Friday, November 21, 1980

REO Speedwagon’s Hi Infidelity was released: November 21, 1980

Originally posted November 21, 2011.



“If you need proof why arena rock was giant, this is it.” STE REO Speedwagon could arguably be credited with bringing arena rock to its pinnacle. They “had been slogging it out in the arenas of the U.S.” STE for nearly a decade, “building up a sizeable audience because they could deliver live.” STE This was much the same story for the band’s peers like Styx, Journey, and Foreigner. The difference is that all those bands had landed a couple top ten albums. The highest REO ever previously reached was #29.

Then, in 1981, all four bands topped the album charts. However, REO got their first “with this incredibly mainstream collection of power ballads and economic hard rock.” RO They did it with a fifteen-week chart-topper which sold more than 9 million copies in the U.S. This was “a record that not just summarized their strengths, but captured everything that was good about arena rock. This is the sound of the stadiums in that netherworld between giants like Zeppelin and MTV’s slick, video-ready anthems.” STE

“The band’s strongest attribute is its inconspicuous nature. You never see it coming. Kevin Cronin has a serviceable voice and Gary Richrath is a solid if unspectacular lead player” RO “but there’s a real urgency to the songs and the performances.” STE Keep on Loving You set “the pattern for the power ballads that would take many a hard rock band to the top of the charts throughout the ‘80s.” RO That song “and the surging Take It on the Run…define their era.” STE There’s also “the Bo Diddley-inspired opener, Don’t Let Him GoSTE and other radio-friendly songs like “the sun-kissed ‘60s homage In Your Letter, and Tough Guys.” STE

“What’s really great about these songs is not just the sheen of professionalism that makes them addictive to listen to, but there’s a real strain of pathos that runs through these songs – the album’s title isn't just a clever pun, but a description of the tortured romantic relationships that populate this record’s songs. This is really arena rock’s Blood on the Tracks, albeit by a group of guys instead of a singular vision, but that makes it more affecting, as well as a killer slice of ear candy.” STE




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Saturday, November 15, 1980

Kenny Rogers topped the pop charts with “Lady”: November 15, 1980

Originally posted November 15, 2011.



In 1980, Kenny Rogers was the biggest draw in country music. To capitalize on his status – and a year which had already seen three top five hits on the country charts – his record label wanted a Greatest Hits package to ring in the Christmas season. Rogers had just ended his five-year relationship with producer Larry Butler and was seeking new blood to spark his creativity.

He turned to Lionel Richie, who wasn’t yet the solo superstar he was to become within a few years. At the time, he still fronted the Motown group The Commodores. Like Rogers, Richie had experienced major crossover success. The 1978 hit “Three Times a Lady” had topped the pop, R&B, adult contemporary, and UK charts. The country-tinged “Easy” (1977) was a hit on all four formats as well.

The pair of songs caught Rogers’ attention. Rogers contacted Motown founder Berry Gordy about working with the Commodores. Because of a motorcycle accident to drummer Walter Orange, the group had delayed a concert tour and Richie and Co. had time on their hands. Lionel flew to Las Vegas to meet with Rogers. Richie played demos of “Lady” and “Goin’ Back to Alabama”, songs he’d written two years earlier. BR1 Rogers cut both in an 8 ½ hour session; the former included some lyrical tweaking to reference Rogers’ relationship with his wife. TR As Rogers said, “The idea was that Lionel would come from R&B and I’d come from country, and we’d meet somewhere in the middle.” BR1

The song became Rogers’ fourth million-selling single and his first #1 on the pop charts. BB100 It was also the biggest pop song of 1980 WHC and the first song of the decade to hit all four of the major Billboard charts (pop, country, adult contemporary, R&B). BR1 It hit #1 on the first three of those.




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Saturday, November 1, 1980

Alan Parsons Project released The Turn of a Friendly Card

Originally posted March 12, 2011. Last updated February 27, 2019.

