I Love It Loud:Ranking The Best Kiss Albums

 

Kiss has always been one of my favorite bands. Along with The Beach Boys, The Bay City Rollers, and The Oak Ridge Boys, the band was an early influence on me as a fan, and even as a drummer.

            My early encounters with Kiss involved my older cousin, who had many of their albums lying around when I would visit his house to play LEGOs. I remember him scaring me with the picture of Gene Simmons from the “Alive II” album, along with him playing me the song “God of Thunder.” I would stare at his Kiss Bubble Gum Card collection in awe wondering what it was I was seeing.  I remember years later in junior high, when I walked across town with my friend to look at the bargain bin cassette tapes at the local Fishers Big Wheel (which was like a K-Mart). It was there I bought my first Kiss cassette, “Destroyer.” Throughout the 1980s, I became a bigger fan of theirs, including drummer Eric Carr, and how cool he looked after reading stories about him in Metal Edge Magazine, along with other music magazines.

            I was also a huge fan of Gene Simmons, who was all over my TV at the time with his movies “Runaway” and “Trick or Treat,” which I watched all the time with another drummer friend of mine (Many years ago I got the DVD of the movie at a Walmart bargin bin and still love the film, and the music of Fastway who performed the soundtrack).  I remember almost wearing out my VHS copy of “Kiss Meets the Phantom of The Park” when I taped it from a late night Pittsburgh TV Channel.  I still have many Kiss T-Shirts and items (one of my favorite still is my Eric Carr Figure, and the “Crazy Nights” Program Book a college friend sold to me, who is even a bigger Kiss fan than I am). I saw them on the Reunion Tour in 1996 in Pittsburgh PA, “The Psycho Circus” Tour in 1998 at the same arena, and the “Farewell Tour” in Cleveland, Ohio in 2000. Even though I saw drummer Eric Singer with Alice Cooper, I have not seen him with Kiss (who happens to be my second favorite drummer behind Eric Carr, and got to talk to Singer at the Cooper show).

            Since Kiss was such an important part of my music listening and drumming career, I thought I’d rank my Top Kiss Albums. As passionate as Kiss fans are, I am sure this will cause some debate, but this is my ranking of my favorite albums by the band. I am not counting any Greatest Hits Collections or Live Albums on this list-this is strictly their studio work.

6. “Rock And Roll Over” (1976).  This album also has one of my favorite covers of the band, although many may choose “Destroyer” as the best, I love the cover so much that my girlfriend got me a coffee mug of the cover of the album.  This album charted at #11 on the U.S. Album Charts, and has great songs like “Mr. Speed” (probably my favorite lesser known Kiss song ever), “Love Em, Leave Em,” and “Makin Love,” which closes the album.   The song also has “Hard Luck Woman,” which became a hit for the band, which has a Rod Stewart feel to the song. There are a few songs that wear on me, but overall this is one of my tops.

5.  “Love Gun” (1977).  This album is great all throughout with no fillers on the album. What is amazing about Kiss during the early years is that they were releasing two albums a year while touring. Today’s acts can hardly put out an album once a year.  Once again, the cover is great, with the band surrounding by women in Kiss makeup. I always loved the cover just because of how Gene looks so menacing, like Count Dracula or another horror character in the painting.  This was a time when the album covers meant something to the product.

            Another aspect of the album I love (no pun intended) is the fact that it is a short album, with a run time of a little over 32 minutes, which leads no time for filler solos or songs just to plug up the album. I remember getting this album on cassette at a bargain bin, and practicing the parts on my drum set for hours. Although many love the album due to Ace Frehley’s “Shock Me,” I love the songs “Plaster Caster,” Christine Sixteen,” and the bands remake of “Then She Kissed Me,” a re-working of  then “Then He Kissed Me” hit by The Crystals.  I also like “Hooligan,” with drummer Peter Criss singing lead, which is a song I liked better than “Beth.”  The album also reminds me of “The Phantom of the Park,” when some of the songs from the album was used in the film.

4. “Destroyer” (1976).  Most people love this album because of the famous album cover, and because it has the staples like “Beth,” Detroit Rock City,” and “Shout It Out Loud,” which are all good reasons. However, when I listen to this album, I think of songs like “King Of The Night Time World,” and “Flaming Youth.”  My memories of the album is more being able to purchase my first Kiss cassette, as mentioned earlier, and the fact that so many songs are still played live today by the band shows its importance. However, some of the songs are overplayed that I need a break from hearing them, but that does not take away from how good the album is from start to finish.

3. “Hotter Than Hell” (1974).  This album is my favorite of the original lineup.  This was their second album and has a dark theme to some of the songs, which made me afraid of the band (along with many other parents at the time when they heard and saw the band). Songs like “Parasite,” Got To Choose,” and “All The Way” are my favorites.  “Watching You” and “Goin Blind” are also great in keeping with a dark tone.  Even though the album only charted around #100 on the Albums Charts (they didn’t get their break until “Alive I” a few years later), this is my favorite of the originals.  The cover isn’t as awesome as “Love Gun” or “Destroyer,” but the songs are what counts.

