Full Moon Fever by Tom Petty

1989 Album of the Year

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Full Moon Fever by Tom PettyThis week marked the 25th anniversary of Full Moon Fever, which is listed the first official “solo” album by Tom Petty. However, the circumstances surrounding the production of this album are far too unique to really classify it as solo, especially when you consider the large contributions by members from both of Petty’s (then) current groups – The Heartbreakers and The Traveling Wilburys. From that latter group came Jeff Lynne, who co-wrote and co-produced the album, which became Petty’s greatest critical and commercial success of his career, spawning seven radio singles which kept material from the album on the airwaves for years to come. More impressively, the material from this album has stood the test of time.  This was the major deciding factor in our naming Full Moon Fever as Classic Rock Review’s Album of the Year for 1989.

While Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had found top-level fame in the early 1980s, they began to stagnate a bit by the middle part of the decade. Their 1987 release Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) had crept towards the metallic eighties pop style, deviating from the Southern-flavored roots pop/rock which had forged the band’s earlier sound. Early in 1988, Petty decided to record a solo album in the vein of what Bruce Springsteen and Phil Collins were doing outside of their respective groups. Petty brought in Lynne as a collaborator, but soon after they got started on this album, they were asked by George Harrison to help him record some B-side material for singles from his most recent album, Cloud Nine. This simple goal soon ballooned into the forming of the “super-group” , Traveling Wilburys, to which Petty and Lynne dedicated much of the remainder of that year in producing the fantastic album ,Volume One (which also happened to be our Album of the Year, from 1988). The experience of working with this group of legendary musicians had a profound effect on the direction of Petty’s solo album once work on that resumed.

The third producer and major contributor to Full Moon Fever was Mike Campbell, Petty’s guitarist from the Heartbreakers. Although Petty’s decision to do a solo album outside of the Heartbreakers was not received very well by the group members, all but one contributed in some way to this album. The recording process was reportedly laid back and low-key, with Petty finding contributing roles for many musician friends that stopped by Campbell’s garage studio where much of the recording took place. Like many great albums, there were some recorded tracks which did not make the final cut. These included the single b-sides “Down the Line” and “Don’t Treat Me Like A Stranger”, “Waiting for Tonight” featuring the female group The Bangles, and “Indiana Girl”, an early version of “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, which became a hit five years later.


Full Moon Fever by Tom Petty
Released: April 24, 1989 (MCA)
Produced by: Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, ↦ Mike Campbell
Recorded: Various Studios, Los Angeles, 1988-1989
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Free Fallin’
I Won’t Back Down
Love Is a Long Road
A Face in the Crowd
Runnin’ Down a Dream
I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better
Yer So Bad
Depending On You
The Apartment Song
Alright for Now
A Mind with a Heart of Its Own
Zombie Zoo
Tom Petty – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Mike Campbell – Guitars, Mandolin, Keyboards
Jeff Lynne – Bass, Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Phil Jones – Drums, Percussion

Full Moon Fever by Tom Petty

 

The album commences with “Free Fallin'”, which would ultimately become the most popular song associated with Petty. With beautifully blended acoustic guitars and wistful, sarcastic lyrics. Using vivid scenery from California’s San Fernando Valley, Petty speaks of breaking free from a past love, but is freely falling a good thing or not? Although the song never leaves the core chord structure, there is much variety to vocal inflections and various guitar riff variations and arrangements.

Not far behind in popularity is “I Won’t Back Down”, a simple song about things worth fighting for with a syncopated bass line, vibrant guitar licks and good harmonies on the chorus. Harrison joins in along with Howie Epstein, making the lineup simultaneously three-fifths Wilburys and three-fifths Heartbreakers on the recording. The first single released from Full Moon Fever, the song reached the Top 20 on the charts. Co-written by Campbell, “Love Is a Long Road” employs classic Heartbreakers’ style rock and roll. With driving guitars backed with hard driving drum and bass and sharp production, the song continues the theme of salvation through fighting for things worthwhile.

After the calm and steady Americana of “A Face in the Crowd”, a song of anonymity with little variation, the album reaches its dynamic climax with “Runnin’ Down a Dream”. Frenzied rock compared to the rest of this album, this riff-driven tune sounds like a relentless car chase with some outstanding guitar solos and a signature reference to Del Shannon. The song reached the top of the Billboard Album Rock Tracks and has since found a residency on classic rock stations. Following “Running Down a Dream” on CD versions, Petty gives a tongue-in-cheek monologue about the marking of the end of the first side of the LP. .

While not as punchy and driven as the original “Side 1”, the songs on the second side shift towards more personal themes. The cover “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” is a nod to one of Petty’s favorite bands, The Byrds, with doubled vocals and twangy guitars, its nothing new or different from the original, but it does introduce younger Petty fans to one of his influences. The Wilburys sound returns with “Yer So Bad”, an upbeat acoustic folk tune with layered guitars, harmonized vocals, some sarcastically cute lyrics and a catchy chorus. “Depending On You” is a bit Beatlesque, with its toe tapping beat and a chorus that sticks in your head, while “The Apartment Song” is a throwaway,  but fun with an interesting ‘interlude’.

“Alright for Now” may be the best forgotten gem on the album, as a short and sweet lullaby performed on acoustic. The song shows the true range of compositions Petty and Lynne utilized on this album. “A Mind With a Heart of It’s Own” is another highlight of side two, with a jangly Bo Diddley beat and an overall retro feel to the production and vocals. The lyrics on this song are glimpses of memories and connections tangentially strung together. The closer ,”Zombie Zoo” ,may be considered Tom Petty’s “Monster Mash”. Set in a nightclub with an overall theme of substance vs. style, with modern sock-hop rock, penny whistle organ, and rich sound and vocal arrangements. The late Roy Orbison even joined in on backing vocals on this song.  This is the closest the production comes to having an ELO-type vibe, showing Lynn’s great restraint at refraining from past production practices.

Full Moon Fever peaked in the Top Ten on both sides af the Atlantic and has gone well past 5× platinum on both continents. The following year, Petty returned to the Wilburys, releasing their second album oddly titled Volume 3 (leaving many to call this album “Traveling wilburys, Volume 2”). In 1991, Petty reunited with the Heartbreakers and found renewed success with Into the Great Wide Open, as Petty’s success cascaded well into the next decade.

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1989 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums and our Album of the Year from 1989.

