Voices by Hall & Oates

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Voices by Hall and OatesHall and Oates finally reached commercial pay dirt with their ninth studio album, Voices. Released in the summer of 1980, this record was on the Billboard album charts for over 100 weeks as it slowly became a massive hit peaking about a year after it was released and being a catalyst for phenomenal commercial success through the mid 1980s. Voices is split musically, with its original first side featuring new wave pop and side two reverting to more classic elements of rock, funk and soul.

This duo from Philadelphia delivered a critically acclaimed album, Abandoned Luncheonette, in 1973 but had no hit singles through their first three albums (although “She’s Gone” from Abandoned Luncheonette would be re-released in 1976 and become a hit). After signing with RCA Records they released their 1975 self-titled fourth album, which contained the Top Ten ballad “Sara Smile”, a song Daryl Hall wrote for his girlfriend and future songwriting collaborator Sara Allen. The late seventies saw four more album releases – Bigger Than Both of Us (1976), Beauty on a Back Street (1977), Along the Red Ledge (1978), and X-Static (1979) – all of which found moderate Top 40 success with Bigger Than Both of Us spawning their first number one hit, “Rich Girl” in early 1977. Still, with this wide output and near constant touring, Hall and Oates felt like they were not maximizing their potential during this period.

The new decade brought a new approach for the duo as Hall and John Oates decided to self-produce their next album as well as use their own touring band, including bassist John Siegler and drummer Jerry Marotta, in the studio. They also decided to record in New York City (their then hometown) instead of Los Angeles, where they had recorded much of their late seventies albums. What would become Voices was written and arranged over a short period of time and recorded in early 1980.


Voices by Hall & Oates
Released: July 29, 1980 (RCA)
Produced by: Daryl Hall & John Oates
Recorded: Electric Lady Studios, New York City, November 1979 – April 1980
Side One Side Two
How Does It Feel to Be Back
Big Kids
United State
Hard to Be in Love with You
Kiss on My List
Gotta Lotta Nerve (Perfect Perfect)
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
You Make My Dreams
Everytime You Go Away
Africa
Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear the Voices)
Primary Musicians
Daryl Hall – Keyboards, Guitars, Vocals
John Oates – Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
G.E. Smith – Guitars
John Siegler – Bass
Jerry Marotta – Drums

It is clear by the first four tracks what the group and label wanted to portray as their sound on Voices and, perhaps even more surprising,  the two Oates led tracks are the higher quality of this group. “How Does It Feel to Be Back” kicks things off with lead vocals by Oates, a jangly guitar and a strong beat which makes it feel like a cross  between Springsteen and Eddie Money. Hall’s “Big Kids” is more new wave flavored than the opener and has an odd effect on his vocals which is not needed at all. “United State” is another new wave track with a stronger rock presence while “Hard to Be In Love with You” features some interesting guitar and synth layers and duo lead vocals by Hall and Oates.

The hit “Kiss On My List” has the most interesting back story of any song on the album. It was written by Janna Allen (Sara’s sister) and, having never recorded a song before, Hall agreed to cut a demo as a product for her songwriting portfolio. However, the production team liked the demo so much that they decided to add vocals and instrumentation to the demo, including a fantastic guitar lead by guest Jeff Southworth. Released as the third single from the album, “Kiss On My List” became a number one hit song. For her part, Sara Allen co-wrote two other songs on Voices, including “Gotta Lotta Nerve (Perfect Perfect)”, which features a choppy mix of ska beats and R&B vocal motifs and the funky hit “You Make My Dreams”. This latter song features Hall’s choppy electric piano contrasted by his excited vocal melodies as it reached the Top 5 of the charts in 1981.

Hall and Oates

The retro-sounding second side of the album starts with a cover of the classic “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”. This oft covered track, written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector, may have it’s best effort at modernizing the 1964 Righteous Brothers classic sound with Oates and Hall replicating the vocals of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield nicely and the instrumentation does not try to replicate the original “wall of sound” but uses a tasteful modern rock arrangement. Hall’s “Everytime You Go Away” is an excellent soulful ballad which was recorded live in the studio to try and capture the sound like that of the classic Stax Studios in Memphis. This song comes complete with rich organ by guest Ralph Schuckett and, although this version was not released as a single, it was covered by Paul Young in 1985 and became another number 1 hit. “Africa” is a fun track by Oates who provides native-like lead vocals over a chanting backing chorus and a hand-jive like drum beat with a later sax lead by Charlie DeChant. The closing track, “Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear the Voices)”, is a bass-driven final attempt at a pop hit, deriving from a mass murderer who was circulating in the New York subways at the time, giving it a dark comedic quality.

Voices debuted at number 75 in August 1980 and slowly climbed to its Top 20 peak nearly a year later. By that time, Hall and Oates had already recorded and released their 1981 follow-up, Private Eyes, which continued their meteoric commercial momentum.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1980 albums.

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Back On the Streets by Donnie Iris

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Back On the Streets by Donnie IrisReleased in the summer of 1980, Back on the Streets was the debut solo record by Pittsburgh based artist Donnie Iris. This came after Iris spent more than a decade fronting national bands and, on this album, he collaborated with producer, composer and keyboardist Mark Avsec to deliver a blend of classic rock and cutting-edge new wave with a particular focus on vocal arrangements and hooks. The album spawned a national hit as well as several songs that received heavy regional airplay.

Iris was born Dominic Ierace in Western Pennsylvania and drew early inspiration from Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. After forming and fronting several groups through high school and college in the early-to-mid 1960s, he started The Jaggerz, a group which originally performed R&B covers. After gaining popularity through Pennsylvania and Ohio, the group secured a contract with Gamble Records in 1969 with their debut album, Introducing the Jaggerz released later that year. The following year, the group came to national prominence with their sophomore album We Went to Different Schools Together and the 1970 Top 5 hit “The Rapper”. A third Jaggerz album, Come Again, was released in 1975, shortly before Iris left the group to become a studio engineer. While at Jeree Recording, Iris worked with the band Wild Cherry and he briefly joined the band as a guitarist in 1978-1979.

