Album Reviews: 80s Flashbacks


Today I will review three recently-released albums by artists who were 1980s superstars.

AlbumWestern Stars
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Release Date: June 14, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Western Stars
  • Chasin’ Wild Horses
  • Moonlight Motel

Thoughts:

I’ve always liked Springsteen well enough, although my knowledge of his work is fairly superficial.  This album reminds me of the Rolling Stones’ Blue & Lonesome in the sense that Springsteen is at an age where he has nothing left to prove, and has the leisure to dive into his roots.  Nonetheless, it’s a different sound for him, especially the string arrangements. Strings can be cheezy if done poorly, but they’re are well-integrated into the songs and the stories they’re telling and complement Springsteen’s voice which is as strong and expressive as ever. Springsteen is famously from New Jersey, but here is voice is baked in the Americana of the West.

Rating: ***


Album: Absolute Zero
Artist: Bruce Hornsby
Release Date: April 12, 2019
Favorite Tracks: none stand out, but they’re all decent
Thoughts:

The less-famous Bruce had his biggest hits at the beginning of his career in the 1980s, and probably for most people that’s all they know about him.  In the 1990s, Hornsby toured with the Grateful Dead and created new albums with a jazz fusion sound.  When I lived in Williamsburg, VA, his hometown, he was a local celebrity and people exchanged stories of Bruce sightings.  I saw him in concert several times and have always thought his music sounds far better in live performace than on an album.  Neverthless, over the past 15 years or so I’ve failed to keep up with his career – until now.  This album uses elements of classical, jazz, and avant-garde music with Hornsby’s virtuosic style.  Jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette guests on some tracks as does Justin Vernon of Bon Iver which gives it some NPR Music cred.  It’s a creative experiment with dissonant sounds and juxtapositions, but I don’t think it’s something I’ll want to return to.

Rating: **1/2


Album: Originals
Artist: Prince
Release Date: June 7, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • 100 MPH
  • Holly Rock
  • The Glamorous Life
  • Wouldn’t You Love to Love Me?
  • Nothing Compares 2 U

Thoughts:

Prince, of course, is deceased and will no longer be releasing new music.  But his famous vault will be mined for music for the forseeable future. Following up on Piano and a Microphone, 1983, and collects mostly unreleased versions of songs Prince wrote as demos for other artists. So now we can hear Prince’s take on songs like “Jungle Love,” “Manic Monday,” and “The Glamorous Life,” which were hits for The Time, The Bangles, and Sheila E.  A number of these songs were crafted by Prince for his proteges in the Minneapolis scene so they’re not familiar to me, although the most bizarre of the songs that are new to me is “You’re My Love,” which Prince wrote for Kenny Rogers!  The demos exude Prince’s hard work and musicianship and would’ve been good enough for Prince to release himself.  On the other hand, there are things the other artists brought to these songs that I think Prince was aware was needed.  This album is enjoyable, but I think it’s worth more for historical/musicological study than for just listening for fun

Rating: ***1/2

Favorite Songs of 1984


The project continues with my favorite songs of 1984.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

I sense the quality of music is dropping into the mid-80s trough.  Looking at lists of songs from 1984, I can make a top ten list of songs of shame, and not even ones that are still guilty pleasures.  But there’s still enough good stuff left to make an interesting top ten favorites list as well.

Free Nelson Mandela – The Special A.K.A

Glory Days – Bruce Springsteen

How Soon Is Now? – The Smiths

Jam On It – Newcleus

Let’s Go Crazy – Prince and the Revolution

[Seek this song out on your own, but with caution as Prince does not like sharing on the internet]

The Milkman of Human Kindness – Billy Bragg

People Are People – Depeche Mode

Run Run Away – Slade

Skankin’ To The Beat – Fishbone

Stick ‘Em – Fat Boys

And my song of shame for 1984 is: Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer – Elmo & Patsy

What were you listening to in 1984 that you still remember fondly? Let me know in the comments.

Favorite Songs of 1980


The project continues with my favorite songs of 1980.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

The Eighties begin.  It’s the decade where my childhood memories of music come into clear focus.  A lot of people say that there was no good music in the Eighties, but I’ve got 100 songs coming up that will prove them wrong.

Academy Fight Song – Mission Of Burma

Another Nail In My Heart – Squeeze

Do Nothing –  The Specials

Hungry Heart – Bruce Springsteen

I Will Follow – U2

Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division

Mirror In The Bathroom – The English Beat

Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads

Three Minute Hero – The Selecter

What I Like About You – The Romantics

And my song of shame for 1980 is Funky Town by Lipps Inc.

 

Favorite Songs Of 1975


The project continues with my favorite songs of 1975.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

1975 was another challenging year, but don’t worry folks, punk is coming!

Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen

I’m Not In Love – 10 cc

Kashmir – Led Zeppelin

New York State of Mind – Billy Joel

Omaggio a Jerry Lee Lewis – Richard Trythall

Roadrunner (Once) – Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers

Shining Star – Earth, Wind & Fire

Susan’s Song – Al Jarreau

Young Americans – David Bowie

You Sexy Thing – Hot Chocolate

And the song of shame for 1975 is Take It To The Limit – The Eagles

What are your favorite songs from 1975?  Let me know in the comments!