Bringing Back the ’80s with TOTO’s Classic Seventh Album (1988)

Toto and The Seventh Album

toto seventh oneToto is a household name when it comes to classic rock music and no one can change that. The best time to play their timeless classics? Well, that would be anytime! Is there actually a person out there who has never heard of “Africa” or “Rosanna” or “Hold the Line”? I don’t think so. Late ’70s and early ’80s were unquestionably the heydays of Toto. From their smashing 1978 debut to their fourth release in 1982 which is basically synonymous with ’80s rock music, the band was just at the top of the game.

toto straight
TOTO – Straight for the Heart (Photo retrieved fromhttp://www.45cat.com/record/3807945)

I grew up with Toto IV and that album will always have a very special place in my heart. I think the majority of fans would also pick this album as their favorite and for a reason! As I was getting older and had more chances to experience and understand music and formed a solid music personality, I discovered that when it comes to Toto, their seventh studio album goes right at the top of the list of my personal favorites. I don’t think it’s a popular opinion because neither the original voices of Toto, Bobby Kimball or Steve Lukather (who I adore so much) are the ones taking the lead on this one;. When Toto were re-introduced in my life at a later point, I used to listen to “Straight for the Heart” all the time, every day! This is till today one of the most upbeat and bright songs I have ever heard of. I got the album eventually and here we are – to a point where I can, with certainty, state that this is my favorite Toto album and not only because of that one song I love so much; there are just so many things happening on it! 

 

Before we get to the seventh one, let’s go back further in time. The mid-’80s was a turbulent time for Toto. Boby was fired, his replacement Fergie Frederiksen was also dismissed from the band so as you can imagine time was ticking and the stakes were high. Show had to go on, though. In 1986, Toto released Fahrenheit – the first album with new vocalist Joseph Williams and an album I really love (surprise, surprise). “Fahrenheit” couldn’t make a splash despite all the hopes and hard work put into it.

Two years later, in 1988, The Seventh One was out and the situation was even worse. It’s funny how my favorite Toto album is the lowest-charting album of their career (not that it matters). On a positive note, the album was very well-accepted by overseas audiences, especially in Europe and Asia. My love for vocalist Joseph Williams is satisfied on two* classic albums only. Unfortunately, after The Seventh One, he was also fired because of  troubles with his (gorgeous) voice. It took the band about 4 years to re-assemble but as we all know it, the music industry was very different in the ’90s so even the great Toto couldn’t stand a chance. 

*Just FYI, Joseph Williams did come back to Toto for Toto XIV, released in 2015.


The songs

I want to say it so I’m just going to say it – this album is so much better than their fourth one (in my opinion of course). The rhythmic, groovy, dance/pop sound of the record is unbeatable!

We gotta start with “Pamela” which remained the only top40 hit from the album. I don’t understand why American audiences were so unwelcoming to this single (and the album as a whole) but Asian and European fans embraced it so warmly? For one reason or another this mysterious, brilliantly performed track didn’t get the attention it deserved and is one more reason to back up a statement I’ve been saying for years – chart positions mean nothing!

“Straight for the Heart” is a cheerful, sunny, pop/rock track, capable of conquering absolutely anyone out there! For me that song was a turning point – a new singer was added to my “favorite vocalists of all time” list and the rest is just history. There are many songs that makes you wanna smile, dance and forget about it all, but this song right here does all these things on a whole new level. I just love the melody and lyrics so much!

“Stop Loving You” is a very interesting track because it features my beloved Jon Anderson (vocalist of YES) on backing vocals. Not only that, but the entire song is such a blissful experience for my ears. I was listening to it while writing this and unconsciously I started moving! Seriously! I just love songs that provoke a physical reaction in you. So much live and character, what a tune!

The gorgeous ballad “Anna” (the other lady on the album), the dynamic “Stay Away” and the reggae-inspired ,“These Chains” are some of my other personal favorites on the album. The style, the atmosphere – this has to be Toto’s most energetic and groovy release so far. I am insanely happy that Joseph is back with them and cannot wait to see what the future holds! For now, enjoy these…

“Straight for the Heart”

“Pamela”

“Stop Loving You”

“Anna”


References:
Album artwork, retrieved from: https://www.pinterest.co.kr/pin/519251032017554090/
“Straight for the Heart” artwork, retrieved from http://www.45cat.com/record/3807945
THIS BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.

ELECTRIC BOYS’ “Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride” is Yet Another Reason why 1989 Rocked Pretty Hard!

 

I already talked about 1989 and how important this year was for rock music. In fact, why don’t I just put it right here so that you can have a look, in case you haven’t – MY TOP 15 Rock Albums, Released in 1989

Maybe it’s personal or it’s indeed a fact, but there’s just something very special about that year of 1989. Why? Well, first of all, it was the year that marked the end of a decade of solid rocking and rolling; Second of all, grunge was slowly but steadily making its way into the industry. The winds of change started to feel much colder all of a sudden so it was basically do or die for many bands. Shaky or not, this year will forever remain one of the strongest years of rock in my book. From powerful comebacks to solid debuts, 1989 had tons to offer to the fans. To some people this album I want to talk about today may just be one of the many late ’80s glam rock albums that flooded the scene; however to me, it’s a beautifully-made, highly entertaining and immensely captivating “modern” hard rock release that guarantees tons and tons of great time! I give you Electric Boys and their  1989 debut album “Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride”.


