Childhood Classic: Fogerty Hits A Solo Home Run

Centerfield was released January 14, 1985 by Warner Brothers Records.

 

 

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  

I knew of the band Creedence Clearwater Revival due to the songs that they recorded being played on the local oldies radio station. Even in my early teen years, I listened to plenty of the early ‘50s and ‘60s music, especially since I was a huge fan of The Beach Boys. Although I remember the talents of John Fogerty’s work with CCR, when his album Centerfield came out in 1985, I didn’t listen to most of his solo work until I was in a band in the mid 1990s.

My one guitar player loved Fogerty’s work, and although I had a copy of the 1985 release on cassette, I never listened to the album, besides the few times I wanted to listen to the title track, an ode about baseball. That guitar player got me listening to Fogerty’s third solo album, along with 1997’s Full Moon Swamp. Throughout the years, I started learning more about how the music business treated Fogerty, with the various lawsuits from his label to other former CCR members, to the fact that he lost most of the rights to his penned songs. Reading his autobiography also opened my eyes to some of the things he had gone through. Besides the great hits he had with CCR ( a band that never had a #1 U.S. single believe it or not), I still think his finest solo work is Centerfield.

The release starts off with the bluesy/swamp track “The Old Man Down The Road.” During one lawsuit that he was thrown into, his former label stated that the song sounded too much like his CCR work. I remember the music video when it came out, from my early exposure to MTV, and my local music video show from Akron/Canton Ohio Channel 23 on Billy Soule’s video show (I’m almost certain it was played on his show-he was great!). The video basically follows the guitar chord hooked at one end into a speaker all the way throughout the road until you see Fogerty playing at the end of the song, with the chord plugged into his guitar. I remember thinking it was an odd video at the time because you never saw the main artist until the end (although dressed as a different character, he is in the beginning). The song ended up being a big hit for him , hitting #10 on the Billboard charts and #1 on the Top Rock charts.

The second track is one of my favorites on the whole album. “Rock and Roll Girls” hit #20 for Fogerty, and is a nice pop/rock song. The song has a strumming guitar riff to it, along with talking about the innocence of the times, especially girls who are sitting at home listening to their radios while gossiping about guys and love. There is a small yodeling part in the song which mixes his love of classic country and blended it into a rock song. The saxophone drives the song as well, making it a pop song.
“Big Train (From Memphis)” has a Johnny Cash style feel to it, with the rockabilly style that influenced John with his love of Ricky Nelson and Cash. I could picture Marty Stuart recording this song when he was having a great run on the country charts in the 1990s.

“I Saw It On TV” is my second favorite song off the album. The song details how the age of television influenced the world with events being shown on it, much like Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga” celebrated the rise and fall of radio. This song is probably the most mellow of the tracks, and references The Beatles, Davey Crockett, Howdy Doody, JFK, and other names in history. This is one wonderfully written track.

“Mr. Greed” and “Searchlight” have a big time ‘80s sound to each of the song, with the drum programming on the songs, along with the themes of greed and the mean, wealthy rich people, associated with the big greed of the 1980s. The guitar work in these songs are nice, and since Fogerty played almost all the instruments himself, it shows how skilled he is with his variety of talents.

The title track became a legend on its own, being played at every baseball stadium ever since. The fact that it was a B-Side to a single and not a hit, gives the song more history to it. The song , much like “I Saw It On TV” gives a historical snippet to baseball’s great players like Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, and Willie Mayes. The fact that it is still being played on sports shows, and in stadiums and arenas (even the opening click tracks when a player walks to the plate), shows his songwriting talents . It was also a song I would sing when I was standing in centerfield in my little league baseball days, because no one ever hit the ball that far to me anyway, so I had to pass the time by singing songs in the outfield.

“Can’t Help Myself” and “Zanz Kant Danz” end the album. The last song is a reference to the Fantasy record label owner, and was changed on the future pressings on the albums.

To me, there is only one major bad song on the release (the last one), and even though I was not a fan of the whole album when it came out, I can respect plenty from this album, which is Fogerty’s best solo album as a whole. 35 years later, it is still an enjoyable listen.

