Saturday, March 21, 2009

1982 - The Other Year of The Album, Part 2

And now the conclusion of my look back at the music of the nether year 1982...

STEVIE NICKS—Bella Donna  Stevie’s first solo effort was highly-anticipated and she didn’t disappoint.  She scored big hits with “Edge Of Seventeen” and her duets with Tom Petty (“Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”) and Don Henley (“Leather And Lace”).  Another good track was “After The Glitter Fades”.

SCANDAL—Scandal  Scandal came from New Yawk and hit fairly big in the early MTV era with “Goodbye To You” on their debut EP (that’s Extended Play, for youse youngins).  It also yielded another single that’s now largely forgotten, “Love’s Got A Line On You”.  They soon changed their name to Scandal featuring Patty Smyth and broke out with “The Warrior” in 1984.

DON HENLEY—Can’t Stand Still  Dangerous Don’s first non-Eagles release featured the classic “Dirty Laundry”, with its brutal smackdown on the phoniness of the TV news industry.  Fox News Channel didn’t even exist yet, Anderson Cooper and Sean Hannity were still in puberty, CNN was in its infancy, Katie Couric was running for prom queen and Bill O’Reilly was probably bussing tables when this song first came out and it’s even more prescient today than it was 27 years ago.  Another track called “Johnny Can’t Read” offered up more social commentary about illiteracy.

ROBERT PLANT—Pictures At Eleven  Another solo debut from a well-established singer, Plant was doing everything he could to distance himself from his Led Zep past (although why I’m not sure).  PAE had some interesting songs, but in typical Robert Plant cryptic fashion, he gave them strange titles that had nothing to do with the lyrics therein like “Pledge Pin” (drop and give him 20?!?), “Burning Down One Side” and “Worse Than Detroit”.

MISSING PERSONS—Spring Session M  One of the first songs I ever remember listening to on a Sony Walkman was Missing Persons’ “Words” and I was quite impressed with it.  I was also strangely drawn to this Dale Bozzio woman with her multi-colored hair and creative use of electrical tape in her stage costumes, particularly around the breast area.  Spring Session M—an anagram for Missing Persons—also featured “Destination Unknown” and the underrated “Walking In L.A.”, “Windows” and “Mental Hopscotch”, all of which reside on my iPod today.

A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS—A Flock Of Seagulls  This was the greatest Techno-Pop album ever made.  These guys were surprisingly good in concert, too, and although they sounded robotic as all get-out, I liked them anyway, for some reason.  Go past the big hits “I Ran” and “Space-Age Love Song” and there’s still lots of great stuff here, like “Telecommunication”, “Modern Love Is Automatic”, “You Can Run”, “Messages”, “Standing In The Doorway” and the instrumental “D.N.A.”.  Sadly, groups like AFOS and Missing Persons had very short shelf-lives, but it was fun while it lasted, anyway.

MOTLEY CRUE—Too Fast For Love  While far from being the Crue’s greatest recorded achievement, Too Fast was at least a good start.  It featured “Take Me To The Top” (not the Loverboy song of the same name), “Piece Of Your Action” and “Live Wire”, and laid the groundwork for the next album, Shout At The Devil, which was their best, IMO.

STRAY CATS—Built For Speed  Contrary to popular belief, this was not the Cats’ first album, per se, as they had already released two over in England from which this album was pieced together.  It certainly threw a big curve ball to the music scene that was almost overwrought by New Wave and Techno music by kicking it old-school. “Rock This Town” and “Stray Cat Strut” were great, but “Rumble In Brighton”, “Double Talkin’ Baby” and “Runaway Boys” were even better.

SCORPIONS—Blackout  The Scorps had been around quite a while too, and 1980’s “The Zoo” was a major step forward for them.  Blackout finally put them on the map for keeps with the big hit radio hit “No One Like You”.  The rest of the album didn’t suck either, with scorchers like the title track, “Dynamite” and “Can’t Live Without You”.  These crazy Germans were still on the rise, too…

IRON MAIDEN—The Number Of The Beast  And here was another heavy metal band on the rise.  Bruce Dickinson’s Daltrey-like scream at the beginning of the title track ushered in the new Iron Maiden era, and they finally found the singer they were looking for to replace the one-dimensional Paul d’Anno.  Their fortunes improved exponentially on Beast, which featured the classic “Run To The Hills” and several others.