Electric Boys

electric boys band
ELECTRIC BOYS (Photo, retrieved from https://heavyharmonies.com/)

For those of you who don’t know much about Electric Boys, I will try to briefly introduce the band and what they did throughout the years just so you can hopefully get intrigued and decide to dig a little bit deeper by yourself. You thought those handsome, long-haired guys come from the USA? Well, guess again! Electric Boys actually come from Sweden – yes, THAT country which spawned so many brilliant rockstars, including my beloved TREAT, ROXETTE and of course…EUROPE!

Originally a duo, Conny Bloom (guitar/vocals) and Andy Christell (bass guitar), hit it big locally with the ultra catchy single “All Lips and Hips” in 1988. What happened next? Well, you see talent anan opportunity and you grab it! Two more people were added to the line-up and the band’s debut album Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride saw the light in 1989, with of course that “little” song “All Lips and Hips” leading the way! Do I even have to say that they didn’t get what they deserved? Well, I’m going to say it – they didn’t get what they deserved. A little bit of success here and there, a great tour supporting my lovelies, Thunder and that was it basically. By the time the follow-up album was released, grunge was already a strong force so no luck for our Electric Boys and their pretty decent sophomore effort.

Three albums and the band was no more. Thankfully, there was a reunion in 2009 and a new album in 2011. We will see what the future holds…

“Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride”

electric boysWe are here for this album after all, so let’s get down to it! It’s all about the music at the end of the day now isn’t it? I already mentioned that “Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride” is Electric Boys‘ debut album, released in 1989 but what you really need to remember are the electrifying songs and I’m sure you will because they are THAT good. Let’s start with the obvious mega hit, “All Hips N’ Lips” – a playful, sexy and absolutely hypnotizing piece of music which just begs you to crank it up and dance your ass off to it! This was the first song of theirs I heard and since I had no idea who was performing it, I had to write down the lyrics and search for it later on. Imagine what happened when I found it – listened to it for days without stopping. This seductive catchy rocker makes you wanna dance in the middle of the street without a single care in the world. Who cares whether this song is cheesy or doesn’t shine with that much lyrical or musical depth? I don’t. I absolutely adore vocalist Conny Bloom and we need tracks like this one in our lives every now and then. The album is so much more than this song, though. “Psychedelic Eyes” is equally appealing with its perfect mixture of raw energy and pleasant melodies. “If I Had a Cigar” is the song that finally explains why this album’s title says “Funk-O-Metal”. The groovy, alluring tune is one of the highlights of the album. I love the choruses. Moving on to another satisfying tune – “Rags to Riches”. Where do I even begin? There’s just something a bit aggressive in their approach to music and I simply love how they combined it with the desired melodic rock sound to create universal appeal…with a twist! What I miss is a gentle rock ballad – the ones I’m always looking for in an album but actually Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride gives me way too much energy to even think about why they didn’t include a solid tear-jerker. The whole album is one huge invitation to dance, party and basically a way to lift your spirits up! There’s no way you can resist it. Funky, heavy, melodic – what else can you ask for! Listen to the songs, I dare you!

All Hips N’ Lips

Psychedelic Eyes

Listen to the entire album from start to finish:


References:

I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the images on this blog are copyright to their respectful owners. Please note that the digital brand, “My Rock Mixtapes” is for rock music educational purposes only and is in no way participating in any commercial activities.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~

My TOP 20 Rock&Roll Solo Releases

Quite recently, I asked my Twitter followers what I assume is a very hard question to answer – “Which is your favorite release by a solo rock artist?” I thought it was a great question to ask because so far I think I have mainly emphasized on rock bands and their respectable careers and albums, putting aside important solo accomplishments who are equally deserving. Many people shared their answers and became part of this interesting online discussion (which of course was the basic idea behind this tweet). Artists like Bryan Adams, Phil Collins, Roger Waters and Dio were just a few of the names, mentioned by my fellow rock buddies. You told me who are yours…now it’s time for me to tell you mine! I do hope you enjoy the following list and get inspired! Please note that these albums aren’t really put in any special order, except maybe the first one. Listing them is difficult…can you imagine ranking them? I just can’t …

twitter 1


Don Dokken – Up From the Ashes (1990)

up from the ashes - don dokkenIt must be something quite special if I’m placing this album at the number 1 spot, don’t you think? Well, yes it is! Everyone who knows me is aware of how much I love Dokken so it was only natural for me to fall that hard for Don’s 1990 solo debut. In addition to brilliant and personal favorite songs like the ballad “When Love Finds a Fool” or the catchy rocker “Mirror Mirror”, this album features a winning team of extraordinary musicians, led by Don, of course – John Norum (Europe), Billy White (Watchtower), Peter Baltes (Accept) and Mikkey Dee (King Diamond and pre-Motörhead)! How can you not craft something special with so much talent gathered together to support you? Don is a splendid vocalist and songwriter and I will forever thank him for the great job he did. It took him 18 years to release his second solo album, which wasn’t available for everyone, unfortunately.  


Lou Gramm – Long Hard Look (1989)

long hard look lou grammIt took me some time to decide which one of Lou’s solo albums I want to put in this list and eventually, my favorite Lou track, “Just Between You and Me”, turned out to be the deciding factor. “Long Hard Look” is his sophomore album, released at a time when Foreigner was no more (let’s not forget that he did come back in 1994). I love “Ready or Not” immensely, but “Long Hard Look” is where I think he truly embraced his strong qualities as a solo artist. Also, he took in one of the most splendid guitarists of all time – Vivan Campbell, along with Dann Huff (Giant), Bruce Turgon (Foreigner) and many more great artists, all completing each other in the name of this beautiful AOR release. Later on, Lou did assemble Shadow King and The Lou Gramm band with some of those well-known members.


