Thursday, September 25, 2014

30 Years On - 1984 Killer Albums (Part 5)

Midnight Oil - Red Sails in the Sunset
When this was released it went gangbusters both on the music charts, and also amongst the school fraternity of Kiama High School. At the time I didn't understand the great outpouring of love for this album, and thirty years later my opinion hasn't changed. That's not to say that Red Sails in the Sunset is a bad album, but I just don't think it is as exceptional as it was portrayed at the time. It followed on from 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 which I just loved, and had worn out listening to it, and I just didn't think this was able to follow it. With the hindsight of thirty years on, it feels diminished even further given that Blue Sky Mining and Diesel and Dust were to follow.

Two tracks stand out as the best on the album, the single release "Best of Both Worlds", and the timeless "Kosciusko". These two songs announce themselves immediately that they come on, shining the best possible focus on themselves. Great vocals, great guitar licks and hard rocking drumming. These are the two songs that showcase Midnight Oil's strengths, with all parts of the band - the vocals, the guitars, the drums - coming out loud and proud, front and centre, hitting you square in the face. For the most part, the rest of the album doesn't quite match that.
There are other reasonable songs on the album. In fact, it would be unfair to say that they are not all reasonable. It's just that for me, they don't grab me like other albums. "When the Generals Talk" and "Sleep" are the other songs on this album I feel good about.
At the time of its release, I did wonder if my attitude regarding Red Sails in the Sunset was just me being set in my ways, that I couldn't possibly like this album if everyone else around me LOVED it. Having been through the act of listening to the album again on several occasions over the past few days, I am willing to say that it still just doesn't have the hooks to make me think differently. What came before and after more than makes up for this being a slightly boring album.

Rating: No end to the hostility, now they wanna be somewhere else. 3/5

Van Halen - 1984

It is strange to recollect now that at a time that Van Halen reached the peak of their popularity in the commercial market, they also reached the end of their first chapter. Through all of the battles and visions of grandeur and so forth, 1984 was headed for a road works sign ahead. The album is dominated by the three singles lifted from it, the real fusion of synth that inflicts itself upon most of the tracks as a constant reminder that it was released in the mid-1980's, and the spandex on the music videos that propelled the album's success,

The album opens with the eponymous "1984", an instrumental that seems to be a strange way to start things off despite it being a popular method. Once this has passed the album goes straight to it's strength, the mega-hit "Jump" and its partner "Panama". "Jump" has of course stood the test of time, still riding high in rock playlists almost thirty years on. For a band that made its name as a hard rock band, led by the arguably the greatest guitarist of his era, it is still mystifying to this day how little the guitar gets a look in during this hit song. Apart from the solo, it is the synthesizer that is the instrument high in the mix. Amazing. The lyrics are pure DLR, whose exuberance drives the song along. "Panama" is a great follow up, and in many respects I still enjoy more, perhaps solely because Eddie's guitar returns to a more prominent position in this song.
"Top Jimmy" and "Drop Dead Legs" are typical Van Halen songs, both jauntily pushed along by Alex's drumbeat and Michael Anthony's bass. Ed's guitaring here is also closer to his classic stuff. "Hot For Teacher" got plenty of repeat business on MTV and the like for it's video clip, which probably raises the profile of the song higher than its quality deserves. It's a fun song, but just not a great one. "I'll Wait" bring a return of the synth, a real power ballad that probably tickle's a lot of people's fancy, but just rate super high in mine. "Girl Gone Bad" is the equal of those songs in the middle of the album, while the closer "House of Pain" has its moments without being overly memorable.

David Lee Roth's departure from the group after this album brought a small amount of success for both himself and his solo career, and the remainder of the group with new front man Sammy Hagar. It was a changing of eras, and this album signified it as such. From the hard rock guitar band of the late 70's and early 80's, this album with its synth oriented rock paved the way for bands like Bon Jovi and Europe to make their own mark on the industry.

Rating:  I can barely see the road from the heat comin' off of it. 3.5/5

Y&T - In Rock We Trust

I guess this album was always at a disadvantage, given that it immediately follows the awesome Mean Streak which always was and remains my favourite Y&T album. In Rock We Trust was therefore always on a hiding to nothing.
None of that forgives what feels like a very unimaginative writing process for the album. Leave the "Rock & Roll's Gonna Save The World"-type songs to KISS for goodness sake! Such a bland and flawed opening. Unfortunately, it sets up the whole tone for the album, from which it never really recovers. Formulaic rock should really be beneath a band with so much talent in its ranks. Instead, at different times I feel like I'm listening to Hall & Oates ("Break Out Tonight"), KISS (the afore-mentioned "Rock & Roll's Gonna Save The World") and even Huey Lewis & The News ("(Your Love Is) Drivin' Me Crazy"). Scary times...
Some face is saved by the time you reach Side 2 (for those that remember vinyl...). "Lipstick and Leather" is followed by the much better Y&T feel of "Don't Stop Runnin'". Overall however, it isn't enough to shake the feeling of gloom and doom. The only way to wipe this taste from my mouth is to go back and throw on Mean Streak again I think...

Rating:  Keep on runnin' 'cause you can't catch me.  2.5/5

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