2. “Crazy Nights” (1987). Now this is where Kiss fans will start attacking me, but I think this album is underrated, and it was a major part of me growing up in junior high. The song “Crazy Crazy Nights” was played at every high school dance I went to, along with the junior high dances (certain dances junior higher students were allowed to attend the high school ones).  This was the album that I discovered Eric Carr’s drumming as well, who became my all time favorite drummer.  I loved the shattered glass image for the cover, and thought Eric looked cool with his drummer gloves, which I didn’t see many drummers use before. Many fans think this album is too polished and Pop sounding, but when the album came out, it was no different from the stuff that was being released at the time.  I still think “Reason To Live,” and “Turn on The Night” are great songs, along with the drumming on “I’d Fight Hell To Hold You.”  This album gets too much criticism in my opinion (almost as much bashing as “The Elder” or “Dynasty”), but it gets high ranking for me due to the memories I have of the album growing up.

1.     “Revenge” (1992).  It’s hard to believe this album is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year. I remember when the video for the single “Unholy” was shown on MTV’s “Headbanger’s Ball” and I was floored by it. Gene Simmons was back in my eyes, looking mean and street-like, as opposed to the glam look he was sporting in the 1980s.   This album brought back many Kiss fans that left the band in the 1980s, and made the album hit #6 on the U.S. Album Charts.  I got the cassette when I was a member of the BMG Music Club, where you would get 12 cassettes for the price of one, as long as you bought it within the year. When I finally got a CD player, one of the first CDs I got from the club was “Revenge” as well.  Paul Stanley recently mentioned on Chris Jericho’s podcast that the band finally was at a common cause, as opposed to the years where he was doing most of the work, while Gene was doing movies.  Stanley also calls the album a rebuilding of the Kiss brand, to get back the fans that left them in the 1980s. This album was the first for Eric Singer, who fit in great with the band.  This album could have been a disaster, in the fact that the fans (and the band) were just coming off of the death of Eric Carr, but this album is my favorite non-makeup era album.

     The album is heavy oriented, which was needed in the band, just like “Creatures of the Night” brought a new direction for the band in the 1980s.  Songs like “Domino,” “Thou Shall Not,” and “Heart of Chrome” (which Stanley recently stated is his favorite song on the album), shows more edge to the band, and that they were still able to compete with the grunge music that was started to break at the time.  This album also had the ballad “Every Time I Look At You” and the catchy “I Just Wanna” for the fans that were still loving the 1980s stuff that followed out of the “Hot In The Shade” Album that was before this one.  The band also brought former member guitar player Vinnie Vincent for the songwriting process, which shows that Vincent was still a great writer.  The album also shows how underrated guitarist Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer really are as musicians, who do not get enough credit in the music world.  I challenge anyone who doubts Singer’s work to check this album out, because he is definitely a great drummer.

This album also has a special memory for me, not just because of the music club, but I also bought my first T-shirt from online rock site Rockabilia. Back then, the company sent a catalogue through the mail, and I remember my excitement seeing the package at my college mailbox, and inside was a shirt of the band photo from the back of the CD. I wore that shirt proudly, and still have the shirt in good shape. The album was played constantly through my walks to and from classes on the college campus of Kent State University (this was before IPods and we had Walkmans).

There are many great Kiss albums like “Creatures of the Night,” “Carnival of Souls,” and “Dynasty,” and even the debut album, but there are songs I skip over on all those. (Plus I was tired of the “Carnival of Souls” after listening to bootleg copies of it for a year until the actual release).  The fact that Kiss started in 1974 and is still playing today is a testament to their musicianship.  The band will always have their critics, even those that refuse to accept the original lineup is not together, but I have enjoyed albums from each of the lineups. It is rare that a band with several lineups have been able to stay relevant and produce good music. Kiss is truly a musical phenomenon that has proven its longevity throughout several decades.

 

Back To The Beach: My Favorite Rarer Beach Boys Songs

A few remaining Capitol Record Cassettes and “Problem Child” Single from my collection.

One of my fondest summer memories growing up was when I would go to my hometown Fisher’s Big Wheel (which was similar to K-Mart) and go to the music section. The store had albums, 45s, and cassettes. It was at the bargain bin where I got “Destroyer” by Kiss on cassette, along with several from The Beach Boys that were thrown together by Capitol Records. I would walk to the other side of town with my best friend, buy the cassettes and rush home to put it in my boom box player and practice playing drums to the songs.

