing In the Shadow
Group Musicians
David Coverdale – Lead Vocals
Mel Galley – Guitars, Vocals
Jon Lord – Keyboards
Neil Murray – Bass
Cozy Powell Drums

An AC/DC inspired riff and beat on the opening title song is contrasted by Coverdale’s distinctly non-AC/DC vocals on this track of rock raunch to the core with not-so-subtle lyrics. “Slide It In” is really an entertaining and melodic musical showcase with a good guitar lead by Moody under an alternate chord structure. Co-written by Moody, “Slow an’ Easy” is a track of pure rock drama, slowly unfolding with every note, breath, and rudimentary beat. Built on a diverse collection of guitar motifs, the track takes nearly two and a half minutes until it finally gets to the hook, which contains claps and chants, perfectly setting it up for future arena shows. Held together by Powell’s precise drumming, once fully realized this song never relents from its drive, which helped propel the song into the Top 20 of the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.

Next up in the parade of classic rock gems is “Love Ain’t No Stranger”, which starts with long synths accompanied by an acoustic guitar, before ultimately kicking into a steady rocker, While there are no real “power ballads” on Slide It In, the short intro verses on this track may be as close as the group gets. “All or Nothing” is pure hard rock in the spirit of groups like Rainbow, solidly built on a heavy metal riff by Galley with dramatic vocal wails by Coverdale and a consistent jam drive throughout. The fine first side closes with “Gambler”, which may be the perfect Whitesnake song as a moody track with rotating riffs and great keys. Vocally, Coverdale shows much range within each verse, while the lead section contains back-to-back solos by Lord and Galley, continuing the great hard rock parade.

Unfortunately, the second side is not as potent as the first. It starts with “Guilty of Love”, an upbeat rock song which was the first recorded for the album and released as a single in mid 1983. With this, the song was the only one produced by Eddie Kramer. The similarly titled “Hungry for Love” is slightly better than its predecessor due to a better rock jam by the musicians and cool bluesy riff lines by Galley and Murray. “Give Me More Time” is very melodic and well put together and sounds like it should have been a hit song. Constructed in pristine fashion from verse to pre-chorus to chorus, with a great lead section that contains a harmonized lead by Galley over wild drumming by Powell.

“Spit It Out” continues where the previous song left off, but with the sharp return to sexual gratuitousness. Still, the song is solid musically with nice mid-section built on a rapid hi-hat beat by Powell and slight guitar strumming by Galley before it explodes back for the guitar lead. The album concludes with the apt, steady, and slightly dark rocker, “Standing In the Shadow”. While the track pales in comparison to songs earlier on the album, it is probably the best of Coverdale’s several solo compositions on the album.

Slide It In did squeak into the Top 40 in America, while reaching the Top 10 in the UK, eventually reaching double platinum in sales. However, the personnel shifts continued as Lord joined a reunited Deep Purple and Powell joined the revamped super group Emerson, Lake, and Powell. Coverdale and Sykes later composed and recorded the blockbuster 1987 album Whitesnake, but Coverdale then fired the entire band for the more “photogenic” younger group that appeared in all the late eighties videos.

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1984 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

 

The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking by Roger Waters

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The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking by Roger WatersRoger Waters commenced his post-Pink Floyd career with a concept album that he largely composed while still an active member of the group in the late 1970s. The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking was actually released a year before Waters made the official announcement of his departure from the band, but by early 1984 he had apparently already made up his mind. The previous year, Pink Floyd released The Final Cut, which got a disappointing reception both critically and commercially, and Pink Floyd did not opt to support the album with a tour, as both Waters and guitarist David Gilmour began work on separate solo records.

The concept of The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking was developed by Waters in 1977 and presented to Pink Floyd along with an alternate concept. Ultimately, the group chose the alternative, which was developed into Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Waters had decided early on to use whichever was not chosen by the band as a solo project and, in 1983, he revisited this concept. The story focuses on a man’s dreams in real time during the early morning hours of a day, which weave in and out of interlocking stories.

Musical conductor and pianist Michael Kamen co-produced the album with Waters and together they put together a talented ensemble of musicians and singers. This started with drummer Andy Newmark, who Waters used on a track of The Final Cut, and climaxed with legendary guitarist Eric Clapton. Brought in after the basic tracks had been recorded, Clapton nonetheless has a strong presence throughout this album and even shines brightest during a few brilliant musical moments.