 

The Real Thing by Faith No More

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The Real Thing by Faith No MoreFaith No More found their signature sound and commercial breakthrough with The Real Thing in 1989. This was the first release by the band to feature vocalist Mike Patton, who brought with him an experimental along with dynamic vocals. The rest of the group followed suit, expanding their sound to fuse such diverse genres as heavy metal, progressive rock, hip hop, funk, jazz, and soul. The end result made The Real Thing the group’s most successful album commercially and immensely influential to the emerging sound of the 1990s, with over half the albums tracks covered by later artists, and many fusion groups sprouting up over those years.

Faith No More was formed in 1981 by bassist Billy Gould and drummer Mike Bordin. They recorded two albums with vocalist Chuck Mosley, who joined the band in 1983. The debut We Care a Lot was released in 1985 with Introduce Yourself coming in 1987. The following year Mosley was fired due to “erratic behavior” which included falling asleep on stage during a live show.

Patton was recruited soon after and took part in the majority of the lyric writing for The Real Thing in early 1989, although much of the music was composed while Mosley was still with the group. Beyond the eleven album tracks, the recording sessions in Sausalito, California also yielded extra songs, including “The Grade” and “The Cowboy Song” which later appeared on singles and later albums and “The Perfect Crime” which appeared on the soundtrack to the film Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.


The Real Thing by Faith No More
Released: June 20, 1989 (Slash)
Produced by: Matt Wallace & Faith No More
Recorded: Studio D, Sausalito, CA, December 1988–January 1989
Track Listing Primary Musicians
From Out of Nowhere
Epic
Falling to Pieces
Surprise! You’re Dead!
Zombie Eaters
The Real Thing
Underwater Love
The Morning After
Woodpecker from Mars
War Pigs
Edge of the World
Mike Patton – Lead Vocals
James Martin – Guitars
Roddy Bottum – Keyboards
Bill Gould – Bass
Mike Bordin – Drums

The Real Thing by Faith No More

 

The album’s opener “From Out of Nowhere” is a straight up rocker with steady, driving rhythm and good and interesting chorus hook. Right from the start, Patton’s unique vocals stick out, making this song’s title a profound statement in of itself, and the thick instrumental arrangement is led by the coloring of keyboardist Roddy Bottum, who co-wrote the song. All five band members played a part in composing “Epic”, which would go to be Faith No More’s most popular song. From the hip-hop chant above the infectious bounce of Gould and Bordin’s rhythm during the rap-influenced verses, to the the rock drama of the chorus hooks, driven by guitarist James Martin. Although Martin really doesn’t perform any traditional leads, his great measured guitar riff during the elongated outro is a real highlight as it dissolves into the slow and distant classical-influenced piano coda by Bottum.

“Falling to Pieces” begins with Gould and Bordin’s bass and drum intro with some swirling synths this time. This too gives way to the heavy funk of the verse. This song also became a minor hit, reaching #28 on the Mainstream Rock charts. “Surprise! You’re Dead!” dates back to the 1970s, written by Martin when he was with a group called Agents of Misfortune. This short, speed metal screed is vicious and strong with an indelible message, but not all that focused in composition. “Zombie Eaters” goes the other direction, with the classically picked acoustic guitar by Martin during opening verses setting the soft and spooky moods. This song eventually morphs into something much heavier in the way a loud car starts its engine and takes off, but has little more of substance beyond that.

The interesting percussive intro by Bordin persists through long and dramatic first three verses of “The Real Thing”. This title tune later breaks into something more standard in heavy rock, but the multiple voices by Patton give it a rich kaleidoscope of moods throughout its eight minute duration. “Underwater Love” returns to a more standard, upbeat, radio-friendly rock, an oasis of this in the dramatic later part of the album. Gould provides more funky bass through the song proper, with a nice pattern to work in the dissolving outro. “The Morning After” is an overlooked gem with choppy bass and drum rhythms throughout with Martin working a counter guitar, first as a picked motif then later as driving heavy metal. Still, song never fully dives into the head-basing realm, just dabbles with it while staying melodic and interesting.

The most interesting piece on the album is the instrumental “Woodpecker from Mars”, which nearly rivals some of the great classic prog rock instrumentals. It starts with dramatic choppy piano and surreal synth until Martin’s heavy guitars and Gould’s buzzy bass bring the piece to a whole other dynamic level. The second section is slow and droning but just as powerful as Martin masterfully employs feedback. This alternates back and forth with each iteration becoming more intense overall, a wild psychedelic ride which really helps elevate this album to the next level – acts as perfect into to the Balck sabbath cover “War Pigs”. Patton’s vocals work well with this, while the crisp rock of the group gives it a real edge without ever abandoning the vibe of the original Sabbath song. The album ends with “Edge of the World”, a jazzy and calm piece led by Bottum’s nightclub-inspired piano. The song’s chorus almost brings it up to a full rock arrangement while lyrically this song seems to focus on an old pervert and the object of his affection. A distant saxophone joins the arrangement as the song and album fades away.

Although released in mid-1989, The Real Thing didn’t really peak on the charts until late 1990. On their next album, Angel Dust, Faith No More displayed an even more experimental effort, but did not last long beyond that as the group disbanded by the mid 1990s.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums.

1989 Images

 

Let Love Rule by Lenny Kravitz

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Let Love Rule by Lenny KravitzWhile only a moderate success in the United States, the 1989 debut album by Lenny Kravitz became an instant and huge hit elsewhere in the world. Let Love Rule mixed Kravitz’s musical influences, which included rock, soul, funk, and folk, into a contemporary blend that offered something profound and unique to pop music in 1989. A rarity for a newcomer working on his debut, Kravitz self-produced and also played played most of the instruments on the album, which contain all original compositions. Some childhood friends along with established pop and rock stars were also brought in to add some of the finishing touches to the album.

Born in New York, Kravitz is the son of television producer Sy Kravitz and actress Roxy Roker, who brought the family to Los Angeles when she landed a role on the television show The Jeffersons. Through his youth in Bevery Hills, Kravitz was influenced by everything from classical and opera to classic rock n’ roll, in the vein of Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Jimi Hendrix, and The Who. Between performing at the Hollywood Bowl with a boys choir to acting in television commercials, Kravitz was no stranger to the limelight. In 1985, Kravitz met keyboardist/bassist Henry Hirsch and the two started composing some original material. However, major record labels were less than receptive to the music because it did not fit neatly into “black” or “white” genres.

With this new dilemma, Kravitz and Hirsh began making their own demos. The two also had shared an interest in vintage instruments and recording equipment, which ultimately helped forge their sound. With a quality demo in hand, five major labels were suddenly interested and Kravitz eventually signed with Virgin Records in early 1989.


