Blondie is back! While new bands struggle to get anyone to pay attention to them, bands with any kind of past track record--"heritage" acts I'm told--go out and capture that audience share with a re-tooling of memories. Nothing beats memories. Unless you're too young to have them, then you must be coasting on dreams. Old people have no dreams. We have canes.
Never trust anyone over 30? Well, then, these albums are not to be trusted. A real shame because they speak elemental truths about all humanity. It's like James Joyce recorded an album. Remember him? He was an Irish blogger who eventually abandoned the language because it couldn't contain him. Much like the music listed below. I'm no Jim Joyce. I fit comfortably in a box.
25) Briefcase Full Of Blues--The Blues Brothers: If you're only going to own one "blues" album, chances are this is the one you own. Because anyone who thinks they only need one blues album is someone who doesn't like the blues anyway, so why not settle for a couple of comedians singing their way through a classic set of tunes that are more R&B than blues anyway? Besides, Weird Al never made a blues album!
24) One Nation Under A Groove--Funkadelic: Considered one of the best Funk albums of all time, mostly because it has the band's catchiest album title (their other albums are worth checking out as well), Groove was about as big a hit as these poor boys were likely to have. They were too weird for the mainstream. No matter how they tried to downplay it, they weren't in it to win it; they were in it to turn it upside down. Now define "It."
23) Shadow Dancing--Andy Gibb: His brothers were so popular, there was no way Andy wasn't going to get in on the fun. So he went disco with the best of them and pushed this whole "dancing" craze that had people making funny movements and buying records with loud, monotonous drum beats that sounded good if you were on the right drugs and hanging out with the right people, but didn't sound as exciting sitting in your apartment wondering how you were going to pay the rent and the dealer. That's when you consulted with your "What Would Boz Scaggs Do?" bracelet.
22) Blondes Have More Fun -- Rod Stewart: I'm one of the only living music critics who thinks "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" is a good Rod Stewart song. I never much cared for his Sam Cooke impersonations, preferring Sam Cooke. But once Rod got tarty and cheesy and sang about sex in a way that made it seem even more embarrassing than having your parents explain it to you, I knew I'd found a true visionary for the times.
21) Cruisin', Macho Man--The Village People: These guys knew they had to hit quickly before their novelty wore off. Besides, they were on Casablanca Records, the same label as Kiss, which made those guys put out an album every nine months. So why should the Village People be any different? I like these guys in the abstract. It's only when I actually hear them that I lose my enthusiasm. Some dreams are best left as dreams.
20) Minute By Minute--The Doobie Brothers: "What A Fool Believes" is such a powerhouse of a hit that I don't even care what's on the rest of this album because I've never made it past that cut. Others have warned me and I've taken their warnings very seriously. When loved ones protect loved ones it's a beautiful thing.
19) Grease--Various Artists: The title track may be the only Frankie Valli number that doesn't make me want to harm other living creatures. And "Summer Nights," "You're The One That I Want" and "Greased Lightnin'" are goofy time-capsule tunes that never make me want to see this movie or listen to the soundtrack but in the abstract don't bother me much. Now, "Hopelessly Devoted To You" brings up lunch. But I have a weak stomach.
18) Double Vision--Foreigner: Before there was corporate rock, there was music that sounded like a radio programmer put it together. We called them the Eagles and it was only a matter of time before other music industry veterans decided to team up and form their own professional collectives that could streamline a successful sound and approach and make tons of hits. The funny thing is this doesn't sound half bad these days. I'd rather hear "Hot Blooded" or "Blue Morning Blue Day" than anything by the Strokes.
17) Totally Hot--Olivia Newton John: She was in that movie Grease and she'd already had hits and she was from Australia and she wore those shiny, tight pants and "A Little More Love" was on the radio every hour of every day and some people thought she was the anti-Christ, which just goes to show how dumb some people can be. Or unjustifiably angry. It wasn't that bad.
16) Street Hassle, Take No Prisoners--Lou Reed: According to my notes, Lou Reed recorded two albums in 1978: Street Hassle that every critic loved and Take No Prisoners, a two-LP live set where Reed believes what makes his material interesting is what would usually be considered the between-song banter. Much like this blog where we talk around the music as much as possible because as much as you'd like to believe that it would be more interesting if I "stayed on topic," trust me, it wouldn't. That's what music magazines are for.
15) Toto—Toto: What would today's music be like without a little friendly corporate intervention? Someone has to apply standards! And who better but accountants and managers and industry professionals who understand the need for efficiency? Toto deliver more pop hooks per mile than most other similarly assembled groups. And let's not even talk about what happens if you let these guys loose out on the highway! If every song was as good as "Hold The Line," they'd have lived forever.
14) 52nd Street--Billy Joel: I can complain about Billy Joel all day. While his music inspires millions to draw new breath, it inspires me to take a nap. And I like music that is very nap-inducing. I like "My Life." It made a nice theme song for Bosom Buddies. They don't make TV shows like that anymore! And "Honesty" is one of those songs where you look up at the guy in the local bar who's covering it and think "Some jobs are tougher than others." Then you run out on the bill.
