The Joshua Tree by U2

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1987 Album of the Year

The Joshua Tree by U2The Joshua Tree was the long-awaited fifth studio album by U2, released in the spring of 1987. Although not a true “concept” album, it was uniformly inspired by the United States and the geography, literature, and politics and the nation the band so often toured in the early part of their career. U2 released four studio albums in the relatively short period of 1980-1984, culminating with The Unforgettable Fire, their widespread commercial breakthrough. They began writing new material in mid-1985 and began recording in Ireland at the start of 1986. However, this fifth album took a long time to formulate and produce, building much anticipation among fans.

The Joshua Tree was produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, who both worked with the band on the band on The Unforgettable Fire and whose goal was a harder rocking sound for the band while still exploring unconventional song structures. Throughout the 1986 sessions, U2 strove for a “cinematic” quality for the record, embedding American scenery as a backdrop to the soaring sound scapes and lyrics. Many of those lyrics were influenced by American writers that lead vocalist Bono had been reading at the time. Musically, although all the group members had different ideas on how to approach this album, they all agreed that they felt disconnected from the dominant synth pop and other musical trends of the time. Most of the recording was done in a Georgian house, with the dining room and drawing room used for recording and performing.

After completing the album, Bono said he thought that The Joshua Tree was their most complete record since their first. This opinion was born out with its commercial and critical success as the album became the fastest-selling album in British history to date, selling over a quarter million copies in two days. It reached number one within two weeks of release and spent over three years on the album charts. The Joshua Tree topped the albums charts in 20 total countries. Ultimately, the album sold over 25 million copies worldwide and topped several publication’s lists of album of the year for 1987 including, of course, our’s.


The Joshua Tree by U2
Released: March 9, 1987 (Island)
Produced by: Daniel Lanois & Brian Eno
Recorded: Various Studios, Ireland, January 1986–January 1987
Side One Side Two
Where the Streets Have No Name
Still Haven’t Found What Looking For
With Or Without You
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running to Stand Still
Red Hill Mining Town
In God’s Country
Trip Through Your Wires
One Tree Hill
Exit
Mothers of the Disappeared
Band Musicians
Bono – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
The Edge – Guitars, Piano, Vocals
Adam Clayton – Bass
Larry Mullen, Jr. – Drums

The album starts out with a great, nearly two minute, anticipation building intro to “Where the Streets Have No Name”, a top twenty hit worldwide. The intro provides a smooth synth pad rise that gives way to the hyper arpeggio riff by guitarist The Edge, who joined by an equally intense rhythm section throughout the song. Due to its multiple time signature shifts, Lanois called this “the science project song”, while Eno estimated that half of the album sessions were spent trying to record a suitable version of the song. Bono wrote the lyrics while on a visit to Ethiopia, which at the time was devastated by famine.

“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” originated from a rhythm pattern by drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. with lyrics influenced by American gospel music. Nominated for Song of the Year, a the 1988 Grammy Awards, its lyrics describe spiritual yearning, accented by Bono’s vocal soul desperation and accompanied by The Edge’s guitar chime riff. The song’s title was influenced by Bob Dylan’s line from the song “Idiot Wind”; “You’ll find out when you reach the top you’re on the bottom…”, suggesting the recurrence of life and the infinite quest for happiness.

“With or Without You” was the band’s first single release and one of the oldest compositions on the album, dating back to 1985. Bassist Adam Clayton provided a pulsating bass line as a canvas to slowly developing, ambient guitar notes and dynamic vocals. The song was originally rejected by the band and producers but Bono reworked an arrangement with friend Gavin Friday and gave the song a second life. The lyrics address marriage from the perspective of a popular musician and the contrast between life on the road and domestic life. “Bullet the Blue Sky” is an equally simple song but with an entirely different, intense approach. Written about American involvement in the El Salvador Civil War of the 1980s, with aggressive and growly vocals and an intense rhythm. Latin America was also the subject of the album’s closing song “Mothers of the Disappeared”, written about the “Madres de Plaza de Mayo”, a group of women whose children had been “disappeared” under various dictatorships.

Some of the lesser known songs on the album explore various sub-genres of American music. “Running to Stand Still” is influenced by acoustic blues with a lyric that looks back at the band’s native Dublin, Ireland. “Red Hill Mining Town” is a blue-collar folk song, directly influenced by Bob Dylan, who Bono met for the first time in 1984. “Trip Through Your Wires” contains a definite nod towards blue-eyed soul, while “Exit” captured the band in a live studio jam with lyrics influenced by Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song.

The western desert was greatly symbolic on The Joshua Tree (which itself is a national monument in the Mohave Desert) and “In God’s Country” puts that image to music beautifully. It was the band’s most overt attempt at a contemporary rock song on the album while still containing some trademark guitar licks and rhythms. The up-tempo song was difficult to records musically and early versions of the song were written about Ireland before the shift was made to America.

“One Tree Hill” was the fifth and final overall single from the album and was written in dedication to the band’s former roadie Greg Carroll, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in Dublin in 1986. Following the funeral in New Zealand, Bono wrote the lyrics to “One Tree Hill”, which he dedicated to Carroll. This song has been described it as “a soft, haunting benediction” and describes a volcano near Auckland, New Zealand, where Carroll was a native and where the band first worked with him in 1984.

U2 in 1987

U2 has had a long and storied career which continues into its fourth decade. The Joshua Tree has been the apex of this long career and has held up excellently a quarter century later. In our 15 reviews of 1987 albums, re elected 25 years later, we’ve featured several that marked an artist’s commercial and creative peak. However, unlike any of those others, U2 has persevered over the subsequent decades and continued to release quality and relevant material right up through the present day.

~

1987 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1987 albums.

