Low Budget by The Kinks

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Low Budget by The KinksThe Kinks closed out their very prolific 1970s with Low Budget, their most commercially successful album of the decade. Composer, producer, and frontman Ray Davies put together a collection of songs that form a very loose concept album. Davies explored both the macro condition of the outside world (economic recession, soaring inflation, energy crisis) as well as the micro conditions of individuals. Along the way, Davies goes to the extreme to make his point without ever taking himself too seriously. Musically, the album returns to a simple rock formula similar to what the Kinks used in the mid 1960s, but with the added elements of the contemporary punk and new wave genres added to the mix.

Over the course of the 1970s, the Kinks released one album per year, starting with the Top 40, Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One in November 1970. However, many of these did not fare as well commercially, as Davies explored many various genres, ranging from music hall to Caribbean to Dixieland to country and bluegrass. Davies also explored the theatrical style with the two-part rock opera Preservation and wrote music intended for a television project that became the album, A Soap Opera, in 1975. The following year, The Kinks recorded their final theatrical work, Schoolboys in Disgrace, but soon after found themselves without a recording contract. In 1978 Van Halen achieved a hit with a cover of “You Really Got Me”, which signaled the start of a commercial resurgence for The Kinks. The non-album single “Father Christmas” and the 1978 album Misfits, saw the band simplifying their sound back to basic rock and roll.

Low Budget was the seventeenth studio album for the band and, according to Davies, recorded during their most tranquil period. The Kinks had become infamous for inner turmoil and personnel shifts throughout their long career. Lead guitarist and Ray’s younger brother, Dave Davies, was often involved with these spats with his older brother, but during the end of the seventies everything was going smoothly as they moved to New York to work on Low Budget. Compared to past Kinks’ albums, this one was done quickly to capture a lot of qualities that are lost when a project is too streamlined.


Low Budget by The Kinks
Released: July 10, 1979 (Arista)
Produced by: Ray Davies
Recorded: The Power Station & Blue Rock Studios, New York, January–June 1979
Side One Side Two
Attitude
Catch Me Now I’m Falling
Pressure
National Health
(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman
Low Budget
In a Space
Little Bit of Emotion
A Gallon of Gas
Misery
Moving Pictures
Group Musicians
Ray Davies – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards  |  Dave Davies – Guitars, Vocals
Jim Rodford – Bass, Vocals  |  Mick Avory – Drums

Opening track “Attitude” is rocking in tempo with a pure punk “attitude” during the verse before it moves into more melodic sections through the complex chorus, with lyrics that are simple and advice-giving. “Catch Me Now I’m Falling” is more indelible than the opener, starting as piano ballad, but soon breaking into a stronger riff which almost plagiarizes The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. With the reprise about “Captain America calling”, the overall theme of the song looks at fair weather friends on the international stage as an Englishman looks at the apparent desertion of the world as America goes through its stiffest challenge,

I stood by you through all of your depressions and I lifted you when you were down / Now it’s your chance to do the same for me, I call your office and your secretary tells me that you’ve gone out of town…”

The frantic “Pressure” is quasi-punk and quasi-old-time-rock-n-roll and probably the best track on the album for bassist Jim Rodford. Lyrically, it looks at the common man being beset by situations not of his own making. After “National Health”, a grinding song with a real new wave vibe, comes the slightly disco influenced “(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman”. Here, an arpeggio synth pattern accompanies the steady drum beat of Mick Avory, with guitars, effects, and melodic vocals above. The lyrics move from fantasy to the reality of depressed economy,

I switched on the radio and nearly dropped dead, the news was so bad that I fell out of bed / There was a gas strike, oil strike, lorry strike, bread strike, got to be a Superman to survive…”

The album’s second side begins with the title track “Low Budget”, which is about as lyrically cheap as its title, but is musically entertaining with Dave Davies’ grinding, distorted guitars and brother Ray’s equally gritty vocals. “In a Space” is a good, melodic rocker with nice harmonies and a mixture of guitars, bouncy bass, and synths, and lyrics which literally speak about taking up space. “Little Bit of Emotion” is held together by a steady acoustic guitar with nice, bluesy electric overdubs. Later on the guitar of Dave Davies and the saxophone of Nick Newall trade leads. Here the lyrics are a bit trite but poppy and slightly comical,

Look at that lady dancing around with no clothes, she’ll give you all her body that’s if you’ve got the dough / She’ll let you see most anything but there’s one thing that she’ll never show…”

