Tag: 1985

Prince – Around the World in a Day

ARTIST: Prince                        Prince_Around

TITLE: Around the World in a Day


CHART ACTION: #1 US, #4 R&B, #5 UK

SINGLES: Raspberry Beret (#2 US, #4 R&B, #25 UK), Paisley Park (#18 UK), Pop Life (#7 US, #8 R&B, #60 UK), America (#46 US, #35 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Condition of the Heart

LINEUP: Prince with some help from the Revolution, David Coleman, Jonathan Melvoin, Susannah Melvoin and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Prince releases a ‘disappointing album’, which was perfectly fine, just not a masterpiece like his previous two.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Except for “Raspberry Beret” and “Pop Life”, Prince’s psychedelic excursion isn’t memorable to casual fans. And yes, there are a couple of cuts that aren’t up to his usual high quality, and drag the album down a bit.

Yet, Prince showed that he definitely has a psychedelic and mystical side with an album that updates the psychedelic soul of the late 60’s into the mid 80’s. He uses more collaborators than usual (the siblings of Wendy and Lisa are prominent), and strings and instruments like the oud and darbuka come into play.

It’s not so much as a stylistic detour, as an enhancement. Prince is adding sounds and textures to his repertoire, and at times that supersedes the actual songs.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Prince didn’t want much publicity, and “Raspberry Beret” wasn’t officially released as a single for three weeks after the album release..


GRADE: B+: Some great songs, some great stylistic textures, just a couple of duds.

Dinosaur Jr. – Dinosaur

ARTIST: Dinosaur, Jr.                             220px-dinosaur_album_cover_dinosaur_jr

TITLE:  Dinosaur



SINGLES: Repulsion


LINEUP: J Mascis, Lou Barlow, Murph

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Early work from long-standing alternative / punkish band is full of songs that point a way forward, but still has a punk rock motif at times.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After their original band Deep Wound broke up, Mascis and Barlow formed another band, and their record was released thanks to a college friend (Gerald Cosloy) said he’d put it out on his record label.

The band’s original sound was a mish-mosh, with some folkish idioms churned through loud guitars, next to a punk rock style song. It wasn’t very cohesive, and sometimes made worse by Mascis’ unique nasal vocals. Also, they were sued early on by an old band called Dinosaur, and so appended the Jr. to their name.

However, there are gems like “Repulsion” here, and the guitar work is pretty darn great the way through. It’d take a little bit for them to find there way.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The original pressing sold just 1,500

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, the B-side of “Repulsion”, which J. Mascis wanted to start the album off on the reissue.

GRADE: C+: A couple of great songs, some mediocrity as well. The guitar work almost saves it.

Slayer – Hell Awaits

ARTIST: Slayer                                     220px-slayerhellawaits

TITLE:  Hell Awaits




OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Speed metal freaks know this record.

LINEUP: Tom Araya, Jeff Hanneman, Kerry King, Dave Lombardo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Moving forward from straight thrash, Slayer adds some progressive elements to the mix, while still keeping their brutally propulsive tone.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This album lets you breathe, a little bit. Somewhat.

Tom Araya’s vocals are still distilled in a quick, blurry bark that makes you just guess at a lot of the lyrics. But the vocals aren’t quite why you’re here. You’re here for the riffs and solos and the crazy tempos. This record delivers that. It also varies thing enough so you’re not bored (if you can be bored at 200 MPH metal) and it showcases that they’re actually musicians and noise makers. They add in odd time signatures and some interesting progressions that show their chops, even as you worry that Dave Lombardo’s arms will fall off from drumming so fast.

The production is much better than their first album. The only drawback is its length. It’s only seven songs, and it seems like it’s over before it starts. Always leave them wanting more, I guess.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Instead of being self-financed, this record had an actual recording budget.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, two tracks from an EP.

GRADE: B+:  This sets the stage for their major label debut.

LL Cool J – Radio

ARTIST: LL Cool J                                              radio_llcoolj

TITLE:  Radio


CHART ACTION: #46 US, #6 R&B, #71 UK

SINGLES: I Can’t Live Without My Radio (#21 Dance, #15 R&B), Rock the Bells (#24 Dance, #17 R&B), I Can Give You More (#21 Dance), You’ll Rock (#59 R&B)


LINEUP: LL Cool J, DJ Cut Creator. Russell Rush is one one track.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Excellent debut album, minimally produced by Rick Rubin, that displays LL Cool J’s excellent rap and flow, and Cut Creator’s turntables and beats.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Hip-hop is so much a production now (some say too much of a production) that listening to this album now is jarring because of its simplicity.

