CD Reviews: Foreigner,Berry,Styx, Buckingham/McVie

 

The frequent followers of this page know that I sometimes miss the days when music was Pre-Internet. Not that the Internet doesn’t have its uses, especially when I want to watch some old wrestling footage or look up research, and it influenced music and artists for good , but there are plenty of bad. Music fans today don’t understand how an act could get a record deal and have to tour for years to get noticed, or how songs took a year to hit the top of the charts, which was based on sales and radio play, not downloads. Also, people today can’t fathom that there were record stores at malls and shopping plazas. Just looking at today’s stores where people can get music, there’s Wal Mart (where the music is 90 % Country), Target (which is very limited) and Best Buy (which at our local stores, half of the time the CD section is empty shelves). All of these stores also do not have many CDs that are over a year old, more less something that has been out for over 5 years.

The tales I can tell about how as a kid growing up I could spent hours at a mall, just browsing through bookstores and music shops like National Record Mart, Camelot Records, or Oasis Records (a local store in a plaza in Boardman, Ohio that ended up turning into a National Record Mart-we could also get tickets to concerts and wrestling there).

I have spent little time in the past few years listening to music. There are a few acts I like (Taylor Swift, Rob Zombie, Kacey Musgraves, Michael Buble), but most music I listen to are acts that have been established for years-in fact my favorite CD of last year hands down was “Good Times” by The Monkees.  I know some people just say that there are still great albums out there, you just have to look harder than before, but even those acts that are suggested to me have only 1 or 3 good songs and the rest are fillers. This past few months I have been listening to more CDs than I have in years, out of curiosity and due to press reviews and I thought I’d review a few CDs I have recently listened to and give a take on these 2017 releases.

  1. “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie”- Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie

I have always respected Lindsey Buckingham and love watching him play guitar-he has such a unique way of playing. When I was playing in a local cover band in the 1990s, one of my favorite songs to play was Fleetwood Mac’s “Blue Letter.”  When I saw this duo recently on CBS “Saturday Morning” Show, I wanted to check out the CD.

I am not a huge Fleetwood Mac fan; I like some of the hit songs they recorded, nor am I familiar with all the workings of the band, or its inner history. I don’t know if it’s a legal issue, but this album is basically Fleetwood Mac without Stevie Nicks, because Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie both are the musicians on the album. Anyway, my overview of this album is very good- there are 6 out of the 10 songs I really enjoyed, including the songs “Too Far Gone,” which has a 70s funk/dance feel to it,  “Feel About You” which has a 1960s female pop sound to it, and the nice guitar work that is on “Red Sun.”  The ballad “Game of Pretend” shows the best of Christine’s vocals, which reminds me of The Eagles 1994 song “Love Will Keep Us Alive.”

The bad part about the CD is that the few songs that I didn’t care for are really bad or below average and cringe worthy. I think there are a few filler songs on here, even though there are only 10 songs, such as “Lay Down For Free,” the ending “Carnival Begin,” and the cheesy lyrics of “Sleeping Around The Corner.” There is also a lack of guitar solos on the album, which I expected more due to Buckingham’s talent. However, since the CD is about 40 minutes run time, the few bad songs aren’t as painful for long. I think die hard Fleetwood Mac fans would love the CD, and for the casual fan, the CD is a good listen that you may want to check out, if you can handle some filler songs. This does not have every track a winner.

  1. “The Mission” –Styx. Similar to the above choice, I have limited knowledge of the band Styx, besides the hits (I still love 1983’s “Don’t Let It End”) and the fact that singer Dennis DeYoung left the band in 1999, after saying the stage lights would affect the health problems he was experiencing at the time (He had an 1984 solo hit “Desert Moon”). I saw the band in 2010 with Foreigner and Kansas on a triple bill, but that did little to impress me of the band.

With that said, this CD was a huge surprise to me. I enjoyed this concept album about a mission to Mars, and the liner notes give the overall story of the tale, along with an in -depth intro before the lyrics of each song about what the song was telling. The story was written by guitarist and vocalist Tommy Shaw and Will Evankovich. This album could have turned into a bad Rush album, but the whole run time is just about 40 minutes, which I love, because there is not much of extra fill to the story and songs-no 10 minute solos here. Since the CD is a concept album, it’s hard to review just a few songs, so I’ll jump to the overall grade.

The musicianship is very good; with Tommy Shaw proving he is an underrated vocalist, and Todd Sucherman’s drumming proves why he is constantly praised in the drum magazines.  The album as a whole is what the listener needs to experience, not judging by a single song via music sites. To truly enjoy the album, the listener needs to hear the whole thing to get the story. However, that is also the downside to the album- concept albums in 2017 is hard to sell to the listeners who want their downloaded songs instantly, not to sit and listen to 40 minutes of an album, like in the 1970s.  Veteran bands like Styx are at a point in their careers where they are not trying to gain new fans, so their long time fans will love this CD, but I advise anyone to take a chance on this album, because I was impressed and surprised. The reviews for this CD have been positive, and I can see why.

  1. “Chuck”- Chuck Berry. This CD may be my favorite of the year so far. I respected Chuck Berry for being one of the early pioneers of Rock N Roll, and this CD proves why he was a legendary musician. “Chuck” was the last album he recorded before his death, and his first since 1979. The opening song “Wonderful Woman” is a great choice to start the CD, with the classic Berry 1950s rhythm. Guest guitar players Gary Clark Jr (who I really like his work) and Charles Berry III help out on the track. The CD is full of gems like “3/4 Time (Enchiladas)”, which shows Berry’s humor (much like he did on his hit “My Ding A Ling”),  the rocking “Big Boys” which has a “Johnny B Goode” feel to it , and “Jamaica Man” has a grooving mood to the song. Speaking of “Johnny B Goode,” Berry’s track “Lady B. Goode” is a sequel to the classic hit, which discusses the girl who was behind the legendary Johnny.