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)
  1. May Be a Price to Pay [4:52] v: Elmer Gantry
  2. Games People Play [4:17] v: Lenny Zakatek (12/6/80, #16 US)
  3. Time [5:05] v: Eric Woolfson (4/18/81, #15 US, #10 AC)
  4. I Don't Wanna Go Home [4:54] v: Lenny Zakatek
  5. The Gold Bug (instrumental) [4:28]
  6. The Turn of a Friendly Card (Part One) [2:39] v: Chris Rainbow
  7. Snake Eyes [3:17] v: Chris Rainbow (3/21/81, #67 US, #47 AR)
  8. The Ace of Swords (instrumental) [2:58]
  9. Nothing Left to Lose [4:03] v: Eric Woolfson
  10. The Turn of a Friendly Card (Part Two) [3:12] v: Chris Rainbow

All tracks written by Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson. The ‘v’ after the song listing indicates who does lead vocals.

Released: November 1, 1980


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 2.0 world (includes US and UK)


Peak: #13 US, #38 UK, #16 CN


Genre: progressive rock lite


Review:

“By then well-known for their concept albums, in 1980 the Project turned its sights” JW to “the age-old temptation of gambling and its stranglehold on the human psyche.” MD “It was a reasonably original theme for a concept album, having rarely been addressed by anyone with more intellectual wattage than Kenny Rogers (insert cutting remark here)” JW “The actual theme is well above the notion of gambling. Instead, it appears to be how we look at life, especially the hand we've been dealt, and what chances lie ahead of us if we're willing to take some risks.” CT

“Parsons and lyricist/occasional lead vocalist Eric Woolfson co-composed the album with imagination and flair.” JW “What sets this album apart and makes it remarkably listenable…is the strength of the arrangements by keyboardist/co-composer/producer Parsons.” JW

“Elmer Gantry's soaring vocals” JW kick things off on “the spacious, driving, synth-and-drums thumper May Be a Price to Pay.” JW

On lead-single “Games People Play, “our hero makes the conscious decision to walk away from the life he's been leading to try and find something different.” CT “Vocalist Lenny Zakatek sounds compelling and focused, giving the song a seriousness that aids in realization of the album's concept.” MD “There is a dynamism to the very progressive way Parsons mixes strings with exotic synth tones and…acoustic drums that creates one terrific pop hook after another.” JW This “is a great example of the AP approach at this stage of his career in that it has a basic pop structure, but features unusual shifts in tone and tempo, an ambient middle section, great use of orchestral elements and a generous guitar solo – all decidedly progressive touches.” JW

Next up is Time, which features Eric Woolfson on lead vocals for the first time. WK This ballad “immediately tugs on the heart strings and stays with you for a long time.” CT Woolfson’s “vocals are pitch-perfect,” JW “floating along amongst sighing strings and synthesizer washes and layered background vocals.” JW He “carries this luxurious-sounding ode to life's passing to a place above and beyond any of this band's other slower material.” MD It “may…be the best on the entire album” JW and “one of the Alan Parsons Project's best numbers.” CT

“No sooner has our hero left his old life behind when the voice of reason kicks in on I Don't Wanna Go Home,” CT voiced, by the way, by the “gritty ‘tattered and torn’ despair” JW of Lenny Zakatek. “This also could be the voice of doubt -- you take your pick: ‘You can't win you damn fool / You drank all the wine from the cup / And your painted lady's gone now / And you're way back on the downside, Lookin' up.’ As our hero realizes his plight, he decides not to return to his past - possibly because he can't face ridicule on his return.” CT

The album features a pair of instrumentals. First up is “an interesting number aptly titled The Gold Bug. Like most of the band's instrumentals, its flow and rhythm simulate the overall tempo and concept of the album, acting as a welcome interlude.” MD The song references the Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name WK and includes a whistling part from Parsons where he imitates the spaghetti western film themes of Ennio Morricone. WK The saxophone was originally credited to Mel Collins, but in the remastered edition is noted as “a session player in Paris whose name escapes us.” WK

