Music Playlist: Do You Have These Songs on Your Summer List?

Summertime is one of the most anticipated seasons , especially in the Northeast, where we deal with cold winters filled with snow and bitter temperatures. Summertime was filled with great memories as a child; hanging out with friends at the park pool, playing my drums to the radio, and in later years, going to concerts. In honor of the first day of summer on June 21, I thought I would list some of my favorite songs of summer.

There are a few criteria I use for this list. First, the song needs to have a summer feel, or mention summer in the song; it can’t be a song that was released only in the summer (like Huey Lewis and The News “The Power of Love,” which was released during the summer movie season). I first heard Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I Do It For You) in the summer, and telling all the lifeguards at the pool that is was going to be a smash (they disagreed with me), but it doesn’t have a summer feel to it, even though I have summer memories of that song. Next, it has to have summer as the setting (Richard Marx’s “Endless Summer Nights” actually takes place in the winter time looking back on the summer-the same goes Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” in which summer is over which is why these are missing, or I’d put them on the list).      There are many summer songs that people associate with the season, such as “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Summer In The City,” “In The Summertime,” and every Jimmy Buffett or Jan and Dean song (“Dancing In The Streets” is another). As great as these songs are, I want to try and escape the obvious choices , although it is hard not to include a few of them on this list, but maybe suggest a few songs that some may not put on their normal play list. With that in mind, here are some of my best summer song choices from the 1960s-today (In no particular order).

  1. “Getcha Back” -The Beach Boys (1985). I constantly mention this album by The Beach Boys as my favorite album they have done. This album has so many memories for me as a youth when it was released; spending my summer days playing my drums to the cassette, along with spending time with my best female friend, who was a big fan of the band as well. Any summer list has to have a Beach Boys song on it, and this one is my pick because it talks about reminiscing about the past when the narrator breaks up with the girl and tries to see if they can re-connect. Even though it doesn’t have the summer themes of a beach or surfing, it talks about a guy in his fancy car wooing the girl with his money. Summertime in my youth was filled with the couples breaking up at the end of school to have their summer flings or be free. This has many summer for me.

2. “Cruel Summer”-Bananarama (1984). This song has a darker feel of summer to it, filled with the hot streets and being left all alone for the season. This song actually was released a year earlier, but gained momentum when it was played in the movie “The Karate Kid” in the U.S., although it wasn’t on the soundtrack. Several other acts recorded it after, but the original is still the best. This is for those that need a song that’s not all sunny and beaches.

  1. “Goodbye” -Night Ranger (1985). A summer play list needs a power ballad on it, and this was my choice by Night Ranger. It is actually about the death of a relative of Jack Blades, but mentions the 4th of July in the lyrics. People mistake the song for a failed relationship, which is how good the lyrics are, that it can be interpreted as a failed summer romance. I like the guitar solo at the end of the song as well. I can picture this song played at a beach party at night for a slow dance.

  1. “Summer of ’69”- Bryan Adams (1984). This is one song that’s an obvious choice for the list, but it has to be on a play list. The Adams/Jim Vallance penned song is filled with reminiscing about the best summer of their lives (among other themes to it). Playing in bands during the summer was a big part of my life, so trying to get a band together and play out in the clubs is a familiar part of the song I can relate to. The song hit #5 in the U.S. gave Adams a bigger success than his last album. The song is filled with Drive Ins, being young, and working in the summer. Summer is all over this song.

 

  1. “Summer Nights” -Olivia-Newton John, John Travolta (1978). Another obvious choice for some, but how can this song NOT be on the list? “Grease” is one of my favorite movies of all time (no I won’t watch the remade “Live” show that was on TV due to my loyalty), and this song is one of the most sung song for karaoke ever. The song hit #5 in U.S. and is filed with summer romance, going bowling, visiting the arcade, and being at the beach. If this is not on your summer play list, your list is not complete.

 

Van Halen’s 5150- the album “Summer Nights” is on.
  1. “Summer Nights”- Van Halen (1986). This track off of the first Sammy Hagar era Van Halen song is another song that must be on a play list. Hard Rock fans need to be represented as well, and this song has summer written all over it , with the lyrics “Summer Nights and my radio.” This was one of the first songs Hagar recorded with the band, according to his book. This song brings back the time friends and I would sit in the park and jam cassettes during the summer days, and this was one of the cassettes we always had on hand, just for this song.

 

  1. “Tender Years”- John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band (1983). This band is mostly remembered for the song “On The Dark Side” from the soundtrack for “Eddie and The Cruisers,” but this song was also released from the movie, and is a great summer ballad. The lyrics talk about a summer romance on the beach, or boardwalk (since the band is from New Jersey). A pop ballad with a great saxophone solo in it brings a throwback to the 1960s style music in ways without it sounding dated. I first heard the song when the band appeared on the TV Show “Solid Gold,” which was a favorite of mine, and it got a lot of local radio play where I live in Columbiana, Ohio. This is one of my favorite ballads form the 1980s and is one of the most overlooked from the time.

