Arc of a Diver is a true “solo” record by Steve Winwood as he played every instrument and recorded and produced the album in his private studio. The album was a breakthrough for Winwood as a solo artist and it marked a return for him to the top echelon of pop/rock artists as he adapted technology to forge an original contemporary sound for his compositions. The only real collaboration on Arc of a Diver involved the lyrics of the songs, most of which were penned by American songwriter Will Jennings.
Winwood had been in the public eye since the early 1960s, when at age 14 he joined the Spencer Davis Group. The group had a trio of number one hits before Winwood departed in 1967. Next, he joined forces with Eric Clapton in a couple of “supergroups” – Powerhouse in 1966, and Blind Faith in 1969. In between, Winwood spent two phases with the group Traffic, as a supporting player in the late sixties version and taking the lead in his second stint with classic albums such as John Barlycorn Must Die (1970) and The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys (1971). After departing Traffic in the mid 1970s, Winwood launched his solo career with his self-titled debut album in 1977.
Winwood built Netherturkdonic studio on his farm in Gloucestershire, England and began composing and recording music on keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, and percussion. As the compositions matured, he looked outside for lyrics with Jennings, Viv Stanshall, and George Fleming contributing.
Arc of a Diverby Steve Winwood
Released: December 31, 1980 (Island) Produced by: Steve Winwood Recorded: Netherturkdonic Studios, Gloucestershire, England, 1980
While You See a Chance
Arc of a Diver
Steve Winwood – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Keyboards, Bass, Drums, Percussion
The complex synth chords swell like a sunrise to launch the opening track, “While You See a Chance”. When it fully kicks in, this track features solid melodies over complex musical passages and rhythms which patiently make their way to the hook and ultimately the outro, a potent mix that found favor with many types of listeners. The song peaked in the Top 10 in 1981, making it Winwood’s first hit as a solo artist. Next comes the title track with lyrics provided by Stanshall and music built through a funk synth array. The sound is tight with a warm feeling of a graceful arc portrayed.
“Second-Hand Woman” has the most evident, thus far, programmed synth music and features a good use of synth fretless bass, while “Slowdown Sundown” changes direction as a fine acoustic and piano ballad with a soulful organ throughout and reflective lyrics about wanting moments to last longer. The groove-laden “Spanish Dancer” has a subtle synth arpeggio in the background which persists throughout with little variation. Lyrically, the song seems to be a metaphor for a feeling that you just don’t want to end.
“Night Train” is an all out funk/dance song and was a minor hit from the second side of the album. A long intro serves to drive the groove home before Winwood’s vocals, equally as patiently, work towards the catchy pop hook. The final track, “Dust”, is a hybrid between the album’s digital and analog approach. This moderate breakup song does seem artificially lengthy, but Winwood’s vocals are at their finest on this one.
In the mid 1990s, The Badlees were a fast rising group, newly signed to major label Polydor and with a national selling album that spawned a couple of mainstream hits. There was great anticipation for a follow-up by this Pennsylvania based folk rock band and recording for Up There, Down Here, anticipated for release in late 1997, was completed on time. However, some corporate entanglement brought on by rapid changes in the traditional music industry caused several delays in releasing the album until, ultimately, the group made a brash decision to put the music itself ahead of the label concerns. In early 1999, the Badlees independently produced and released a wholly separate album, Amazing Grace, which caused Polydor to immediately sever ties with the group. A few months later, the group signed with Ark 21 Records and finally released Up There, Down Here, meaning the space between the group’s fourth and fifth albums was just four months while it had been over four years between their third and fourth LPs.
That third album, 1995’s River Songs was originally released independently but then re-released internationally following the group’s record deal. The group toured relentlessly in support of the album, opening up for several major acts through 1995 and 1996. The following year, the group turned their attention to writing and recording material for their next album, a second national release on Polydor that was originally slated for late 1997 but soon pushed moved back to a planned February 1998 release. Recording took place at Bearsville Recording Studio near Woodstock, New York with producer Joe Alexander for the album that would ultimately be titled Up There, Down Here. Guitarist Bret Alexander and bassist Paul Smith added some overdubs and did some mixing at Alexander’s home studio in Pennsylvania in time for the anticipated February release. However, the date of album release got pushed back three more times, the final time to “date uncertain”. Still under contract and restricted in the actions they could take to further their career, the group requested and received permission to release a 5-song “unplugged” EP called The Day’s Parade in July 1998.
The quickly recorded and unplanned release of the EP was confusing to the Badlees fans and critics alike, who were expecting a new full length production and didn’t know about the corporate wrangling going on behind the scenes. The band was confused as well, as an already-bought-and-paid for high-end production remained on the shelf through late 1998 and into 1999. After several inquiries were ignored by the label, they decided to simply start from scratch with a new full-length album independently produced without consent or input from the label.
Up There, Down Here
Released: April 2, 1999 (Rite-Off) Produced by: Bret Alexander Recorded: Bret Alexander’s Studio, Wapwallopen, PA, Early 1999
Released: August 24, 1999 (Ark 21) Produced by: Joe Alexander & The Badlees Recorded: Bearsville Recording Studio, Bearsville, NY, 1997
I’m Not Here Anymore
Ain’t No Man
Amazing Grace to You
Beyond These Walls
Time Turns Around
In a Minor Way”
Don’t Let Me Hide
Thinking in Ways
Which One of You
Middle of the Busiest Road
Cellarbird & Zither
Running Up That Hill
Silly Little Man
The Second Coming of Chris
A Little Faith
Group Musicians (Both Albums)
Pete Palladino – Vocals, Harmonica Bret Alexander – Guitars, Mandolin, Dobro, Dulcimer, Banjo, Vocals Jeff Feltenberger – Guitars, Vocals Paul Smith – Bass, Keyboards, Vocals Ron Simasek – Drums, Percussion
Amazing Grace was recorded, mixed, mastered, and pressed in just two months at Alexander’s home studio and it features the most diverse array of songwriting and styles of any Badlees’ album. It also features lead vocals by four of the five group members, a strong departure from all previous material where vocalist Pete Palladino sang lead on nearly all previous songs.