ADAM ANT—Friend Or Foe  I was highly-resistant to the whole New Wave thing in the early ‘80s and avoided acts like Duran Duran and Culture Club like the Plague, but resistance was futile when I heard Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes” on the radio.  On a whim, I bought Friend Or Foe and it wound up being one of my surprise favorites that year.  I loved the freight train-like rhythm of “Goody Two Shoes”, and it also popped up in the title track and a couple other songs.  “Place In The Country”, “Desperate But Not Serious” and “Crackpot History” were standouts too.

RUSH—Signals  Rush was on a roll in the early ‘80s, and Signals is one of my all-time favorite Rush albums, the cassette copy of which I practically wore out driving to and from classes as a Freshman at UMKC, and I really began to embrace thinking-man’s Rock.  I instantly took a liking to “Subdivisions”—especially Geddy Lee’s trippy synthesizer solo therein.  You can also find some very underrated stuff here, like “The Analog Kid”, “Digital Man” and “Countdown”, the latter of which features actual radio transmissions from the early Space Shuttle launches that Rush was very privileged to be able to use—NASA doesn’t loan those out to just anyone.  Rush even cracked the Top 40 for the first and only time with “New World Man”.

OZZY OSBOURNE—Diary Of A Madman  According to legend, Diary was recorded during the same sessions as Blizzard Of Ozz, and the quality was certainly consistent with, if not even a little better than, its predecessor.  I resisted Ozzy initially because of the whole canary-biting thing, but was irrevocably hooked by Randy Rhoads’ chugga-chugga-chugga intro to “Over The Mountain”.  “Flying High Again” is a classic, of course, while “Little Dolls” and “Tonight” were great under-the-radar tracks, and Rhoads showed off his acoustic side on the anthemic “You Can’t Kill Rock ‘N’ Roll”.  Again, I have to say, what might have been, with young Master Rhoads.  Rest in peace, Randy—you rocked!

OZZY OSBOURNE—Speak Of The Devil  Ozzy owed Epic Records a live concert album, but balked at doing one covering his current solo work because (to his credit) he didn’t want to appear to be capitalizing on the tragic death of Randy Rhoads just six months earlier.  He waited until a more appropriate time and released Tribute in 1987, featuring Rhoads’ live work, circa. 1981.  In the meantime, His Royal Ozz-ness (or someone) came up with the ingenious idea of doing a live album comprised of nothing but Black Sabbath tunes, some of which he hadn’t performed in several years.  Devil was amazingly good considering how Ozzy’s band—drummer Tommy Aldridge, erstwhile Quiet Riot bassist Rudy Sarzo and guitarist Brad Gillis, who was on loan from Night Ranger—had to learn most of the material (almost literally) overnight for the two concerts this album was culled from.  They’d already been playing “Paranoid”, “Children Of The Grave” and “Iron Man” as part of Ozzy’s regular live act, but tunes like “Symptom Of The Universe”, “Never Say Die”, “Sweet Leaf”, “Fairies Wear Boots” and “The Wizard” were all new material for the band, and these guys were obviously quick-studies, because the result was phenomenal.  In the process, Ozzy killed two birds (canaries?) with one stone—he fulfilled his obligation to Epic and aced out his former band in the 1982 live album department by light years.