Avsec was then also playing keyboards for Wild Cherry and once that group disbanded, Donnie and Mark decided to form a songwriting project together. Their initial release was a 1979 disco-influenced single called “Bring on the Eighties”, but it had little commercial success. With this, the pair decided to go in a harder rock direction when they entered the studio in early 1980 to record a full-length album with the freshly christened group Donnie Iris and the Cruisers.


Back On the Streets by Donnie Iris
Released: July 15, 1980 (Midwest National)
Produced by: Mark Avsec
Recorded: Jeree Studios, New Brighton, PA, Spring 1980
Side One Side Two
Ah! Leah!
I Can’t Hear You
Joking
Shock Treatment
Back On the Streets
Agnes
You’re Only Dreaming
She’s So Wild
Daddy Don’t Live Here Anymore
Too Young to Love
Primary Musicians
Donnie Iris – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Marty Lee Hoenes – Guitars
Mark Avsec – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Albritton McClain – Bass
Kevin Valentine – Drums

The album begins with its lead single and most indelible tune, “Ah! Leah!”, Catchy with simple riffs combined with complex vocal arrangements, this track reached number the Top 30 of the US Billboard Hot 100 and puns on its title have been used on Iris’ 2009 live album Ah! Live! as well as his 2010 Christmas album Ah! Leluiah!. The album’s other single, “I Can’t Hear You”, follows as a straight-ahead new wave rocker with just a touch of Talking Heads influence in the verses but breaking out with rich harmonies in the choruses. “Joking” is an even better new wave track with some cool synths over the crisp rock guitar riffs by Marty Lee Hoenes to reach a sound similar to The Cars earliest material.

Avsec’s “Shock Treatment” features a weird, synth lead psychedelic intro before song proper kicks in led by the fine bass of guest Robert Peckman and the various vocal experiments make it almost sound like a show tune from a modern movie. The album’s title song and side one closer adds some variety with a real classic rock, Who-type feel complete with distorted guitar riffing, synthesized orchestration and intense story-telling vocals, while “Agnes” is another dynamic rocker with a simple riff, cool vibe and call and response vocals.

Donnie Iris and the Cruisers

“You’re Only Dreaming” is a group composition with input from bassist Albritton McClain and drummer Kevin Valentine as is the frantic, sexually charged tune “She’s So Wild”, which ends quite abruptly. The album then returns to the moderate, power pop/new wave track with “Daddy Don’t Live Here Anymore”, with a vibe that has a bit of Cheap Trick influence and a cool, almost psychedelic synthesized organ lead by Avsec. Wrapping things up is “Too Young to Love”, the closest thing to a ballad on this album albeit with tremendous musical dynamics such as a sax lead by Kenny Blake and Iris singing his heart out with dramatic, strained vocals to finish the album strongly.

While Back On the Streets was originally released by the small Midwest Records, its immediate success got Iris signed to a five-album deal with MCA Records, starting with the national re-release of this debut in in October 1980.

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“Melt” by Peter Gabriel

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Peter Gabriel 1980Peter Gabriel‘s third solo album was also the third to be officially eponymous, although this 1980 record has been given the unofficial title “Melt”. This album is credited as Gabriel’s artistic breakthrough due to its innovative use of electronic effects and gated drums without any cymbals. In fact, the album was released at different time in the UK and US because the original US distributor, Atlantic Records, refused to release and ultimately dropped Gabriel from their roster because they objected to its unconventional sound.

After departing Genesis in 1975, Gabriel took a unique approach to his new solo career. He wanted his record releases to be like issues of a magazine, all using similar typeface but with unique designs by Hipgnosis. Over time, each album received an unofficial nickname based on these cover designs. Gabriel’s 1977 debut was called “Car” while his 1978 sophomore release was called “Scratch”.

After an extensive tour through the second half of 1978, Gabriel dedicated much of 1979 to recording this third album. Co-produced by Steve Lillywhite, the music is influenced by African music and the recordings make inventive use of drum machines and other sequencers with the songs built up from the rhythm track.


Peter Gabriel (1980) by Peter Gabriel
Released: May 23, 1980 (Charisma)
Produced by: Steve Lillywhite & Peter Gabriel
Recorded: Bath Studio and Townhouse Studio, London, England, 1979
Side One Side Two
Intruder
No Self Control
Start
I Don’t Remember
Family Snapshot
And Through the Wire
Games Without Frontiers
Not One of Us
Lead a Normal Life
Biko
Primary Musicians
Peter Gabriel – Lead Vocals, Piano, Keyboards
David Rhodes – Guitars, Vocals
Larry Fast – Keyboards, Bagpipes
John Giblin – Bass
Jerry Marotta – Drums, Percussion

This album’s innovation is apparent right from the jump with the opening track “Intruder”, featuring Gabriel’s former band mate Phil Collins using a new “gated drum” sound that was developed along with engineer Hugh Padgham. While this may seem slightly dated listening four decades on and realizing the fact that it is more effect than melody, the song does feature a few slight breaks of interesting piano and chorus vocal. “No Self Control” contains slightly more structure than the opener with a lot of rock tension built through its various movements and this is followed by the slight instrumental interlude, “Start”, featuring the saxophone of Dick Morrissey over backing synth pads. “I Don’t Remember” arrives in sharp contrast to the smooth intro as the brash and bright new wave track with one of the catchier hooks on this album. An earlier version of this was recorded to be featured on a 7″ single in Europe, but Charisma Records rejected that version on the basis that Robert Fripp‘s guitar solo was not “radio-friendly” enough.