“A Gallon of Gas” is a pure tongue-in-cheek track about the rising costs of fuel in 1979 (back then they peaked at near $1.00 per gallon!) The music is bluesy throughout while vocals are more whimsical to give the song a distinct edge. “Misery” continues as a partial medley with the previous track. The music is excellent, upbeat rock with some boogie piano by Ray Davies, while his lyrics encourage the antagonist to loosen up and to not “take yourself so seriously”. The album concludes with “Moving Pictures”, a fine track built like a standard late seventies pop song, with an almost disco beat, quasi funk guitar riff, decorative synth flourishes, and smooth vocals with accents of soprano notes. This makes this unlike previous Kinks songs and leaves the listener with an appreciation for this album.

Low Budget became the highest charting studio album for The Kinks in the US, peaking at #11 on the charts. The group supported the album with an extensive tour which spawned the 1980 live record, One For the Road, and set the group up for further success into the 1980s.

~

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1979 albums.

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Head Games by Foreigner

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Head Games by ForeignerHead Games was the third studio album released by the rock band, Foreigner, in three years and continued their incredible success by reaching the Top 5 on the album charts and selling over five million copies. Produced by Roy Thomas Baker, the third producer employed in three album, Head Games has a grittier sound than its predecessors, with driving rock elements and sprinkles of synthesized embellishments. But what truly makes this album unique among Foreigner albums is the fact that the best material is not the popular radio tracks, but found within the mostly unheralded songs in the heart of the album.

Originally formed in 1976 by veteran musician Mick Jones and ex-King Crimson guitarist Ian McDonald, Foreigner got its name from the fact that half of the original sextet was British and half was American (therefore no matter where they performed, three band members were “foreigners”). After auditioning several singers, Jones brought on Lou Gramm, a little known singer from Rochester, New York. After rehearsing for six months, the group scored a recording contract before even playing their first gig and released their self-titled debut in early 1977. The album was a raving success, staying in the Top 20 for the better part of a year and spawning a world tour into 1978. Double Vision was released in the summer of 1978 sold even better than the debut.

Prior to the recording the album, bassist Rick Wills was brought on as the newest member of the band. Jones wrote or co-wrote most of the material which was all new and written in the studio over the course of a couple months in 1979. One track recorded but left off the original LP was “Zalia”, a collaboration among Jones, McDonald and Gramm, which was later included on a CD re-issue.


Head Games by Foreigner
Released: September 11, 1979 (Atlantc)
Produced by: Roy Thomas Baker, Mick Jones, & Ian McDonald
Recorded: Atlantic Studios, New York, June–July 1979
Side One Side Two
Dirty White Boy
Love On the Telephone
Women
I’ll Get Even with You
Seventeen
Head Games
The Modern Day
Blinded by Science
Do What You Like
Rev On the Red Line
Group Musicians
Lou Gramm – Lead Vocals, Percussion
Mick Jones – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Ian McDonald – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Rick Wills – Bass, Vocals
Al Greenwood – Keyboards
Dennis Elliot – Drums, Vocals

The pure rocker with unrelenting drive and slightly controversial lyrics “Dirty White Boy” opens the album as the hardest rocking song Foreigner had done to that point. Still, the track was accessible enough to reach the Top 20, peaking at #12 on the Pop charts. Jones stated the song was a veiled tribute to the late Elvis Presley, who had “changed the shape of music completely with the kind of heritage that he left”. “Love On the Telephone” revives the more traditional sound of Foreigner in the late seventies. Here Jones switches from guitar to his piano skills, holding down the rhythm with highly melodic vocals and multiple synths floating on top.

The wild, picked, single note riff introduces “Women”, a track with some Southern rock flavorings. The mostly classic rock arrangement (with some boogie piano added later) has no real verse/chorus structure, just a uni-directional drive with a few bridge sections. Gramm’s vocals are very reserved through the first verses but grows in intensity through the latter part of the song as Jones’ lyrics employ a repetitive word method;

Women that you write songs about, women who turn around and kick you out, women you dream about every night, women who stab you in the back with a switchblade knife…”

“I’ll Get Even with You” starts with a bright guitar riff with synth accents through the intro and into the melodic verses with simple hooks, while “Seventeen” is the first and only song on the album that is not top grade, as the melodies seem a little forced to fit a particular style. The title song has a sweeping, synth-driven approach which was ahead of the 1980s style it would help inspire. Compositionally, “Head Games” is catchy but, aside from the intro and identical bridge part, Gramm’s melody and vocals pretty much carry this track completely.