Track List: 1. The Old Man Down The Road 2. Rock and Roll Girls 3. Big Train (From Memphis) 4. I Saw It On TV 5. Mr. Greed 6. Searchlight 7. Centerfield 8. Can’t Help Myself 9. Zanz Kant Danz

 

Childhood Classic CD Review: Collins’ “Serious” Side Kept Hits Flowing

But Seriously was released Nov 6. 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  

 

After his last solo album, 1985’s No Jacket Required, which spawned hits like “Don’t Lose My Number,” “Sussudio,” “One More Night,” and a tour with band Genesis for Invisible Touch, Phil Collins was on a musical roll. He was charting hit after hit in the 1980s, and a question was how long could he continue? Those that have read his book know that a lot of the stories from the 1980s are basically him not remembering much about them, due to his massive schedule.

1989’s But Seriously was a more politically based album for Collins, with songs like “Another Day in Paradise” (which won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1991), and “Colours” (which is almost 10 minutes long). Many artists started to see that the fun time party music of the 1980s were coming to an end, and some started to use more social issues in their songwriting. Collins started to use more live drumming to some of the songs, as opposed to the drum programming from his 80s work.

The album starts off with the blaring horns of “Hang in Long Enough,” which has a rock style to it, with horns by The Penix Horns adding a flavor to it, similar to Earth Wind and Fire, along with an edgy guitar throughout the song.

The album then slows down immensely on track two with “That’s Just The Way It Is,” which has a similar opening to the following song, which makes it odd placing listening to it now. This style of ballads is in the classic style of Collins’ work in the 1990s into the 2000s, especially with his soundtrack work in movies.

One of my all time songs by Collins is track three. “Do You Remember” is a song I never get tired of decades later. The piano melody, and the lyrics on this ballad is a pop classic. Lyrically, talking about a relationship that has run its course, was used when I was an English teacher at a private school in Ohio, using the tag “People are funny sometimes/they just can’t wait to get hurt again, ”  for a creative writing prompt, along with using the song in looking at poetry in music. The music video for the song is one of my all time favorites, with Collins being flash-backed to his school days when he befriends a girl and they become best friends, before she moves away. I can relate to this, due to the fact that one of my best friends growing up in junior high was female (she didn’t move away, but when high school hit, we went our own ways). If you have not seen the video, it is a must see. The song was a smash hit here in the U.S., hitting #1 on the AC charts, but still isn’t mentioned when people list some of his great songs, for some odd reason. Album flow wise, with this song being placed right after track two, which is so similar in structure, I’d say skip #2 and go straight to this one. It features Stephen Bishop on backing vocals, along with great guitar work by Daryl Stuermer.  I think this is one of the best pop ballads of the 1980s.

The horn section takes over again with “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven, ” along with a strong drum sound . Another hit off the album, this is another gem from the album. This is a strong powerful fun track with a big band rock feel.

The album also brought out the hits “Another Day in Paradise” with David Crosby helping out vocally, and “I Wish It Would Rain Down,” with Eric Clapton on guitar. I was never a fan of the first of these two, but the second has that crying guitar sound that Clapton is known for, which adds to the sadness of the song. Once again, the video, with Clapton having an appearance in it, is a throw back to the days of Collins’ acting days before branching into music (named Billy Collins) . It has a bluesy ballad to it with strong guitar playing. I am not against politically driven songs, but I always thought that compared to his other work, “Paradise” was a weaker song, yet it got more success critically for him, when previously the “experts” scoffed at Collins’ work.

“Heat On The Street’ is a more up tempo version of “Two Hearts” from a few years earlier, from the soundtrack to his film “Buster,” with its swing style rhythm, but with more political lyrics to it.

Two of the rarer cuts that are not usually discussed on the album is “All Of My Life,” a song that starts like a typical Phil slow ballad, but builds up with power during the choruses. The other rare song I love is the last song on the album, “Find A Way To My Heart,” which has personal meaning to it for me.

One my of best friends in high school was an illusionist, and was heavily inspired by David Copperfield. At the time I helped him write some jokes and give him some musical tips that may work for his tricks. After being influenced by a trick where Copperfield used the song “Mama” by Genesis, he decided to use this final track on this record as not only for a trick, but also was using it as his final song being played at his shows.

