Wish You Were Here
by Pink Floyd

Buy Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here by Pink FloydDuring the writing and production of Wish You Were Here, the members of Pink Floyd were grasping with the their new found stardom and the pressure to deliver another hit album. A serious bout of collective writers block and frequent tour interruptions further added to this pressure over the course of 1974 and early 1975, but eventually the concept came into being and the fine album was completed. While this record was almost totally composed by bassist Roger Waters, and much of its focus is former band member Syd Barrett, this album is really a tour de force for guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour, who contributes some indelible textures, riffs and licks throughout the album.

Following the worldwide success of 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon, the group negotiated a new contract which gave them a reported advance of $1,000,000. While touring Europe in 1974, the group composed three extended songs. Two of these, “Raving and Drooling” and “You Gotta Be Crazy” would be held over and reworked as the tracks “Sheep” and Dogs” respectively on the 1977 album Animals. The third piece, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” would become the bookend centerpiece around which this loose concept album would be built.

Wish You Were Here was produced by Pink Floyd as a band with the assistance of engineer Brian Humphries, who had previously worked with the group on the 1969 soundtrack album More. Like its predecessor, the album was recorded at the famed Abbey Road Studios. Being that Humphries never worked there before, he encountered some early difficulties.

But the technical difficulties were nothing compared to the incredible coincidence of Barrett showing up during the mixing of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” which was obviously written about him. Barrett had arrived to attend Gilmour’s wedding on June 5, 1975, while all four band members were in the mixing room. Not a single one of them recognized him at first as he had shaved his head and eyebrows. Once they all realized that it was him, it was obvious that he was unable to partake in a normal conversation and had no idea that he was the subject of the song they were mixing that day. This put a damper on the wedding and unfortunately no member of Pink Floyd saw Syd Barrett again until they attended his 2006 funeral .


Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
Released: September 12, 1975 (Harvest)
Produced by: Pink Floyd
Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, London, January–July 1975
Side One Side Two
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (I)
Welcome to the Machine
Have a Cigar
Wish You Were Here
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (II)
Group Musicians
David Gilmour – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Roger Waters – Bass, Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Richard Wright – Keyboards, Vocals
Nick Mason – Drums, Percussion

The first section of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” sounds totally new age during the beginning section, which was originally developed as “Household Objects”, an experimental piece using ARP synth, Hammond organ and wine glass harmonica. After this long intro, the second instrumental section is much more musically rewarding, built on an indelible four note riff by Gilmour, above which he adds a bluesy lead and below which there is crisp and steady playing by the rest of the group. This second section acts as a kind of overture for the album, with Wright performing a calm synth solo that previews a later piece and Gilmour returning with a more blistering lead. After 8:45, the song proper finally begins with Waters on lead vocals delivering poetic lyrics which describe his take on Barrett’s plight. Gilmour adds a superior, double-tracked lead in between the two verses and the final two minutes of the track is dedicated to an extended sax solo by Dick Parry above a new riff before song dissolves into a link to the next track.

“Welcome to the Machine” is a textual track with an abundance of synth and sound effects and the most substantial in studio production. However, this is probably the least musically creative as it is just a strummed acoustic which guides along the dark and mechanical sound effects with little to no traditional rhythms. The song does build a bit in the middle but then unfortunately reverts back to same arrangement for the last verse, missing an opportunity to bring it to a stronger sonic level. The album’s second side starts with Gilmour’s wild, treated guitar riffs which are expertly accompanied by Waters’ bass and Wright’s electric piano for a rich rhythmic experience. Wright then adds the signature synth riff, leading to the verses which feature guest Roy Harper on lead vocals, who was brought in when both Waters and Gilmour were unsatisfied with their respective attempts at singing the song. In any case, Harper’s style fits nicely with the Pink Floyd sound, seeming to split the difference between Waters and Gilmour in style, while adding his own flourish to the end of each chorus. The final two minutes of the song are dedicated to a Gilmour guitar lead over increasingly funky rhythms by the rest of the band, especially Mason who gets more and more intense as the outro proceeds.

Pink Floyd 1975Starting with a unique sonic intro, “Wish You Were Here” is the true highlight of the album, as stripped-down acoustic track featuring Gilmour’s gruff and folksy vocals. The song’s full arrangement contains tremendous plethora of musical tid-bits ranging from a county-type piano, to a bluesy, slide acoustic lead, to the modern sounding synth pads. This unidirectional track’s hook comes during the single final verse. which leads to the song’s climatic outro featuring Gilmour vocally mocking his own lead acoustic while the song fades into a distant wind effect. This leads to the second suite of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, which starts with a cool bass and guitar thump very reminiscent to “One of These Days” from 1971’s Meddle, right down to the distorted lap steel guitar played by Gilmour. After an abrupt return to the main theme for two verses, the suite just as abruptly turns to a funky clavinet-driven section led by Wright, which is entertaining in spite of the fact that it breaks the musical cohesion. The final parts of the song seem to be extraneous as they really seem to lack focus and direction, just pure filler to fill out the album before a long, anticlimactic fade, a really unfortunate way to end this fine album.

Wish You Were Here became an instant commercial success, topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, with EMI reportedly unable to print enough copies to satisfy initial demand. Both Gilmour and Wright have cited this album as their favorite by the band and, while it had initially received lukewarm critical reviews, the album has grown to near universal acclaim over the past four decades. Wright and David Gilmour have each cited Wish You Were Here as their favorite Pink Floyd album.

~

1975 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1975 albums.

 

Straight Shooter
by Bad Company

Buy Straight Shooter

Straight Shooter by Bad CompanyBad Company returned in 1975 with their sophomore album, Straight Shooter, which built on the successful formula of their 1974 debut album while adding some variety in arrangement. The quartet built on their solid rock foundation with the fusion of several types of sub-genres added to the mix. Further, the success of two consecutive albums proved that Bad Company was a solid force in its own right and would remain in the top echelon of pop rock for years to come.

Prior to Bad Company’s formation, each of the four member of this “super group” had success with previous acts. Lead vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke originated in the group Free, while guitarist Mick Ralphs was from Mott the Hoople and bassist Boz Burrell came from King Crimson. Managed by Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant, the group became the first to release an album on the new Swan Song label in 1974, which found instant critical and commercial success.