 

Permanent Vacation by Aerosmith

Permanent Vacation by AerosmithIn spite of their much celebrated “reunion” in 1984, two years later Aerosmith was still a band in turmoil. Their 1985 album Done With Mirrors did not do so well commercially and various members of the band were still struggling with the alcohol and drug habits which caused their initial split in 1979. Still, the band was determined to get back to the top of the rock world and made a concerted effort to make their next studio album the vehicle on which to make that rise. Permanent Vacation pretty much accomplished this goal, but not before some tough decisions were made. The band’s label, Geffen Records, insisted that they would only fund this recording if all five band members complete a drug and alcohol rehab program (which they did). Also, after listening to the demos, Geffen insisted that outside songwriters be brought in to work with the band members, a tough condition to accept for a band that had previously recorded eight albums of all original material over the preceding fourteen years.

The “song doctors” which were hired fired for this project were Desmond Child and Jim Vallance. Child was a Florida resident who had a minor hit with his band Rouge in 1979 before deciding to dedicate his time to strictly songwriting. He penned some hits for bands like Cher, Kiss, Bon Jovi, Poison, and Joan Jett before writing pop hits for Aerosmith starting with this album, through the 1990s. Vallance was best know for his songwriting partnership with Bryan Adams which lasted through his first five solo albums and all of Adams’ early hits. Vallance also wrote songs for Kiss, Bonnie Raitt, and Northern Lights, and would also help to write several hit songs for Aerosmith through the mid 1990s. Permanent Vacation was recorded in Vallance’s hometown of Vancouver and produced by Bruce Fairbairn.

As for the band members of Aerosmith themselves, they credit the fact that they successfully “cleaned up” for reawakening their musical zest. This was most evident right out front with vocalist Steven Tyler, who especially shined on this album with his strong and dynamic singing, catchy hooks, interesting lyrics, and even a return to his blues roots with prolific harp playing. The combination of the polished pop songs, classic-era rockers, and a judicious amount of experimentation made for a successful combination on this album with very few weak points throughout.


Permanent Vacation by Aerosmith
Released: August 18, 1987 (Geffen)
Produced by: Bruce Fairbairn
Recorded: Little Mountain Sound Studios, Vancouver, BC, March–May 1987
Side One Side Two
Heart’s Done Time
Magic Touch
Rag Doll
Simoriah
Dude (Looks Like a Lady)
St. John
Hangman Jury
Girl Keeps Coming Apart
Angel
Permanent Vacation
I’m Down
The Movie
Band Musicians
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Harmonica, Piano | Joe Perry – Guitars, Vocals
Brad Whitford – Guitars | Tom Hamilton – Bass | Joey Kramer – Drums

The album begins with a couple of riff driven rockers by Tyler and lead guitars Joe Perry along with one each of the “song doctors”. “Heart’s Done Time”, co-written by Child, provides an intense intro section and some autobiographical lyrics which seem to tell of the band’s rocky journey to this point in their career. “Magic Touch”, co-written by Vallance contains some signature Perry-style muddy guitar riffs with decent, melodic vocals by Tyler.

“Rag Doll” was one of three charting hits from the album and brings in yet another professional songwriter, Holly Knight, who collaborated with Vallance and Tyler in a swinging hybrid between 1940s “hit parade” and 1980s “hair rock”. A strong horn section along with Perry’s slide guitar sweeten the song nicely and add a contrast like no other to the album. The following “Simoriah” contains textured riffs and soaring vocals, returning the band to the full-fledged rock n roll realm.

“Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” -was co-written by Child and became the band’s biggest hit in years. This clavichord led, brass intensive was originally written as “Cruisin’ for a Lady” but was updated after Tyler met the band Mötley Crüe and derived from their California “dude” talk, this new title, refrain, and narrative.

The most interesting songs on the album bookend the end of side one and beginning of side two, as each returns to some of the band’s vintage roots. The earthy blues of “St. John” hearkens back to Aerosmith’s very first album in 1973 and is more blues than rock, although there is still plenty of both. The excellent, harmonica-driven “Hangman Jury” starts as a perfect rendition of acoustic blues, with porch swing on a summer night effects included, before breaking into an upbeat Aerosmith rocker circa mid-1970s. In fact, the opening rendition was so perfect that that the band was later sued by blues man Lead Belly’s estate for royalties.

“Girl Keeps Coming Apart” is a frenzied and exciting song, led by the driving drums by Joey Kramer, the funky guitars and harmonies by Perry, and plenty of sonic splashes from horns and harmonicas throughout. Unfortunately, the album’s momentum is broken by the power ballad “Angel” which, although a big radio hit, is the tackiest and most caricature-driven song. Aerosmith had a hand in creating this type of song, as they finished many of their 1970s albums with lighter fare, but with “Angel” they went just a tad too far and it is probably the weakest moment on the album. The Caribbean-influenced title track follows, which was co-written by guitarist Brad Whitford and is quite fun and entertaining.

Of the scores of artists that attempted to cover Beatles songs over the years, Aerosmith has done the best job. I’ve long opined, to much controversy, that their 1978 cover of “Come Together” was superior to the 1969 original, and the same may be true of “I’m Down” on this album, which adds some great sound to the famous Shea Stadium performance of the song by the Beatles 22 years earlier, which looked like a lot of fun but really couldn’t be heard over the screaming fans. The album concludes with “The Movie”, a weird instrumental credited to all five members of the band, but driven mainly by the pulsating bass line of Tom Hamilton, many added synthesized effects, and a spoken female voice in a foreign language.

Permanent Vacation is considered Aerosmith’s true comeback album and went on to sell over five million copies in the U.S. alone. It would reinvent Aerosmith through the rest of the 1980s and throughout the 1990s, as they pretty followed the same formula and found continued commercial success.

~
R.A.