The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys have always been one of my favorite bands of all time, and I wanted to list a few of my favorite Beach Boys songs that some may not know about. Everyone knows about their surfing songs like “Surfin USA” and car songs like “Little Deuce Coupe,” but these ones are unique in their own right, especially when some fans may have stopped listening to them in the 1980s.  So here are some of my favorite underrated Beach Boys songs (and the album it was on):

  1. “Getcha Back” (The Beach Boys-1985). I constantly write on this site how much I LOVE this album, which was the first album after drummer Dennis Wilson’s death. Some fans do not like the album, but for me, it was a big part of my summers growing up in the 1980s, and since my best female friend was a fan of the band as well, it brings back good memories.  The song deals with a guy reminiscing after hearing “their” song from an ex (remember when couples had their song?). Written by Terry Melcher, the song hit #26 on the U.S. Charts and brought a new audience to the band with their appearances on shows like “Solid Gold” for younger listeners.  To this day, it is one of my favorite songs of the 1980s.
  1. “She Believes In Love Again” (The Beach Boys- 1985). From the same album, this ballad was written by Bruce Johnston, who sings lead on the song. Carl Wilson helps out on the chorus, which shows no matter how polished and produced this album is, with its 1980s drum machines and synthesizers, Carl still had a great, pure voice. Gary Moore also played on the song, which fits in with any Pop Ballad of the time. This is one of my favorite songs on the album.
  1. “Rock And Roll to the Rescue” (Made In USA -1986). This song was part of a Greatest Hits package, which a friend of mine had when we were growing up. I loved the autobiographical tone to the song, which could be an example of any musician that fell in love with music. I also loved the fact that the story starts off about a shy boy who ends up playing to concert arenas by the end of the song. Brian Wilson sings lead on this song, but still kept the vocal harmonies of the band, even in the 1980s.
  1. “Do You Remember” (All Summer Long- 1965). I discovered this song on one of the Capitol issued cassettes I mentioned earlier, which was on 1983’s “Summer Dreams.” I fell in love with this song which tells a small history of Rock and Roll, because of my professional wrestling infatuation. One of my favorite tag teams was The Rock and Roll Express, who came out to ELO’s “Rock and Roll is King” song. I also thought this would be a good song as theme music when I used to play with my AWA Wrestling action figures. The song also has a feel to it similar to Danny and The Junior’s “At The Hop.” The song was part of the lawsuit that Mike Love ended up getting credit for that was uncredited for years.
  1. “Girl Don’t Tell Me” (Summer Days and Summer Nights-1965). Another song that was on the “Summer Dreams” cassette that I loved. This song was one of the early songs Carl Wilson sang lead on, and it was different from their other work, due to the acoustic guitar vibe to it. I used to listen to this song and think Carl was sitting on a beach by a fire playing the song. There is also a lack of the other members singing on the chorus, which makes the song unique. The song reminds me of the days when a person would have a friend from another school or state that would visit for the summer and then go back home and refuse to continue to stay in touch, or when people used to have pen pals. The line “I’ll see you this summer and forget you when I go back to school” and “Girl don’t tell me you’ll write me again this time” are in that theme.
  1. “Problem Child” (Released as a cassette single-1990). This was the theme song from the movie with John Ritter, which was written by Terry Melcher. I bought the cassette single, even though I still haven’t seen the movie. This was in the 1990s, when the band was fading with their audience, except for the diehard fans. John Stamos played drums on the song. The lyrics deal with how people can change and dispel labels being put on them. The lyrics like “Who wants to work until you’re 93” and talking about the girl next door may “Turn into a work of art” still showed that the band could find great lyrical content. The arranging of putting the children’s “Na Na” chant in the song was clever, which is what great Pop songs need. Even the video was fun to watch.
  1. “The Private Life of Bill and Sue” (That’s Why God Made the Radio- 2012). This album was their first since the death of Carl Wilson, and the first with returning member David Marks since 1963. Written by Brian Wilson and Joe Thomas, the song talks about how obsessed our culture is with fake celebrities and reality stars. The song is similar to the song “South American” off of Wilson’s 1998 Solo CD “Imagination.” Even though the rest of the album is OK, due to the fact that it seems scattered all over the place, this is my favorite off the album. This is a fun song.

Maybe these songs will make you check out some of the rarer songs by the band, or any band. These show that The Beach Boys were not all about surfing, cars, and higher pitched vocals.

 

 

A Dynamic Duo: My Favorite Songs By Daryl Hall And John Oates

Daryl Hall and John Oates

As much as I have been an outspoken critic about The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and their inductees, the year 2017 brought a few deserving acts that were inducted , including Daryl Hall and John Oates. I have been a fan of their music for years, especially in the 1980s when they dominated the radio, MTV, and other video programs. I remember seeing their album covers all over the record stores during the time. The duo had around 30 Top 40 Hits in the U.S. from 1976-1990.  After finishing reading the recent memoirs of John Oates, I decided to focus on some of my favorite songs by Hall and Oates. In no particular order, here are a few of my suggestions to check out of their vast collection.