Pump by Aerosmith
Released: September 19, 1989 (Virgin)
Produced by: Lenny Kravitz
Recorded: 1988-1989
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Sittin’ On Top of the World
Let Love Rule
Freedom Train
Precious Love
I Build This Garden
Fear
Does Anybody out There
Mr. Cab Driver
Rosemary
Be
Blues for Sister Someone
Empty Hands
Flower Child
Lenny Kravitz – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Drums, Percussion
Adam Widoff – Guitars
Henry Hirsch – Piano, Organ
Karlly Gould – Bass
Chad Smith – Drums

Let Love Rule by Lenny Kravitz

 

From the calm strummed acoustic intro to the quarky, bass and clav body of the song, “Sittin’ On Top of the World” is an asymmetric song to commence the album. While starting potently, the song oddly kind of peters out at the conclusion. The title track “Let Love Rule” offers more stability, at least so far as the rhythm and beat goes. A quasi-Beatles vibe persists throughout the early part of the song with good vocals and a catchy hook. An extended saxophone solo by Karl Denson is accompanied by a subtle horn arrangement and joins the cool organ with popping bass out front with wailing vocals, all giving the latter part of this track a definitive Soul music feel. Although not credited, drums were provided by fellow Southern Californian Alex Van Halen.

“Freedom Train” is almost like a slow rap with distant, filtered guitar, a bass riff, and plenty of synthesized percussion and chops. Overall, a very cool and original song with great texture, albeit very little lyrical substance. “Precious Love” is a ballad with organ, piano, bass and a steady drum beat holding together backing to desperate, soulful vocals. An extended lead section during the bridge includes both an excellent piano lead and effective organ chops by keyboardist Hirsch. “I Build This Garden” is nearly religious in lyric, while containing a driving rock guitar riff blended with strings, in another Beatles sonic tribute. Melodic vocals are almost detached from the backing march, but still jive beautifully and later features include great electric piano riffs, a Gospel choir hymn, and a tremendous guitar lead in outro.

The middle part of the album turns towards a darker and more pessimistic tone. “Fear” is pleasant enough to listen towith a Stevie Wonder-like funk groove and vocal style, while the lyrics paint a doomy apocalyptic environment. Some musical features in this song, include a harmonized vocal “sang” through a guitar talk box along with a persistent clavichord. “Does Anybody Out There” is the first of a couple of overtly self-righteuos themes, again great musically, but a little bit too preachy lyrically by this point. The song starts with a quiet soft electric piano, which breaks into calm but strong guitar rock and very low-key vocals. The album hits a nadir with “Mr. Cab Driver”, obviously Lou Reed-influenced musically, but totally over the top lyrically as it attacks the working class to satisfy the latest Hollywood agenda in an almost hate-inciting method.

However, the album recovers nicely with “Rosemary”, a beautiful and exquisite song of hope driven by the simple acoustic of Kravitz and decorated by the bluesy harmonica of Lee Jaffe. With strong Christian religious themes, the song speaks of a young homeless girl and gradually builds to a full arrangement with flanged guitars and uplifting organ. “Be” is another song with good musical textures such as the thumping bass with piano chords, which may have been influenced by John Lennon’s classic Plastic Ono Band. This closing track of the original LP is steady, like an urban folk song with perfectly executed vocal harmonies and doubling.

The final three tracks were originally billed as “CD Bonus Tracks”. “Blues for Sister Someone” is a slow rocker about drug abuse with a hypnotizing rhythm combined with power chord riffing, much more filler than other tracks on album but still sounds great until it ends abruptly. “Empty Hands” is a bit Western folk, while again religious in tone. The song proper is melodic with acoustic, organ, strings, and the accordion, which has a short solo during the outro section. “Flower Child” is a pure piano rocker, almost frivolous and comical but still a fun listen and different than anything else on the album.

In its first five years, Let Love Rule sold over 2 million copies in Europe, but has yet to sell a million copies in the United States. However, Kravitz would find much more commercial success in the coming decade, starting with Mama Said, his sophomore effort in 1991.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums.

1989 Images

 

Master of Disguise by Lizzy Borden

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Master of Disguise by Lizzy BordenHad Master of Disguise been released five to ten years earlier, it would have a huge commercial success and probably considered a rock classic. But as the climate changed in 1989, Lizzy Borden‘s strongest and most artistic output was largely overlooked. It may be easy to caricature eighties hair metal, but it is albums like this that show that genre’s potential for quality music, which is very diverse, with light and heavy selections dispersed evenly throughout the album. Also adding to the overall theatrical vibe of the album is the fact that Borden employs two distinct voices throughout, often harmonizing to fuse a calm yet desperate effect.

Ironically, the band was around earlier in the decade, making their splash in Southern California during the glam metal days of 1983. Like Alice Cooper, the band and lead singer shared the same female name and Lizzy Borden found minor success due to their image and straight-forward gimmickry. Between 1984 and 1987, the group released a prolific six albums, with the latest of these, Visual Lies, finding their greatest mainstream audience. With their inclusion in the 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, Part II, Borden was primed to make a big splash with his next record and decided to try something ambitious and controversial.

Most of the original band was replaced, save for Borden himself and his brother, drummer Joey Scott Harges. Producer Elliot Soloman was brought in to play a major role in forging this cohesive and entertaining output, complete with well placed theatrical interludes and sound effects. Every track on the album is distinct and memorable with well-honed riffs, catchy hooks, and tasteful keyboards by Soloman. While Borden’s lyrics do touch on some dark subjects, the album never goes too far either way on the mood spectrum, making the sound constantly fresh and interesting.


Master of Disguise by Lizzy Borden
Released: July 14, 1989 (Metal Blade)
Produced by: Elliot Soloman
Recorded: Springtime Studios, January-May 1989
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Master of Disguise
One False Move
Love Is a Crime
Sins of the Flesh
Phantoms
Never Too Young
Be One of Us
Psychodrama
Waiting in the Wings
Roll Over and Play Dead
Under the Rose
We Got the Power
Lizzy Borden – Lead Vocals
Ronnie Jude – Guitars
David Michael Phillips – Guitars
Mike Davis – Bass
Elliot Soloman – Keyboards
Joey Scott Harges – Drums, Piano, VocalsMaster of Disguise by Lizzy Borden

 

The orchestral tune up and intro section gives way to driving guitar riffs and drum beats of “Master of Disguise”. The fine chorus slows it down to a melodic and methodical showstopper and a great Ritchie Blackmore-like guitar lead blazes through before the song starts all over with riffs and orchestration returning during the masterful outro, which really sells the theatrical element of this piece. The mood comes down a bit with the solemn “One False Move”. A doomy bass riff by Mike Davis introduces the song along with strings and a marching drum beat, many of the same elements you’d expect from Pink Floyd’s The Wall. The layered vocals deliver the dark vocals very effectively in this short but effective piece that segues into the intro of “Love Is a Crime”. Starting with about a minute of television and telephone sound effects before a gently picked acoustic intro section that is disrupted by an upbeat rock arrangement during the song proper, which also uses a funky horn arrangement.