1987 Images

 

The Lonesome Jubilee
by John Mellencamp

The Lonesome Jubilee by John MellancampThe Lonesome Jubilee is the ninth album by singer-songwriter John Mellencamp, who released many genres of music dating back to his days as “Johnny Cougar” in the mid 1970s. On this album, Mellencamp made a concerted effort to include rootsy, Americana instrumentation to complement the folk/rock style he had perfected through the 1980s. Unlike any previous album by Mellencamp, The Lonesome Jubilee was planned out in advance and was originally slated to be a double album. However, Mellancamp decided about half the songs he’d written didn’t fit the overall concept so they were shelved and the album was cut back to a single record.

Following his previous album, Scarecrow in 1985 which mainly celebrated roots rock, Mellencamp and his band went on an extensive tour which helped them jive well as a band. With this new album, they a very distinct vision of what they wanted it to sound like from the beginning, with much expansion musically and the addition of fiddle, accordions, richer background vocals, banjos, and more acoustic arrangements in the tradition of folk and country.

The album was also the first to be recorded at Mellencamp’s Indiana recording studio named Belmont Mall, built in 1984. It was co-produced by Don Gehman. Recording took about a “school year”, starting in September 1986 and finishing up in June 1987.


The Lonesome Jubilee by John Mellencamp
Released: August 24, 1987 (Merury)
Produced by:John Mellencamp & Don Gehman
Recorded: Belmont Mall Studio in Belmont, IN, September 1986–June 1987
Side One Side Two
Paper in Fire
Down and Out In Paradise
Check It Out
The Real Life
Cherry Bomb
We Are the People
Empty Hands
Hard Times for an Honest Man
Hotdogs and Hamburgers
Rooty Toot Toot
Primary Musicians
John Mellancamp – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Mike Wanchic – Guitars, Dobro
Larry Crane – Guitars, Mandolin, Harmonica
Tony Myers – Bass, Banjo
John Cascella – Keyboards, Accordion
Kenny Aronoff – Drums & Percussion

This album was one of Mellencamp’s most commercially successful worldwide, charting in ten countries. This was due to two top ten and one top twenty charting songs, starting with the opener “Paper In Fire”, an intense yet catchy song with good lyrical analogies and plenty of teaser riffs from the instrumentation being used on the album. This is followed by “Down and Out in Paradise”, a basic folk-like bitch fest from the perspective of the down-trodden above a decent rock arrangement.

“Check It Out” is the best song on the album with a unique chorus structure and features John Cascella on accordion, front and center with strong rhythm backing throughout, especially by drummer Kenny Aronoff. “The Real Life” may be the closest song on the album to the early eighties folk/rock which brought Mellencamp to stardom in the first place, especially on his 1982 breakthrough American Fool.

Fiddle player Lisa Germano shines on the album’s biggest hit “Cherry Bomb” on which she also provides vocals. Germano would become a permanent part of Mellencamp’s band until the mid 1990s. The song itself follows a nostalgic trip back into the past in the “my how times have changed” strain.

The second side starts with the dark acoustic “We Are the People”, which gives a nod to the tradition of Woody Guthrie, lead by the unique blend of chords of Mike Wanchic and banjo finger-picking by Tony Myers. “Empty Hands” was co-written by George Michael Green, a childhood friend of Mellencamp’s who collaborated with him throughout his career. “Hard Times For an Honest Man” is loosely dedicate to John’s Uncle Joe, who died of cancer around the time of the album. The album’s closer “Rooty Toot Toot” is an upbeat alt-country song that became a minor charting hit.

The Lonesome Jubilee may be Mellencamp’s strongest album, song for song and solidified his signature sound of Midwestern folk in the rock n roll era. Although he continued to have commercial success for many subsequent years, this 1987 album marked the peak of Mellencamp’s career.

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1987 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1987 albums.


Tunnel of Love
by Bruce Springsteen

Tunnel of Love by Bruce SpringsteenFollowing the multi-year, top of the pop world success of the studio album Born In the USA and the live compilation Live / 1975-85, Bruce Springsteen surprised a lot of listeners with the 1987 follow-up Tunnel of Love. This was Springsteen’s eighth studio album overall by Bruce Springsteen and the third (non-sequentially) to not feature his backing E Street Band, although several members did make cameos throughout this album and drummer Max Weinberg did play on most of the tracks. Thematically, the album turns inward especially when dealing the subject of relationships and love gone wrong, as it was written around the time that Springsteen’s first marriage was deteriorating. However, what makes this theme unique to this album is Springsteen’s ability to honesty examine both sides of the romantic relationship, and in the process implicate himself for his own infidelities.

The decision to follow-up a highly produced, blockbuster hit with something more subdued was a repeat of what Springsteen did earlier in the decade when he followed The River in 1980 with Nebraska in 1982. However, Tunnel of Love is not nearly as sparse as co-producers Jon Landau and Chuck Plotkin worked with Springsteen and using some synthesized soundscapes, electronic drums, backing vocalists, along with some E Street musicians, albeit in a a very subtle and understated way throughout.

Although the album topped the charts after its release and contained three Top 20 hits, it was not the album that the legions of crossover pop fans expected from Springsteen. Ultimately, Tunnel of Love would sell less than a third of the copies as Born In the USA.
 


Tunnel of Love by Bruce Springsteen
Released: October 9, 1987 (Columbia)
Produced by: Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau, & Chuck Plotkin
Recorded: January – July 1987
Side One Side Two
Ain’t Got You
Tougher Than the Rest
All That Heaven Will Allow
Spare Parts
Cautious Man
Walk Like a Man
Tunnel of Love
Two Faces
Brilliant Disguise
One Step Up
When You’re Alone
Valentine’s Day
Primary Musicians
Bruce Sprinsteen – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Harmonica
Danny Federici – Organ | Max Weinberg – Drums & Percussion

 
The album starts off a Capella with “Ain’t Got You”, which breaks into a rockabilly beat with deadened acoustic strings and laid back harmonica. This short diddy speaks to the hollowness of popular success when it can’t be shared with the one you love. “Tougher Than the Rest” follows with a great contrast to the opener, using electronic drums, synths, and heavily-reverbed vocals. The diversity of the material is further highlighted by “All That Heaven Will Allow”, an upbeat acoustic with a some surprising fine bass guitar by Springsteen. With a great melody and catchy hook make this an underrated classic and the best song on the first side of the album.