Palladino does provide vocals on the sad and melancholy opener, “I’m Not Here Anymore”, where Alexander accents the mood with a whiny guitar and subtle piano riff. “Long Goodnight” is one of two songs on the album written by Smith. This fast-paced, upbeat, catchy rocker, would soon become a crowd favorite at shows and got some regional airplay. Smith’s other contribution is the soulful “Ain’t No Man”, featuring creative drums and percussion by Ron Simasek and lead vocals by the bassist himself.
The catchy “Poison Ivy” is the first of several showcases by Alexander. Led by a banjo riff, the music moves briskly while the harsh words speak of dealing with a toxic personality. The title track “Amazing Grace to You” is the most inventive and rewarding track on the album with wild, spoken word verses accompanied by wild and unruly guitars, a Hammond organ by guest Robert Scott Richardson and a tense 5/4 time signature by Simasek which breaks free for Alexander’s desperate wailing during the choruses.
The rest of Amazing Grace features a diverse array of short songs. “Beyond These Walls” is a classic Badlees pop rocker, while “Time Turns Around” is a distinct jazzy ballad led by Alexander’s crooning vocals. Guitarist Jeff Feltenberger composed and took lead vocals on the blue-grass tinged “Appalachian Scream”, followed by the subtle beauty of “A Fever”, co-written by Palladino and long time band collaborator Mike Naydock. The album wraps with two more Alexander-led tunes, the slightly psychedelic ballad “Gone” and the Tom-Petty-esque rocker “In a Minor Way”.
Amazing Grace was released on the band’s independent Rite-Off label on April 2, 1999 and the Badlees were dropped from Polydor on that very day. Alexander referred to this as the Badlees “White Album” because of its eclectic styles and diversity of voices. At the time, it was assumed that the recordings for Up There, Down Here were casualties of the move. However, some other personnel from Polydor were now at a new label called Ark 21, owned by Miles Copeland, who had previously co-founded I.R.S. Records and by May 1999 a deal was in place for the Badlees and their nearly two-year old record, with the provision that they would stop any promotion of their recently-released Amazing Grace album.
The opening track on Up There, Down Here, “Don’t Let Me Hide” is the highest quality and most well-known song on the album, with a profound lyric, subtle, moody guitars and excellent high harmonies that complement the strong lead vocals of Palladino. “Luther’s Window” follows with interesting musical changes and lyrics about examining different perspectives;
Turn your back to the sun, you see only shadows, look beneath the stars and you see only night…”
The beautifully atmospheric “Thinking in Ways” features fine orchestration, precise yet intricate drumming by Simasek and subject matter which may refer to a prepaid funeral? This followed by a trio of catchy, pop-oriented tunes, “Which One of You”, “Little Hell” and “Middle of the Busiest Road”. Feltenberger’s “34 Winters” is another beautiful but melancholy song with Jeff providing some fantastic vocal trade-offs between himself and Palladino. After Alexander’s interesting but odd instrumental “Cellarbird & Zither” comes the darkly inspirational “Running Up That Hill” and the catchy “Love All”. The album concludes with three interesting tracks, the Beatle-influenced “Silly Little Man” with great drums and guitars, the mechanical and quirky “The Second Coming of Chris”, and stripped-down acoustic ballad, “A Little Faith”, a nice break on this otherwise richly produced album.
With the album that the band had prepared for and worked on for nearly half a decade finally released in August 1999, the Badlees were once again disappointed when Ark 21 was unable to help promote the record nationally. The label soon declared bankruptcy and the group returned to their roots as an independent band as they continued off and on for the next decade and a half.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1999 albums.
After honing their sound for half a decade, The Badlees found their first real commercial success with River Songs. Originally released as the quintet’s third independent studio album in early 1995, the album was re-released internationally after the group signed with Polydor/Atlas later in the year. Led by guitarist and chief songwriter Bret Alexander, the group produced solid songs with scaled back musical arrangements utilizing an array of acoustic and native percussion instruments as well as a heavy use of harmonica as a lead instrument.
In early 1992, The Badlees released their first full-length album, Diamonds In the Coal, which featured a nice blend of pop, rock, and folk tracks. However, they decided to change directions for the 1993 follow-up, The Unfortunate Result of Spare Time, which had a slicker and more streamlined production style. Although disappointed with the overall result of this second album, the group worked hard to promote it through constant touring. This lead to the band getting the incredible opportunity to be one of the first Western rock bands to perform in mainland China during the 1994 Qingdao Beer Festival in August of that year.
After returning from China, the group started work on their third full length release. The daily 50-mile commute along the Susquehanna River inspired the title, River Songs, as they traveled to Harrisburg, PA to record the album. The deliberate musical intent of this record was to return to the distinct style they began forging in their early years.
