Childhood Classics: The Oak Ridge Boys -Discovering An American Treasure

The Oak Ridge Boys Greatest Hits was released on October 30, 1980 by MCA Records

From time to time, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com        

If there is any album that deserves to be mentioned in my Childhood Classics it’s The Oak Ridge Boys’ Greatest Hits from 1980. This album had such a huge influence on me , that it is listed as one of my Hall of Fame albums.

I got this album on Christmas Day of 1980, along with my first drum set, a practice set which had the Sid and Marty Kroft characters Captain Kool and The Kongs on the front on the kick drum, along with my first record player. Before this, my parents would give us records that me and my brother shared, from The Village People’s Cruisin‘ release, and the Bay City Rollers’  Rock ‘n’ Roll Love Letter.  So firstly, the Oaks’ album was the first one that I remember that was mine alone to own and play at any time. Secondly, I remember my parents dropping the needle on the first song, and I started playing along with the recording without knowing the songs (beat for beat) along with the record, which was the first time I guess I showed a natural ability to play drums (since I was hitting every fill and crash pretty much, call it a God thing if you’d like).

The first time I remember seeing the Oaks was on PBS (we didn’t have cable television back then). I watched it every time I could see it (it was played many times).  I was a fan right away, even being a member of their fan club, which back in the day fan clubs were free and they sent you a black and white pamphlet with some pictures of the members and a small biography of each member (I unfortunately do not have that pamphlet anymore).

I was big into country music and the normal pop songs at the time, but one band I never strayed far away from was The Oaks. The blend of country/pop/and gospel music was not just entertaining, but I learned how to study vocals by listening to these records. One time in the 1990s, when playing drums in a blues/rock band, my one guitar player asked how I  knew the melodies vocally being a drummer (most bands I was in discouraged drummers to sing), I told him “The Oak Ridge Boys” (not that I was a great vocalist, but I helped out on backing vocals in bands).

The Greatest Hits album details the first four albums of the singing group, starting with “You’re The One” from their first full country album. This song features the great Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban sharing lead vocals. I never heard of a bass singer being so up front in groups until I heard Sterban’s singing, although even at a young age I listened to the 1950s and 1960s acts, like the Doo-Wop singers, but a bass singer that sang lead was unknown to me until I heard the Oaks.

One of my all time favorite songs by the group is “I’ll Be True To You.” As a youngster (and still today) , Allen was my favorite member of the band, with his smooth voice, and also because my father worked with a guy at the time that looked similar to him (my young self actually asked him if he was the guy singing on the records). I would argue that The Oaks were the country music version of The Beatles, due to every fan had their favorite member.  “I’ll Be True To You” is not just a classic country song, with the sad lyrics, but I would put it up there along with The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” in the list of the most beautiful songs in American recordings. During this period, the Oaks’ recording formula included the great Ron Chancey on production, which gave the Oaks a mix of country and adult contemporary sounds, with powerful orchestration adding to the flavor of the great vocals.

“Trying To Love Two Women” was a song I always skipped over at the time of I had this record (and later on the cassette). I was never a huge fan of this song, even though it went to #1 on the country charts. The song was too adult themed for me at the time, and I wasn’t as huge fan of William Lee Golden’s voice at the time (I was more scared of him seeing that long beard), but within the past several years I have had a more respect for the man and his abilities (especially seeing him live). This song has grown on me throughout the past few times I’ve seen the band live, maybe because of the power the band adds to the song. The odd thing about me not liking the song at first is that I had the 45 single, which the B-Side was the wonderful (and often overlooked “Hold On Til Sunday”). I still choose some of Golden’s other work as opposed to this one, but it is a Greatest Hits record, and this was huge for the group.

“Cryin’ Again” is another favorite song of mine, with Allen singing lead again. The adding of Sterban switching the chorus repeating at the end of the song, adds to the song, along with the great guitar work throughout the song. The song was co-written by the legendary Don Cook. The listener can hear Joe Bonsall more on the harmonies on this song as well. It wouldn’t be a few years later when I got to really appreciate Bonsall’s work singing lead on “Elvira,” but even as a young kid at age 10, I tried to hit the notes he was hitting on the song (major fail by  me).

“Dream On” was , again, one the first times I heard a bass singer sing lead. It wasn’t until several years ago when I started doing my page here, that I found out the song was originally done by The Righteous Brothers. No offense to fans of that legendary group, but The Oak’s version is better; it has more power to the song with the strong backing vocals and orchestration , but the recording of records evolved too. I still like this version the best, and you’d can’t convince me otherwise.

A very young me with my album at Christmas

“Leaving Louisiana In the Broad Daylight” kicks off the second side of the album (younger kids today can’t recall the time where you had to stand up and turn the side over to listen) . This Rodney Crowell penned song, is again, better done by the Oaks than the original, and the other acts who recorded it. Many fans would remember this being sung on the group’s appearance on The Dukes Of Hazard TV show. That show was a big favorite of mine, and seeing one of my favorite music acts on one of my favorite shows was a dream come true, especially since I was a huge fan of actor John Schneider’s Now Or Never album, which was also played constantly on my player. This is a song that has grown on me throughout the past few years, originally getting tired of it, but a former boss at a grocery store I worked at got me hooked on this song again, where we would sit around to pass the day trying to stump each other with music or pro wrestling trivia. At times, we would randomly ask “Have you ever seen a Cajun when he really got mad?” walking past each other, or using other song lyrics in everyday conversation (something we did to pass the time at work).

One of the underrated ballads that Duane Allen has sung on is “Heart Of Mine.” I think some Oaks fans forget how wonderful this song is when mentioning the great ballads of the group, maybe because it hit #3 on the charts and not #1? I don’t know . Some songs today fail to see the structure of a great ballad, like this song shows, by building throughout until the end. This song has an adult contemporary  style to it, that would have fit on the radio right next to Barry Manilow. This was a strong pop song, and not just plain country. Right before the repeated chorus at the end, Allen hits a wonderful note that he holds that always made me love. Even though I love the 1980s glam hard rock acts , who would hold powerful notes, there is a similar emotion to this song without being overpowering, which adds to the ending of the climax of the track.

No matter how many times I heard “Come On In,” I never get tired of it, and it gets me in a up tempo mood still now. I have heard Christian acts use this song, rewording some of the lyrics, many times throughout the years of playing in churches as well. This is just a great “feel good” song that you can’t get tired of. The shared vocals of Bonsall, Sterban, and Allen on the chorus makes the song just as fun. I always wondered how the group chose which member to sing what parts, but it always to seem to work when the final product was done. I challenge anyone NOT to be in a good mood after playing this song.

“Sail Away” is another one of my all time favorite songs by the group, and not just on this album. The guitar work is great throughout with that opening riff (and throughout), and the drum fill towards the end of the song brings an extra dynamic to the song. Even hearing this song live gives me a thrill decades later after the release. Once again, Allen’s lead vocals has soul to it. The fact that this song didn’t hit #1 amazes me when reading about the history of some of the tracks.