 

  1. “So Close” (1990). This song was from their “Change of Seasons” Album. It was the lead single released, hit #11 on the U.S. Pop Charts, and also hit on several other charts, including the AC Charts.  One of the co-writers of the song was Jon Bon Jovi.  I like the opening line of “They met on the dance floor in the old high school gym,” which brings back a bygone era where gym dances were the place where memories were made. I also love the chorus line that says “We believe in tomorrow/Maybe more than today.” Even though the song did well on the charts, it seems to be a forgotten mention when discussing the duo’s work.
  1. “Getaway Car” (2003). The duo’s “Do It For Love” is one of my favorite albums that they recorded, especially the post 1980s. There are many great songs on the album, but one of my favorites is “Getaway Car,” which wasn’t written by either Hall or Oates. The song was written by Billy Mann and Gary Haase, and has been recorded by country acts.  The song hit #21 on the AC Charts for Hall and Oates. The song is a great tale of a guy and girl being frustrated with their lives and wants to start anew, which is shown in the line “Let’s disappear and start all over again.” I can picture the couple driving out of the city limits into the county with the radio playing this song. The tempo of the song is great for the telling on the song. This is one of my favorite all time songs that the duo recorded.

  1. “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid” (1984). This song is another one that hit the charts but seems to be not played as often on 1980s Radio shows.  This song was off the mega album “Big Bam Boom,” and hit #18 on the U.S. Charts. The slow build at the beginning of the song ends up with a big, loud ending.  I used to use the chorus of the song for using song lyrics as poetry when I taught as an English Teacher, with the lines like “Some lies are better off believed,” and “Some hearts are better left unbroken.”  Even though the album gave hits like “Out of Touch” and “Method of Modern Love,” this song, written by Hall, should not be overlooked.
  1. “Method Of Modern Love” (1984). This song makes my list, off of “Big Bam Boom,” because of the memories I have hearing the song when it first came out. I remember the video of the song, along with the video for “Out of Touch.”  The song peaked at #5 on the charts, and stayed on the charts for 19 weeks. Today’s music fans may not know that during the 1970s and 1980s, songs did not just debut at number one, and then disappear like in today’s downloadable music times. Many songs worked their way up to make the Top 40 and slowly moved up to the Top 10. I remember standing on the corner of our school parking lot in junior high singing this song along with the cassette tape my buddy would bring in and play on his boom box radio.  We would mimic the videos of the songs that we saw on our local music channel (Channel 23 in Ohio was our popular one, with host Billy Soule, because we didn’t have MTV), and this song was one I always sang along with during recess. The song also shows Hall’s soulful voice in the time when music was more about image.
  1. “It’s A Laugh” (1973). This song came off of the album “Along the Red Ledge” and was a Top 20 single for the duo. The album had guest musicians such as Todd Rundgren, George Harrison, Rick Nielsen, and Robert Fripp.  I love the introduction of the song with the saxophone solo, along with the lyrics about a man looking back at a failed relationship.  This was a great song from 1970s.
  1. “One On One” (1983). As I said in the introduction of this blog, posters of Hall and Oates Albums were all over music store during the 1980s, including the “H2O” Album, which is where this song can be found. I can’t listen to this song without picturing the cover of the album in my mind.  This song hit #7 on the Pop Charts, along with #4 on the AC Charts. The song is a great life reference by using basketball themes. The soul, smooth voice of Hall helps the song not be outdated, and could been a hit in the 1960s-1990s.  I also love the basic line of “It seems I don’t get time out anymore,” which is what many of us want in our busy lives, and is not just an athletic reference.  This is a great song combining love, life, and sports.
  1. “Did It In A Minute” (1982). This single was off the album “Private Eyes,” which was the album the MTV Generation of fans started jumping on the Hall and Oates train, even though the band was recording for years. The song hit #9 on the charts, and was the next to last single released from the album.  I love the line “And if two can become one/who is the one two becomes.”  This has the Pop feel of the duo, as opposed to their Soul records. The song fit along the others that were being released at the time, with a focus of the keyboard up front and center of the songs.  This is one of my favorite early 1980s songs by the duo.

Hall and Oates are still touring today as a duo, and releasing songs as solo acts. There are many great songs that the duo has recorded that I love, like “Rich Girl,” “Say It Isn’t So,” “Out of Touch, ” and Hall’s solo “Dreamtime,” but I wanted to focus on some of the songs that are rarer or not played as much on 1980s flashback radio channels. The duo finally getting into the Hall of Fame is something that should have happened years ago, but deserving nonetheless.  This duo has had successful and memorable songs that have lasted many decades.