Rollicking drums introduce the upbeat “Sins of the Flesh”, a rocker which is entertaining enough but does get a little redundant as it goes along. Howling dogs and tolling bells then introduce “Phantoms” is put together like a stage overture and starts with sullen vocals and choppy piano before an ethereal synth part breaks things up until the song enters into its inevitable hard rock riff-driven body – However, this song does have a definite compositional edge not usually found in much “hair metal material”. “Never Too Young” is a ballad, delivered with melodic rock vocals, perhaps the closest thing to a true power ballad on the album, although the subject matter is far from love song material. Salomon’s piano is potent throughout, especially during the dramatic bridge before the guitar lead – Borden’s vocal harmonies are richer here than on any other track

While the second half of the album is not as potent the first, there are some highlights. “Be One of Us” actually begins with “Phantom of the Opera” intro on pipe organ before the heavy rock body of the song kicks in with a good eighties chorus hook and harmonized guitar lead by the twin newcomers of Ronnie Jude and David Michael Phillips. “Psychodrama” contains intense and haunting orchestration, which eventually builds to a massive crescendo. “Under the Rose” is a melancholy song with deeply picked acoustic notes, harmonized vocals, and deep and dark lyrics

standing in the shadows behind the scenes, understudy zero, you’ll never know it’s me…”

The rest of the album is basic eighties hard rock pomp and pump. The best of these is “Waiting in the Wings”, but the most popular was “We Got the Power”, complete with MTV video, but an unfortunate closer for this otherwise brilliant album.

Master of Disguise turned out to be the last best effort by Lizzy Borden, as the next decade brought rapid change to the musical climate. By the early ’90s, Lizzy Borden disbanded before later reforming to tour on the oldies circuit.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums.

1989 Images

 

The Stone Roses

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Stone Roses 1989 albumLike lightning in a bottle, The Stone Roses debut album captured the energy of an emerging movement which would influence the British pop scene for the better part of a decade. The Stone Roses received critical accolades for its quality of songwriting and perfect illustration of the “Madchester” movement – an indie rock phenomenon that fused guitar pop with drug-fueled rave and dance culture through the late eighties and early nineties. The album originally peaked at #19 on the UK charts, but incredibly re-charted four times over the next 20 years (in 1995, 2004, 2005, and 2009), twice reaching the Top Ten.

Lead vocalist Ian Brown and guitarist John Squire formed their first band together, a punk inspired group called The Patrol in 1980. Three years later, bassist Gary “Mani” Mounfield and the group started to migrate towards sixties-influenced pop. Around the time the band adopted the name Stone Roses, drummer Alan “Reni” Wren joined, completing the quartet that would record this album. Through the late 1980s, the group recorded and released several demos and singles as their popularity grew in Central England.

The group started recording their debut album in Wales in 1988 with producer John Leckie, who had previously worked with Pink Floyd. The lead single “Elephant Stone”, was left off the original album but included in later versions. Another non-album single, “Fool’s Gold”, became a hit in the U.K. The completed album contains simple but catchy hooks, bright and rich guitar riffs, and a rhythm section that blends sixties psychedelic pop and eighties dance grooves in a masterful way.


Stone Roses by Stone Roses
Released: April, 1989 (Elektra)
Produced by: John Leckie
Recorded: Various studios, London, England & Monmouthshire, Wales
Track Listing Group Musicians
I Wanna Be Adored
She Bangs the Drums
Waterfall
Don’t Stop
Bye Bye Badman
Elizabeth My Dear
(Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister
Made of Stone
Shoot You Down
This Is the One
I Am the Resurrection
Ian Brown – Lead Vocals
John Squire – Guitars
Gary Mounfield – Bass
Alan Wren – Drums, Piano, Vocals
Stone Roses 1989 album

 

A long, noisy intro gives way to Mounfield’s fade-in bass and Wren’s drums to introduce the opener “I Wanna Be Adored”. The song sets the pace for the album with catchy hooks, droning guitars, and emotionally nuanced lyrics. The Top 40 hit “She Bangs the Drums” is more of a melodic pop song but does contain cleverly suggestive lyrics and innuendo by Brown. “Waterfall” is the first song on the album with a definite sixties vibe, from Squire’s chiming guitar riffs to the well harmonized vocals to combine for an infectious riff and melody. This results in the most indelible song on the early part of Stone Roses, if not the entire album. The song is followed by a reprise called “Don’t Stop”, which is a totally tripped-out, psychedelic version of “Waterfall”, with backwards masking and sped up tape effects in an experimental track which is, perhaps, a little too long for its own good.

The pop parade continues with “Bye Bye Badman”, another great song with a sixties vibe but also with modern drum beats and guitar motifs of differing styles. The true genius of the song is the vocal melodies which deliver the quasi-violent lyrics with incredible accessibility. The album cover displays an abstract painting by Squire, which “Bye Bye Badman” was named after. After a short shot at the queen, set to the melody of “Scarborough Fair”, Squire’s jangly guitar chords drive the intro of “Sugar Spun Sister”. The song later grows into a more intense arrangement, with ever more the potent electric guitars starting with the second verse. “Made of Stone” sounds the most like 1980s rock, it is darker than most songs on the album but still being a rewarding listen. The choruses do bring the song up a bit more than the verses and the great musical arrangement throughout by dual guitars, driving bass, and drums, make it the last great song on the album.

The Stone Roses concludes with three adequate but weaker songs. “Shoot You Down” employs a much more cool jazz in approach, with crafty guitar work throughout, a rhythm like a moderate dance song, and an acapella vocal hook. After what seems like a false start, “This Is the One” meanders in a choppy motion, never really hooking the rhythm until the second verse, but after this song gets a bit repetitive. The closer “I Am the Resurrection” starts with upbeat drum beat, joined only by bass during first verse before strong guitars introduce the chorus. The song proper is punk rock in its attitude but Brit-pop sonically and the long outro starts as a funky groove before it grows more psychedelic as it moves along.

As The Stone Roses gained popularity and critical acclaim, the group was in no way humble about their accomplishment. Lead vocalist Brown proclaimed in late 1989;

We’re the most important group in the world, because we’ve got the best songs and we haven’t even begun to show our potential yet.”

Of course, this measure of hubris proved unwise. The closing track’s title was a deFacto preview of the title their follow-up album, Second Coming, which would not be released until five years later. In between, the Stone Roses rode a roller coaster of ups and downs from the high of their legendary Spike Island concert in 1990, the lows of the lawsuit that ensued when they tried to terminate contract with Silvertone Records. Ultimately, the group never quite reached their potential and officially disbanded in 1996.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums.

