Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]
Here are four more excellent albums that reached the thirty year milestone in 2016
Album: LOVE & HOPE & SEX & DREAMS
The Wisconsin duo of Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas scored their only Top 20 Pop hit in 1996 when their song “Closer To Free” (by then a 3-year-old album track) was used as the theme song for the TV show Party Of Five, but they had spent the previous decade releasing albums jam-packed with should-have-been hits. Their own unique spin on Americana, with those distinctive harmonies, was fully formed on their debut album, whose title referenced the lyrics to The Rolling Stones’ “Shattered.” There are many gems here, with “Fadeaway” being one of my longtime favorites.
Artist: THE PRETENDERS
Album: GET CLOSE
The first three Pretenders albums were all essential for me, including 1983’s Learning To Crawl which followed the deaths of two original band members, but for album #4 I started to lose interest as Chrissie Hynde fired drummer Martin Chambers and carried on the band name with studio musicians. The finished product also included one track from the previous lineup (a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Room Full Of Mirrors”) and several tracks recorded with a new group that would be credited as the band in the album sleeve (and on the subsequent tour). It’s far from a classic but Hynde has been my favorite female singer since the first time I heard her voice in 1980, so I’ll happily listen to anything she sings, including the wonderful Top 10 hit “Don’t Get Me Wrong.”
Artist: ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA
Album: BALANCE OF POWER
After more than a decade of Platinum albums & hit singles, by the mid-‘80s Jeff Lynne’s group was no longer a major commercial force, which is why this gem of an album was the last one released by the (somewhat depleted) classic lineup and has long been overlooked. Despite lacking any well-known songs there’s a lot to like here, and the production (more synth-heavy than in the past) displays the distinctive sonic approach he would bring to his work with Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, George Harrison and their supergroup (with Bob Dylan) The Traveling Wilburys just a couple of years later. “Calling America” was the album’s calling card (no pun intended) and its most successful single.
Artist: BLACK SABBATH
Album: SEVENTH STAR
In Part 5 of my series on the Black Sabbath discography back in 2012, I wrote that Seventh Star “doesn’t bear many of the traits I usually associate with Sabbath” but “it’s a surprisingly solid mid-80s hard rock record.” This was supposed to be a Tony Iommi solo album but was eventually credited to “Black Sabbath Featuring Tony Iommi.” The lineup, including former Trapeze/Deep Purple singer Glenn Hughes and future Kiss/Alice Cooper drummer Eric Singer, covers a lot of musical ground, with “In For The Kill” (highlighted in the aforementioned Sabbath post) and “Seventh Star” being two standouts.
I wasn’t a big Bodeans fan but, that song is a classic. It was all over college/alternative radio when it came out. ’86 was a big year for me, record buying-wise. This one just got by me.
The first three Pretenders albums are fantastic, with the first one being essential and indispensable. I got off the bus with Get Close. Aside from the Hendrix cover, my memory of it is that it was a bit soft. Did I miss something?
My brief love affair with ELO ended after Out Of The Blue.
I was on the fence about BoDeans for a long time although there were always a few songs I really liked. I saw them live sometime in the ’90s and I was blown away, and at that point I reassessed their music and became a fan.
Glad we agree about the first three Pretenders albums. I already discussed the debut in my Great Out Of The Gate series, and the next two aren’t far behind. As for Get Close, there are definitely some very good songs and if you love her voice like I do it’s worth checking out. Just think of it as a Chrissie Hynde solo album and you’ll probably enjoy it a lot more.
It’s hard to surpass Out Of The Blue but ELO made some great music after that. Depending on your enjoyment of the “Jeff Lynne sound” of the ’80s & ’90s, you might be surprised by Balance Of Power.
You really hit the nail on the head … basically everything after Learning to Crawl should be labeled a Chrissie Hynde solo album.
Once Martin Chambers was back in the band it felt more like The Pretenders, but they’ve never come close to recapturing the sound of those first few albums. I’m surprised it took Chrissie Hynde until 2014 to release her first official solo album, especially since the recently released Pretenders album is just as much of a solo effort (in collaboration with Dan Auerbach).
Really intrigued by the Bodeans. Never heard of them or that track before. As for the Pretenders, the only stuff I know is from that album and I always thought I should check out more, but never did. A bit shady dumping the drummer, though!
There’s a lot to like in the BoDeans catalog. I think some people dismiss them because of their one huge hit but for a long time they were a very special band. The first few albums are jam-packed with great songs.
Wow, Get Close is the only Pretenders album you’re familiar with? If so, I strongly urge you to check out their first three albums, or at the very least their debut which is a stone-cold classic. I agree that sacking Martin Chambers wasn’t a cool move, but apparently he wasn’t playing well at the time, although it might have been her way of taking complete control of the band and the name.
I’ll definitely check out more of the Bodeans – start from the beginning with them?
Pretenders are on the list. Have been for a while, I guess… Mr 1537 recently covered their first album, so that bumped it up the list a bit.
You can’t go wrong with the Slash And Burn anthology by BoDeans, if you’re looking for a primer. Otherwise, the first four albums are all worth exploring. It’s been a while since I listened to anything other than their debut, but I remember Home being a particular favorite at the time.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Cheers, Rich – I’ll have a wee looksy online!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I agree with your assessment of the Pretenders debut as a Stone Cold Classic – it was new to me as of a few years ago, but it reeled me in right away. Sounds like I need to keep going from there in the catalogue!