River Songsby The Badlees
Released: February 28, 1995 (Rite-Off) Produced by: The Badlees Recorded: The Green Room, Harrisburg, PA, September-November 1994
Grill the Sucker
Angeline Is Coming Home
Fear of Falling
Angels of Mercy
Queen of Perfection
Bendin’ the Rules
Nothing Much of Anything
Song For a River
I Liked You Better When You Hated Yourself
Pete Palladino – Lead Vocals, Harmonica Bret Alexander – Guitars, Mandolin, Dobro, Vocals Jeff Feltenberger – Guitars, Vocals Paul Smith – Bass, Vocals Ron Simasek – Drums, Percussion
The brief, 73 second opening instrumental, “Grill the Sucker” was meant to make an immediate statement foreshadowing the tone of the subsequent album. It starts with a fade in of Ron Simasek‘s drum shuffle soon joined by the group in a blue-grass inspired stomp which includes such rustic instruments as the dobro, stumpf fiddle, and jaw harp. Unfortunately, the later release changed the running order so this intended opening statement gets lost in the mix. Co-written by longtime band collaborator Mike Naydock, “Angeline Is Coming Home” would become The Badlees’ highest charting single. Driven by the signature harmonica and fine vocal melodies of Pete Palladino, it features artful lyrics about an addict’s triumphant return from rehab.
A true highlight on the album, “Fear of Falling” is built upon Alexander’s mandolin and melodic lyrics which speak of reaching for lofty goals, failing, and then getting up and trying again. Musically, the mandolin is blended with acoustic and electric guitar as well as some strategic Hammond organ by guest Robert Scott Richardson. Throughout the song, there is a potent mix of backing harmonies by Jeff Feltenberger and Paul Smith with Palladino providing the climatic closing crescendo of harmonica intermixed with vocal ad-libs.
Through the middle part of the album, the group alternates between upbeat pop/rock and more somber, folk-influenced tracks. “Angels of Mercy” features intelligent lyrics, chanting hooks, and entertaining guitar riffs, while “Queen of Perfection” features a heavy dose of dark humor along with an opening harmonica that harmonizes with an electric guitar and an interesting, country-like ending. The dramatic and deliberate “Bendin’ the Rules” was co-written by Alexander, Naydock, and Smith and it is notable for containing two of the very few proper guitar leads on the album. The highlight of this part of the album is “Gwendolyn”, a strong pop song with an excellent hook that pulls you right in. The track is pure musical fun and entertainment, starting with the high-pitched wail by Feltenberger and a later strong blues/rock guitar lead.
“Ore Hill” is Feltenberger’s sole composition on River Songs as a pure folk / Americana track with delicate acoustic guitar complimented by mandolin, harmonica, and interesting drum patterns. The thumping rocker “Nothing Much of Anything” seems a bit out of place at this point in the album but still features a good building chorus section along with interesting guitar textures by Alexander and bass patterns by Smith.
The quasi-title track “Song for a River” is actually about a person, using the “river” as a metaphor for that person’s life. The song was composed by Alexander and Naydock in the early 1990s but was not used because it was difficult to develop due to its length and unique arrangement. Eventually, Alexander decided to simply “talk” through the verses and add a repeating chorus throughout. Ultimately, the song employs three lead singers; Alexander, Palladino, and Feltenberger, whose majestic scat vocal notes were a tip of the hat to Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig In The Sky”. Closing out this eight minute track is a fine outro of pure acoustic folk instruments. The album concludes with the light and entertaining “I Liked You Better When You Hated Yourself”, complete with sarcastic nostalgia and a middle yodeling section which became a fan favorite during subsequent live performances.
Following the success of River Songs, the band embarked on several national and international tours, supporting headlining acts such as Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, Bob Segar, Greg Allman, and The Gin Blossoms. They would shoot a Hollywood music video and record a follow-up material in a world class studio before reverting back to being a top-notch independent band for many more years.
INXS 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 Thievesby INXS
Released: October 14, 1985 (Atlantic) Produced by: Chris Thomas Recorded: Rhinoceros Studios, Sydney, Australia, August 1985
What You Need
Listen Like Thieves
Kiss the Dirt
Shine Like It Does
Good + Bad Times
One x One
Red Red Sun
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.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.
At first glance, Dream Into Action by Howard Jones may seem like a typical, mid-1980s synth pop album. However, a deeper listen reveals that there is much substance to the authentic material composed by Jones for his second release. Loaded with mainly up tempo and optimistic tunes, the album was a big hit back in its day as it fit in well with the pop scene of 1985. But strip away the synths and the slick production, and you still have some fine melodies and solid singer-songwriter type songs.
Jones started in the music business when he and his three younger brothers formed a band called Red Beat in the late 1970s. Howard had been playing piano since about age seven and later attended the Royal Northern College of Music. After launching a solo career in 1983, Jones rented out the famed Marquee Club in London so that record label executives could see him perform, a successful strategy as he signed with Warner Music shortly afterwards. Jones scored a Top 40 hit with the single “New Song”, released in advance of his debut album, Human’s Lib, which reached #1 in the UK and double platinum in sales. A 1984 single, “Like to Get to Know You Well” became an official anthem of that summer’s Olympic games and, subsequently, a worldwide hit.
Dream Into Action was recorded in England in late 1984 with famed producer Rupert Hine helping forge the sound. Jones composed all the songs on the album and played most of music with the exception of bass guitar, played by his brother Martin Jones. Shortly before the album’s release in early 1985, Jones performed alongside Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, and Thomas Dolby in a synthesizer jam at Grammy Awards ceremony, setting him up for the pop success to come.