8.”Guess You Had To Be There”-Brian Wilson/Kacey Musgraves (2015). Most of this list has been from the 1980s, and I tried to get a few other decades in here as well. This song was from the Brian Wilson album “No Pier Pressure,” and has several interpretations to it- a relationship being failed, or just missing a great party (or both). Country fans will like this due to Musgraves’ singing (who is one THE best thing in Country Music today). Granted the song doesn’t mention summer directly, but the setting could be in the summer after a great beach party. This song may go against my criteria, but this is a great song to be played in the summer, with a swing feel to it that people missed when this album was released. A good feel good song with the melody.

  1. “Wasn’t That A Party”- The Rovers (1980). Another Country act (this song was a Country cross over hit) by the Irish/Folk singers The Irish Rovers, who had a big hit in 1968 with “The Unicorn.” This is a total party song, and I remember my uncle playing this song when deejaying at parties, and weddings. The song is filled with drinking, running down the road, and having the police called on them. The singer forgets half of the stuff that went on at the party as well. I’m not supporting these activities, but it has a good party vibe to it. The actions of the singers could usually be done in the summer (who has track meets and cuts down trees in the winter?). The song reminds me of a bunch of people hanging out by a bonfire trying to outdo themselves with crazy stuff. The song has humorous lyrics to it.

 

Rush : Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart.

 

  1. “Lakeside Park”- Rush (1975). Classic Rock fans need their summer songs as well, and this is a Rush song that fits nicely. The song is not a 20 minutes epic, like some of their other songs, and talks about hanging out in the summer at parks (this one being in Canada where drummer Neil Peart hung out as a child). Even though singer Geddy Lee has stated he does not like the song , it’s a great slow grooving song that deserves on a summer play list. It even talks about the month of May, referencing Queen Victoria’s birthday.

 

  1. “Palisades Park”-Freddy Cannon (1962). The 1960s was filled with summer-filled songs, and this song gets overlooked at times. Written by Chuck Berris (yes the host of “The Gong Show”) this song talks about amusement parks, rides, and falling in love at the local festival. The song has references to roller coasters, hot dogs, and dancing to a local band-all things needed for summertime. The song was also recorded by The Beach Boys, Gary Lewis, and the Ramones, but Cannon’s is the best version. Berris wrote in his book that the money he received from this song helped him finance the TV shows he created. This was Freddy Cannon’s biggest hit, but he had other good songs as well.

 

Chicago
  1. “Saturday In the Park”-Chicago (1972). What other season can people have picnics and parties in the park than summer? This song hit #3 in the U.S., written by Robert Lamm, who was watching film footage that he shot years earlier and created the song by what he saw. Sung by Lamm and Peter Cetera, the song talks about bands playing, people singing, ice cream, and more. This list covered pop, country, musicals, oldies, so why not throw in a song with lots of horns? The song is not a rocker, but a peaceful, mellow song (the listener does need a break time to time). The setting in this song is totally summer and filled with enjoying the outdoors.

13. “Anything But Mine”-Kenny Chesney (2005). This is a perfect song for either the end of summer or during, with all the fairs and festivals that go on. The song was written by Scooter Carusoe, who has worked with Rascal Flats, Dierks Bentley, and other acts. The video is focused more on the end of summer (the single was released in January) , but unlike Henley’s or Richard Marx’s songs about summer, this song’s setting could be at anytime. Even though us in Ohio like the line about the city of Cleveland, it’s actually the Tennessee city, not Ohio, but we can claim it anyway. Just like the John Cafferty song, this has the boardwalk carnival theme to it, along with the summer romance. This is one of my favorite Chesney songs, where I couldn’t see another act giving the song the special touch like Chesney, especially since he is known as the summertime guy in Country.

 

There are many other summer songs that I could have put on the list, from Country, Pop, and even Rap songs (which I will not do-I’m not a Rap fan, so no Will Smith songs here). These are a few songs that are obvious choices, but a few suggestions that you may not have thought to add. I tried to show a variety of genres as well. Maybe some of these will make it on your play list for this summer!

 

Feel free to send me your summer play list songs here, or follow me on Twitter @lovelylancel

 

 

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Rare Rick: Songs From The Original Teenage Idol

 

Rick Nelson has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

 

 

I knew the early career of Ricky Nelson growing up from my love of studying Pop music and playing as a drummer in local bands. I knew of the hits like “It’s Late” and “Hello Mary Lou,” but it wasn’t until I was playing in a band in 1996 that I truly dug deeper into his later years. I was a big fan (and still am) of his twin sons, Matthew and Gunnar, and it was due to my band’s guitar player bringing in Rick’s song “Easy To Be Free” that I had to start getting more of Rick’s CDs. I loved playing that song in the band, and it was a thrill for me to hear the Matthew and Gunnar play the song in 2010, when I saw their “Ricky Nelson Remembered” tour in Kent Ohio.

Rick (he started going by a more older name than his teen “Ricky” ) was an actor, songwriter, musician, and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He had a great smooth voice, especially in the later years. I want to share my some of my favorite lesser known songs that he recorded that I think people should check out.