Overall, there is only 3 bad songs on the CD, including the strange lyrically phrasing of “She Still Loves You’ and the straight talking verses of “Dutchman.”  My views on the bad songs still shows a music creativity aspect to it, so it’s not like they are overall badly written, or have a lack of musicianship to it- I just think they are a little flat compared to the other 7 songs.  The run time of the CD is short-at almost 34 minutes-so whatever songs that did not appeal to me, did not hinder the total flow of the CD. This is a must have CD in my opinion.

  1. “40: Forty Hits From Forty Years 2017”- Foreigner. This Double Disc was a difficult one for me to review. Let me first start off by saying I knew of the Foreigner “hits, “ and “Waiting For A Girl Like You” was one of the very earliest songs I can remember hearing on a 45 record, which was an introduction to Rock Music.  Whenever music fans bash the fact that the original singer or members are not in a band, I argue that this lineup of Foreigner is just plan awesome, and former Dokken bass player Jeff Pilson, and singer Kelly Hanson are amazing to watch. I have seen the band twice, as mentioned earlier, on the Styx tour in Burgettstown , PA in 2010, and I saw them in Chester, West Virginia in 2013 (Mick Jones was not at that show due to sickness), and they rocked both times.  I am also a HUGE fan of their 2009 CD “Can’t Slow Down,” which is one of the best CDs in years (I personally loved the AC hits “When It Comes To Love” and “In Pieces, among other songs from that album).

After admitting my love for the current lineup, the band has only released Greatest Hits, Acoustic, or Live CDs with an occasional new song added to these collections since 2009.  I understand the music business idea that certain bands do not want to go into a studio with the financial costs only to put out CDs that barely get noticed or take a profit loss, but I really wish this band would produce another album, because “Can’t Slow Down” was so good.

“40” is a Double Greatest Hits CD (some stores also add a 3rd live bonus disc) to celebrate the band’s 40 year anniversary. The songs are either remastered, a few are redone, or radio edits, and start chronological from the band’s first album to the newest lineup. This Greatest Hits collection has a remade version of the hit “I Don’t Want To Live Without You, “which falls flat compared to the original due to this version’s percussion sampling that sounds like a Casio keyboard from the 1980s. The song is overproduced with these samplings that distract me from Hanson’s underrated singing.

The CD also has a new recording called “Give My Life For Love,” a ballad that has way too much keyboards for my liking, along with the song “The Flame Still Burns,” which was released on an EP from 2016, and is a mid tempo ballad that ends the second disc. I understand that the order of songs deals with the order of the history of the band, but I would prefer perhaps a new rocker to end the collection, but the song is the best of the newer songs.

The overall opinion of this collection is mixed for me. As much as I would like to see another album in the vein of “Can’t Slow Down,” the few newer songs that are on this collection are suspect and too mellow for me. It seems like they are content to be an Adult Contemporary band as of late. The CD is a good collection for someone new to the band that would like to check out some rarer songs that aren’t on the normal Greatest Hits CDs, or that are not played on the radio, such as songs like “HeadKnocker,” “Luanne,” or “Women.” Also, if the listener missed the “Can’t Slow Down” CD, it is represented by the radio hits I mentioned before from the CD.  I was not familiar with “HeadKnocker,” so that was a surprise to me. I understand the logic of die- hard fans liking the song, but I don’t get the song “Starrider” being added to this collection-I was never a fan of the song, and with it being the second song on the first disc kills the flow after the opening rocker “Feels Like The First Time.” My personal opinion is that I don’t see the reason for remastering songs in the digital age (I understand why bands do it); to me it loses the fullness of the songs and feels compressed that it’s hard to rock out to the songs.

The fans that have all of the Foreigner studio albums will wonder why the band released yet another Greatest Hits CD. Much like Kiss releasing multi GH CDs(a band I love), the fans don’t need another GH CD from Foreigner. Since this collection is released by Atlantic Records and Rhino Records (who is known for just releasing GH CDs, besides last year’s CD by The Monkees), maybe there is a contractual aspect that the band released the CD (or they got a good deal with Rhino to help costs for the 40th Anniversary). I just feel that if a fan of the band has the studio albums through “Can’t Slow Down,” they can just get the occasional single via download for the collection and save the money of buying a double or triple disc.

 

These four CDs are not only different genres, but they have different results. I like some of these, and parts of other, and parts I do not care for. Maybe this review would help your decision in choosing what to put your money towards if you feel like you want to check out some music

Back To The Beach: My Favorite Rarer Beach Boys Songs

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

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

The Beach Boys

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

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

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

 

 

Over and Over – The Most Overplayed Rock Songs of the 1970s

One aspect of music is that it is subjective. One person thinks is a great song, another may hate. Granted, musicians may have more liking to songs due to its complexity or lack of, but music is a major part of life. We remember where we were when a song is released (back in the day, when it was actually released on radio and was charted, unlike the downloaded society we have now). The song brings back certain memories of where we lived, what we were doing, or who were with when that song has that special meaning.

However, songs end up being overplayed throughout the years, and with today’s limited radio format, the same songs get played every hour. That is why I made this list of overplayed songs of the 1970s (I will do one of the 1980s later).  Keep in mind that a regional aspect is also in play in my list. I may hear this song every hour in Ohio, but someone in California may not hear these on their radio stations. I do not have satellite radio either, so that is a non-factor. The qualifications are that it is overplayed throughout the years in my area. I also want to state that these songs are not bad songs-they are remembered throughout the years for a reason, but I would like a break from these songs.

