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Secret Messages is the tenth studio album by Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), released in 1983 on Jet Records. It was the last ELO album with bass guitarist Kelly Groucutt, conductor Louis Clark and real stringed instruments, and the last ELO album to be released on the Jet label. It was also the final ELO studio album to become a worldwide top 40 hit upon release.
The record was originally going to be a double album, but this plan was thwarted by Jet’s distributor, CBS Records, claiming that producing a double vinyl album would be too expensive; as a result, leader Jeff Lynne would have to reduce it to a single album.
Secret Messages, as its title suggests, is littered with hidden messages in the form of backmasking, some obvious and others less so. This was Jeff Lynne‘s second tongue-in-cheek response to allegations of hidden Satanic messages in earlier Electric Light Orchestra LPs by Christian fundamentalists, which led up to American congressional hearings in the early 1980s (a similar response had been made by Lynne on the Face the Music album, during the intro to the “Fire on High” track). In Britain, the back cover of Secret Messages has the mock notice “Warning: Contains Secret Backward Messages”. Word of the album’s impending release in the United States caused enough of a furore to cause CBS Records to delete the cover blurb there.
The back cover of the record jacket (made to look like the back of a picture frame) also contains “Secret Messages” in the form of three aged and weathered stickers. One is the track listing and the other two contain mock names of the retailer and manufacturer of the frame. These names are anagrams of the 4 band members: T.D. Ryan (R. Tandy), F.Y.J. Fennel (Jeff Lynne), G.U. Ruttock (K. Groucutt) and E.V. Nabbe (Bev Bevan). The record sleeve also contains a “Secret Message”. The front and back has a string of dots and dashes that is actually Morse Code and repeats “E L O”: E (one dot), L (dot dash dot dot) and O (dash dash dash).
Louis Clark returned to conduct the strings once more and the violinist Mik Kaminski appeared on an ELO recording for the first time since Out of the Blue in 1977, playing a violin solo on the track “Rock ‘n’ Roll Is King“. On completion of this album, Lynne dismissed bass guitarist Groucutt, who later sued for alleged lost royalties and received a settlement out of court.
Three singles were released from the album in the UK: “Rock ‘n’ Roll Is King”, the title track and “Four Little Diamonds“. In the US, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Is King”, “Four Little Diamonds” and “Stranger” were issued. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Is King” was the band’s last UK Top 20 hit. The song “Letter from Spain” was used as backing music in commercials for the Games of the XXV Olympiad, held in 1992 in Barcelona.
A1. Secret Messages (4:50)
A2. Loser Gone Wild (5:17)
A3. Bluebird (4:11)
A4. On And On (4:57)
B1. Four Little Diamonds (4:05)
B2. Stranger (4:27)
B3. Danger Ahead (3:51)
B4. Letter From Spain (2:50)
B5. Train Of Gold (4:19)
B6. Rock And Roll Is King (3:43)
Label: Jet Records
Catalog# JETLX 527
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Pictures at Eleven is the debut solo album by former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, released in 1982. Genesis drummer Phil Collins played drums for six of the album’s eight songs. Ex-Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell handled drums on “Slow Dancer” and “Like I’ve Never Been Gone.”
The title is an often-heard phrase in U.S. television news that would follow a brief announcement of a story of interest to be shown later during a station’s 11 p.m. news program. Pictures at Eleven is the only one of Plant’s solo albums to appear on Led Zeppelin’s record label Swan Song.
For his debut solo album, Robert Plant doesn’t exactly succumb to everyone’s expectations. With a less-potent vocal style, Plant manages to carry out most of the songs in smooth, stylish fashion while rocking out rather convincingly on a couple of others.
He gets some pretty good help from guitarist Robbie Blunt, who truly comes to life on “Worse Than Detroit,” and both Phil Collins and Cozy Powell give Plant enough of a solid background to lean his sultry yet surging rock voice against. Plant channels his energy quite effectively through songs like “Pledge Pin” and “Moonlight in Samosa,” while the single “Burning Down One Side” is a creditable one, even though it failed to crack the Top 50 in both the U.K. and the U.S.