1989 Images

 

Storm Front by Billy Joel

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Storm Front by Billy JoelWith Storm Front, his eleventh overall studio album, Billy Joel made a concerted effort to radically change his approach on several levels. First, he discharged a few members of the support band which had been with him since the mid 1970s. Next, Joel decided not to work with producer Phil Ramone (who had produced every Billy Joel album since The Stranger in 1977, and instead enlisted Foreigner’s Mick Jones, who had brought his band to pop super-stardom earlier in the decade. The result of this pivotal effort at the sunset of the 1980s was a commercially successful album that received lukewarm critical feedback and, in many ways, began the decline of Joel’s incredible pop career.

Following the release of Joel’s previous album The Bridge three years earlier, he initiated an ambitious undertaking by becoming the first major American rock act to perform in the Soviet Union. The album КОНЦЕРТ (Russian for “Concert”) was released shortly after the August 1987 performances in Tlbisi, Moscow and Lennigrad, in part to recover the estimated $1 million of his own money that Joel spent the trip and concerts. However, more financial troubles were to come as an audit revealed major discrepancies in the accounting of Joel’s longtime manager in August 1989, subsequently costing the longtime pop star much of his fortune.

Guitarist Russell Javors and bassist Doug Stegmeyer, each of whom had been with Joel since the recording of Turnstiles in 1976, were fired prior to the recording of Storm Front and replaced by Joey Hunting and Schuyler Deale respectively. Joel also hired vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Crystal Taliefero while retaining three members of his regular band. In 1988, Joel made a cameo on Mick Jones’ self-titled solo debut and was so impressed with his production abilities that he hired him to help forge the sonic tones and moods on Storm Front.


Storm Front by Billy Joel
Released: October 17, 1989 (Columbia)
Produced by: Mick Jones and Billy Joel
Recorded: The Hit Factory and Right Track Recording, New York, Spring-Summer 1989
Track Listing Primary Musicians
That’s Not Her Style
We Didn’t Start the Fire
The Downeaster ‘Alexa’
I Go to Extremes
Shameless
Storm Front
Leningrad
State of Grace
When in Rome
And So It Goes
Billy Joel – Lead Vocals, Piano, Clavinet, Accordion, Keyboards
David Brown – Guitars
Jeff Jacobs – Horns, Keyboards
Schuyler Deale – Bass
Liberty DeVitto – Drums, PercussionStorm Front by Billy Joel

 

The opening track, “That’s Not Her Style” , has an underlying vibe of bluesy rock, especially during harmonica laden intro of Don Brooks, but is otherwise nothing more than topical sanitized pop. “We Didn’t Start the Fire” follows as a history lesson through rap, cut by the chorus hook that has richly disguised vocal harmonies. The main keyboard riff sounds like it could have composed on xylophone, especially along side the tribal percussive sounds and bouncy synth bass during verses. The lyrics are exclusively composed of words, terms and names of historical significance, starting in 1949, the year Joel was born. The song was Joel’s final #1 hit in the U.S.

The middle songs of this album are where you will find the top quality material. “The Downeaster Alexa” is the most indelible song on the album, led by Joel’s great vocal melodies, and an almost Gordon Lightfoot approach in its composition. It contains extraordinary sonic arrangements from the ever-present accordion of Dominic Cortese to the deadened guitar riffs to the slow methodical drum march to the strategic organ and synths. There is also a fine violin lead credited only to “World Famous Incognito Violinist”. Lyrically, “The Downeaster Alexa” tells of the plight of fisherman from Joel’s native Long Island with some poetic phrases like;

“tell my wife I am trolling Atlantis and I still have my hands on the wheel”

“I Go to Extremes” is the the purest pop/rock song on the album with a great melody and beat along with a couple of decent piano leads later in the song. This song with a bipolar theme reached #6 on the Billboard pop charts. “Shameless” is soulful and pleasantly melodic throughout, almost with the tenor of a seventies light pop/rock hit (although it would be most associated with Garth Brooks in the early nineties). This song also contains the best guitar work on the album by the team of David Brown and Joey Hunting. The title song “Storm Front” is pure Motown through and through with good rhythm, slow riffs, and a rich horn arrangement by Jeff Jacobs.

“Lenningrad” is historical ballad which feels like it would have fit in well on the 1982 album The Nylon Curtain. Influenced by Joel’s trip to the U.S.S.R. and has a great arrangement towards the end with the piano being almost classical to fit the mood. Joel compares his protagonist’s life with his own, much like he did in a previous song, “Ballad of Billy Kid”. The last really good track on Storm Front is “State of Grace”, a real forgotten gem driven by Joel’s high melodies and fantastic guitar work throughout by Jones, making it his best musical contribution on the album. “When In Rome” contains some Motown elements, especially in lead and backing vocals along a pretty good sax solo. “And So It Goes” closes the otherwise upbeat album with a sad ballad, almost tortured in its approach with vocals closely mimicking piano.

Storm Front reached the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic as the 1990s began. Billy Joel would release one more pop/rock album, The River of Dreams in 1993, before effectively retiring from this aspect of the music industry.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums.

1989 Images

 

Disintegration by The Cure

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Disintegration by The CureThrough most of their first decade, The Cure was a group that was always on the razor’s edge of change making them one of the rare “alternative” bands which were actually “alternative”. With Disintegration, their eighth studio album, the group made a slight turn back towards the introspective Gothic rock they had forged in their early years but added a more mature perspective to the mix. The album was composed by front man Robert Smith and grew out of a depression as he faced the realization of turning thirty years old. It was also a concerted effort by Smith to re-discover the soul of the band, which he believed was lost in the recent wave of commercial success.

The Cure’s roots stretch back to 1973 when Smith formed his first group with Laurence Tolhurst, while in middle school. With the emergence of punk rock in 1977, the remnants of this group became known as “Easy Cure” and added lead guitarist Porl Thompson. A year later, The Cure were signed to the newly formed English label Fiction, and they released their debut single at the end of 1978, followed by their debut album Three Imaginary Boys in May 1979, which did well critically and commercially. Through the early 80s, the band shied away from overt commercial efforts, with more sombre music that found a niche crowd. In 1987, The Cure released the musically eclectic double Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, which sprang them back towards commercial success reaching the Top 10 in several countries. This was followed by a world tour which exposed some internal friction. Tolhurst became substance dependent and was eventually fired and replaced by keyboardist Roger O’Donnell, while Smith had developed a distaste for the group’s new found popularity.