Dream Into Actionby Howard Jones
Released: March 23, 1985 (Elektra) Produced by: Rupert Hine Recorded: Farmyard Studios, Little Chalfont, England, 1984–1985
Things Can Only Get Better
Life In One Day
No One Is to Blame
Dream Into Action
Like to Get to Know You Well
Assault and Battery
Bounce Right Back
Is There A Difference?
Hunger For the Flesh
Howard Jones – Lead Vocals, Piano, Synths, Drums, Percussion Martin Jones – Bass Guitar TKO Horns – Saxophones, Trombone
The positive and upbeat, “Things Can Only Get Better”, starts the album in typical Howard Jones fashion. Synths dominate and there is a funk groove that persists throughout but the sound is accented perfectly by the horns and vocals. Lyrically, everyone can relate to the feelings described in this song, which was a Top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The equally catchy “Life In One Day” offers some sage advice in its main hook along with a danceable groove and a chorus from the backing female vocal trio collectively known as Afrodiziak.
The ballad “No One Is to Blame” is about unfulfilled desires and attractions. A stripped down version appears on this album with just vocals, a piano and a simple back beat, allowing the haunting nature of the message to fits nicely with the minimal production. The song was later re-recorded and remixed by Phil Collins and Hugh Padgham into what some may say is a “superior” mix, which became another big hit for Jones. However, what is gained in the added techniques is lost the simplistic beauty of the original version.
The title track, “Dream Into Action” is purely an exercise in synth sounds and beats, like an anthem to 80’s synth pop. “Like to Get to Know You Well” contains a strong melody, a steel drum effect, and more feel good happy lyrics about getting to know someone more than in just a superficial way. An interesting song overall which begins strong but unfortunately finishes weakly with a way too long, repetitive chorus. “Assault and Battery” finishes the original first side (on the US version) as the underrated gem of this album. Jones’ piano and synths are in contrast but work well nonetheless and the track departs from the imagery of previous songs with their positive spin and advice to live every day to it’s fullest. This one explores the morality of killing animals for food;
Children’s stories with their farmyard favorites. At the table in a different disguise…:
The album’s second side contains lesser know songs which are still interesting and entertaining. “Look Mama” has a funky bassline and rhythms with lyrics which delve into every teenager’s thoughts when they are dealing with an overprotective parent. There are lots of layers of sound in this one, it’s not monochromatic in any way. “Bounce Right Back” has an odd mix of sinister sounding synths and quasi rap lyrics and once again, is giving some advice. This time on the wisdom of keeping your cool and watching what you say and do because, “those crazy words you fling from your mouth will bounce back on you some day.” The ethereal sounds of “Elegy” are in contrast to anything else on this album, as are the dark lyrics that speak of suffering and wishing for death.
We return to the bouncy, catchy melody on “Is There A Difference?”, with the theme being a philosophical discussion about whether our apparent differences really matter in the overall scheme of things. “Automaton” appropriately sounds like a machine with odd, syncopated sounds accenting the vocals. An indulgence in synths, this tune is about a robot who looks human, but is empty inside. The album wraps with “Hunger For the Flesh”, another philosophical rant where Jones explores the human tendency to nourish one’s body at the expense of nourishing one’s soul. The synth sounds in this one roll and roar like a thunderstorm and flood of Biblical proportions with Jones’ vocals being perhaps the most earnest on this closer.
Dream into Action went on to become Jones’ most successful album, reaching #2 in his home UK and #10 in the US, where it stayed on the charts for an entire year. Eventually his fame subsided but, in the late 1980s, Jones began practicing Nichiren Buddhism and credits his daily chanting as having a profoundly positive effect on his life.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.
The Hooters big label debut was, by far, their most successful album in America. Nervous Night sold over two million copies, achieving multi-platinum status, and spawned multiple Top 40 hits. The album features an eclectic mix of music that uses both traditional acoustic instrumentation and synth/keyboard heavy motifs with slick production. Together, this combination made for a sound that appealed to the pop audiences of the mid 1980’s while still maintaining quality musicianship and interesting arrangements.
Philadelphia musicians Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman had a decade-long musical association before they formed The Hooters in 1980. The group’s name comes from the nickname for the melodica, one of several ethnic instruments that the band plays in addition to traditional rock instrumentation. After gaining a local following in nightclubs and on Philadelphia radio, the group opened for The Who’s farewell tour concert shows at JFK Stadium in 1982. The following year the group independently produced their debut album, Amore, which sold over 100,000 copies through independent channels. Bazilian and Hyman then wrote, arranged and perform on Cyndi Lauper’s debut, She’s So Unusual, which was co-produced by long-time friend, Rick Chertoff, the producer of Nervous Night.
Guitarist John Lilley, drummer David Uosikkinen and newcomer bassist Andy King joined Bazilian and Hyman in the studio to record the album. While employing richer production techniques, the songs on Nervous Night remain true to the roots established on Amore, blending reggae and ska with traditional folk.