When I first got this release, there were many songs I skipped over, and only listened to some of the singles (except for “Find A Way..” which I always listened to with my friend). “Do You Remember” is still my favorite off the whole album. Although I do not have a bunch of Phil Collins’ releases in my collection (I have No Jacket Required on vinyl), besides this one and his 1998 Greatest hits (which for some reason doesn’t have “Don’t Lose My Number” which is a bummer), But Seriously is still an album that holds up years later. I stopped buying his studio releases after this, due to me not liking the soundtracks and too many of his songs sounding the same. The childhood memories of certain songs makes this album special for me, although I do not consider it a complete album track for track.

 

Track Listing:

  1. Hang On Long Enough 2. That’s Just the Way It Is 3. Do You Remember 4. Something Happened on the Way to Heaven 5. Colours 6. I Wish It Would Rain Down 7. Another Day in Paradise 8. Heat on the Street 9. All Of My Life 10. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning 11.Father to Son 12. Find A Way to My Heart

 

 

 

 

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 Classics CD Reviews: The Debut of Two Pop Stars Twenty Years Ago

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 some of those in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com. 

 

In 1999, a shift in popular music was beginning to hit the mass markets. Some were tired of the grunge music that brought the end to many of the party time songs from the 1980s, and although it wasn’t a new concept (it was around since the 1960s and before), teen music was starting to hit MTV and the Top 40 radio stations. With the debut albums of Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears, labels started chugging out many bubblegum pop acts, with acts like 98 Degrees, The Pussycat Dolls, and Christina Aguilera. However, two of my favorites had debuts that year that did not have the biggest success compared to the others listed.

So Real was released on December 7, 1999 by Epic/Sony, and was certified gold within three months of release, reaching #31 on Billboard’s Top Albums Chart. 3 singles were released.

 

 

So Real was the debut of Mandy Moore for Epic Records (who is now beloved for her acting on the This Is Us television show, as well as her acting in chick flick movies), and although she was lumped in with Simpson, Spears, and Aguilera with the same format ( a young blond surrounded by dancers), I leaned towards Moore’s work for the beginning and have still enjoyed her music.

Opening the album with “So Real,” a nice little pop song that has a more enjoyable video, the second song, Candy” was a moderate hit for Moore which put her on MTV and was a popular video requested at the time. The song hit #27 on the U.S. Top 40 Mainstream charts, and #2 in Australia. The fact that the singer is craving the boy’s love “like candy” may sound cheesy today, but it had a different comparison to love than the other girls’ work that was out.

Most of her debut album has the normal pop/dance style to it that was released by other acts, but to me, Moore had better vocals and didn’t rely as much on effects on her voice than the other acts. “Walk Me Home” is one of the better ballads on the album (a song that didn’t chart well, and was re-released on her next album- a remix CD with a few new songs). “Quit Breaking My Heart” is another great ballad that is a hidden gem on the CD , which many don’t mention when talking about Moore’s early work. “Love Shot” should’ve been released after “Candy,” and is just as good as the breakthrough single. The only odd placing is ending the album with an acoustic reprise of “Quit Breaking My Heart,” which almost makes me think the label was really pushing hard for the song to be a smash, but the good thing about a stripped down reprise of the song is it showed Moore’s vocal talent which didn’t need all the effects on it like with her dance songs.

Although most of the songs Moore states she was not a fan of to this day, So Real still has some good tracks on it, for those that want to listen to the early rawness of her talents which grew into a wonderful talent. I have written in the past that her Wild Hope CD is a very underrated release (you can read the reviews by typing her name in the search engine in the archives), along with her covers album and her self titled pop release from 2001. Mandy had a more wholesome, non-offending style and look to her, as opposed to the other acts breaking out at the time. Even though most songs here are dated, there are still some songs on here that can still be able to enjoy today.

 

Track List: 1. So Real 2.Candy 3.What You Want 4. Walk Me Home 5. Lock Me in Your Heart 6. Telephone (interlude) 7. Quit Breaking My Heart 8. Let Me Be The One 9. Not Too Young 10. Love Shot 11. I Like It 12. Love You For Always 13 Quit Breaking My Heart (reprise)

 

Stay The Same was released on March 16, 1999 from C2/Work Records and reached #40 on the U.S. Billboard Album Charts, and went Gold. 3 singles were released from the CD.