The Ace of Swords "features expert incorporation of the orchestra into a largely futuristic, synthesizer-driven cut. The APP core of Ian Bairnson (guitars), David Paton (bass), Stuart Elliott (drums) and Andrew Powell (orchestral arrangements), along with Parsons and Woolfson on keys, is at the height of its powers here.” JW

The five-part title suite, which includes “The Ace of Swords,” highlights “the breakdown of human willpower and our greedy tendencies.” MD It “is the only part of the album that squarely addresses gambling.” JW On The Turn of a Friendly Card (Part One), “our hero continues to press his luck, if only to return to what he used to be on Snake Eyes.” CT “Sung by Chris Rainbow, [this] is the most compelling of the five pieces, and ties together the whole of the recording.” MD

Although our protaganist “thinks luck is about to come his way, he eventually hits rock bottom with a deafening thud... which leads us to Nothing Left to Lose. On this number, the realization finally comes to him, and he is left with a clean slate to start his life again: "You read the book you turn the page / You change your life in a thousand ways / The dawn of reason lights in your eyes / With the key you realise / To the kingdom of the wise.’” CT

The album wraps with the unfairly overlooked The Turn of a Friendly Card (Part Two). This song rightly showed up on the Project’s second anthology, released in 1988, but was never a hit, despite nicely showcasing the album’s concept and still standing firmly on its own. This could well be the Project’s best forgotten song.

The Turn of a Friendly Card is to the point and doesn't let down when it comes to carrying out its idea.” MD It “is a strong piece of work that hangs together well and still entertains through repeated listens.” JWThe Turn of a Friendly Card remains one of this group’s most enjoyable albums.” MD


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Wednesday, October 8, 1980

Talking Heads released Remain in Light: October 8, 1980

Originally posted October 8, 2012.

image from musicchartheaven.com


Release date: 8 October 1980
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) / Crosseyed and Painless / The Great Curve / Once in a Lifetime / Houses in Motion / Seen and Not Seen / Listening Wind / The Overload

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, -- UK, 0.5 world

Peak: 19 US, 21 UK

Rating:


Review: In 1980, “Talking Heads fans were pleasantly stunned to hear Remain in Light,” AZ “a fuller, funkier sound nobody imagined they had in them.” AZ “Who knew that geeky former art student had this much soul?” BL David Byrne and “Talking Heads were always bursting with nervous energy and interesting ideas,” BL but by “adding horns and guest performers to their intellectually based muse” CL they “married their new-wave idiosyncrasies to Afro-funk beats and grooves that drew on everything from James Brown to Fela Kuti to disco.” BL Suddenly “the avant-punk avatars became polyrhythmic pop magicians.” RS500

The “animated David Byrne” CL “chanted and sang his typically disconnected lyrics” AMG “suggesting just enough to create a definite image and occasionally even an interesting sociological point, but never annoying or heavy-handed.” JA Meanwhile the group was “held together musically by a mathematically precise rhythm section of Tina Weymouth (bass) and Chris Frantz (drums).” CL Thanks to “the studied adventurousness” RS500 of Brian Eno as both producer and a composer, the Talking Heads “compositions and styles are deconstructed then reassembled afresh.” CL “Eno’s formula includes choppy funk bass, weird synth noises, dense layers of polyrhythmic percussion, and repetitive song structures that after a while lull the listener into a near trance.” JA

Crosseyed and Painless

“The dreamy, energetic Crosseyed and Painless is a great example. Better yet, he recruits whiz kid Adrian Belew to contribute some completely wacky guitar solos (The Great Curve)” JA Those two and Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) “are long, layered, full-body dance parties, with incessantly repeated phrases (musical and lyrical), and increasingly catchy melodic hooks that won’t let go for days.” AZ