Just three months after the release of the debut month, the group began recording a follow-up album at a remote castle in England using a mobile unit, engineered by Ron Nevison. In contrast to the simple, sometimes stark hard rock of Bad Company, this second album adds much variety with the addition of acoustic guitars, keyboards and occasional strings. Along with the album’s eight tracks, the group recorded a song called, “Whisky Bottle”, which eventually ended up as a B-side to a single.


Straight Shooter by Bad Company
Released: April, 1975 (Swan Song)
Produced by: Bob Dylan
Recorded: Clearwell Castle, Gloucestershire, England, September 1974
Side One Side Two
Good Lovin’ Gone Bad
Feel Like Makin’ Love
Weep No More
Shooting Star
Deal With the Preacher
Wild Fire Woman
Anna
Call on Me
Group Musicians
Paul Rodgers – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano
Mick Ralphs – Guitars, Keyboards
Boz Burrell – Bass
Simon Kirke – Drums

The album thunders in with Ralphs’, “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad”, a song which was released as a single ahead of the album. This is a strong, pure rock, shooter with some slight compositional caveat in the pre-chorus where Burrell’s bass temporarily takes the forefront in this otherwise guitar-dominated song. Of particular note on this song is Rodgers’ vocals, which are strained in rock n roll excess during the verses and choruses but come back down to Earth during pre-chorus sections. “Feel Like Makin’ Love” offers much contrast to first song, from the bright acoustic intro, to the Country-esque verses with somber lead vocals, to the choruses which explode with Ralph’s distorted electric riffs. The true beauty of this popular song is its incredible contrast within, which all somehow works so harmoniously, especially near the end where a cool, laid back, minimal guitar lead moves to a long, building coda crescendo.

Written by drummer Simon Kirke, “Weep No More” starts with some heavy, theatrical orchestration, which almost sounds like it was influenced by the music of Queen. From there, it settles into a steady, piano-driven rocker with a heavy presence of organ and overdubbed, bluesy lead guitar during the verses. Rodgers’, “Shooting Star” is the climax of the first side, the Straight Shooter album, and possibly the Bad Company library as a whole. Lyrically, this timely anthem addresses the rock n’ roll lifestyle, which all too often leads to untimely death. Musically, the intro has wild tremolo guitar effects, the verses have folksy acoustic rhythms, and the choruses feature strong, electric riffs, hooks and harmonized vocals. The rhythms are strong by Burrell and Kirke throughout, which pretty much means everyone playing at their best on this track, while the band as whole employs great restraint, which lets the song unfold seamlessly.

Bad Company in 1975

The lesser known second side begins with a couple of collaborations between Rodgers and Ralphs. “Deal With the Preacher”, is a hard rocker with sharp, bluesy guitars and soulful vocals. The song does later dissolve to a calmer bridge section before coming back fully as an unabashed rock jam as the tone of Ralphs’ guitar seems to predate that of Eddie Van Halen by several years. “Wild Fire Woman” seems to try a bit too hard to be a pop anthem, especially during Rodger’s stratospheric chorus vocals, but falls just a little short of this group’s compositional abilities.

The album concludes with a couple of calmer numbers. Kirke’s, “Anna”, is a re-recording of a song from one of his earlier groups as a moderate love ballad about a “simple woman for a simple man”. Driven by electric piano, it is Kirke’s exceptionally strong and assertive drumming which makes this song distinct from any typical mid-seventies soul ballad. “Call on Me”, the closing track written by Rodgers, is another calm, electric piano song with subtle musical flourishes. The good chord progression through the verses alternates with a dramatic sound-sphere interlude which, during the extended final stretch, borrows the bassline from The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, while Ralphs’ lead guitar lazily floats in the background.

Straight Shooter reached the identical lofty spot of #3 in the UK, US, and Canada and it was certified gold within a month of its release. Although slightly less successful than its predecessor, the album has remained an indelible classic for Bad Company four decades after its release.

~

1975 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1975 albums.

 

Blood On the Tracks
by Bob Dylan

Buy Blood On the Tracks

Blood On the Tracks by Bob DylanBlood On the Tracks contains all the elements of Bob Dylan‘s classic, 1960s outputs, with the staples of the acoustic guitar, the harmonica, and the poetic lyrics delivered in expert fashion. It also fit in well with those earliest works as Dylan’s return to Columbia Records after a short stint with Asylum in the early 1970s. However, this fifteenth studio album by the artist is thematically unlike anything he had done before, as a raw and confessional work apparently influenced by the breakup of his marriage (a claim that Dylan has both denied and confirmed in subsequent years). Initially receiving lukewarm reviews, the album has collected ever-growing acclaimed in the four decades since its release, with many claiming it may be his finest overall release, if not his best produced.

After stellar success and acclaim through much of the 1960s, Dylan stumbled a bit as he entered the 1970s with the release of several uneven albums. 1970s Self Portrait was a double LP containing mainly cover tunes, while his acting role and soundtrack for the 1972 film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid was largely forgettable save for the classic track, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”. Backed by The Band, Dylan released Planet Waves in 1973, which spawned two versions of the standard “Forever Young”. Dylan and The Band then embarked in his first tour since early 1967, with 40 dates in North America in early 1974, which in turn spawned the live double album Before the Flood.

With his return to Columbia came an affair with a woman in that organization and the subsequent deterioration of Dylan’s marriage to Sara, his wife of ten years and mother of his four children. Beyond this situation, other influences on the material of Blood On the Tracks were the short stories of Russian author Anton Chekov along with Dylan’s art lessons with painter Norman Raeben. Produced by Dylan, the tracks for the album were originally recorded in New York in September 1974 with the album set for a December release. However, at the urging of his brother David Zimmerman, five tracks were re-recorded in Minneapolis in order to relieve some of the “starker sounding” numbers, delaying the album’s release until early 1975. Only one of the original versions of these five songs have been officially released by Dylan.


Blood On the Tracks by Bob Dylan
Released: January 20, 1975 (Columbia)
Produced by: Bob Dylan
Recorded: A & R Recording, New York, & Sound 80 in Minneapolis, MN, September-December, 1974
Side One Side Two
Tangled Up In Blue
Simple Twist of Fate
You’re a Big Girl Now
Idiot Wind
You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
Meet Me In the Morning
Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
If You See Her, Say Hello
Shelter from the Storm
Buckets of Rain
Primary Musicians
Bob Dylan – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica
Barry Kornfeld – Guitars
Paul Griffin – Keyboards
Tony Brown – Bass
Bill Berg – Drums

The album begins with “Tangled Up In Blue”, one of the re-recorded tracks from Minneapolis which on the surface is a bright account of the sad recollection of a lost love. That being said, the poetic lyrics seem to be much more complex than those of a linear story and are delivered in a pleasant and melodic manner within a repeating pattern of acoustic music with slight bass and drums. Released as a single, the song reached the Top 40 on the pop charts in 1975 and has since been regarded as one of Dylan’s finest compositions. “Simple Twist of Fate” is built in much the same way as the opener but with a more melancholy tone, through its descending riff and sparse arrangement with only Dylan’s acoustic and the bass of Tony Brown musically. The song is at once sorrowful, regretful, and peaceful with an overall vibe which reaches into your soul and seems to make personal sense no matter what the original intent of the lyrics.