The most apparent characteristic about the album’s eight tracks is the fact that Plant is able to escape most of his past and still sound motivated. Without depending too much on his Led Zeppelin days, he courses a new direction without changing or disguising his distinct vocal style whatsoever. Pictures at Eleven peaked within the Top Five on both sides of the Atlantic, successfully launching Plant‘s solo career.
A1. Burning Down One Side (3:53)
A2. Moonlight In Samosa (3:57)
A3. Pledge Pin (4:00)
A4. Slow Dancer (7:41)
B1. Worse Than Detroit (5:54)
B2. Fat Lip (5:03)
B3. Like I’ve Never Been Gone (5:45)
B4. Mystery Title (5:16)
Genre: Rock, Blues Rock
Label: Swan Song Records
Catalog# SS 59418
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Pablo Cruise began in San Francisco, in 1973, with former members of Stoneground (Cory Lerios on keyboards and vocals, David Jenkins as vocalist and on guitar and Steve Price on drums) and It’s a Beautiful Day (Bud Cockrell on bass and vocals). Lerios had formed a band while at Palo Alto High School.
His classmate, Steve Price, signed on as a roadie (because he owned a van), then joined the group on drums when their drummer left. They were eventually to find their way into Stoneground, where they were joined by Jenkins (originally from Ypsilanti, Michigan and the group’s only non-Californian).
In retrospect, it’s easy to accept that 1981’s Reflector was the last Pablo Cruise album to chart. While the group doesn’t necessarily sound burned-out, there just simply isn’t a lot of spark to the record.
Not that you’re looking for spark with Pablo Cruise — they are, after all, a quintessential soft rock group — but the songcraft doesn’t shine as it does on A Place in the Sun and Worlds Away. That said, it does have its fair share of its moments, including the Top 20 single “Cool Love,” the really nice “One More Night,” and “Slip Away,” and the entire thing has an appealing early ’80s soft rock sheen, which will mean that it will satiate collectors of the genre and the group, even if it isn’t a record that will find its way on the turntable all that often.
A1. This Time (3:38)
A2. Cool Love (3:52)
A3. Don’t Let The Magic Disappear (5:14)
A4. One More Night (3:58)
A5. Jenny (3:45)
B1. Slip Away (3:46)
B2. That’s When (3:53)
B3. Inside/Outside (3:07)
B4. Paradise (2:58)
B5. Drums In The Night (5:50)
Genre: Soft Rock
Label: A&M Records
Catalog# AMLK 63726
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Real People is the fourth studio album by American R&B band Chic, released on Atlantic Records in 1980. It includes the singles “Rebels Are We” (US R&B #8, Pop #61), “Real People” (#51 R&B, #79 Pop), and “26” (issued only in the UK).
The album was one of four written and produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers in 1980, the other three being Sister Sledge‘s Love Somebody Today, Sheila and B. Devotion‘s King of the World, and Diana Ross‘ multi-platinum selling album Diana.
In the early ’80s, Chic’s influence on other artists was hard to miss. Change, Fantasy, Luther Vandross, the Talking Heads, Grace Jones and Queen were among the many artists who were incorporating elements of the Chic sound. It was ironic and quite amusing to hear some members of the “Death to Disco!” brigade blaring Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” on their car stereos during the summer of 1980, for that funk-rock ditty was obviously based on “Good Times.”
But Chic itself was seeing its popularity start to fade, and fans were realizing that the group had reached its creative peak in the late ’70s. Like other albums that Chic recorded in the early ’80s, Real People is competent but less than essential.
Diehard fans will find that while “Rebels Are We,” “I Got Protection” and “Chip off the Old Block” are likable and catchy, they aren’t in a class with “Good Times” or “Le Freak.” This is a decent album, but it’s also the work of a group that was past its prime.