The final song “Y’all Come Back Saloon” was one I always sang along and liked playing drums to. Listening to it now, this was the perfect ending song for the album. The placement of the songs were in their right spot. Rarely can acts deliver ending an album with a ballad or mid tempo song, but this song picks up at the end that leaves the listener wanting more, which is what a good album should do at the end in my opinion. Those that follow the band know how the song got backlash lyrically for fans of the gospel side of the group, but the lyrics by Sharon Vaughn makes this song unique when I look at it now. The fact that the characters in the song do not have names, but are just mentioned as “cowboy” and the female is just “she,” shows that at times simplicity is better in songwriting.

 

The Oak Ridge Boys’ Greatest Hits album not only gave me my start into a band that I have yet to be tired of, even when some left the group’s core audience when Golden left the band (I personally loved the late 1980s and 1990s group as much as the so-called heyday of the band), but it exposed me to study vocals and songwriting, as well as just liking the drum parts or the catchy sing along tracks. Listeners could use this album to study production values, and how songwriting works as well as dynamics of harmonies.  The album just didn’t make me become a fan, but gave me wonderful childhood memories by constantly playing the songs with my family, and helped me discover a talent (drumming) that was a major part of my life.

 

The Oak Ridge Boys are : Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, Richard Sterban, and William Lee Golden.

 

Track List: 1. You’re The One 2. I’ll Be True To You  3.Trying To Love Two Women  4.Cryin’ Again  5. Dream On  6. Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight 7. Heart Of Mine  8. Come On In  9. Sail Away  10. Y’all Come Back Saloon

 

Childhood Classics: Houston’s Start Gave Early Signs To A Mega Star

Whitney Houston was released by Arista Records on February 22, 1985. It was #1 on the U.S. Top 200 Billboard Charts.

Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com  

 

The Voice ! Oh, that angelic voice that the heavens sent down into our radios in 1985! The chairman of Arista Records, Clive Davis (who helped Barry Manilow to skyrocket in the 1970s) introduced the music world to a singer in her early twenties that had a soul/pop/ and R&B sound on a debut album mostly of covers and duets that created a future Diva megastar and music legend.

Whitney Houston’s self titled release was one of my earliest non-rock cassettes that I purchased. Being a drummer, I was listening to more rock bands at the time, although I loved sitting next to my radio boom box every Saturday following the hits on Kasey Casem’s radio show.

Starting off with track one, “You Give Good Love To Me,” became a smash debut single for Houston. The song was blared constantly on my local radio channel in Columbiana, Ohio, and at our local roller skating rinks. The soulful style of her voice appealed to both white and black audiences which gave a #3 hit for Whitney.

The second single that was released to the major markets, “Saving All My Love For You,” added a jazz/crooner format that proved Houston’s voice hit the mark when it came to the slow ballads. I remember watching the music video, where Houston is portraying the “other woman” in the relationship, being mad at the screen, begging Houston dump this guy who had another woman. The song was a hit in the 1970s , but most of us remember Houston’s version, which comes off better as a solo and not a duet, like the original.

“How Will I Know” brought out a more mainstream pop style to the record, along with the music video showing a fun side to Whitney’s personality. Even being a male, I enjoyed this song when it came on , and the thousands of replays it aired on radio and the video music shows. This is a great song questioning if the person’s crush was going to return the feelings. Being a young teen at the time, it was very relatable in theme and content , which helped it hit #1 on the charts. This is a perfect 1980s pop single that is still fun to listen to today.

Of course, the album gave Houston a mega hit that was crossed at churches and other charity functions for years to come. “Greatest Love Of All” became an ode to children and the dreamers that were alone in their world, where others would not support them, but still had the inner strength to keep moving alone in life. The similar themes were used in Barry Manilow’s songs, but this coming from a female singer, brought a fresher appeal to a simple theme. This remake gave Houston a #1 single and was constantly in play wherever you turned to in the 1980s.

The album has several duets, two with Jermaine Jackson, and another with Teddy Pendergrass. Jackson helped out on the album not only singing, but with the production side as well. The best of the duets is “Take Care Of My Heart.”

The rare songs off the albums (the ones that didn’t get airplay, like the duets), have a few gems on it. My personal favorite off the album is “All At Once,” a ballad that got limited U.S. airplay, where Houston sings about a failed relationship and trying to face the future afterwards. This is a great breakup song that does not get mentioned on people’s play lists, with sad lyrics throughout.

Another underrated song off the album is “Someone For Me,” which is another fun pop song, where most of the album was ballads and in the R&B style. This is another one that gets overlooked, but needs to be reheard.

Personally, the first two Whitney Houston albums are my favorites, because there is an emphasis on her voice and is from someone who still had a early rawness to her. After the second album, Houston went into another level of success with her acting and then started to veer away from the soulful sound, and more into hard R&B/ Hip Hop style which I started to shy away from. A few years later, another massive voice, Mariah Carey, burst onto the music scene, who was originally groomed to be the “next Whitney” in the eyes of her label. Houston’s pre “Bodyguard” albums is still my favorites to listen to, and 35 years later after her debut, most of the songs here hit the right notes, just like Whitney did throughout the album with that voice.

 

Track Listing: 1. You Give Good Love 2. Thinking About You 3. Someone For Me 4.Saving All My Love For You 5. Nobody Loves Me Like You Do ( with Jermaine Jackson) 6. How Will I Know 7. All At Once 8. Take Good Care Of My Heart (with Jermaine Jackson) 9. Greatest Love Of All 10. Hold Me (with Teddy Pendergrass)

 

All chart positions mentioned were taken from Billboard.com

 

 

Childhood Classic CD Reviews: Debuts of Christian Legends

Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com  

 

Al Denson was released January 1, 1989 by The Benson Company

 

The first time I ever heard of Christian singer Al Denson was at a church youth conference in Pennsylvania that I attended with my group. There were several memories from that trip, including riding with my college aged buddy to the event, where most of the other kids in our small group had to ride in a van to and from the conference. We also stayed in the house of volunteers during the event. I remember going to a church where one of the staff members performed a song called “Be The One,” which was a hit for Denson. My buddy later convinced me to go see Denson as the opening act for Petra, which I was not a major fan of the group (I only liked the Beyond Belief CD they had, but after seeing them live, I became even less of a fan). The main reason I agreed to go to the concert, after prodding from my pal, was so we could hear live the guy who sang the song that we became attached to from that conference.

Denson came out singing his songs to song tracks (he didn’t have a full band), but had his keyboard there for the ballads. I was more impressed with his performance than I was with the high octane, light show of Petra. I remember my buddy getting the Be The One CD at the concert afterwards (he was one of the few people at the time that was able to afford and have access to a CD player, where I was still buying cassettes). After searching for months at local Christian stores, I finally started getting the Denson collection.

The self titled Al Denson, released in 1989, was a cassette I found after getting his recent two releases, Be The One, and The Extra Mile. Denson’s piano/keyboard pop sound was different than the acts in the genre like Carman or early Michael W. Smith, and had a unique voice to him. I wasn’t listening to him at the time, but in many ways I can see the similarities of Barry Manilow in Denson’s style, although Denson was targeting the youth crowd.

