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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Album Review: The Alan Parsons Project - Eye in the Sky (1982)

Some of the young 'uns out there will hear the name "The Alan Parsons Project" and immediately think of a funny quip they heard in an Austin Powers film.  Well, Scott Evil was spot on about them being a band.  And an interesting band they are.  Deriving their name from their founder, Alan Parsons, who was perhaps better known for his engineering work on albums such as Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.  But even the famous Abbey Road engineer felt the urge to make some music of his own.  And he did.  The result was The Alan Parsons Project.  This particular album from 1982, Eye In The Sky contains, in my opinion, some of their better material.  If you are familiar with the basketball team the Chicago Bulls, the introductory instrumental "Sirius" will spring to mind as soon as you hear it.  "Sirius" itself is a prelude to another song, the title track, "Eye in the Sky", one of their better known songs.  But there's better songs to be heard on the album apart from the obvious two - "Children of the Moon", "Mammagamma" and "Gemini" also deserve your ear's attention.  All in all, not a bad album, one that turned out to be much better than I initially thought it would be.  B+

Album Review: Cyndi Lauper - She's So Unusual (1983)

Cyndi Lauper made great Greatest Hits albums, they more or less contain everything you really need to hear from Cyndi.  Well, almost.  There is also the matter of her very first solo record, She's So Unusual.  Recorded and released in 1983, it launched her career at a faster-than-light velocity and made her a pop music superstar, and for a good reason - this is easily one of the best albums I've ever heard and is significant to me simply because it holds the distinct honor of being one of the few albums that I can listen to start from finish every time.  It is magnificent.  One great song finishes, only to be followed by another.  This occurs a total of ten times throughout the album.  The most definitive Cyndi songs can be found right here - "Time After Time", "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" "She Bop" and "All Through The Night" are all here.  And whatever you do, don't overlook the Prince-penned "When You Were Mine."  Very teenybopper stuff back in the day, yes, that much is certain.  But it also takes itself seriously as a creative musical endeavor.  When teenage girls can agree in unison with music critics on something, you must be doing something right.  A+

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Album Review: Peter Cetera - Solitude/Solitaire (1986)

Fun fact for the day - former Chicago singer Peter Cetera apparently obtained his singing style after learning to sing whilst his jaw was wired shut after being socked in the mouth.  The result was a distinct vocal style that for me, found its rightful place within the power ballad of the 1980s.  Good examples of this would be "Hard Habit to Break" or "You're The Inspiration" from his Chicago days.  But it isn't the stuff he did with his former band that is the center of attention here.  I'm talking about his solo album Solitude/Solitaire from 1986.  Brilliant album.  Very Cetera, very electronic, very well made, very 1980s.  And everybody who's seen The Karate Kid series of movies would know very well the song, "Glory of Love."  Well, it's on here too.  And those who have at least some degree of familiarity with Amy Grant will perhaps know of "The Next Time I Fall."  Both great songs.  Both great singers.  But beyond these better recognized tracks lies a bounty of equally appreciable recordings.  "Big Mistake", "They Don't Make Them Like They Used To", and "Queen of the Masquerade Ball" all deserve your attention.  My final advice would be to ignore "Daddy's Girl."  But otherwise, magnifique.  A

Album Review: Metallica - Metallica (1991)

Heavy metal music is usually dark.  It is often angry, brutal, inclined to protest and occasionally meloncholic - in short, it appeals to the dark side of the force.  You will know this quite well when you stumble across Metallica's breakthrough 1991 album, the self-titled Metallica.  Unfairly derided for being a deviation from their thrash roots as well as being a sellout album - perhaps the latter is true, but of course, Metallica wouldn't be the music icon that it is today without it.  It was a necessary move, and despite my undying affection for their 80s albums, a move I feel paid off handsomely.  And what a great album it is - it is certainly heavy, the tempo has been dialed down somewhat and it feels more raw, more powerful.  Which I love.  It is nothing short of an emotional tour de force.  And it is easy to discern this angst and anger on tracks such as "Sad But True", "The God That Failed", "The Unforgiven" and "Don't Tread on Me."  Plus many, many more.  If you want an album that connotes anger and power, listening to this album should be a priority.  A+

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Album Review: Fine Young Cannibals - The Raw & The Cooked (1988)

The soundtrack to my 1989, FYC's second and final album, The Raw & The Cooked is replete with some of the finest ditties to have ever come out of pop music.  Roland Gift fills the niche of a lead singer with the distinct and inimitable voice - it can be difficult to ascertain to understand what he is singing about, and indeed, a lyrics sheet would certainly come in handy.  But like Bryan Ferry, David Bowie and Barry Gibb, there's nobody else in the business who sounds like him, or comes close to sounding like him.  When this first came out, this was the closest I'd get to listening to hard rock - I loathed the stuff at the time, preferring the new wave, synthpop, and pop rock genres, which of course were all the style at the time.  But my 20 year standing affection for hard rock has not relegated my interest in this album to the back burners one iota - this remains one of the best albums I've ever heard.  Just listen to songs like "She Drives Me Crazy", "Good Thing", "Don't Look Back", and "I'm Not the Man I Used to Be" and you'll understand why I like this album like I do.  It's quintessential late 80s listening for you.  A+