People tell me it’s a sin to know and feel too much within, I still believe she was my twin but I lost the ring, she was born in spring but I was born too late, blame it on a simple twist of fate…”

The next two songs on the album are Minneapolis re-recordings. “You’re a Big Girl Now” differs in arrangement and approach than the first two songs, being much more adult contemporary and featuring Thomas McFaul on piano and multiple guitarists accompanying Dylan. While all the songs on Blood On the Tracks have a bit of negative aura, “Idiot Wind” is much more biting and cynical than the other, more poetic songs. Still, this is an excellent listen as it is vocally melodic and dramatic and features a heavy presence of Hammond organ throughout by Paul Griffin. The first side concludes with a short, bright, happy-go-lucky tune called “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”, which includes much of the same sound and elements of Dylan’s sixties outputs. A strongly strummed acoustic and bouncy bass presented in a bluegrass mode with a Dylanesque edge, the hopeless lyrics are delivered with the most upbeat smile possible.

Bob DylanThe second side begins with “Meet Me in the Morning”, a decidedly bluesy acoustic track, with steady rhythms set in a way which could’ve fit well as a Rolling Stones song. Here, the rather standard lyrics take a back seat to the music and atmosphere, which is very cool and entertaining, especially during the ending, wild, guitar lead. “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” is a nearly nine minute story-telling song set to an upbeat, Country rhythm. This complex story with multiple characters is unfortunately delivered in a mundane fashion due to its endless repetition and Dylan would later perfect this type of saga with the much better “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” on the Traveling Wilburys debut album a decade and a half later. “If You See Her, Say Hello”, returns to the slow and sad approach with more exquisite production of the dual acoustic and consistent percussion before the song dissolves with a fine, simple instrumental.

Wrapping up the album are two more top notch tunes. “Shelter from the Storm” features much the same arrangement as “Simple Twist of Fate” on the first side with the theme switching to that of asylum. Dylan’s fine vocals and melody carries this three chord song with strong lyrical imagery. “Buckets of Rain” is the perfect closer for this album, simple but effective with vocals reminiscent of the Nashville Skyline era. The song seems to offer closure to the all the heartbreak left in the wake of this collection of songs.

Blood On the Tracks topped the charts in the US and reached the Top 5 in the UK, while achieving double-platinum status, making it one of Dylan’s best selling albums in his vast collection. While there was much success, Dylan quickly pivoted away from the confessional style with the more political-inspired follow-up, Desire in 1976 followed by Dylan’s foray into Gospel music later in the decade.

~

1975 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1975 albums.

 

Highway 61 Revisited
by Bob Dylan

Buy Highway 61 Revisited

1965 Album of the Year

Highway 61 Revisited by Bob DylanSome albums are borne of the ether. Some are born of the earth. A rare few refine both into a crystallized masterpiece. Out of Bob Dylan‘s entire discography, Highway 61 Revisited stands as the brightest example of his work. It takes concepts he had experimented with previously and solidifies them into liquid gold. The contradiction in words was intentional there because Highway 61 Revisited is nothing if not fluid. While honoring his past this album also points a big bright burning finger towards works that had yet to come like Blonde On Blonde, Desire and Blood On the Tracks. Highway 61 Revisited is Bob Dylan in a nutshell, a nutshell that is inside out and bleeding right into our collective brains.

The album began its climb to creation the day Bob Dylan was born in Minnesota near the actual U.S. Highway 61, which stretched from the Canadian border north of his hometown, south through Memphis, the Mississippi Delta, and all the way to New Orleans. In his mind the highway connected a young Dylan to blues legends like Muddy Waters and Elvis Presley. The blues serve as the foundation for Highway 61 Revisited. Dylan’s own angst at the time of the album’s recording served as the structure. He had recently “gone electric” at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25, 1965 and come back from a disappointing tour of England. He was looking to do something different and he had an axe to grind with the people who wanted him to stay in his folk box. When he finally got some musicians together to record this sixth studio album it came together like it was being guided by divine hands.

Produced by Bob Johnston, it only took two brief sessions and 9 days for the album to be completed. Amazing aspects of it, like the organ riff on “Like a Rolling Stone”, were improvised on the spot. Al Kooper, the musician who improvised the riff, just happened to be visiting one day and managed to play his way right into rock and roll history. While Dylan’s lyrics on the album reflect his frustrations at the time, he puts a fantastic twist on them by throwing in elements of surrealism. He evokes dreams by filling his songs with characters from history and fiction. The resulting album is infinitely more complex than anything put together in 9 days has any right to be. Every listen allows the ear to hear something new and the mind to interpret the lyrics differently. Fifty years after its original release it still stands as a perfect example of musical complexity.


Highway 61 Revisted by Bob Dylan
Released: August 30, 1965 (Columbia)
Produced by: Bob Johnston & Tom Wilson
Recorded: Columbia Studio A, New York, June–August 1965
Side One Side Two
Like a Rolling Stone
Tombstone Blues
It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry
From a Buick 6
Ballad of a Thin Man
Queen Jane Approximately
Highway 61 Revisited
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
Desolation Row
Primary Musicians
Bob Dylan – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Harmonica
Mike Bloomfield – Guitars
Charlie McCoy – Guitars
Al Kooper – Organ
Harvey Brooks – Bass
Bobby Gregg – Drums

Each song on this album is an enigma that you could write thousands of words about and still be no closer to truly understanding or explaining it, so I’ll leave that to someone else. The album kicks off with Dylan’s first huge hit, “Like a Rolling Stone”, which reached #2 on the US charts. The song is partially autobiographical and probably one of the best opening tracks ever and serendipitously got its signature hook when Kooper, a 21-year protégé of producer Tom Wilson, snuck in on organ and made the best of his opportunity. “Tombstone Blues” speeds up an already electric start. Like the title song, “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Desolation Row” we get Dylan’s use of famous names in his songs to create a parable that feels timeless and utterly surreal. The guitar on “Tombstone Blues” is one of the finest on any Dylan album. “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It takes a Train to Cry” is a more classical blues ballad and brings in the harmonica for full effect. It’s a rare song that doesn’t overdo the instrument and makes it feel like an organic part of the sauntering rhythm and the piano has an almost ragtime quality.