JEFFERSON STARSHIP—Winds Of Change  Guitarist Paul Kantner pissed and moaned on VH-1’s “Behind The Music” that the band had sold out during this period and that they were putting out crap.  Well, Bud, it was YOUR band and you were a co-founder of it, so why didn’t you do something about it?  Whiny bitch.  Anyway, I thought Winds Of Change was a dandy record, and Grace Slick being back full-time made it even better.  She sounded great on cuts like “Can’t Find Love”, the title track and the frenetic “Out Of Control”, Mickey Thomas was a standout on “Keep On Dreamin’”, and I really liked Craig Chaquico’s guitar work throughout.  This turned out to be the last really good record J. Starship ever made, as 1984’s Nuclear Furniture sputtered and then things went from bad (the insipid “We Built This City” schlock in ’85) to worse (the putrid “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” in ’87).  I still can’t believe Bernie Taupin co-wrote "We Built This City", either...

ASIA—Asia  The critics ripped this album as "corporate Rock at its worst", but since when do I ever listen to critics anyway?  True, "supergroups" like this comprised of major playas from other bands usually wind up producing roach droppings, but I thought this was a killer album.  Ex-Buggle keyboardist Geoff Downes, ex-Yes guitar man Steve Howe (not the baseball pitcher), ex-King Crimson bassist/singer John Wetton and ex-ELP drummer Carl Palmer put together a fine slab of vinyl on which nearly every track was outstanding, with the big radio hits "Heat Of The Moment" and "Only Time Will Tell" and "Your Wildest Dreams".  Even better were "Here Comes The Feeling" and my personal favorite, "Time Again", on which the band members individually flexed their musical muscles.

JUDAS PRIEST—Screaming For Vengeance  The Beast that is The Priest is another act I was reluctant to embrace at first, mostly because of their poor performance opening for Kiss in ’79, but to be fair, that was before “Breaking The Law” and “Living After Midnight” came out.  Priest put on a much better show on an MTV concert I saw in late, ‘82/early ’83 and it convinced me to buy Vengeance and I was quite impressed.  “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” is great, but it’s not even the best song on the record, IMO. “Bloodstone”, “Ridin’ On The Wind” and the opening segue “The Hellion/Electric Eye” are even better.  Definitely one of the better Heavy Metal albums of the early ‘80s.

DAVE EDMUNDS—D.E. 7th  This outstanding record made the summer of ’82 a lot more enjoyable as I played it to death on my car stereo.  From the Springsteen-penned lead-off track “From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)” to the closing Chuck Berry cover, “Dear Dad”, Dave had it clicking on all cylinders.  He threw in a little of everything on this record: a little Cajun (“Bail You Out”), a little Bluegrass (“Warmed Over Kisses”), a little Country (“Louisiana Man”), a little Cowboy (“Deep In The Heart Of Texas”) and some good ol’ Rock ‘N’ Roll (“Generation Rumble”, “Other Guys’ Girls”, and a nifty cover of NRBQ’s “Me And The Boys”).  The Boss wrote “From Small Things” specifically for Edmunds, and it’s a funny tale about wedded-bliss gone south, while “Dear Dad” is one of the funniest Chuck Berry songs ever, and Dave’s version blows the original away.  I highly recommend this album if you’re looking to “kick it old school”.

PAT BENATAR—Get Nervous  PB continued her successful early ‘80s run with another very consistent record, which featured the hits “Shadows Of The Night”, “Lookin’ For A Stranger” and “Little Too Late”. “Anxiety (Get Nervous)” and “The Victim” were my personal favorites, and the straight-jacket/rubber room motif on the cover was a cool added touch.  Unfortunately, the rest of Pat’s career would be very hit-and-miss from this point onward…

PHIL COLLINS—Hello, I Must Be Going!  I liked PC’s second solo album even better than his first one, Face Value with "In The Air Tonight".  “I Don’t Care Anymore” and Phil’s Motown cover of “You Can’t Hurry Love” were all over the radio, but there were a couple other gems on here like “It Don’t Matter To Me”, “Like China” and “Do You Know, Do You Care?”.  Commercial as all get-out, to be sure, but still not a bad Pop/Rock album.

.38 SPECIAL—Special Forces  One of the better albums these guys ever made, featuring the radio hit “Caught Up In You”. Best song was the now somewhat-forgotten “Chain Lightning”, and it also contained "Rough-Housin'" and "You Keep Runnin' Away".