The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking by Roger Waters
Released: April 30, 1984 (Harvest)
Produced by: Roger Waters & Michael Kamen
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, February–December 1983
Side One Side Two
4:30 AM (Apparently They Were Travelling Abroad)
4:33 AM (Running Shoes)
4:37 AM (Arabs with Knives and West German Skies)
4:39 AM (For the First Time Today, Part 2)
4:41 AM (Sexual Revolution)
4:47 AM (The Remains of Our Love)
4:50 AM (Go Fishing)
4:56 AM (For the First Time Today, Part 1)
4:58 AM (Dunroamin, Duncarin, Dunlivin)
5:01 AM (The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Part 10)
5:06 AM (Every Stranger’s Eyes)
5:11 AM (The Moment of Clarity)
Primary Musicians
Roger Waters – Lead Vocals, Bass, Guitars  |  Eric Clapton – Lead Guitars, Synths
Michael Kamen – Piano  |  Andy Newmark – Drums, Percussion

While it is hard to compare the musical style of this album to anything else, there are a lot of the same elements as The Wall on this album. While the narrative is hard to decipher, the story is about an English man who’s married to an American wife (just like Waters) and begins with the man having a nightmare and we follow his dreams and reality for 45 minutes of real time. “4:30 AM (Apparently They Were Traveling Abroad)” enters with plenty of sound effects and distant, theatrical guitar chords. There is a distant sound of a newsreader saying “Apparently they were traveling abroad and they picked up some hitchhikers…”, which seems to be the catalyst for many of the dream-stories about traveling and hitchhikers. On this track Waters establishes a melody that recurs throughout the album. “4:33 AM (Running Shoes)” is much stronger musically with tension-filled drums, screams of backing chorus, and wailing saxophone by David Sanborn.

In the dream narrative, the main character has an affair with a young female hitchhiker but wakes next to his wife with a strong feeling of guilt. This guilt materializes into another nightmare where Arab terrorists threaten him because of his infidelity. In “4:39 AM (For the First Time Today, Part 2)”, the character straddles a desperate state between dream and reality, with the most panicked, dream-induced screams. “4:41 AM (Sexual Revolution)” is the most Pink Floyd-like track thus far, with everything being at maximum intensity and Clapton’s blues guitars throughout to accompany the great chorus passages with backing vocals. This song devolves to very quiet mid-section, where only Clapton’s guitar persists before everything eventually kicks back in. “4:47 AM (The Remains of Our Love)” closes the first side by again returning to the opening theme, as a soft singer/folk track. The story twists again as the scene changes from Europe to America (Wyoming) and the song slowly dissolves, some great honky tonk piano by Kamen, which perfectly compliments Clapton’s slide acoustic.

Side Two is far superior musically and the tracks are far more diverse melodically. “4:50 AM (Go Fishing)” is the best song on the album and a bona fide classic. The moods are perfectly illustrated and, unlike many other tracks, the story doesn’t alternate between dream and reality. The story talks about an experimental move to a simple life in the wilderness that eventually falls apart and breaks up the family, with the protagonist now finding himself as a hitchhiker. The outro has strong, slow rock with the best sax lead by Sanborn and an animated organ by Andy Bown.

Moving forward, we have the link song “4:56 AM (For the First Time Today, Part 1)” with a slight, bluesy and jazzy piano. “4:58 AM (Dunroamin, Duncarin, Dunlivin)” is moody and moderate with some spoken effects in the background and melodic vocals out front, leading to the climatic “5:01 AM (The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Part 10)”, the most upbeat and very entertaining rock song with a steady beat and many cool guitar licks. Lyrically, it breaks out of regular narrative to do an overview of everything.

The album’s closing sequence begins with the soft ballad “5:06 AM (Every Stranger’s Eyes)”. Clapton’s guitar and Kamen’s piano notes are in perfect sync after the song proper tells a story of sympathy in the face of turmoil. Starting as simple acoustic ballad by Waters, this song becomes Clapton’s finest track on the album. “5:11 AM (The Moment of Clarity)” is a slow acoustic folk waltz, which utilizes the opening predominant theme to bookmark the album at its close.

The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking reached the Top ten in several countries, but did not fare as well in the U.S. . Waters, Kamen, Clapton and Newmark did go on a short tour to support the album, but the elaborate stage and effects ended up losing a large sum of money for Waters. A film based on this concept was proposed and some footage and animation completed by 1985, but this is yet to officially see the light of day.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

1984 Images

 

Grace Under Pressure by Rush

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Grace Under Pressure by RushFor their tenth studio album, Grace Under Pressure, Rush brought in producer Pete Henderson, after employing Terry Brown for eight consecutive studio albums, dating back to Fly By Night in 1975. The parting with Brown was amicable and the band even went so far as to include a small tribute to him in the liner notes of the album. A dark album thematically, drummer and lyricist Neil Peart examined subjects from within and without and from the past and present. Peart gave the album its title from a Ernest Hemingway line that seemed to describe were the band was after leaving Brown and moving onto uncharted musical territory.