Then there are “the bizarre horn arrangment on Houses in MotionJA and the “Eno-like droner The Overload.” AZ Eno had worked earlier on some of David Bowie’s records, but the Talking Heads “are an even better foil for him” JA as they go for “full-blown sound collages.” JA

That’s never more apparent “than on the exquisite Once in a Lifetime,” CL “the greatest song Byrne will ever write.” RC The song “suggests a pan-international sound without expressing it aurally. Post-modern alienation was never so danceable.” CL The single flopped initially, but “a striking video, its inclusion in the band’s 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense, and its second single release (in the live version) because of its use in the 1986 movie Down and Out in Beverly HillsAMG finally led to it scraping the bottom of the American charts.

Once in a Lifetime

The album was a “New Wave watershed” RS500 offering evidence that “Talking Heads were connecting with an audience ready to follow their musical evolution” AMG which was “clear-eyed, detached, almost mystically optimistic.” RC


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Monday, September 22, 1980

Sept. 22, 1980: Les Misérables opened in France

First posted August 11, 2008. Last updated September 4, 2018.

Les Misérables (cast/soundtrack)

Claude-Michel Schönberg/ Alain Boublil / Herbert Kretzmer (composers)

Opened in France: Sept. 22, 1980

Opened in London: October 8, 1985

Opened on Broadway: March 12, 1987

London Cast Album Charted: April 11, 1987

Broadway Cast Album Charted: June 20, 1987

Highlights Soundtrack Released: Dec. 21, 2012

Deluxe Soundtrack Released: January 25, 2013


Sales (in millions):
US: 4.0 B, 1.0 L, 0.53 S
UK: 0.45 B
IFPI: --
World (estimated): 7.2 B+L+S


Peak:
US: 117 B, 106 L, 11-S
UK: 14-S
Canada: 2 S
Australia: 3 S

L London cast recording
B Broadway cast recording
B soundtrack

Quotable: “One of the premiere theater events of the 1980s” – Sarah Erlewine, All Music Guide


Genre: show tunes


Album Tracks – London Cast Album:

Disc 1:

  1. Overture/ Work Song
  2. Valjean Arrested/ Valjean Forgiven
  3. What Have I Done?
  4. At the End of the Day
  5. I Dreamed a Dream
  6. Lovely Ladies
  7. Who Am I?
  8. Come to Me
  9. Confrontation
  10. Castle on a Cloud
  11. Master of the House
  12. Thénardier Waltz
  13. Stars
  14. Look Down
  15. Little People
  16. Red and Black
  17. Do You Hear the People Sing?

Disc 1:

  1. I Saw Him Once
  2. In My Life
  3. A Heart Full of Love
  4. Plumet Attack
  5. One Day More!
  6. On My Own
  7. The Attack
  8. A Little Fall of Rain
  9. Drink with Me
  10. Bring Him Home
  11. Dog Eats Dog
  12. Javert’s Suicide: Solilquy
  13. Turning
  14. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
  15. Wedding Chorale
  16. Beggars at the Feast
  17. Finale

Notes: “Upon These Stones (Building the Barricade)” was added to the Broadway version (both before and after “On My Own”) and the order of songs was slightly different. “Javert at the Barricade” was also added – in between “The Attack” and “A Little Fall of Rain.”


Album Tracks – Soundtrack:

  1. Look Down (Convicts, Javert, Valjean) H,D
  2. The Bishop (Bishop of Digne) H,D
  3. Valjean's Soliloquy (Valjean) H,D
  4. At the End of the Day (Poor, Foreman, Workers, Factory Women, Fantine, Valjean) H,D
  5. The Runaway Cart (Valjean, Javert)
  6. The Docks (Lovely Ladies) (Sailors, Old Woman, Fantine, Crone, Whores, Pimp, Toothman) D
  7. I Dreamed a Dream (Fantine) H,D
  8. Fantine's Arrest (Bamatabois, Fantine, Javert, Valjean) D
  9. Who Am I? (Valjean) D
  10. Fantine's Death (Fantine, Valjean) D
  11. The Confrontation (Javert, Valjean) H,D
  12. Castle on a Cloud (Young Cosette, Mme. Thénardier) H,D
  13. Master of the House (Thénardier, Mme. Thénardier, Inn Patrons) H,D
  14. The Well Scene (Valjean, Young Cosette) D
  15. The Bargain (Valjean, Thénardier, Mme. Thénardier) D
  16. The Thénardier Waltz of Treachery (Thénardier, Valjean, Mme. Thénardier, Young Cosette) D
  17. Suddenly (Valjean) H,D
  18. The Convent (Valjean) D
  19. Stars (Javert) D
  20. Paris/Look Down (Gavroche, Beggars, Enjolras, Marius, Students) D
  21. The Robbery (Thénardier, Mme. Thénardier, Éponine, Valjean) D
  22. Javert's Intervention (Javert, Thénardier) D
  23. Éponine's Errand (Éponine, Marius)
  24. ABC Café/Red and Black (Students, Enjolras, Marius, Grantaire, Gavroche) H,D
  25. In My Life (Cosette, Valjean, Marius, Éponine) D
  26. A Heart Full of Love (Marius, Cosette, Éponine) H,D
  27. The Attack on Rue Plumet (Thénardier, Thieves, Éponine, Valjean)
  28. On My Own (Éponine) H,D
  29. One Day More (Valjean, Marius, Cosette, Éponine, Enjolras, Javert, Thénardier, Mme. Thénardier, Cast) H,D
  30. Do You Hear the People Sing? (Enjolras, Marius, Students, Beggars) D
  31. Building the Barricade (Upon These Stones) (Enjolras, Javert, Gavroche, Students) D
  32. Javert's Arrival (Javert, Enjolras) D
  33. Little People (Gavroche, Students, Enjolras, Javert) D
  34. A Little Fall of Rain (Éponine, Marius) D
  35. Night of Anguish (Enjolras, Marius, Valjean, Javert, Students)
  36. Drink With Me (Grantaire, Marius, Gavroche, Students) H,D
  37. Bring Him Home (Valjean) H,D
  38. Dawn of Anguish (Enjolras, Marius, Gavroche, Students) D
  39. The Second Attack (Death of Gavroche) (Gavroche, Enjolras, Students, Army Officer) D
  40. The Sewers (Valjean, Javert) D
  41. Javert's Suicide (Javert) H,D
  42. Turning (Parisian women) D
  43. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables (Marius) H,D
  44. A Heart Full of Love [Reprise] (Marius, Cosette, Valjean, Gillenormand) D
  45. Valjean's Confession (Valjean, Marius) D
  46. Suddenly [Reprise] (Marius, Cosette) D
  47. Wedding Chorale (Chorus, Marius, Thérnardier, Mme. Thérnardier) D
  48. Beggars at the Feast (Thénardier, Mme. Thénardier) D
  49. Valjean's Death (Valjean, Fantine, Cosette, Marius, Bishop of Digne) H,D
  50. Do You Hear the People Sing? [Reprise] / Epilogue (cast) H,D
H on the highlights edition soundtrack
D on the deluxe edition soundtrack

Notes: The film contains every song from the original stage musical with the exception of "I Saw Him Once" and "Dog Eats Dog", although many songs have been partially or extensively cut. "The Attack on Rue Plumet" and "Little People" were especially shortened. In addition, the Bishop sings with Fantine during "Valjean's Death" instead of Eponine, as was in the stage musical. "Stars" was also moved to before "Look Down", which echoes the original 1985 London production. The lyrics of some songs were also changed to suit the changes in setting or narrative to the stage musical. In addition to the cuts, a new song, "Suddenly" was added, new music was composed for the battle scenes, and the order of several songs changed from the stage musical. Several major pieces, primarily as "Who Am I?", "Stars", and the two "Soliloquy" pieces are performed in a different key than most recordings. WK-S

Review:

Les Misérables first opened in France, but really became a sensation after its debuts in London (Barbican Theatre, October 8, 1985) and on Broadway (Broadway Theatre, March 12, 1987). CM It went on to win eight Tony awards, including Best Musical.