  1. “Easy To Be Free” (1970). In the opening I discussed that this was the song that got me really into Rick’s music again, from the album “In Concert: Live at The Troubadour.” I am not a huge fan live albums, but this album is one of my favorites live releases. The famous Troubador club was a hotspot in LA that helped launch people like Elton John, The Eagles, Linda Rondstadt, Jackson Browne, The Byrds, and Steve Martin among others. This album was the debut of Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band, where he started merging the Country-Rock sound that Don Henley and Glen Frey took to mega success with The Eagles. The Stone Caynon Band featured Randy Meisner on bass, who played in The Eagles and Poco as well. I argue that Nelson helped start that genre, even though he’s never really credited when it comes to that sound.The song has a poetic feel to it (in fact I used the lyrics when teaching poetry when I taught English), with lines like “Did you ever want to fly/over rainbow skies so high/Did you ever wonder why/people tell you not to try.” The song has a positive message to it, going against what others say about you and your dreams. This song is one of my all time favorite songs that Rick performed. Here is the footage I shot at the show of the song form my camera (pre-smart phones) that I posted on youtube.  (A funny side note about filming the song was it was the first time I figured out the video function on the camera, and the two brothers were smiling and got into the fact that I was trying to film it while rocking out the the song, which many people there did not know the song).
  1. “You Tear Me Up” (1959). I discovered this song after buying the DVD collection of Nelson’s performances on the Ozzie and Harriet Show, called “Ricky Nelson Sings.”. This was an early hit for him, and was written by Baker Night, who also wrote “Lonesome Town.” The song was on Nelson’s 3rd album, “Ricky Sings Again,” and had The Jordanaires on backing vocals. The song is a typical love song that was common during the time in music, but the guitar work and lyrical phrasing of the song is different than the love songs on the charts. This has the classic early 1950s rock sound to it.
  1. “I Can’t Take It No More” (1981). Some people forget that Nelson was still recording throughout the years and in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was prepping for a comeback. After he hit with “Garden Party,” and a minor hit with his cover of “Dream Lover,” Nelson was (if it wasn’t for his record company dragging their feet on the release of “Dream Lover” after his Saturday Night Live appearance which stalled the momentum of the comeback), still touring around the U.S. This song was off his “Playing To Win” album, which is one of my favorites he ever recorded. It is hard to pick just one song off that album, but this song could have been played on the radio at the time with anything else being released at the time. I love the lines “When you’re lost in all your dreams/ and it seems so hard to please/ and things don’t work out the way you planned.” The album broke the Top 200 in the U.S., and according to his website, it made Nelson the only artist to have an album of original music from the decades 1950-1980s.
  1. “Life” (1971). In the 1970s, Nelson was writing his own music, along with recording songs by Bob Dylan. When I saw his sons in concert years ago, they made the comment that Rick really started enjoying writing his own music during this time. Right before he’d hit with “Garden Party,” he wrote this song called “Life,” off of “Rudy The Fifth” album (which also has a great song called “Sing Me A Song” on it). The song hit #15 on the AC Charts and features the Stone Canyon Band. The song is about a guy writing to Life, which as a literary lover, the personification of Life as a person is great. Lines like “Life, before you’re over/I want something to show for/All my trouble” and at the end of the song “Life, if you keep goin’/I’ll try to throw in/a little love” has more depth than just a normal Pop song. No matter what life throws at us, we still keep going on.
  1. “Stay Young” (1976-1978). The dates here may be confusing, but this song was written not by Nelson, but by Benny Gallagher and Gordon Lyle (Lyle also wrote later the hit “What’s Love Got To Do With It”). The song became a #1 Country Hit for Don Williams in 1983. This song was recorded sometime during the few years that Rick was working with Epic Records, which has been released several times on CD, and has some wonderful work on it. The song seems autobiographical for Nelson, where his spotlight fame was pretty much over, but he was still playing and doing what he loved to do. The opening lines of “don’t lose you that light in your eyes/never to late to love, never to late to try” is a great opener. The lines of “Don’t you feel like you’re playing the fool/ step out of line break all the rules/Don’t let them tell you it’s not for you/Don’t go growing old before you do” is perfect example of Nelson’s career when the critics told him he was done after his teen years.
  1. “One X One” (1976-1978). This song was another one from his Epic Record years of recording. How many Pop Songs start off with lines like “Have you ever been so down /every time you looked around/despair is like a silently cloud beside you” back at this time? (It sounds like lyrics to a Grunge era song). But the song isn’t a dreadful song because it actually give hope with the chorus line “ You can’t look back, what’s done is done/and the time you spent on yesterday/today is halfway done.” I also used this song in studying poetry in music when I was teaching English, and loved the second verse opener “Have you ever loved so hard/you opened up and dropped your guard/and fell to earth your feelings burned and branded.” Dennis Larden’s writing and Rick’s voice is a perfect combination for the song, that I could picture being played in coffee houses.

Rick Nelson had 35 Top 40 Hits in the U.S. and was the original act to be termed “Teen Idol.” However, his work went far beyond a teen act whose parents had their own TV Show. Nelson is still considered underrated in my opinion (how many books or releases are made of him anymore compared to Elvis and other early Rock Acts-not many). I love his later years maybe more so than his early work, with his more mature voice and attempts at writing his own songs. If you are not familiar with Rick’s later work, hopefully you will check it out-there are many hidden gems that most have not heard or discovered (other songs like “You Can’t Dance,”  “So Long Mama,” and his version of “She Belongs to Me” are some) My love for his music all started with a guitar player who I looked up to, and will be forever grateful that he turned me on to his music.