Grace Under Pressure is a natural compliment to Rush’s previous 1982 album, Signals, although this one is a bit darker and more mechanical in approach. Like on that album, bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee continued to use synthesizers as a primary instrument, but the production on this album balances the synths perfectly with the layered guitar work of Alex Lifeson. Although he had a lighter role than on previous Rush albums, Lifeson described Grace Under Pressure as the, “most satisfying of all our records.”

Rush had originally approached producer Steve Lillywhite to record this album, but Lillywhite withdrew at the last minute, leaving the group to temporarily self-produce until Henderson was hired. Recorded in the familiar confines of Le Studio in Quebec, Henderson and the band spent up to fourteen hours per day perfecting the album’s sound.


Grace Under Pressure by Rush
Released: April 12, 1984 (Anthem)
Produced by: Peter Henderson & Rush
Recorded: Le Studio, Morin-Heights, Quebec, November 1983–March 1984
Side One Side Two
Distant Early Warning
Afterimage
Red Sector A
The Enemy Within (Part I of “Fear”)
The Body Electric
Kid Gloves
Red Lenses
Between the Wheels
Group Musicians
Geddy Lee – Lead Vocals, Bass, Synths
Alex Lifeson – Guitars, Synths  |  Neil Peart – Drums, Percussion

The album starts with Lee’s driving bass line and key synth hook on “Distant Early Warning”. Unlike much of Rush’s early catalog, Peart uses repetition to get across important lyrical themes and “red alert” is the key hook here, as Peart conflates the universal and the personal. Lifeson later adds a minimal, textured guitar lead, which brings the strongest rock element to the song as a whole, as the track continues to build to a crescendo. Released as a single, “Distant Early Warning” reached #3 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock charts. Peart wrote “Afterimage” to describe the impressions left by a friend who died suddenly in an accident. The song roars in with a wall of pure sound during the intro and first verse and music and has elements of reggae during the post-verses, while the choruse uses more pop/rock elements with Lifeson’s lead riff mimicking Lee’s voice

“Red Sector A” is built on Peart’s consistent, almost disco-flavored beat and Lee’s constant synth arpeggio, as there is no bass guitar on the track. Lyrically, this is one of the darkest songs in Rush’s collection, as it was inspired by Lee’s mother’s stories about the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, where she was held prisoner. Using an atypical arrangement, in a lot of ways, it is Lifeson’s guitars that best convey the feel of this song as his chord structure throughout mimics the desperate wails of a human soul in a mechanical Hell; “Are we the last ones left alive? Are we the only human beings to survive?” The open reggae chords and funk rhythms of “The Enemy Within”, concludes the first side. Far from the doom and gloom of other parts of the “Fear”, this upbeat track is rhythmically supreme, especially with Lee’s bass.

The first two songs of the second side are where Lifeson has the most presence. “The Body Electric” is an exciting rocker that seems to at once celebrate and lament and the emerging computer age. Built on Peart’s rotating and almost robotic drum pattern, Lee and Lifeson add much melody over top during the verses, while the choruses are more rock-oriented and intense. “Kid Gloves” features Lifeson’s well-textured, staccato guitar riff and some odd-timed rudiments as it moves through passages that play with time and tempo.

The oddest track on the album, “Red Lenses” alternates between two distinct sections of chorus and verse, with the verses being totally synth-driven and almost cheesy in approach, while the opening and chorus sections are built on a cool, funky bass and rhythms. During an expanded mid section, Peart moves from marimba-style beats to additional, percussion-driven parts, making this his strongest overall track. The grinding synth intro of the closer “Between the Wheels” perfectly illustrates the song’s intended vibe of a negative and dystopian world. The track contains sections of brilliant rock arrangements, always eventually returning the beginning grind, and ends almost violently, with foreboding riffs on guitar and percussive smashes on drums and piano.

Grace Under Pressure reached the Top 10 on the Billboard album charts and immediately went platinum upon its release in the US. This would mark the high-water mark of Rush’s mid-eighties body of work, as subsequent albums relied much more heavily on synthesizers.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

1984 Images

 

1984 by Van Halen

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1984 by Van HalenThe original lineup of Van Halen reached their artistic and commercial apex with their final album together. 1984 (officially titled using Roman Numerals MCMLXXXIV) was released near the start of the year, 1984. Due to a radio-friendly song with an MTV-friendly video, the album had an immediate pop crossover effect that ultimately propelled the album to the highest charting position and sales by the band to date. But beyond the commercial appeal of the album, there lies a solid core of rock compositions and exquisite production by Ted Templeman that demonstrates Van Halen at their absolute peak.

