50 Years, 50 Albums (1984): Private Dancer by Tina Turner


I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to listen to and review one album from each year of my life, 1973 to 2022.  The only qualification is that it has to be an album I’ve not reviewed previously. 

1984

Top Grossing Albums of 1984:

  1. Born in the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen
  2. Purple Rain – Prince and the Revolution
  3. Like A Virgin – Madonna
  4. Reckless – Bryan Adams
  5. 1984 – Van Halen

Grammy Award for Album of the Year of 1984:

Other Albums I’ve Reviewed from 1984:


Album: Private Dancer
Artist: Tina Turner
Release Date: May 29, 1984
Label: Capitol
Favorite Tracks:

  • I Might Have Been Queen
  • What’s Love Got to Do with It
  • Show Some Respect
  • Better Be Good to Me
  • Let’s Stay Together
  • Steel Claw
  • Private Dancer

Thoughts:

Tina Turner died last week so I thought it would be a good time to revisit her seminal 1984 album Private Dancer.  Tina’s personal story of escaping the abuse of her husband (and boss) Ike Turner and emerging as a successful solo artist is something that can’t be separated from the greatness of this album.  If you weren’t around in 1984 it’s hard to explain just how huge this album was and Tina’s quick rise to superstardom.  A woman in her 40s suddenly becoming a rock star was something that just didn’t (and doesn’t) happen.

The first single off this album, a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” was my introduction to Tina Turner (and I didn’t know who Al Green was until years later).  It’s still one of my favorite of Tina’s songs and a terrific interpretation that I’d argue is better than the original.  “What’s Love Got to Do with It” was Tina’s first and only Number One song and really one of the most perfect pop songs ever. I’ve always thought of the title track (written by Mark Knopfler and originally recorded but not released by Dire Straits) as a sympathetic story song from the point of view of a woman who works as an exotic dancer, but metaphorically it also works as a story of Tina’s experience with Ike and for the mistreatment that many women suffer in show business.  My other favorite song on this album is “Better Be Good to Me” especially the soulful call-and-response she sings with the music towards the end.

This album sounds very 80s with keyboard synths and a soft rock vibe.  A lot of artists from the 60s, Tina’s contemporaries, were trying to fit in to the New Wave/synthpop sound in the 80s and flopped.  But Tina makes it work, most likely because her voice is so expressive and she never lets it get overwhelmed by the instrumentation.  I’m glad I revisted this album because in my mind I know that Tina Turner was a great musical artist, but listening to it makes me realize she was even better than I remembered.  She will be missed but I’m glad her voice will live on.

Rating: ****1/2


50 Years, 50 Albums (1977): I Remember Yesterday by Donna Summer


I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to listen to and review one album from each year of my life, 1973 to 2022.  The only qualification is that it has to be an album I’ve not reviewed previously. 

1977

Top Grossing Albums of 1977:

  1. Bat Out of Hell – Meat Loaf
  2. Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track– The Bee Gees
  3. Rumours – Fleetwood Mac
  4. The Stranger – Billy Joel
  5. Out of the Blue – Electric Light Orchestra

Grammy Award for Album of the Year of 1977:

  • Rumours – Fleetwood Mac
  • Aja– Steely Dan
  • Hotel California – Eagles
  • JT – James Taylor
  • Star Wars (soundtrack) – John Williams conducting the London Symphony Orchestra

Other Albums I’ve Reviewed from of 1977:


Album: I Remember Yesterday
Artist: Donna Summer
Release Date: May 13, 1977
Label: Casablanca
Favorite Tracks:

  • I Remember Yesterday
  • Love’s Unkind
  • Take Me
  • I Feel Love

Thoughts:

Boston’s own Donna Summer was on top of the world in 1977 as the reigning Queen of Disco.  Working with producer Giorgio Moroder, Summer created this concept album which filtered several decades of popular music filtered through disco.  The final track “I Feel Love” is most famous for representing the future through its Moog synthesizer sound.  And the future is in this song which can be heard in New Wave, house music, and today’s EDM.  Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn’t equal the strength of this one song. Songs include the swing-inspired title track (which is fun, but doesn’t deserve a reprise) and the 60s girl group sound of “Love’s Unkind.”  The third track “Back in Love Again” is a pastiche of The Supremes, I guess? And that’s pretty much it for the concept.  The album is pretty short and the rest of it is straight-up disco with “Take Me” being the only other notable cut.