 

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Spread The News: Some of My Favorite Songs by Huey Lewis and The News

One of the most successful (and one of my all time favorite) bands from the 1980 and 1990s was Huey Lewis and The News. This act had 18 U.S. Top 40 hits, 12 Top 10 hits, and 3 Number Ones. They also had two #1 albums. The band fused Pop Rock, Blues, Soul, and R&B into their music and are still putting out some great music and touring every year. I have seen them twice live and they were awesome. Their albums “Fore” and “Sports” were a major part of my childhood; in fact, we wore out several copies of “Sports” on cassette one summer alone during high school band camp and other events. Even though most people know the major hits like “The Power Of Love,” “If This Is It,” and “Stuck With You,” there are so many other songs by the band that many people forget or have yet to dive into. Here are some of my favorite Huey Lewis and The News songs (in no particular order).

“Is It Me” (1982). This ballad is one of my favorite songs off of the “Picture This” album. I have mentioned in past blogs how “Picture This” is one album that people need to know because there is not a bad song on the whole album. When people mention this album, they think of the songs “Workin’ For A Livin’,” “Do You Believe In Love,” or “I Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do,” but “Is It Me” is just as good as any of the ballads the band has made period. The song is similar in lyrics to “If This Is It” where the singer is telling the other person if he is the problem, let him know and he’ll leave. This song may have been on the AC or Pop Charts if it was released later when the band was on a streak, and was overlooked in my opinion on the album.

“He Don’t Know” (1991). Another album that is overlooked in the band’s work is “Hard At Play” (which I mentioned in the Underrated Albums blog). I listened to this album almost every day for a whole summer when it came out. I remember videotaping the band’s performance on “The Tonight Show” promoting the song as well and watching it over and over. The album produced two Top 40 singles, but this song did not chart when it was released. I like the Bluesy guitar work throughout the song, along with the opening where Huey is just talking before he starts singing. I also really love the ending guitar work, which shows the musicianship of Chris Hayes. One of the songwriters on the song, Jon Tiven, has had songs recorded by Rick Derringer, B.B. King, and Buddy Guy among others.

 

“Walking On A Thin Line” (1983). This song was off of the #1 album “Sports” and hit the charts in the U.S. at #18. It was the final single released off of the album, but yet for some reason is not remembered by many critics or causal fans, despite the chart position. The song discusses Vietnam Veterans, but some may not know that just by listening to the song. I like how the song has an edge to it, as opposed to the previous released Pop songs by the band. I remember the song was the start of Side Two on the album, and I used to love the opening even when it was played at band parties during my junior high years. This is one song that needs another listening to if you have forgotten about this song.

“When I Write The Book” (2001). This song was a Nick Lowe cover for the band’s “Plan B” Album. Not that Lowe’s version is bad, I just love the take Huey and The News take on the song made it more soulful with the organ and horns being more in front of the song. The song shows how Huey could have been a great singer in the 1960s right beside acts like Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke. “Plan B” has a few great spots on the album, and to me, some songs I have to skip over. However, this cover is one of the best parts on the album.

 

“Til The Day After” (1996). There are very few Greatest Hits and Live albums I will actually purchase. I am not sure why I ended up getting Huey’s “Time Flies..The Best Of” album at first, but I love this song off of the compilation. The Greatest Hits CD has four new tracks, and they are good, but this song should have been given a second chance (one song “So Little Kindness” was added to the “Plan B” album because Lewis wanted it to have a second chance). The acappella intro shows the vocal skills of the band, much like “Bad is Bad” from “Sports” but kicks into a mid tempo song with horns blaring. I always could picture this song being an opener (or encore) at their concerts, where the band starts off in the dark and then the house lights turn on when the music kicks in. The chorus of “I‘m gonna stay to the day after/After the sun turns off its light/The stars don’t shine at night/When God comes for my soul/I’ll politely say no/I’m gonna stay til the day after the world stops turning around” is just pure poetry. This song could be played at weddings it’s so great.

“Old Antone’s” (1988). The “Small World” album was a mix of good songs and some odd choices in my opinion. I loved the singles “Perfect World” and owned the 45 of “Give Me The Keys (And I’ll Drive You Crazy).” I was not a fan of the title song from the album, and it is the least listened to album I have of the band. The album did reach the Top 20 Albums Chart, but was not a major seller compared to the band’s other albums previously released. I do love “Old Antones,” which was written by Lewis and member Johnny Colla. The song has a Cajun/Zydeco feel to the song, and the lyrics are so well written that the listener can actually picture themselves sitting in the club watching the characters in the song. This is a great up tempo dance-able song, and shows the band’s growth from just their basic Pop Songs. The band experimented with the sound during this song, and I think it is one of the few bright spots of the album.

“I Know What I Like” (1987). When the “Fore” album came out, I listened to it so much that I got tired of it that I put it away for several years. A few years ago I took it back out and the CD never left my car player for a few months. I was amazed at how great the album held up years later. One of my favorites on this album was “I Know What I Like,” written by Lewis and Hayes. The backing vocals, along with a few others on the album, were done by members of the San Francisco 49ers football team. The song was a Top 10 hit for the band, but is overlooked by the hits “Stuck With You” and “Hip To Be Square” from the album. The song described me when I was younger (and parts are still true), like “I like staying up all night/watching old movies ‘til the morning light.” This song was almost like the band wrote this about me (I know they didn’t though!!) This song was missed by some when the “Fore” Album is looked at.

