Tag: 1984

Guadalcanal Diary – Walking in the Shadows of the Big Man

ARTIST: Guadalcanal Diary     

TITLE: Walking in the Shadows of the Big Man

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Watusi Rodeo, Trail of Tears

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Why Do the Heathen Rage?, Pillow Talk

LINEUP: Murray Attaway, Jeff Walls, Rhett Crowe, John Poe

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Athens scene band, jangly guitars, but a different deal than REM due to the more linear story songs and harmonies.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Hearing the guitars, you think that maybe Guadalcanal Diary cribbed something from older scenesters REM, but then when Murray Attaway sings, and the lyrics are definitely mostly straight forward story songs or love songs, with harmonies from the rest of the band, it becomes more of a second cousin band to their more famous scene-mates.

Their debut, produced by REM producer Don Dixon, show off the band’s strengths in harmonies, and creating a mood. Yet, it seems slight, since two of the tracks were instrumentals, and another was a live version of  Kum Ba Yah”.

Guadalcanal Diary had promise – a more traditional sound still with the college radio / independent streak. This debut showed off some of the things that endeared them to fans later down the road.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Dixon had recorded an EP for them, and this album to put out on a local label. When they got signed, they convinced Elektra to release this record and not make them record new tracks.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, B-sides and their first EP are appended. 

GRADE: B: It’s really good in most spots, but it’s slight and seems slapped together at times.

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Barrence Whitfield & The Savages – Barrance Whitfield & The Savages

ARTIST: Barrence Whitfield & the Savages             whitfield

TITLE: Barrence Whitfield & the Savages

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, no

LINEUP: Barrance Whitfield, Peter Greenberg, Phil Lenker, Howard Ferguson, Steve LaGrega, Bill Mooney-McCoy

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A throwback soul man hooks up with a group of affecionadoes from the Lyres and other Boston bands to create a hot R&B revue.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Barrence Whitfield was in college in Boston and working at a record store, when Peter Greenberg of the Lyres heard him singing in the store. Soon, Whitfield and Greenberg were working together with a group of Boston-based musicians. They dubbed the band “The Savages” which fit Whitfield’s raucous vocals.

Their first album is a stomper, with some obscure R&B covers from the 60’s and originals that fit right in like “Walking with Barrence” and “Ship Sailed at Six”. A cover of “Mama Get the Hammer” fits right in with its oddball and frenetic energy.

It’s a fun time with a fun band.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Whitfield’s real name is Barry White. There’s a good reason they changed it.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a re-issue packs 10 more cuts onto the package.

GRADE: A-: Just try not to move during this record.

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Rattlesnakes

ARTIST: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions           Rattlesnakes

TITLE: Rattlesnakes

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: #13 UK

SINGLES: Perfect Skin (#26 UK), Forest Fire (#41 UK), Rattlesnakes (#65 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only if you were hip to him back then.

LINEUP: Lloyd Cole, Neil Clark, Blair Cowan, Lawrence Donegan, Stephen Irvine

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut from songwriter and his band shows his influences, and also shows that he’s almost equal to them.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s a spot of Dylan and Television in the songs, and some soul and R&B influences in the music, and some of the production is definitely 80’s, but this debut from Lloyd Cole and his band isn’t a period piece or a homage.

Cole’s songs are more than just an ape of his idols and inspirations. Cole’s songs have strong narratives, and the backing is tight and sympathetic. He and his band allow the songs to breathe, but the arrangements also display his band’s precision and musicianship.

This was a college radio favorite in the US, and thus not many people heard it. It’s our loss.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Cole’s father was the club master at a golf club in Scotland, and that’s where this labum was written.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yep. B-sides, live cuts, the usual add-ons.

GRADE: A: We should have been hip to it.

Butthole Surfers – Butthole Surfers / Live PCPPEP

ARTIST: Butthole Surfers                          220px-Butthole_Surfers_Front

TITLE: Butthole Surfers / Live PCPPEP

YEAR RELEASED: 1983 / 1984

CHART ACTION: #21 UK Indie (!!!!!)

SINGLES: None (these were two EPs)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave, Bar-B-Q Pope

LINEUP: Gibby Haynes, Paul Leary, King Coffey, Bill Jolly. Teresa Nervosa is on the live tracks. Brad Perkins drum son two tracks.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The first emittance from these weirdos from Austin is chaotic, shambling, and yet after a while it makes sense, sorta. 220px-Butthole_Surfers_Live_PCPPEP_Front

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The first rule of Butthole Surfers is to not take them seriously. That’s kind of obvious, but most of what they do are ingenious genre parodies with unexpected twists and turns (the ending of “The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave where Paul Leary just keeps yelling “shut up” in a defeated way and some people may not get that and just hear chaos and noise.