A1. Open Up (3:52)
A2. Real People (5:20)
A3. I Loved You More (3:06)
A4. I Got Protection (6:22)
B1. Rebels Are We (4:53)
B2. Chip off the Old Block (4:56)
B3. 26 (3:57)
B4. You Can’t Do It Alone (4:39)
Genre: Soul, Funk
Label: Atlantic Records
Catalog# ATL 50711
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Singer/bassist John Wetton and drummer Bill Bruford had worked together in King Crimson from 1972 until 1974, when guitarist Robert Fripp disbanded the group. In July 1976, Bruford assisted Wetton on demos for a proposed solo album by the latter (a couple of these demos were later released on Monkey Business). In September 1976, they worked on forming a band with keyboardist Rick Wakeman, who had previously worked with Bruford in Yes. The project was stopped by Wakeman’s label. According to Bruford, “A&M Records were unwilling to let their ‘star’, Wakeman, walk off with a used, slightly soiled King Crimson rhythm section, and the idea failed.”
Bruford and Wetton next asked guitarist Robert Fripp to reform King Crimson. When Fripp eventually declined, Bruford and Wetton decided that each would bring in a musician of his choice to form a new band. Wetton brought in keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson, whom Wetton knew from his work with Roxy Music in 1976 – “stealing” him from Frank Zappa. Bruford recruited guitarist Allan Holdsworth (formerly of Soft Machine and Gong) who had played guitar on Bruford’s 1978 (recorded 1977) debut solo album, Feels Good to Me.
After the departure of Bruford and Holdsworth, U.K. did not bring in another guitarist, instead becoming a trio with drummer Terry Bozzio (another one-time Frank Zappa band member). They recorded the studio album Danger Money, released in March 1979, and spent much of that year touring North America as opening act for Jethro Tull. The album spawned a minor hit single, “Nothing to Lose”, which reached number 67 on the UK charts.
It’s not hard to understand the short-shrift that Wetton’s next project, Asia, gets around here. While lovers of progressive rock abound, the pop-prog AOR hybrid Asia generates plenty of scorn. I’m probably not endearing anyone to Danger Money with this review, but if you are one of the few who digs Asia at all, this album is well worth a look.
These are well-written songs, performed by masters of craft. Terry Bozzio is an absolute monster on the kit. I’m a Bruford partisan to no end, but I actually think Bozzio is better suited to this work than he was.
Rendezvous 6:02 is strongly reminiscent of Book of Saturdays from Crimson’s Lark’s Tongues in Aspic, in that Wetton’s vocal delivery is as smooth and endearing. The title track could have been one of ELP’s better songs.
In terms of true mid-70’s prog, no, that’s not what you’re getting here. But if GTR, Asia, Thomas Dolby and some of the other more progressive pop of the 1980’s fits in your bag, you can’t beat Danger Money, which essentially precedes them all.
A1. Danger Money (8:12)
A2. Rendezvous 6:02 (5:00)
A3. The Only Thing She Needs (7:53)
B1. Caesar’s Palace Blues (4:42)
B2. Nothing to Lose (3:57)
B3. Carrying No Cross (12:20)
Genre: Progressive Rock
Label: Polydor Records
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Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds is the debut studio album by Jeff Wayne, retelling the story of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, released in the UK 9 June 1978. A concept album, its main format is progressive rock and string orchestra, using narration and leitmotifs to carry the story and rhyming melodic lyrics that express the feelings of the various characters.
Released 40 years after Orson Welles‘ infamous radio version of the H.G. Wells tale, Jeff Wayne‘s musical version of War of the Worlds straddles old-style radio drama and contemporary orchestrated narratives by Rick Wakeman and David Bedford.
And while it lacks the sophisticated arrangements of, say, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, it does boast an impressively odd cast — this may be the only time that a member of Thin Lizzy worked with Richard Burton, and the presence of Julie Covington and the Moody Blues‘ Justin Hayward in very attractive singing roles attest to its pop/rock aspirations.