The album starts off with the songs “Reckless Heart” and “Love Is Taking Hold,” two songs that have the 1980s style pop feel to it. Even though someone first listening to the album today may think it sounds dated, this is what the pop genre was putting out at the time, so there is nothing different from those of us that lived the songs during its release.

Side one gets its groove starting with track three, with the wonderful “Heaven Knows My Name,” a song with a clean guitar sound strumming throughout, and has a catchy sing-a-long chorus. After the instrumental break, the split vocals of singing the chorus and the bridge gives the song it’s special flavor.

Denson’s choices of ballads, whether written by himself or by outside writers, is what made me compare him to the style of Barry Manilow. “Right Where You Are” is a ballad dealing with struggling to find a way into the world, and realizing that God is waiting there no matter what the struggles are, which is a constant theme is Denson’s work, especially with his calling to the youth with his books and TV show appearances. This is the start of a series of well written pop songs that ends up being a staple on the rest of his albums.

The last song on the side is “On The Upbeat,” a song is a mellow, slow creeping groove to it using musical terms lyrically in emphasizing that common theme of being a different person once in Christ. Lyrics like “you’re the metronome in my life” brings that out.

Side two has more of the 1980s pop style, with songs written by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Amy Grant (“Warm Place In A Cold World”), along with Degarmo and Key (“Strong Love”) , but the last two songs on the album brings out the best of the second part of the release.

“Faces And Names” is a song I still listen frequently to this day. It was also a song I ran to my local Christian store to buy the vocal track to it to sing to when we had church concert nights. Although I am not a singer; I was mainly a drummer in my youth, I just loved the song about looking at a person’s heart instead of having to know their name, their occupation, or status in life. I never did sing the song at the church (my buddy wanted to it, so I let him borrow it), but during my senior year in high school, my other buddy convinced me to try out for the school musical, knowing how I always had the lead in junior high due to my acting. I had no idea the part I was auditioning for had a singing part, and I didn’t have anything planned, except for some reason, I had the track of this song in my locker. I must not have done a bad job, because I got the part. This song is still relevant today, especially for those of us who struggle with having to be based on what we do for a living. This is a song that I always could’ve pictured Manilow performing with its positive lyrics and encouraging to look behind the first impression of someone.

The final song is a song that got Denson moving into the music scene, reaching #1 on the Christian charts. “Peace Be Still” is where he really shines on the album, with just his keyboards and vocals. A ballad about not panicking whenever trials come, and just be still and know that God loves you. It’s a simple theme, and simple structure of a song, but it comes off powerful, especially with Denson’s unique vocal style.

The self titled release by Al Denson was not the first release I heard from him (Be The One brought me to his music) , nor is it a complete album with every song a winner, but it still has some songs that hold up 30 years later. We Christians usually remember the songs that led us to our faith, and Al Denson was one of the first people to help me get there. If it wasn’t for Al Denson’s music (along with Rebecca St. James and The Oak Ridge Boys), I may not have been exposed to Christian music. Denson’s music, along with his books, was a major influence on me, which I was happy to be able to tell him at an intimate concert at a Pittsburgh Pirates game he was playing at (I have yet to meet The Oaks and tell them, but maybe that’ll happen, although I did meet James at an event years ago). Al Denson is not as polished as his later albums, such as the Be The One and The Extra Mile follow ups, but there is still enough to like here in re-visiting his early work.

 

Track List: 1. Reckless Heart 2. Love Is Taking Hold 3.Heaven Knows My Name 4.Right Where You Are, 5. On The Upbeat 6. Strong Love 7. It Takes The Strong To Surrender 8. Warm Place In A Cold World 9. Faces And Names 10. Peace Be Still.

 

 

Rebecca St. James was released in January 24, 1994 on Forefront Records

 

Anyone who has read my writings on Christian music will know that two of my major influences in the genre were Al Denson and Rebecca St. James. There have been many Christian acts that I have listened to and had a musical influence on me (Stryper, Michael W. Smith, and Steven Curtis Chapman to name a few), but none had more influence on me than those two. Both artists had success not only in music, but in writing books, along with their television appearances. Denson had his own teen show on TBN, while St. James was a frequent contributor on Fox News, along with several acting roles. This year is the 25th anniversary of her first major release, and I’d thought it’ll be a good time to revisit to see if the album still holds up.

St. James got her start, like many other Christian artists at the time, by opening for a major act. She opened for the 1980s singer Carmen when he toured her native country Australia at age twelve. She then recorded an independent album (under another name) before signing with the Forefront label, which was one of the big labels in the genre. My brother had her debut release from Forefront (I have no idea how he knew of her or why he got it), and it wasn’t until years later , when I became of fan of her music, that I took his copy to listen to.

The album starts with the song with “Here I Am,” a song that encourages the listener to obey God’s request to stand up and follow whatever ministry they are called to work in. The song starts with just keyboards playing, fooling the listener into thinking the song will be just a mellow ballad. The drums and rest of the music starts in to play a nice pop style song with a catchy chorus. There is a vocal part where James just talks before going back into the chorus that could have been omitted, making the song have an awkward part, but it is a good opening song nonetheless.

“Everything I Do” is a three minute gem, and one of my favorites on the album. The words and music were co-written by St. James, which she contributes to four songs on the release, which is impressive alone being a debut release for age 17. The guitars are more in front than on the first song, and has the standard pop sound that could been heard on any radio station at the time.

“A Little Bit Of Love” is a keyboard heavy song with a nice syncopated rhythm to it, which is another favorite on this release. The lyrics are simple, but they work in this case, with again, a part vocally where St. James mentions the “Love Chapter” in the Bible, that isn’t a Rap, but this time it fits the song nicely, as opposed to the previous song.

“Side By Side” was the song that made me go and listen to the album. The song was used at my church’s Vacation Bible School for the week-long end program, where the younger kids would sing along to the song, with hand gestures. Being a fan of St. James by this time, I was not familiar with this track. I had to dig the CD out of my collection to listen to the song , which is about friendship and togetherness. The track is the most different song on the CD, with an African style beat, with chanting at the beginning, which then features a children singing in the background. The song was written by Eddie DeGarmo, the president of the label who also had a Christian pop act in the 1980s. I never knew there was a music video for this song, until I started this review’s research, which has St. James standing by a fire singing the song, where several comments mention that they thought the image was to created a newer version of Amy Grant. I am not sure about that or not; a female with a big hair look wasn’t only Grant at the time. And since I was not a huge Amy Grant fan, I was a little turned off by the comment, but it had no bearing on me when it came to see an early video of St. James, who in the near future would be one of the biggest acts in CCM music. This song was unique due to it not being a pop style song, but it still not too far out from the overall album.

“True Love” is another great song, with an adult contemporary style to it, with its catchy mellow sing along chorus, taking a new idea of the “Love Chapter” of the Bible. There is also a more live drum sound on this song, as opposed to the programming sound on the previous songs. It also features a clean sound guitar solo , which enhances the AC feel of the song.

