KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Thirty Year Thursday – …AND THE REST (PART 1)

[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.

Professor and Mary Ann (Gilligan's Island)
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.

 

Steve Earle - Guitar TownArtist: 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.

 

 

Billy Bragg - Talking With The Taxman About PoetryArtist: 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.”

 

 

Marti Jones - Match GameArtist: 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.

 

 

Elvis Costello - King Of AmericaArtist: 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.

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36 comments on “Thirty Year Thursday – …AND THE REST (PART 1)

  1. DanicaPiche
    November 17, 2016

    Congratulations on a fantastic series, Rich!
    You know, I’m sure I’ve heard Guitar Town, but I’m not placing it….

    Like

    • Thanks, Danica. It’s been a fun year of posting, even though I wanted to write a lot more. Eventually I’ll find a better blog/life balance. I have an idea for a similar series in 2017, although I may do it bi-weekly. As for Guitar Town, I hope you’ll check it out and remember where you’ve heard it before.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. J.
    November 17, 2016

    Not familiar with all four of these, but Guitar Town is a favourite of mine. Some really awesome songs on there (some of Earle’s best) and despite sounding a little slick at times, the album sounds great. I went through a period of listening to that album pretty much every day…

    Like

    • I’m pleased to know you’re a big fan of this Steve Earle album. He has so many great ones in his catalog, especially the first 3 or 4 after his early-’90s time in prison, but Guitar Town is at least as good as any of those. I’m surprised to hear you don’t know this Elvis Costello album. Are you not a fan or is this just an album that passed you by?

      Like

      • J.
        November 18, 2016

        Earle’s post-prison stuff is brilliant. Hard to pick a bad one, I reckon.

        Costello never really appealed to me. I had Delivery Man (from 2005?), but was never all that taken by his early stuff. However, my brother recently gave me a copy of Armed Forces, which I like a lot. I think I just wasn’t ready for Costello when I initially heard him in my early twenties!

        Like

      • Earle lost me a bit around the time of “Jerusalem,” and his next couple of albums didn’t do much for me, but he’s been in a roll again the last few years.

        I guess Costello is an acquired taste for a lot of people but there is a lot of great music to be found in his discography.

        Like

  3. deKE
    November 17, 2016

    Yes Great series Rich! Steve Earle I like especially the period of Copperhead thru to Shut Up And Die Like An Aviator. Would enjoy your reviews…..
    Guitar Town I see has been released as an Deluxe Edition…..

    Like

    • Thanks, Derek. I first encountered Earle’s music at the time of Copperhead Road. Although I like that album and The Hard Way (as well as the live album you mentioned), I didn’t become a devoted fan until he got out of prison and released 4 or 5 brilliant albums in a row.

      I listened to the deluxe edition of Guitar Town on Spotify and the bonus live recording is worth checking out. Great stuff.

      Like

  4. stephen1001
    November 17, 2016

    I picked up Guitar Town recently (on the 1001) – pleased to hear it qualifies as a great top-to-bottom listen!

    Like

    • Looking forward to reading your review of Guitar Town whenever you get around to it. I think it will live up to the hype, although I think his best work appeared after he got out of prison. That decade of albums starting in the mid-’90s is hard to beat.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Kevin
    November 17, 2016

    I was just thinking of my favorite ’86 albums that you haven’t mentioned yet, and today you got two of them. I bought the Billy Bragg album after hearing “Greetings To The New Brunette” on college radio. I really liked it but I don’t think I’ve listened to it since the 80’s. Thirty Year Thursday always gets me digging out old albums.

    I am a casual Costello fan. He has written some amazing songs, my favorite of which is probably “Brilliant Mistake” from this album. It’s one of those special songs from my teenage years that I have never gotten tired of.

    Like

    • Hi Kevin. I’m happy to find out we have another two albums in common. Those early Billy Bragg albums hold up extremely well for me. Were you a fan beyond this album?

      Good call on Costello’s “Brilliant Mistake.” There’s a lot of good stuff on this album.

      Like

      • Kevin
        November 18, 2016

        I remember buying Workers Playtime but I honestly don’t remember any of it, aside from the anthemic “Waiting For The Great Leap Forward.”

        Like

      • I love Workers Playtime as much as just about any album in my collection. It’s one of those “I know what song is coming next before the current song ends” records for me. I highly recommend revisiting it when you’re in the mood for his music.

        Like

      • Kevin
        November 19, 2016

        Wow. That is some very high praise for Workers Playtime. I will definitely go back and listen more intently. I may have glossed over it too quickly.

        Did you not like When I Was Cruel? That was my last EC cd also, but I thought there were a few really good songs on it.

        Like

      • It’s possible that I enjoy Workers Playtime more than I otherwise would have because it was my first Bragg album and it hit me at a particularly important time in my life. Every time I play it I’m transported back, so there’s the nostalgia factor for me. But I do think it’s his strongest collection of songs, and his most approachable album. Would love to hear your thoughts whenever you revisit it.

        I liked When I was Cruel but haven’t played it in years. It came across as just “another Elvis Costello album,” with some really cool songs but nothing to set it apart from so many others. Perhaps I’ll feel differently the next time I give it a spin. His catalog would be a good choice for me to revisit if/when I get back to the main purpose of this blog, even though I’ll have to catch up on more than 15 years of his career.