The story drew on “Victor Hugo’s classic novel of a student uprising in early-19th-century France provides a compelling story line that continues to thrill audiences all over the world.” DH “The story chronicles the life of Jean Valjean, a simple Frenchman arrested as a youth for stealing a loaf of bread. After serving five years for that crime, as well as an additional 14 for attempted escape, Valjean is released on parole. Upon changing his name and eluding his parole officer, he becomes the surrogate father of a young girl and a Mayor as the French Revolution sets in. As the war rages, he finds that he cannot change the man he is.” SE-B

Les Miserables is typical of theater in the ‘80s, with extravagant effects and large, full-cast numbers. The beautiful score is full of emotion and humor, including” SE-B “beautiful ballads (Bring Him Home, I Dreamed a Dream) and rousing anthems (One Day More, Do You Hear the People Sing?),” DH as well as “such memorable and noteworthy songs as Look Down, …Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, and the ubiquitous On My Own.” SE-B

“The original London cast recording is considered by many to be superior to various other releases of Les Miz.” SE-L They were “joined by Patti LuPone and Michael Ball.” SE-L Wilkinson and Ruffelle took their roles to Broadway. “The original Broadway cast recording contains some very fine performances, particularly by… [Colm] Wilkinson…and… [Frances] Ruffelle,” SE-B who worked on the London and Broadway productions as “the heroic Valjean and…the despondent Eponine” SE-B respectively.

The effort to turn the production into a movie musical “was mired in ‘development hell’ for over ten years, as the rights were passed on to several major studios, and various directors and actors considered.” WK-S In 2012, it was finally turned into a film starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Russel Crowe. It won Golden Globes for Best Musical or Comedy, Best Actor (Jackman), and Best Supporting Actress (Hathaway). It received eight Academy Award nominations, including for Best Picture and Best Actor, and won Best Supporting Actress for Hathaway. WK-S


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Tuesday, August 19, 1980

AC/DC released “You Shook Me All Night Long”

Updated 1/27/2019.

image from shutupandplay.ca

You Shook Me All Night Long

AC/DC

Writer(s): Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Brian Johnson (see lyrics here)


Released: 8/19/1980


First Charted: 9/6/1980


Peak: 36 US, 42 CB, 42 HR, 38 UK, 8 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: 1.0 US, 0.25 UK, 1.32 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: --


Video Airplay *: 218.6


Streaming *: --


* in millions

Review:

AC/DC’s Back in Black has become such a mainstay on “best albums of all time” lists now that it is easy to forget the uncertainty the band faced when the album was released in 1980. On February 19 of that year, the band’s lead singer, Bon Scott, died after a drinking binge. It was Scott’s father who encouraged the band to find a new singer and soldier on. SF Brian Johnson stepped in and the band found the greatest success of their career.

Guitarists Angus and Malcom Young already had the title and the chords, but needed words. Johnson supplied his “gravelly, raspy vocals and easy-to-learn, almost exultant, double-entendre lyrics.” AMG (“She told me to come but I was already there”). The song is basically “a night-after bragging session with a heavy dose of swagger and pomp.” AMG It “was equal parts naughty and proud, pop-tinged yet stomp-worthy,” AMG which probably explains the song’s popularity at strip clubs. SF

The inspiration for “You Shook Me All Night Long” came while the band was recording in the Bahamas. Never a band known for “deep, meaningful lyrics,” SF Johnson turned images of American girls into lyrics where he compared women to cars in lines like “She was a fast machine/ She kept her motor clean.” SF Johnson said it “just fell into place so I can’t claim any credit on that thing.” SF Of the Young brothers’ work, he said, “It’s one of the greatest rock and roll riffs I’ve ever heard in my life.” SF