Although he was already a well known act being in The New Kids On The Block, Joey McIntyre’s Stay The Same CD is one of the most underrated releases not only for 1999, but of the whole wave of this period. There are many rare gems on this release, which is a tale of two parts; the first half is amazing, and then a few misses towards the end. What made McIntyre unique, as opposed to some of the other acts, is that he co-wrote all but one song on the whole album, and like Moore, his vocals didn’t not need as much effects to them to show his talent.

Opening with the up tempo “Couldn’t Stay Away From Your Love,” with strong piano/keyboard, this CD has quite a bit of a mixture of pop/funk and soul to it. “I Can’t Do It Without You,” is a song where he sings about conquering the world, but needs the girl by his side to do it. The lyrics “I’m gonna play some golf with Tiger Woods/and be a big shot up in Hollywood” has some humor to it, but still is great lyric writing. This is a song (along with a few others) that I still listen to today.

The soul and funk comes into play with “Give It Up,” which has the influenced of Kool & The Gang. The groove keeps the album flowing, setting up for the well known songs off the release.

“Stay The Same” was the first single released , which made it to #10 on the U.S. Hot 100, and #19 on the Mainstream charts. A ballad with wonderfully positive lyrics about not being ashamed of who you are, could be an anthem for its positive outlook and hope. “Don’t you ever wish you were someone else/ you were made to be/who you are exactly” is just the opening line of this great song.

The second single “I Love You Came Too Late,” was the song where I discovered this CD after seeing the video on MTV, which has Joey singing in a diner when the ex-girlfriend comes in with her new man. To this day, I find myself singing this song with the catchy melody. Many forget about this song when it was played on the video shows, but even the video tells a great story, where videos were dying in storytelling when it came to visuals at the time, settling for just dancing in front of a camera.

The songs “The Way I Loved You,” which has a vocal R&B style similar to the band Surface, and “I Cried” fills the end of the wonderful first half of the release. “I Cried” became the third single off the CD, but did not get much airplay or attention, although it’s a different take on a breakup, where the guy admits that he cried when the girl left him, without shame. This song shows the vocal skills of McIntrye, which he incorporated years later when he released an album with crooning songs. To me, McIntyre is the most talented of the New Kids on The Block, and diversified his skills, from different styles of music to his acting (he was great as the English teacher on the Boston Public TV show) . “I Cried” also shows a more stripped down live sound to the song, as opposed to having samples and technology throughout the singles.

“One Night” is the last great song on this release, after skipping several average songs. This is a must listen to, because of the 1970s soul style to it. This could have been played right after a song on the radio by Smokey Robinson and not be questioned.

Stay The Same has a great first half of the album, with his Top 40 pop, soul, and ballads, and is a question mark to me why this CD did not fare better than it should have (the same goes for his 2004’s 8:09 CD, which could go toe to toe with any Justin Timberlake release, and Mac’s 2002 acoustic live CD One Too Many is a great coffee house feel) . If you are looking for some 90s music, I suggest Stay The Same, which is not very dated in its musical style, even twenty years later.

 

Track List:

  1. Couldn’t Stay Away From Your Love 2. I Can’t Do It Without You 3. Give It Up 4.Stay The Same 5. I Love You Came Too Late 6. All I Wanna Do 7. The Way That I Loved You 8. I Cried 9. Because Of You 10. We Can Get Down 11. Let Me Take You For A Ride 12. One Night 13. Without Your Love

 

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

Childhood Classic: New Edition Turns 35 !!!

New Edition was released July 6, 1984 by MCA Records. It hit #6 on the U.S. Top Pop Albums and #1 on the Top R&B Albums 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 first cassette I ever got was 1983’s An Innocent Man by Billy Joel. At the time, I was still listening to 45s and vinyl records. My brother had several of Joel’s singles from the album, and when it was time for me to save enough allowance money (or maybe it was birthday money, I don’t remember), and my parents took me to the local store to pick out a release, I chose Joel’s album (you can read my review of that album in the archives under “Childhood Classics: My First Cassette”).

I listened to many types of music, from country to the pop songs on the radio, but I was also listening to early rock and roll music, like The Beach Boys, Elvis, and other early pioneers of music, at age 11. Joel’s album was a tribute to the early acts of music, with its pop harmonies (at the time I did not know that, but loved the songs that was played on the local radio station). So when it came time for me to get another cassette, I picked a group that was starting to get big on radio in my area, which I also had a 45 single of, New Edition.