“Family Snapshot” starts as a dramatic piano ballad complete with some fine fretless bass by John Giblin and builds to a more upbeat tune in later verses. “And Through the Wire” seems to be a natural sequel to “Family Snapshot” until it suddenly awakes with a hook above some thumping bass and percussion. Featuring The Jam’s guitarist Paul Weller, this track closes side one on a strong note. “Games Without Frontiers” is the most indelible track from the album with a French-language chorus of “Jeux Sans Frontières”, which is a popular television show based on pageantry and competition which broadcast in several European countries. This song features a masterful potpourri of a marching percussion, a slide electrical guitar, a rap-like verse and a cool, whistling pre-chorus, all making for a beautiful sound collage. “Games Without Frontiers” became Gabriel’s first top-10 hit in the UK.

Peter Gabriel 1980

“Not One of Us” marks a return to synth-driven experimentation with a message that condemns xenophobia in general and the mentality of cliques, more specifically. Jerry Marotta‘s drumming and percussion pattern shine especially in the latter part of this song. “Lead a Normal Life” is built on a long, deliberate synth and piano arpeggio with only a short vocal section in between two long instrumental sections. This is the track where Atlantic’s founder Ahmet Ertegun reportedly asked, “Has Peter been in a mental hospital?” in rejecting this song in particular and the album overall. Then comes the climatic closer “Biko”. While the song structure itself is simple and steady (in the same vein as the Beatle’s “Tomorrow Never Knows” from Revolver, the inventive overlay of sonic effects makes this it’s own distinct masterpiece. Lyrically, this song is a musical eulogy to black South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who died in police custody in 1977, and it was therefore banned in South Africa even while reaching the Top 40 in the UK.

Peter Gabriel‘s third album topped the British charts and charted well in many other places world wide, firmly establishing his career as a solo artist. Another major tour followed the album’s release and extended through late 1980, before Gabriel began work on his fourth (and final) self-titled album, nicknamed “Security” and released in 1982.

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Duke by Genesis

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Duke by GenesisDuke was the tenth overall studio album by Genesis and their second since contracting to a trio. The album is made of twelve songs mainly composed by individual members of the band while remaining inter-related in a thematic way (although not presented in sequence). This mix of pop and prog was a commercial and critical success at the time of its release and it masterfully displays this pivotal musical era of the group at the beginning of the 1980s.

Following the massive success of 1974’s The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and its equally massive world tour into 1975, lead vocalist Peter Gabriel departed from Genesis. Rather than replace Gabriel, the group decided to continue as a quartet with drummer Phil Collins assuming the role of lead vocalist. The group recorded and released two well received albums in 1976, A Trick of the Tale and Wind & Wuthering. The tours following these two albums made up material for the group’s 1977 live album, Seconds Out. However, guitarist Steve Hackett decided to become the second member to leave the group and embark on a solo career and the remaining members of the group decided not to replace him. Instead, bassist Mike Rutherford played most of the guitar parts. Collins, Rutherford and keyboardist Tony Banks soon recorded and released And Then There Were Three followed by another world tour in 1978.

Entering 1979, the group decided to take an extensive break with Banks and Rutherford working on solo albums and Collins relocating to Vancouver. Later in the year, the group got back together to rehearse and record the material that would become Duke. The album was recorded at Polar Studios in Stockholm with David Hentschel co-producing along with the band.


Duke by Genesis
Released: March 24, 1980 (Charisma)
Produced by: David Hentschel & Genesis
Recorded: Polar Studios, Stockholm, Sweden, November–December 1979
Side One Side Two
Behind the Lines
Duchess
Guide Vocal
Man of Our Times
Misunderstanding
Heathaze
Turn It On Again
Alone Tonight
Cul-de-sac
Please Don’t Ask
Duke’s Travels
Duke’s End
Group Musicians
Phil Collins – Lead Vocals, Drums, Percussion
Tony Banks – Keyboards, Guitars, Vocals
Mike Rutherford – Bass, Guitars, Vocals

The group originally planned to record a side-long suite but ultimately the piece was broken up into six tracks. The main riff leads the majestic instrumental opening of “Behind the Lines”. Complete with deliberative accents on its three-chord main riff, the vocals finally enter about two and a half minutes in for this popular song that opened many concerts in years to come. The opener dissolves into “Duchess”, with a long electronic intro as Banks slowly works in a piano arpeggio. The song was released as single but barely missed the Top 40 on the UK Singles charts. “Guide Vocal” is a short electric piano ballad by Banks followed by Rutherford’s “Man of Our Times”, with a tension filled, heavy synth riff and deliberative drumming.

Continuing the streak of solo compositions comes Collins’ first contribution, “Misunderstanding”. This upbeat lover’s lament pop rock with doo-wop elements and Rutherford’s rollicking bass line with a main riff that heavily borrows from Sly and the Family Stone’s 1969 hit “Hot Time In the Summertime”. The song became a worldwide hit and their highest charting single to date in the United States. “Heathaze” is an uplifting ballad written by Banks with Collins definitely channeling Gabriel and some excellent musical phrasing throughout. Banks later went on to describe Duke as his favorite Genesis album.

Genesis in 1980

Side two begins with “Turn It On Again”, the next phase of the underlying suite and a song which best encapsulates the Genesis sound at the turn of the decade and is all encapsulated in a less than four minute track. This upbeat synth-driven with great vocal melody features complex time signatures, with a forward motion where the song’s hook doesn’t appear until the end coda. Next comes a trio of solo compositions – Rutherford’s ballad “Alone Tonight”, Banks’ potent and profane “Cul-de-sac”, and Collin’s emotional “Please Don’t Ask”, with fine instrumental backing throughout and a forgotten gem as far as Genesis ballads go. This all leads to the climatic conclusion. “Duke’s Travels” is a long and deliberative, synth-led mainly instrumental with later vocals to deliver the final narrative of the underlying theme, with “Duke’s End” being one last frantic deluge of the main riff theme from “Behind the Lines” to encapsulate the album.