James Tood Smith (LL Cool J) had one single under his belt when Rubin nabbed him and his DJ Jay Philpot (Cut Creator) and unleashed this upon the public. Unadorned beats, splashes of turntables, and Cool J’s raps was all they needed to create an old-school classic.

There’s a soft side to this (“I Can Give You More), but the best cuts are direct and in your face. Most everything works, and it’s a landmark album in hip-hop. I mean, it’s got “Rock the Bells”. That’s all you need, period.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” was featured in the movie Krush Groove.


GRADE: A:  Stripped down, minimalist hip-hop. The skeleton of the genre. Classic.

Big Audio Dynamite – This Is Big Audio Dynamite

ARTIST: Big Audio Dynamite  220px-BAD_This_is_BAD

TITLE:  This Is Big Audio Dynamite



SINGLES: The Bottom Line (#33 Club Play, #97 UK), E=MC2 (#37 Club Play, #11 UK), Medicine Show (#42 Club Play, #29 UK).


LINEUP: Mick Jones, Don Letts, Dan Donovan, Leo Williams, Greg Roberts

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Miles away from the sound of the Clash, Mick Jones creates a unique sounding dance band that uses samples and sound effects coupled with Jones’ political and social views.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “Medicine Show”, the first cut from this new band, hooks you with its long samples from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and other Eastwood movies and westerns. Yet, the song itself, overlayed with those samples, holds its own by its mix of dance rhythms, sound effects and other musical genres.

The rest of the album is varied just like that. There’s Jones’ lyrics and distinctive voice, coupled with dance music drums and rhythms, sound effects, and the work of Jones and Williams on guitar and bass. Don Letts, a filmmaker, was Jones’ partner and designed the effects and samples to fit the songs and does an excellent job in intermixing them through the songs.

Most of the album is great, and still sounds fresh today. There’s some filler on the second site, but the band closes strong with “BAD”, their nominal theme song.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After being ousted from the Clash, Jones joined General Public for a minute or two, then formed another band with ex-Clash drummer Topper Headon before dissolving that and forming Big Audio Dynamite.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A Legacy Edition with dubs and remixes

GRADE: A-:  Most all of the songs are winners, and are strong enough to bring the album up to this grade. An excellent breakaway from the sound of the Clash.

R.E.M. – Fables of the Reconstruction

ARTIST: R.E.M.                           R.E.M._-_Fables_of_the_Reconstruction

TITLE:  Fables of the Reconstruction



SINGLES: Can’t Get There from Here (#14 Mainstream), Driver 8 (#22 Mainstream), Wendell Gee

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Feeling Gravity’s Pull, Maps and Legends

LINEUP: Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Bill Berry.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Moody, dark album changes things up a bit for the group, but some of the songs are the weakest of their output so far.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I remember, after playing this album a few times, being disappointed by some of the tracks, as they were too dark and murky and at times impenetrable. I still think that about some of the tracks but a few have moved into my personal favorites for the group.

It’s an album full of eccentric people and visions, and the opening two tracks (“Feeling Gravity’s Pull” and “Maps and Legends”) are fantastic songs that you really need to work through, but once the light hits, you have it. Yet, some of the character studies and expressionistic songs just don’t do as well as the others.

The band got a couple of great college radio hits and some more play on MTV, setting the stage for their commercial move forward. It was a bit of an artistic retreat, or perhaps a re-calibration.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was recorded in London, and is the only REM album recorded outside the US

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a big ol’ deluxe with B-sides, outtakes and a whole live set.

GRADE: B: As I said, I like many of the songs, but I’m not enamored with some and the album as a whole piece of work.


The Dead Milkmen – Big Lizard in My Backyard

ARTIST: The Dead Milkmen 220px-Big_Lizard_in_My_Backyard

TITLE:  Big Lizard in My Back Yard





LINEUP: Dave Blood, Joe Jack Talcum, Rodney Anonymous, Dean Clean (Dave Schulthise, Joe Genaro, Rodney Linderman, Dean Sabatino)

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Snotty punk parodists hit more than miss with their debut full-length album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sure, there are some things on this album that are probably offensive to almost everyone (I don’t think anyone could get away with “Taking Retards to the Zoo” now, unless they’re totally misanthropic) but the attitude and effort the Dead Milkmen put into their parodies is rather infectious.

Like most satire or parody, not everything hits, but the first several cuts and, of course, “Bitchin’ Camaro” hit right on the money. The second half is a bit spottier, and some tracks were recorded in a different session which sounds like it came from a home tape deck and not a real studio.