Rating: ***

DEEP DIVE – Album Review: Dirty Mind by Prince


I am doing a deep dive into the work of the musical artist Prince.  Each week until December I will post my thoughts on albums released by Prince (and his bands and side projects) focusing on one year of his career. 

This week I’m reviewing Dirty Mind from 1980.

Album: Dirty Mind
Artist: Prince
Release Date: October 8, 1980
Label: Warner Bros.
Favorite Tracks:

  • Dirty Mind
  • When You Were Mine
  • Uptown
  • Head
  • Partyup

Thoughts:

We are now entering an imperial phase for Prince beginning a string of album masterpieces that extends at least to 1987’s Sign O’ the Times. Prince is also venturing beyond being a one-man band with the wonderfully named Doctor Fink playing keyboards on a couple of tracks and Lisa Coleman dueting with Prince on “Head.”  I think this is also Prince’s first collaboration with Morris Day who gets a co-writing credit on “Partyup.”

This is album is perfectly named as Prince exudes a raw exoticism and downright raunchiness that must have been shocking in 1980 and still stands out in Prince’s catalog.  Topics covered in these songs include threesomes, cunnilingus, and incest!  That being said, there’s also a political consciousness emerging in songs such as “Uptown” and “Partyup.”  Musically, Prince deftly blends the funk sounds pioneered by PFunk, disco, punk, and New Wave.  It really feels like the template for 80s rock is being laid out here!

Rating: ****

For You 1978 ***
Prince 1979 ***1/2
Dirty Mind 1980 ****
Controversy 1981
1999 1982 Prince and the Revolution
Purple Rain 1984 Prince and the Revolution
Around the World in a Day 1985 Prince and the Revolution
Parade 1986 Prince and the Revolution
Sign O’ the Times 1987
8 1987 Madhouse
16 1987 Madhouse
Lovesexy 1988
Batman 1989
Graffiti  Bridge 1990
Diamonds and Pearls 1991 Prince and the New Power Generation
Love Symbol 1992 Prince and the New Power Generation
Goldnigga 1993 The New Power Generation
Come 1994
The Black Symbol 1994
The Gold Experience 1995
Exodus 1995 The New Power Generation
Chaos and Disorder 1996
Emancipation 1996
Kamasutra 1997 The NPG Orchestra
Crystal Ball 1998
The Truth 1998
Newpower Soul 1998 The New Power Generation
The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale 1999
Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic 1999
The Rainbow Children 2001
One Nite Alone… 2002
One Nite Alone… Live! 2002
Xpectation 2003
N-E-W-S 2003
Musicology 2004
The Chocolate Invasion 2004
The Slaughterhouse 2004
C-Note 2004
3121 2006
Planet Earth 2007
Indigo Nights 2008
Lotusflow3r/MPLSound 2009
20Ten 2010
Plectrumelectrum 2014 with 3rdeyegirl
Art Official Age 2014 with 3rdeyegirl
HITnRun Phase One 2015
HITnRun Phase Two 2015

50 Years, 50 Albums (2015): I Love You, Honeybear


will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to listen to and review one album from each year of my life, 1973 to 2022.  The only qualification is that it has to be an album I’ve not reviewed previously. 

2015

Top Grossing Albums of  2015:

  1. 1989 – Taylor Swift
  2. X – Ed Sheeran
  3. In the Lonely Hour – Sam Smith
  4. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – Drake
  5. Title – Meghan Trainor

Grammy Award for Album of the Year of 2015:

Other Albums I’ve Reviewed from 2015:


Album: I Love You, Honeybear
Artist: Father John Misty
Release Date: February 9, 2015
Label:  Bella Union | Sub Pop
Favorite Tracks:

  • I Love You, Honeybear
  • Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)
  • Bored in the USA

Thoughts: Father John Misty is a name I’m been familiar with for several years, memorable because of it’s oddity and association with photos of a young, bearded man. But had I ever listened to his music?  No.  This is the second album Josh Tillman released under the pseudonym/character Father John Misty after leaving the band Fleet Foxes.  The album draws inspiration from Hillman’s recent marriage and works as a satire of the raw vulnerability of white male singer/songwriters that goes so hard it becomes the real thing.  Influences and similarities in the Misty sound can be made with 60s baroque pop, early 70s Elton John, Harry Nilsson, and Randy Newman, as well as with contemporaries like John Grant and Lana Del Ray. On first listen, it’s not music I dislike but I also feel it would be hard to love.  That being said, I also sense that this is the type of album that would reward multiple listens.
Rating: ***

 

50 Years, 50 Albums (2011): Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes


I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to listen to and review one album from each year of my life, 1973 to 2022.  The only qualification is that it has to be an album I’ve not reviewed previously. 