So here are my picks for the Most Overplayed Songs of the 1970s (in no particular order). Feel free to dispute them.

hotel-california
Eagles Hotel California Album
  1. Hotel California-The Eagles (1977). I like the Eagles, and a lot of their songs are classics. This song made it to #1 on the charts, but it is long and a guitar player’s song. As a drummer, I can’t tell you how many bands I was in that had to play this song just because the guitar player wants to solo for 5 minutes. The audience got bored very quick playing this in a cover band. Many people still dispute what the song is about (Christians claim it’s about the church, which was disputed by the band themselves, to others saying it’s about the record company).  Regardless of what the song is about, this is a song that the deejay steps out of the booth to take a lunch break. There are other great songs that the band does not get played on the air (I love 1974’s “James Dean” and “Ol ‘55” from “On The Border” album).  This Hotel needs to shut down for a season.

 

queen
As great as the band Queen is, they do need a few songs to go into the vault.
  1. We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions- Queen (1977). This song is played together at every sporting event in the world it seems. I think it is one of Queen’s lesser quality songs. I can’t name the many Queen songs that I’d rather hear than this one (“Bohemian Rhapsody” is another one that can be added to this list). Freddy Mercury was one of the greatest singers is all music, and I feel gets ignored in the Greatest Rock Singers of all time argument.  I think many people are tired of this song.
ronnie van zant
Ronnie Van Zant
  1. Freebird- Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974-1977) . This song charted a few times, with the most famous in 1975 at #19. The live version hit #38 in 1977. Like “Hotel California,” this is a guitar player’s song, and when it comes on the radio or a band plays it, it is bathroom break time. The song is very long, and I got tired of it being a pro wrestling fan when The Fabulous Freebirds used it during their runs. I have never been a fan of Southern Rock and every band ends up playing the song if they play covers. By the time the song is over, the band could have played 2-3 more songs in their set list. The song is usually played late at night or after midnight on the radio stations. Some stations have limited it’s play due to it being so long, but it’s still play too much.  If I don’t hear this song for 20 years, it’ll still be too soon. Plus the fact that every person on the planet shouts out the name of the song at every concert, regardless of the artist, makes me hate the song even more.
bob seger
Bob Seger
  1. Turn The Page-Bob Seger (1977 studio track, 1979 live version). Much like other songs in the 1970s, this song was never released as a single, but the way it gets played, you’d think it was a #1 hit worldwide. It seems everyone has done a version of this song. I saw Garth Brooks perform it when I saw him in concert once. Seger is another artist that I am not a major fan of, so it may sound bias, but this song is another too long to be played on radio. Yes, I know albums were huge in the 1970s and people wanted longer songs, and listened to the album in whole, as opposed to today’s single downloaded songs. This song is as long as the road trip it describes in the song. The song is slow and boring-it does not rock.
cheap trick
As much as I love Cheap Trick, one song could use a rest.
  1. I Want You To Want Me-Cheap Trick (1977 studio, 1979 live). I love Cheap Trick, and even though they have been finally inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame, they are still underrated. I have seen them in concerts several times, and I know they have to play some of the hits, but this is a song I could handle if it was retired for a while (it’ll never happen even though the band does a great job mixing their set lists). Most casual fans do not know that the studio version is different and is used to the live version.  This song was tough for me to add to the list because it rocks, and has a catchy guitar and drum beat, but it seems to be the only song played on radio by the band besides “Surrender” or “The Flame.”  I’d love to hear “Voices,” or “I Can’t Take It” played on the radio.

 

kiss shirt
Most Kiss fans would agree to this song on my list.
  1. Rock and Roll All Night-Kiss (1975 studio, 1976 live). I love Kiss. Kiss, The Beach Boys, and The Oak Ridge Boys were the earliest music experiences I had as a child. I like all the versions of Kiss- I am particularly a big fan of the Eric Carr Years. I am not one of those fans that say that Ace and Peter are not in the band, so Kiss does not exist. That being said, I know this is a song that put the on the map and is a Rock and Roll Anthem, but I could handle the song being less played on radio and at events.  Even though the live version is better than the studio version, I was never a huge fan of the song. The same goes for “Detroit Rock City.” I would love to hear songs like “Mr. Speed” or “Crazy, Crazy Nights,” or “Reason to Live.” Radio stations; play something from Revenge album, which I feel was one of their best albums. I am older now, and don’t need to Rock and Roll All Night.
led zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
  1. Stairway To Heaven –Led Zeppelin (1971). This is another song that you’d think was a huge hit all over the world, but the song did not chart in the U.S.  Another thing that amazes me is how some people claim that this band is the greatest band in music history. I have nothing against the musical talents of the band members, but I would state bands like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, and The Who could be listed before I’d named Zeppelin.  The song is credited as one of the greatest songs of all time, but there has been several lawsuits stating the song was ripped off (as of this writing, the matter has enough steam to go into the courts).  If it is the greatest songs of all time, what is it about? Many cannot even tell you what all the words are to the song either. I think the greatest Rock and Roll Song should actually be Rock and Roll, not an orchestrated ballad.
doobie brothers
It may be a guitar classic, but give this Doobie’s hit a rest.
  1. China Grove-The Doobie Brothers (1973). This song has been taught in many guitar lessons ever since it came out and hit #15 on the U.S. Charts. The song has a basic beat to it, but is played to death in my area. To me the song bores me musically. If someone was going to have me suggest a song by the band, I’d choose “The Doctor” from 1989, which was their last hit on the charts.  China Grove is another guitar player song, where guitar players in cover bands always want to play the song. From the Classic Rock to the Oldies Radio stations, this song is heard almost every hour or two hours of the day, and always ends up being played on top of it whenever the stations have caller requests. This song amazes me of its popularity and it’s continued playing.