“Spare Parts” is almost “Outlaw Country” and therefore lacks much of the subtlety that is present on the much of the rest of the album. It even contains some explicitly “dirty” lyrics with,

Bobby says he’ll pull out, Bobby stays in / Janey had a baby, wasn’t any sin…”

“Cautious Man” is the closest nod back to the style the Nebraska album, as a sparse and haunting acoustic folk song, with the side-closing “Walk Like a Man” returns to childhood, with relative stories above a cool, laid back synth arrangement and strumming acoustic. Lyrically, it appears to be Springsteen speaking directly to his father. While the first side of the album is interesting, the second side is much more sonically enjoyable.
 

 
“Brilliant Disguise” is the best song on the album, with a great chord structure and melody throughout. This song kind of sums up the underlying theme of the entire album, deep thoughts and reflections about simple moments lone within the frenzied bubble of great fame and commercial success. Musically, the song contains some nice piano by Roy Bittan, accenting the subtle acoustic folk strumming and simple but elegant vocals.

The title track “Tunnel of Love” starts weirdly with an almost-dance beat before giving way to another calm synth riff that acts as canvas for descriptive, slightly poetic, and highly allegorical lyrics. It is about as pure a pop song as Springsteen even wrote and is highlighted by some excellent lead guitar by Nils Lofgren, who later replicates Springsteen’s howling towards the end. “Two Faces” is an adequate but typical pop song with a nice organ lead towards the end by Danny Federici, while “When You’re Alone” features some backing vocals by Springsteen’s saxophone player from the E Street Band, Clarence Clemons.

“One Step Up” is another gem on the second side with a good guitar riff and great vocal hook. This song is very understated with the barest of arrangement, but still had enough radio appeal to make it a pop hit. The closing song “Valentine’s Day” sums up the album nicely as a melancholy and confessional number, which compares heartbreak and fear of loss with death itself,

…they say that if die in your dreams, you die in your bed / but honey, last night I dreamed my eyes rolled back in my head…”

In one way, Tunnel of Love marked a return to the simple folk/Americana form that predated the phenomenal success of Born In the U.S.A.. In a contrasting other way, it also marked a severing point from the most musically lucrative years for Springsteen. Although he did tour in 1988 with the E Street Band to promote this album, he would not make another studio album with his backing band until 2002’s The Rising.

~
R.A.


1987 Images

 

One Way Home by The Hooters

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One Way Home by The HootersAfter two years of extensive touring in support of their first major label success, Nervous Night, the Philadelphia based group The Hooters returned to the studio to record One Way Home. Like their breakthrough predecessor, this album was co-produced by Rick Chertoff, a former executive at Columbia Records, along with the band’s primary songwriters Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman. Unlike its predecessor, One Way Home was heavily folk and Americana influenced and a testament to the Hooters desire to put the music first as well as experiment with the new influences and instruments they discovered during their extensive touring.

Although there are some similarities in songwriting and instrumentation, One Way Home is a clear step forward from Nervous Night in terms of production. That 1985 is heavy with slick, pop, eighties style production while this 1987 album, although still clearly catchy pop, is closer to the Hooters’ signature rootsy mixed sound.

Along with Bazilian and Hyman, the band consisted of rhythm guitarist John Lilly, bassist Andy King, and drummer Dave Uosikkinen, who had been with the band since its inception in 1980. Uosikkinen’s distinctive drumming is the backbone of The Hooters sound as he hits those drums hard and with an intensity that keeps the sound loud and right up front.
 


One Way Home by The Hooters
Released: July, 1987 (Columbia)
Produced by: Rick Chertoff, Eric Bazilian, & Rob Hyman
Recorded: Various Locations, 1986-1987
Side One Side Two
Satellite
Karla With a ‘K’
Johnny B
Graveyard Waltz
Fightin’ On the Same Side
One Way Home
Washington’s Day
Hard Rockin Summer
Engine 999
Band Musicians
Eric Bazilian – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Mandolin, Saxophone, Harmonica
Rob Hyman – Lead vocals, Keyboards, Accordion, Melodica
John Lilly – Guitars
Andy King – Bass
David Uosikkinen – Drums

 
The album begins with “Satellite”, an example of the Hooters ability to artfully blend modern synth sounds with traditional instruments. The song was inspired by a televangelist broadcasting his message and includes some space aged synthesizer sounds. “Karla with a K” takes this one step further by making a accordion sound really hip and fresh. The song, named after a hurricane, was inspired by a street performer the band met in Louisiana.

The band also included an updated version of “Fightin’ On the Same Side” from their independent album, Amore – still upbeat but with a slower tempo and the awesome addition of accordion. “Johnny B” is a haunting song about fighting addiction with an outstanding guitar solo and harmonica accents. This song remains very popular to this day with the band’s German fans. “Hard Rockin’ Summer” was inspired by a group of “heavy metal” kids who would hang out outside the band’s rehearsal space. The title song, “One Way Home” is perhaps the best on the album. It has a heavy reggae beat, similar to the Nervous Night version of “All You Zombies”. The lyrics are dark and spiritually cryptic similar to Zombies as well.
 