Nervous Nightby The Hooters
Released: April 26, 1985 (Columbia) Produced by: Rick Chertoff Recorded: Studio 4, Philadelphia & Record Plant, New York, 1984-1985
And We Danced
Day by Day
All You Zombies
Don’t Take My Car Out Tonight
Hanging on a Heartbeat
Where Do the Children Go
South Ferry Road
She Comes in Colors
Blood from a Stone
Eric Bazilian – Guitars, Mandolin, Saxophone, Vocals Rob Hyman – Keyboards, Melodica, Vocals John Lilley – Guitars Andy King – Bass, Vocals David Uosikkinen – Drums
The album launches with “And We Danced”, which starts with an opening mandolin and melodica section before launching into a rocker with an irresistible beat and lyrics reminiscing about simpler times and memories of having fun with friends. The first major hit by the band, “And We Danced” reached #3 on the Mainstream Rock charts. Bazilian’s mandolin is also prevalent on “Day by Day”, a song co-written with Chertoff two years earlier. This track features some strong synth/keyboards by Hyman and a vibe that hits the ground running and doesn’t stop.
One of the most indelible songs by The Hooters, “All You Zombies” is a remake of a song originally released on Amore. This newer version contains dark and mystical atmospherics blended with a heavy reggae beat, which all seems appropriate for the “zombie” theme. Not literally about zombies, the lyrics contrast the differences between blind belief and having faith. The melodica returns on “Don’t Take My Car Out Tonight” along with sharp tones and sudden staccato beats. This track may have been inspired by the car wreck by former bassist Rob Miller, an incident which cause him to be replaced by King. Side one ends with the title track, “Nervous Night”, a quirky song that could either be about a strange dream or a glimpse into the mind of a mad person. This track also contains a great saxophone by Bazilian.
“Hanging on a Heartbeat” is another track originally released on Amore, featuring an excellent rock riff that repeats throughout the song and easy, repetitive lyrics that work with the tempo. “Where Do the Children Go” is a beautiful but sad ballad about teen suicide, featuring Patty Smyth on backing vocals. This mandolin, driven track was the third and final Top 40 hit from the album.
The album wraps up with three lesser know tracks. “South Ferry Road” is co-written by Hyman, Bazilian, and Chertoff about memories from their younger days, while “She Comes in Colors” is an interesting rendition of a song originally recorded by the band Love’s, but with a completely different feel and tempo than the original. The closer, “Blood From a Stone” ,is the final retread from Amore with a similar arrangement but a bit of jazzed-up production.
Nervous Night reached number 12 on the album charts in the US and was assisted by The Hooters’ being the opening band at the Philadelphia Live Aid benefit concert, which was broadcast to an international television audience just a few months after the album’s release.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.
Prince reached the pinnacle of his success in 1984, with the release of the musically potent Purple Rain to accompany the major motion picture of the same name. The sixth studio album by the Minneapolis-based recording artist, it marks a slight departure from his earlier solo work. For the first time, Prince added and fully credited his band, The Revolution, and the production emphasized full band performances and multiple, layered instruments. The resulting hybrid of funk, rock, R&B and synthesized dance beats became one of the most popular and well regarded albums of the 1980s, reaching the top of the charts and selling over 20 million copies worldwide.
Keyboardist Lisa Coleman was one of only two additional musicians (along with guitarist Dez Dickerson) to perform on Prince’s breakthrough double album 1999. Following the tour for that album, Dickerson left the group for “religious reasons” and was replaced by guitarist and vocalist Wendy Melvoin, a childhood friend of Coleman. As mainstream success began to grow for Prince, due in part to the proliferation of MTV, he decided to use his band less sparsely and load up for an ambitious follow-up. Filmed almost entirely in Minneapolis, the movie Purple Rain contains stories behind many of the soundtrack’s songs and uses many musicians from the local scene.
As was the case on all but his earliest albums, Prince composed and arranged all of the songs on this album. However, he did elicit some input from his new band members. Another unique attribute of Purple Rain is the fact that three songs on the album were actually recorded live at the First Avenue Club in Minneapolis with Prince adding some studio touches and edits to these later. The August 1983 show was a benefit concert and is historic as the first live appearance by Melvoin with The Revolution.
Purple Rainby Prince
Released: June 25, 1984 (Warner Brothers) Produced by: Prince & the Revolution Recorded: First Avenue & The Warehouse, Minneapolis and The Record Plant & Sunset Sound, Los Angeles, August 1983–March 1984
Let’s Go Crazy
Take Me with U
The Beautiful Ones
When Doves Cry
I Would Die 4 U
Baby I’m a Star
Prince – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Keyboards Wendy Melvoin – Guitars, Vocals Lisa Coleman – Keyboards, Vocals Matt Fink – Keyboards Bobby Z – Drums, Percussion
Generally regarded as the most pop-oriented of Prince’s career, Purple Rain begins the story with Prince narrating along to a church-like organ, speaking about enjoying the here and now on the opener “Let’s Go Crazy”. An electronic drum beat kicks in along with a bouncy organ riff, and it drives this song into a frenzy of wild guitars and intense vocals, until it crashes into a cacophony of whining guitars and screaming. The song was one of two on this album to top the charts.
“Take Me With You” is a duet with Apollonia, who also starred as Prince’s romantic counterpart in the film. The song was originally meant to be on her Apollonia 6 album, but its inclusion on Purple Rain necessitated cuts to the suite-like following song, “Computer Blue”. This latter song melds synthesizers and a quirky, sloshy electronic beat with some guitar elements and perhaps stands out as the most stereotypically “eighties” in sound and style. “Darling Nikki” caused quite a stir with Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center for the racy subject matter addressed in the lyrics. The song itself is sparsely arranged with the emphasis on Prince’s chanted and groaned vocals. The song was not the centerpiece of the album, but it probably helped boost the notoriety of the album with all of the media attention surrounding the risqué lyrics.