GEORGE THOROGOOD—Bad To The Bone  Lonesome George and the Delaware Destroyers broke through with his trademark song on this album, which also featured a dandy cover of the Human Beinz’ “Nobody But Me”, which is quite possibly the most negative song ever written, thanks to all its inherent “no, no’s”.  BTTB also featured a cool original called “Back To Wentzville”, which was inspired by some shenanigans that went on in the west suburbs of St. Louis.

BILLY JOEL—The Nylon Curtain  While not quite as good as its predecessor Glass Houses, Nylon Curtain had its moments like “Goodnight Saigon” and the big radio hits “Pressure” and “Allentown“.  Mr. Piano Man also did his best John Lennon impression on the track called "Laura".

NICK LOWE—Nick The Knife  Not the greatest album His Royal Lowe-ness ever made, but it contained two tracks that I loved, the silly “Ba-Doom” and one of the better “up yours” kiss-off songs of all-time, “Stick It Where The Sun Don’t Shine”.

JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS—I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll  I never did much care for the title track here—it plods along too slowly and it features the worst guitar solo this side of Spinal Tap.  But, I really liked Joan’s cover of Tommy James’ “Crimson And Clover” and there was also a song on the album called “Nag” that was a bit of a stitch.

MOTORHEAD—Iron Fist  The final Motorhead album with Fast Eddie Clarke on guitar, and they still packed a wallop on the title track, which bore more than slight resemblance to their signature tune, “Ace of Spades”.  Great lyrics from Uncle Lemmy on “(Don’t Need) Religion”, “Go To Hell”, “Sex And Outrage” and “I’m The Doctor”.

SAMMY HAGAR—Three Lock Box  Sammy was still crankin’ out some great tunes here, including the title track and “Baby’s On Fire”, “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy”, “Remember The Heroes” and “I Don’t Need Love”.

THE WHO—It’s Hard  While it was hardly another Who’s Next or Who Are You, It’s Hard was a major improvement over the flaccid Face Dances from ’81.  As was the case with Dances, John Entwistle’s contributions (“It’s Your Turn”, “Dangerous” and “One At A Time”) were better than Pete Townshend’s, but this time PT put forth a little more effort which resulted in two classics, “Eminence Front” and “Cry If You Want”.  The title track and “Cook’s County” weren’t bad either.  Still, it wasn’t quite the way one would like to have seen this mighty band go out as a recording unit…

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Just another Wednesday

I was shocked that ESPN actually interrupted all their incessant Bracket-ology folderol and obsessing over Manny Ramirez on "SportsCenter" to recognize that a major sports record was broken last night.  Congrats to New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur for breaking the all-time NHL record for career victories (552), surpassing Patrick Roy with a 3-2 win over Chicago.  This guy doesn’t get near enough recognition (even though he plays in the New York area) for what he does—he’s as dependable as the day is long in goal, he doesn’t whine and complain about anything, he doesn’t do steroids or get DUIs or beat on his wife or shit like that, he’s won three Stanley Cups (and is working on a fourth one now), and has played his entire career with the same team, no less.  He’s only four shutouts away from breaking the late Terry Sawchuk’s all-time record, too, and what’s even scarier is Brodeur still has plenty of gas left in the tank, thus (barring injury), he might well win 700 games before he’s done.

Here’s my fearless Final Four prognostication:  Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh and Arizona St., with Memphis winning the whole shooting match.  There’s really no clear-cut dominant team in the field this year, and since Memphis came so close last year against Kansas, I have a good feeling about them this time.  I envision quite a few upsets in the first couple rounds this year (watch out for Cleveland State, Stephen F. Austin and Western Kentucky!), and I have Kansas falling to Boston College in round three because KU just can’t handle schools that start with ‘B’ (Bucknell, Bradley, Baylor, etc.).  My Mizzou Tigers will also fall in the third round to the other Tigers of Memphis.  Then again, for about the fifth straight year, I incorrectly predicted the winner of the "play-in" game (thanks a lot, Morehead State!), so take my picks with a grain of salt.  Hey, at least I’m consistent…

And won’t it be simply grand to not have to listen to Billy Packer calling the games on CBS this year?  Between that and Dickey-Dick-Brain Vitale being relegated to NIT duty on ESPN, it’s gonna be awesome, bay-bee!