 
“Washington’s Day” is akin to a campfire sing a long and is rumored to be Bob Dylan’s favorite Hooters Song. It has a hook that can get a crowd swaying in unison. “Graveyard Waltz” has the same eerie feeling as that on the earlier “Where Do the Children Go?”, as both songs deal with death, depression, and thoughts of suicide.

Although One Way Home did not enjoy the mass commercial appeal of its predecessor, it did open up the European market for the band due to the popularity of “Satellite” across the Atlantic. In fact, after the band performed the song on Britain’s Top Of the Pops in December 1987, they were privileged to meet their idol Paul McCartney. A month earlier, on Thanksgiving night 1987, The Hooters headlined a show at The Spectrum in Philadelphia, which was broadcast live on MTV and Westwood One radio network simultaneously, perhaps the absolute pinnacle of their American success. Through the late 1980s and into the 1990s, the fan base for the band shifted even larger in Europe, especially in Sweden and Germany, while it declined in America.

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1987 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1987 albums

 

The House of Blue Light by Deep Purple

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The House of Blue Light by Deep PurpleThrough the years, Deep Purple went though a bunch of lineup changes with only drummer Ian Paice remaining with the band throughout all phases. In fact, there have been so many different versions of the band that a labeling system (MarkI, Mark II, Mark III, etc.) has been established, with most rock historians agreeing that the “Mark II” lineup was the most potent and significant. This Mark II lineup itself had three different phases, the first during the band’s most popular period 1969-1973, and the last for a single studio album in 1993. In between, the Mark II lineup had a significant “reunion” period from 1984 to 1988. The House of Blue Light came right in the heart of this Renaissance period for the band, adding a strong dose of classic rock legitimacy to an area dominated by modern trends and hair bands.

Following the surprise success of 1984’s Perfect Stranger, the band ran into difficulty getting the follow-up album recorded, with much of it re-recorded after unsatisfactory initial attempts. Bassist Roger Glover had spent much of the late seventies and early eighties working as a producer and began providing this service to the band once the Mark II lineup reunited. He chose a remote theatre in Northern Vermont to record the album using a mobile recording unit to try and find the appropriate atmosphere for the creative process. Still the band struggled to gel during recording and production and some earlier personal rifts began to resurface.

When the album was released in early 1987, there were distinct versions between LP/cassette and CD releases with the CD version offering some extensions to song lengths. Curiously, when the album was remastered for further digital publication, the shorter LP versions of the songs were preserved for future listeners.

 


The House of Blue Light by Deep Purple
Released: January 17, 1987 (Atco)
Produced by: Roger Glover & Deep Purple
Recorded: The Playhouse, Stowe, Vermont, 1986
Side One Side Two
Bad Attitude
The Unwritten Law
Call Of the Wild
Mad Dog
Black and White
Hard Lovin’ Woman
The Spanish Archer
Strangeways
Mitzi Dupree
Dead or Alive
Band Musicians
Ian Gillan – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Ritchie Blackmore – Guitars
John Lord – Keyboards
Roger Glover – Bass
Ian Paice – Drums, Percussion

 
On the first side of The House of Blue Light, the band seems to make a concerted effort to nail an ’80s-flavored rock radio hit and many have compared these songs to those by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore‘s band Rainbow, which had a lifespan between the two major Mark II runs. This is especially true with the bouncy song “Call Of the Wild”, an accessible keyboard driven tune with refined vocal hooks. “Mad Dog” and “Black and White” further this trend as upbeat, straight-forward eighties rockers that, frankly, could have been done by scores of bands less talented than Deep Purple.

One song that stands out is “The Unwritten Law”, which is intense, drum-driven, and dramatic. Vocalist Ian Gillan hearkens back to his dynamic younger years with vocal improvisation while Paice carries the day and adds further evidence that he is one of rock n roll’s most under-appreciated drummers. The album’s opener “Bad Attitude” features keyboardist Jon Lord and his signature sound of playing a Hammond organ through a Marshall stack to form one of the coolest rock tones.
 

 
The second side of the album is actually much more interesting. After the intense, riff-driven opener “Hard Lovin; Woman” comes the excellent “Spanish Archer”, with a surreal Eastern flavor provided by Blackmore. With all members player and singing with an intense, reckless abandonment, this song is a bona fide classic for any era of Deep Purple. “Strangeways” follows as a lyric-driven screed on society, which is cool and entertaining nonetheless.

The bluesy “Mitzi DuPree” is one of the more unique songs on any Deep Purple album as Gillen guides the listener through a literal story about an exotic woman over some tavern-style piano by Lord and cool bass by Glover.

Although the album was ultimately a commercial disappointment. the music of The House of Blue Light has stood up to the test of time well. Deep Purple kept their momentum through 1988 with the successful live album Nobody’s Perfect, before personal issues lead to Gillan leaving the band again for a short spell.

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1987 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1987 albums.

 

Big Generator by Yes

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Big Generator by YesThe 1980s version of the classic rock band Yes put out interesting, modern rock oriented albums which differed starkly from their prog rock efforts of the 1970s. Despite the shifts in personnel which made many loyal fans suspect of the material’s legitimacy, these albums were some of the most solid put out by a “second British invasion” band in the eighties. 1987’s Big Generator was the third of these and, perhaps, the most potent (even though it didn’t sell as well as 1983’s 90125) and it would ultimately become their last album to chart songs. This album was the high point of the tenor of guitarist Trevor Rabin, who in addition to his role as guitari,t wrote a large amount of the material, provided co-lead vocals on several tracks and took over as producer during the later stages of the album’s production.

Big Generator was recorded in three different countries and took four years to make due mainly to creative differences and shifting production duties. Trevor Horn, a former band member and producer on 90125, started out as the project’s producer but departed after a few months of the band recording in Italy. Next the band recorded in London with producer Paul De Villiers, with the most fruitful of these recordings being the complex vocal-driven “Rhythm of Love”. Finally, the production moved to Los Angeles for the final stages under Rabin.