“The Modern Day” is pure new wave with very reserved vocals and otherwise good movement throughout. There are acoustic textures during the bridge, which seem to be added for pure fun and unique entertainment in this mid-tempo pop song. By contrast, “Blinded by Science” is dramatic and theatrical. Built with Jones’ minor-key piano chords beneath Gramm’s soaring vocals, this multi-part mini-suite returns to the opening hook between the various sections, which feature multiple synth textures and just the right enough of guitar riffing for effect.

As great a songwriter that is Mick Jones, the two finest overall songs on the album were written by Gramm and lesser known composers in the band. “Do What You Like” was co-written by McDonald and is the best unheralded song that Foreigner ever recorded. McDonald provides the core of this upbeat, acoustic folk number, accented by the bouncing bass lines of Wills and the steady beat with rolling drum fills by Dennis Elliot. Then comes all the extra sonic flavorings, Gramm’s strong but melancholy lead vocals, synth accents, a potent lead riff, and a plethora of background vocal choruses, which all combine to make this the best song on the album. This leaves “Rev On the Red Line” as the second best song on the album. Co-written by keyboardist Dennis Elliot, this closing track is a classic rock, car song about drag racing with dynamic vocals by Gramm and a great musical vibe throughout.

Foreigner, 1979

Head Games continued Foreigner’s success which continued deep into the 1980s. However, not everyone was invited share the success, as Jones decided to remove co-founders McDonald and Greenwood from the lineup prior to the group’s next album 4. By paring back the group to a four piece, Jones was in firm control of all the music and compositions of future Foreigner material.

~

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1979 albums.

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The Wall by Pink Floyd

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The Wall by Pink FloydThe Wall was the most ambitious album of a long and storied career filled with ambitious projects by Pink Floyd. This double-length concept album was composed by vocalist and bassist Roger Waters and spawned an equally ambitious tour, a feature film, and a legacy which has only grown in the three and a half decades since its release in 1979. Today is the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In conjunction with The River of Rock, we celebrate this historical date by publishing this album review along with a review of the 1982 movie Pink Floyd The Wall on Big Blue Bullfrog and a review of the 1990 concert Roger Waters The Wall Live in Berlin on Kid’s Theatre News.

The album’s concept was developed by Waters following Pink Floyds 1977 “In the Flesh” tour, which followed their previous studio album, Animals. With Pink Floyd at the height of their popularity on this tour, Waters became increasingly frustrated by the ever rowdier audience and began to imagine building a giant wall between the audience and the stage. Waters further developed the “Wall” idea to include isolation, problems with authority, and the real-life loss of his father as an infant during World War II. However, “Bricks in the Wall” (as it was then known) was not the only concept Waters developed at that time. A second concept album dealing with themes of marriage, sex, and family life was also presented to the rest of the band for a vote in 1978. Pink Floyd opted for The Wall, and the other concept would eventually be developed into Waters’ debut solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking in 1984.

The Wall has 26 songs which, by comparison, is the same number of tracks as Pink Floyd’s four previous studio albums combined. To help refine and produce this monumental project, Waters brought in Bob Ezrin, who had previously worked with Alice Cooper, Lou Reed and Peter Gabriel. Ezrin, Waters, and guitarist David Gilmour were the main refiners of the material, working from a 40-page script. The album was methodically recorded in several locations including England, France, and the United States. This was mainly due to the band’s year-long “tax exile”, which found them in odd living arrangements and often bickering with each other. Waters made it clear that he was in charge of the project, dictating the schedule and eventually advocated the firing of founding keyboardist Richard Wright when Wright refused to cut a family holiday short because Waters had moved up the recording schedule.

Drummer Nick Mason recorded many of his tracks independently at Britannia Row Studios in London early on in the process. This left Waters and Gilmour as essentially the only band members who fully participated in the day-to-day production through the end. When the team got to New York, Ezrin suggested that Michael Kamen and the New York Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras, and a choir from the New York City Opera be recorded to enhance several of the theatrical tracks. Ezrin and Waters also captured many of the spoken-word and sound effects used on the album. The minimalist cover design and accompanying sleeve art was designed by cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, who later worked on the animation for The Wall tour and the 1982 film Pink Floyd The Wall, bringing a consistent feel to both projects.