Van Halen had steadily grown in popularity from their fine 1978 debut album, through 1983, when they were entered in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “highest paid band of all-time” for its headlining at the US Festival. However, there were some internal creative issues as guitarist Eddie Van Halen had felt dissatisfied by the concessions he made to Templeman and front man David Lee Roth on the group’s previous 1982 album Diver Down. During the sessions for that album, Roth rejected the idea of developing a synth riff by Eddie Van Halen into a full-fledged song (that riff would later be re-purposed for the song “Jump”). For his part, Templeman was instrumental in the vast amount of cover songs used on Diver Down, to which Eddie had objections.

In this climate, Van Halen decided to build his own studio with the help of engineer Donn Landee and named the studio 5150 (after the LAPD code for “escaped mental patient”). Some music analysts claim that 1984 is the only Diamond selling album (over 10 million copies) to be entirely recorded and mixed in a “home studio”. As a result, 1984 has more influence from Eddie Van Halen than any other album. Always the innovator, Van Halen’s radical electric guitar tapping technique on the Van Halen I track “Eruption” was mistakenly thought by some to be a synthesizer. When he actually did use synthesizers on this album, it brought a new mainstream appreciation for the instrument and sales of them increased overnight.


MCMLXXXIV by Van Halen
Released: January 9, 1984 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Ted Templeman
Recorded: 5150 Studios, Hollywood, CA, 1983
Side One Side Two
1984
Jump
Panama
Top Jimmy
Drop Dead Legs
Hot For Teacher
I’ll Wait
Girl Gone Bad
House of Pain
Group Musicians
David Lee Roth – Lead Vocals  |  Eddie Van Halen – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass, Vocals  |  Alex Van Halen – Drums, Percussion

Like all of the group’s previous five albums, all music and lyrics on 1984 were credited to all four member of the band. However, in negotiations years later bassist Michael Anthony was removed from this album’s credits. The title track opener, “1984” is little more than synthesized soundscapes by Eddie Van Halen, but this does offer an effective intro to “Jump”

The only #1 song of the band’s career, “Jump” is undeniably infectious, with solid rock rhythm allows the long-string synths to play out and still be effective. Eddie Van Halen’s guitars are slight, only present during the pre-chorus, first half of the lead section, and outro. The second half of the lead is reserved for his interesting synth solo over slowly descending chord structure for great effect.

In contrast to the guitar-light “Jump” is the drenched riff of “Panama”, where Van Halan’s guitar textures are as fine as ever. Anthony and drummer Alex Van Halen lay down strong rhythms while Roth adds excitable vocals. The cool, spoken word mid-section following the guitar lead also features Eddie Van Halen revving his Lamborghini in the background, as the car was backed up to the studio and microphones were attached to the exhaust pipe.

The album’s first side concludes with a couple of forgotten classic gems. “Top Jimmy” is a tribute to James Paul Koncek of the band Top Jimmy & The Rhythm Pigs and starts with overdubbed guitar effects in its long intro. It then breaks into a frenzied, upbeat rock blues, with Van Halen showmanship, alternating back and forth between the deep intro riff and good-time verse/chorus section. Van Halen says “Drop Dead Legs” was inspired by AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, but you can also hear a lot of early Aerosmith in the way this song is constructed and delivered. Built on a slow guitar grind, the song really comes to life with great harmonized vocal chorus by Anthony and Van Halen, which augments Roth’s finely strained rock lead vocals.

The second side starts with “Hot for Teacher”, a unique and entertaining song built for the younger MTV audience. The tremendous drumming of Alex Van Halen, offers a fine long intro for the pure rock theater of the song proper. “I’ll Wait” is the second keyboard-dominated song (and the second single) on the album. It was also very controversial within the group as Roth and Templeman wanted to remove the song from the album, But Eddie Van Halen refused. The song is also unique in that there is no bass through the first verses and choruses, just in the lead section, and it is co-written by Doobie Brother Michael McDonald.

The finest jam on the album comes on “Girl Gone Bad”. It begins with a long and dramatic beginning, with bass creeping ever closer during intro picked and chimed guitars by Eddie and fast-moving, high-end percussion by Alex. When it all kicks in, it is as good as any Van Halen song instrumentally, even seeming to be a bit Rush-influenced with the great instrumental rudiments and includes some cool scat vocals by Roth during the long bridge section. The album’s closer, “House of Pain” originally dated back to the demos Van Halen recorded with Gene Simmons prior to being signed by Warner Bros. in the mid 1970s. Consequently,it is the most like a traditional Van Halen song on side two, being upbeat and riff-driven with a slight section of guitar excellence.