Steve Perry – Street Talk (1984)

Steve Perry 1Steve freakin Perry! Do I have to say more? Are you actually surprised to see this album here? Well, you shouldn’t be. “Street Talk” is a classic AOR masterpiece with songs that will live longer than the world itself. “Oh Sherrie”, “She’s Mine”, “Foolish Heart”… – all mesmerizing melodic rock pieces who introduced Steve as a solo artist who just knows how to do things on his own. Obviously, Steve had a lot of fun writing, recording and producing this album. I could feel how important it was for him to do and try “his own thing”, separately from Journey. He literally put his heart and soul into the making of this album. We all know he can definitely hit a note or two, however with this album he also proved that The Voice himself can write timeless songs and produce quite respectably. Cheers to that!


Terry Brock – Diamond Blue (2010)

diamond blue terry brockI became a die-hard fan of Strangeways last year; didn’t even realize how quickly I was hooked and how albums like “Native Sons” and “Walk In The Fire” just stole my heart and never gave it back. One of the main reasons why I fell for Strageways was of course, the vocalist – Terry Brock. He eventually left the band and joined Giant which *SURPRISE* is another one of my all time favorite bands! His first solo album was out in 2001 (“Back to Eden”) but for this list, I chose “Diamond Blue”, released in 2010 via Frontiers Records. I am a true fan and hold a sentimental connection to Terry Brock so to me, this album is perfect. The touching ballad “The Rain” became the first reason why I fell for this album…the rest was history; If you are not a devoted fan you might not be interested but in any case, this lesser-known album is worth checking out!


Jimi Jamison – Never Too Late (2012)

jimi jamison never too lateBut of course one of the most powerful voices of rock music and one of my favorite rockstars of all time, Jimi Jamison, was going to be on this list. Many of you know how much I love Survivor and yes, Jimi is the primary reason why. I have established a very strong connection with his music and it kept on going strong with his solo releases as well.
“Never Too Late” is the last solo album he released. It came out in November, 2012, via Frontiers Records (of course). No one knew that this was going to be his last release but I don’t think we could’ve gotten a more beautiful farewell than this one. The inspiring title, the touching words and and heart-melting songs are just a few of the reasons why I consider this album to be one of the purest, most angelic pieces of music I have ever heard. Thank you, Jimi for this…I will always love and miss you.


Eric Clapton – August (1986)

Eric Clapton - AugustI may as well just list Eric Clapton’s entire solo discography and call it a day. Eric Clapton is my favorite solo artist of all time and there’s not even a single album of his I dislike. I wasn’t sure which one to put on my list but I ended up choosing “August” because it was one of the first albums of Eric Clapton I genuinely fell in love with back in the day and in my opinion, one of his strongest, most confident releases from his later years. On top of it all, it features that phenomenal duet with the queen of Rock&Roll, Tina Turner – “Tearing Us Apart”; “Miss You” is an important song for me as well. “August” was produced by Phil Collins who was responsible for its funky, radio-friendly sound.


Billy Squier – Don’t Say No (1981)

don't say noI got introduced to Billy Squier through Def Leppard; he was the one who actually brought them to North America for the very first time on his “Emotions in Motion” tour back in the early ’80s! The rest is just history. I heard “Don’t Say No” and that was it! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this is one of the catchiest, most uplifting albums of all time! “Don’t Say No” spawned a long list of gratifying tunes that solidified its position on the Billboard album chart for over two years! This interesting fact should tell you enough about its colossal impact on the music market. Moreover, every single from “Don’t Say No”, including “In the Dark”, “Lonely Is the Night”, “My Kinda Lover” and “The Stroke” established itself as a major radio hit, playing on every station, all over the States for the entire first half of the ‘80s. Last but not least, the album sold over 3 million copies in the US alone, making it one of the most-desirable and beloved records of all time!


Mark Free – Long Way from Home (1993)

mark-free-long-way-from-home-1993Mark Free fronted a couple of glam/hard rock bands such as King Cobra and Single but in 1993, he took off on a journey of his own with an AOR solo debut, titled “Long Way from Home”. The album is the ultimate catch for any melodic rock fan out there. It’s filled with gorgeous vocal performances, impressive hooks and superb keyboard details. “Long Way from Home” offers a great selection of rockers, among which striking tunes like “Someday You’ll Come Running to Me”, “Stranger Among Us”, “State of Love” and “The Last Time” are standing out with breathtaking melodies and lyrics. Overall, “Long Way from Home” is a bit softer and sweeter but definitely his best work as a performer and as a songwriter, that is in my opinion of course.


Alice Cooper – Trash (1989)

trash alice cooperNo surprises here! This album introduced me to Alice Cooper and it was the main reason why I became a fan. “Poison”, “Bed of Nails”, “House Of Fire” – all incredible classic rockers, defining an entire generation of fans. Not only that but my favorite Alice Cooper song of all time, “This Maniac’s in Love with You” comes from “Trash”, which makes it even more special.

“Trash” was a pivotal moment for Alice Cooper’s career; it came out at the right time and was crafted by the right people. Many guest performers and songwriters stepped in, including Joan Jett, Bon Jovi, Steven Tyler, Kip Winger and Richie Sambora. The results were stunning – “Trash” is the ultimate staple of the era and arguably, Alice’s finest moment.