        Like

  6. dagersh
    November 18, 2016

    I love Marti Jones — her Unsophisticated Time album is even better than Match Game, although that’s a great one too. And Elvis Costello is pretty much tied for my second-favorite act ever — trailing only the Beatles and tied with XTC — so if you ever want tips on where to look for greatness in his catalog when you get more excited about it, just ask… 🙂

    Like

    • Hi Dave. I agree that Unsophisticated Time is probably a stronger album than Match Game. I love all of her albums but a few stand out from the others. I was disappointed that neither Used Guitars or Any Kind Of Lie broke her into the mainstream.

      Thanks for the offer but there’s no need for tips on Costello’s discography. I own everything through When I Was Cruel, at which point I stopped collecting his albums. I often find him to be a little too clever for his own good. People have criticized Any Partridge for the same thing but I never tired of XTC like I did with Elvis. I’m sure I’ll come back around at some point.

      Like

    • Kevin
      November 18, 2016

      The Beatles and XTC – pretty good 1-2 punch.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. mikeladano
    November 18, 2016

    First of, wonderful Gilligan reference.

    Second…argh. This is painful. I had backstage passes to go see and meet Steve Earle last night. GT30 tour. Brian Vollmer from Helix got up and sang with him. And I had to miss it. I couldn’t free myself.

    Like

    • Thanks Mike. I couldn’t resist the Gilligan’s Island reference. I always felt bad for Johnson & Wells not getting proper credit in the first season.

      Yikes, sorry about that missed Earle opportunity. I hope another chance presents itself.

      Like

  8. Murphy's Law
    November 19, 2016

    Love, love, love that Billy Bragg album. He started to learn how to use his voice and the added textures really made it great.

    I too struggle with Elvis Costello. I have everything through Goodbye Cruel World and then a few albums here and there. Some of them I love, some are just insufferable.

    I should give the Steve Earle and Marti Jones another listen. I was in high school when they came out and they just weren’t my thing at the time.

    Like

    • Great points about Bragg learning to use his voice & adding sonic textures on this album. I think that paid dividends on his next couple of albums, which are probably the most consistent…and consistently enjoyable…of his career.

      Glad I’m not the only one who finds some of Costello’s work hard to listen to. Can’t argue with your choice of the adjective “insufferable,” yet I completely understand why a lot of fans love everything he’s done.

      Even if these Earle & Jones albums still aren’t your thing, I imagine there are plenty of albums in their discographies that you would enjoy. Please let me know if you check any of them out.

      Like

      • Murphy's Law
        November 22, 2016

        Mighty Like a Rose is the prime offender to me. Songs like “Hurry Down Doomsday” are hard to sit through. Punch the Clock and Goodbye Cruel World: I find my attention wandering when I sit and just listen to them.

        Like

      • I know what you mean about “attention wandering” when listening to a lot of his albums. I guess some of them are too long or have too many songs for casual listeners. I’m sure his passionate fans feel quite differently.

        Like

      • Murphy's Law
        November 22, 2016

        Punch and Goodbye specifically – the very pop Langer/Winstanley production doesn’t work for me; it needs a little more bite.

        Like

      • I agree about the Langer/Winstanley productions, although I’ve always loved “Everyday I Write The Book” (that was one of theirs, right?).

        Like

  9. Murphy's Law
    November 19, 2016

    And you have to give props to someone who can make that much stuff out of coconuts.

    Like

    • He was a professor, after all. Considering how important he was to their survival, his omission from the first season’s theme song is puzzling (although I’ve read it had something to do with Tina Louise’s contract that stipulated her name would appear last. As a lifelong Mary Ann fan, I can’t go for that. 😀

      Like

  10. wardo
    November 22, 2016

    1986 was the year I fell headfirst into the Costello catalog, so having two albums in a year was wonderful. Looking forward to the rest of the rest!

    Like

    • That must have been an exciting year for you & other Costello fans, Ward. I really liked him earlier in his career (Get Happy was a particular favorite when it was released) but I didn’t keep up with him beyond radio singles until I Ryko reissued all of his albums on expanded CDs.

      Like

  11. Murphy's Law
    November 23, 2016

    I didn’t get into Elvis Costello until the Girls Girls Girls compilation was sent to the college radio station I worked for. Before that all I know was the songs he had videos for and Armed Forces (which I found in the cutout bin), which I found almost impenetrable.

    I was working at that same station when the Ryko re-released the Bowie catalog. I got to hear those as they came out.

    Like

    • I had forgotten about that Girls Girls Girls compilation. I had considered buying it but stuck with the Best Of single CD until I got his individual albums on CD. As for the Bowie catalog, I enjoy those Ryko reissues but a lot of fans complain about the sound quality. To my ears they’re very good and they get bonus points for the bonus tracks, which later reissues omitted.

      Like

      • Murphy's Law
        November 29, 2016

        Elvis Costello’s liner notes for each song are excellent and I finally heard what people loved about him. I can’t really compare the Ryko Bowie because that’s my first exposure to his work outside of Diamond Dogs and ChangesOneBowie (and Let’s Dance and Tonight).

        Like

      • Now that I think of it, I might have owned the Girls Girls Girls comp at some point, but traded it in when I got all of his individual albums (since I don’t think there was anything super rare on there). As long as you’re happy with the Bowie you own, that’s all that matters.

        Like

  12. Pingback: Forty Year Friday – ELVIS COSTELLO “MY AIM IS TRUE” | KamerTunesBlog

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