Duke was the first album by Genesis to reach the top of the UK Album charts and it has been certified Platinum on both sides of the Atlantic. With this commercial success, the band built their own dedicated studio in Chiddingfold, known as “The Farm”, where further successful projects were recorded throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s.

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Against the Wind by Bob Seger

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Against the Wind by Bob SegerIn early 1980, Bob Seger completed his trifecta of commercial smash hit albums with the release of Against the Wind. It was his eleventh overall studio album, the fourth to feature (in part) the Silver Bullet Band and the second to include some tracks recorded by the Muscle Shoals Ryhthm Section. While building on the tremendous success of his previous two releases, this record ultimately became Seger’s only number one album as it spent six weeks on top of the American album charts.

With a long and winding career that dated back to the early 1960s, Seger finally achieved his widespread commercial breakthrough the 1976 album Night Moves and this was followed up with the nearly-equally as successful 1978 album Stranger in Town. Seger also rose as a cross-over composer as he co-wrote the Eagles’ #1 hit song “Heartache Tonight” from their The Long Run and his song “We’ve Got Tonight” later became a worldwide hit for Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton in 1983.

Co-produced by Seger with Punch Andrews and Bill Szymczyk, Against the Wind alternates between Seger’s reflective, mid-tempo acoustic ballads and upbeat, slick old-time rockers with simpler themes.


Against the wind by Bob Seger
Released: February 25, 1980 (Capitol)
Produced by: Punch Andrews, Bill Szymczyk & Bob Seger
Recorded: 1979
Side One Side Two
The Horizontal Bop
You’ll Accomp’ny Me
Her Strut
No Man’s Land
Long Twin Silver Line
Against the Wind
Good for Me
Betty Lou’s Gettin’ Out Tonight
Fire Lake
Shinin’ Brightly
Primary Musicians
Bob Seger – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Drew Abbott – Guitars
Chris Campbell – Bass
David Teegarden – Drums, Percussion

“The Horizontal Bop” starts things off as a heavy blues rocker with an extended jam towards the end. This song was later released as the fourth single from the album, but failed to reach the Top 40. In great contrast to the opener in both style and success, “You’ll Accomp’ny Me” is a fine acoustic ballad with dynamic vocals by Seger, which reached the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. The cool, riff-driven hard rocker “Her Strut” is the real highlight of Side One, with Seger’s treated lead vocals delivering catchy lyrics along with the potent bass by Chris Campbell and the indelible guitar riff Drew Abbott.

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm section comes in for the next two tracks, the pleasant acoustic folk “No Man’s Land” with a fine closing guitar lead by Pete Carr and the upbeat rocker “Long Twin Silver Line”, which features an interesting ascending verse melody. While the Silver Bullet Band returns to back the masterpiece title track, the song is musically highlighted by the piano of guest Paul Harris. This masterful composition with a dedicated coda features lyrics which compare Seger’s high school days as a long distance runner with the rat race and duplicity of the music industry.

Bob Seger live

For the rest of Side Two, the album thins out a bit in quality with a pleasant country waltz of “Good for Me”, the old time rock-n-roll of “Betty Lou’s Gettin’ Out Tonight” and the Eagles-like country folk of “Shinin’ Brightly”, which finishes the album with an upbeat, positive message and prominently features saxophone by Alto Reed. The best of these lot is “Fire Lake”, a song originally written for Seger’s 1975 album Beautiful Loser and featuring Glen Frey and Don Henley from the Eagles on backing vocals. Released as the lead single from the album, “Fire Lake” was a Top 5 hit in both the US and Canada.

Against the Wind reached 5x Platinum in sales and won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. This high-water commercial mark was something Seger later admitted as his goal for this album as he was “gunning for nothing less than a chart-topping hit when he entered the studio”.

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Back In Black by AC/DC

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1980 Album of the Year

Back In Black by AC-DCWho would have guessed that out of the ashes of tragedy would rise the rock n’ roll classic, Back In Black? Recorded just a few weeks following the untimely death of their lead singer, AC/DC forged an indelible album of work whic, 35 years after its release, is the second best-selling album of all time worldwide (behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller). For the first time, we have put our Album of the Year up for popular vote, with three hard rock classics from 1980 nominated for this honor. Through January and February you have voted and your choice was overwhelmingly in favor of Back In Black as Classic Rock Review’s Album of the Year for the year 1980.

Formed in Australia in 1973 by brothers Angus Young and Malcom Young, AC/DC found significant success at home with the domestic release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap in 1976. This led to an international record deal with Atlantic and continued momentum through the late seventies as the group toured extensively throughout Europe and the successful releases of the albums High Voltage, Let There Be Rock, and Powerage, the latter of which marked the debut of bassist Cliff Williams. The group’s first major breakthrough came in 1979 with the album Highway To Hell, which was also the band’s initial collaboration with producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange.

Highway To Hell reached the Top on the US album charts and the group was ambitious about following this up with an even more accessible heavy rock album. Unfortunately, vocalist Bon Scott would not see this realized, as he died after a night of heavy drinking in February 1980. After briefly considering retirement, the surviving members of AC/DC emerged with renewed determination in March of 1980 and various candidates were auditioned for Scott’s replacement. 32-year-old rock journeyman Brian Johnson was brought in when Angus Young recalled Scott citing admiration for the then-vocalist of the band, Geordie, years earlier. After locating Johnson, the singer successfully passed the audition for AC/DC, who were impressed by the fact that he didn’t try to merely mimic Scott’s style but reinterpret it with a soulful style.

After hiring their new front man, the band then immediately headed to the Bahamas to compose and record the new album. Despite riding out several tropical storms which knocked out the electricity, Lange and the band rehearsed and recorded the album in just seven weeks. The result is a direct, hard rock record with Johnson-penned lyrics about sex and parties driven by crisp riffs and direct, snare-centered beats by drummer Phil Rudd. While the album’s title and all-black cover was designed as a respectful tribute to Scott, the music itself was far from somber or mournful.