David Coverdale – Into the Light (2000)

David Coverdale - Into the LightIn September 2000, David Coverdale released his third solo album, titled “Into the Light”, after he took a break from Whitesnake. I am a fan of everything he did throughout the years with Deep Purple and Whitesnake but I also admire his solo work just as much. I thought about featuring “Restless Heart” but since it was released under the “David Coverdale & Whitesnake” moniker (though it was a solo album), I decided to go with “Into the Light”.

The thing I love so much about “Into the Light” is the fact that David didn’t exactly embraced the modern-day characteristics of rock music and didn’t follow the new century trends; Rather than that, he released a classic hard rock effort, full of enjoyable AOR tracks that sound as if they were released in the ’80s, including my favorites “Don’t You Cry”, “River Song” and “Love is Blind”.


Tina Turner – Private Dancer (1984)

Tina Turner - Private DancerYou all know how much I love the Queen of Rock & Roll, Tina Turner; Not only is she one of my most beloved and close-to-heart artists but she’s a woman and a role model I truly admire and respect.

This album marked an important point in Tina Turner’s life and career. The messy divorce and Ike Turner were all in the past – it was time for her to shine and tell the world that she’s a strong and independent woman who just knows how to make great music! “Private Dancer” sky-rocketed Tina’s career and hit the multi-platinum status all over the world. Classic rock staples like the title song, “I Can’t Stand the Rain”, “Better Be Good to Me” and of course, “What’s Love Got to do With It” are a pretty solid reason why this album turned out to be one of the best albums of the ’80s! Not only that but she worked with Jeff Beck, Gary Barnacle, Graham Broad and dozens of other talented musicians, to ensure “Private Dancer” will truly make history.

What a triumphant comeback! I can’t express how much this album and Tina mean to me…


Sammy Hagar – VOA (1984)

Sammy Hagar - VOABefore Sammy Hagar joined Van Halen and released 5150, he hit it big with his eight solo album, titled “VOA”. Playing this album might give you a clear idea of why exactly he was chosen to replace David Lee Roth. He is a superb vocalist – we all know and love that about him. “Two Sides of Love” was the first track I heard from this album back in the day and it was enough for me to realize that “VOA” is an album that shouldn’t be overlooked (even though it is). “I Can’t Drive 55” is the lead single and one of Sammy’s most memorable and noted songs that kept on being relevant, even when he became a member of Van Halen. “Rock is In My Blood” and “Two Sides of Love” are some of my favorites as well.


David Gilmour – On An Island (2006)

David Gilmour - On An IslandThis would be my favorite David Gilmour solo album! “On an Island” was released 10 years ago but it’s still an inseparable part of my playlist. He took his sweet time (22 years) to record it but the results were brilliant. He wrote some of the tracks with his wife – Polly Samson, which makes it even more special! What can I say? – A gorgeous and delicate combination of instrumentals and soul-soothing tracks, proving that David is the real deal! Such a brilliant guitarist, knowing exactly how to both calm your soul and make it fly at the same time. The opening track, “Castellorizon”, is a haunting instrumental demonstrating his superb guitar skills, backed up by beautiful orchestral arrangements. Both of the singles, “On an Island” and “Smile” are dreamy and so easy to fall in love with. “Red Sky at Night” is my absolute favorite and the reason is, of course, the thrilling saxophone arrangements which are perfect for my tastes! If dreams can become music, this is what they would sound like! By the way, it’s David Gilmour himself who plays the saxophone on that one. Yes, he is as good with sax as he is with his guitar!


John Lennon – Imagine (1971)

John Lennon - ImagineThere had to be a John Lennon album in my list and it took me some time before I decide which one of his solo works I love the most; I ended up choosing “Imagine” over the critically-acclaimed “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” because to me his sophomore album sounds more atmospheric, it’s much calmer and I absolutely adore songs like “Jealous Guy” and “How Do You Sleep?”. The title track is legendary, no need to even comment on it. I remember singing “Imagine” when I was in elementary, or was it middle school…I don’t remember but what I can say is that this song along with the album have been in my life for far too long, making them very personally-relevant and close to my heart. 


George Harrison – Cloud Nine (1987)

George Harrison - Cloud NineI miss this sunshine so much.

When we talk about rock&roll comebacks, I always mention this album. George Harrison took some time away from his solo career and in 1987 had one of the most triumphant comebacks with the commercially-successful and critically-acclaimed “Cloud Nine.” George is known as the quiet Beatle but this album right here is everything but quiet! “Devil’s Radio,” “Cloud 9,” “Just for Today” and the smashing cover of “Got My Mind Set on You,” turned this into one of his best, most beloved releases of all time. This is the album that introduced him to the mainstream audience, making it a very crucial move for his career. Let’s also praise the input of Jeff Lynn who co-produced this beautiful piece of music.


Bryan Adams – Reckless (1984)

bryan adams - reckless“Reckless” is a rocker full of enthusiasm, energy and that was the main reason why I fell for it back in the day. The multi-platinum release spawned some of ’80s most classic hits, including “Summer of 69”, “Run To You” and of course “Heaven”. Not only that but this pleasing work contains one of my most favorite duets of all time, “It’s Only Love”, featuring Tina Turner. 

The greatness of the album lies in its simplicity – yes, I do agree that the lyrics are too ordinary and not at all meant to trigger a deep emotional response and yes – the melodies are not as complicated and refined, however this is a fun, rock n’ roll radio-perfect album that is meant to be entertaining, fun and enjoyable. Bryan Adams made history with this one, that’s for sure.