13) C'est Chic--Chic: Ever been to a wedding where "Le Freak" wasn't played? If not, that was not a wedding. For all the people yelling "disco sucks" back in 1978--and it was a catchy little phrase--it's amazing to think that this music if you actually listen to it would inspire such hate. Punk rock went out of its way to offend, so you could see why people might then take offense. But disco just wanted to be liked. What's so wrong with being liked?
12) Dire Straits--Dire Straits: Every once in awhile a new talent shows up that is indisputable. Just as Eddie Van Halen announced a new day for electric hard rock guitar players, Mark Knopfler established himself as a folksy-bluesy-rocksy traditionalist who could outplay just about everyone. Since he had "Sultans Of Swing" ready to go, the band had their calling card and no amount of repeating that idea could diminish the initial impact.
11) Some Girls--The Rolling Stones: Considered by some to be their last really good album. (I still like Tattoo You.) Nervous with all the punk and disco around them and realizing they were getting mighty old --they were over 35!--the Stones decided to strike back with an album that sounded as if they were again trying, something they hadn't done consistently in years. And it worked.
10) Heaven Tonight--Cheap Trick: Cheap Trick wrote "Surrender," which in some parts of the country was considered the national anthem. In some places, it still is.
9) Here, My Dear--Marvin Gaye: Not everyone gets divorced and has to make an album for their wife. Be thankful for that. Most people can't. But Marvin Gaye made a double album. It was like he thought he was married to the Doublemint Twins or something.
8) Parallel Lines--Blondie: There was always this argument over whether Blondie was a group or just its lead singer--after all, Deborah Harry did dye her hair blonde for the job and most people's attention span being what it was weren't likely to learn names like Chris Stein and Clem Burke, or even Deborah Harry, for that matter. But she never had much of a solo career, while with the band they managed to go disco and hog the radio for a few years.
7) 3rd--Big Star: Yes, nowadays people know who Big Star were. Paul Westerberg didn't even have to write a follow-up to "Alex Chilton," though I would've loved to hear what "Chris Bell" or "Jody Stephens" might have sounded like. This album has been reconstructed so many times with tracks added, subtracted and reordered that I can hardly think of it as an actual album anymore. It's more like an endless series of tracks that end in the feeling that the guy recording it wasn't going to live much longer. The fact that he has makes me wonder if he's read Power For Living or if he's just lucky?
6) The Modern Dance--Pere Ubu: For "Non-Alignment Pact" alone, I take this one. Pere Ubu were one of the artsy bands that no two people agree on. Seriously, I know easily two dozen Pere Ubu fans and each one of them gives me a completely different view of the band. Generally speaking, everyone likes this first official album and the stuff before it. But once you go beyond that, it gets weird and confusing. And by the time you get to Cloudland, the fistfights break out. My personal opinion? All depends on who's paying for dinner.
5) Darkness on the Edge of Town--Bruce Springsteen: Thanks to lawsuits it had been three years since Bruce Springsteen had released Born To Run. These days it's funny to think that three years was considered too long between albums. Now, it's almost expected. But back then it was considered a potential career killer. Such a loss of momentum. Bruce was lucky. Times were changing and he had written his best material to date. That and a secret pact with music writers worldwide made at Crossroads, Inc. assured that he would not be forgotten.
4) The Cars--The Cars: Punk, New Wave, they had all these nifty new names for music back in 1978. It was all done to alienate smelly hippies and encourage young people to get haircuts. And it worked. The Cars were the catchiest group to come along in some time. And their debut album didn't have a stinker on it. That would come later.
3) All Mod Cons--The Jam: I've heard them called a poor man's Who. Maybe I'm perverse, but I always preferred them over the Who. The Jam were more consistent and made their records a heckuva lot quicker. Tommy just makes me confused. Whereas these guys stuck to three minute songs and they did a dandy cover of the Kinks' "David Watts."
2) This Year's Model--Elvis Costello And The Attractions: Costello's first album was, in strict high-falutin' critical terms "really good" but he sounded like he needed a band. So he went out and somehow found the best band possible. I mean, seriously. If I could pick one drummer still alive (they play better when they're breathing), it would be Pete Thomas. If I could pick one keyboard player, it would be Steve Nieve. And bass? You guessed it….Bruce Thomas. Of course, the band would be great. They'd just have to figure out how to kick me out of the band!
1) Van Halen--Van Halen: While the popular perception is that Van Halen were a heavy metal band, or a hard rock band, that seems so limiting. Van Halen played with more rhythm and screwed with tone and had more fun than bands that fall neatly into genres. Sure, David Lee Roth's new line of home dinners--the Chicken Lee Roth is amazing, says Gene Hallway--should help put these guys back on the map.