It’s Burton‘s sonorous tones that sustain this work; his frequent solo narrations are eminently listenable, whereas sections featuring dialogue with other characters often come off as a bit stilted. The music is competent studio rock, and “Horsell Common and the Heat Ray” does strike just the right balance between Burton‘s narration and an accompaniment built around a buzzsaw guitar riff. Overall, it’s pleasant as a period piece, and still a fine way to introduce younger listeners to Wells‘ classic tale.
(And if you can find it in a vinyl, it comes with a nicely produced narrative booklet with gloriously lurid illustrations by Geoff Taylor.) The album was actually appealing on too many fronts for its own good in many ways — the Justin Hayward-sung ballad “Forever Autumn,” extracted from a much longer piece on the double-LP — showed some signs of appealing to AM radio listeners and climbed to the Top 40 based on airplay alone, but by the time Columbia Records in America (missing this boat entirely) got copies of the single into stores so that people could actually buy the record, the song had dropped back down; in the meantime, the record became a favorite of discos and dance clubs in New York and elsewhere, where its extended, highly rhythmic, synthesizer-driven sections delighted deejays and audiences, and Columbia missed another bet by not releasing an instrumental-only assembly of those long passages.
A1. The Eve of the War (9:06)
A2. Horsell Common and the Heat Ray (11:36)
B1. The Artilleryman and the Fighting Machine (10:36)
B2. Forever Autumn (7:43)
B3. Thunder Child (6:10)
C1. The Red Weed (Part 1) (5:55)
C2. Parson Nathaniel (1:45)
C3. The Spirit of Man (9:52)
C4. The Red Weed (Part 2) (6:51)
D1. Brave New World (12:13)
D2. Dead London (8:37)
D3. Epilogue (Part 1) (2:42)
D4. Epilogue (Part 2) (NASA) (2:02)
Genre: Progressive rock, Symphonic Rock
Label: CBS Records
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Main Course, released in 1975 for the RSO label, is the 13th album by the Bee Gees, and their last album to be released by Atlantic Records in the US under its distribution deal with Robert Stigwood. This album marked a change for the Bee Gees as it was their first album to include disco influenced songs, and it created the model for their output through the rest of the 1970s.
It was the group’s thirteenth album (eleventh worldwide). Main Course was the first album to feature keyboardist Blue Weaver. The album cover with the band’s new logo designed by US artist Drew Struzan made its first appearance here.
The group’s first disco album — and, for many white listeners, the first disco album they ever purchased — Main Course marked a huge change in the Bee Gees‘ sound. The group’s earlier LPs, steeped in a dense romantic balladry, were beautifully crafted but too serious for any but hardcore fans. Main Course had a few ballads, such as “Songbird” and “Country Lanes,” but the writing was simpler, and the rest of it was made up of catchy dance tunes (heavily influenced by the Philadelphia-based soul music of the period), in which the beat and the texture of the voices and instruments took precedence over the words. The combination proved irresistible, and Main Course — driven by the singles “Jive Talkin’,” “Nights on Broadway,” and “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)” — attracted millions of new listeners. It also repelled fans of the group’s earlier style, which was a bit ironic.
The disco numbers on Main Course displayed the same care and craftsmanship that had characterized, say, “First of May” or “Odessa.” Barry Gibb‘s falsetto voice, introduced on this album, was startling at first, and became an object of ridicule in later years, but the slow break on “Nights on Broadway” and songs like “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)” and “Baby As You Turn Away” were as exquisitely sung as “Lonely Days” or “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” and they had the same sense of romantic drama, leavened by a layer of sheer fun; one had less of a sense that the singer was dealing with the love of a lifetime, so much as a conquest for the evening, which was in keeping with the sexual mores of the mid-’70s.
And the spirit of fun was no accident — producer Arif Mardin, seeking to rescue the group’s stagnating career, had gotten the Bee Gees to turn their talents in a musical direction that they’d always loved but never embraced. Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb had been fascinated by R&B and soul for years (“To Love Somebody” had been written for Otis Redding to sing), but, as white Britons — fearing they’d seem ridiculous — they had never adapted those sounds themselves. Not only didn’t they seem ridiculous, but they took to it as easily as they’d absorbed the Beatles‘ harmony-based rock sounds in the late ’60s.