 


Back In Black by AC/DC
Released: July 25, 1980 (Jet)
Produced by: Robert John “Mutt” Lange
Recorded: Compass Point Studios, Nassau, Bahamas, April-May 1980
Side One Side Two
Hells Bells
Shoot to Thrill
What Do You Do for Money Honey
Given the Dog a Bone
Let Me Put My Love Into You
Back in Black
You Shook Me All Night Long
Have a Drink on Me
Shake a Leg
Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution
Primary Musicians
Brian Johnson – Lead Vocals
Angus Young – Guitars
Malcolm Young – Guitars, Vocals
Cliff Williams – Bass, Vocals
Phil Rudd – Drums, Percussion

An ominous drone of bell tolls commence the album as a not-so-subtle memorial to AC/DC’s fallen member. “Hells Bells” acts not only as a tribute but as an ironic terminal from the previous Highway to Hell, which turned out to be Scott’s swan song. Johnson’s lyrics speak of his angst while trying to adjust to his sudden change of environment and pressure to deliver with his new band. Despite the doomy beginning, the song’s body is really more of an upbeat and intense party chant. Continuing the early album momentum, “Shoot to Thrill” is an interesting little screed with many of the group’s seventies-type grooves and an inventive use of space by adding variation in style rather than substance. This track’s final sequences features Angus Young’s whining guitar mimicking Johnson’s lead vocals as in an updated Page-Plant action.

The remainder of the album’s first side contains three of the most disposable tracks on Back In Black. “What Do You Do for Money Honey” has a great adolescent chant about a gold-digging woman but not much more substantively. “Given the Dog a Bone” is similar in temperament. Aside from the catchy use of call-and-response vocals, there’s really no “here” here, as the track’s riffs, beats, and lead sound just like those on other tracks of this album. “Let Me Put My Love Into You” does contain a nice thumping bass by Williams, which carries the slight riffs that gradually build and, given some room to breathe, Johnson’s voice really does soar here. However, this moderate bluesy track does have a hook which seems a bit forced.

 
One of the most famous count-offs in rock history commences the spectacular second side of Back In Black as Rudd’s hat ignites the title song with a fantastic marching beat. The track’s verses feature a quasi-rap by Johnson and the choruses build to a crescendo with the duo guitar riffs fantastic throughout this song of pure energy. The song peaked in the US Top 40 in 1981 but did not officially chart on the UK charts until 2011, over 3o years after its release. An even bigger hit, “You Shook Me All Night Long” has grown into the most indelible AC/DC tune. Malcom Young’s intro perfectly sets up this hard rock dance-oriented track, while the chorus hook and counter-riff work in perfect harmony. For his part, Angus Young adds one of his most potent guitar leads on this track which saw a whole new life when it was featured on the 1986 soundtrack Who Made Who. The slightly tragic and slightly morbid “Have a Drink on Me” is a sideways tribute to Bon Scott, starting with a cool blues slide before finding a steady rock beat. While still presented as an upbeat party screed, the song’s pre-chorus contains some ironic philosophy;

Don’t worry about tomorrow, take it today, forget about the check we’ve got hell to pay…”

“Shake a Leg” contains a fantastic intro section, launching into a faux verse that ends with a majestic vocal screed by Johnson which leads into the actual song riff and launch. Everyone is at their absolute best on this track – the vocals seem to elevate to an even high plane of frenzy while Rudd’s drums are a steady prime mover in this song about movement. After a blistering guitar lead, Johnson reprises the intro over the multi modal exchanges of Angus and Malcolm Young’s guitars. After the frenzy comes “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, a steady barroom blues which eventually builds into a fantastic rock track that works perfectly to conclude the album. Williams’ bass thumps as a heartbeat between the twin guitar riffs on either side of the mix on this song which reached number 15 on the UK singles charts, placing it higher than any track on the album.

Despite never reaching the top of the album charts in The US, Back In Black has been a charting phenomenon, re-entering charts several times throughout the decades, even as recently as 2014. The album has sold 22 million albums worldwide and set the group up for further success through the 1980s and beyond.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1980 albums.

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Blizzard of Ozz by Ozzy Osbourne

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Blizzard of Ozz by Ozzy OsbourneFew rock and roll comebacks are as bizarre, but complete, as that of Ozzy Osbourne in 1980. Just a year after being fired from Black Sabbath, the superstar rock group that he founded and fronted since the late 1960s, emerging with the his fantastic debut solo album, Blizzard of Ozz. The immediate success of this album was due in part to the emergence of guitarist Randy Rhoads who burst onto the rock scene with an aggressive and fresh approach to playing rock guitar with some classical elements.

Actually, this didn’t start as a true solo project for Osbourne. The Blizzard of Ozz was a “side band” the vocalist formed in 1978, while still a member of Black Sabbath. Osbourne abandoned the project to focus on recording Sabbath’s Never Say Die!, his final album with that band before being replaced by Ronnie James Dio. Osbourne, Rhoads and bassist Bob Daisley rehearsed at a live-in rehearsal facility along with a friend of Osbourne’s on drums. After auditioning several drummers, Lee Kerslake, formerly of Uriah Heep, was brought on as the group’s drummer just prior to recording this album.

The quartet entered the studio still billed as “The Blizzard of Ozz”, with the agreement that the album would be credited to the band with Osbourne’s name in smaller print. After failing to find a satisfactory producer, all four members took on production duties themselves. The approach used was similar to that on Van Halen’s debut album, with Rhoads’ guitars front and center as a complement to Osbourne’s familiar vocals. Most of the group members were surprised when originally seeing the album cover with “Ozzy Osbourne” in bigger print and “The” removed from the title Blizzard of Ozz, which would ripple into further issues among the musicians in years to come.