Despite all the production turmoil, the result was a highly energetic and entertaining album that was successful in blending accessible and commercially songs with flourishes of musical virtuosity, which was the longtime trademark of the band. There is also a great mix of song styles and tenor, making the listening experience very diverse and interesting.
 


Big Generator by Yes
Released: September 17, 1987 (Atco)
Produced by: Trevor Horn, Paul De Villiers, Trevor Rabin, & Yes
Recorded: Various Studios in England, Italy, & USA, 1985-1987
Side One Side Two
Rhythm of Love
Big Generator
Shoot High, Aim Low
Almost Like Love
Love Will Find a Way
Final Eyes
I’m Running
Holy Lamb
Band Musicians
Jon Anderson – Lead Vocals
Trevor Rabin – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Tony Kaye – Keyboards
Chris Squire – Bass, Vocals
Alan White – Drums

 
The opener “Rhythm of Love” contains some of the best harmonies every put on tape outside of the Beach Boys. This complex vocal ensemble during the intro and chorus refrain turns an otherwise typical late 1980s pop song into a very unique and enjoyable listen. On this track lead vocalist Jon Anderson shares the vocals to an extent with Rabin, a pattern which ids common on the album. “Rhythm of Love” would become the last charting single for the band in 1988. The title song “Big Generator” follows with as a more standard rock song but with some added elements that make it unequivocally Yes. There are low key soundscapes during the verses, the orchestral-hit effects during the choruses, it also contains a very odd, short guitar lead which is almost out of tune with minimal backing instrumentation.

“Shoot High, Aim Low” was one of the first songs recorded for the album while Horn was still the producer in Italy. This is a well-crafted and accessible for a slow and dramatic tune, held together by a crisp and steady beat by drummer Alan White and accented by some lead keyboard riffs by Tony Kaye. The 7-minute song never really breaks out of its original pattern, in vast contrast to much by Yes through their career. Still, it never lags or drags due to some interesting counter riffs of flamenco guitar and lead vocals which literally trade lines during the verses. “Almost Like Love” finishes off the first side with a foray into the world party rock, as a strong and fast, upbeat tune with brass accents and a clear hook.

“Love Will Find a Way” is a solo composition by Rabin which he had originally written for Stevie Nicks before deciding to use it on this Yes album. It starts with a string quartet intro before breaking into a crisp rock guitar riff. It is a very accessible and radio-friendly pop song with Rabin firmly in the lead vocally aside form a counter-post-chorus with Anderson offering a alternate take on the hook. The ballad “Final Eyes” is the best song on the Big Generator. It begins with a heavily effect-driven choppy guitar riff before breaking into the main 12-string acoustic riff in a beautifully blended transition. Starting with excellent lead vocals by Anderson, everything on this song is melodic and romantic with just the right proportions of sonic decor in differing parts to keep it fresh and exciting throughout. There is just a short bit of new age lull at about the 5 minute mark, which may seem out-of place until the song reprises strongly about 30 seconds later to a climatic finish which dissolves into a rather upbeat acoustic solo fade-out.

“I’m Running” begins with a crisp bass riff by Chris Squire, building with Caribbean beats and overtones make for an interesting intro. A marimba-led verse leads into lots of different sections where the band seems to attempt a reprise of their prog-rock past. However, this may be a bit superfluous as they are repeated in differing lights and the song ends up too long by perhaps two minutes. “Holy Lamb (Song for Harmonic Convergence)” is a solo composition by Anderson which is melodic and pleasant enough but a bit of a letdown as a quasi-religious ballad to conclude the album, leaving the listener a bit unsatisfied in the climax.

After Big Generator, the personnel shifts continued with the group actually splitting in two when Anderson organized a reunion project with three former members of Yes from the 1970s with the short-lived group Anderson, Bruford, Wakemen & Howe, who released a single studio album in 1989. However, these two factions united for a one-of-a-kind Yes album in 1991 called Union which included eight members of Yes from previous eras.

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1987 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1987 albums.

 

Appetite For Destruction by Guns n Roses

Buy Appetite For Destruction

Appetite for Destruction by Guns n Roses Guns n’ Roses arrived like a tsunami on the rock scene with their strong 1987 debut, Appetite for Destruction, a hard rock album which blew the glam out of the hair-band dominated scene. Amazingly, the album was well received in its day both critically and commercially (a rarity for hard rock bands), and it reached the top of the Billboard album chart. At the time, this debut album was considered Hardcore, dirty, and mean due to the nasty edge of their songs and the explicit lyrics about drug abuse, cheap women, and crime. It was also created during their own  fountainhead of creativity. During this period in late 1986, the band would write much of the best material of their entire career, not only for this album, but for hit future albums as well.

Guns n’ Roses was formed from the remnants of three Los Angeles area bands that had moderate success in the early 1980s. Two of these, L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose, would be morphed to give the new band their name. The third, Road Crew, provided the band with their rhythm section along with their dynamic guitarist Slash. In late 1986, the band recorded an ill-conceived EP named Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, which was actually recorded in a studio with overdubbed crowd noises. For their debut LP, the band shopped for a big name producer before settling on Mike Clink, who spent untold hours with Slash perfecting his guitar tone, which would be a signature of this album and compliment the more traditional riffs of fellow guitarist Izzy Stradlin.

Lead vocalist Axl Rose wrote many of the song lyrics about his first hand accounts of his journey to and struggles in L.A, depicting the ugly side of the “city of angels”. Among this group of songs were later hits “You Could Be Mine”, “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry”, which were actually omitted from Appetite for Destruction. The band took great pains in forging their image for this album from the album cover representing each member to the re-labeling of the albums sides “G” and “R”.
  