When the group convened to rehearse for this new album, Smith played demos for his band mates that he was prepared for them to reject. He had already started making plans to record the material as a solo album, but was pleasantly surprised when the group liked the demos. By the end of the pre-production session, The Cure recorded over thirty songs. However, the final album was a bit of a shock to their American label Elektra Records, who expected a further migration towards pop/rock and requested a delayed release date because they believed the record was “commercial suicide”. In spite of these fears, Disintegration became the band’s commercial peak and remains The Cure’s highest selling record to date.


Disintegration by The Cure
Released: May 2, 1989 (Elektra)
Produced by: David M. Allen and The Cure
Recorded: Hookend Manor Studios, Reading, England, Late 1988 to Early 1989
Track Listing Group Musicians
Plainsong
Pictures of You
Closedown
Lovesong
Last Dance
Lullaby
Fascination Street
Prayers for Rain
The Same Deep Water as You
Disintegration
Homesick
Untitled
Robert Amith – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Bass
Porl Thompson – Guitars
Simon Gallup – Bass, Keyboards
Roger O’Donnell – Keyboards
Boris Williams – Drums

 
Disintegration by The Cure

 

Setting the pace for the album with deep, multi-layered synths and slow, methodical beats, the album’s opening track “Plainsong” is soon joined by a droning guitar riff in the elongated intro, which lasts over two and a half minutes or half the overall song length. While Smith wrote all of the lyrics on the album, he acknowledges the significant musical contributions by the rest of the band, which forge the texture and mood that dominates tracks such as this one. “Pictures of You” is built on masterfully sonic guitar riffs by Thompson and a steady bass by Simon Gallup before the mood rises like a sunrise and the song steps up to the next level with the vocals in this steady and romantic song, which was a minor hit in spite of its seven minute running length. The album then returns to the heavy-synth goth rock with “Closedown”, featuring a rolling drum beat by Roger O’Donnell and only a single verse to break up the emotional groove.

Smith originally wrote “Lovesong” as a private wedding present for his fiance, Mary, but included it on this “dark” album as a concerted counterpart to the rest of the material. Here he certainly succeeded as the song contains a danceable groove, melodic riffs, accessible lyrics, and the perfect pop running time of three and a half minutes (extremely short for this album). A calm organ riff along with an animated bass drives the song with some orchestral keyboards runs between verses and a good guitar lead in the middle. The song was popular worldwide and reached #2 in America, becoming their highest charting single in the U.S.

The tracks which follow “Lovesong” on the album were also popular radio hits. “Last Dance” has some strong guitars, which arrive after synth intro. However, while Smith carries a strong melody throughout the track, the music is quite timid and does not keep up with the mood. “Lullaby” starts with an upbeat, bouncy guitar and bass riff which is soon joined by a strong drum beat by Williams during the intro. Smith’s breathy and desperate vocals are a unique contrast to the hipper mood of the music, and when O’Donnell’s fine keyboards join the mix, the Cure have a top notch music track. “Lullaby” was the group’s highest charting hit in the U.K., reaching #5 on the charts. “Fascination Street” is almost like the second part of “Lullaby” in the sense that it contains the same chord structure and nearly the same tempo (and was the replacement for “Lullaby” as the lead single in America). However, the vocal and melody approach is quite different, being more forthright and eighties twang.

The latter part of the album contains five consecutive songs which top six minutes in length. “Prayers for Rain” contains well processed guitars in the distance before some fine drums cut in to add a majestic effect, painting a scene of grandeur. Lyrically, this song is a sneak peak at the emotive American grunge which would soon arrive. “The Same Deep Water as You” is a long and moody ballad, almost in the same vein as “Riders on the Storm” by The Doors, and even contain similar rainstorm sound effects. The title track, “Disintegration”, is a more upbeat with wild sounds throughout, where “Smith showcases his own lead guitar talents. “Homesick” is the best of this lot, with a sound that is at once eerie and beautiful. Its long intro begins with a soft acoustic and minor-key piano before being joined by Gallup’s animated bass, Williams’ fine, rock-oriented drums and the flanged out guitar of Thompson. In spite of its name, the song’s lyrics tell of avoidance of home and responsibility, like a late night drunken stupor. An accordion introduces the “Untitled” closing track before it all breaks into a decent dance groove, almost funky but slower, as the album departs on an upbeat note.

Smith was distraught that the success of Disintegration further elevated The Cure as a “stadium rock band” and this album’s title seemed prophetic as the band began to slowly fall apart. While different lineups continued the group through the 1990s, this was the end of their golden era.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums.

1989 Images

 

Great Radio Controversy by Tesla

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Great Radio Controversy by TeslaThe group Tesla never quite fit within any definitive genre box, which may have ultimately prevented the Northern California band from reaching their critical or commercial potential. In the 1980s they were a “hair band” that was a few steps ahead of the norm back then. In the 1990s they were too focused and upbeat to get swept up in the “grunge” wave. In between they bridged the gap with 1989’s Great Radio Controversy, their most highly renowned album. While riddled with more than its share of eighties “heavy metal” caricature, there is material on this album with soul and musicianship which few new releases touched at that time.

Formed in 1982 and originally named City Kidd, the group renamed themselves Tesla after inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, during the recording of their first album, Mechanical Resonance. The band’s signature sound was forged by lead vocalist Jeff Keith along with guitarists Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch.

Produced by the team of Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero, The Great Radio Controversy contains mainly big-sounding production methods in line with 1980s pop-metal, but also reaches back to more authentic and earthy methods. The album was produced at Bearsville Studio outside of Woodstock, NY, a studio originally built by Bob Dylan’s manager.


Great Radio Controversy by Tesla
Released: February 1, 1989 (Geffen)
Produced by: Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero
Recorded: Bearsville Studio, New York, 1988
Track Listing Group Musicians
Hang Tough
Lady Luck
Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)
Be a Man
Lazy Days, Crazy Nights
Did It for the Money
Yesterdaze Gone
Makin’ Magic
The Way It Is
Flight to Nowhere
Love Song
Paradise
Party’s Over
Jeff Keith – Lead Vocals
Frank Hannon – Guitars, Piano, Organ
Tommy Skeoch – Guitars
Brian Wheat – Bass
Troy Luccketta – Drums

Great Radio Controversy by Tesla

 

While the songs early on are somewhat standard, the album does improve as it progresses. Co-written by bassist Brian Wheat, “Hang Tough” starts with his mechanical bass pattern before the twin guitars come in for a harmonized riff and later return for a decent dual guitar solo. “Lady Luck” follows with some rich vocal harmonies before “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)” breaks in with the driving rhythm guitar of Skeoch. A simple yet rewarding song, this third is cut by bluesy breaks in between the verses.