I absolutely loved watching CNBC’s financial "expert" Jim Cramer squeal like an eel and squirm like a worm (as Louie DePalma would say) on Jon Stewart’s "Daily Show" last week on Comedy Central.  Stewart made Cramer look like some miscreant school kid sitting in the principal’s office as he reamed Jimbo like Roto-Rooter for all the crackpot B.S. he’s been dishing out during the recession (and even prior to it).  A gold star to Mr. Stewart for putting this doofus in his place—you have done well, young grasshopper.  Here’s the whole unedited video, in case you missed it.  Then again, anyone ignorant enough to listen to this Cramer boob is every bit as culpable as he is for losing their hard-earned money.  His "Mad Money" show looks like something MTV would produce anyway—I’d sooner seek financial advice from one of the Teletubbies…

Sad to hear that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has ceased being a print newspaper and is now totally an on-line going concern as of yesterday.  This will surely be the first of many such conversions by major papers in the U.S., as advertising revenues plummet and the Internet becomes more pervasive as a news source.  I have mixed feelings about it all myself, because I still subscribe to the K.C. Star and enjoy reading it front-to-back every day at work, but I do tend to get more and more of my news off the Internet as time goes by.  Local TV news is a joke anymore and radio is turning into a dinosaur as well, so the paper is certainly a better resource for local news, and I hate to see it go away altogether.

My man Leonard Pitts, Jr. is on a roll these days, and he wrote yet another fine column this week about a new survey that showed how fewer and fewer people are religious these days.  Although Pitts himself is indeed a church-goer, he did a more brilliant job than I ever could have of summing up why I’m not one with the following:

"And people of faith should ask themselves:  What is the cumulative effect upon outside observers of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker living like lords on the largesse of the poor, multiplied by Jimmy Swaggart’s pornography addiction [not to mention his taste for $10 whores!—BH], plus Eric Rudolph bombing Olympians and gay people in the name of God, plus Muslims hijacking airplanes in the name of God, multiplied by the church that kicked out some members because they voted Democrat, divided by people caterwauling on courthouse steps as a rock bearing the Ten Commandments was removed, multiplied by the square root of Catholic priests preying on little boys while the church looked on and did nothing, multiplied by Muslims rioting over cartoons, plus the continuing demonization of gay men and lesbians, divided by all those "traditional values" coalitions and "family values" councils that try to bully public schools into becoming worship houses, with morning prayers and science lessons from the book of Genesis?  Then subtract selflessness, service, sacrifice, holiness and hope."

He went on to say, "Who can be surprised if the sheer absurdity, fundamentalist cruelty and ungodly hypocrisy that have characterized so much "religion" in the last 30 years have driven people away?"

All I gotta say to all that is, "Amen, brother!"

Local station KMBC Channel 9 made a big whoop the other night about sportscaster Len Dawson cutting back on his duties now that he’s in his ‘70s.  Leonard isn’t retiring, per se, but will no longer anchor the nightly sportscasts as he’s done since he was a player back in the ‘60s, and will remain at the station to cover and analyze the Chiefs and NFL during the Fall.  All of this was accompanied by a 5-minute retrospective of Len’s broadcasting career—oy!  Don’t get me wrong—I loved Lenny to death as a player during the Chiefs’ glory years, and I think he does a fine job as color analyst on Chiefs radio broadcasts and he wasn’t bad on HBO’s "Inside The NFL".  He’s a class act, no doubt, but I won’t miss all the mispronounced player names, pregnant pauses and mangled sports copy that rendered Dawson to be the Les Nessman of local sports anchors.  There isn’t a Tele-Prompt-Er on earth with big enough letters for him to read clearly!  Dawson knows football inside and out, but his knowledge of baseball and basketball is iffy at best, and hockey, NASCAR and soccer might as well be nuclear physics to him because he doesn’t have a clue about them.