2011

Top Grossing Albums of 2011:

  1. 21 – Adele
  2. Speak Now – Taylor Swift
  3. Born This Way – Lady Gaga
  4. My Kind of Party – Jason Aldean
  5. The Gift – Susan Boyle

Grammy Award for Album of the Year of 2011:

  • 21 – Adele
  • Wasting Light – Foo Fighters
  • Born This Way – Lady Gaga
  • Doo-Wops & Hooligans – Bruno Mars
  • Loud – Rihanna

Other Albums I’ve Reviewed from 2011:


Album: Helplessness Blues
Artist: Fleet Foxes
Release Date: May 3, 2011
Label: Sub Pop | Bella Union
Favorite Tracks:

  • Montezuma
  • Battery Kinzie
  • The Plains/ Bitter Dancer
  • Helplessness Blues
  • Lorelai
  • The Shrine/An Argument
  • Grown Ocean

Thoughts:

I was surprised that I’d never reviewed this album.  After listening to it, I’ve determined it’s something of a masterpiece. The title track has always been emblematic for me of the national mood of the Great Recession, a time that feels like yesterday and ages ago simultaneously.  Through 21st century indie rock sensibilities, Fleet Foxes channel the harmonies of classic folk rock acts like Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds, and early Crosby, Stills, & Nash.  A bigger influence is the English folk revival, a scene I’m not as familiar with myself.  Band leader Robin Pecknold credits Roy Harper as an inspiration.  Despite all these modern day homages the songs also feel like they contain an ancient mysticism.  The melodies are beautiful with lyrics full of heartbreak and longing.

Rating: ****1/2

Related reviews:

 

 

50 Years, 50 Albums (2002): Sea Change by Beck


I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to listen to and review one album from each year of my life, 1973 to 2022.  The only qualification is that it has to be an album I’ve not reviewed previously. 

2002

Top Grossing Albums of 2002:

  1. The Eminem Show – Eminem
  2. Weathered – Creed
  3. Nellyville – Nelly
  4. M!ssundaztood – P!nk
  5. [Hybrid Theory] – Linkin Park

Grammy Award for Album of the Year of 2002:

  • Come Away With Me – Norah Jones
  • Home – Dixie Chicks
  • The Eminem Show – Eminem
  • Nellyville – Nelly
  • The Rising – Bruce Springsteen

Other Albums I’ve Reviewed from 2002:


Album: Sea Change
Artist: Beck
Release Date: September 24, 2002
Label: Geffen
Favorite Tracks:

  • Lonesome Tears
  • Lost Cause
  • It’s All In Your Mind
  • Sunday Sun
  • Little One

Thoughts:

Beck’s 8th album is a break from his typical style (if anything about Beck can be considered typical).  The songs are basically folk music with psychedelic effects, but no sampling or electronic beats.  As the album is inspired by the breakup of a long time relationship, the songs are downtempo and Beck’s lyrics are more introspective and less ironic than his previous work as well.  But the tunes are strongly melodic which makes for more variety than it may initially appear.  The songs would probably work better for a stronger vocalist than Beck, but nevertheless he does a good job with what he has.

Rating: ***1/2

 

Album of the Month: Til It’s Gone by Ali McGuirk


Album: Til It’s Gone
Artist: Ali McGuirk
Release Date: September 16, 2022
Label: Signature Sounds Recordings
Favorite Tracks:

  • XBoyrfriends
  • The Work
  • Let It Be You
  • Leave Me

Thoughts:

I was prompted by a WBUR article to give a listen to the most recent album by the local Boston-area artist Ali McGuirk. Coming from a jazz background, McGuirk infuses this album with blues and classic rock energy.  I can’t say I loved this album but it was good, and McGuirk seems like the type of musical artist who puts on a great live show.  I’ll have to see if I can see one of her gigs when she returns home from touring the world.

Rating: ***

2023 Album Reviews

February

March

April

May

50 Years, 50 Albums (2003): Rounds by Four Tet


I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to listen to and review one album from each year of my life, 1973 to 2022.  The only qualification is that it has to be an album I’ve not reviewed previously. 

