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.