“From a Buick 6” is probably the weakest song on the album since the lyrics aren’t as wild as everything else but the music is still incredible throughout. This could be one of the strongest songs on an album that wasn’t so packed with great songs. “Ballad of a Thin Man” sports scathing lyrics poking fun at everyone that isn’t in on Dylan’s jokes. This album is Dylan exorcising all his anger and frustration at everyone that didn’t get him or wanted him to be their dancing monkey, “Ballad of a Thin Man” is the keystone of the album and those sentiments. “Queen Jane Approximately” is just as scathing as “Mr. Jones” but sounds a lot friendlier due to Dylan’s lighter vocal tone. It doesn’t sound quite as menacing but it’s still talking about someone who isn’t aware of how stupid they really are. The song is believed to refer to Dylan’s fellow folk singer and ex-girlfriend, Joan Baez, but only he knows if that is truth. It is totally applicable to say this song applies to any of the people involved in the folk movement that Dylan was trying to leave. It’s also one of the most underrated songs on the album.

Bob Dylan writing Highway 61 RevisitedDylan’s opening line of the title track, “Highway 61 Revisited”, connects the route to history by pairing it with the biblical story of Abraham, while starting with a wailing police siren. “Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues” is a hangover song from the opening lines which discuss being lost in Juarez, Mexico. The song also discusses how the destructive nature of all those things we think we want so much that leave us changed for the worse. “Desolation Row” is the final track and a juggernaut. It’s an 11 minute epic that manages to keep your ear interested because you want to see what’s around the next bend of lyrics. It’s got a great southwestern acoustic guitar that sounds like Dylan is singing the song in a dimly lit tavern somewhere. If “Like A Rolling Stone” is a perfect opener this is the show stopping finale that bookends the greatest of all Dylan albums.

Throughout Highway 61 Revisited the lyrics seem to be totally relatable and completely mysterious at the same time. This is one of the album’s greatest strengths. The lyrics’ meaning can never be fully unraveled, which means they can always mean whatever you think they do. Each time Dylan talks about the album he gives a different explanation for the driving motivations behind the album, the songs and the verses, keeping the mystery of the album alive and open to whatever interpretation your mind desires. Great art is always open to interpretation and that’s one of the big keys to Highway 61 Revisited. Whereas much of Dylan’s previous work was locked in a particular time, this album is completely timeless. Most importantly of all though, the music is just plain great. It’s more complex than anything he had done previously and more rewarding to listen to as a result. It’s a great album but if you want to debate me on that point, just remember to send your emails from Desolation Row.

~

1965 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of 1965 albums.

 

The Firm

1985 Album of the Year
Buy The Firm

The Firm 1985 albumThere was much anticipation ahead of the release of The Firm’s debut album. This “super group”, anchored by former Swan Song label mates Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Paul Rodgers of Bad Company, sparked a curiosity on whether these guys, who each hadn’t delivered any new music in several years, still had the individual magic as well as what kind of material they would produce collectively. Although the album (along with The Firm’s short career) has been considered a commercial failure by some, thirty years after its release it is clear that The Firm is a unique musical statement which seamless blends classic rock elements from earlier days with just a touch of eighties sonic innovation. These elements and the unique and excellent musicianship of the four group members ultimately makes this one of the best overall albums of the decade and our Classic Rock Review Album of the Year for 1985.

Following the death of John Bonham and dissolution of Led Zeppelin in 1980, Page worked on a series of small and short-term projects as well as the defunct super group, XYZ. In 1983, Page played a series of charity concerts with an ensemble that included Rodgers, who was then working on his first post-Bad-Company solo album. Following the tour, Rodgers and Page began to jam together and decided to write and record new material. They enlisted bassist Tony Franklin, who Page had worked with when touring with Roy Harper in 1984, and drummer Chris Slade, a former member of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

The new group self-produced the album in England. The songs composed for The Firm are simple, there is nothing earth breaking in structure or arrangement and no heavy lyrical messages. However the musical performance and production methods are done expertly, with the simplest elements brought to their full harmonic and melodic fruition with just a tad of synths and extra bits of ear candy throughout.


The Firm by The Firm
Released: February 11, 1985 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Jimmy Page & Paul Rodgers
Recorded: Sol Studios, Cookham, Berkshire, England, 1984
Side One Side Two
Closer
Make Or Break
Someone To Love
Together
Radioactive
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling
Money Can’t Buy
Satisfaction Guaranteed
Midnight Moonlight
Group Musicians
Paul Rodgers – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Jimmy Page – Guitars
Tony Franklin – Bass, Keyboards
Chris Slade – Drums, Percussion

The opening track, “Closer” nicely blends Page’s Zeppelin-type, oddly timed rudimental riffs with Rodgers smooth and soulful rock melody. However, what is immediately of note is the strength of the group’s rhythm section, especially the potent fretless bass of Franklin. As an added bonus, this track also incorporates a brass section which gives the song an extra punch that adds to its overall unique vibe. “Make or Break” starts with Rodgers’ droning and hypnotic slow guitar slosh through the slow, new wave flavored verses. As the song progresses, Page and Franklin join in to add to the building intensity of the music with the real payoff comeing during the outro, where Page’s overdubbed, slightly psychedelic slide guitars and Slade’s frantic drumming give the track a bit of a “Dazed and Confused” heavy vibe while Rodgers’ intense vocals work to a crescendo before the song finally collapses.

“Someone To Love” is another track where Franklin’s bass really stands out, adding a definitive punch to the sloshy riffs by Page, which themselves are in stark contrast to Slade’s measured and steady drum beat. On the vocal front, Rodgers has a spot on melody, making the most of the simple lyrics in a strong and soulful declaration. Page returns to his folk roots with the intro of simple acoustic ballad, “Together”. The acoustic backing is accented by electric pedal-effect guitars in the foreground and later on Page adds a mellow but melodic electric lead. During the bridge sections, the song really elevates with Rodgers’ melodic vocals being mimicked by Franklin’s bass, all working together to make this an absolute forgotten gem which has so much more substance than the typical “power ballad”. Listening to this album 30 years later, it is hard to believe that “Radioactive” was the only real “hit” from the album, reaching the Top 30 on the pop charts. Now, that’s not to say that this isn’t a fine track – it is – and very original to boot. This is especially due to Page’s odd, squeaky guitar interludes, which turn this standard and steady rock song into a unique, new wave mechanical piece.