 

 

 

frampton
Stop showing me the way Mr Frampton.
  1. Show Me the Way-Peter Frampton (studio 1975, live version 1976). Most people know this song by the use of Frampton’s talk box effect during the song, which helped the song go to #6 on the U.S. Charts. Frampton wasn’t the first artist to use the effect, but many fans of the 1970s think of him when that effect is discussed.  This song has been covered by many artists, but it seems this song is played almost every hour on Classic Rock and Oldies radio stations. This is another song that can retire for several years from radio rotation.

 

 

Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Feel free to comment and subscribe to this page!

 

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.

The Best Christian Albums -My Picks.

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

 

guardian
My Copy of Guardian’s best CD

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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Me meeting Rebecca St. James in 2004

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

 

go west young man

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

stryper
My copy of Stryper’s CD

 

 

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

 

 

 

be the one

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

 

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

The Write Songs

Music and writing are two of my favorite things. When they are combined, it’s even better. I have made my top 10 Best Songs about Writing. Keep in mind; the songs are about writing, not songs that are named after writers or book titles.  Maybe some on here you may have not heard before or forgot about. Here we go:

 

10. “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter” (various artists). This song is the oldest on the list, dating back to 1935, but it was made famous by Frank Sinatra and has been covered by Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Paul McCartney, and Barry Manilow. What better than writing yourself your own love letter and having it come from your crush, because they are not going to write to you? This song can appeal to a young teenager’s love to an older love. Because of the age of the song, it shows it belongs on the list. Check out Manilow’s version as well-it’s great.

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Taylor Swift

 

9.“Dear John”-Taylor Swift (2010). Say what you want about Swift being Country/not Country or Teen Music, but this song showed me her great songwriting. The song is rumored to be about John Mayer from her “Speak Now” CD. My favorite line is “Wondering which version of you I might get on the phone tonight/Well I stopped picking up and this song is to let you know why.” A great “I’m over you after breaking my heart song.”

8. “Blue Letter” –Fleetwood Mac (1975). This song has personal history for me because when I was a drummer in one cover band, my guitar player would always play this song at practice. I have no idea why we didn’t play it in our setlist. This was off the first album that Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks came on (yes they weren’t original members of the band). I like the rhythm and tone of the song. It’s a basic rocking song about being dumped. The song was produced by Keith Olsen, who worked with Heart, Pat Benatar, Foreigner, and on my favorite album, Rick Springfield’s “Working Class Dog.”

 

7. “In Your Letter”- REO Speedwagon (1981). I was a late REO fan. I liked the hits that they have, but several years ago I listened to the whole “Hi Infidelity” CD and liked the other songs. This song was a single, but I didn’t remember it. Written by Gary Richrath, this reminds me of a girl writing a breakup letter  but the guy edits it for content. “You Could’ve Said it Better.” You may dump me for another guy, but at least I can write a better send off.

 

6. “If You Could Read My Mind” –Gordon Lightfoot (1970). This song was rumored to be written after a divorce, but there is so much substance in this timeless song. There is a gothic feel with ghosts and wishing wells, to comparisons to a drug store book novel. I used to show the lyrics to students when I was teaching English during poetry sessions. Just reading the words are powerful, but with the music, it’s even better. The song has been covered by Johnny Cash, Olivia Newton-John, Johnny Mathis, Glen Campbell, among others. Surprisingly, the song only hit #5 on the U.S. Charts, while it hit #1 on the Easy Listening Charts.

 

5.”Please Mr. Postman”- The Marvelettes (1961). This song was the debut of the girl group The Marvelettes and was Motown’s first #1 single. It is rumored to be written about a girl waiting for a letter from her man who is away at war, but there is no mention of war in the song. Nevertheless, back in the Pre-Internet days people had to write hand written letters and hope they were not lost in the mail. The song reminds me of the days when you would wait for the post man to come and deliver mail to you. The Beatles had another famous version of it a year later. A little trivia note: the drummer on the Motown version was Marvin Gaye.

 

4. “Western Union”-The Five Americans (1966). This is the only hit for this band, but it was a great one. The birth of the song came when guitar player came up with a sound on his guitar that made him think of a telegraph key. It’s a medium tempo song about a girl that’s leaving her man via telegram. It has such a catchy hook and is one of the under looked songs when you think of great songs from the 1960s. And the chorus is pretty easy to remember, although pretty high at times to sing.

 

3. “The Letter”-The Box Tops (1967). The title of this song says it all on why it’s making this list. A guy has to find any means of transportation to get back home because his girlfriend wrote him a letter. This song is one of the shortest songs in length to hit #1 on the U.S. Charts. Many other artists recorded this, including Joe Cocker, The Ventures, and several disco versions, but the original is still the best version.

 

2. “I Write The Songs”-Barry Manilow (1975). Next to “Mandy,” this might be Manilow’s most famous song, but it was written by The Beach Boys’ Bruce Johnston and was recorded by Captain and Tennille, and even David Cassidy, before Manilow released it, which became a  #1 hit. The song describes how music is created and written and it’s effect on those that listen. He almost always closes his concerts with the song.

 

the beatles
The Beatles

1.“Paperback Writer”- The Beatles (1966). This song is the first song I think of when I see lists about writers or authors. The background harmonies were rumored to be inspired by The Beach Boys, and the song was rumored to be created when Paul McCartney saw Ringo Starr reading a book, but the story has changed several times throughout the years. Nonetheless, the song about a writer who finishes his novel and needs someone to give him a break , which any writer can relate to. In today’s society it may be hard to grasp the concept of having to write a paperback novel and try to get it read, but it is still a timeless song, as most of the Fab Four’s songs.