The next songs, “Way Up Here,” and the ballad “Above All Things,” are two songs that show the datedness of the CD. Although “Way Up Here” is overall the better of the two, with the live sound again with drums and guitars, the first actual ballad on the release in “Above All Things” is one I would skip. The overall songs is the weakest on the CD, but with a major debut on a major label, not every song will be a winner.

“I Thank You Lord” (not to be confused with her hit “I Thank You” from her 2003 Greatest Hits CD), is another great mid-tempo song with a catchy sing a long chorus. Some of her best work on this CD is her mellower AC style songs.

The next song is the Rap inspired “We Don’t Need It,’ about the bombarding of images the media puts out on teens (especially the females), which became one of the major themes to St. James’ ministry throughout her career. I was never a Rap fan, so any song with it , is usually a turn off to me. The great thing about the song , though, is the musicianship on this funky song, with the drumming by Chester Thompson (who later played with Phil Collins’ most successful work), and the bass playing of Tommy Sims (who was in the band Whiteheart, along with co-writing many big songs, like Eric Clapton’s “Change The World”). The musicianship on the song is what makes the song tolerable, so even if listeners are not a fan of the Rap lyrics, the music is worth the time.

The closing song is the song “Jesus Loves The Little Children.” This is a great ender of the song, although a short song. I normally like songs without a lot of filler to them (such as unneeded solos or waiting too long for fade outs), but maybe another turn of the chorus would have been nice on this track. The unique rewriting of added lyrics by Bill Deaton and Blair Masters add to the standard song, to which turns it new again. The syncopated rhythm with the clean guitars and drums, along with organ sounding fills, makes this song a gem. This is also a song that could be played today in churches and worship concerts without sounding dated.

Meeting St. James at a concert in 2004.

Even though there are a few songs I would pass over on this CD, there are still great songs that still hold up today decades later. Sometimes it’s enjoyable to re-discover the earlier work of musicians to see where the journey before mega stardom. Rebecca St. James became a voice of her generation in the Christian music scene, with top Christian albums and books (and even hit the mainstream charts with some of her songs). There are several dated songs on this CD, but overall they mostly are still listenable, and for those of us that were inspired and enjoy her work throughout, Rebecca St. James is a release that still has a raw pop driven style to it, before she found her groove in music, and became a Christian icon.

 

Track List: 1. Here I Am 2. Everything I Do 3. Little Bit Of Love 4.Side By Side 5.True Love 6.Way Up Here 7. Above All Things 8. I Thank You Lord 9. We Don’t Need It 10. Jesus Loves The Little Children

 

Childhood Classic CD Reviews: 1994 Covers Different Eras on Two Albums

Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com

 

Four Chords and Several Years Ago was released May 10, 1994 by Elektra Records.

It amazes me to this day why Huey Lewis and The News do not get more respect in the music world. First of all, between 1982-1994, the band charted fifteen singles on the Top 40 charts in the U.S., along with several others on the Adult Contemporary Charts (AC Charts). They seem never to be considered to get into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame , where many acts that had little to no influence on music are put in immediately (another topic for another time is the Hall of Fame). Even the most causal fans can name at several of their hits, either from the Back to The Future soundtrack to songs that have been covered by acts like Garth Brooks. They were one of the top bands in the 1980s, next to Chicago and Hall and Oates, when it came to radio airplay. I was a drummer in local Youngstown, Ohio area bands, and although my favorite bands are The Beach Boys and Kiss, I always would’ve loved to had a band patterned like Huey Lewis and The News.

The band did not only write great pop hits, but they also experimented with soul, blues, and funk at times on their albums. In 1994, the band decided to visit the early rock and soul sound that created the groundwork of Rock and Roll with their album Four Chords and Several Years Ago, where three singles came off of the album , all hitting the AC charts, and getting plenty of airplay on stations.

Releasing an album of all covers was nothing new, but this release not only gave listeners another great album from the band, but also a history in rock music. Songs like “Shake Rattle and Roll,” a Big Joe Turner song before Bill Haley and The Comets made it there own (which many historians view as one of the earliest rock and roll songs), to the more original version of “(She’s) Some Kind Of Wonderful” (which some causal fans may not know wasn’t firstly done by Grand Funk Railroad), walk the listener through great songs where segregation may have been on the streets but not in the recording studio.

I remember loving the PBS special of the band’s concert promoting the album, with guests Sam Cooke and Lloy Price, shot mainly in black and white. I worn out a few copies of the VHS release as well.

Some of my favorites on this release is the remake of Price’s “Stagger Lee” (which I like this version better than the original, with its more powerful sound to it), “You Left The Water Running,” the Clifford Curry hit “She Shot A Hole In My Soul,” and “Searching For My Love,” a hit from Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces. Another gem on the CD is Ernie K Doe ‘s “Mother In Law,” featuring Dr. John with a nice piano groove to it. Most of the songs stay true to the originals, but since production values were slim back in those early days, Huey and The News give it more power to the songs with the horns and backing vocals. Although a few misses are on the CD in my opinion, like “Good Morning Little School Girl,” Your Cash Ain’t Nothing But Cash,” and ” Surely I Love You,” with 17 tracks on here, there is a few songs that wear on me because many songs (although most of the songs have a short run time, it’s still 17 songs). Even though I personally may not like the songs, every track is filled with great musicianship and Lewis’ soulful voice fits wonderfully on every track.

The singles “(She’s) Some Kind Of Wonderful,” “Little Bitty Pretty One,” and “But It’s Alright” (The J.J. Jackson song, not the Curtis Mayfield song that the band also had a minor hit with) all gave the album a little push -“But It’s Alright” and “..Wonderful” both had airplay on my Youngstown, Ohio local stations, but the overall album did not chart as well, reaching only #55 in the U.S., but did well in Japan. Was it because most listeners did not care about early rock music? I don’t know, but I think 25 years later, the CD is still a fun listen. Since I grew up listening to these early rock songs, and having one of my favorite bands record these songs, was double excitement for me. If you want a good fun album , this is one that needs to be re-listened to.

 

Track Listing: 1. Shake, Rattle and Roll 2. Blue Monday 3. Searching For My Love 4.(She’s) Some Kind Of Wonderful 5. But It’s Alright 6. If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody 7. Mother In Law 8. Little Bitty Pretty One 9. Good Morning Little School Girl 10. Stagger Lee 11. She Shot A Hole In My Soul 12. Surely I Love You 13. You Left The Water Running 14. Your Cash Ain’t Nothing But Trash 15. Function At The Junction 16. Better To Have And Not Need 17. Going Down Slow

 

Singing with the Big Bands was released October 11 , 1994 by Arista records. It reached Gold status, and hit #59 on the U.S. Albums chart

 

Another unique cover album from 1994 was Barry Manilow’s Singing With The Big Bands, a salute to popular music before rock and roll came along. Manilow, like Huey Lewis and The News, mixed many genres into his music, but where rock and blues was Lewis’ influence, Manilow mixed jazz, orchestration , and big bands into his music; one of his first hits, “Could It Be Magic,” was based on a Chopin song. Singing With The Big Bands was not just a collection of the classic hits from the 1930s and 1940s, but Manilow got the actual orchestras to perform on the album, such as The Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington Orchestras, along with Les Brown and His Band Of Renown.