 
The second side begins with, perhaps, the only real mistake on this album, a cover of the Righteous Brothers classic “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”. That being said, this is a unique rendition to a popular standard with Rodgers showing his exquisite crooning chops and Franklin standing out with his buzzy bass bends along with a fine chorus of backing singers. However, that leaves Page and Slade basically at the level of wedding backing band, methodically playing the chords and hitting the beats. “Money Can’t Buy” is the most Bad Company-like song on the album with its dark folk elements and even Page seeming to mimic Mick Ralphs in style. During the bridge sections, the song employs a strong rock riff section while the rest has a nice blend of acoustic, multiple electric, synths, and rhythms, especially during the middle lead section.

 
The legendary Jimmy Page saved his finest work for the final two tracks of the album. “Satisfaction Guaranteed” is a steady track which gives Page plenty of room for sonic mastery, including the use of some bowed guitar starting in the second verse. This song also features the finest lead on the album, with the heavy, bluesy guitar returning during the long outro. Rogers’ vocals draw you in and the rhythms are simple but potent throughout, driven by Slade’s drumming, which finds the space in between the various measured riffs. The closing track, “Midnight Moonlight”, takes the listener back to another time, ten years gone. It got its birth as an unfinished piece entitled, “Swansong”, which was left over from Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti sessions in 1974. With Rogers collaborating, this deliberative and patient song goes through several slow and delicate acoustic sections, like a soft and surreal journey, held together by frequent returns to the main theme and ever-surprising new melodies and instrumental arrangements. There is a section for about a minute in the middle where Page is completely solo, playing a variety of acoustic motifs in differing styles before the full band roars back with a full backing chorus before the track builds through a long crescendo at the end.

The Firm peaked at #17 in the US and #15 in the UK, which was rather lukewarm given its quality and group membership. The Firm would record a follow-up album, Mean Business in 1986, before the group dissolved and the musicians went their separate ways. Slade went on to become AC/DC’s drummer while Franklin did a lot of work with television and movie soundtracks. Ultimately, both Page and Rodgers reunited with the former bandmates from the 1970s, albeit both for a limited time.

~

1985 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.

 

Songs From the Big Chair
by Tears For Fears

Buy Songs From the Big Chair

Songs From the Big Chair by Tears For FearsIn the 1980s, Tears For Fears was a progressive/new wave project by composer and vocalist Roland Orzabal and bassist Curt Smith. They reached their commercial peak with their second studio album Songs from the Big Chair, which peaked at #2 in the UK and topped the US charts, while spawning four hit singles. Thematically, the album adopts a sort of mellow, electronic, primal-scream-like approach with rich and sophisticated pop compositions on the human condition and emotional healing.

Orzabal and Smith were acquaintances as teenagers and later as session musicians, where they first met future group drummer Manny Elias. After a short stint with the band Graduate, which yielded an album and single release in 1980, they formed a band to the develop a sound similar to Brian Eno or Peter Gabriel. The group got their name from a technique used in primal school therapy, developed by the American psychologist Arthur Janov, and most famous as the inspiration for the album,  John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Keyboardist Ian Stanley offered the duo free use of his home studio where Tears For Fears recorded and released three singles through 1981 and 1982, with the third of these, “Mad World”, reaching #3 in the UK late in 1982. Their debut album, The Hurting, was released in early 1983 with Stanley and Elias becoming full bandmembers, making Tears For Fears a quartet.

In 1984, the group began working with producer Chris Hughes on a follow-up to their successful debut album, with two singles released late in that year ahead of the early 1985 release of Songs From the Big Chair. The album’s title was inspired by a 1976 television film, “Sybil”, about a woman with multiple personalities who only found stability when sitting in her therapist’s “big chair”.


Songs From the Big Chair by Tears For Fears
Released: February 25, 1985 (Phonograph)
Produced by: Chris Hughes
Recorded: The Wool Hall, Somerset, UK, 1984
Side One Side Two
Shout
The Working Hour
Everybody Wants to Rule the World
Mothers Talk
I Believe
Broken
Head over Heels
Listen
Primary Musicians
Roland Orzabal – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Curt Smith – Bass, Vocals
Ian Stanley – Keyboards
Manny Elias – Drums

A regimented percussion introduces and persists throughout “Shout”, co-written by Orzabel and Stanley. In contrast to the mechanical instrumentation, the melodic vocals and synth riffs help the song grow in richness as it progresses. Released in November 1984, it was a smash hit on both sides of the Atlantic. “The Working Hour” has a completely different feel, starting with a jazzy saxophone solo and orchestral effects before the song fully kicks in with percussion by Jerry Marotta and grand piano by Andy Davis. It takes two full minutes before the vocal part of the first verse begins in this interesting song which is at once dark, desparate and distant but also warm and inviting.

Another chart topper, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” makes good use of arpeggios and motifs, which helped make it the cleanest pop song thus far on the album. The song’s middle section has a couple of rhythmic guitar sections with a later hard-rock-style guitar lead played by Hughes, who also played a large role in completing this composition. The first single released ahead of this album, “Mothers Talk” is driven by overbearing synths, percussion and chanting vocals, While this song has some new wave elements, these are buried within the thick production.

The second side starts with “I Believe”, a lounge-like ballad by Orzabel which stays sad and slow throughout and features Will Gregory on saxophone. The side and album concludes with “Listen”, a dramatic track which features long stretches of synth ambiance between vocal lines before it builds to an intense crescendo in the long outro where Orzabel and Marilyn Davis trade distant vocal chants. The middle of the side features a mini-suite where differing versions of the hyper-synth track “Broken” acts as both an intro and epilogue to the track “Head Over Heels”. The most melodic and interesting song on the album, “Head Over Heels” also possesses the best musical arrangement and overall composition, especially during the ascending chorus sections with sweet musical overtones and riffs by a variety of instrumentals. The outro to this Top 10 hit finishes with a coda section featuring bouncy bass, main riff and scat vocals until it reaches a climax at very end with a solo vocal line by Orzabal.

Songs From the Big Chair hit the Top 30 in about a dozen national charts across the globe. The band followed-up this worldwide hit with a world tour that lasted over a year before the group took an extended break, not releasing their third album until 1989.