The Wall by Pink Floyd
Released: November 30, 1979 (Harvest/EMI)
Produced by: Bob Ezrin, David Gilmour, James Guthrie   Roger Waters
Recorded: Britannia Row Studios, Studio Miraval, Correns, France, CBS 30th Street Studio, New York, Cherokee Studios, Los Angeles, July 1978-November 1979
Side One Side Two
In the Flesh?
The Thin Ice
Another Brick In the Wall, Part 1
The Happiest Days of Out Lives
Another Brick In the Wall, Part 2
Mother
Goodbye Blue Sky
Empty Spaces
Young Lust
One of My Turns
Don’t Leave Me Now
Another Brick In the Wall, Part 3
Goodbye Cruel World
Side Three Side Four
Hey You
Is there Anybody Out There?
Nobody Home
Vera
Bring the Boys Back Home
Comfortably Numb
The Show Must Go On
In the Flesh
Run Like Hell
Waiting For the Worms
Stop
The Trial
Outside the Wall
Group Musicians
Roger Waters – Lead Vocals, Bass
David Gilmour – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Mandolin
Richard Wright – Keyboards
Nick Mason – Drums, Percussion

Later reprised on the final side, “In the Flesh?” is a reference to the band’s tour where the Wall’s initial concept began. For a few seconds the melody of the album’s last song “Outside the Wall” is played, solidifying the album’s comprehensive feel, before this track explodes into a riff-driven hard rock jam which immediately destroys the subtle stereotype brought on by previous Pink Floyd albums. The tracks single verse is in sharp contrast with gentle staccato piano and doo-wop harmony behind Waters’ lead vocals. After exploding back to the main riff for the coda, a dive-bomber effect crashes and is interrupted by the sound of a baby crying, symbolizing the protagonist’s loss of his father as a baby. “The Thin Ice” is much softer and measured, with Gilmour providing the verse vocals and Waters the chorus as, again, there is only one verse/chorus. Gilmour’s signature, slow bluesy guitar close out the song.

The three song medley; “Another Brick In the Wall, Part 1” / “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” / “Another Brick In the Wall, Part 2” is one of the most radio-friendly sequences of the album. Driven by Gilmour’s rhythmic guitar arpeggio, the segment eerily enters in contrast to the faint sound of children playing in the background. Waters melody is soft at through the first section as Gilmour adds overdubbed, sweet slide effects. After a helicopter effect, the second part is shorter with much more movement, vocal effects, and intensity, leading to group’s first and only number one hit, “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”. Although composed by Gilmour and Waters, it is Ezrin who deserves much of the credit for the song’s success, as he advocated for both the disco-flavored drum beat by Mason and the second verse and chorus, which featured a choir of schoolchildren. Like many of the early songs on the album, this was originally written as just one verse and one chorus and was barely a minute long. Without the band’s knowledge, Ezrin copied the first verse and spliced it in as an exact second. Inspired by his own earlier work on Alice Cooper’s School’s Out, Ezrin overdubbed 24 tracks of kids singing and laid it on top. The band was initially resistant to this, but eventually relented.

 
“Mother” is notable for variations between pure folk and differntly-timed waltz. Recorded later in the recording of the album, session drummer Jeff Porcaro was hired to lay down the beat under the guitar solo and later verse/chorus. Both Waters and Gilmour share lead vocal duties in this building song of question and answer dialogue between son and mother. Starting side two, “Goodbye Blue Sky” begins briefly as a pleasant folk song, which quickly turns dark with foreboding synths backing the picked acoustic guitar. “Empty Spaces” was an abridged, last second replacement for the longer “What Shall We Do Now?”, which did not appear until the Pink Floyd The Wall movie. Notable for its backwards-masked message, “Empty Spaces” acts as a bridge to the standard hard rocker “Young Lust”, a song about casual sex that has more Gilmour influence than any other on the album.

Starting with “One of My Turns”, the first half of the album concludes with four tracks that painfully describe the final internal steps of building the protagonist’s wall. “One of My Turns” is split into distinct segments, starting with a groupie’s monologue, followed by a soft ballad with Waters accompanied only by a synth-organ. Finally, the song snaps into a hard rock rendition of the protagonist’s violent breakdown, which terrifies the groupie. “Don’t Leave Me Now” uses some interesting sound and production techniques but has minimal lyrical content, while “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3” is a much more rage-filled rendition of the earlier melody. Finally, this cross-fades into “Goodbye Cruel World”, a delicate song builds on Waters two-note bass riff and the slightest synth by Wright. The vocals are haunting and dry to end the first act of The Wall.