10 Songs of Summer

beach

 

This past weekend we celebrated the first official day of summer, although most people think summer starts the first weekend of June and ends at the end of August, the calendar really states that summer starts the end of July and goes until towards the end of September. What better way to kick off the season than my lists of ten of the best summer songs you need on your listening playlist. Now there are unlimited songs about summer or that people love to hear, but these are my top ten, and they are all Rock Songs. Whether you agree or not, maybe you’ll find something on the list you may not have listened to before.

 

BANANARAMA-Cruel_summer
10. “Cruel Summer” –Bannarama. This song wasn’t a big hit when released until it was played in the movie “The Karate Kid.” Now everyone knows the song. Even though it’s be remade, the best is the 1984 version, talking about the heat of summer and wanting to be with a certain person as the season moves on.

 

 

Undertheboardwalk

9.”Under the Boardwalk”-The Drifters. One can’t imagine a better song than this 1964 hit taking the listener to the piers of the beach and smelling the “French Fries and the hot dogs that they sell.” John Mellencamp’s version is good too, but the original still gets me in the summer mood.

journey_escape

 

8. “Stone in Love”-Journey. This 1981 song is not as known as Journey’s other hits from the “Escape” album, but it gets heavy play in their concert set lists through the years. The heavy rock of the drums and guitars while the vocals sing about “Those Summer Nights Are Calling” makes the listener think they are spending their time with the “Blue-Jeaned Girl.” Hey even rockers need their summer songs too.

dock of the bay

7. “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”- Otis Redding. This was a hit in 1967, even though Redding died before the song was released. A sad summer song about a man that leaves broken hearted and decides to just sit and watch the “ships roll in.” Another great thing about this song is that it is only less than three minutes long and has the catchy whistling at the end of the song. One of the greatest songs ever recorded.

 

 

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6. “Surf City”-Jan and Dean. It’s not summer without the guys that helped the surfing craze of the 1960s. Along with the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean made America want to be beach bums and spend all day surfing. This hit from 1963 promised us “Two girls for every boy” and parties all the time.

220px-Beach_Boys_-_Getcha_Back

5. “Getcha Back”- The Beach Boys. It’s hard to choose just one Beach Boys song on a list of summer because, let’s face it, they ARE summer. I decided to go with my personal favorite, from 1985. This song was their come-back song after the death of drummer Dennis Wilson, and it still sounds modern. Mike Love sings about listening to the song of his ex on the radio and takes him back to the night they break up. He wonders if he leaves his girl and the ex leaves her man is they could “Get it back again.” When most people remember “Kokomo” from the later Beach Boys catalogue, Mike Love’s band still plays this one on tour. This song reminds me of my summer days when I was younger.

Richard-Marx-Endless-Summer-Ni-36986

4. “Endless Summer Nights”- Richard Marx. It’s hard to believe that this song was passed by almost every record company when Marx was trying to get a deal. Any child of the 1980s grew up with this song blaring on the radio. The great saxophone solo throughout the song is perfect for the 1980s (almost like a John Cafferty song). Marx once described this song as a “summer love not lasting.” Nonetheless you can “remember every moment of those endless summer nights.” A 1988 classic song, and one of my favorite of Marx’s songs.

 

BrownEyedGirl

3. “Brown-Eyed Girl”- Van Morrison. Everyone knows the words to this 1967 classic song, even when it is played at weddings, people jump out of their seats to start dancing to the catchy melody. This song sings about waterfalls and green grass and sunlight. How can this not be included in a summer playlist? And the fact that you don’t need to know the words, except the sing a long “La La La’s” shows how this song has stood through time. This is one of the few songs that I have played in every band I have ever been in and not get tired of the song. A total feel good song that if it is not in your playlist, throw your list away then.

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2. ‘The Boys of Summer”- Don Henley. When Henley started making solo records in the early 1980s after The Eagles broke up, many people finally started realizing what a great songwriter and vocalist he really is (outside of the die- hard Eagle fans). This 1984 song is usually the song people think of when Henley’s solo projects are brought up (maybe tied with “End of The Innocent”). Several others have re-made this song, but Henley’s is still the best. Although it’s about the end of summer, it’s still descriptive about the girl walking with her “Wayfarers on” and her “Brown skin shining in the sun.” Surprisingly the song only hit #5 in the U.S. , since it has become synonymous with summer songs. It is in my Top 5 of all songs from the 1980s.

 

Olivia-Newton-John-Summer_Nights_5_(2)1. “Summer Nights”- Olivia-Newton John and John Travolta. How can this not be the best song on a playlist about summer from the 1978 Movie “Grease?” Yes, “Grease” was a musical on Broadway before the movie, but most people know of the movie and this version. The song is also usually in the top 3 songs ever to be sung in Karaoke parties in the U.S. The song even hit #5 on the U.S. Charts and even did better around the world. Although the song takes place in the 1950s-1960s, it has not been dated with its chorus and lyrics. Whether you’re with a group of friends singing the words or by yourself, you have to say “Oh, those summer nights!”