2003

Top Grossing Albums of 2003:

  1. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ – 50 Cent
  2. Come Away With Me – Norah Jones
  3. Up! – Shania Twain
  4. Home – Dixie Chicks
  5. Let Go – Avril Lavigne

Grammy Award for Album of the Year of 2003:

Other Albums I’ve Reviewed from 2003:


 

Album: Rounds
Artist: Four Tet
Release Date: 5 May 2003
Label: Domino
Favorite Tracks:

  • My Angel Rocks Back and Forth
  • Spirit Fingers
  • Unspoken
  • As Serious As Your Life
  • Slow Burn

Thoughts:

I can’t recall when I first heard of Four Tet but it was definitely well after 2003 when this critically-acclaimed album was released.  Four Tet is the stage name of English electronic musician and producer Kieran Hebden.  On his third album, Four Tet creates a melodic downtempo blend of electronic instruments and acoustic samples (many of which are processed beyond organic) lending it a feel of jazz and folk music (and indeed one of the genres assigned to this album is “folktronica”). Electronic music rarely sounds so warm and human.

Rating: ****

 

50 Years, 50 Albums (1988): The Trinity Session by Cowboy Junkies


 

I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to listen to and review one album from each year of my life, 1973 to 2022.  The only qualification is that it has to be an album I’ve not reviewed previously. 

1988

Top Grossing Albums of 1988:

  1. Faith – George Michael
  2. Dirty Dancing soundtrack
  3. Hysteria – Def Leppard
  4. Kick – INXS
  5. Bad – Michael Jackson

Grammy Award for Album of the Year of 1988:

  • Faith – George Michael
  • Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman
  • Simple Pleasures – Bobby McFerrin
  • …Nothing Like the Sun – Sting
  • Roll with It – Steve Winwood

Other Albums I’ve Reviewed from 1988:


Album: The Trinity Session
Artist: Cowboy Junkies
Release Date: November 15, 1988
Label: Latent RCA
Favorite Tracks:

  • Mining for Gold
  • Misguided Angel
  • Blue Moon Revisited (Song for Elvis)
  • I Don’t Get It
  • 200 More Miles
  • Dreaming My Dreams with You
  • Sweet Jane

Thoughts: The Trinity Session was on my 2009 list of all-time favorite albums but not on my 2022 list.  The reason? I screwed up!  Luckily, I get to address this error by reviewing the album now.  And it really is a great album full of bangers.  Margo Timmins’ ethereal vocals are balances with music that feels pulled up from the roots of the earth.  The album mixes original songs with traditional tunes and covers, most notably a hit reinvention of Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane.” The album was notably recorded in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto around one microphone and mostly in one day which helps lend it the raw and rustic sound.  This album was a big one in my college years and I still feel bad that I’ve never gotten around to exploring any of the other parts of the Cowboy Junkies oeuvre.

Rating: ****1/2

50 Years, 50 Albums (1998): You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby by Fatboy Slim


I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to listen to and review one album from each year of my life, 1973 to 2022.  The only qualification is that it has to be an album I’ve not reviewed previously. 

1998

Top Grossing Albums of 1998:

  1. Believe – Cher
  2. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Lauryn Hill
  3. Never Say Never – Brandy
  4. Ray of Light – Madonna
  5. Wide Open Spaces – Dixie Chicks

Grammy Award for Album of the Year of 1998:

Other Albums I’ve Reviewed from 1998:


 

Album: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby
Artist: Fatboy Slim
Release Date: 19 October 1998
Label: SkintAstralwerks
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Rockafeller Skank
  • Gangster Tripping
  • You’re Not From Brighton
  • Praise You
  • Acid 8000

Thoughts:

If you weren’t alive in the summer of 1998, you may not be able to fathom how much “The Rockafeller Skank” was the soundtrack of everyday life in those times. The heavy breakbeats and the repeated vocal samples that defined the Big Beat style of electronic music are pervasive on the album.  Somehow the repetition never becomes boring, but there’s musicality in how it’s played at different speeds.  It shares that element with trance music but in DJ Norman Cook’s hands it becomes a party anthem.  This is definitely a timeless album and all-time classic. And all these years later, I still don’t know why it’s called “The Rockafeller Skank.”

Rating: ****