Blizzard of Ozz by Ozzy Osbourne
Released: September 20, 1980 (Jet)
Produced by: Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads, Bob Daisley & Lee Kerslake
Recorded: Ridge Farm Studios, Rusper, England, March−April 1980
Side One Side Two
I Don’t Know
Crazy Train
Goodbye to Romance
Dee
Suicide Solution
Mr. Crowley
No Bone Movies
Revelation (Mother Earth)
(The Night)
Primary Musicians
Ozzy Osbourne – Lead Vocals
Randy Rhoads – Guitars
Don Airey – Keyboards
Bob Daisley – Bass, Vocals
Lee Kerslake – Drums, Percussion

A long, sustained, anticipation-building, spacey gong sound swells in before being sliced cleanly by Rhoads rapid, deadened machine gun riff on the opener “I Don’t Know”. After two verses of this heavy bliss comes the surprising, flange-heavy middle bridge section which exits into a strong launch of Rhoads’ first lead of the album. The song has a mini epic feel during the multi-part bridge before the intro and verse section return for a final verse before the sudden and clever ending. “Crazy Train” contains one of the most famous intros in rock history as the thumping rhythms of Daisley and Kerslake are cut by Osbourne’s vocal effects before Rhoads steals the show with his indelible riff. The entire track is an exercise in the best of accessible hard rock – slightly doomy lyrics delivered clearly and melodically above air-instrument-worthy crunches and fills. Rhoads’ lead is short but rapid and potent with the lyrical content reflecting the ongoing Cold War and the ever-present fear of annihilation. Released as the album’s lead single, “Crazy Train” failed to reach the Top 40 but has long since become a rock radio staple and classic from the era.

 
A change-up that shows there’s much more to this album compositionally, “Goodbye to Romance” was the first track written for the album as a sort of ode to Osbourne’s departure from Black Sabbath. The beat is almost impossibly slow but there is enough variety in Rhoads multi-tracked textures and Daisley’s bouncy bass line through the first verses and choruses. The song really reaches a new level starting with Rhoads’ guitar lead, which seems to set a template for a decade plus of power ballads to follow. The song’s final verse takes an alternate approach both melodically and in intensity, before a calm synth leads the song through the outro. After three, five-minute-something tracks filled with passion and emotion, comes a slight respite in the classical acoustic solo of “Dee”, Rhoads’ short tribute to his mother. “Suicide Solution” is the closest this lineup comes to classic Black Sabbath in its pure darkness and doominess, complete with a long effects-laden section which caused much controversy in subsequent years. The song’s outro contains some slight Hammond organ and sixties-style psychedelic guitar effects, which make it an interesting listen.

The album’s second side is a bit more experimental. Inspired by a book about 19th century occultist Aleister Crowley which Osbourne found in the studio, “Mr. Crowley” starts with deep synth section played by Don Airey. The verse breaks in with a strong hard rock phrase which falls somewhere on the scale between Led Zeppelin and Foreigner and, although impressive, Rhoads’ lead seems more like a technical exercise than an affirmative dispatch. The guitarist does make up for this later in the song with a fantastic, harmonized counter-riff that really elevates the track overall to the classic level. “No Bone Movies” is much more frivolous in its approach. A true band jam, this is the only song credited to all four core members of “The Blizzard of Oz” and the most interesting element is the bright, bluesy guitars, which sound like nothing else on the album. Almost a comic relief piece, lyrically the song is about constant self-vows to abandon pornography;

Silver screen, such a disgrace, I couldn’t look her straight in the face, a blue addiction I live in disgust, degradation, eaten by lust…”

“Revelation (Mother Earth)” is the most intense and, perhaps, overall best song on the album. The track contains a chorus of heavy and delicate guitars by Rhoads along with a healthy dose of keyboards, synths and percussive effects. Osbourne also does a masterful job vocally, expertly portraying the apocalyptic desperation of the lyrics. However, the best part of this track is the extended instrumental section, which is led into by a heavy metal guitar and bass riff, passes through a fine classical piano and synth section by Daisey, and then returns to Rhoads’ riffing and one final, heavy outro with multi-tracked guitars and a complexity to the jam as fine as anything Deep Purple had ever done. After the depth of the previous track, “Steal Away (The Night)” concludes the album as a fun party song which gives everyone the opportunity to let loose musically. Here, Daisley and Kerslake really step to the forefront, which reminds everyone that Blizzard of Oz is really a band effort.

The album was a huge commercial success and is Osbourne’s top selling record, having sold over 6 million copies worldwide. However, there was some controversy as Daisley and Kerslake sued Osbourne (and eventually won) for unpaid royalties. In response, Osbourne re-released Blizzard of Oz with newly recorded bass and drum tracks in 2002. But fans grew to loathe this new release and the original version was reinstated as official in 2011.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1980 albums.

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British Steel by Judas Priest

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British Steel by Judas PriestBritish Steel was the album where Judas Priest finally found a mainstream American audience and launched the heavy metal band into stadium headliners. The album reached the Top 40 in the American album charts, while faring even better in the group’s home Britain. This orchestrated move towards a more commercial sound and away from the complexity of their earlier material, helped open the door for a new style of heavy rock which persisted throughout the new decade.

The origins of Judas Priest date back to 1969 when guitarist K.K. Downing and bassist Ian Hill began jamming to tunes by Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Cream and The Yardbirds and took their name from Bob Dylan’s song “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest”. Eventually the band moved away from blues rock towards heavier music and soon the group began opening up for top-billing acts in England. In 1973, vocalist Rob Halford joined as front man and the next year lead guitarist Glenn Tipton was enlisted just prior to the recording of the group’s debut, Rocka Rolla, in 1974. In the late seventies, Judas Priest migrated further towards a gritty metal sound with the studio albums Sad Wings of Destiny, Sin After Sin, Stained Class and Killing Machine and the critically acclaimed 1979 live album Unleashed in the East.