1984 peaked at #2 on the Billboard album charts, ironically blocked for 5 consecutive weeks from the top spot by Michael Jackson’s Thriller, on which Eddie Van Halen contributed a guitar solo to the song “Beat It”. It would be the last Van Halen album to feature all four original members, as Roth left the band following the 1984 tour and did not record with the band again until 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth, which was recorded after Anthony had already left the band.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

1984 Images

 

The Last In Line by Dio

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The Last In Line by DioAfter stints in several rock groups, Ronnie James Dio found his popular groove in the early eighties with the founding of the group, Dio. Although this band was named after the veteran vocalist and songwriter, it was approached as a true rock group with each member contributing to the original compositions. Dio’s second release, The Last In Line, was released in mid 1984 and reached great critical acclaim within the rock and metal community. The album was also a mainstream crossover hit, reaching the Top 10 on several album charts fueled by three tracks which landed in the Top 10 of the American Mainstream Rock tracks chart.

Dio’s music career began way back in 1957, when he founded the band, The Vegas Kings, as a teenager in his hometown of Cortland, New York. This group went through various changes in name and personnel through the 1960s, with a few singles released along the way. In 1967, that group transformed into The Electric Elves, later shortening its name to Elf. Through the early seventies, Elf recorded three albums and toured with major acts such as Deep Purple. When Ritchie Blackmore left that group to form Rainbow in 1975, he recruited members of Elf, including Dio. While with Rainbow, Dio wrote most of the lyrics for the first three albums. However, when given the opportunity to replace Ozzy Osbourne in the legendary Black Sabbath, Dio jumped ship in 1979. Three years later, disagreements within that band resulted in the departure of Dio and drummer Vinny Appice, who formed Dio in October 1982. The following May, the band released their debut album, Holy Diver, which featured two MTV hits.

The original quartet of Dio included Vivian Campbell on guitar and Jimmy Bain on bass. Later on keyboardist Claude Schnell was recruited for live shows and ultimately became a permanent member of the band.


The Last In Line by Dio
Released: July 2, 1984 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Ronnie James Dio
Recorded: Caribou Ranch, Colorado, 1984
Side One Side Two
We Rock
The Last In Line
Breathless
I Speed at Night
One Night In the City
Evil Eyes
Mystery
Eat Your Heart Out
Egypt (The Chains Are On)
Group Musicians
Ronnie James Dio – Lead Vocals, Keyboards  |  Vivian Campbell – Guitars
Jimmy Bain – Bass  |  Vinny Appice – Drums, Percussion

The Last In Line followed the same basic pattern as Holy Diver, leading these albums to later be packaged together. The album comes in strong with “We Rock”, led by the frenzied drums by Appice throughout, including a beat-driven post lead section. Co-written by bassist Bain, the most quality track on the album is the title track, “The Last in Line”. The laid back intro section allows for a nice setup to the driving song proper, with its steady and heavy approach. However, it is Dio’s philosophical and fascinating lyrics that shine brightest on this track, finding the line between good and evil like a heavy metal counterpart to “Hotel California”,

We don’t come along, we are fire, we are strong, we’re the hand that writes and quickly moves away…”

“Breathless” sounds much like Rainbow-era material, built on the interesting riffing by Campbell and the melodic hooks by Dio. “I Speed at Night” may be the most overtly concocted tune (perhaps to take advantage of the recent success of Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55”). In any case, this is not a good showcase for Dio and Appice. The side one closer “One Night In the City” is heavy pop, starting with a couple of interesting riff sections before it breaks into pristine rock with repeatable hooks. “Evil Eyes” forges the high-end 80’s heavy rock where Campbell adds some of his finest guitar work during the brief verses and frantic, hammer-on lead.

“Mystery” is the most accessible song on the album and a true Dio classic. Everything comes together on this collaboration between Dio and Bain, as it is melodic and musically sweet, with a hook, guitar lead, and keyboard riff that it puts in firmly within the boundaries of pop/rock radio. “Eat Your Heart Out” follows as one last accessible hard rock song and a true band collaboration with good rock rudiments. The album closer “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” adds a theatrical and dramatic element to the album with opening wind effects and a slow and deliberative thumping in the verses.

Within two months of its release, The Last In Line was certified Gold and would later go on to become the first Dio album to be certified Platinum. A third album followed soon in 1985, along with more later in the decade, but the group would not again achieve this level of success.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

1984 Images