Huey Lewis and The News were such a major influence on my life, from my drum playing, to just admiring their different blends of music as a fan. There are many other great songs by the band, including their covers album of early Rock N Roll “Four Chords and Several Years Ago” from 1994, where I wore out the VHS copies I had (both bought from the store and taped from the PBS Special). When I started playing drums for local bands in Ohio, I always said that even though my favorite bands were The Beach Boys and Kiss, if I could ever model my dream band to play in, I’d model it like Huey Lewis and The News, where I could play Pop, Blues, Soul, and R&B. It surprises me that the band gets some bad press among the so-called critics, because they are without a doubt one of the greatest American Rock Bands of all time (Is anyone from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame reading this????)

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What’s Odd About Christmas? Novelty Songs For The Season!

Christmas music. Some love it, some despise it. There are some classic songs, and there are some that are so bad they are good. Some favorites songs of mine include 1988’s “Christmas Without You” by Tommy Page (the B-side of his first hit single “A Shoulder To Cry On”), “Merry Christmas Darling” by The Carpenters (which was released several times in the 1970s), and Barry Manilow’s “River” (which is a cover of Joni Mitchell’s song from his 2002 Christmas album). One can not go wrong either with the Michael Buble 2011 Christmas CD, and last year’s Oak Ridge Boys “Celebrate Christmas” CD (which you can read the full review in the archives). But for every great song (Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” or the version by the Muppets), there is awful ones (“Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”).

Just like in the early days of Rock and Roll, Christmas time brings out the novelty songs. Some famous Novelty, or Oddity songs, throughout the years have been 1976’s “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees (who later became a host on “Solid Gold”) , 1950’s “The Thing” by Phil Harris (which hit #1 on the charts), and Los del Rios’ 1995 “Macarena.” Ray Stevens and “Weird” Al Yankovic made a career of parodies and novelty hits. So, to celebrate the season, here are some of my favorite Christmas Novelty songs. You may remember these, may never heard of them, or may never want to hear them again, but these are some of my favorite novelties that does not include singing chipmunks or barking dogs (in no particular order).

 

  1. “The Heat Miser” (1974). Everyone loves the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials (at least you should). These show were, next to Charlie Brown, was the anticipated shows to watch when Christmas time came around. Shows like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” are classic shows in animation. The best one was 1974’s “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” where Santa decides to take a vacation after getting a cold before Christmas. In order to make things right with a town called Southtown USA, Mrs. Claus needs some help from Mother Nature’s two bickering sons, The Heat Miser (who loves the warm weather) and The Snow Miser, who loves the cold. The Heat Miser was voiced by George S. Irving, who was a Broadway actor, and later voiced the narration of the cartoon Underdog. For those that do not like the snow and bad weather, this is the song to keep the cheer if you don’t live in warmer climates.
  1. “Superstar” (1977). This song was a re-recording from a 1972 album “Snoopy’s Christmas” from the Peter Pan Record Label, which produced novelty records, along with records and book combinations, where kids could listen to the record while following along with the book. This album featured the Peanuts characters (although not voice by the actual actors) with a Christmas theme, sung by the Peppermint Kandy Kids. This album did not have the Snoopy’s Chrismas song by The Royal Guardsmen that was released on the label Laurie. I used to listen to this cassette all the time when I was younger , especially this song. Snoopy is missing from the rest of the group while they are getting ready for Christmas, but is actually outside in the yard planning his own backyard concert to perform. Some may listen top this song and think it’s awful, but it brings back childhood memories of me dreaming to be able to play in a band (which I was able to do later on). The song “Children of The World Unite Tonight” is another good song on the record, which lets kids know they don’t have to wait to be an adult to help others, but “Superstar” is the one that I remember the most from this record.
  1. “Even A Miracle Needs A Hand”-Joel Grey (1974). A song from another great Rankin/Bass production “Twas The Night Before Christmas,” about a family and their mice friends who offend Santa by writing him a letter saying he is a fraud. This song is sung by Joel Grey, who was a singer, actor, dancer, and stage talent (You can see him on the early Muppet Show TV Series). He voices a clock maker who tries to convince his children that even though it is close to Christmas Day, they can still help miracles occur. Another great childhood memory with a great message. Too bad this song isn’t play much during the Christmas Season on my local radio stations.
  1. “Yelling at The Chrismas Tree”- Billy Idol (2005). This song was off his “Devil’s Playground” CD (which is not a Christmas Album) and was written by Idol and Brian Tichy, who has played drums for many bands including Foreigner. The story tells young Billy in London during Christmas time, where his father comes home drunk from his favorite English Pub. Just like Idol’s other work, it has a punk-ish feel to it. This is one of my favorite rock original songs and is not played , but it is still a great beat with humorous lyrics to it.

5″Rusty Chevrolet”- DA Yoopers (1987). I first heard this song on my local Youngstown Radio Station years ago, but don’t hear it much anymore. The band from Michigan, makes novelty and parody songs, along with running a gift shop, whose website claims to have the “World’s Largest Chainsaw.” Some of their songs have been played on the Dr. Demento” radio show. Anyone driving an older vehicle during the winter season can appreciate this song.

  1. “What Can You Get A Wookie For Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb)- 1980.