Teen Titans: Idols Who Returned To The Charts

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The term Teen Idol was used a lot in music from the 1950s-1970s, which stood for a young artist reaching stardom with a younger audience. The word “Idol” is overused today, especially thanks to those bad reality shows, but there was a time when the word was a hinder for musicians trying to shed the image of their early career. Some of the Teen Idols in music were Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Rick Springfield, Michael Jackson, Paul Anka, and even The Beatles.  However, in terms of most of these artists, they continued recording songs from their early years to later years.  I want to look at a few of the Teen Idols who had a comeback on the U.S. Charts after being away from the charts for a while.  I am not counting artists who went solo after being in a band in this list, but I want to list a few of my favorite Teen Idols who made comebacks in their later age (the age of the artist when they got their first hit to return are listed-give or take a year from the release of the single to the top chart appearance).

  1. Rick Nelson (Started age 17, returned at age 30). When discussing the term Teen Idol, you have to start with one of the first ones ever, and that was Rick Nelson, who has been termed by magazines as the first artist to be label Teen Idol. When he started on his father’s TV Show, young Ricky hit the charts with songs like “I’m Walking” (which hit #4 on the U.S. Charts in 1957) and “Poor Little Fool” (#1 in 1958). Even though he never stopped recording, The British Invasion ended his chart appearances until he hit in 1972 with “Garden Party “ (#6 U.S. Charts, #1 AC Charts).  “Party” was to be Rick’s comeback as he worked on recordings, including an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” singing a remake of “Dream Lover.” However due to record company politics, the album was held on too long before being released, and hurt the momentum.  Nonetheless, Nelson’s last chart appearances was 1964, and he waited until 1970 before getting on the charts, and then in 1972.  I happen to love his late 1960s-1970s music, which included several Bob Dylan remakes (He actually hit the charts with “She Belongs To Me”, a Dylan song, which hit #33 in 1970, but most remember “Garden Party” as the big comeback, so I’m sticking with “Party” as the comeback song). Nelson is considered the first Teen Idol, and his talent proved he hit the charts again at a later age with the right momentum.
  1. Donny Osmond (Debut age-14, returned age 32). This is one of the best comeback stories in ANY form (not just in music), and sounds like a Pro Wrestling storyline.  After hitting the charts with his brothers with songs like “One Bad Apple” in the 1970s, and his duets with his Sister Marie, Donny was a huge star.   He had hits like “Go Away Little Girl” (#1 in 1971) and “Puppy Love” (#3 in 1972), and had a successful Variety TV Show.  His resume later included being a game show host and a Broadway star. However in the 1980s, his name was basically poison when it came to making an album or single.  In 1989, a New York Radio Station started playing a song called “Soldier of Love” by an unknown artist. After getting flooded by calls, the momentum continued until the song hit #2 on the U.S. Charts. Well the mystery artist was…Donny Osmond! The album had another hit, the ballad “Sacred Emotion.”  Osmond still records and tours today, currently doing a Vegas Show with Marie. His 2001 Album, “This Is The Moment,” is a great album full of Broadway Songs (the album hit #64 on the charts) and his “Love Songs of the 1970s” hit #27 on the charts.  Osmond has a mature voice that I like even better than his teen years, and Osmond waited from his last chart single in 1976 to 1989 (13 years) to return.  His story is a great feel good inspiring tale of determination and patience.
  1. David Cassidy (Debut age-20, returned at age 40). Just like Donny Osmond, David Cassidy was one of the top Teen Idols in the 1970s with a TV Show and a huge following in the teen magazines and touring. He had hits with The Partridge Family, hitting #1 in 1970 with “I Think I Love You,” and solo hits like “Cherish” in 1971(#9).  Cassidy had an 18 year drought until he hit with the song “Lyin To Myself” in 1990, which hit #14.  Unfortunately his label Enigma Records closed shortly after the release of the self titled album. I remember getting the cassette single of “Lyin To Myself” and was fortunate to find a CD copy of the album years ago, and it is a good album that was produced by Phil Ramone.  “Lyin” was one of my favorite songs of that year. Cassidy spend time on Broadway as well during his time away from the charts, but had a great comeback single. Cassidy has been in the news lately discussing health issues, but any musician my age grew up wanting to be Keith Partridge, Cassidy’s famous persona.
  1. Neil Sedaka (Debut age-19, returned at age 36). Many know Sedaka as one of the greatest Pop Music Songwriters of all time, but some also forget that at one time he was a Teen Idol in the 1960s. He started his chart debut in 1958 with “The Diary” (#14), and had a string of hits in the 1960s with “Calendar Girl” (#4 in 1960), “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” (#6 in 1961), and the #1 Hit “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” in 1962. Even though he was writing for other artists, Sedaka came back onto the charts after an 11 year absence with 1974’s #1 hits “Laughter in The Rain” and “Bad Blood” (“Bad Blood” features Elton John on backing vocals). He also wrote the #1 hit “Love Will Keep Us Together” for Captain and Tennille in 1975.  Sedaka made music history as being the first (and only to my knowledge) singer/songwriter to have a Top 10 hit with a different version of the same song, when he hit #1 on the AC Charts, and #8 on the Pop Charts, with “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” this time as a ballad. He also had another 4 year absence from 1976-1980, when he hit the charts again with “Should’ve Never Let You Go,” (#19).  Sedaka wrote and performed some of the best Pop Songs in Rock Music.