“When Doves Cry” is one of the most creative songs on the album. Again, the arrangement is sparse as there is no bass, just an electronic drum beat, synthesized melodic sounds and Prince’s emotive vocals. The layers of sound are subtle and create a smokey, almost psychedelic feel. Written specifically for a sequence in the film, this worldwide hit was the top selling single for the year 1984, according to Billboard magazine.
The album’s final three tracks were all recorded live in 1983. “I Would Die 4U” is a departure from the rest of the album and is almost anthemic with a repetitive beat, chanted refrain and synthesized sounds. The song fades abruptly into “Baby I’m a Star”, delivered almost like a show tune with theatrical lyrics and a pounding steady, dance beat. Prince’s masterpiece on this album is the closing title track, “Purple Rain”. This song is Prince reaching into his blues and funk influences and coming up with a depth of sound in many layers. The guitars are front and center in this song with the solo soaring above the strings and drums, closing the album on a very high note.
Purple Rain was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry list of sound recordings that “are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important”. Prince also won two Grammy Awards in 1985 for the album. However, he also announced that year that he would stop touring and making music videos after the release of his next album, Around the World in a Day, which ultimately led to the disbandment of the short-lived “Revolution”.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1984 albums.
Short of careers cut short by tragedy, there are very few times in rock history where a band or artist finished with their greatest work. Abbey Road, the eleventh and final studio album by The Beatles, is one such occasion. Released in October of 1969, This album marks the last true collaboration all four Beatles in the studio with producer George Martin (Let It Be was released in April of 1970, weeks before the Beatles broke up, it was mostly recorded prior to any Abbey Road recording sessions). This final effort with their classic producer and at the studio they would make famous, Abbey Road would go on to tremendous popularity and critical success and become our of the Year for 1969.
It is no secret that the Beatles were going through internal turmoil later in their career. Having lost the glue that held them together, manager Brian Epstein just two years earlier, the band had been going through personal and financial struggles. The strained business relationship was complicated by the addition of John Lennon‘s new love interest, Yoko Ono, who was a constant presence in their recording sessions. During a break in recording in March 1969, Lennon and Ono were married and when Lennon returned from his honeymoon, he approached Paul McCartney with a song he had written about the occasions called “The Ballad of John and Yoko”. The song was immediately recorded without George Harrison or Ringo Starr, who were both away from London when Lennon had his sudden inspiration. With McCartney on piano, bass, and drums, and Lennon on vocals and guitars, “The Ballad of John and Yoko” became the Beatles’ 17th and final UK number one single, all done without half the group members knowledge or consent. But such was the case for the Beatles in 1969.
Early in the year, The Beatles seemed to be on the road to breaking up during the recording of what would become Let it Be, as each member had started doing solo projects. It was McCartney who approached George Martin and asked him to work with them on another studio album. Martin agreed as long as the band agreed to his strict discipline in the studio and let him have control over the production from start to finish. So, recording began in February 1969 with Martin at the helm as well as all four Beatles at Abbey Road Studio. Some of the early recordings for the Abbey Road sessions included non-album material which would surface elsewhere, such as Harrison’s acoustic demo of “All Things Must Pass” (later on a solo album of the same name), McCartney’s “Come And Get It” (a minor hit for Badfinger in 1970), and “Old Brown Shoe”, an interesting composition by Harrison, used as the B-side for “The Ballad of John and Yoko”. However, as the sessions moved along, the Beatles found their magic formula once again and made the classic Abbey Road music which showcases each member of the band performing at their finest level.
Abbey Roadby The Beatles
Released: September 26, 1969 (Apple) Produced by: George Martin Recorded: EMI Abbey Road Studios, London, February-August 1969
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Here Comes the Sun
You Never Give Me Your Money
Mean Mr. Mustard
She Came In Through Bathroom Window
Carry That Weight
John Lennon – Guitars, Piano, Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals Paul McCartney – Bass, Piano, Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals George Harrison – Guitars, Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals Ringo Starr – Drums, Percussion, Piano, Vocals
The album aptly begins with the Lennon led “Come Together” While the title sounds like a lead in to a hippie commune sing along, it is actually has a rougher edge to it with a funky bass, bluesy guitar and sloshy drums. “Come Together” and “Something” were released as a double A-sided single. George Harrison’s, “Something”, is often regarded as Harrison’s finest composition. It is certainly one of the greatest love songs ever recorded. It starts with the line, “Something in the way she moves…” and the music flows right along with that movement. It has a natural, fluid feel to it with the steady bass, beautiful guitar riffs and cricket like sounds that lead into a perfect fade out.
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is a duplicitous song. The lyrics describing the antics of a sociopathic serial killer are in stark contrast to the syrupy sweet music. The anvil banging and McCartney’s mischievous vocal delivery add to the effect that this is a children’s song gone awry, but one can’t help but sing along. The next McCartney led song, “Oh Darling” has a completely different style. McCartney’s voice carries the whole thing. This doo-wop inspired song actually has a tinge of Motown in it with the intense, strained vocal and simple accompaniment.
Ringo Starr’s contribution, “Octopus’s Garden” is another childlike fantasy song. Ringo has said it was inspired by a story he had heard about how octopus like to gather shiny objects and make their own little “garden”. This song lightens the mood after the intensity of “Oh Darling” and the black hole that ends side one, “I Want You, She’s So Heavy”. This is a lengthy indulgence that has some interesting parts, a few moments of brilliance and some superb musicianship. That said it carries on for a nearly eight minute decent into repetitive madness.