Star Wars and Christmas? Today that is not unheard of with all the Star Wars Christmas sweaters and clothing that are released now, but in 1980, Christmas meant getting the new Star Wars figures or play sets. RSO Records decided to release a Christmas Album based on Star Wars characters (called “Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album”) where droids were working in a factory to help Santa. Anthony Daniels gave his famous C3PO voice to the recording, and there was even a Star Wars Christmas TV Special in 1978, with the cast of the film, that many die hard fans still have nightmares over.

Most people will remember this album for being a young Jon Bon Jovi singing on the sing “R2D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas” (Jon’s cousin had a hand in producing the album). The album actually sold well at the time, and had several different printings with different covers, due to the Star Wars references being removed for a time being. This song actually reached #69 on the U.S. Charts when it was released in 1980. Die hard fans may not appreciate this song, but it’s a funny novelty song that mentions several of the original characters. I remember playing this 45 single over and over when I was younger.

If you are tired of hearing the same old Christmas novelties, like “I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas,” or ” I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” these are some fresher, and borderline strange, songs that you can add to your play list!

 

Loving It-Some of the Most Romantic Songs in Music

It’s hard to define what exactly the word “romantic” is, or what songs is or is not considered romantic. There are the standard ones, like Etta James “At Last” or Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” which are usually played at weddings. One definition of the word is “displaying or expressing love or strong affection.”  This blog is going to look at a few of the songs that I would list in my favorite romantic songs, in no particular order, with the dates in the parenthesis. Maybe it is one of yours.

  1. “Lady In Red” –Chris Deburg (1986). This song was from his “Into the Light” Album, and is the song that made him famous. Deburg was said to have written the song about his wife when they first met, stating that men can’t remember what their wives were wearing when they first met. The song hit #3 in the U.S. in 1987, and hit #1 in other countries. Rolling Stone once ranked it on its Worst Songs of the 1980s, which to me, show how stupid the magazine and their so called experts are.  The song has a slow groove and the lyrics are very poetic.
  1. “Could I Have This Dance”-Anne Murray (1980). This song was everywhere for years after it was released, and was a wedding staple. The song was for a Greatest Hits Album, and was played in the movie “Urban Cowboy.” It was a #1 Country Hit, along with being a #33 Pop Hit. I remember this song being played at dances when my uncle would deejay them. Every time I hear the song, I can picture that 45 spinning around at those dances. Not only is Anne Murray underrated as a singer, but the song is pure magic. The theme about the dance being a symbol of life is also proof of the romance in the song.
  1. “God Only Knows”-The Beach Boys (1966). I remember watching an ABC Movie of the Beach Boys, and the part where this song is being recorded. The actor playing drummer Dennis Wilson is listening to the song and states that it’s the most beautiful song he ever heard. Whether Wilson really said that or not, the statement is true. This is one of my favorite Beach Boys songs, and most would be surprised to find out that it barely broke the Top 40 Charts, at #39.  The orchestration and the overlaying of vocals made the song a classic.  This song was off the famous “Pet Sounds” Album, which was considered Brian Wilson’s greatest accomplishment. This is one of the greatest songs ever recorded, and decades later, it is still being recorded by artists in many genres.
The Beach Boys
  1. “I’ll Be True To You”-The Oak Ridge Boys (1978). Picking out just one song by The Oaks to make this list was very difficult. They have recorded many romantic songs in their careers. In my mind, The Oaks are up there with the Beach Boy, Barry Manilow, and Kiss as my Top American Institutions in American Music.  This song was from the “Ya’ll Come Back Saloon” Album, and was the group’s first #1 single.  Duane Allen’s smooth and soulful voice about a couple that falls in love and breaks up, even though she stays true to him until she dies, makes the song even more heartbreaking.  The song was important in my childhood, being a big fan of the group, but it also shows how quality songwriting and soulful vocals that tell a story is missing in today’s Country Music. It was one of the first songs I heard in Country that made me listen to the layers of the orchestration and layering of the backing musicians as well as the upfront vocals.
  1. “If You Could Read My Mind”-Gordon Lightfoot (1970). Lightfoot is another underrated performer and songwriter that our younger generation is missing out on. His songs are pure poetry- in fact I used this song in teaching poetry when I was teaching English. Lightfoot uses a normal breakup and mixes the lyrics with references to cowboy movies, haunted ghosts, and books.  This song was a #5 hit in the U.S., #1 on the Easy Listening Charts, and #1 in Canada.
Gordon Lightfoot
  1. “I’m Sorry”-John Denver (1975). This song was a #1 hit in the U.S. about a man thinking back of a failed relationship.  I only discovered this song a few years ago, and it has become one of my favorite songs by Denver.  His line “I’m sorry about the ways things are in China” at first feels completely out of place, but it somehow fits.  The song is a short song, but is powerful in the lyrics, and Denver was one of the few artists that all he needed was his voice and a guitar to make a classic song.
  1. “Islands in the Stream”-Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (1983). How could the most popular duet song not be on this list? The song was written by the Bee Gees, and was a huge hit (#1 on Pop, Country, and AC Charts), and is still recorded by acts all these years later. The medium tempo groove and the lines like “Baby when I met you/there was peace unknown/ I set out to get you with a fine tooth comb” is a typical Gibb Brothers lyrics that made them geniuses (how many songwriters can use a comb in a love song?).  The Bees Gees’ live version from their “One Night Only” Album is one of my favorite versions of this song. The catchy rhythm and unique lyrics makes this a classic. Barry Manilow and many others have recorded it throughout the years. Most younger fans may not understand how popular this song was when it came out, crossing over to all different charts.
  1. “Weekend in New England”-Barry Manilow (1976). Just like the Oaks, choosing a Manilow song is tough for this list (I could list all Manilow songs on here). I decided on this song, from the “This One’s For You” Album for its songwriting that makes you feel like you were on the “long rocky beaches.” The listener wonders if the singer will ever see the girl again, and the “story must now wait.” I can’t picture anyone but Manilow singing this song with the feeling and romanticism, even though he did not write the song.
Barry Manilow
  1. “Cool Night”-Paul Davis (1981). This year was a good year for music, giving us this gem from Davis. This is one of my favorite song from the whole decade, about a guy looking back at a summer breakup with the fall coming. This song was one of my earliest memories of listening to the local radio station and hearing the term Adult Contemporary when it came to music. This song is constantly played by me today. The theme of sitting by the fire on a cool night, is a common theme in romance, but Davis makes it lasting and not repetitive. Paul Davis was very underrated in his music and have many great songs.
  1. “I Love You More Than I Can Say”- Leo Sayer (1980). This song was actually a remake, which I did not know until I started doing research for this topic. It was written and recorded first by Sonny Curtis and Jerry Allison of The Crickets after Buddy Holly died. Bobby Vee then recorded the song in 1961. It was Vee’s version that Sayer went out and bought to learn for his “Living in a Fantasy” Album, when he was looking for an oldie to add to the album. Sayer’s version has more guitar and less piano than the previous recordings, and it hit #2 in late 1980 and early 1981, along with #1 on the AC Charts.  Sayer had other hits during his run within a few years, but this one is my favorite.