~

1985 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.

 

Listen Like Thieves by INXS

Buy Listen Like Thieves

Listen Like Thieves by INXSINXS forged their most successful rock formula on, Listen Like Thieves, the 1985 album which would set the pace for the group’s most successful commercial run through the late eighties and early nineties. The sound they forged on this fifth studio album morphs traditional rock with a dance production value along with the lyrical themes are upbeat and optimistic, portraying a feeling of opportunity and forgiveness. Commercially successful, the album spawned five single releases, including the group’s first US Top 10 hit.

INXS originated in an Australian high school in 1977, when keyboardist Andrew Farriss recruited vocalist Michael Hutchence into his band, which also included bassist Garry Gary Beers. Eventually, this early band merged with another group that included guitarist Tim Farriss (Andrew’s older brother) and multi-instrumentalist Kirk Pengilly. Once INXS was fully established, a third Farriss brother, drummer Jon Farriss rounded out the lineup. The band began regularly supporting fellow Australian band Midnight Oil and enlisted that group’s manager, Gary Morris. Early in 1980 the band signed a five-album record deal with a Sydney independent label and INXS released their first single, “Simple Simon”/”We Are the Vegetables”. Their self-titled debut album was released later in 1980 and featured their first Australian Top 40 single as the album itself went gold and reached the Top 30. A year later, Underneath the Colours was released to similar success but the individual members decided to take a short break from the band to pursue other musical projects.

In mid-1982, the group recorded and released the international album Shabooh Shoobah, which brought the group to the attention of Western audiences due to popular singles and videos on the new network MTV. The band travelled to England to record their fourth album, The Swing, which was released in April 1984 and continued their worldwide ascent in popularity, especially after an extended European tour later in 1984.

For Listen Like Thieves, INXS morphed their sound from new wave towards a more straight-ahead rock direction. Produced by Chris Thomas, the album was the first to be recorded in the band’s home country since 1981’s Underneath the Colours. Leading up to the album’s release, the group played some high profile concerts including an Australian performance for British Prince Charles and Princess Diana as well as a featured spot in the Australian version of Live Aid.


Listen Like Thieves by INXS
Released: October 14, 1985 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Chris Thomas
Recorded: Rhinoceros Studios, Sydney, Australia, August 1985
Side One Side Two
What You Need
Listen Like Thieves
Kiss the Dirt
Shine Like It Does
Good + Bad Times
Biting Bullets
This Time
Three Sisters
Same Direction
One x One
Red Red Sun
Group Musicians
Michael Hutchence – Lead Vocals
Andrew Farriss – Guitars, Keyboards
Tim Farriss – Guitars
Kirk Pengilly – Guitar, Saxophone, Vocals
Garry Gary Beers – Basss
Jon Farriss – Drums, Percussion

Most songs on Listen Like Thieves were composed by Andrew Farriss and Michael Hutchence. However, the title track is credited to all six members of INXS. With dramatic storytelling and an effective vocal performance, this atmospheric song is musically like a movie clip track for a spy thriller with an edge of good, buoyant bass throughout by Beers. “Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain)” sounds like it was inspired by Roxy music, with a subtle rhythm and blues approach and reserved vocals, along with great production and arrangement. This track also features effective, steady drumming by Jon Farriss and reached #15 on the Australian singles chart. “Shine Like It Does” features a smooth, almost soothing melody along with orchestral-style synths, but “Good + Bad Times” unfortunately has a dated, eighties sound and is kind of a throw-away filler. In contrast, “Biting Bullets” is purely like a punk rant, with slight, U2-ish elements.

 
The album’s most popular track is the opening, “What You Need”, which offers instant and obvious appeal with its funky synth bass line and guitar rotation along with its upbeat message. The track provides a great hook and short musical interludes, packing much into the three and a half minute duration. Of special note is the R&B progressions, the second of which climaxes with a smooth ending sax solo by Pengilly. “What You Need” was the band’s first American Top 10 hit, peaking at #5 on the Billboard pop singles chart. The album’s second side starts with “This Time”, a song solely composed by Andrew Farriss and featuring a mixture of electric and acoustic guitars along with great melody in vocals and in riff. This track is also advanced in its arrangement and approach and lyrically it centers on the key line;

this time will be the last time that we will fight like this

Tim Farriss’s “Three Sisters” is an experimental, instrumental with jungle sound effects which leads into “Same Direction”, maintaining the synthesized beats through its long, Oingo Boingo like intro. Like a breath of fresh air, “One x One” has a strong, show time arrangement and, while still synth dominated, this song gets back to the direct rock and funk rhythms of earlier on the album. It all concludes with “Red Red Sun”, co-written by Jon Farriss and perhaps the hardest rocking song on the album.

Listen Like Thieves topped the Australian album charts and fell just short of the Top 10 on the US charts. Following the album’s release, INXS went on a world tour through North America, Europe, and New Zealand before returing to the studio to record Kick, their most successful album commercially.

~

1985 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.

 

Voices Carry by ‘Til Tuesday

Buy Voices Carry

Voices Carry by Til Tuesday‘Til Tuesday had a short but fruitful career encapsulated within the bonds of the mid 1980s music scene. Their 1985 debut album, Voices Carry, features the famous, indelible title track which put the band on the map and has since given them a permanent position on the pantheon of eighties “one hit wonders”. However, all of the songs on this album have a pop approach and each displays the distinct skills of the four band members as they stick closely to those elements in which they are most comfortable and perform masterfully.

Fronted by lead vocalist and bassist Aimee Mann, ‘Til Tuesday was formed in 1982 in Boston. A few months after their formation, the group won a 1983 radio station competition which resulted in their original demo “Love In a Vacuum” receiving significant airplay in the Boston area. Soon the group was signed to Epic Records and they entered the studio with producer Mike Thorne.

The group went to New York city to record the album. All songs on Voices Carry credit Mann with the lyrics and the musicians – guitarist Robert Holmes, keyboardist Joey Pesce, and drummer Michael Hausman – with composing the music.