Manilow adds two original songs to the beginning and end of the album, first starting with the title track, a song where Manilow states he would’ve loved to time travel back and sing these songs with the bands if he could when it was fashionable to do so. Many critics of Manilow have stated that Manilow was dull and never in fashion with the times, but to me, that’s what made him as great as he was. Even his pop hits from the 1970s had a different style to them (as mentioned earlier, mixing more classical and big band/jazz mix to them). The ending song, “Where Does The Time Go,” written by Manilow and Bruce Sussman, talks about how fast time flies by. This song is relevant in 1994 (and today), and not just during a big band era.

Classic songs like “Sentimental Journey,” “And The Angels Sing,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” are sung perfectly for Manilow’s signature voice. Rosemary Clooney guest stars on “Green Eyes” with the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra, and Debra Byrd helps out with “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree.” What’s a big band record without “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” or “I Can’t Get Started” or “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You?” Younger music fans who want to hear some romantic lyrics need to check out these songs, because lyrically they are better than anything that is released today.

The album sold well, reaching Gold Status (his last album to do so was four years earlier) and was produced by the legendary Phil Ramone. The success of this album made Manilow decide to start a series of cover albums. The following albums after this were Summer of ’76 (a cover of 1970s hits that is far better than The Greatest Songs of the Seventies he released years later), followed by a Frank Sinatra themed album. Some songs of the big band era have been brought back into the public’s attention thanks to the great Michael Bublé Manilow’s release here is a history lesson of a bygone time. Even though I was not originally a fan of this type of music in high school (I was a drummer and got kicked out of band for not being able to read music, so orchestras were not my thing), I always liked this album, and Manilow’s work. Manilow was one of the first people to kick off the American Songbook craze (which Rod Stewart and others have recorded) long before it was fashionable.

If you are a fan of Bublé, or just want soothing romantic songs, this is one album you must have in your collection.

 

 

Track Listing: 1. Singing With The Big Bands 2. Sentimental Journey 3. And The Angels Sing 4. Green Eyes (with Rosemary Clooney) 5. I Should Care 6. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore 7. I Can’t Get Started 8. Chattanooga Choo Choo 9. Moonlight Serenade 10. On The Sunny Side Of The Street 11. All Or Nothing At All 12. I’ll Never Smile Again 13. I’m Getting Sentimental Over You 14. Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree (with Debra Byrd) 15. (I’lll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time 16. Where Does The Time Go?

Childhood Classic : Barry Manilow 1989- Simple Title But Memorable Songs

Barry Manilow was released on May 2, 1989

Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com, or on my online portfolio at llumleyportfolio.wordpress.com

 

My first exposure to Barry Manilow was during my sophomore year in high school. I took a theater arts class and one day we were listening to the song “Memory” from Cats. The title looked familiar to me, so I went home and dug around my parents 45s (remember them??), where they had two of Manilow’s records ; 1981’s “The Old Songs”/ “Don’t Fall In Love With Me” and “Heart of Steel”/Memory” from 1982. A few years later , I stumbled upon Manilow’s PBS special from England, which ended up being “The Greatest Hits And Then Some” release. I was mesmerized by the show, and had to listen to more of his music. I played those 45s over and over again to the point where I needed some newer material. I saw an ad on television in 1997 that Manilow was coming to Starlake Amphitheater in Burgettstown , P.A. I had to get tickets to see him. My mother took me to the local National Record Mart, so I could get tickets the day they came out. If it weren’t for her, I would not have been able to see him. She gave me her credit card to use, and when the guy printed out the tickets, he mentioned that it was cash only (although there was nothing stating that before the sale date or at the store itself in the ticket policies). Luckily, she had cash on her, and I was shocked at the price of the tickets; I saw my first concert in 1991 with lawn seats at the same amphitheater for 18 dollars. Each ticket was $40 for Manilow, plus service charge, which was a lot back then (but they ended up being like 10th row-and now some of his seats go for over $100) .

After the show, I had to get some more Manilow releases (I had the cassettes of the 1978 Greatest Hits and the 1989 Volume 1 which I got from the BMG music club.) . I went to Best Buy, and the only CDs they carried were the Greatest Hits from 1989 (Volumes I, II and III), along with his self titled 1989 album. I chose the self titled one as my first Manilow CD.

Some fans have dubbed Barry Manilow as the “purple album”, because he released several other albums with his name on it; his debut in 1973, Barry Manilow II (1974), 1980’s Barry, and 1985’s Manilow. Whatever fans want to call it, it was an unique album for many reasons besides the title; all but one song had outside writers on it (Manilow usually wrote or co-wrote most of his songs, and allowed few outside writers at this time), it had a polished production, and it was his last all original music until 2001, where besides some live releases, he released covers and themed albums from Broadway, the Big Band era, and the 1970s (The Summer of ’78 album is highly underrated) . It was also one of the longer run times from previous records , almost an hour long.

The opener “Please Don’t Be Scared,” is a wonderful ballad to start off the record. Manilow still sticks to the formula of loss, love, and hope in his songs. This first track , with the lyrics “Someday someone will make you glad you survived” brings the hope theme into play , while struggling to see the bigger picture in life.

“Keep Each Other Warm,” is a cover of the British group Bucks Fizz, and became a hit on the AC charts for Barry at #7. The soulful/ R&B song would have been placed perfectly along the radio songs by groups like Surface and Breathe. Unfortunately it was never played in my area stations in Youngstown, Ohio (where the local station was, although I live in Columbiana, Ohio, twenty minutes or so away). Manilow’s take on this song has more power to it instrumentally, where the original sounds like an ABBA cover band.

Songs like “Once and For All, ” and “The One That Got Away” continue the polished 1980s feel , where “The One That Got Away” has a simple chorus lyrically , which Manilow pulls off, even though it is some of the weaker songs on the release. Even though they are weaker than the others, a weak Manilow song can still be better than some artists’ best work.

“When the Good Times Come Again,” and “Some Good Things Never Last” are two great songs in a row. “…Good Times..” has the format, much like his hit “Somewhere Down The Road,” with the theme of hoping better things will come in the relationship after taking a break, where “Some Good Things Never Last” was featured on his follow up release, Live On Broadway. The opening line of “It’s 3 in the morning/You’re nowhere in sight” is a line that’s been thrown in my head numerous times for no reason whatsoever, especially being awake at 3 A.M. It’s a wonder to me, looking back now, why “Some Good Things Never Last” was not released as a single. It should have been on the pop or AC charts.

The last three songs are the songs I remember most about the release. “My Moonlight Memories Of You’ is a catchy song that displays Manilow’s love for Broadway songs. The song starts off one way , and then goes in another style, one that you could see Fred Astaire dancing and singing in an old time musical, or in a vaudeville show. The “I Can’t Smile Without You” feel of the song challenges the listener NOT to sing along, and with the end , where he is singing the melody while it fades out, one can picture the main star walking down the street while the camera pans overhead to the city while the credits roll.