Depending on your tolerance for the lesser tracks and / or your tolerance for being offended, the first half makes this a definite winner.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: In case you didn’t notice, the first half of “Bitchin’ Camaro” is totally improvised.


GRADE: B+: The first half of the record is a straight A, after “Bitchin’ Camaro” it drops off in quality.


Naked Raygun – Throb Throb

ARTIST: Naked Raygun Throb_Throb

TITLE:  Throb Throb




OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  Doubt it, really.

LINEUP: Jeff Pezzati, Camilo Gonzalez, John Haggerty, Jim Coalo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of Chicago’s early punk bands changes up personnel and issues their first full length album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Naked Raygun finally solidified their lineup long enough to get into a studio and record a proper album. Of course, the lineup fluidity was just part of the deal in the early days of a punk scene. Band members join and leave to find other bands or start their own.

This version of Naked Raygun introduces John Haggerty into the mix, who changed their style a bit but they still kept the intensity. Intense is the key word for this group.

The intensity does overwhelm a few of the songs, where it’s a fast burning flame that peters out too quickly. Most everyone writes songs, and that variety is one thing that keeps it from being repetitive. It’s a good effort, but not the release to start exploring this group.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was recorded in 1983, but Homestead Records signed them and put off the record until 1985, which is an eternity in punk rock!

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, the 1999 CD reissue adds a track.

GRADE: B: Decent workman-like punk rock, kind of fitting for a Chicago band.


Red Hot Chili Peppers – Freaky Styley

ARTIST: Red Hot Chili Peppers 220px-Freakystyleyalbumcover
TITLE: Freaky Styley
SINGLES: Jungle Man, Hollywood (Africa)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Catholic School Girls Rule, If You Want Me to Stay
LINEUP: Flea, Anthony Kiedis, Hillel Slovak, Cliff Martinez
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from the punk-funksters is somewhat an improvement of their first, at least in terms of sound.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Changing guitarists (back to the original Slovak in place of replacement Jack Sherman), and changing producers (George Clinton did the honors), the second RHCP album sounds better, as Clinton can at least mix their funk-punk vision properly.

The issue, this time, is songs. Many are puerile junior-high level sex jokes that were funny when you were a teenager, but are cringeworthy now. Their cover of Sly Stone’s “If You Want Me to Stay” is nice, but it’s almost a copy from the original. Same with “Hollywood (Africa)”, which is just “Africa” by the Meters with new lyrics.

The only originals that shine are the vamp “Freaky Styley” (it has a great groove) and “Yertle the Turtle”. Towards the end of the album they have a couple of absurdly short pieces that really could have been left off for the extended version of the title track, where Slovak burns the studio with his guitar.

They had the sound, now they just needed the songs.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Even though Slovak plays on the record, most all of the original songs list Sherman as a co-writer.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, some remixes and demos.

GRADE: B-: Good grade for the sound, but more care should have been given to the songs.


The Style Council – Our Favourite Shop

ARTIST: The Style Council  Our-Favourite-Shop-Cover
TITLE: Our Favourite Shop (Internationalists in the US)
SINGLES: Walls Come Tumbling Down (#6 UK), Come to Milton Keynes (#23 UK), The Lodgers (#13 UK). Shout to the Top (#7 UK) was on the US version.
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They had a cult following in the US, so if you were part of that, you probably know the record. Else, no.
LINEUP: Paul Weller, Mick Talbot, Steve White, Dee C. Lee, Camille Hinds. Session horn and string players.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Style Council makes another diverse album in the soul / jazz / pop funk motif, and it’s big in the UK even as it attacked Thatcherism.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Weller and company mine the grove of soul and funk, and the eclecticism of jazz, in their second full length album. They also tap into a growing resentment of Thatcherism by the young. Fighting back against the status quo also meant fighting against the musical trends of the time. The US wasn’t going to play a song on the radio that name-checked Milton Keynes (either the economist OR the town) , no matter who it was (well, maybe Michael Jackson, Madonna or Prince, but not these guys).

Yet, the Style Council is hemmed in by the musical trends. No matter how much they try not to fall into the realm of ‘just another pop group’ – their instrumentation and sounds are very 80’s and some songs suffer by that. In retrospect, this dates the album more than its political commentary in the lyrics.

It’s a better record all in all than their first album and first EP. Some songs, like “A Man Of Great Promise” or “The Lodgers” hang with great hooks and melodies. Still, the air of 80’s synths and drums hang in the air.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Shout to the Top”, a big UK single and added to the US album, was also in the movie Vision Quest.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, singles, B-sides and remixes

GRADE: B: I’ve never been totally sold on the Style Council but this is a decent album.