The 1984 self titled release was actually the group’ second album, but I was already jamming to the single “Cool It Now,” which was being played on a local television video show from Akron/Canton ‘s channel 23 (we didn’t have MTV at this time- it was a pay site, and we didn’t have cable) hosted by Billy Soule. When it came to the early days of buying music, I would usually get a 45 single, which was under $2 at the time, and listen to the B sides to see if I liked the other songs, wait until the group had two or three songs out before I could have enough money to get the whole album (which was a pricey $9 back then), or wait until the album went on sale for the $5.99-$7.99 sale price.

Being a fan of Michael Jackson at the time, especially The Jackson 5 era, the guys from New Edition really hit the spot with their strong harmony vocals, and pop feel to the songs. I was also a fan of the music videos, with the guys in the group hanging out together , playing basketball and chasing girls in the park, while breaking out into song with fancy dance moves and hand motions to the songs, which helped in my opinion of how cool these guys were at the time.

The second single, “Mr. Telephone Man,” (written and produced by Ray Parker Jr.) was one of my favorite songs at the time, where I would study the music video every time it was played on Soule’s video show, so I could mimic the hand gestures to the song. I remember impressing several of my classmates at the time , when they saw that I could do all the hand movements exactly like they did in the video. It was this song that convinced me that I had to have the whole cassette. The fact that both “Cool It Now” and “Mr. Telephone Man” were the first two songs on the cassette was like finding King Solomon’s gold when playing the cassette, because I did not have to fast forward to my two favorite songs (the cell phone era people may not understand why “Mr. Telephone Man was so relatable at the time)

The album released four singles; the two mentioned above, “Lost In Love” (not to be confused with the Air Supply song), and “My Secret (Didja Gettit Yet)?” The video for “My Secret” detailed the guys hanging out at a L.A. Lakers basketball game during the video. I don’t remember the video being played as often as the first two in my area, nor was the song on my local radio station in Youngstown , Ohio. Anyway, I remember it started the second side of the cassette.

There are three rare cuts on the release that I enjoyed now revisiting the music. “I’m Leaving You Again” and “Delicious” are two slow R&B songs that would’ve been played at school dances or roller skating rinks to slow things down. They also would have been a great fit on the soul and black radio stations at the time. “Maryann” is a song that has the 1970’s Spinners style to it. The saxophone solo gives the song an adult contemporary style added into the mix.

If there are any fillers on the release, it’ll be “Kinda Girls We Like” which is too much rap for me (even in the 1980s, I was not a fan of rap- a little bit was ok, like on “Cool It Now” but that was enough), “Baby Love,” and “Hide And Seek.” But having 7 out of 10 songs on an album being great- that’s a good mix, especially for a pop group.

Music groups who could sing and dance were not new in 1984; acts like The Osmonds, The Jacksons, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and The Spinners were doing it long before. However, New Edition brought the same concept to the 80s, with a mass appeal as well; they had both white and black audiences buying their records. They were one of the pioneers of the boy band craze that happened in the 1990s.

After a dispute over royalties during this album, the group sued manager Maurice Starr, who went on afterwards to form The New Kids on The Block , wanting them to be the white version of New Edition. Bobby Brown left New Edition years later to go solo (I was a huge fan of his 1988 Don’t Be Cruel album) along with the other members being a part of Bell Biv Devoe, and both Johnny Gill ( a replacement for Tresevant) and Ralph Tresvant had solo careers. The group went on to have a few other good singles, such as “Count Me Out” (from their next album),  a remake of the Penguin’s hit “Earth Angel” , and 1988’s “If If Isn’t Love.”

Is New Edition going to be listed as a classic album, where many others may proudly say it was their fist record? Probably not. However, it was filled with good pop vocals, and has several wonderful musicians that was a part of the songs- Teena Marie, Ray Parker Jr. , and Michael Sambello had songs or production on it. Not everyone had their first two or three records or cassettes (or later CDs) masterpieces. The album for me brings back memories of going to a record store trying to decide what to spend your money on, studying pop vocals and harmonies, and going back to a time when some music  and videos were just plan fun without all the political agendas like today.