Voices Carry by ‘Til Tuesday
Released: June 25, 1985 (Epic)
Produced by: Mike Thorne
Recorded: R.P.M. Sound Studios, New York
Side One Side Two
Love in a Vacuum
Looking Over My Shoulder
I Could Get Used to This
No More Crying
Voices Carry
Winning the War
You Know the Rest
Maybe Monday
Are You Serious?
Don’t Watch Me Bleed
Sleep
Group Musicians
Aimee Mann – Lead Vocals, Bass
Robert Holmes – Guitars, Vocals
Joey Pesce – Piano, Synths, Vocals
Michael Hausman – Drums, Percussion

Voices Carry begins with a re-recorded version of “Love in a Vacuum”, the group’s radio hit from 1983. Here Mann’s funky bass adds variety to the otherwise steady rhythm and beat and some cool interjections of scat backing vocals are added between many of the lead vocal lines. In a similar vein, “Looking Over My Shoulder” features a funky slap bass, steady drums, and just a bit of flavoring from Holmes’ guitar and Pesce’s keyboard motifs. This track much more interesting vocally than the opener with nice, ascending melodies by Mann.

On “I Could Get Used to This”, the group delves full-fledged into a solid mid eighties sound while still sounding somewhat interesting in arrangement and melody. Although some of the synths are a bit overbearing, “No More Crying” returns to a more standard, rock-based new wave vibe with a rhythmic, punchy edge. Of course, the most popular song on the album is the classic “Voices Carry” with lyrics about a controlling relationship and saving face in public. Actually, the antagonist in the song was originally a woman but the gender pronouns were changed at the request of the label. Musically, there are cool intervening synth lines between each vocal line and the delivery of the chorus hook is excellent and true highlight of the album. Fellow label mate Cyndi Lauper had originally wanted to record the song before the group decided to release it as their lead single where it peaked at #8 on the Billboard pop charts.

 
The album’s second side begins with “Winning the War”, which features a long instrumental intro led by Holmes’s guitar riffing. When the first verse finally kicks in, Mann’s vocals are delivered at near the highest register of her range. “You Know the Rest” is slow and steady with Pesce’s heavy use of electric pianos and synths and a slow but creative drum beat by Hausman. “Maybe Monday” is another song with a new wave groove along with an interesting mix of topical guitars, a basic bass which locks in well with the rhythm, and more excellent vocals.

“Are You Serious?” is a guitar-driven, funk-rocker during verses, while being more synth driven during the choruses and both trade parts in a decent instrumental interlude during the bridge. The steady “Don’t Watch Me Bleed” is a close sister to “Voices Carry”, at least during the verses, while the duration contains ethereal guitar soundscapes and vocals. The steady closer “Sleep” ends the album on a high note musically but on a lyrical sad note, with a theme of saying goodbye to an ailing loved one. Beyond that, the song was well constructed and arranged and should’ve been another hit for the band in 1985.

Voices Carry found some critical acclaim and reached the Top 20 on the album charts. The 1986 follow-up, Welcome Home, saw more individual songwriting but less commercial success and ‘Til Tuesday essentially broke up upon the release of of their third and final album, Everything’s Different Now in 1988.

~

1985 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.

 

Misplaced Childhood by Marillion

Buy Misplaced Childhood

Misplaced Childhood by MarillionMisplaced Childhood is a 1985 concept album by the British group Marillion, which consists of an LP side continuous pieces of music. Thematically, the compositional lyrics were written by the group’s vocalist Fish (born Derek William Dick), who wrote a theme based on elements of lost love lament, and lost childhood. This platinum selling third release by the group has gone on to be their most successful as it topped the charts in their home UK and registered on those charts for 41 consecutive weeks.

The group was formed (originally as “Silmarillion”) in 1979 by guitarist Steve Rothery. Fish joined on as vocalist in 1981 with keyboardist Mark Kelly and bassist Pete Trewavas joinig the following year. After releasing a three song demo which caught some attention, Marillion recorded and released their debut album, Script for a Jester’s Tear, in 1983. The album peaked in the Top 10 of the UK charts and spawned the Top 20 single, “Garden Party”. Former Steve Hackett drummer Ian Mosley joined the group in time to record their the second album, Fugazi, in 1984.

The concept for Misplaced Childhood was sparked during an “acid trip” by Fish when he hallucinated a vision of a child dressed as a soldier. He instantly wrote “a large scrawl of prose” with a mixture of autobiographical, traditional, and popular culture references. The album was recorded in the spring of 1985 in Berlin, Germany and produced by Chris Kimsey. Aside from composing the the music itself, the biggest challenge was getting the songs to flow together seamlessly from one song to the next, with some “link” sections constructed to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’.


Misplaced Childhood by Marillion
Released: June 17, 1985 (MCA)
Produced by: Chris Kimsey
Recorded: Hansa Ton Studios, Berlin March–May 1985
Side One Side Two
Pseudo Silk Kimono
Kayleigh
Lavender
Bitter Suite
Heart of Lothian
Waterhole (Expresso Bongo)
Lords of the Backstage
Blind Curve
Childhoods End?
White Feather
Primary Musicians
Fish – Lead Vocals
Steve Rothery – Guitars
Mark Kelly – Keyboards
Pete Trewavas – Bass
Ian Mosley – Drums, Percussion

to triumphant rock closer “White Feather.” Steve Rothery’s New Wave-y riffs give the album a decidedly ’80s sheen, but his Steve Hackett-esque solos keep the songs grounded in the prog idiom. Keyboardist Mark Kelly takes a similar approach, moving from breezy synth pads to intricate melodic runs.

The opener “Pseudo Silk Kimono” is a subtle, slow, and soft piece, fueled by long synth strings and guitar pedal effects throughout the two brief verses. “Kayleigh” is the signature song on this album and most indelible track from Marillion overall. A perfect song of reflection, which topped the list of the River of Rock’s list of Forgotten 80s classics, the song is dripping with nostalgia and emotion lyrically while it is musically led by the great guitar riffing and fantastic lead by Rothery. Largely ignored in America, the song reached number 2 on the British charts and also ranked high in several other European countries. Most importantly, it holds up well 30 years later as a piece that represents the best elements of eighties rock.

 
The third song in the side one medley and often added as an epilogue to “Kayleigh” on classic rock radio, “Lavender” is short but dramatic track which found British chart success on its own in 1985. Built on simple, repeating riff, the song borrows a bit from the folk song “Lavender Blue” but with a definitive, prog rock flavor. The five part “Bitter Suite” follows with rapidly changing chapters morphing into each other. “Brief Encounter” features Mosley’s rolling drums above Kelley’s droning synth, accompanied by a distant lead guitar before “Lost Weekend” marches exclusively to a hi-hat beat along with (mostly) spoken vocals by Fish. “Blue Angel” has a pure old-Genesis-like approach with a slow, repeating riff and exquisite lead guitar over poetic lyrics. “Misplaced Rendezvous” has picked electric guitar and emotive vocals before it morphs into the piano driven “Windswept Thumb” with much the same vibe to conclude the suite. Even though it features stronger rhythms and rock elements with odd timings, “Heart of Lothian” sounds like a natural continuation of the suite with an ethereal, double-guitar lead riff through much of the track before it finally giving way to calm, synth-driven outro to end the first side.