Monday, March 16, 2009

1982--The Other Year of the Album, Part 1

I enjoyed reliving the great year in music that was 1981 so much, that I decided to do a similar review of the following year, 1982, which I remember well because it was the year I graduated high school and started college and it was another pretty good one for album releases.  This was also the year I made the jump from 8-track to cassette player in my car, which naturally offered me more versatility in my listening choices, plus options that 8-tracks didn’t have: namely fast-forward and rewind!  Some of those albums on cassette were instrumental in getting me through that first semester in college at UMKC as I drove to and from class.

Slightly different format this time, as I’ve grouped the albums in different categories according to their overall impact and status in the careers of the artists.  This chapter will cover the comebacks, disappointments and clunkers, while Part II will feature the debuts, breakouts and the better overall albums of ’82.  Enjoy the ride…


TED NUGENT—Nugent  It looked for a while like the Nuge might actually survive his near-fatal career mistake from the year before—the disastrous Intensities In 10 Cities fiasco—with Nugent, his first album on his new label, Atlantic Records.  He at least partially atoned for the substandard quality of Intensities with some decent songs and the return of longtime singer and rhythm guitarist Derek St. Holmes.  Journeyman drummer Carmine Appice also joined Nugent’s band and sounded pretty good on tracks like "Good And Ready", "Fightin’ Words" and the album’s centerpiece, "Bound And Gagged", Nugent’s response to the 1980-81 Iran hostage crisis.  That song sounded great back then, but Nugent’s pseudo-patriotic chest-thumping and right-wing ranting rings very hollow and shallow today.  Anyway, while Nugent was hardly Cat Scratch Fever or even Free-For-All, it was definitely a step in the right direction for Ted. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t make another decent album again until 1995, when Derek St. Holmes returned to the band once again.  You’d think Nugent would catch on sooner or later and keep this guy around longer…

ELTON JOHN—Jump Up  EJ's gradual comeback from his late ‘70s musical purgatory commenced with 1981’s semi-decent The Fox album and continued here.  Not-so-coincidentally, the quality of his music improved exponentially as he reunited here with longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin, as well as his backing band from his ‘70s heyday, Nigel Olsson, Davey Johnstone and the late Dee Murray.  While not really chuck-full of major hits, there was good stuff to be had on Jump Up, namely "Dear John", "Where Have All The Good Times Gone?" (not the Kinks song of the same name that Van Halen covered in ‘82), "Blue Eyes" and "Ball And Chain", which featured a guest appearance by The Who’s Pete Townshend.  The best track, by far, was "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)", which is easily the best of the John Lennon tribute songs that flooded the market in the early ‘80s.  EJ and the boys also hit the road during the summer and played what turned out to be the greatest concert I’ve ever attended.  To paraphrase a tagline from a movie that was very popular at that time, "He’s baaaaaack!"

PAUL McCARTNEY—Tug Of War  Big Macca also came out with his best album in years in 1982 with Tug Of War, and it too featured a John Lennon tribute, the long-anticipated "Here Today".  While not nearly as poignant as Elton’s "Empty Garden", it was certainly a far superior response to JL’s death than "It’s a drag, innit?"  TOW also had some fun tracks like "Take It Away", "Ballroom Dancing" and "Get It", a duet with the late Carl Perkins.  I had to take points off, however, for the insipid duet with Stevie Wonder, "Ebony And Ivory". Another popular phrase from that time sums up my feelings on it:  "Gag me with a spoon!"

KISS—Creatures Of The Night  Ahhhh, finally the Kiss we all knew and loved was back!  Well, not quite the Kiss we all knew and loved, but a reasonable facsimile, anyway.  Ace Frehley and Peter Criss were gone (although Ace’s mug graced the original COTN album jacket anyway), and Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley decided to quit trying to please the critics and/or cater to Top 40 audiences and got back to the down-and-dirty heavy metal sound they were originally known for.  Although he sounded a bit too military-marchy in places, late drummer Eric Carr stood out on Creatures, and it’s anyone’s guess who played lead guitar on this record (Bob Kulick, Vinnie Vincent, the Man from Glad, who knows?), but this was easily the most consistent Kiss album since the Bicentennial.  "War Machine", "Killer" and the title track were my personal favorites, and Stanley’s almost-mournful "I Still Love You" surprisingly became a Kiss concert staple in the ‘80s.