Long time drummer Les Binks quit in late 1979 and was replaced by Dave Holland just prior to the recording of British Steel. Produced by Tom Allom, original recordings began at Startling Studios in December 1979, but these were soon abandoned for a fresh start at Ringo Starr’s Tittenhurst Park studios in early 1980.


British Steel by Judas Priest
Released: April 14, 1980 (Columbia)
Produced by: Tom Allom
Recorded: Startling Studios and Tittenhurst Park, England, December 1979–February 1980
Side One Side Two
Breaking the Law
Rapid Fire
Metal Gods
Grinder
United
Living After Midnight
You Don’t Have to Be Old to Be Wise
The Rage
Steeler
Primary Musicians
Rob Halford – Lead Vocals
K.K. Downing – Guitars
Glenn Tipton – Guitars
Ian Hill – Bass
Dave Holland – Drums

The music for all songs on British Steel was composed by Downing and Tipton, while all the lyrics were written by Halford. The infectious riff of “Breaking the Law” gets thing rolling, complete with sound effects and a primal, chanting hook. This opener (on the American version of the album) strongly signifies the group’s move into a simpler and less processed sound. This direction is further reinforced with the driving rhythm of “Rapid Fire” and the moderate crunch of “Metal Gods”.

Judas Priest 1980

The album’s first side concludes with two of its finest tracks. “Grinder” mixes deliberate guitar riffs with Hill’s steady, driving bass and a deep and raw hook by Halford which seems to forecast future acts like Metallica. “United” is an anthemic masterpiece with great sonic effects production-wise and the most melodic vocals on the album. Holland’s reverb-drenched drums seems ready for the arena while the rest of the instrumentation rests nicely in a dry but bright room.

The second side contains more diverse tracks. “Living After Midnight” is probably the most popular song from British Steel, which has sustained through the years due to its radio-friendly hooks and beats. This was the group’s first gold album in the U.S. due to its easily accessible portrayal of the rebellious spirit in the same vein as contemporaries like the group Kiss.

The fine, steady rocker “You Don’t Have to Be Old to Be Wise” patiently finds its way through the verse, chorus rotation with some very dynamic vocals by Halford, which he sustains as a highlight of the song along with a fine guitar lead by Tipton. “The Rage” is one of the most interesting tracks on the album, starting as an off-beat reggae phrasing by Downing and Hill before morphing into a Van Halen-style riff with doomy lyrics. Closing out the album, “Steeler” is an upbeat rocker which forecasts the group’s sound in subsequent years.

Following the success of British Steel, Judas Priest followed the same basic formula with 1981’s Point of Entry and 1982’s Screaming for Vengeance, each continuing the group’s rise in popularity. Three decades later, the group embarked on a 30th anniversary tour by playing the album live in its entirety for the first time, proving the sustainability of this fine record.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1980 albums.

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Drama by Yes

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Drama by YesYes entered the 1980s with a new lineup and a renewed compositional approach. 1980’s Drama, is the band’s tenth studio album but the first not to feature Jon Anderson as the front man, as Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman left the group during rehearsals for this album. Soon, two members of the new wave group The Buggles, lyricist/vocalist Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes were brought in to replace Anderson and Wakeman. While this naturally added some “modern” elements to Yes’s sound, the group simultaneously reverted back to their trademark early seventies approach, which overall made for an interesting and potent fusion.

During the mid to late seventies, Yes slowly morphed from a dedicated progressive rock band to offering more succinct fusion rock. Along the way, internal conflicts on the direction of the band erupted into shifts in the lineup. In 1973 drummer Alan White replaced longtime drummer Bull Bruford and, following the release of the controversial double LP Tales from Topographic Oceans, Wakeman left the band for the first time. 1974’s Relayer saw Yes move in a jazz fusion-influenced direction and was a Top 5 hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The group’s 1976 North American tour saw the band at the height of their popularity, playing sold-out stadiums with audiences as large as 100,000. Wakeman rejoined the group for their late 1970s albums Going For the One (another success) and Tormato (a commercial failure).

In late 1979, the band convened with producer Roy Thomas Baker to discuss their next album. A chasm grew over the musical approach between Anderson and Wakeman on one side and the rest of the group who wanted to return to a heavier sound. By March 1980, White, guitarist Steve Howe, and bassist Chris Squire began recording demos of instrumental material because Anderson and Wakeman were so disinterested in their approach. Horn and Downes Happened to be working in the same recording complex and, after Squire heard a demo of one of their new tracks, they were enlisted to joine this reconfigured version of Yes and recorded Drama.


Drama by Yes
Released: August 18, 1980 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Trevor Horn and Yes
Recorded: April–June 1980
Side One Side Two
Machine Messiah
White Car
Does It Really Happen?
Into the Lens
Run Through the Light
Tempus Fugit
Primary Musicians
Trevor Horn – Lead Vocals, Bass
Steve Howe – Guitars, Mandolin, Vocals
Geoff Downes – Keyboards, Vocals
Chris Squire – Bass, Piano, Vocals
Alan White – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Although filled with extended tracks, this album moves by quickly and is as solid and complete as their tremendous early seventies efforts The Yes Album and Fragile. Also, while all five members of this newly formed band and Eddie Offord are credited with production, the majority of the workload was handled by Horn alone. The opener “Machine Messiah” rolls in with an animated yet doomy heavy prog-rock progression and heavily distorted guitar riffs. After about a minute and half, it breaks into an acoustic and bass driven verse section, which sounds much more like traditional Yes for two verses. This extended track later launches into upbeat and eclectic musical sections with several short leads by Howe, one of which is introduced by Downes and Squire trading synth and bass licks.