MarillionThe second side (and musical movement) begins with the percussive orchestra of “Waterhole (Expresso Bongo)” with animated xylophone-like synths by Kelly complimented by Mosley’s complex drum pattern and Fish’s most strained yet strong vocals thus far. The short “Lords of the Backstage” features odd-timed syncopation as a different variation of “Waterhole” before the album turns to the second extended, five-part suite, “Blind Curve”. The opening section is a slow rocker with only one real verse before moving on to “Passing Strangers”, a ballad with strong, dark rhythms which concludes with a fantastic, multi-part guitar lead. The “Mylo” section has the same basic vibe but with more melodic and expressive vocals and a later cool synth, which makes this one of the most pleasant sections of the second side. The suite slows with the soundtrack-like “Perimeter Walk” before the climatic ending of “Threshold” where the main theme in “Passing Strangers” returns with much excited tension, not relenting until the song finally resolves with a short guitar outro.

“Childhoods End?” is a pleasant, almost poppy dance song, driven by the bouncy bass of Trewavas along with odd, funky rhythms during the verses. This is complemented by stronger, straight-forward rock choruses which work to make this track different than anything else on the album in musical vibe. The song’s title is phrased as a question which is ultimately answered in the negative at the very end of the lyrics. The closing “White Feather” is a new wave flavored, groove rap with animated drums and a uni-directional arrangement before it fades out to complete the album.

During the tour for Misplaced Childhood, Fish would often announce that there is time for only one more track before the band performed the entire album in sequence. Marillion followed up with a less successful fourth album, Clutching at Straws in 1987, before Fish left the band to pursue a solo career. He returned to the group in 2015 to launch the “Farewell to Childhood” tour, where the group plays the full LP to honor its 30th anniversary.

~

1985 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.

<

Mike and the Mechanics

Buy Mike + the Mechanics

Mike and the MechanicsMike + The Mechanics was a quasi-solo project by Genesis bassist and guitarist Mike Rutherford The 1985 self-title debut was a commercial success which spawned three hit singles and helped shape the sounds of the mid 1980s. Musically, the album features a mix of classic rock and new wave elements oriented towards the radio-friendly pop music of the day, fueled by the compositions mainly co-written by Rutherford and producer Christopher Neil.

Shortly after Genesis condensed down to a three-piece group in the late 1970s, each of the members decided to embark on parallel solo projects in-between the Genesis albums and tours. Rutherford released his first two solo albums, Smallcreep’s Day and Acting Very Strange in 1980 and 1982 respectively. However, he found the process of recording a record alone artistically unsatisfying and soon started a songwriting partnership with Scottish performer/composer B.A. Robertson. Following the success of Genesis’s 1983 self-titled album, the pair enlisted Neil as an additional composer and producer of the initial Mike + the Mechanics album.

It was decided that the core of the group would be Rutherford on guitars and bass along with keyboardist Adrian Lee and drummer Peter Van Hooke. Beyond that, session musicians and vocalists were brought in where needed, with three different lead vocalists performing on Mike + the Mechanics.


Mike and the Mechanics by Mike and the Mechanics
Released: October 5, 1985 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Christopher Neil
Recorded: AIR Studios, Montserrat, 1985
Side One Side Two
Silent Running
All I Need Is a Miracle
Par Avion
Hanging By a Thread
I Get the Feeling
Take the Reins
You Are the One
A Call to Arms
Taken In
Primary Musicians
Mike Rutherford – Guitars, Bass
Adrian Lee – Keyboards
Peter Van Hooke – Drums

A long synth swell introduces the opening track, “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)”, a song written by Rutherford and Robertson and featuring Paul Carrack on lead vocals. When the song fully kicks in, it features great musical atmospherics to accompany the complex yet poetic lyrics. While dominated by Lee’s keyboards throughout, there is nice short rock guitar lead by Rutherford, making it a complete rock song, which was very successful on the pop charts in both the UK and US. The album’s second track was also its second single. “All I Need Is a Miracle”, sees the group moving into the realm of pop accessibility with strong synth motifs and catchy melodic hooks by Paul Young. While the lyrics have much less depth than those on the opener, this song became the biggest charting on the album when it reached number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1986.

Mike and the Mechanics“Par Avion” is a slow-paced, synth-drenched ballad with soft and reserved lead vocals by the third lead vocalist, John Kirby. Rutherford originally wrote the song with a heavier arrangement but Neil thought it worked better as a softer ballad. “Hanging By a Thread” is much more complex than the previous track, laced with strong synth sections, most prevalent during the song’s extended bridge section. Next comes, “I Get the Feeling”, an upbeat showcase for Young’s vocals, features dual saxophones and Hammond organ throughout to sustain the feel-good vibe.

“Take the Reins” starts out with a pretty cool synth arpeggio but morphs into a song proper which sounds dated and superficial for a pop song sans soul and brain, making it the weakest so far on the album. “You Are the One” is a ballad with sort of the same feeling as late seventies era Genesis, when that group moved away from the complex theatrical numbers and more towards softer, accessible ballads. Speaking of Genesis, “A Call to Arms” began as an unfinished track which was rejected by that group before Rutherford gave it new life for Mike + The Mechanics. The song contains good bass and steady drumming under rich synths through the anthemic, save-the-world, adjust-the-attitude song with well-treated lead vocals by Carrack.

 
The album’s best song is save for last as “Taken In” features a subtle, sad and steady mood. The understated music is perfect backdrop for the fine lead vocals of Young, who delivers on the very effective use of lyrical repetition as composed by Rutherford and Neil. Further adding to the vibe is a slight sax lead after the each verse of this song which became the third Top 40 hit and a tremendous way to finish the able.

Mike + the Mechanics reached number 26 on the Billboard 200 album charts and, being satisfied with the results of this project, Rutherford decided to continue with this band rather than returning to a typical “solo” career. This paid off, as the group’s next album, Living Years in 1988, brought them even greater commercial success and Mike + and the Mechanics continued well into the 1990s.

~

1985 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.