 

Underrated Music Acts of the 1980s

In keeping with the music theme, I decided to rank my Top Underrated Artists of the 1980’s. I am focusing on the time these acts were in their most commercial success. Some of the acts started out before the 1980s, but they hit their stride in the decade, which is what I am focusing on. Some may think that some of these artists were One Hit Wonders, but really were not (I always laugh at the term One Hit Wonders because even if they hit the charts once, we still know the songs, regardless if they charted again in the U.S.). I am also focusing on their success in the United States mainly when I talk about the chart positions. I also list the years when the acts originally was started if they were a band.
Hopefully you will discover the music of these artists through whatever music access you have, because the talent here is amazing. In no particular order, here is my list:

12_NRBQ-Lou_1

1. NRBQ (1967-Current) . This band has a strange name, but their songs are known. This band has no category; they are Rock, Blues, Country, Rockabilly and everything in between. Guitar player Al Anderson left the band in 1994 to write with Country acts including George Strait, Carlene Carter, Diamond Rio, The Mavericks, and Garth Brooks’ guitarist Ty England. NRBQ’s songs have been covered by numerous acts, including She and Him (“Ridin in My Car”). Wrestling fans will remember the band for having an album with legendary manager Captain Lou Albano, who became the band’s manager for a time. The band still performs with a different lineup, but this band has influenced many acts and if it weren’t for the fact they were not on the charts, they should be in the (so called) Rock Hall of Fame.

satellites
2. The Georgia Satellites (1980-1990). Most fans remember this band for the hit “Keep Your Hands To Yourselves,” but they also had a minor single of the remake “Hippy Hippy Shake” from the Tom Cruise movie “Cocktail.” This band had a harder Southern Rock feel to them that didn’t sound redneck-ish but straight ahead Rock. Songs like “Battleship Chains” and from their 3rd CD “Six Years Gone,” “Days Gone By,” are great rock tunes. Also check out the ballad “Sweet Blue Midnight.” This band only had 3 major studio albums before singer and guitarist Dan Baird left for a solo career (Get his first one 1992’s “Love Songs For The Hearing Impaired,” which was full of songs that I played in a cover band with at that time). Baird still performs with his band, and the Satellites still perform separately with different members.

henry lee summer 2
3. Henry Lee Summer (1988-1989). This artist had two great CDs, including the hit “I Wish I Had A Girl” from his self titled-album. The self -titled also had great songs like “Hands On The Radio” and the ballad “Darling Danielle Don’t.” Summer was underrated as a guitar player with great Pop and Blues feel to the album. Although the second CD is not as great, it did have another hit, “Hey Baby” in 1989. Although he has been in the news the last few years because of some personal problems, it doesn’t diminish how great this artist is.

hi-blue-rodeo

4. Blue Rodeo (1984-Current). Anyone in Canada knows this band. Founded by Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, I discovered this band on a DVD of the Canadian concert of Live 8, where they performed the 1987 hit “Try,” a great ballad. I picked up their “Greatest Hits Vol 1” CD, and loved it. This band has a Country-Rock feel to it. This band has been given almost every major award available in Canada. Cuddy also has recorded as a solo act as well. I sometimes can pick up Canadian radio Station where I live, which plays the song “Bad Timing” from 1994. Great songwriting from this band.

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5. Enuff Znuff (1984-Current). This band was lumped into the Hair Metal era when they broke nationally (I apologize to those that know how much I HATE the term “Hair Metal” ), with their hits “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing” from 1989. Even though the band looked at first like 1960s hippies, the vocals and production on the songs were almost Beatle-like. The band had solid airplay on MTV during this time (MTV actually played videos), and I got to see the band on Poison’s 2001 Summer Tour, and they were amazing. They also have gone through lineup changes, with Donnie Vie leaving around the early 2000s. The band is currently a 3-piece band with Chip Z’Nuff heading the band. VERY underrated band and is respected among many musicians but never got the mainstream fan support.

dokken

6.Dokken (1976-Current). Just like the band above, this band was during the Hair Metal acts but for some reason, they are still not given the respect of that era, even though the band had around 10 singles that charted in the U.S. The most successful lineup of the band was from 1983-1988. Band member Juan Crouicer left in 1983 to join the band Ratt, and was replaced by Jeff Pilson. The most success of the band was with the albums “Tooth and Nail” (1984), “Under Lock and Key” (1985) and “Back For The Attack” (1987). Horror fans will remember the band for “Dream Warriors”, which was the theme song for the same title in the Nightmare on Elm Street Series. Band members Don Dokken and George Lynch had one of the most stressed relationships in music and Lynch left the band in 1989 and started Lynch Mob, and Dokken continued. Even though they have tried since to patch up differences, it has seemed to work, with Dokken still playing and Lynch is in several projects, including recording with Stryper’s Micheal Sweet. (Stryper is another band you need to check out) Jeff Pilson has been in Foreigner for the past years. Check out the band’s 1999 “Erase The Slate” as well, with Winger’s Reb Beach on guitar, but the bands 1980s stuff was very good, and it is surprising that they had success but seem to be forgotten the era.

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6. Rick Astley (1987-1993). It shocks me when people think this guy was a One Hit Wonder with being known for one song “Never Gonna Give You Up” from 1987. This song was #1 in many countries, along with “Together Forever” from the same album. Astley had a sound that would be like Michael Buble or a Sam Smith style, with a soul R&B sound. Maybe he was before his time. His second album, 1988’s “Hold Me In Your Arms” had two hits on it, “She Wants To Dance With Me,” and “Giving Up On Love.” Also on the album is a great version of “Ain’t To Proud To Beg,” which is slowed down to show his ballad soul voice. Astley retired from the business for a while, and later became a DJ in London. He still has recorded in the past decade, but the first two albums were great for him. He did chart in the 1990s in the U.S. but I still like the first two. Also check out “It Would Take A Strong Man” from the first album as well, which I remember seeing on MTV.
This is my list of the underrated acts from the 1980s. Don’t forget bands like Stryper, who were one of the first Christian acts ever on MTV, and still are around. Even though many know the big acts of the 1980s, maybe this list will let you check out some different acts as well.

Not Skipping Around-Albums That Must Be Heard!