“Anyone Can Do The Heartbreak” was a hit for Anne Murray in 1987. Both versions are just as good, and it’s hard to choose one over the other.

The final is a road song, “A Little Traveling Music, Please.” I first heard this song on the PBS special, or the VHS release of the show, I can’t remember exactly, but I thought it was a great , soft song about being on the road , and away from the special person. Many road songs in music, like “Faithfully “or “Turn The Page,” have power to it musically (hence the name power ballad), where this song is a refreshingly mellow and clam, with drummer Vinnie Colaiuta playing brushes on the track. This song is the perfect placement as the ender of the album. I played this song many times after playing in local bands as a drummer on the way home to calm my ears after playing rock and blues all night long. It takes a while for the song to get going, with an instrumental intro, but when the song gets going, its great.

Barry Manilow has wonderful memories for me. One, it was exposure to Manilow’s latest work, and not just the popular hits that I knew the time. It also had a long run time, so I got my money’s worth, along with some songs becoming my favorite rarer songs from his catalog (“Memories of You,” and “Traveling Music” are two of them).

The songs still hold up after 30 years, and doesn’t sound too dated, even though it is one of his more polished production wise albums (along with 1985’s Manilow) . Manilow fans all have their favorite albums (they are as passionate as Kiss, The Beatles, and The Oak Ridge Boys’ fans as which are their favorites), this is one of my favorites where I don’t have to skip songs ( I am not counting his cover albums). Even though some are a little weaker than others, it can play all the way through. This is a CD that gave me more of a love of Manilow’s music (especially when I was in college at the time, where his music was a friend to me). It is still a go-to CD to play when I want to hear some rarer Manilow songs.

You can read my other post on Barry’s rarer songs here in the archives, by typing in “Barry Manilow” in the search engine.

 

Track Listing: 1. Please Don’t Be Scared 2. Keep Each Other Warm 3.Once And For All 4. The One That Got Away 5.When The Good Times Come Again 6. Some Good Things Never Last 7. In Another World 8. You Begin Again 9.My Moonlight Memories Of You   10. Anyone Can Do The Heartbreak 11. A Little Traveling Music, Please

Music: Albums That Influenced Me.

Many of my posts I write about music that influenced me as a child growing up. As a drummer in local bands in the Youngstown, Ohio area, I was exposed to many different types of music. I played jazz, country, rock, blues, and even some polkas. I listened to oldies and country when I got my first drum set, along with the Top 40 hits of the time. I have seen on Facebook recently challenges to list albums that influenced the person that they still have on rotation. Although there are many albums that have influenced me that are not one this list, such as Garth Brooks’ “No Fences,” Andy Gibb’s “Greatest Hits,” Huey Lewis and The News’ “Sports”, and Rick Nelson’s “Live At The Troubadour,” these are my top influential albums in my life that I still listen to today.

  1. Rick Springfield ” Working Class Dog” (1981). This was the album that most people fell in love with Rick’s music, although it was his 5th album. I was introduced to him when my next door neighbors (all girls) and I would hang out after school at their house listening to their records. They were the first people I knew that got MTV, along with cable TV. They had a bunch of records, and I remember the first time hearing Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You” over there. They would watch the TV Show “General Hospital” and be in awe of Dr. Noah Drake (Springfield’s character on the show). When Springfield broke out with “Jessie’s Girl,” everyone knew who he was. This album influenced me not only because he was an actor that put out great music (this will be a common theme throughout this post), but there is not a bad song on the whole album. I remember listening to the CD way into college, especially deeper songs such as “Daddy’s Pearl,” which was played constantly in my elementary days at school (I had a crush on one girl who was madly in love with him and just to play this song at school), but I always thought “Inside Silvia” was such a great written song. This album also introduced me to Sammy Hagar’s music with Rick’s cover of “I’ve Done Everything For You.” The album was one of my earliest introduction to an actor who could also rock out. To this day, I love this album especially with the great songwriting and catchy tunes.

  1. The Oak Ridge Boys “Greatest Hits” (1980). It’s hard to pick one Oaks album that influenced me, more less choosing a “Greatest Hits” one, but this was the first record I got that was all mine, and not shared with my brother. It was also the first album I received (as a Christmas gift) along with my first drum set. I remember my parents putting the needle on the record and walking into the kitchen to get their breakfast tea, and by the time they walked back into the room, I was playing beat to beat along with the record, without hearing most of the songs before (I was around 7years old- call it “A God Thing”). I’m not sure how I wanted the album, maybe seeing the band on TV, but this album not only introduced me to the band, and my first memories of drumming, but it is still one of my go to albums to listen to orchestration and production on songs, along with studying vocals. I can’t say how many hours I spent in my childhood playing drums along to this album. To this day, The Oaks are one of my all time favorite music acts, and even though I upgraded it to CD, I still have the worn out record with the ripped cover, just for memories.

    Me holding my Oak Ridge Boys record Christmas 1980

 

  1. “Grease The Original Soundtrack From The Motion Picture.” (1978) Once again, my childhood neighbors are the ones that introduced me to this album. I remember staring at the double album intensely when they showed it to me, and I fell in love with the music. “Grease” is also my all time favorite movies of all time, so much that I refused to even see it on stage or the remade “live” version on television from a few years ago. To me “Grease” is Olivia -Newton John, John Travolta, and Sha Na Na. Loving the 1950s music, especially in my early years, this album combined the early rock era songs with a Broadway play. I remember playing along with my neighbors, singing Danny’s parts as they took turns singing the female parts on the album. This influenced me as not only exposing me to vocal ranges, but also into (once again) actors being able to sing (and vice versa). The record, along with the hit “Islands In The Stream,” made me discover the Bee Gees, and Barry Gibb’s songwriting, who wrote the theme to the movie.

  1. Al Denson “Be The One” (1990) and Michael W. Smith “Go West Young Man” (1990) – TIE.

Christian music was considered mainly cheesy growing up, with the exception of the Gospel sounds of The Oaks. It wasn’t until bands like Stryper came along that showed that Christians could rock out. I did not enjoy Stryper until later on, even though my buddies were huge fans. In 1990, two acts really inspired me with their albums.

I saw Al Denson in concert opening for the band Petra, and in my opinion, he blew Petra off the stage and he only had a keyboard. After going to a church retreat that summer, I became more of an Al Denson fan with this album, with my buddy playing it constantly in the car all the way to and from the retreat, along with the theme of the retreat being “Be The One.” I even used the title track “Be The One” as my audition song when I tried out for my senior musical as a dare from one of my friends (I got a part in it). The same friend and I wrote for the school paper, covering the entertainment page, and we constantly raved about the songs on this album. Denson’s work helped me get serious about my religious views, and saw him several times in concert.

Michael W. Smith’s “Go West” album gave him exposure to the pop world with his single “Place In This World.” To this day, it is one of the albums that doesn’t seem too dated to me from this era. Just like Denson’s release, songs from this album helped shaped me spiritually, including singing several of the songs on cassette soundtracks on church concert nights (back when vocal track cassettes were the rage, along with the Al Denson tracks). Songs like “Love Crusade” and “How Long Will Be Too Long” were also mentioned by my friend and I in the newspaper, and he even used the song during his magic act at one time. It’s hard to pick just one of these albums so that is why it’s a tie for helping me on my journey.