 

  1. The Monkees (Debut age 21-24, returned age 41-42). People have their own opinion of The Monkees, but they were definitely Teen Idols who had great success on the charts. They debuted on the charts with “Last Train To Clarksville” in 1966 (#1) and “I’m A Believer” (#1) in 1966.  They also hit #1 again in 1967 with “Daydream Believer.”  After 1968, the Monkees did not hit the charts again until 1986 with “That Was Then, This Is Now” (#20), which was added to a new collection album.  Even though the band only consisted of Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork when the song was released, it still gave the band the spotlight again, with their songs shown to a new generation. The video for the song was on many video shows, including MTV, and got heavy rotation throughout the country on radio. The Monkees came back in 2016 with the great “Good Times” album, the first since the death of Davy Jones. The “Good Times” Album hit #14 on the U.S. Charts, and was #1 on the Vinyl Album Charts. After the release of “That Was Then..” the band’s TV Show started getting replayed on various TV Channels.  I strongly suggest getting “Good Times,” it was the best album I heard of the year.
  1. Dion DiMucci (Debut age 19, returned at 29). In 1958, Dion and the Belmonts hit the charts with “I Wonder Why” (#22). The group was known as one of the early Do-Wop Bands of Rock and Roll, and also charted with the smash “Teenager In Love” (#5 in 1959). Dion then went on to record hits like “Runaround Sue” (#1 in 1961) and “The Wanderer” (#2 in 1961).  Even though he was still recording songs, he didn’t hit the charts again until 1968 with “Abraham, Martin, And John” (#4).  Just like Neil Sedaka, many people do not remember that Dion was a Teen Idol at one time.

 

Many people consider the term “Teen Idol” as something that relates to Boy Bands in the 1980s, however, the term was used many decades before. In the 1970s, other “Idols” like The Bay City Rollers, Leif Garrett, Shawn Cassidy, and Andy Gibb were all over the teen magazines, however their spotlight did not last long, and they did not have another chart hit.  Some music acts, just like actors, may not be able to overcome the stereotype of the term, but this list shows that there were that did overcome, and some are still putting out quality music to this day. Go back and revisit some of these acts.

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Underrated Albums You May Not Know

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If you grew up in the 1960s- 1990s, you may remember going to the local mall or record store and spending hours trying to decide on an album to buy (or cassette or CD). Malls and even most record stores are rare anymore, so today’s music lovers just download songs or watch a video on YouTube or their phones for music. The record labels don’t back their artists like the used to, if they do at all, and some albums get lost in the shuffle.

A friend recently asked me what I thought were some rare underrated albums that either were missed when they came out, or just not brought up when naming some of that artist’s better works. So here are some of my most Underrated Albums that you may want to check out. I also list a few of the songs that are underrated each album.

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1.“Wild Hope”- Mandy Moore (2007).  When Moore started her singing career in 1999, she was lumped into the Teen Pop genre with Britney Spears and the Boy Bands. Moore went on to a successful acting career, with movies like “The Princess Diaries,” “A Walk To Remember” and currently in NBC’s “This Is Us.”

After coming off a great covers album (which you should check out as well entitled “Coverage”), Moore switched labels and released “Wild Hope” in 2007, filled with a female singer-songwriter feel to the songs. The songs were co-written by Moore while spending time in Woodstock, New York, and the songs have the coffee shop vibe to them. I was always a fan of Moore’s work, and this album proved a maturity from the Pop music (which was evident in the covers album as well). I loved the CD so much I had the original release and the Target Release with extra tracks.  The songs “Extraordinary,” and “Looking Forward to Looking Back” were played on one of my former workplace’s store radio station.  If Moore decides to go back to music, I hope she’d go back to this route, instead of the disappointing album she put out after this album. This is where Moore shines the most on her albums. There’s not a bad song on this release.

Songs: “Slummin in Paradise,” “Looking Forward to Looking Back,” “Ladies Choice,” “Could’ve Been Watching You,” “Gardenia.”

  1. “The Beach Boys” –The Beach Boys (1985). If you have read this blog for a while, you’ll see this album mentioned many times, being my favorite Beach Boys album. Critics say this album had too much drum machines and samplings in the songs, but it was the mid 1980s-everyone was doing it. This was the first album after the death of drummer Dennis Wilson, so the band was coming off of a tragedy. The album had a Top 30 Hit on the U.S. Charts, “Getcha Back,” and had, in my opinion, some great songs on it. This album became the groove that set the band into the “Kokomo” era, which became a smash hit for them. This album seems to be overlooked, even when Mike Love and Brian Wilson mention it in their books. This album, especially the song “Getcha Back” was a big part of my junior high years, and when I hear the song, it reminds me of my youth. The album has guests like Ringo Starr, Stevie Wonder, and Gary Moore on the tracks.

