Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]
Each week since the beginning of 2016 I’ve been highlighting one of my favorite albums released in 1986. It’s been a fun way to look back on an enjoyable year of music, and it kept me connected with readers, friends & fellow bloggers during an extremely busy time in my life. For more than a year I’ve been unable to focus on the original reason I started this blog (revisiting the complete catalogs of the lesser-played artists in my collection), so I needed an outlet for starting conversations with my fellow music lovers. As of last week I’ve highlighted 45 albums from ’86, a musically appropriate number that seemed like a good place to wrap up this series. However, there are still numerous albums I didn’t get to discuss, so I’ve decided to highlight some of those across two or three posts, with very brief summaries and an audio sample for each.
Much like Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells, who were credited in the Gilligan’s Island first season theme song with “…and the rest” before being properly acknowledged as “the professor and Mary Ann” in subsequent seasons, these are records that are every bit as good as the ones I’ve already highlighted and, under different circumstances, would have been featured in their own posts. Below are the first four “…And The Rest” albums. Part 2 will appear in a couple of weeks, after a brief Thanksgiving hiatus. Please let me know what you think of these selections.
Artist: STEVE EARLE
Album: GUITAR TOWN
The debut album from one of the most singular songwriters to emerge in the last three decades. He’s released numerous top-to-bottom classic LPs, Guitar Town among them. It doesn’t get much better than “My Old Friend The Blues,” a song I first discovered via Scottish duo The Proclaimers (their 1988 version is unique and just as good as the original). One day I hope to tackle his discography here.
Artist: BILLY BRAGG
Album: TALKING WITH THE TAXMAN ABOUT POETRY
I first discovered this British punk- and folk-influenced singer-songwriter via his 1988 masterpiece Workers Playtime (which remains my favorite all these years later), and I immediately explored his then-brief back catalog of three albums. For album #3, Talking With The Taxman About Poetry, he expanded his sonic palette beyond the (mostly) voice-and-guitar sound of his previous records. Veering from tender love songs to the left-wing protest anthems he’s best known for, there are plenty of gems here, including his ode to The Four Tops’ vocalist on “Levi Stubbs’ Tears.”
Artist: MARTI JONES
Album: MATCH GAME
Thanks to her work with husband Don Dixon (who, in addition to his well-known production work with REM and The Smithereens, is also an accomplished musician & songwriter), I’ve been a Marti Jones fan for nearly three decades. This talented singer-songwriter interpreted the work of other writers (including Dixon) on her early albums, including sophomore effort Match Game, and her beautiful voice makes many of them her own. Her rendition of my favorite Marshall Crenshaw song, “Whenever You’re On My Mind,” is one of many great tracks on this record.
Artist: ELVIS COSTELLO
Album: KING OF AMERICA
I briefly talked about my “love-hate affair” with Elvis Costello two years ago in the first Gateway Compilations post. Although I still enjoy a lot of his music I don’t find myself revisiting his albums too often, but anytime I do I’m reminded of at least a handful of incredible songs and it gives me hope that one day I will return to his discography with excited ears. He released two albums in 1986, the T-Bone Burnett collaboration King Of America and his latest recording with The Attractions, Blood & Chocolate. Each has its charms and I admire how prolific he was, but it was a little too much Costello for me in one year. I’ve always preferred the intimacy of the former, and I consider “Indoor Fireworks” to be one of the best songs he ever recorded.