It was a liberating experience for the entire group — Blue Weaver, newly added to the lineup with an array of electronic keyboards and ideas that ended up shaping lots of the songs here; Alan Kendall, playing in a funky guitar style; and drummer Dennis Byron, playing more complicated patterns than he’d been asked to in years, were also delighted with the new direction, and they constituted the instrumental core of the band for the next six years.
Years later, Main Course holds up as well as anything the group ever did, and with killer album cuts like “Wind of Change” (featuring a superb Joe Farrell tenor sax solo) and “Edge of the Universe” all over it, demands as much attention as any hits compilation by the group.
A1. Nights on Broadway (4:32)
A2. Jive Talkin’ (3:43)
A3. Wind of Change (4:54)
A4. Songbird (3:35)
A5. Fanny (Be Tender with My Love) (4:02)
B1. All This Making Love (3:03)
B2. Country Lanes (3:29)
B3. Come on Over (3:26)
B4. Edge of the Universe (5:21)
B5. Baby as You Turn Away (4:23)
Label: RSO Records
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CSN is the fifth album by Crosby, Stills & Nash, released on Atlantic Records in 1977. It is the group’s third studio release, and their first since their debut album without Neil Young. Two singles taken from the album, Nash’s “Just a Song Before I Go” and Stills’ “Fair Game”.
The times had certainly changed since Déjà Vu‘s release in 1970. Nevertheless, there was a hunger in audiences for a return to the harmony-soaked idealism with which the trio had been catapulted to popularity, and CSN consequently reached number two on the charts, behind Fleetwood Mac‘s megasuccessful Rumours.
The music here is very good, though probably not up to the hard-to-match level of Crosby, Stills & Nash or Déjà Vu. Still, the songs showed a great deal of lyrical maturity and compositional complexity compared to those earlier albums (from a far more innocent time).
Many of Stills’ songs on the album echo his marital problems with “Dark Star” returning to the Latin rhythms he had favored all the way back to his Buffalo Springfield days. Crosby continued the existential probings consistent with much of his past work, and Nash offered both a radio-ready acoustic ballad with “Just a Song Before I Go”, and an elaborate set piece re-creating a vision of an LSD experience that he had in Winchester Cathedral with “Cathedral”. Many tracks were sweetened with a string section, a first on a CSNY project.
“Just a Song Before I Go” was the latest of Graham Nash‘s radio-friendly acoustic numbers, and a Top Ten single. “See the Changes” and “Dark Star” ranked with the best of Stephen Stills‘ work, while David Crosby contributed three classics from his distinctive oeuvre: “Shadow Captain,” “Anything at All,” and the beautiful “In My Dreams.” Nash‘s multi-part “Cathedral,” a recollection of an acid trip taken in Winchester Cathedral on his 32nd birthday, became a staple of the group’s live repertoire.
CSN was the trio’s last fully realized album, and also the last recording on which the three principals handled all the vocal parts without the sweetening of additional voices. It has held up remarkably well, both as a memento of its time and as a thoroughly enjoyable musical work.
A1. Shadow Captain (4:32)
A2. See the Changes (2:56)
A3. Carried Away (2:29)
A4. Fair Game (3:30)
A5. Anything at All (3:01)
A6. Cathedral (5:15)
B1. Dark Star (4:43)
B2. Just a Song Before I Go (2:12)
B3. Run from Tears (4:09)
B4. Cold Rain (2:32)
B5. In My Dreams (5:10)
B6. I Give You Give Blind (3:21)
Genre: Country Rock
Label: Atlantic Records
Catalog# ATL 50369
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The 20-minute opening title-track is a quintessential Oldfield texture study that consists of sparkling synth washes with edgier material weaving in and out. A fine setup, this track cleanses the aural pallet, preparing the listener nicely for the tunes that follow.