“Be a Man” starts with a long, bluesy slide intro before the slow riffing brings the song into its proper context. The pure rocker “Lazy Days, Crazy Nights” is a notch above most tracks on the early half of the album, with a dark and determined feeling overall along with a decent vocal hook. The album continues to get stronger with “Did It for the Money”, which creatively meanders before finding its footing, which is pretty solid and strong. “Yesterdaze Gone” displays Tesla at their heaviest, almost true heavy metal in beat but firmly down in the arena rock vocally, along with a pretty wild mid section guitar lead with harmonies so rich it almost sounds like a synth envelope.

“The Way It Is” was co-written by drummer Troy Luccketta and is one of the highlights of album as well as Tesla’s career. The moody acoustic intro and verse eventually gives way to the strong yet deep choruses. The song’s bridge and outro bring the song to a whole new level sonically as repetition works well with theme and musical backing and Keith’s vocals are at their absolute zenith during “The Way It Is”

“Love Song” is nearly as impressive, being perhaps the best power ballad ever. This uni-directional song is driven by the beautiful guitar motifs of Hannon. Commencing with a complex acoustic intro before moving towards the joyful strummed electric riff that introduces the song proper. The song is complete and melodic to the end without a wasted note or moment. “Paradise” is another fine song that contains a sad acoustic intro to a love song with a distinctly different feel than the song titled “Love Song”. Keith’s vocals pick up the pace while the music remains low key in the mid section prior to a funk-influenced alternate section which follows. The closing track,”Party’s Over” tries to end the album with a rock anthem, but falls just a bit short.

Great Radio Controversy reached the Top 20 of the American album charts and spawned three Top 40 hits on the Mainstream Rock chart. In 1990, Tesla maintained their commercial momentum with the live Five Man Acoustical Jam before returning to the studio the following year with Psychotic Supper.

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1989 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums.

 

Pump by Aerosmith

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Pump by AerosmithThe second distinct phase of Aerosmith‘s fame hit full stride in 1989 with the release of Pump, the band’s tenth overall studio album and their third release since reuniting in 1985. And much like their third overall release Toys In the Attack back in 1975, this album was a tremendous commercial success. Pump sold over seven million copies, is the only Aerosmith album to score three Top 10 singles on the Billboard pop chart, and became the fourth bestselling album overall for the year 1990. The album is also notable within the Aerosmith collection for its inclusion of a variety of instrumental interludes which precede several of the album tracks, adding a sense of diversity to the mix.

However, the overall musical quality of Pump is more mixed than its impressive commercial accolades may indicate. This was the second of three sequential studio albums with producer Bruce Fairbairn, which were all recorded in Vancouver, BC, Canada. All of these albums employed an overt attempt to further commercialize the band, with hook-heavy material trumping Aerosmith’s strong tradition of more raw and improvised-style, heavy, blues rock. On the bright side, guitarist Brad Whitford explained that the album title was a celebration of how “pumped up” the group was to kick their various substance abuse habbits, and this was especially evident in lead vocalist Steven Tyler, who put forth his greatest effort of his long career.

The group spent of the bulk of the winter of 1988-89 working on this album, first getting together to rehearse in December 1988 near their homes in Massachusetts and then migrating across the continent to the studio in Vancouver in Early 1989. Nearly 20 songs were written, with Fairborn splitting these compositions into “A” and “B” lists as far as “single” consideration. A few of the tracks not included on Pump were the later 1997 hit “Hole In My Soul” and the country-flavored “Sedona Sunrise”, which was later included on the 2006 compilation Devil’s Got a New Disguise.


Pump by Aerosmith
Released: September 12, 1989 (Geffen)
Produced by: Bruce Fairbairn
Recorded: Little Mountain Sound Studio, Vancouver, BC, February–June 1989
Track Listing Group Musicians
Young Lust
F.I.N.E.
Love In An Elevator
Monkey On My Back
Janie’s Got a Gun
The Other Side
My Girl
Don’t Get Mad, Get Even
Voodoo Medicine Man
What It Takes
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Harmonica
Joe Perry – Guitars, Vocals
Brad Whitford – Guitars
Tom Hamilton – Bass, Vocals
Joey Kramer – Drums
 
Pump by Aerosmith

 

Pump commences with a super-sexed triology of tunes filled with not-so-subtle innuendos, almost to the point of absurdity. Tyler later admitted this was almost over-compensation for all the years of fame they spent wasted and disinterested in sex. The Opener “Young Lust” is simple and cheap, yet not terribly trite. Co-written by lead guitarist Joe Perry and hired hand Jim Vallance, this is a strong and frenzied number that, if nothing else, proves the group was not going “adult contemporary” as the 1980s wound down. A fairly impressive drum solo by Joey Kramer bridges into the follow-up “F.I.N.E.” This second song is much more melodic and original than the opener, closer to seventies-era Aerosmith in approach and dynamics. The expert use of both guitarists with distinct rock textures act as a canvas for Tyler’s strong vocals. The song’s title is an acronym for “Fucked Up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional”, coining a Hollywood catch-phrase for the nineties, with the only real drawback of “F.I.N.E.” being a few lame attempts at comedic lines.

“Love In an Elevator” begins with a female spoken-word intro known as “Going Down” while the song proper is pure Tyler and Perry, following each other in riff and melody. The verses contain some anthemic chanting in the spirit of Def Leppard and Perry’s mult-part lead is somewhat interesting with odd backing sound motifs thrown in during this extended mid section, including some backwards-masking and vocal harmonization this continues in the outtro with some trumpets by Fairbairn. Released as a single, the song peaked at number 5 on the Billboard pop chart. “Monkey on My Back” starts with Perry’s slow but heavy, bluesy slide guitar. This song’s overall feel is messy and distant, much like material from 1977’s Draw the Line, which gives it a bit of nostalgic touch, while scorning the excess of those old days with it’s telling of the consequences of heavy drug use.

Bass player Tom Hamilton, an oft-forgotten member of Aerosmith, co-wrote the classic “Janie’s Got a Gun”, which brought the group their first and only Grammy award. This masterpiece of arrangement and production is a true rock classic with beautiful sonic breezes coming from all directions – from the bouncy, high-pitched bass riff and slamming percussive effect of the verses, to the masterful use of keyboards and strings to the storybook passages of distinct song sections. The song tackles serious subject matter in a tackful and creative manner and it solidifies Aerosmith as a notch above most rock bands in their class. While there is little guitar presence (for such a guitar-centric group), “Janie’s Got a Gun” is certainly in the top echelon of pieces through their multi-decade career.