Gary Moore – Still Got the Blues (1990)

Gary Moore - Still Got the BluesWhat can I say about Gary Moore and this album? Words are meaningless! “Still Got the Blues” has to be one of the most relevant blues-rock releases of all time. Emotional, sensational, passionate, soul-touching – all that and way more!

“Still Got the Blues” came to life once again thanks to a team of exceptional musicians, including George Harrison, Albert King and many more. No wonder this turned out to be his most commercially-successful release. What’s surprising, though is the fact that the title track – yes that superb, worldly-beloved blues songs, barely got a top100 position on the charts. Anyhow…

I was always touched by this brilliant blues-meets-hard rock album and there was no way I wouldn’t have added it.


Phil Collins – Face Value (1981)

Phil Collins - Face ValueI put a lot of thought into which Phil Collins album to pick for my list. Obviously, I ended up with “Face Value” for a few reasons and no, it’s not just because his most memorable song “In The Air Tonight” is the opening track – this album is so much more than that track.

I picked it because it was his first solo album and because it’s a classic staple of the ’80s music scene. Not only that, but I adore songs like “I Missed Again” and “Behind the Lines”. Phil Collins emerged as one of the strongest forces of rock/pop music scene of the decade and this album was just the beginning. What followed was a long line of exceptional solo releases and numerous collaboration, turning him into one of the most networked musicians of all time! Back to the album – it’s breezy, refreshing, atmospheric and definitely something you need to own in your collection just like I do.


Tom Keifer – The Way Life Goes (2013)

tom keifer the way life goesI’ve been a fan of Cinderella and Tom Keifer for a long time now; Honestly, I cannot even imagine having a day without listening to his unique voice. Tom is one of those artists I truly respect and admire not only because he’s a brilliant songwriter, but because he is an amazing human being, worthy of admiration.

In 2013, finally, after so many years of success, turbulence and hardships, he released his first solo album, suitably titled “The Way Life Goes”. It took about 10 years for this album to become a reality but it was worth it, believe me. Some critics claim that this is by far his greatest work. I cannot draw such conclusion but one thing is for sure – this rather intimate, highly impressive solo release is superb, from start to finish. I love “Thick and Thin”, “It’s Not Enough” and of course, the lead single, “The Flower Song”. This album represented Tom’s evolution as an artist and despite everything he went through, his vocals still sound better than ever!


Mark Slaughter – Halfway There (2017)

halfwaythere slaughterThis new release impressed me so much that no way in hell was I going to miss including it on my list! The special 10-track album (11 in Japan) hit the music market on the 26th of May, 2017 and let me tell you something – it hit it hard! I really missed that classic, Slaughter sound and Mark is just bringing it all back on this album – that and way way way more! “Halfway There” is a worthy progression and obvious artistic evolution for him but with a little bit of old-school hint. It was a pleasure for me to listen to it from start to finish. Rock anthems like “Hey You”, “Supernatural” and “Devoted” are just a few of the reasons why this album left me speechless and turned into a personal favorite. One of the most brilliant aspects of this album is that Mark was actually in charge of not only the vocals but he’s also the one playing the guitar, bass, keyboards and behind the orchestration as well. That should tell you something! This is clearly a very dear album to him and he put his soul, heart and every talent he has to make it sound as sincere as possible. Mark is a superb artist and taking full control over this entire record was definitely the right direction.


Hope you enjoyed my list! This is how things look in 2017… and who knows how my list will look like 5 or 10 years from now. One thing is for sure – the above 20 releases are very important and close to my heart!

Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and share your favorite solo rock releases here or on my Twitter account!

 


References:

I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the images on this blog are copyright to their respectful owners. Please note that the digital brand, “My Rock Mixtapes” is for rock music educational purposes only and is in no way participating in any commercial activities.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~

31 Years Ago, EUROPE Released “The Final Countdown”

On this day, 31 years ago, EUROPE released “The Final Countdown”. Whatever I say from this point onward would be totally pointless and you may as well just not read it…I mean, what could I possibly say about one of the biggest rock albums of the ’80s? Which fancy musical terms and pop culture references would be suitable enough to describe this glorious album? None…absolutely none;

Still, since I just saw EUROPE for the first time in my life and on top of it all, it was a continuation of their “The Final Countdown 30th Anniversary Tour”, I felt like I should write a little something to commemorate the 31st birthday of this album (even if it’s just a boring description of how great and empowering this album is).

europe the final countdownEurope already had the talent, the potential and the charisma to become a worldwide rock sensation but ultimately, it was “The Final Countdown” that was responsible for their international breakout. In addition to the great lyrical and musical value, I guess one of the most appealing aspects of this album was that each song has its own unique background and history that in a couple of cases goes way before Europe even thought about releasing this album. Take the title song for example – Joey Tempest composed that riff in the early ’80s when he was so young! Thankfully he didn’t use it back then. You know what they say, timing is everything! This song appeared exactly when it had to on the right album, with the right producer. It just all fell into place. Those David Bowie-inspired lyrics were just the final piece of the puzzle. Voila! We ended up with this stimulating, life-changing, eye-opening tornado of a song that we can’t just let go, even after 30 years.

The second track, “Rock the Night” is arguably the best track from the album and if you ask me, it should’ve been the opening track (and “The Final Countdown” should’ve been left as the grand finale). Two tracks of such equal strength together in the same album, one after the other – that’s something!

What else is there? Oh, right…that GORGEOUS “little” tear-jerker power ballad, “Carrie” which may as well be titled “Cryyie”.