 

  1. “I’ll Be There”- The Escape Club (1991). Many people think this group was a One Hit Wonder after hitting #1 in 1988 with the song “Wild Wild West,” but they had a few hits that charted. This song was about a friend’s death, and is very broody, but beautiful in the same way. The song was produced by Peter Wolf. The heavy keyboards were common for music at the time, but it brings that eeriness to the song. The lines “In a whisper on the wind/On the smile of a new friend/Just think of me/And I’ll be there” makes me think of poetry that may have been during the Romantic Era. I was never a fan of “Wild Wild West,” but I still play this song often to this day. If you’ve been a follower of this page for a while, you’ll know how much I liked this song, due to my frequent mention of this 1991 single.

There are many other Romantic Songs I could mention on this list (I could probably list a hundred songs), such as “You Send Me” by Sam Cooke, “Waiting For A Girl Like You” by Foreigner, “Inside Silvia” by Rick Springfield, Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away,” and “Sara” by Starship to name a few more of my favorites. Maybe these songs would make your list, or maybe not. Hopefully you will take the time to explore these (along with other songs by the artists) to increase your music catalog.

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.

 

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.

wild-hope-cover

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.

skid-row
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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The Best Christian Albums -My Picks.

It wasn’t really until the 1990s when Christian Music was hitting the Mainstream Charts and selling millions of copies. Yes there were a few charted albums or songs in the 1980’s or before, but in my opinion, Christian Music was starting to be accepted by the music community in the 1990s. “Accepted” may not be the best of terms, because even during this time, several people in the Christian community denounced artists for “selling out” or were “on their way to Hell” because they were on the Pop Charts, which seems unheard of now, because churches cover Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, and Mercy Me in their Praise Music on any Sunday Morning and they are on Billboard Charts.
The reason I mention this is because I decided to rank the Top Christian Albums, and most of mine choices came from the 1990s. In ranking these choices, I based it on a few qualifications: 1. The artist must be on a Christian Label (for example, someone may be a Christian, like Alice Cooper , The Oak Ridge Boys, or the last few W.A.S.P. CDs, but they are not on a Christian Label, ), 2. The choice is the full album throughout, not just having a few good songs (I like “Love, Liberty, Disco” by The Newsboys song, but not a fan of the whole album), 3. I am not using Greatest Hits, Live, or Movie Soundtracks, just full studio recordings 4. My personal preference, which may be based on music, or songwriting, or where I was personally when the album was released (not necessarily a major qualification, but hey, it’s my blog!!) Even though they are numbered, it does not mean that is the order. Any could be interchangeable.
Now, here are my picks for Best Christian Albums:

 

guardian
My Copy of Guardian’s best CD

6. Guardian- “ Swing, Swang, Swung” ( 1994). This record was coming off one of the band’s popular albums, “Miracle Mile,” and had rotation on MTV at one time. The band toured with Styper and was known for their Metal and Hard Rock, until this album, which was a stripped down, acoustic album. Even though the album lost many die- hard fans, I enjoy this one the best of their CDs (I did not care for “Miracle Mile” or the later “Bottle Rocket.”) In the era where Unplugged Albums were starting to break in the mid to late 1990s, this is the Christian version of Unplugged. My favorites on the album are “See You in Heaven,” “Like The Sun,” which reminds me of The Beatles “Here Comes The Sun,” and “Come On Everyone.”