The second side is where the magic of this album really starts. It opens with the uplifting and fresh sounds of Harrison’s second contribution, the sonic masterpiece, “Here Comes the Sun”. The harmony of vocals and the light, catchy melody capture the feeling of rebirth that comes from a new beginning, like the sun coming out from behind the clouds as winter fades and spring blooms. This, along with the outstanding, “Something” may make this Harrison’s best Beatles album ever. “Because” features a three part harmony tripled in production so it sounds like nine voices over a simple moog synthesizer and harpsichord. The vocals are masterful and the production technique is superb. Beethoven’s, “Moonlight Sonata”, played backwards, inspired the chords of the song.
“You Never Give Me Your Money” drops in perfectly with soft piano chords and dramatic vocals, there is a plethora of music in this piece. The sounds draw you in and the steady drum beat is mesmerizing. The production on this one is masterful as it leads the listener into the medley that is the heart of this production masterpiece. The production of these little vignettes is brilliant in how they blend together into a cohesive story. “Sun King” reprises the triple three part harmonies while, “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam” are more upbeat and end in a crash. “She Came in through the Bathroom Window” was inspired by a determined female fan who crawled through a bathroom window of Paul’s home. There is a cool riff going on throughout the song.
With a slight pause in the medley, “Golden Slumbers” rises as another melodramatic McCartney contribution showcasing his knack for making pretty melodies. This abruptly leads to “Carry That Weight”, featuring a reprise of “You Never Give Me Your Money” where Ringo is prominent in the vocal harmonies. Fittingly, it all culminates with “The End”. There is a showcase for each performer here. The guitar parts were done by Paul, John and George and Ringo has his only drum solo as a Beatle. It is a grand finale that brings this album, as well as the Beatles recording days, to an end in grand style.
Abbey Road’s cover, though it appears to be a simple shot of the band walking across the street in single file, has been said to have some clues to the rumored death of Paul McCartney. Paul is walking barefoot in a suit, George is dressed in jeans, much like a gravedigger, Ringo is dressed in similar fashion as an undertaker while John is dressed in white to symbolize a minister. Adding to the intrigue is the license plate on the VW that reads, “28 IF” as Paul would have been 28 if he had lived. Of course, Paul McCartney is not dead, but the “clues” became a fan obsession and the band seemed to have an endless supply of “clues” to egg them on.
Of course, the album was a huge success, reaching the top of the charts in scores of countries as the sixties came to an end. The songs on this album lean on each other much as the Beatles needed to lean on each other to produce the quality and quantity of music they made throughout their career. There are a few outstanding singles, but the medley only shines because they put together pieces of songs that weren’t quite complete on their own and created something unique, special and fleeting as the Beatles rode off into history shortly after Abbey Road was released.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1969 albums.
Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, a popular Philadelphia area “bar band”, caught the attention of Columbia Records when their 1986 independently released album, Walking on the Water, sold very well regionally. The band, which started as a three piece with band leader Tommy Conwell on lead guitars and vocals, Paul Slivka on bass and Jimmy Hannum on drums, was known for their high energy live performances. Aside from being an accomplished guitarist, Conwell was keenly tuned into his audience and gave them his all at every show by jumping off the stage into the audience and playing guitar while strolling along the top of the bar. When their first major label record, Rumble, was released in 1988, it did a fair job of capturing a bit of this live energy in the recording.
Rumble was produced by Rick Chertoff who had recent successes producing Cyndi Lauper’s multi-platinum debut album, She’s So Unusual and The Hooters’ first two successful major label releases, Nervous Night and One Way Home. He was charged with the task of making a polished, ready for mainstream radio, recording of an unpolished rock and roll band. This was quite a task when a major part of the band’s charm and appeal was the grit of their live energy.
By the time recording started, the band had grown from a simple rockabilly type three piece (albeit more “rock” than “billy”) to a full fledged rock and roll line up of five with the addition of Rob Miller on keyboards and Chris Day on guitar.
Rumbleby Tommy Conwell and Young Rumblers
Released: July 10, 1988 (Columbia) Produced by: Rick Chertoff
I’m Not Your Man
Half a Heart
If We Never Meet Again
Love’s On Fire
I Wanna Make You Happy
Everything They Say Is True
Tell Me What You Want Me To Be
Walkin’ On the Water
Tommy Conwell – Lead Vocals, Lead Guitars | Chris Day – Guitars Rob Miller – Keyboards | Paul Slivka – Bass | Jimmy Hannum – Drums
The songs on this album are straight up rock and roll with simple themes of youthful rebellion, friendship and love set to bluesy, rock and roll guitars and rhythms. Nothing about this album is really that new or innovative, it is just good old fashioned rock and roll done well by outstanding musicians with great work ethics and riveting stage presence.
The opener, “I’m Not Your Man” dives right in, featuring a bawdy, bad boy rant from Conwell preceded by a bluesy guitar riff. Conwell’s guitar is clear and sharp and shines on this song. This was the most successful single on the album rising to #1 on the Mainstream Rock tracks chart. The other popular song from the album is “If We Never Meet Again”, which has a catchy chorus hook and a very cool, twangy guitar interlude, which highlights Conwell’s versatility on guitar.
“Half a Heart” features Miller’s keyboards against a steady bass backbeat by the adept rhythm section of Slivka and Hannum. It is easily the most pop oriented tune of the whole album. “Love’s on Fire” continues the energy with driving guitars leading into the boogie beat, keyboard laden, aptly named “Workout”.