“Cherokee” …OH! Marching on the trail of tears! I will never forget how happy I was when they played that song in front of me; Joey has a fascination about Native American culture and history and it’s definitely something unusual as he is from Sweden. For him to write that song and make it so personal – I can’t but be in love and respect with this amazing human being.

My other personal favorite is “Heart of Stone” and that’s because of the vocals. Lyrically, it’s not as impressive as some other songs on the album, but Joey is just killing it on this one; The moment I hear the opening, “I’ve told you once and I’ve told you twice,” I just switch to a “don’t talk to me, I’m in the zone” mode and nothing or no one else matters.

“Danger on the Track”, “Ninja”, “Love Chaser”…do I have to go on? It’s just one shot of adrenaline after another;

It’s sad to think that one day, when younger (and weirder) generations are roaming the Earth this album might lose its relevance BUT I hope I’m still around to keep these oldies alive and introduce them to the newbies. If you are educating the youngsters on ’80s rock music, start here…

Now, I’m gonna go play it as loud as possible…

europe
My “The Final Countdown” Vinyl and CD  ~ I wish the artwork was as good as the album…

References:
I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~

 

 

Overview of REO SPEEDWAGON’s Smashing Hit Album,”Wheels Are Turnin'” (1984)

REO Speedwagon

A story…

A few weeks ago I went to this huge bookstore where they sell CDs and Vinyl records; I was looking for a REO Speedwagon CD and I asked one of the staff about it. (Not) Surprisingly, the person I asked had no idea who they were and while searching for the CD, they asked me about the band. I thought about it for a second – like, how do I introduce this American old-school rock band to a young European who doesn’t know anything about them. I just said that they are a melodic rock band and moved on (they didn’t have the CD I wanted either ways).

This made me think about it. Similar bands like Foreigner, Journey, Boston, etc. were quite popular in my country (and still are) but somehow REO Speedwagon didn’t really become a thing over here. Anyhow, I just really felt like dedicating a little something to one of my most beloved melodic rock bands and the first album of theirs I heard back in the day. My American readers would of course be well-aware of the band and their career but for the others, I hope you discover something life-changing!

REO Speedwagon formed in the late ‘60s even though many people might think that they are just one of the many ‘80s melodic rock bands. Yes, the early-to-mid ‘80s were indeed the heydays of their career, but they go way back! It would be somewhat difficult to go through every stage of the band and the numerous line-up changes that occurred throughout the years. Ultimately, what you need to know about them is that their early years were quite shaky (but very charming) and REO Speedwagon often reo speedwagon hi infhad a different frontman for every new release. The bell of success rang in the late ‘70s with their “You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish” album. Their melodic rock/pop turn was fully made by the early ‘80s with staple rock albums like “Hi Infidelity” and “Good Trouble”. Both these albums, especially “Hi Infidelity” (1980) set the tone for the early ‘80s music scene and brought tons of recognition to the band. It was that same album that arguably defined the career of the band and remained their most beloved and critically acclaimed release.

“Wheels Are Turnin'”

reo speedwagonStill, if someone who has never heard of REO Speedwagon asks me to recommend him/her an album to start with, I’d pick “Wheels are Turnin’” in a heartbeat. Not only it’s one of their best-selling albums but it also contains some of the catchiest, most uplifting classic rock tunes that came out in the ‘80s. As a matter of fact, it was the first REO Speedwagon album I grabbed and where it all started from me.

The album did make quite the splash on the charts and spawned evergreen rock classics, including that “ballad” everyone knows the words to, “Can’t Fight This Feeling”. Many fans refer to “Wheels are Turnin’” as a “guilty pleasure” – back in the day, releasing a synthesizer-oriented album that early in the decade was still frowned upon; still, I’m certain that everyone was criticizing it but secretly listening to it ( you just cannot NOT fall for those magical melodic rock hooks). Keyboardist Neal Doughty wasn’t just your regular keyboardist; he was a true visionary and his elegant keyboard style was one of the main reasons why REO Speedwagon caught the attention of fans all over the world.

“Wheels are Turnin’” is so much more than the smashing hit single “Can’t Fight This Feeling”. I won’t argue though, this song is one of the main reasons why I was sold back in the day. The moment you hear “I can’t fight this feeling any longer…and yet I’m still afraid to let it flow,” you just start singing and you feel your heart filling up with joy and happiness. Every song on that album has a similar effect on me. The opening track, “I Do’ Wanna Know” is a personal favorite maybe because it has that early-REO Speedwagon vibe, mixed with modern elements. It’s actually the best of both worlds – raw and melodic. It’s most certainly a song that should’ve gotten more attention and recognition. “One Lonely Night” is another worthy track; Kevin Cronin was just born to sing for this genre. “Rock ‘N Roll Star” is an often forgotten rock anthem despite being a fantastic piece of a puzzle. The rest is just as appealing; from start to finish, “Wheels are Turnin’”, is a beautiful melodic bliss. If you are in a mood and need a little cheer, don’t go to the store for a huge box of ice-cream; instead, play REO Speedwagon’s “Live Every Moment” which has to be one of the liveliest and most positive songs I’ve ever heard. The album wraps things up with the title track which to me sounds as if it was made in the mid ‘70s, (that’s a great thing, of course). I’m unconditionally inlove with the piano touches and the riffs on this one.

REO Speedwagon flourished on their 11th studio album, “Wheels are Turnin’”. The guys just wanted to craft a satisfying piece of rock music and they did it. The album is breezy and atmospheric, overflowing with fantastic instrumentation, gratifying riffs and superb vocals. This album is as warm as an afternoon coffee with extra marshmallows.