Hi Geoff. Glad we’re in agreement about that Pretenders debut. I would question the musical taste of anyone who doesn’t feel that way. It’s one of those special albums that should appeal to fans of various genres. Would love to hear your thoughts on their next two albums whenever you check them out. Neither is quite as good as the debut but they’re both spectacular.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I agree with your assessment of the Pretenders. When you hit 3 home runs like their first 3 albums are, it’s hard to keep up that level of quality. But those albums will always be there to enjoy.
I live just outside of Chicago and if any of your other readers do too, they will know that the BoDeans are legends around here because of WXRT playing their stuff to this day. I am well familiar with them and can still stand to listen to most of their stuff.
I like ELO, but I know the 80’s were tough on them. Never heard anything off of Balance of Power, but like you said, Jeff Lynne would soon go off to produce a string of classic albums for his Wilburys buddies. So he defiinitely made out ok.
This has been a very enjoyable series, Rich and I can’t wait to see what you’ll do in 2017!
Hi Jeff. Good call regarding the Pretenders hitting three consecutive home runs (plus a ground-rule double with the Extended Play EP). Glad you’re not only aware of BoDeans but also like a lot of their music. Not everything in their catalog is essential but you could fill a 75-minute CD with non-stop great songs.
A friend of mine described the difference between the ’70s & ’80s as Electric Light Orchestra vs. ELO. Essentially the same band but with a streamlined sound in the new decade. I think those records are unfairly maligned or overlooked, even if they don’t quite reach the heights of what came before them.
Thanks for continuing to check out this series. I’ll be wrapping it up next week. Still figuring out what to do here in 2017. Free time has been scarce but I’ve got some fun ideas I want to share.
Have a great weekend.
Hi Rich! Great lineup here, although I’m not sure I’ve heard any of these albums. I haven’t seen Party of Five but that BoDeans track is ringing a bell. I didn’t realize Chrissie Hynde fired the drummer but retained the Pretenders name. Maybe there was some personal conflict going on. ELO is fantastic and I should explore more of their catalogue.
A very good way to start the weekend 🙂
Hi Danica. There much to like in the BoDeans discography. They should have a much higher profile than they do. Sometimes having your song as a TV theme keeps potential fans away. The same thing happened to The Rembrandts and “Friends.”
My understanding of the Pretenders situation is that the drummer, Martin Chambers, wasn’t playing well at the time and she made the decision to fire him. Considering all that happened with that band in their first few years (bassist & guitarist both dead within a year of each other), I’m not surprised he lost his mojo. He eventually rejoined the band and sounded as good as always, but the most recent album is Hynde, Dan Auerbach & friends masquerading (pretending, if you will) as The Pretenders.
Hope you’re enjoying the weekend. It’s a nice one here.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’m a huge ELO fan, so Balance of Power gets a big “thumbs up” from me, and I freaking LOVE Seventh Star!
Awesome. I’m glad we have another few albums in common. Great minds… 😀
It’s very possible that Chrissie Hynde found herself in the same situation Tony Iommi did – under pressure from the record company or management to keep the name because that’s what is recognizable. If I remember right, they were on the same record company – Sabbath was on WB and The Pretenders on the Sire subsidiary?
That’s a good point about record company pressure on Chrissie Hynde, and nice tie-in to the Sabbath album. I don’t remember what label the Sabbath/Iommi album was originally on, but if it was WB they were under the same corporate umbrella as The Pretenders…although each label operated independently. I worked at Atlantic Records from ’88 to ’94 and we were completely separate from Elektra, WB, Sire, etc.
If Seventh Star and Dirty Work were both featured in this series I wonder what your LEAST favorite 1986 albums are?…
Haha, I see your point, Ovidiu. Keep in mind that this series is not about what I consider the best albums of ’86. It’s about the ’86 albums I loved that year (many of which I still do) as well as other notable albums I discovered later on. Dirty Work isn’t awful but it is mediocre. Of course, being a huge Stones fan I spent a lot of time with it back then, so it had to be included here.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I love the first three BoDeans records & listen to them when I want to feel young again. Or lament my lost youth. Depends on the day. Sadly, I’ve never seen them live. I hope your post creates a few more fans. May be my imagination, or BoDeans-tinted glasses, but their early records seem like one of the few-ish 80s bands that don’t sound like an 80s band in retrospect. Of course, they’re not really an 80s band, having continued to make new music up to today, if I’m not mistaken.
Hi David. I hope you spend more time feeling young than lamenting lost youth. We can’t go back in time but music can certainly give us that feeling. I agree that BoDeans don’t sound like a typical ’80s band. Both the songs and productions are timeless. They have continued releasing new music but I believe Sammy split and the last couple of albums have only featured Kurt. It’s not the same but I’m glad they’re still making new music. It’s kind of like when Mark Olson left The Jayhawks and Gary Louris carried on the band name. He/they put out some great records but the unique harmonies the two of them created made them extra special.
Pingback: Satur-debut – …AND THE REST / IN CONCLUSION | KamerTunesBlog