Many of the musical interludes on Pump were done by Randy Raine-Reusch, with his most impressive being the “Dulcimer Stomp” intro to “The Other Side”. Another Top 40 single, the song proper contains a nice arrangement of horns, harmonized vocals and plenty of pop hooks, while economically using guitars, with just small and subtle bits of riffing. The real weak spot of the album follows in the next trio of songs. “My Girl” contains very little substance or soul, while “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even” has a decent bluesy beginning before it abruptly screams into something totally uninteresting. co-written by Whitford, “Voodoo Medicine Man” seems to make an attempt at something dramatic and deep, but this ultimately doesn’t amount to much beyond the opening verse and the somewhat interesting mid section.

“What It Takes” really salvages the latter part of this album, by returning to the group’s mid seventies practice of performing a power ballad to conclude their albums. Co-wriiten by long time collaborator Desmond Child, Aerosmith perfects the song type they invented a decade and a half earlier, with their secret being more “power” than “ballad”, exuding all the emotion without resorting to any lame, sappy maneuvers. Fairborn’s generous use of accordion and Perry’s interesting pre-bridge guitar lead is only trumped by the song’s outro, the best moment on the album. True performance magic in the fantastic, improvised vocals by Tyler show the true heights of the singer’s talent. While “Janie Got a Gun” is the creative masterpiece which ended the original side one, “What It Takes” is the performance masterpiece to end Pump on the highest of notes.

With the greatest commercial success of their career, Aerosmith found a whole new audience and used this as an opportunity to tour and release a couple compilation albums in the early nineties. Their next studio release would not come until 1993 with the album Get a Grip.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums.


1989 Images

 

The End of the Innocence by Don Henley

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The End of the Innocence by Don HenleyThe End of the Innocence was Don Henley‘s best selling solo album and his lone solo release in the 16 year span between 1984 and 2000. A pure pop effort, the album spawned seven singles with six of those reaching the Top Ten of the Mainstream Rock charts and the title song reaching the Top Ten on the Billboard pop chart. The End of the Innocence expands on Henley’s extraordinary talent for composing, which dates back to the Eagles debut album, and moves firmly into the adult contemporary realm. While the sound of the album has remnants of 1980s slick, Henley’s enlistment of six co-producers, gives The End of the Innocence enough diversity to make it interesting.

Taking five years to compose and refine material for a follow-up, Henley relished in the success of his blockbuster 1984 album Building the Perfect Beast. Taking this time also gave him the time to gather some compositional, performance, and production talent for his next effort.

Among his collaborators on the album are Mike Campbell and Stan Lynch of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, musical journeyman Bruce Hornsby, and Danny Kortchmar, part of California’s “mellow mafia”, who worked with Jackson Brown, Linda Ronstadt, and Warren Zevon among others. The result is an overall high quality album, albeit uneven. When the songs are good, they are very good, profound, rewarding, and indelible. On the flip side is the cheap eighties filler which, unfortunately, there is quite a bit of between the fine tracks. Still, there is little doubt that Henley was shooting for something big on this album to solidify his legacy in rock, and there is no doubt he achieved that goal.


The End of the Innocence by Don Henley
Released: June 27 1989 (Geffen)
Produced by: Don Henley, Mike Campbell, John Corey, Bruce Hornsby, Danny Kortchmar, Greg Ladanyi, & Stan Lynch
Recorded: 1988-1989
Track Listing Primary Musicians
The End of the Innocence
How Bad Do You Want It?
I Will Not Go Quietly
The Last Worthless Evening
New York Minute
Shangri-La
Little Tin God
Gimme What You Got
If Dirt Were Dollars
The Heart of the Matter
Don Henley – Lead Vocals, Drums
Mike Campbell – Guitars, Keyboards
Bob Glaub – Bass
Stanley Jordan – Guitars, Drums, VocalsThe End of the Innocence by Don Henley

 

The End of the Innocence is bookmarked by two of its finest tracks. “The Heart of the Matter” closes and solidifies the album with a perfect tone and tenor and great melody and hook. The wise and mature lyrics about “forgiveness” wash away the bitter taste of some earlier tracks. These lyrics are accompanied by fine musical motifs, from the opening twangy guitar riff through the many rooms of pleasant melody and sonic bliss. “The Heart of the Matter” was co-written by Campbell, and sometimes-Eagles contributor J.D. Souther and reached the Top 20 with significant airplay. The opening title track was co-written by Hornsby and features his deliberate, choppy piano style backing Henley’s melancholy driven melody. This is pure, calm, adult-oriented music with lyrics about the the shattering of childhood simplicity. with low-key yet tremendously effective vocals. “The End of the Innocence” also features an outstanding soprano sax lead by Wayne Shorter which adds to the overall mood of longing for redemption.

The original first side of the album includes a few pure eighties rockers that could be mistaken for cheesy movie soundtracks. After a strong percussion intro, “How Bad Do You Want It” is driven by a sax riff with synth decor and simple rhythms. The straight-forward melody and catchy hook is accompanied by background vocals by many including Sheryl Crow. “I Will Not Go Quietly” has some blues-based guitar riffing but is mainly rock-oriented with simple, hard rock drum beats up front. This song also kind of awkwardly features Axl Rose on backing vocals.

The middle of the album contains a couple more fine tracks. “The Last Worthless Evening” has acoustic with electric overtones reminiscent of Eagles. This stellar – musical mix and production to compliment Henley’s excellent vocals, perhaps his best on the album. The harmonized hook in the bridge brings this song , co-written by John Corey, to the next level. Like a classic movie score with high strings and a club piano out front, “New York Minute” arrives as the album’s most unique and interesting track. The song proper features a fine electric piano by Toto member David Paich along with another great sax solo by Shorter.

The remainder of the album contains songs of lesser quality which have not held up over time. “Shangri-La” starts with a semi-interesting percussive intro before it breaks into a lame attempt at a dance song. “Little Tin God” contains a reggae beat and is a little better than the rest of the filler, due to the great middle high-pitch bend synth solo. “Gimme What You Got” features a pleasant melody and good guitar textures but quickly gets old as it progresses. “If Dirt Were Dollars” has a good bluesy acoustic by Campbell throughout, but the lyrics and delivery are cheap (“as dirt”) as it is trite, preachy, and hard to get through. It is tracks like these that keep The End of the Innocence from being an absolute classic.

Still, the album sold over 6 million copies in the United States alone and won Henley his second Grammy award for Best male Vocalist in 1990. With various Eagles reunions through the 1990s. it would be another 11 years until Henley released his next solo album, Inside Job in 2000.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums.

1989 Images