I had a few people submit me some topics for future writings, and this one caught my eyes when I read this. Being a drummer since I was around 6 or 7 years old, and being a lover of all music, I was asked about albums that I could listen all the way through without skipping a track. Now we all have favorite artists but sometimes they have filler songs on albums that were just made to complete the project, or use a B-Sides of singles. So I thought I would list some that have no bad songs on it (in my eyes, or ears if you want to be technical). Keep in mind that Greatest Hits and Live projects are not counted in this list, only official studio albums. (U.S. compilations that were from other foreign albums do not count either). Some may be rare and surprise you. Now, in no particular order:

kiss

1. Kiss “Love Gun” (1977). Even though my favorite KISS albums of all time are “Revenge” and “Crazy Nights,” they have a few songs that I skip over. However “Love Gun” is pure joy to listen to, and at a run time of under 33 minutes, it doesn’t drag on. Of course many die hards like this because of Ace’s “Shock Me” on the album, I like everything on it, including Peter’s “Hooligan.” I remember getting this on cassette and listening to it constantly (I still have the cassette).

rick springfield

2. Rick Springfield “Working Class Dog.” (1980). This is the album many discovered Rick, even though he had several albums before this. This one made him into a star. Even some of us who weren’t familiar with him as Noah Drake on General Hospital, were hooked on this album, which had the #1 Hit “Jesse’s Girl”, and the remake of Sammy Hagar’s “I’ve Done Everything For You.” However, the deeper cuts like the ballad “Inside Silvia” and “Daddy’s Pearl” are true pop gems. This album was s staple growing up for me in Grade School and even in my college days. A true masterpiece.

beach boys
3. The Beach Boys “The Beach Boys” (1985). This album was, again, a big album of my childhood (on cassette). This was the first album since the death of drummer Dennis Wilson, and went into the 1980s synth-pop sound, but the harmonies and summer feel is still intact. It only had 1 Top 40 Hit, the underrated “Getcha Back,” which is a classic boy loses girl, boy meets girl years later. I still listen to this on CD and takes me back and reminds me of my best friend growing up in Junior High.
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4. Huey Lewis and The News “Picture This” (1982). This album is where most people discovered the band (they had one before this one). Even though most think of “Sports” as THE Huey Lewis album (it was the most popular), this one still is my favorite. It is not as polished as “Fore” (another one with no bad songs), keeping it raw feel to it. It only had 2 Top 40 Hits, with the most popular being “Do You Believe In Love,” but songs like “The Only One,” and “Is It Me” are my favorites.

oaks
5. The Oak Ridge Boys “Fancy Free” (1981). The first album I ever had was their “Greatest Hits”, but this studio record (which I still have on vinyl) is true Oak classic. The self titled single, along with their best-known hit “Elvira” both topped the Charts. However the deeper cuts like “When Love Calls You” and “Somewhere in The Night” show not only how underrated Duane Allen’s voice is, but also the arrangements that he helped orchestrate the band to become one of the biggest acts in the 1970s-1980s. The last track “I Would Crawl All The Way” keeps their Gospel roots history going, which is something since they were considered a Country-Pop act. Good vocals hold up in any era, and this never sounds outdated.

warrant
6. Warrant “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich” (1989). In the so called Hair Metal decade (I do hate that term!!), one of the big acts was Warrant. This was their first CD, and I remember proudly wearing their T Shirt in High School, much to be laughed at by the die-hard Metal fans. However, to this day, the CD holds up. It had 3 Top 40 Hits, including the famous “Heaven,” but there is not a song that can be skipped. Cuts like “In The Sticks,” and “32 Pennies” still rock. Most forget the lead single “Down Boys,” but I was hooked on them when I first saw that video on MTV.

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7. Skid Row “Skid Row” (1989). Also the same year was this band that somehow got lumped in the Hair Metal genre, even though they changed that with their second album a few years later. I cannot really name a bad Skid Row album with the first singer Sebastian Bach, but I’m picking this one as one that I cannot skip a track. Most know “Youth Gone Wild,” and the ballads “18 and Life” and “I Remember You,” but “Can’t Stand The Heartache” and “Big Guns” are true Metal classics. I liked this band from day one, and still like the stuff they are putting out.

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8. Van Halen “Van Halen II” (1979). Van Halen is a strange band for me. I LOVED them in my High School Days, especially with Sammy Hagar as the singer (it was the first concert I ever saw in 1991). But throughout the years, the band has just dulled me out. I still think Sammy was a better VOCALIST but David Lee Roth was a great front man, and very few of their albums I can listen to anymore without some of the songs sounding dated. However this one still has the great songs on it, such as “Dance The Night Away” and “Bottom’s Up.” Even though “You’re No Good” as the opener is a cover, it’s not bad that you have to skip it. Ending the album with “Beautiful Girls” is a nice touch of some humor added that Van Halen sneaked into their songs. I still enjoy “Women In Love.” Most people pick the first album as their favorite, and I have no problem with it, but I think “Running With The Devil” is very overplayed so it lessens my love for the album. This one I still don’t get tired of.

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9. Nelson “After The Rain” (1990). Most people laugh when I say I am a huge fan of the Nelson Brothers. I loved Rick Nelson, their father, and his music as well. Most people unfairly judged them by the hair, but not realizing 1. They haven’t had the hair for years and 2. They paid their dues just to get to the first record. This album had 3 Top 40 Hits (most people wrongly thought they were a One Hit Wonder), and was some great Pop Hard Rock tunes on it, along with some ballads, all with vocal harmonies thrown into the mix. Songs like “Everywhere I Go” and “Only Time Will Tell” are great ballads that would fit in that era’s Power Ballads. One of the best concerts I have gotten to see in the past 10 years was getting to see the brothers perform, although it was a tribute to their Dad’s work, it was still a great show. These guys are great musicians as well. For those that always made fun of them, this album put them in the Guinness Book of World’s Records for being the first 3rd Generation Act to have Top 40 Hits.