Now, it’s time to listen to it….


“One Lonely Night”

“Can’t Fight This Feeling”

“I Do Wanna Know”


References:
P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~

The Story of JOURNEY’s “Raised on Radio” (1986)

Journey

Journey - September 3rd, 1981By 1986, Journey was already a household name in the popular music scene not only in their homeland of the USA but also all over the world. Multi-platinum albums, sold-out concerts, millions of fans – that was just the beginning of it. The kings of radio crafted a universally-beloved sound which was basically the secret behind their ultimate success. The appealing mixture of rock and pop, colored by mesmerizing keyboards, rhythm sections and unforgettable hooks, all topped by Steve Perry’s unbelievable, out-of-this-world voice was basically the formula that sky-rocketed their career. AOR treasures, like the 3xtimes Platinum “Departure” (1980), the 9xtimes Platinum “Escape” (1981) and the 6xtimes Platinum “Frontiers” (1983) became inseparable parts of every person’s collection; hit singles like “Don’t Stop Believin’”, “Separate Ways” or “Open Arms” defined the ‘80s and influenced generations of musicians. Whatever more I say would be obsolete. Journey was and still is one of the greatest bands out there and their songs will live forever!


The Years before “Raised on Radio”

the threeThe songwriting partnership between Steve Perry, Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain was what kept the band on the top shelves for an entire decade, basically. Things got out of hand, though. We’ve heard the story before with many other bands – fame, success and worldwide recognition can sometimes be the reason why tensions arise within the band, egos start clashing and can sometimes lead to members going their separate ways. After Journey released the smashing hit album “Frontiers” in 1983, guitarist Neal Schon and vocalist Steve Perry took some time off to focus on individual “journeys”. Neal Schon teamed up with Sammy Hagar and released “Through the Fire” in 1984 and Steve Perry recorded that “little” solo album “Street Talk” which was out the same year. Guess which endeavor was more successful?

Steve Perry said so many times that while writing and recording “Street Talk” he had the time of his life and even considered leaving Journey for good. I can understand; after all, if you are as talented as Steve Perry and you found what makes you truly happy then there’s nothing wrong to pursue it. Same goes to Neal Schon who by the way is one of the most networked musicians of all time. It was keyboardist Jonathan Cain who somehow pursued Steve Perry to come back and finish with what was started years ago. That’s the short version of how “Raised on Radio” became a reality.

I am not one of those people who would say that Steve Perry was JOURNEY but I am one of those people who ask themselves whether there could be a JOURNEY without Steve Perry. I’m not going to go into details on who did what and who was given what before Perry came back to record “Raised on Radio” but ultimately, there was a line-up change, along with a shift in musical as well as leadership direction in the band.  We are here to talk about the music, though! I get that there might be some people interested in the “juicy” stuff but whatever happened happened. The results were more than satisfying so it’s time to focus on the content, rather than on its background.

“Raised on Radio”

“Raised on Radio” was out just in time for the hot summer of 1986. Steve, Neal and Jonathan were back to their usual songwriting days, except this time Steve Perry took over the production role as well. He did a marvelous job on his solo debut so giving him this opportunity was a justified decision, I think. A few tracks were written by Steve and Jonathan only; the majority of tracks were crafted by the trio.

journey raised on radioI was always drawn by that bright blue album artwork; it’s just so appealing to me. I find it quite simple, elegant and so suitable for the songs and the overall musical atmosphere of the album. It’s like when I think of that beautiful blue color and I immediately think of groovy uplifting songs like “Girl Can’t Help It” or “Positive Touch” (it goes the other way around as well). Interestingly, what’s shown on that artwork is actually the studio and antennas of KNGS (AM Radio), formerly owned by Steve’s parents. He was also the one who renamed the album to “Raised on Radio” (the original name for that album was “Freedom”). It just seems like this whole project was very close to Steve Perry and he wanted to make it as personal as possible.

In terms of commercial success, “Raised on Radio” couldn’t really match the enormous popularity and critical acceptance of the previous two albums of Journey. Nevertheless, it was certified 2xPlatinum and it did spawn a few mind-blowing singles that took over the charts.

One more thing you gotta know about this album is that Steve, Neal and Jonathan weren’t just the main songwriters of Journey. They were actually the only official members left. That’s right, “Raised on Radio” was done by those three, along with dozens of guest musicians. You might ask what happened with Journey’s drummer and bass player and why was the band just trimmed down to a trio? Well, what can I say – sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. Don’t worry though, those two came back and are still rocking with Journey.


The Songs

It’s a matter of opinion and fan devotion when it comes to this album. Some people strongly believe that “Raised on Radio” was just Steve Perry calling all the shots without being able to fill in that hole left by the two guys that got fired. To others, this album was Journey’s natural progression, reflected by the time period. To me, this is just a piece of beautiful pop/rock fusion album that sounded just as good as “Frontiers” and “Escape” and to some extent, even better!

The song that introduced me to the greatness of this album was “It Could Have Been You” which is also a personally-relevant song. I fell for the lyrics, along with that somehow mellow (at least to me) vibe of the song. It’s difficult to describe it but I always felt so sad while listening to this tune, despite its uplifting grooves; I mean just listen to Steve singing: “I can’t wait all my life, on a street of broken dreams, It could have been you my love, where are you now…I still wonder if you remember the night, It could have been you…” – that’s just so heartbreaking.