It has “a simple beat; a melodic, heavy rock-boogie riff; a shrill, pumping guitar solo.” AMG The “pop-tinged guitar chords give the song a slap-on-the-back, beer-swilling friendliness” AMG which is probably why it has become “a hard rock staple…popular at sporting events and bars, and…one of…hard rock’s most memorable party anthems.” AMG Johnson told USA Weekend he considers the song the highlight of the band’s catalog because “It was the first song I wrote with the guys and it has a special groovy beat that won’t let you go. It has such a special place in my heart…it might be one of the best rock songs ever written – if I do say so myself.” SF


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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.

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Friday, July 25, 1980

AC/DC released Back in Black: July 25, 1980

Originally posted 7/25/12. Updated 7/25/13.

image from concertposters.biz


Release date: 25 July 1980
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Hell’s Bells (3/28/81, #50 AR) / Shoot to Thrill (4/11/81, #60 AR) / What Do You Do for Money Honey / Givin’ the Dog a Bone / Let Me Put My Love into You / Back in Black (12/20/80, #37 US, #51 AR) / You Shook Me All Night Long (9/6/80, #35 US, #38 UK) / Have a Drink on Me / Shake a Leg / Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution (11/29/80, #15 UK)

Sales (in millions): 22.0 US, -- UK, 49.0 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 4 US, 12 UK

Rating:


Review: With 1979’s Highway to Hell, AC/DC achieved its first gold album in the U.S. AMG and was “poised for worldwide breakthrough success.” AMG “In the middle of album rehearsals, singer Bon Scott went on a drinking spree; he choked on his own vomit and was found dead in the back seat of a car.” RS After two days of mourning, guitarist Malcolm Young called his brother Angus and they went back to work. Five months later, the result was “this smoking album with the most prophetic title ever.” ZS

Back in Black

New vocalist Brian Johnson “was as willing to shred the upper end of his voice as Scott had been” TM and “had the same bluesy edge as Scott” AMG but “sang with more power and conviction.” AMG He stamped “his own personality, not to mention distinctive rasp, on the record.” VH1 He “sings as if he’s being tortured – and thoroughly enjoying it.” TL

Critics knocked the band for its “testosterone-laden paeans to sex, booze, and more sex and more booze,” RV but “AC/DC was never a band to bother with any niceties in their music.” CRS They charged forward with “completely straight-ahead guitar power chords, brutal beats pounded out in 4/4 time, and blistering vocals on top.” CRS “The rhythm section gets right near the boiling point and then hangs there, waiting for the schoolboy-uniform–wearing Angus Young to deliver demonically twisted lead guitar that pushes things over the edge.” TM Meanwhile, producer Mutt Lange “made sure that every walloping rhythm guitar supporting Johnson’s tales of lasciviousness…weighed in at industrial strength – and was executed with surgical precision.” TM “It doesn’t get any simpler than this meat-and-potatoes rock and roll.” CRS

You Shook Me All Night Long

The “primo dance-metal banger You Shook Me All Night LongRS and the “eerie Hells Bells,” AMG “are arena anthems of uncorrupted hookiness and sonic quality,” TL not to mention “strutting blues-based guitar heat.” RS Also included are “such perennial rock anthems as the stomping title trackAMG with its “proud peacock strut,” TM “the melodic Shoot to Thrill, [and] the album-closing battle cry Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution.” AMG

Hell’s Bells (live)

“Coming after years of synthesized disco and overproduced AOR, Back in Black proved once again the resilience of live, loud, and melodic rock, and listeners immediately responded.” TB It was one of “the greatest hard-rock album of the decade” RV and “one of rock’s all-time classics.” AMG “For many, [it is] the essential hard-rock record of the modern era.” TB It “is a ten-song feast of tightly wound, enormously disciplined stomp rock” TM infused with “the relentless logic of a sledgehammer.” RS