Songs: “Getcha Back,” “It’s Getting Late,” “Crack At Your Love,” “She Believes in Love Again,” California Calling.”

3.”An Innocent Man” –Billy Joel (1983).  It’s hard to believe such a smash album is not mentioned when speaking of an artist’s work, but this album seems to be when talking about Billy Joel’s works. The album was the very first cassette I ever bought (again-childhood memories), and had hits like “Tell Her About It,” “Uptown Girl,” and “The Longest Time.” The album lost to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” at the Grammy Awards. Joel’s tribute to the 1950’s and 1960’s Music had some great songs that some don’t think of. Every track was great and no filler.

Songs: “Careless Talk,” “ Leave A Tender Moment Alone,” “This Night,” “Keeping The Faith.”

  1. “Danger Danger”-Danger Danger (1989). This band was in the Glam Metal era which reminded me more of Warrant. When every record label was signing bands that had a blonde-haired lead singer that could sing mostly ballads, this band got lost in the mix. Some say that there are too much keyboards on the record, but it (to me) was no more or less than some of the other bands. The video “Naughty Naughty” was featured on MTV when it was released, and I remember rushing out to get the cassette the day it came out. I loved the comic book cover on the album as well. Wrestling fans will remember the song “Rock America” being used in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, being the theme for a short while of Chris Jericho and Lance Storm’s The Thrillseekers tag team. The band is still putting out music, and singer Ted Poley has several solo releases as well.  This was a good glam album that was missed by many.

Songs: “Don’t Walk Away,” “One Step From Paradise,” “Feels Like Love,” “Saturday Nite.”

  1. “Henry Lee Summer”- Henry Lee Summer (1988). Summer had a hit with the song “I Wish I Had A Girl” that was played constantly when it came out in my area (the single hit #20 on the U.S. Charts, and #1 on The Mainstream Rock Charts). The first major album of Summer (he released two albums before this one) had a mix of Blues and Rock and catchy hooks to the songs. He charted higher on the Mainstream Rock Charts than on the U.S. Singles, but still had some great songs, which his next album had the song “Hey Baby” (Which hit #18 on U.S. Charts).  Summer worked with many acts before his solo career, but this album is his best work, which almost every track was great. The ballad “Darlin’ Danielle Don’t” was in rotation at our school dances when it came out.

Songs: “Darlin’ Danielle Don’t,” “Hands On The Radio,” “I Wish I Had A Girl.”

  1. “Hard At Play”- Huey Lewis and The News (1991). After the string of hits with the albums “Sports” and “Fore,” Huey Lewis and The News was racking up chart singles, but this album started a little decline for the band, even though it went Gold and had 2 singles, the album is not mentioned by many, which is a shame because it is just as great as their other work. The bands 6th Album had the singles “Couple Days Off” (#11) and “It Hit Me Like A Hammer” (#21). This album is full of good ballads and up tempo Pop songs, just like one expects from the band. There are only 1-2 songs that aren’t my favorite. A few of the songs were played live when I saw them after this tour. I remember wearing out my VHS tape when I recorded the band on The Tonight Show performing “He Don’t Know” from this album, which is still one of my favorite songs on ANY of their albums.

Songs: “He Don’t Know,” “That’s Not Me,” “We Should Be Making Love,” “Best of Me,” “Don’t Look Back.”

  1. “A Thousand Memories”- Rhett Akins (1995). In the mid 1990s, Country Music was booming, thanks to people like Clint Black and Garth Brooks. I remember watching the TV Channel TNN, also known as The Nashville Network at the time (before going to Spike TV), and Rhett Akins was on the video shows with his song “That Ain’t My Truck,” which I fell in love with the song and the songs on this cassette, which I wore out walking through my college campus with my Walkman. I saw him live open for Reba McIntyre and Tracy Bird, and thought he was going to be a big thing (he even came through the crowd singing the first song, which at the time was rare in Country Music). Akins had a #1 hit on his next album (“Don’t Get Me Started”), but every song on this album was a great debut, including Alabama’s “Katy Brought My Guitar Back Today.” He now writes for acts like Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, Chris Young, and Brantley Gilbert, and his song is in the business (Thomas Rhett). I really liked Akins as a songwriter and singer on this album.

Songs: “That Ain’t My Truck,” “Katy Brought My Guitar Back Today,” “A Thousand Memories,” “She Said Yes.”

  1. “My Own Best Enemy”- Richard Marx (2004). After his first three albums, some people stopped listening to Richard Marx and I don’t know why. He is still putting out some great music (I mentioned him when discussing rare Christmas Songs on this page). As much as I like his first three Albums, this one may be my favorite. The release had a darker edge to it, but still has the Pop feel (much like his song “Hazard” years before). One of the two singles, “Ready To Fly,” hit #22 on the Adult Contemporary Charts. Even though many of the songs are darker, there are still some positive lyrics on some of the songs, like “Someone Special” (Which was originally on the 2000 “Days in Avalon” CD) This is the album to study for commercial style songs about loneliness.