  1. Barry Manilow” Greatest Hits” (1978). My earliest exposure to Barry Manilow was listening to a couple 45s that my parents owned; one was “Memory/Heart of Steel” and the other was ” The Old Songs”/Don’t Fall In Love With Me.” When I was in college, I joined the BMG Music Club, and one of the first cassettes I got was this greatest hits package. I would listen to this album walking to and from classes, and once I got to actually see Manilow in concert, I proudly wore my T shirt as well on campus afterwards (most people didn’t know who he was, and thought it was Rod Stewart-college kids!!). Just like The Oak Ridge Boys, it’s hard to put in words the influence Manilow has had on me as a musician and a person. Most of my relatives like his music, so it ties us together, which is rare among parents, grandparents, and children. This release helped me through days in college when I was struggling with life, and his music also combines hope, good feelings, and reminiscing of younger days. This was the first full album I got of his, and made me want more and more of his catalog.

6.The Bay City Rollers “Rock N’ Roll Love Letter” (1976) . Growing up in the 1970s-1980s, before cable television, kids would spend Saturday Mornings watching cartoons. One of the big shows in my youth was the “Sid and Marty Kroft” show, which due to the popularity of this band, was renamed “The Bay City Rollers Show.” The show featured childhood favorites like H.R. Pufnstuf, “Horror Hotel,” and footage of the band performing. The show was one of the first memories I remember of seeing a show with pyro, a huge lighted stage, and screaming girls throughout the songs. Singer Les McKeown was an underrated front man, and the production of the concert parts of the show was well done. This album in the U.S. combined two of their UK releases into one package. Even though they were teen idols, the music (to this day) is still good pop music. They wrote their own songs, and played their own instruments. I remember drumming and singing along to this album, and it influenced me not only drumming, but vocals as well. It also introduced me to different types of instruments, including acoustic work on the song “Eagles Fly” and the use of a voice box on “Wouldn’t You Like It” (I was not exposed to the use of it by artists Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton until decades later). This band was one of my early heroes in music, along with the Oaks, Andy Gibb, and David Cassidy. Although many think they were One Hit Wonders (which they weren’t), the band was a major influence on me, to the fact that years ago I purchased the two UK releases so I could combine them so I had all the songs from that U.S. release.

  1. Kiss “Destroyer” (1976). There are many Kiss recordings that have influenced me. My early experiences with the band was when my cousin would play their music while we would visit them, and had Kiss posters all over his wall. I never got their music until the late 1980s when I became a huge fan of drummer Eric Carr. The first cassette I got of the band was “Destroyer,” which I found in a bargain bin at the local Fishers Big Wheel (which was like a K-Mart)in my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio. My friend and I would walk across town and browse the bin of cassettes. He would buy Rush tapes and I started collecting the Kiss ones. Although this is not my all time favorite release of the band, it was still my first purchase, which I drummed along with for many hours. The band was a major influence on me , especially since each member sang, played, and had an individual identity.

  1. John Schneider “Now Or Never” (1981). Another actor turned singer, John Schneider’s album was filled with Pop, Adult Contemporary, and Country songs. I actually like his cover of Elvis Presley’s “Now Or Never” more than other acts’ covers of Presley’s songs. The album also had songs written by Eric Carmen and Lionel Richie, which introduced me to those artists. Being a huge fan of the TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard” growing up, when I saw his record in the stores, I begged my parents to get it for me. I would sing and play along with the album many many times, and throughout the years, still listen to it. There are many good songs on it, and one of my favorites (to this day is) “No. 34 In Atlanta,” about the singer’s record isn’t charting well in the major markets, but he’s proud to play music his way.This was another early childhood memory for me, buying albums and spending my summers practicing my drumming.

 

  1. The Blues Brothers “Briefcase Full Of Blues” (1978). Being a fan of acting and music growing up, I always watched comedy acts like Johnny Carson, Jackie Gleason, and “Saturday Night Live” (back when it was actually funny). One of my favorite acts on the show was The Blues Brothers. This album introduced me to blues music before I played in my first blues band in 1992. The great thing about this album was that not only did it have two of my favorite comedy actors in John Belushi and Dan Akroyd, but they took the act seriously that they went out and got some of the best blues players to be in the band. In my junior high years, I would wear a Blues Brothers T Shirt, and I played this cassette while playing drums. I also was a big fan of the movie, along with my brother and our friends. During school recess I would imitate Akroyd’s Elwood Blues by singing my version of the album’s cover of “Rubber Biscuit.” This was my earliest memory of blues music. Guitarist Matt “Guitar” Murphy recently passed away who plays on this album. This record is one of the all time best selling blues albums ever, and it is never mentioned when people discuss great blues records for some reason. This was the album that later helped my playing in later years playing in blues bands.

  1. The Beach Boys “The Beach Boys” (1985). This, as mentioned many times on this page, was one of my favorite albums of the 1980s. I knew of the Beach Boys growing up, hearing their songs on the oldies radio channels, but this was the cassette that really got me into the band, thanks to the single “Getcha Back.” I remember seeing the band perform it on the TV show “Solid Gold,” which was a staple must watch show for me on Saturday Nights every week. The album was the first release after the death of drummer Dennis Wilson, but this album made me go back and re-discover their work, going to the Fisher’s Big Wheel and buying bargain bin cassettes of the band, from the many Capitol Records compilations that were put out (like “Your Summer Dreams,” and “Surf’s Up”). Even though the album driven by drum programming, there is still the big sound that made the songs fun to play along with. My summer days were filled with practicing my drum playing in the morning, then hanging out with my friends at the local pool, then riding bikes until dusk. This was an introduction to the band for me in the era where many of us were listening to Duran Duran and other pop acts.

  1. “Sha Na Na” Sha Na Na (1971). This act got their start as a comedy act at Columbia University and grew in popularity, that they ended up with their own television show that lasted from 1977-1981. The act opened for acts like The Grateful Dead, John Lennon, and Frank Zappa. They were also the act before Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. The act was mainly remembered for the singer Jon “Bowzer” Bauman who had a deep voice and dressed like a greaser. However, one of the original guitar players was Henry Gross, who had the hit “Shannon” in 1976.

The reason this album influenced me was not only was I a huge fan of the television show, this album was another one of my very first albums. Side 1 was a live set recorded in 1971, and Side 2 was original work in the studio. This was the first record that I remember having a live side and recorded side (and this came out before Kiss “Alive 2” who used the concept as well). Side 1 had a great version of the hit “Tell Laura I Love Her,” which is my favorite version of the song (even better than the original). Side 2 had some great original songs mostly written by “Screamin’ “Scott Simon. The songs “Only One Song” (which is a Beatles like song) and “Canadian Money” are still songs I play often off the record. Years ago, I was excited to get a copy of this on CD ( a double album pack). The album , made me love the band and the cover arrangements,, while combining original work, which lead me to loving the “Grease” soundtrack and movie (they play Johnny Casino and The Gamblers in the movie and provide most of the second side of the album soundtrack, in fact Simon co wrote the song “Sandy” in the film). This band may have been seen as a novelty act in the 1970s, but the music was very underrated, and I still enjoy watching their work on YouTube from the past, including the TV show. This was a major album from my childhood, from enjoying oldies music with an updated feel to it.