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Friday, July 18, 1980

Joy Division released Closer: July 18, 1980

Originally posted July 18, 2013.

image from last.fm


Release date: 18 July 1980
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Atrocity Exhibition / Isolation / Passover / Colony / A Means to an End / Heart and Soul / Twenty Four Hours / The Eternal / Decades

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world

Peak: -- US, 6 UK

Rating:


Review: “Joy Division was at the height of their powers on Closer, equaling and arguably bettering the astonishing Unknown Pleasures.” AMG If their debut “was Joy Division at their most obsessively, carefully focused…Closer was the sprawl, the chaotic explosion that went every direction at once.” AMG “Rock, however defined, rarely seems and sounds so important, so vital, and so impossible to resist or ignore as here.” AMG Closer is a “masterpiece” RV known for “its impact on the subsequent goth movement – a paradigm shift for punk music.” ZS

The album “journeys through a bleak songscape of hopelessness and loss,” RV a fact which caused the album to be more scrutinized the wake of lead singer Ian Curtis’ suicide. As such, the album “is pervaded by a sense of eerie beauty, like the still before the storm.” PR Curtis’ vocals “haunt the stark, minimalist backdrop like a troubled earth-bound spirit, pleading for release.” PR “The tracks would be in danger of grinding to a complete standstill, enthralled by their own spectral grandeur” PR if not for “the momentum secured by [Peter] Hook’s melodic” PR and “icy bass lines” RS500 alongside the “occasional flashes of overdriven” PR and “droning guitars.” RS500

What also lifts the album is that it is “dark, depressed and innovative.” ZS “Differing mixes, differing atmospheres, new twists and turns define the entirety of Closer, songs suddenly returned in chopped-up, crumpled form, ending on hiss and random notes.” AMG The end result is a “harrowing and emotionally raw testament” ZS and “one of the most chilling albums ever made.” RS500

Lead song Atrocity Exhibition “sets the tone for the album's sound: metallic rhythms, damaged synthesizers and jagged guitars are laid bare against brutal and sparse lyrics.” RV It “was arguably the most fractured thing the band had yet recorded, Sumner’s teethgrinding guitar and Morris’ Can-on-speed drumming making for one heck of a strange start.” AMG

Isolation

“Keyboards also took the fore more so than ever – the drowned pianos underpinning Curtis’ shadowy moan on The Eternal, the squirrelly lead synth on the energetic but scared-out-of-its-wits Isolation, and above all else Decades, the album ender of album enders.” AMG

Twenty Four Hours (audio)

“A long, slow crawl down and out, Curtis’ portrait of lost youth inevitably applied to himself soon after, its sepulchral string-synths are practically a requiem.” AMG On “the jaw-dropping, wrenching” AMG Twenty Four Hours “Curtis embodies despair and pleas for an escape from loneliness. It’s a declaration of frustrated rage that remains subtle with unrelenting eerieness.” RV That song and Heart and Soul are “as perfect a demonstration of the tension/release or soft/loud approach as will ever be heard, simply intensify the experience.” AMG

Heart and Soul (audio)


Resources and Related Links:

  • Joy Division’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • album page on DMDB website (even more in-depth look at album)
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Ned Raggett
  • RV The Review “100 Greatest Albums of All Time” by Clarke Speicher (October – November 2001; Vol. 128: numbers 12-23).
  • PR Paul Roland (2001). CD Guide to Pop & Rock. B.T. Batsford LTD: London.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
  • ZS Zagat Survey (2003). Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time. Coordinator: Pat Blashill. Music Editor: Holly George-Warren. Editors: Betsy Andrews and Randi Gollin. Zagat Survey, LLC: New York, NY. Page 136.

Award(s):