“White Car” is an odd interlude, orginally started as a Buggles song, with choppy synths mixed with some traditional orchestra instruments. This minute and a half long track is unidirectional with single verse and chorus. “Does It Really Happen?” starts with a cool, funky bass riff by Squire which is built around by the rest of group. In essence, the song acts as a bridge between the seventies and eighties versions of Yes, with deep Hammond-style-organ chops mixed in with the overall clean funk and some tempo variations during entertaining verses. Ending side one, the song contains some philosophical lyrics;

Time is the measure before its begun, slips away like running water…”

The most popular song on Drama is, “Into the Lens”, which started as a track intended for the second Buggles album called “I Am a Camera”. Squire’s bass rudiments in the intro are gradually joined by keys and guitars for a richer arrangement and experience. Vocally, this song is the first where Horn really distinguishes his style apart from that of Anderson’s and the track moves at a unique pace which is at once rushed and deliberative, really straddling the line between prog and pop like few songs before it. Ultimately, this track found its way back to The Buggles, who released it as “I Am a Camera” in late 1981 and nearly got a Top 40 hit.

Well treated by engineer Hugh Padgham, “Run Through the Light” starts with a slight, distant mandolin by Howe and vocals by Horn with deep reverb. Little by little, the instruments enter in the distance, never really coming completely to the foreground, making for an interesting sonic effect, especially with the multiple synth and guitar licks splattered throughout. The album ends with a high-end, traditional jam. “Tempus Fugit” starts with Downes’ choppy organ riff before launching into a complex patter by Squire’s flanged-out bass and complemented by a Howe’s reggae/ska guitar chop through the verses. Rapid, harmonized vocals lead to the ultimate lyrical hook of, “Yes”, reminding all that this makeshift super-group still carries the mantle of the classic band.

After touring together to support, Drama, this short-lived lineup began to disintegrate as members began to leave for various reasons. Ultimately, Howe and Downes were the last two left but opted to form a new group called, Asia, rather than continue to use the name, “Yes”. Ironically due to their commitment to their succesful new band, these two were the only ones not included when Yes reformed in 1983 and recorded their commercially successful, 90125, albeit Horn’s participation was as producer after Anderson returned on lead vocals.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1980 albums.

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Gaucho by Steely Dan

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Gaucho by Steely DanSteely Dan had a smooth and steady upward climb through their heyday in the 1970s, with an album-a-year released for six straight years and each gaining in popularity. The group’s seventh album however, 1980’s Gaucho, proved to be a laborious project which was plagued by personal, legal, and creative problems. When finally complete, the album is a quasi-concept of interrelated tracks with frank lyrical themes and simple (or at least simple for this band) rhythms and musical structures.

After the tremendous success of 1977’s Aja, the group’s core duo of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker decided to migrate from Los Angeles back to their native New York City to record a follow-up album with producer Gary Katz. However, their perfectionism in recording did not translate well for New York session musicians when recordings began in 1978. Despite using over 40 studio musicians during a year of intense recording, Fagen and Becker were still not satisfied and spent in excess of $100,000 extra just on innovative processing of the drum beats alone. Further complicating the process, the recording of a song intended for the album called “The Second Arrangement” was accidently erased in 1979 and had to be replaced by another track late in the process. The album’s mixing sessions were no less intensive, expensive, and time consuming.

While recording the album, the group’s label was involved in a merger, which caused some legal static and prevented Becker and Fagen from changing labels. Also during this time, Becker was hit by a car and broke his leg, resulting in extensive hospitalization. Becker also battled substance abuse and his girlfriend tragically died of a drug overdose in early 1980. Gaucho was finally released in November 1980, over three years after its predecessor.


Gaucho by Steely Dan
Released: November 21, 1980 (MCA)
Produced by: Gary Katz
Recorded: New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, 1978-1980
Side One Side Two
Babylon Sisters
Hey Nineteen
Glamour Profession
Gaucho
Time Out of Mind
My Rival
Third World Man
Primary Musicians
Donald Fagen – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Walter Becker – Bass, Guitars, Piano, Synths, Vocals
Rob Mounsey – Piano, Keyboards
Steve Khan – Guitars

The album opener, “Babylon Sisters” ,comes in with a cool, slow and deliberate rhythm with some embellishment by the electric piano of Don Grolnick. Subtle horns and reggae elements sneak in just prior to the commencement of the first verse, along with the famous “Purdie Shuffle” by drumming legend Bernard Purdie. The album’s lyrical pace is also set here with simple but profound lines like “here comes those Santa Ana winds again.”

“Hey Nineteen” is one of the finest sonic pieces ever, and where the group’s meticulous production really pays off. A simple but completely infectious beat is complemented with each subtle instrument finding its own space, while the lyrics lightly discuss the disconnect between a thirty-something and a nineteen-year-old trying to make a go but finding little in common. The song peaked at #10, making it the last major hit for Steely Dan. The first side ends weakly with “Glamour Profession”, a song with a close to moderate disco beat and slight funk and soul elements, but very little movement in its seven and a half minutes.

With the title track, “Gaucho”, the album gets back on track. Driven by a sax riff in the intro and interludes and great bass by Becker, who also later adds a potent guitar lead to conclude the song. Steely Dan was sued by jazz pianist Keith Jarrett, for “borrowing” a bit from one of his songs. Fagen and Becker relented, making this the only song with a writing credit beyond those two. “Time Out of Mind” is poppy and catchy with a main chorus hook that builds nicely. However, the lyrical content is much darker with an unabashed celebration of one’s first experience with heroin. “My Rival” is almost like a movie or television soundtrack with storytelling lyrics of determination and interesting sonic qualities with an interspersing old-fashioned Hammond organ and modern square-font synth being used. The album closes with “Third World Man”, a slow and deliberate track which is  darker than the other material on the album.

In spite of its tortured conception, Gaucho was another solid hit for Steely Dan, reaching the Top Ten in the US and winning the 1981 Grammy Award for its engineering. However, the turmoil of the preceding years proved to be the breaking point and the group disbanded in mid 1981 and did not release another album for almost two solid decades.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1980 albums.

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