 

 

speechless

 

5. Steven Curtis Chapman “Speechless” (1999). It is hard to have a Christian list without probably the top selling Artists in the genre. Chapman, Amy Grant, and Michael W. Smith dominated the Christian market in the late 1980s-1990s, and all three are still recording. There are many choices in Chapman’s catalog, but I think Speechless is the most solid throughout the whole album (His “Heaven in the Real World” is my second favorite, but there are a few weak songs on it). “Speechless” was probably his best album, with 7 of the 13 tracks went to #1 on the Christian Charts, and won a Grammy. I got to see Chapman in concert in Akron, Ohio, on my Birthday for this tour in 1999, and it is one of my favorite concert memories ever. My favorites include “Fingerprints of God,” “The Invitation,” “Whatever” and “Dive.” I would choose this CD as the starting point in introducing someone to Chapman’s music, even more so than his “Great Adventure” album.

 

 

 

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Me meeting Rebecca St. James in 2004

4. Rebecca St. James- “Transform” (2000). Even though many fans of St. James like her earlier albums “God” or “Pray,” this is her most solid work (Although her Self-Titled CD is just as solid as “Transform.”) This album has her signature song “Wait For Me,” which turned her into a spokeswoman and author for the female Christian voice. I enjoy the songs “Stand,” “Don’t Worry,” and the catchy “One,” which is similar to a Britney Spears type beat. This has the Pop and Ballad mix that flows through the album. I remember listening to this CD many times when I worked in Christian TV. Rebecca St. James became one of my top favorite Christian Artists, from her music, her books, her acting, and her concerts, which I saw her twice in 2004.

 

go west young man

 

 

 

3. Michael W. Smith -“Go West Young Man” (1990). Even Non-Christian Music fans, and those that never stepped into a church, was jamming to this album, which feature the pop hit “Place In This World,” which made Smith into a Pop singer, due to it hitting #6 on the Pop Charts. Another song, “For You,” was popular, but did not chart on the Pop Charts. Even though there was backlash from the Christian Community in regards to his popularity, Smith’s album brought more people to his shows and to following his work (His “I Will Be Here For You”, co-written by Diane Warren on his next album, gave him another Pop Hit). Personally, I remember playing this album all the time, and even was allowed to play it in my High School Journalism class, where my writing partner and I for the Entertainment Section of our school paper would praise the album constantly. Songs like “Love Crusade,” “Emily,” and “How Long Will Be Too Long” are some of my favorites on the album. It was this album, and Amy Grant’s “Heart in Motion,” brought more masses to have a respect for Christian Pop Music.

 

 

 

stryper
My copy of Stryper’s CD

 

 

2. Styper -“To Hell with the Devil” (1986). One of the first Christian Bands to ever to have their music video to have steady MTV rotation (at one time MTV showed music folks), Stryper was inescapable in the 1980s. With the Pop hit “Honestly” reaching on the Pop Charts, this album was popular and was seen in the record stores next to bands like Van Halen, Bon Jovi, and Poison. The band is still releasing great albums, and many choose earlier works like “Soldiers Under Command,” or “The Yellow and Black Attack,” over this album, but this is still my favorite. I was not a major fan of the band when they were popular, but I picked up ‘In God We Trust” (their next release after this one) in college when the band was split up, and went back into their works. Like Cinderella said “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Til It’s Gone,” I became more of a fan of the band when I was tired of the music coming out in the Grunge era. I think this album flows the best of their work, with “Calling On You,” “Holding On,” and “Free.” This album was released in 1986, and became the top selling Christian Hard Rock/Metal album of all time until 2001, when P.O.D. beat it. That should say something about this album.

 

 

 

be the one

1.Al Denson -“Be The One” ( 1990). This choice was not a tough one for me. There has not been a Christian Album that has made a bigger impact on my life than this one. A friend of mine took me to see the band Petra on their “Beyond Belief” tour in 1991 at the Akron Civic Theater. We were both blown away by the opening act (more than the headliners, who I was not impressed with at all), which was a guy and his keyboard. His name was Al Denson, and he had great songs, and kept the audience cheering the whole set. When the show was over, my friend ran to the merchandise table and had to buy this album. This album was also played a ton with my writing partner in high school journalism class, just like Michael W. Smith. Denson’s Title Song “Be The One” was sung at my first youth convention that I went to, played all through that weekend, was the song played when I became a Christian, and was the song I used to sing when auditioning for my first ever high school musical (my senior year, and I got the part). I still own the cassette tape of this album (and his others). Denson, years later, would be in my life when I worked in Christian Television when we played his TV Show. I have seen him in concert twice, in 1991, and again in 1998 when he played after a Pittsburgh Pirates game at Three Rivers Stadium, and own his books. The whole album flows with great Pop and Ballads, with songs like “Nothing Can Separate Us,” “Tested By Fire,” and “Never Out Of His Love.” It still amazes me that many people did not know of him in my circle of friends in the church at the time, and his still not as well known, even though he has 19 Top Ten and 11 #1 Hits in the Christian Charts, and was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2009. His 1995 “Take Me To The Cross” is another solid album, but “Be The One” is still my favorite.

 

Regardless of your religious views, there is still some great Christian Music out there today. Artists like David Crowder, Chris Rice, Natalie Grant, and others are putting out music, along with established acts like The Oak Ridge Boys are putting out Gospel Records. Even though some may think my picks are dated, there are acts out there that are quality musicians. Maybe you will check out some of my picks. Feel free to contact me and give me your choices.