Songs: “The Other Side,” “Ready To Fly,” “Someone Special,” “When You’re Gone.”

  1. “Lonesome Wins Again”- Stacy Dean Campbell (1992). Another album that got lost in the Country Music boom of the 1990s is this one. This album is a more traditional, rockabilly feel to it, which may have been why, but it is still great. Dean’s singles off the album hit the mid 50s on the Country Charts, and is now a writer/director for music videos and TV Shows. I remember watching his concert promoting this album on TNN, and loved playing the cassette. Full of acoustic ballads and mid tempo songs, this album is great to just kick back with and relax, especially if you like Country. This album has a Rick Nelson feel to it.

Songs: “That Blue Again,” “That Ain’t No Mountain,” “Poor Man’s Rose.”

A few more albums that I would suggest (there are so many) are:

1.”United World Rebellon” -Skid Row (EPs 2013, 2014)

  1. “Erase The Slate”- Dokken (1999)

3.”Just Getting Started”- Loverboy (2007)

4.”Find Your Own Way Home”- REO Speedwagon (2007)

5.“Can’t Slow Down”- Foreigner (2009)

6.“Trixter”- Trixter (1990)

Maybe you will dig deeper into these albums if you are bored with the same stuff that is out there in your collection.

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Book Review: Bach’s Life on Skid Row is an Enjoyable Ride

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One of the biggest bands in the late 1980s was Skid Row, who was known all over MTV for their songs “18 and Life,” “Youth Gone Wild,” and “I Remember You.”  Singer Sebastian Bach was one of the most recognized faces in the hard rock magazines and on MTV. His recently released book “18 and Life on Skid Row” takes the reader through the wild ride the band had during stardom, along with his career after the band on Broadway and TV.

The lengthy book (424 pages) starts with Bach describing his early years growing up in the Bahamas, California, and Canada. His early childhood was one of a child loving to sing in a church choir until he discovered the band KISS in 1978 at age ten, which made him want to be a rock singer. The book goes through the time his father took him to see KISS on the Dynasty Tour and meets Jon Bon Jovi years later at a wedding which helped him find his way to the guys that started Skid Row, which he states that “Whereas the focus on my previous bands was more about the look than the sound, Skid Row was first and foremost about the sound. The Songs.”

The book takes the reader through the wild tours with Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, and being on the Moscow Music Festival. Since Bach was known for his partying, the band got in trouble with several bands who were trying to become sober.

Bach also talks about his friendship with Guns n Roses Singer Axl Rose, along with some wild times he shared with Rose, his relationship with a famous 1980s actress, and his friendship with original Kiss Member Ace Frehley.

Like any band from the 1980s, Skid Row also dealt with some business issues, like having to pay Gary Moore money for the name Skid Row, Bach not getting songwriting credit for some of the biggest hits, and finding out that even though their second album “Slave to the Grind” was the #1 album its first week on the charts, the band was in a short fall.

“If we blew up too many bombs, drank too much booze backstage, all the fun stuff would be paid for after we paid the management and accountants. We would pay to play if we didn’t watch the budget.”

Bach also states his side of why the band broke ties with him, saying that “Nobody really understands why we broke up,” and when approached about a reunion, he writes, “ People ask all the time why we don’t have a reunion?..the real reason we are not together, in my mind,  is publishing royalties.”  The story about the band breaking up with Bach over being the opening act for the KISS Reunion Tour is also covered in the book through Bach’s perspective. His thoughts on Skid Row’s “Subhuman Race” album (a favorite among fans years later) and why during that tour he realized the music world was changing are in the book.

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Bach with Skid Row.

Bach also takes the reader through his solo career in music, his reality shows for VH1, his appearances on the “Gilmore Girls” show, and his time on Broadway in Jekyll and Hyde, Rocky Horror, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Overall the book is a great read for fans that like this era of music, however some things are just glossed over (but then again the book is long enough, some things had to be left out). One thing that is not covered in the book is how Bach feels about the lineup of Skid Row after he left the band, and there are only a few mentions of his former band mates Snake Sabo and Rachel Bolan after his time with the band was over. He also doesn’t give much in depth information about his solo touring, except mentioning a few of the albums (not much about the band members or road tales). There is not much bashing in the book, which is a relief to other books in the genre, and Bach even talks about how his partying affected his attitude looking back now. The inside cover of the book has a pull out mini poster of Bach, which to some may sound cheesy, but since he grew up in the era where albums were popular and  buyers wanted things like that in the album, it is well suited for the book.

I saw Bach in 1997 on his solo tour in Boardman Ohio, and enjoyed his work, along with the band Skid Row after his departure. This book was enjoyable and worth the money to read about one of the most underrated singers of the time.

“18 and Life on Skid Row” is available from Dey ST. , which is part of Harper Collins books.

 

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