STEVE MILLER BAND—Abracadabra  We were only four years or so removed from the Space Cowboy’s Fly Like An Eagle/Book of Dreams heyday, but the Gangster of Love slipped badly and put out a flop of an album in ’81, the one containing "Heart Like A Wheel" on which Steve was nearly yodeling.  Good ol’ Maurice rebounded nicely with this little hunk of magic, and the title track hit #1 in the summer of ’82.  The follow-up single, "Keeps Me Wondering Why", wasn’t too shabby either.  Haven’t heard much from the Pompatus of Love since, though…

CHICAGO—Chicago 16  Chicago is another act that was just a few years past their '70s halcyon days, but following the tragic 1978 death of guitarist Terry Kath, they lost their way a bit.  They found it again in the summer of ’82 with big hits "Hard To Say I’m Sorry/Get Away" and "Love Me Tomorrow".  Their next album in ’84 would be even better…

SUPERTRAMP—Famous Last Words…  Well, not really their last words, but FLW was indeed their final album with singer/keyboardist Roger Hodgson.  As was the case with AC/DC in the wake of the monster that was Back In Black, Supertramp had the no-win chore of topping their magnum opus, 1979’s Breakfast In America, so most anything they came out with would’ve been disappointing in comparison.  The opening track, "Crazy" (not the Patsy Cline number) wasn’t bad and the hit single "It’s Raining Again" was just okay, but it was the album’s closer that was easily the best song, Hodgson’s melodramatic plea, "Don’t Leave Me Now".  The rest of the band members should’ve serenaded him with it, because one can easily see what RH brought to the Supertramp table by listening to their post-Hodgson output in the ‘80s, which was pretty flaccid.

R.E.O. SPEEDWAGON—Good Trouble  Same scenario as Supertramp above, trying to follow up a killer album.  Trouble wasn’t a bad record, really, but it was no match for its predecessor HI inFIdelity, and accordingly, didn’t sell nearly as well.  "Keep The Fire Burnin’" was the only hit single from it, but "Stillness Of The Night" was a good song, and I really liked the album’s closing title track.  Like Famous Last Words…, AC/DC’s For Those About To Rock, and Elton John’s Caribou before it, Good Trouble was destined to disappoint, irregardless of its true merits.

APRIL WINE—Power Play  As I stated in my recap of AW’s Nature Of The Beast, it appears they shot their creative wad on that album, because this was a really bland follow-up to it.  The single "Enough Is Enough" wasn’t all that bad, but the rest was just plain plain.  The only other thing that came close to a standout track was the contrively-titled "If You See Kay", and they also included a remake of The Beatles’ "Tell Me Why", which they slowed to a crawl.  Please tell me why they did that, will ya?

VAN HALEN—Diver Down  Yes, this one sold pretty well and did have a couple really good tracks on it, but it should’ve been so much better!  With no less than four cover songs (five, if you count the silly one-minute a capella closer "Happy Trails"), three short instrumentals and a running time of 31-and-a-half minutes, Diver Down came across as a rather half-assed effort.  Of the original songs here, "Hang ‘Em High", "Little Guitars" and "The Full Bug" were quite tasty, and of all the cover songs, "Pretty Woman" was a killer, but the rest were so-so, at best.  Eddie, Michael and Alex didn’t even want "Dancing In The Street" on the album, but Diamond Dave got his way, and it wound up being a big radio hit.  Successful, yes, but Diver Down was a big letdown for me coming on the heels of the outstanding Fair Warning.  The next one, 1984, wasn’t much better, either…