Appetite For Destruction by Guns n Roses
Released: July 21, 1987 (Geffen)
Produced by: Mike Clink
Recorded: Los Angles, August−December 1986
Side One Side Two
Welcome To the Jungle
It’s So Easy
Night Train
Out Ta Get Me
Mr. Brownstone
Paradise City
My Michelle
Think About You
Sweet Child O Mine
You’re Crazy
Anything Goes
Rocket Queen
Group Musicians
Axl Rose – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Slash – Lead Guitars
Izzy Stradlin – Guitars, Vocals
Duff McKagan – Bass
Steve Adler – Drums

 

Appetite for Destruction is boosted right away with the fantastic opener “Welcome To the Jungle”. This strong, multi-part song contains a crisp and fast riff which guides the listener on an adventure ride through the chaotic “jungle” of this song. Rose screams and chants in-between more melodic and harmonized lines with raw honesty that helped make this song a surprising radio hit.

Much of the rest of the first side is made up of short, thematic songs “It’s So Easy” was co-written by bassist Duff McKagan and band collaborator West Arkeen about finding groupies to support them during their leaner days. “Night Train” has a vibe like early Aerosmith and became a minor hit, while “Out Ta Get Me” is more anthemic and trite with lyrics that reflect on Rose’s constant trouble with the law as a youth in Indiana.

Guns N Roses

“Mr. Brownstone” is the best pure song on the side, with choppy, marching rhythm leading into the darkness of heroin abuse. It acts as a stark contrast to the following “Paradise City”, with a synth-driven intro and a chanting hook line. This song was written by Stradlin, McKagan, and Slash while riding in the back of a van on the way home from a gig.
  

  
The second side contains the top gem on the album, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. The song became the band’s first and only number-one single due to highly, accessible mass appeal lyrics written about Rose’s then girlfriend. But the true beauty of this song is the signature harmonized guitar riffs by Slash, which both nicely subdivide the verses and spare the song from the dreaded “power ballad” status (although, if ever there was a positive example of that term, it is here). On the back end, drummer Steve Adler drove the song through the many passages that make it so interesting.

“My Michelle” is a forgotten gem on the album, with a great intro that breaks out with all abandonment and the dark and memorable opening lyrics;

Your daddy works in porno, now that mommy’s not around
She used to love her heroin but now she’s underground…”

“You’re Crazy” was originally written as an acoustic song, re-arranged as a standard electric rock song for this album, and then later recorded as another acoustic for the 1988 EP G N’ R Lies. The album concludes with a couple of the band’s earliest songs. “Anything Goes” was written in 1981 for Hollywood Rose, while “Rocket Queen” was one of the first compositions by the newly formed Guns n Roses in 1985.

Appetite For Destruction instantly established Guns n Roses as a headlining band and gave them momentum well into the next decade. Although they would have subsequent albums, most especially the double release of Use Your Illusion I amp; II in 1991, this band would never again reach this level of importance and breakthrough originality.

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1987 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1987 albums.

 

Cloud Nine by George Harrison

Cloud Nine by George HarrisonAfter a long hiatus from the regular recording process, former Beatle George Harrison teamed up with former Electric Light Orchestra front man Jeff Lynne to produce Cloud Nine. This was Harrison’s tenth solo studio album but his first in five years and his last to be released in his lifetime. The album was a surprise, re-establishing Harrison as a radio pop artist as well as a recipient of much critical acclaim. The album fuses much of  Harrison’s signature sound along with Lynne’s richly produced sonic landscapes (which were themselves derived from late-era Beatles) along with some of the slick rock and synth qualities of contemporary 1980s production.

After the lukewarm reception to his 1982 album Gone Troppo, Harrison grew frustrated with the music business and suspended his recording career. He tried his hand at film making and contributed a few single songs to soundtracks and other artist’s projects. He made a rare public appearance at a tribute to Carl Perkins in late 1985 along with former band mate Ringo Starr and friend Eric Clapton which rekindled his desire to make music again.

Production for Cloud Nine began in late 1986 at Harrison’s home studio in England. Along with Lynne, both Starr and Clapton contributed to the album as well as other major recording artists such as Gary Wright and Elton John, who contributed on piano but not vocals as he was on his own career hiatus recovering from vocal surgery at the time. The end result was a sort of “comeback” album for Harrison, who was well aware of this fact. He inserted many vintage references in the lyrics and musical styles and posed with one of his first guitars, a 1957 Gretsch 6128 Duo Jet, for the cover shot.
 


Cloud Nine by George Harrison
Released: November 2, 1987 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: George Harrison & Jeff Lynne
Recorded: FPSHOT, Oxfordshire, England, January−March 1987
Side One Side Two
Cloud 9
That’s What It Takes
Fish On the Sand
Just For Today
This Is Love
When We Was Fab
Devil’s Radio
Someplace Else
Wreck of the Hesperus
Breath Away from Heaven
Got My Mind Set On You
Primary Musicians
George Harrison – Guitars, Keyboards, Sitar, Lead Vocals
Jeff Lynne – Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Vocals
Gary Wright – Piano
Jim Horn – Saxophone
Ringo Starr – Drums, Percussion

 
Harrison’s slow and steady title song, “Cloud 9”, starts things off in a trance-like fashion with not much real movement musically but with plenty of sonic décor from the signature Harrison slide guitar to sharp and short brass accents. A collaboration with Lynne and Wright called “That’s What It Takes” follows as a more traditional pop song. This song is acoustic and upbeat but with a definite melancholy edge and signature background vocals by Lynne.

“Fish On the Sand” is the album’s first foray into synth-driven music with near programmic bass and drum beat accented by a simple electric riff and some nice chord progressions. “Just For Today” is a minor key piano ballad by Harrison in the fashion usually reserved for ex-band mates John Lennon and Paul McCartney, while “This Is Love” is a pleasant and accessible pop song with great lead guitars and trends towards the song style of the subsequent Traveling Wilburys project. In fact, the original B-side for this single was “Handle w/ Care”, which itself was the lead track and single for Traveling Wilburys.
 