“Hey You” is an excellent song which uniquely sits just outside the album’s concept. In fact, this song, sounds like it may have fit in better on the previous Wish You Were Here or Animals albums. Starting with Gilmour’s crisp acoustic and smooth vocals, the mesmerizing ballad gains rock instrumentation on the way to the climatic guitar solo followed by the frantic last verse sung by Waters. The spooky “Is There Anybody Out There?”, starts with a horror movie like intro where the title is spoken several times in a well-treated voice. Then the song turns quite classical and sweet with an instrumental passage led by the classical guitar of session man Joe DiBlasi, backed by an orchestral arrangement. “Nobody Home” is a deep ballad that features Ezrin on piano behind Waters’ fine lyrical motifs. Two very short tracks follow which harken back to Britain during World War II. “Vera” directly references British singer Vera Lynn, who had a very popular song called “We’ll Meet Again” during the mid 1940s, while “Bring the Boys Back Home” is driven by military snare drums, a brass orchestra, and a deep choir accompanying Waters’ strained vocals.

Pink Floyd in 1980“Comfortably Numb” is one of the most indelible tracks on The Wall due to its pure theatrical sound and lyrical dialogue. Much like “Mother” earlier on the track, Waters and Gilmour vocalize separate characters through the contrasting verses and choruses. Gilmour composed the music as an instrumental during the recording of his self-titled debut album in 1978. Waters changed the key of the verse and added the lyrics and title. However, it wasn’t all happy cooperation as this song sparked a bitter internal fight over two distinct productions of the song. Waters wanted a more stripped-down version while Gilmour advocated for Ezrin’s grander orchestral version. In the end, they compromised with the lyrical areas keeping the orchestral arrangement and Gilmour’s closing guitar solo playing over the band’s rock backing.

The fourth and final side of the original LP contains the most movement musically. The short linking track “The Show Must Go On” was to originally include The Beach Boys’ doing the backing vocals, but ultimately Bruce Johnston was the only member of that band to be recorded, along with a vocal ensemble that included Toni Tennile of The Captain and Tennile (these same backing vocalists were used for “Waiting For the Worms” later on side 4). “In the Flesh” is a reprise of the opening track which starts a violent sequence of songs where the story’s protagonist envisions himself as a fascist dictator and his concerts a political rally where “undesirables” are thrown “up against the wall” in an apparent Che Guevera-type execution method. On “Run Like Hell”, the violence spills out into the streets as told through Waters’ ever-strained, multi-tracked vocals. Musically, this upbeat piece is one of the most rewarding on the album, featuring Gilmour playing ostinato with rhythmic echoes, the only keyboard lead by Wright, and tactical effects and screams to frame the intended scenes.

“Waiting for the Worms” is less frantic but just as potent as its preceding track, with Gilmour and Waters alternating vocals and moods once again. Political and philosophical, this track straddles the lien between the internal strife of the protagonist and real-life commentary on the British empire itself. During the climatic outro, a crescendo is built until it crashes to a halts with “Stop”, where the hallucination ends and the protagonist resolves to settle his own mind once and for all. “The Trial” was composed by Waters and Ezrin and is unlike any song ever made by Pink Floyd. With Waters using several distinct voices to play the various characters. Most of the actual music is performed by the Kamen-conducted New York Symphony Orchestra in grandiose style, with a nice guiding piano by Wright and just a few splashes of traditional rock elements added by Gilmour and Mason. Ultimately, the judge renders his verdict and orders, “tear down the wall!” with a subsequent, repeated climatic chorus. “Outside the Wall” is a dénouement to the album, which takes place in the uncertain time after the wall has been torn down.

One of the best selling albums of 1980, The Wall had sold over 23 million by century’s end. It topped the charts in six different countries, including the United States, and reached the Top 10 in several more. Pink Floyd The Wall followed as a major motion picture in 1982. The band followed the album with a highly theatrical tour which included the building (and tearing down) of a 40-foot high wall of cardboard bricks on the stage. This would be the last Pink Floyd to include Waters (who left the band in 1983) and the recently-fired Wright was hired on as a paid touring musician for this tour. Ironically,  he was the only musician to make money, as the other three absorbed financial losses due to the elaborate production. In 1990, Waters broke out this elaborate set for a single concert to celebrate the fall of the Berlin wall called The Wall – Live in Berlin.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1979 albums.