There is definite some form and structure and some definitely advanced ideas here. It’s just sifted through a lens of demented weirdness. The live EP showcases the same kind of derangement, with more saxophone from Haynes that adds to the entire stew of madness and his golf commentary on “Bar-B-Q Pope” is pure genius.

It may take a while for you to grasp this. Heck, it took me a while.

Brown_Reason_to_Live

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band had a hard time keeping drummers and bass players until they found Coffey, and later Nervosa.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: There are a few bonus tracks – more live material and a demo.

GRADE: B+: I get what they’re doing, and it’s fun, but…it’s not for everyone

Prince – Purple Rain

ARTIST: Prince                             Princepurplerain

TITLE: Purple Rain

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #4 UK

SINGLES: When Doves Cry (#1 US, #1 R&B, #1 Dance, #4 UK), Let’s Go Crazy (#1 US, #1 R&B, #1 Dance, #7 UK), Purple Rain (#2 US, #3 R&B, #6 UK), I Would Die 4 U (#8 US, #11 R&B, #50 Dance, #58 UK), Take Me with U (#25 US, #40 R&B, #7 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Darling Nikki, Baby I’m a Star

LINEUP: Prince, Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Matt Fink, Brown Mark, Bobby Z, Novi Novog, Dave Coleman, Suzie Katayama. Apollonia and Jill Jones sing on “Take Me with U”

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A brilliant soundtrack to Prince’s star turn on film.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Even if it wasn’t a movie soundtrack, this would be an almost perfect album. Yet because it’s a soundtrack only enhances just how good this is. A regular soundtrack albums tends to have a flaw or two, with a song being wedged in due to the plot or licensing. Not here.

This is also the first true collaboration with the Revolution on most of the tracks. Just three of the nine tracks are Prince solo joints, with “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Purple Rain” being collaborations (and the Revoution gets songwriting credit as well).

The songs also link together, not just thematically, but on the album. It’s pretty near a seamless record, with no flaws. The album spawned a lot of cover versions for almost every song.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Prince had a couple of early versions, with longer versions of “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Computer Blue”, with two other songs in place of “When Doves Cry” and “Take Me with U”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: YES! Brand new with newly released tracks.

GRADE: A+:  A fantastic album, and most incredibly, a soundtrack album that’s flawless.

Los Lobos – How Will the Wolf Survive

ARTIST: Los Lobos                                     howwillthewolfsurvive

TITLE:  How Will the Wolf Survive

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: #47

SINGLES: Don’t Worry Baby (#28 Mainstream, #57 UK), Will the Wolf Survive (#78 US, #26 Mainstream)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Got Loaded

LINEUP: David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano, Louie Perez, Steve Berlin

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut long-player showcases the versatility and chops of the East LA band.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A first-time listener to this entire album, thinking of just the radio cuts, would definitely be surprised by the breadth and depth of this album.

They know how to play rock, sure, and they can sling guitars. They also can play plaintive ballads. But they’re adept at a more blues based style, and most importantly, native Norteno that to the untrained ear sound like polkas. The accordion is just as important of an instrument to them as guitar.

Vocally, David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas are adept at all of the material, and their guitar playing and Higalgo’s mandolin are excellent. It’s a revelatory record and opened a lot of ears toward Mexican music.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Drummer Louie Perez co-wrote seven of these tracks, collaborating with both Hidalgo and Rosas.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A:  Fantastic album that should open one’s ears at the versatility of the band.

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Couldn’t Stand the Weather

ARTIST: Stevie Ray Vaughan                        220px-srvcouldntstandtheweather

TITLE:  Couldn’t Stand the Weather

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: #31

SINGLES: Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (#20 Rock), Cold Shot (#29 Rock), Couldn’t Stand the Weather

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I dunno. Maybe?

LINEUP: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tommy Shannon, Chris Layton. Help from Jimmie Vaughan on a couple of tracks and Fran Christina on one.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Second album by the now-star blues guitarist seems a little short on material.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There are some fantastic cuts on this album, don’t get me wrong. The title track is outstanding with its syncopated rhythm and difficult time signature. His cover of “Cold Shot” is also fantastic as is the slow burn of “Tin Pan Alley”.