Yes fans who can adjust to the sugary highlight “In High Places” will enjoy Jon Anderson‘s springy vocal work on the track. The energetic guitar romp “Taurus 3” will also appeal to most prog and art rock fans. Those in search of more ethereal Oldfield material should be aware of this record’s pop leanings, but open-minded listeners will have a good time exploring Crisis, one of Oldfield‘s better releases of this type.
The title track of the album is a twenty-minute-long piece, featuring a small amount of vocals, sung by Oldfield. The beginning and end of the track are driven by a synthesised lead passage, stylistically similar to the opening theme to Oldfield’s Tubular Bells.
The album also features the massive hit “Moonlight Shadow”, sung by Maggie Reilly, who also sang and co-wrote “Foreign Affair“. “In High Places” has lyrics by Mike Oldfield and Jon Anderson. “Shadow on the Wall” has vocals by Roger Chapman. The album includes “Taurus 3”, a short fast-paced guitar piece unlike the previous two long multi-themed “Taurus” tracks featured on QE2 and Five Miles Out respectively.
The album was recorded between November 1982 and April 1983 using an Ampex ATR 124 tape recorder, a Neve 8108 with Necam console, and Westlake Monitors, in Denham, England. Oldfield used a Gibson SG Junior for overdriven guitar sounds and a Fender Stratocaster for clean sounds. Tama Drums were Simon Phillips‘ brand of choice for drums on the album; Phillips also did some production work. Oldfield makes extensive use of Oberheim and Fairlight keyboards.
Asked how he recruited Chapman and Anderson in an interview, Oldfield answered “we just hang out in the same bar”. The “Moonlight Shadow” single from this album includes the rare track “Rite of Man”. The North American version of the album has a different running order and includes the single “Mistake“.
A1. Crises – 20:40
B1. Moonlight Shadow – 3:37
B2. In High Places – 3:33
B3. Foreign Affair – 3:53
B4. Taurus 3 – 2:25
B5. Shadow On The Wall – 3:08
Genre: Progressive Rock
Label: Virgin Records
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Shakatak was an underground instrumental dominated jazz-funk band at a time when the genre hadn’t really hit the mainstream, mainly showcasing the keyboard skills of Bill Sharpe and the jazz guitar of Keith Winter.
Taking a chance on a female vocalist, Jill Saward, they released their second album, Nightbirds, which featured a radio-friendly vocal over the top of their jazz meanderings, and suddenly the pop market opened up for them with the hit single “Easier Said Than Done” with its mainly piano based tinkling and a dance beat, and Saward‘s vocal on the chorus.
They followed this with an even bigger hit, “Night Birds” which became the title track of the second album, still with the trademark piano and jazz bassline. Taking a break from the danceable pop/jazz was the track “Rio Nights,” which slowed the pace down, perfectly reminiscent of a balmy night out in the Caribbean or Latin America.
One could almost feel the warm breeze as the George Benson style guitar played. The first track, “Taking Off,” was an instrumental with some scat singing at the end, and “Light of My Life” would predate the soulful singing of Anita Baker and Mica Paris by half a decade, but Nightbirds would prove to be the high point for Shakatak who never troubled the Top Ten again.
Night Birds, released in 1982 on the Polydor label, is the second album by Shakatak. Night Birds established Shakatak’s trademark jazz-funk sound, and contains two of the band’s biggest hits, “Easier Said than Done” and “Night Birds”, the former reaching the No. 12 spot in 1981, the latter climbing to No. 9 in the following year.
A1. Night Birds (6:25)
A2. Streetwalkin’ (5:33)
A3. Rio Nights (5:18)
A4. Fly The Wind (4:20)
B1. Easier Said Than Done (6:12)
B2. Bitch To The Boys (6:31)
B3. Light On My Life (4:46)
B4. Takin’ Off (5:05)
Genre: Jazz-Funk, Jazz Fusion
Label: Polydor Records