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Candy-O by The Cars

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Candy-O by The CarsFollowing up on a massively successful debut album is a daunting task. A group may want to build on their most successful musical elements while still leaving room to explore new directions. The members of The Cars found themselves in such a place in 1979 as they followed up their fantastic self-titled debut with their sophomore effort, Candy-O. Led by composer, guitarist and vocalist Ric Ocasek, the band blended their rock rhythms with topical new wave styles to make an album that alternates between radio and art rock. The resulting album is a sustainable second record that stands above the shadows to be in the conversation with The Cars’ best early work.

Although there was an excess of material after the production of , The Cars, in 1978, most of the songs on Candy-O were freshly composed specifically for this second album. While Ocasek was undoubtedly the leader of the musical direction, much of the true performance talent rested with the other four band members, starting with the lead instrumentalists, Elliot Easton on guitars and Greg Hawkes on keyboards.

Like the debut album, Candy-O was produced by Roy Thomas Baker and peaked at #3 on the Billboard album charts during its initial run, briefly re-entering the charts five years later in 1984. The album is also visually notable for the classic “pin-up girl” cover, painted by artist Alberto Vargas of a model coincidentally named Candy Moore.


Candy-O by The Cars
Released: June 13, 1979 (Harvest)
Produced by: Roy Thomas Baker
Recorded: Cherokee Studios, Los Angeles, 1979
Side One Side Two
Let’s Go
Since I Held You
It’s All I Can Do
Double Life
Shoo Be Doo
Candy-O
Night Spots
You Can’t Hold on Too Long
Lust for Kicks
Got a Lot on My Head
Dangerous Type
Group Musicians
Ric Ocasek – Lead Vocals, Guitars  |  Benjamin Orr – Lead Vocals, Bass
Elliot Easton – Guitars, Vocals  |  Greg Hawkes – Keyboards, Saxophone, Percussion, Vocals
David Robinson – Drums, Percussion

The album starts strong with the upbeat and catchy “Let’s Go”, sung by bassist Benjamin Orr, who shares lead vocal duties with Ocasek throughout the album. With a wild synth riff, percussive effects, and a cool pre-chorus with rolling drums by David Robinson, “Let’s Go” serves as the perfect extension of the first album’s vibe and entertaining quality. As a result, the single peaked at #14, making it the highest charting song by The Cars to that point. “Since I Held You” is a more guitar-based rock song, even a bit bluesy in its intro. While this song does not have as much movement as the one that precedes or follows it, it does have a steady vibe with great guitar riffs.

“It’s All I Can Do” is based on a rotating riff, built with electric piano and bass. The chorus soars into a fine mixture of square synths and catchy vocals hooks, followed by a short but entertaining lead guitar section by Easton. However, the true genius of the song is the interplay between Orr’s vocals and Hawkes subtle keyboard textures. “Double Life” is built on a lazy riff, a chanting melody, and building sonic textures until it climaxes with a raw and potent guitar lead. At the end, the song breaks down into this psychedelic synth of “Shoo Be Doo”, which is really just stereo filler without much real substance. The order quickly breaks from the chaos with the synth and dance-oriented title song. “Candy-O” has some rock elements through the interlude riff and drum parts but, in the end, is really a canvas for synth fonts and soon became a classic rock radio staple.

On the second side opener, “Night Spots”, the group advances a bit into the eighties in style, showing how influential The Cars actually were in their day. This syncopated arpeggio track was the only song left over from the debut that was included on Candy-O. “You Can’t Hold On Too Long” is the only song on the album not written solely by Ocasek, but a true band collaboration. This is a pure new wave rock with a refreshing return to guitar riffs musically, along with good drumming, a mixture of rhythms and a bluesy guitar lead in the coda. At first, “Lust for Kicks” sounds like another section of a multi-part song, but with a stripped back arrangement led by Hawkes’ bouncy, high organ patterns. “Got a Lot On My Head” is the weakest song on the album (with the possible exception of “Shoo Be Doo”), as a frantic but weakly composed track. The album recovers to finish strong with the steady rocker “Dangerous Type”. Once again, the pop craftsmanship is masterful by Ocasek and the rest of the band brings their musical “A” game. The song and album ends with a nice coda and long fade to make the listener want for more.

Following the success of Candy-O, The Cars faced a bit of disappointment with third studio album, Panorama in 1980. However, the band would recover strongly and find more great success with a string of hit albums and songs through the middle of the decade before the their breakup in early 1988.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1979 albums.

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