Yes, he does cover Hendrix, who was an inspiration, and he does it pert near flawlessly, but it does sound a lot like the Hendrix version without the ultra-distorted guitar. While two of the songs break eight minutes, it still seems like a slight album and not one that’s packed with songs.

Still, it has enough good to great material to make this a must for blues guitar fans. After his first record, we wanted more, and this seems like a regression.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This time, the record took 19 days. There are more outtakes than the first album, but some of the spark and immediacy is gone.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with outtakes that wound up being remade for his third album, and later a live set.

GRADE: B: I wanted more than I got, I guess. It’s good, but it could have been great.

Voivod – War and Pain

ARTIST: Voivod                                    voivod_-_war__pain

TITLE:  War and Pain

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Voivod

LINEUP: Denis Belanger, Denis D’Amour, Jean-Yves Theriault, Michel Langevin

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Quebecois thrash band makes a thrashy record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The early roots of Voivod is pure thrash, and this debut record illustrates this. On original release there were nine cuts that all kind of bled together as one pummeling assault.

What separates great thrash albums from others is the change in textures and styles. This has none – it’s pure assault and that can wear on you for a long time.

Voivod would grow, change, mature past the simple thrashiness. Here, though, this is just too much blurriness.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Allegedly, they made only $1,000 from this even though it sold 40,000 copies initially.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Demos and live cuts and cuts for a compilation.

GRADE: C: I am exiling this. It’s just too much of the same thing.

Madonna – Like a Virgin

ARTIST: Madonna                                     220px-LikeAVirgin1984

TITLE:  Like a Virgin

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Like a Virgin (#1 US, #1 Dance, #3 UK), Material Girl (#2 US, #1 Dance, #3 UK), Angel (#5 US, #1 Dance, #5 UK), Dress You Up (#5 US, #3 Dance, #5 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Teenagers in the 80’s know the album

LINEUP: Madonna, Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers, Nathaniel Hardy, Tony Thompson,l dave Weckl, Robert Sabino, Curtis King, Frank Simms, George Simms

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The album that launched the video star, the controversial icon, and, well, Madonna being all Madonna all the time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Madonna, plus the engine behind Chic for most of the songs, equals a powerhouse album. The singles dominated the airwaves in 1984 and 1985 (plus two other non-album singles to boot). Yes, she was hyped. The music, though, was as good as the hype.

Nile Rogers’ production is top notch, and adds the right arrangement for all of the songs. The non-single tracks are maybe a bit under the singles in terms of quality, but they still have a good sound, a fun vibe, and Madonna doesn’t half-ass her vocals on them, either, especially since she wrote most of them.

What everyone remembers is her lascivious performance at the original VMAs, but the album was good; good enough that it’s unfortunate that everything else overshadowed it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Tipper Gore thought “Dress You Up” was vulgar. Whatever.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. The European version had “Into the Groove” as a track (not released in the US until later, for a movie) and there’s another version with two remixes.

GRADE: A-:  When you actually listen to the album, it’s good, and the sequencing is spot on.

“Weird Al” Yankovic – In 3-D

ARTIST: “Weird Al” Yankovic          Weird_Al_Yankovic_-_In_3-D

TITLE:  In 3-D

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: #17

SINGLES: Eat It (#12 US, #36 UK), King of Suede (#62), I Lost on Jeopardy (#81)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Polkas on 45, Theme from Rocky XIII (The Rye of the Kaiser)

LINEUP: “Weird Al” Yankovic, Jim West, Steve Jay, John Schwarts, Rick Derringer, Pat Regan. Don Pardo is a guest, of course.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The parodist hits his stride with great parodies and videos, and some of his originals are OK, too.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: When you think of Weird Al, chances are you first think of his iconic videos from the early days of MTV. The video for “Eat It” made him famous, as did the outstanding “I Lost on Jeopardy”. He wasn’t all video though.

The concept of “Polkas on 45” was genius here – pairing classic rock tunes to polka rhythms and melody tropes. He also hit at songs by Men Without Hats, Survivor and the Police, along with stylistic parodies of reggae and the B-52’s.

This time, a few of the originals are worth keeping around. His non-parody songwriting was improving, but a couple of cuts were exiled for being long and not that clever or funny.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: One of the backing vocals on “Mr. Popeil” is Lisa Popeil, the daughter of the famous inventor.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B: A more consistent effort with some great, funny parodies..