 
The most interesting song on Cloud Nine is “When We Was Fab”, a collaboration between Harrison and Lynne, which has a very ELO edge while making an overt nod to Harrison’s days with the Beatles. It is complete with many string arrangements, Harrison’s slide guitar, rich vocal harmonies and a sitar section at the end of the song. The lyrics make direct references to original Beatles songs as well as inside stories and the song reached the Top 40 on both sides of the Atlantic.

The album’s second side starts with “Devil’s Radio”, a straight out piano-driven rocker with measured guitar interludes and lyrics which express Harrison’s general disdain for the media. “Someplace Else” is a pleasant, acoustic ballad which is a fine listen but contains fairly typical subject matter of melancholy songs. On the contrary, “Wreck of the Hesperus” is an upbeat and fun song with lyrics that invoke various landmarks around the world but the following “Breath Away from Heaven” is an ill-advised, almost painful experiment, which uses many 1980s style synths in its methodical choppiness.
 

 
It is almost a shame that the final song on Harrison’s final solo studio album during his life was written by someone else, as “Got My Mind Set on You” was written by Rudy Clark for James Ray in 1962. But that being said, this is a fun pop song which Harrison performs masterfully and squeezes every ounce of entertainment from this beat-driven simple song. The song features great grawling sax by Jim Horn and it went on to become Harrison’s third and final #1 hit. In fact, as of 2012, “Got My Mind Set on You” was the last #1 hit by any former Beatle.

Although Cloud Nine was the last solo album released in Harrison’s lifetime, it wasn’t his final project and he and Lynne moved on to form The Traveling Wilburys, who released a brilliant debut album in 1988. Harrison spent over a decade on his final album, Brainwashed, released in 2002, a year after his death.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1987 album.

1987 Images

 

Tango In the Night by Fleetwood Mac

Tango In the Night by Fleetwood MacTango In the Night is the fifth and final studio album by successful quintet that brought sustained stardom for Fleetwood Mac. Like their previous four albums, it found popular success driven by the angst and inner turmoil of the band and resulted in the parting of guitarist Lindsey Buckingham soon after its release. The album went on to become the band’s best selling since Rumours a decade earlier, which was one of the top selling albums of all time. Somewhat ironically, the album sprang from a Buckingham solo project, meant to be his third solo album, and the soon-to-depart Buckingham ended up with the bulk of the songwriting credits on the album.

Following the band’s previous album Mirage in 1982, most members dedicated some time to respective solo careers. Vocalist Stevie Nicks released two albums, while Buckingham and Keyboardist Christine McVie each released one during this era. All met a measure of commercial success, which prompted rumours of a band breakup.

However, by 1985 the band had reconvened for this new album, with Buckingham and Richard Dashut co-producing. Together, they forged a unique sound that used just the right amount of 1980s-style synthesizers along with vast use of diverse rhythms, driven by drummer Mick Fleetwood. The result was a commercially successful album that was also distinct from anything the band had produced previously.
 


Tango In the Night by Fleetwood Mac
Released: April 13, 1987 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Lindsey Buckingham & Richard Dashut
Recorded: November 1985 – March 1987
Side One Side Two
Big Love
Seven Wonders
Everywhere
Caroline
Tango In the Night
Mystified
Little Lies
Family Man
Welcome to the Room…Sara
Isn’t It Midnight
When I See You Again
You and I (Part 2)
Band Musicians
Lindsey Buckingham – Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
Christine McVie – Keyboards, Vocals  |  Stevie Nicks – Vocals
John McVie – Bass | Mick Fleetwood – Drums, Percussion

 
The album kicks off with Buckingham’s “Big Love” with its unique driving rhythms and decorated cool soundscapes. The intense, shouting lead vocals are flanked by overdubbed guitars and vocals harmonies and chants throughout. Nicks’ “Seven Wonders” provides an immediate contrast to follow. Co-written by Sandy Stewart, the song was an immediate pop radio hit. Christine McVie’s “Everywhere” completes the initial circuit of pop songs in the style that McVie had composed so often through the 1970s and 1980s. It is decorated with great vocals and harmonies, nice keyboard riffs, and just a touch of mystical sound sequences.

A trifecta of Buckingham penned songs rounds off the first side. “Caroline” is percussion driven with African beats at the start before morphing into a more Caribbean rhythm for the verses and choruses. The title song, “Tango In the Night” is a moody, methodical rocker with distinctive sections. “Mystified” was co-written by Christine McVie and contains Baroque style keys over yet another drum beat.
 

 
“Little Lies” was written by Christine McVie and her current husband Eddy Quintela. Ironically, she kept the surname of her previous husband, bass player John McVie, who has a strong presence in the song. The song contains great vocal parts for each of the band’s singers along with bent-note keyboard effects for its signature riff. The song reached #4 on the Billboard charts in the US and #5 on the UK charts.
The ill-advised “Family Man” follows as a cartoonish 1980s pop caricature.

Stevie Nicks’ “Welcome to the Room…Sara” is a pleasant and moderate ballad with a strong beat but melancholy sentiments about her time in rehab. Her acoustic ballad “When I See You Again” contains a spare arrangement and some duet Buckingham vocals towards the end. “You and I, Part II” concludes the album as a sequel to a non-album B-side to the single “Big Love”.

Shortly after the release of Tango In the Night, tensions came to a head and Buckingham departed the band prior to their scheduled tour in support of the album. Although this classic lineup of Buckingham/Nicks/Fleetwood/McVie/McVie would reunite a decade later for the live album The Dance in 1997, they would not again record a studio album.

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R.A.