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10. Poison “Open Up and Say..AHH!” (1988). This was the album, like many that got hooked on the band, with the hit “Nothin’ But A Good Time” and “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn.” Although one of my favorites is their first album, it had some fillers that I tend to skip. Even though I think “Rose” is overplayed (I was a roadie for a local Country Band that played the freaking song-Line Dancers and Power Ballads-made me sick!), I can still tolerate it. The rare songs on here like “Back To The Rocking Horse” and “Bad To Be Good” are enjoyable. I always thought that “Fallen Angel” never gets the respect it should when it comes to Poison songs. I never get tired of hearing “Good Love” on the album. From beginning to end, this was a solid Poison album, which is not always the case in their catalogue in my view, but I still like the band.
There are some of my picks for albums that I do not skip a track on. What’s your take? Care to tell me some of yours? There are a few others I probably could name, so maybe that’ll be another time.

Covering The Originals

I love music.
I grew up with music, from playing drums at age 5, to graduating to several local bands in the Youngstown, Ohio area; music has been a major part of my life. I used to listen to Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” every Saturday morning with my boom box waiting to record on cassette tape my favorite song (this is a dated reference I know, but this was pre internet and downloads).
Recently at my work place, a colleague and I were discussing music and the topic became “What cover song is just as, or even better than the original?” This got us on a several day tirade and I decided to share a few of my favorites on the subject.
Now keep in mind that I am not including songs that are most popular associated with remakes, for instance, Whitney Houston’s version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” or Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along With Watchtower,” are just as good (or in my opinion better than their originals as does Elvis Presley’s version of “Hound Dog.” I want to focus on rare songs that most people may not heard or even forgot about when discussing the topic. These are a few of my favorites (it is my blog) and hopefully you will check it out on youtube or whatever music channels you use and discover a few gems. None of these are in order, so the number listings are just for separation purposes.

1. “Stuck In The Middle With You”-The Jeff Healey Band. This song has a personal happiness for me because I used to play this version in one of my early bands in the late 1990s. Healey’s version came off of an all covers album, and has a more blues/rock feel to it, as opposed to the original by Stealers Wheel from 1972. Healey’s version is a more crunchy sound as well, opposite of the original’s funky bass line. The fact that Healey was very underrated as a guitar player, his solo is rocking and incredible in this song.

2. “This Old Heart of Mine”-Wild Cherry. Most people know Wild Cherry as the band that hit the charts with “Play That Funky Music,” but they recorded some great songs in their brief four-album career. The band from Steubenville, Ohio’s (not far from where I live) take on the old Isley Brother’s 1966 hit, is probably my favorite version of the song, even better than the more famous 1989 version where Ron Isley sang with Rod Stewart. Wild Cherry’s was a very good band that most people lump into One Hit Wonder status. Check out Wild Cherry.

3. “Radar Love”- White Lion. White Lion was a very underrated band in the 1980s-1990s , and did not get their just recognition. They are lumped into the “Hair Metal” genre (a term I HATE-a rant for another time), and I think their version of the #13 hit by Golden Earring is actually better than the original. I think the original sounds dated, even though White Lion’s take only reached #59 on the U.S. Charts, the video was in heavy rotation on MTV in the day. Most people forget about White Lion, but they were a great blues-rock band (I tend to lump them more with Cinderella) and all their music should be checked out.

4. “Just My Imagaination”-The Rolling Stones. This song is kinda rare when talked about The Rolling Stones, but this is one of my favorites. I love Motown music, but this more up-tempo version of The Temptation’s 1971 hit is better than the original. There are a few versions of this song, which debuted on the “Some Girls” album in 1978, but I fell in love with it during the “Shine A Light” concert movie.

5. “That’s Rock N Roll”-Shawn Cassidy. This cover of Eric Carmen’s song became a #3 hit for Cassidy in 1977, when the 1970’s Teen Idol explosion was happening and Cassidy was having many hits. The brother of David Cassidy puts more feeling into the song than the original, and is great teen pop.

6. “Da Do Ron Ron”- Shawn Cassidy. I was never a fan of the Crystal’s 1963 hit, which reached #3 on the U.S. Charts, but in 1977 Cassidy took it to #1. As the same with “That’s Rock N Roll, “ Cassidy put more feeling into the song. Cassidy was one of the top Teen Idols during this time and had several chart hits. This one is one of my favorites that he recorded (His version of The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA” is one of the worst). This version has a more rock sound and doesn’t seem as dated as the original

7. “Dream Lover”-Rick Nelson. I am a fan of Bobby Darin’s music, but I would name Rick Nelson (who by this time changed his name from the teen Ricky) as one of my all time favorite artists. Most of his really creative works were done later in his career, even though many forgot about him at the time. This song was not released as a single that I know of, but he did perform it in 1979, when he hosted “Saturday Night Live” in hopes of a come back. According to VH1’s’ Behind The Music,” Nelson’s record company sat on the single for months until a full album was made, which killed the momentum he had from his TV appearance. This version is a slower ballad version, and shows Nelson’s crooning voice, which made him famous early in his career.

These are just a few of the songs I feel are just as, or better than the original recordings. A few more Honorable Mentions goes to: Poison’s “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” Phil Collin’s “A Groovy Kind Of Love,” Rick Nelson’s “I Shall Be Released,” and Nelson’s “She Belongs to Me.” Hopefully you will check out some of these, and feel free to send your own comments and suggestions