 

 

There are many albums that I like, and have special memories of, but these are some of the major albums that influenced me as a person, drummer, and learning music in general. From childhood memories to practicing the artist’s on the albums, these are just a few of the ones that I remember. One great aspect of music is that it not only provides the listener with great songs, but lasting memories.

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.

My Rare Favorite Manilow Songs, and Why I Like Barry!

There are several early childhood memories I have concerning music. I started playing drums around 5 or 7 years old, and have gotten to play with some great musicians throughout the years. Some early records I can remember are The Oak Ridge Boys, The Bay City Rollers, Andy Gibb, and even The Village People. I remember seeing the cover of Kiss’s “Alive II” at my older cousin’s house, and my uncle had his own record store for a while, where I remember seeing some of the posters and album covers throughout the store.
One artist I remember listening to in my grade school and junior high years was Barry Manilow. My parents had 2 of his 45’s in the house, “The Old Songs/”Don’t Fall in Love with Me,” and his “Memory”/”Heart of Steel” singles. I would listen to them many times over, and even though I was into the Pop Hits of the time, I still enjoyed these two records.

Manilow CDs DVDs
My Collection- a few DVDs, Cassettes, and Cassette Single. I ran out of photo room. There are maybe 3 or more CDS I also have.

Flash forward to my first year of college, and I somehow stumbled onto his music again. I’m not sure how or why, but I just had to see him in concert. In 1994, I was convinced I had to see him live. I stood outside of the local National Record Mart store and waited in line to get my tickets. I had my cash with me, and I remember that the price was expensive for me, including the service charges (at the time it was $40.75 a ticket, not sure what the charge was). My mother just happened to have some extra money, and I’d never forget that she helped me cover the rest of the cost. After seeing him live at the show, I was hooked even more on his music.

Manilow Albums
My Collection. A few are just the covers. These are called Albums, for those that may not know.

The first Manilow CD I ever purchased was his 1989 “Barry Manilow” album, the first cassette I bought when I joined Columbia House Record Club in college was his red covered Greatest Hits. I have seen him in concert a total of 6 times, more than any other artist. He was also the only artist I paid over $100 to see (the tickets with the service charge combined sent it over that number).
Even though I listen to different types of music, from The Beach Boys and Kiss, my friends still wonder why I like Manilow so much. Besides the small history I just gave, his music shows not just sappy love songs, but themes such as mistakes, missed and failed friendships, to fighting for your dreams when no one else believes in you, or everyone wants to hold you down.When I felt like nothing went right in college, to feeling there were no friends around, he was the one artist I could listen that kept me going. He was also the only artist that my parents, my uncle, and my grandmother seemed all to like-it was a common thread. My father took me and my Uncle to see Barry in 2004 with a company he worked with and we saw his concert at The Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, in the lodge seats. I have seen Manilow in Pittsburgh, PA, 4 times, Cleveland, Ohio, once, and in Youngstown Ohio with the Youngstown Symphony.

1st Shirt Front
My faded shirt from my first Manilow Concert. I used to wear it on campus at Kent State, and I remember this one girl coming up to me and saying “Nice Shirt. I love Rod Stewart.”

One of my best concert experiences ever happened in Pittsburgh the first time I saw Manilow when I took my friend to see Barry in concert days after he broke up with a girl named Amy. Thinking he would like to get out of the house and see someone (not the best artist for a breakup looking back), Manilow was going into a Broadway song he recorded called “Once in Love with Amy.” We were back 12 rows back from the stage and he yells “NOOOO!” Barry laughed and said something like “I guess someone knew Amy.”
There are many big hits that Manilow has recorded by I’d like to list a few of his maybe not well known songs that I like, and the album you can find them on. Maybe you’ll like some of these underrated ones.

 

 

1.”Lay Me Down” (1975 “Trying to Get the Feeling Again” Album). This song was written by Larry Weiss, who also wrote “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Bend Me, Shape Me,” and the theme to the TV Show “Who’s The Boss.” I first heard this song when Trisha Yearwood sang it on CMT’s 2000 Special “Manilow Country” and the lyrics blew me away. The song is about a man who’s reading the goodbye letter to himself and fighting to get over the girl when he runs into her on the street with a new person. The song was also recorded by Anne Murray and Glen Campbell. But Manilow has the touch one this one. Very Sad song.

 

2. “The Old Songs” (1981 “If I Should Fall in Love Again” Album) As I mentioned earlier, this song was one of my first experiences to Manilow’s music. The song dealing with trying to get a relationship going and if nothing works, he’ll try the old records to help him out. This song shares the power of music in people’s lives, and has so many memories for me. It hit #15 on the Pop Charts, but it is not well talked about when Manilow’s music comes up.

 

3.”Read Em And Weep” (1983 “Greatest Hits Vol. 2” Album). This song was originally written and recorded by Meatloaf for his 1981 “Dead Ringer” album, but was not a hit until Barry took it over. Written by Jim Steinman, the song takes a love song and ads a literary and acting aspect to it. I just recently discovered the Meatloaf version last year, and although it is good, it seems to lack the emotion that Manilow adds to it. This was also Barry’s last Top 40 Hit on the Pop Charts, hitting number #18.

4. “Why Don’t You See The Show Again” (1976 “This One’s For You” Album) Even though he didn’t write the lyrics, he did write the music, and has to be autobiographical about a man that is surrounded by people when he plays his music onstage, but once the show is over, what’s next? This song is a favorite because usually when played, it’s just Manilow and his piano. Frank Sinatra recorded this song later on. I discovered this one during his “Music and Passion: Live From Las Vegas DVD.” This song any musician can relate to.

 

Books and Programs
Two Concert Programs from my collection. Also is Manilow’s book-I have the Hardback and Paperback.

5. “The Best Seat in the House” (1990 “Live on Broadway” and 2012 “Live in London” Albums). Much like “See the Show Again,” the song combines the musician on stage with love for a person. This song can not only be interpreted for a lover, but even a friendship. Being a drummer, I was able to look around the crowd or people while playing in the audience and maybe see friends out there that I had great memories with that I can sit and reminisce. This is just a great song with symbolism in it.

Some other Honorable Mentioned songs- “”Sweet Heaven “ (1985 “Manilow,” “2 Nights Live,”), “You Ought to be Home With Me” (1976 “This One’s For You”).

Manilow Shirts
3 Concert Shirts I still have (some I outgrew and had to get rid of) and coffee mug from my collection.

 

Maybe you haven’t heard these songs before, or maybe you had the albums and forgot about them, but give these songs another chance. You may find a new appreciation to them. With that, I wanted to add a final video, which is one of my favorites, found on his “Live on Broadway.