PETE TOWNSHEND—All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes  Given the stellar quality of 1980’s Empty Glass, I expected big things from Chairman Townshend on Chinese Eyes, but was left a bit wanting.  To his credit, Pete got clean and sober during this time, but his music was almost as unfocused as the increasingly bad haircuts he was sporting then.  This is not to say that Chinese Eyes sucked altogether—it did have some standout songs like "Stop Hurting People" (the horns on which sounded like they were lifted from a Barry White record), the rapid-fire "Communication" and "The Sea Refuses No River".  The closing track, "Slit Skirts" is one of my favorite Pete songs ever, with lines like "No one respects the flame quite like the fool who’s badly burned", "Have to be so drunk to try a new dance", and "Can’t pretend that growing older never hurts".  In retrospect, even "Face Dances (Part 2)" was a lot better than the Who album it was named after, and Chinese Eyes does sound better to me now than it did in 1982, but it still feels like Townshend was underachieving here.

THE GO-GO’S—Vacation  By all accounts, this album was a rush-job, as the Go-Go’s pulled out of a tour opening for The Police to re-enter the studio to cash in on the unexpected success of their first album, Beauty And The Beat.  Not much good new material here, except for the title track, and much of the album was made up of songs that were already staples of their live act like "Beatnik Beach", "He’s So Strange" and their cover version of the Capitols’ "Cool Jerk".  Classic case of too much, too soon, unfortunately.

BILLY SQUIER—Emotions In Motion  Another victim of high expectations, although EIM out-sold its predecessor, the far-superior Don’t Say No.  "Everybody Wants You" is an Album Rock standard, the title track was pretty good, and I loved "Keep Me Satisfied", but the rest of this one left me really flat.  Sad to say that things would only get worse for young master Squier next time out—"out" being the operative word…

CHEAP TRICK—One On One  After breaking out in a major way in 1978-79 with Heaven Tonight, At Budokan and Dream Police, Cheap Trick stumbled into the early ‘80s and had trouble rediscovering their winning formula.  Bassist Tom Petersson got bored and left the band and was replaced by Jon Brant, but CT needed a more potent jump-start than he could provide.  One On One yielded the bland minor hit "If You Want My Love (You Got It)" and one killer track, the classic "She’s Tight", but the remainder was rather forgettable.

QUEEN—Hot Space
  Talk about your letdowns!  Queen had the world by the balls in 1980 with what I thought was their best album ever, The Game, and while it would’ve been difficult to top that one, they didn’t even bother to try!  Instead, they added horns to several tracks and put out a bunch of pseudo-R&B stuff that just left the fans scratching their heads.  True, Hot Space contained "Under Pressure" with David Bowie, but it had already been a hit single long before the album came out, and the only other acceptable track was "Life Is Real (Song For Lennon)", which I’d rank second behind Elton’s "Empty Garden" for best Lennon tribute song.  It would be a while before Queen regained their core audience.

HEART—Private Audition  Even Ann and Nancy Wilson themselves rate this one a clunker.  The lead-off track, "City’s Burning", wasn’t bad, and I remember a song called "The Situation" that was okay, but the rest of it pretty much sucked.  The band was in disarray by that time, and the rhythm section of Steve Fossen and Mike Derosier would soon be jettisoned in favor of ex-Spirit/Firefall bassist Mark Andes and ex-Montrose drummer Denny Carmassi, setting the stage for Heart’s successful mid-‘80s comeback.

BLACK SABBATH—Live Evil  Whatever good karma Ronnie James Dio and Black Sabbath had during the Heaven And Hell era had long evaporated in the wake of the disastrous Mob Rules album and accompanying 1981 concert tour, which resulted in this putrid "live" album.  I put live in quotation marks because this album sounded highly touched-up to me, and according to the good Dr. Sardonicus, Dio did indeed tinker with some of his vocals for it.  Plus, Dio doing Ozzy’s old songs like "Paranoid" and "Children of The Grave" bordered on sacrilege.  Live Vile might’ve been a more suitable title, here, and Ozzy had the last laugh with his own 1982 double-live Sabbath opus, Speak Of The Devil, which I will profile in Part 2.