“Girl Can’t Help It” – the third single from the album is definitely one of the catchiest, most uplifting songs of Journey; there’s just so much life in that song. “I’ll Be Alright Without You” – the ultimate post-break up track is also another highlight on “Raised on Radio”. Excluding the fact that Steve Perry can turn any song into a memorable body/mind experience, this song is indeed quite affecting and empowering. “Suzanne” is another rhythmic, immensely atmospheric tune just waiting for you to go to the dancefloor. The rest is just as good – “Once You Love Somebody” which came out straight from a ‘80s action movie is a personal favorite and “Why Can’t This Night Go On Forever” is your typical world-spinning Journey ballad, so full of soul. The title song is absolutely stunning; Perry’s sincere tribute to his rock&roll heroes who he grew up with at his parents’ radio station is a key track on “Raised on Radio” and one of Journey’s best if you ask me. “Be Good to Yourself” is another spirited track that was actually written and recorded in a flash of inspiration on the day they were supposed to finish the record. Steve was going through some tough personal times and he was seeking for inner strength and affirmation.

The great thing about “Raised on Radio” is that there are tons of enjoyable and easy to fall for ear-candies. That’s not all, though. The album is in no shortage of genuine rock tunes, full of feelings and emotional backstories. Overall, this is a positive, eager and exceptionally well-written and produced album. I don’t necessarily think that “Raised on Radio” brought that much to the band; it didn’t really get them that higher. The general mood of the album seems a bit different from their previous work; it is energetic and enthusiastic but not on the same levels as before. Some songs are too sweet but since it’s Steve singing them, I’m totally cool with that!

Now, it’s your turn to listen and feel the great music on “Raised on Radio”…


“Girl Can Help It”

“It Could’ve Been You’

“I’ll Be Alright Without You”


References:
P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~

Inside Lou Gramm’s 1987 Solo Debut Album, “Ready or Not”

Late ‘80s was a very unsettling time for Foreigner. After e series of smashingly successful albums, including “4” (1981) and “Agent Provocateur” (1984), things needed to cool down for a second before moving on to the next step. Lou Gramm and Mick Jones took some time off to explore their individual artistic strengths. That’s when Lou released the album I will be talking about – “Ready or Not”.

I cannot understand the pressures of the business; I can only imagine how turbulent and stressful it was for Foreigner to constantly be under the radar and asked when the band’s next big hit will be played on the radio. On top of it all, there always comes a time when egos, ideas and opinions clash, especially if you worked with someone for so many years. That’s why taking time apart and going on an adventure (in our case, releasing your first solo album) is totally justifiable.

inside information foreignerNevertheless, after Lou Gramm finished with his debut and the promotional activities and concerts he did come back (along with Mick Jones) to record Foreigner’s sixth studio album, “Inside Information” (1987). Unfortunately, that great album, featuring classics like “Say You Will”, also became the last album to feature the ’80s winner line-up, making it the end of an iconic, historically relevant era of rock music. Gramm did come back in the early ’90s (“Mr. Moonlight”, 1994) but then departed again. Foreigner moved on without Lou, naturally. It’s a whole different topic whether there can be a Foreigner without Lou Gramm, though, but will save it for some other time.

The Album

lou1“Ready or Not” was released at the very beginning of 1987 and it definitely signaled the arrival of a strong (if not the strongest) year for rock music. Overall, the album did make quite the fuss – a top30 chart position in the USA, a #1 hit single (“Midnight Blue”), dozens of concerts and happy faces, etc. etc… No surprises there – “Ready or Not” is as good as you might expect it to be (we are talking about Lou Gramm after all).  Numerous rock band vocalists of the era, including Peter Cetera (Chicago) and Steve Perry (Journey), for example, released solo albums so what Lou did wasn’t really that surprising. What also didn’t surprise fans was the commercial and critical triumph of the album. Lou Gramm and producer Pat Moran crafted some serious melodic rock magic and proved to be a winning team. The Foreigner vibe is still there – I mean come on, what did you expect? Lou was after all a huge part of Foreigner’s sound. Interestingly, though, there’s something unique and distinctive about “Ready or Not” which cannot be found on his previous work with the band. To me, it sounds a little bit more soulful and sincere, less sweet and even a bit edgier.  One more thing that impressed me was the guitar work courtesy of Nils Lofgren who was like a breath of fresh air for the fans.

My final verdict is that “Ready or Not” is a beautiful gift to anyone who loves and appreciates God-given talent and melodic rock, of course. Top notch production quality, superb guitar work and catchy, highly entertaining, full of life songs are some of the characteristics that make this album worthy of your time. In time, people forgot about it but I am here to remind you!

The Songs

One thing that truly frustrates me is that every time I have a conversation about the greatest hits of the ‘80s, songs like “Midnight Blue” or “Ready or Not” never get a mention. “Midnight Blue” is a fantastic pop/rock single which absolutely proved that Lou Gramm is more than fine on his own. The title track, “Ready or Not” is my personal favorite – those drum rhythms, vocal and melodic hooks took my breath away. Lou knows how to craft a beautiful ballad and he perfectly uses that gift of his on “Ready or Not As Well”; The stunning ballad “If I Don’t Have You” might as well be one of the most overlooked ballads of the era, despite its qualities. The excellent rockers “Heartache” and “Until I Make You Mine” are just a couple of the other tracks that back up my statement – “Ready or Not” is Lou Gramm’s purest manifestation of at his creative and artistic power and most certainly a turning point for his career. Don’t forget to play the songs!

Don’t Forget to Subscribe to my Blog or Follow me on TWITTER!


Ready or Not

If Don’t Have You

Midnight Blue

Listen to the entire album on YouTube:


References:
P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~