The second side includes “Everything They Say Is True”, which has a heavy keyboard riff, and “Breakdown”, probably the best overall song on the album both musically and lyrically. Its softly strummed intro gradually “breaks down” into a hard rocking ode to redemption that includes some fantastic guitar and earnest vocals from Conwell. George Thorogood is channeled through Conwell’s gruff and gritty vocals in “Tell Me What You Want Me to Be”. “Walkin On Water” is a rollicking tune that closes the album with a life is just a party vibe.
The Young Rumbers would go on to record two more albums for Columbia. Guitar Trouble, recorded with help from Bruce Hornsby, was released in 1989 to modest success and the final album was passed on by Columbia. Rumble would be the pinnacle of commercial success for this Philadelphia Rock and Roll band.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1988 albums.
Out of Body was the fifth studio album by The Hooters, released in 1993, and would be the last before the band’s decade and a half hiatus from recording. As with all previous Hooters albums, the album of all original material was mainly composed by the team of guitarist/vocalist Eric Bazilian and keyboardist/vocalist Rob Hyman, who founded the group in the Philadelphia in 1980. However, Out of Body did mark a series of firsts for the band. It was their first album for MCA Records and the first to employ Joe Hardy to co-produce along with Bazilian and Hyman. This was also the first album since the band had expanded to become a six-piece after the addition of vocalist, violinist, and multi-instrumentalist Mindy Jostyn, who started performing with the Hooters in 1991 and became a permanent member of the band in early 1992.
Following the band’s previous album, Zig Zag in 1989, the Hooters participated in Roger Waters’ The Wall, Live in Berlin, performing the song “Mother” with Sinead O’Conner and members of the classic group The Band. As the new decade dawned, the band’s popularity in Europe continued to grow as it inversely subsided in the US, something that would be reflected in the sales figures for Out of Body.
Recorded in Memphis, Hardy and the band took a much different approach to the recording process than on any previous band efforts, as Hardy took tracks directly from demos without much rehearsing and reworking. This resulted in a rapid recording process and final production which is sonically pleasing but a bit confused at times. Still, the band showcases their multi-faceted influences and every song contains unique blends of traditional instrumentation with modern rock and pop.
Out of Bodyby The Hooters
Released: May 11, 1993 (MCA) Produced by: Joe Hardy, Eric Bazilian, & Rob Hyman Recorded: 1993
Twenty-Five Hours a Day
Boys Will Be Boys
Shadow of Jesus
Great Big American Car
Dancing On the Edge
All Around the Place
One Too Many Nights
Nobody But You
Eric Bazilian – Guitars, Mandolin, Saxophone, Sitar, Vocals, Piano, Harmonica Rob Hyman – Piano, Keyboards, Accordion, Hooter, Vocals John Lilley – Guitars, Vocals Mindy Jostlyn – Violin, Harmonica, Vocals Fran Smith Jr. – Bass, Vocals David Uosikkinen – Drums, Percussion
Some of the defining elements of Out of Body is the cross influences with other top-notch pop stars. “Boys Will Be Boys” was co-written by Cyndi Lauper who also provided some vocals, returning the favor a decade after Bazilian and Hyman contributed to her debut album She’s So Unusual and her hit, “Time after Time”. “Dancing On the Edge” was co-written by famed lyricist John Bettis and also has a bit of Celtic influence, which is well camouflaged here by a strong rock arrangement and percussive effects. “Private Emotion” would become the biggest “hit” on the album when it was later redone by Ricky Martin. The original version here is the heart of the album, led by mandolin throughout and very melodic vocals by Bazilian, accented by interesting, minimalist guitar lead and fretless bass.
The opener “Twenty-Five Hours a Day” gives the album its name in the very first verse and is sonically diverse with a mandolin intro, funky electric during the chorus, some synth effects, and an interesting lead section which blends violin, accordion, and the “hooter”. The song is fast paced like an Irish jig, getting off to a running start and the pace never slowing until the final notes. Jostyn makes an immediate mark in her debut with the band as her violin and vocals add the perfect accent to blend with the folk rock funk of the rest of the group.
On the opposite end, the closer “Nobody But You” is an unusual yet compelling song. It is a love song, albeit a bit twisted with a back beat and sound that could be a hybrid of The Wallflowers and Tom Petty and quirky lyrics which make one wonder if this is a song of love or an unhealthy obsession –
Well I’m lying in your flower bed, I’m drunk on your perfume Just waiting for the seeds
I planted once to come in bloom
You ravage me, you savage me and you know I love it too…”
Some other fine tracks on the album include “Shadow of Jesus”, which has good ambience in the spirit of “All You Zombies”, with great funky bass by Fran Smith Jr. and harmonica by Jostlyn along with with strings and a dramatic presentation and lyrics.
“Great Big American Car” brings the band right back to the eighties sound with a lyrical nod to psychedelia and nostalgic times past. “One Too Many Nights” is highlighted by a great organ lead by Hyman and more mandolins by Bazilian, while “All Around the Place” is just that, as the aptly titled song moves from a heavy percussive dance beat by David Uosikkinen to mandolin to country chant feel with strings and accordion. Later some funky guitars and “The Memphis Horns” join in, giving the song’s climax an “All You Need is Love” feel.
The Hooters followed Out of Body with a live album the following year before the band would enter an extended hiatus period which would last nearly a decade of no touring or any activity. In 1995, Bazilian and Hyman worked on the debut album by Joan Osbourne called Relish, which produced the worldwide hit “One Of Us”, which was originally intended for an upcoming Hooters album.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1993 albums.