[The Greatest Rock Albums of the 80s] VAN HALEN – Women and Children First

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Van Halen – “Women and Children First” Front Cover

 

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Van Halen – “Women and Children First” Back Cover

 

The 80’s is it, it belongs to Van Halen.” – David Lee Roth, 1980

 

 

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David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony

On the 26th of this month, we celebrate the 36th anniversary of Van Halen’s third studio album – “Women and Children First”. Released back in 1980, the album marked the beginning of a very special and important era – both for Van Halen, as well as for the rock music in general. In the spirit of the upcoming birthday of the album, I decided to prepare a little publication, focusing on the album and its songs. I have to say, it’s most certainly not my favorite Van Halen album – and as a matter of fact it’s not even in my personal top 3 Van Halen albums. However, I cannot deny how incredibly well-written and influential this album is. Not only “Women and Children First” was the first album to feature music written solely by Van Halen themselves, but this album brought to the world a different and more striking feel of the band – their sound, theme and image became heavier and much “darker” than before.

 

 

“I love it. I think it’s our best one yet because it’s got more variety. It’s not too guitar dominated; it’s just got a little bit of everything on it. It’s got acoustic, it’s got piano, it’s got the ball-bustin’ rock. It’s got it all.” – Eddie Van Halen

 

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Ted Templeman – a photo from the late 70s

The album was produced by Ted Templeman – a notable American record producer. Throughout his career, he has worked with numerous outstanding musicians, such as the Doobie Brothers, Van Morrison, Carly Simon, Eric Clapton, Aerosmith and many others. He is actually the mastermind behind a few other Van Halen, as well as Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth solo albums. Furthermore, “Women and Children First” spawned one single – “And the Cradle Will Rock…” – a song that is very significant to me and this blog (I will explain myself later…). The song performed quite well on the charts, not as much as one might predict, though – it only got to 55th place on Billboard Hot 100. As far as album sales are concerned, it is certified 3 times Platinum by the RIAA and 2 times Platinum by Music Canada. Overall, it did achieve considerable amount of success, however it wasn’t until 1984 that Van Halen reached their commercial peak and worldwide recognition. Nevertheless, this album is excellent – from its first to its last song, no second opinion about it. It’s a must for your record collection!

 

Now let’s talk songs!

AndtheCradleWillRock1980The powerful party-rock anthem which also happens to be the opening track and my personal favorite song from the album is called “And the Cradle Will Rock…” and has a few interesting background details worth mentioning. First of all, it’s the first song that featured the keyboard playing of Eddie Van Halen. Eddie’s new ideas and visions for the band’s music and future directions were already making a strong statement. Instead of being driven by a guitar, the song’s dominant instrument is the keyboards – something that was considered a bit too experimental and not “as rock ‘n’ roll” as one might say back then. Later on, Eddie’s creative ambitions and insights on the issue of the band’s musical angels would clash with David Lee Roth’s lust and endless desire for fun and partying while playing the rock ‘n’ roll. Nevertheless, this piece of music provides a very interesting beginning for their 80s style. In addition, the song begins with very mind-boggling sounds which many of you guys might think come from a guitar; however that’s not the case. It’s actually a “phase shifter-effected Wurlitzer electric piano played through Eddie Van Halen’s 1960s model 100-watt Marshall Plexi amplifier” – how cool is that?
In terms of lyrics – the song is mainly about how younger generations misbehave and all they want to do is party and rock ‘n’ roll. A “cradle” in the context of the song, is a metaphor for “home” – no wonder the cradle is rocking – the kids are out of control.
One last thing – I thought of the name of this blog “that mixtape will rock” while I was listening to “And the Cradle Will Rock…” I absolutely adore the song and the lyrics – they inspired me to come up with the name and that says a lot really.

And this right here might be indeed the worst lip-sync in history…

 

The other party anthem of the album would be “Everyone Wants Some” which in my opinion, has to be one of the heaviest songs of Van Halen, along with “Loss of Control”. I get a lot of hardcore punk vibes coming out of those two songs (especially from “Loss of Control”) and that can’t but make me super happy, having in mind the fact that I am and always will be a punk rock kid. Those two songs became an absolute staple for any of Van Halen’s upcoming life concerts and tours and we can clearly understand why. The pure hard rock energy that comes out of them is just too strong to handle. Not to mention the richness and speed Eddie displays in those two masterpieces…Just have a listen…
“Everybody Wants Some” still remains one of David Lee Roth’s favorite Van Halen songs – even when he left Van Halen, he still kept on playing it during his concerts…

 

Van Halen’s growth in terms of musicianship, song-writing and technical improvement is probably most evident in “Fools”. To me, this song has one of the most powerful and captivating intros. The guitar riffs are pure gold and I just can’t but think of Eddie as some sort of an alien who came to this world to hypnotize us with his guitar… In addition, I really enjoy the brilliant lyrics and the message behind them – even when society wants you to follow and obey all the rules, people have personal desires and dreams that might not fit into the predetermined picture. Different people are good at different things – why should we hide our ambitions?

“They say I’m crazy from the wrong side of the tracks
I never see them but they’re always so far back”….

“My teachers all gave up on me
No matter what they say, I disagree”

 

In addition to the heavy sounds and dynamic guitar riffs, the album offers a few low-key, acoustic country-blues feelings with song such as “Could this be Magic” and “Take Your Whiskey Home”. I have to say, those two songs are most certainly not in my “greatest Van Halen songs of all time” list – I find them a bit too silly and frivolous. However, they do provide the necessary balance in the album.

By the way, “Could This Be Magic” features the only female backing vocal ever to be recorded on a Van Halen song. Nicolette Larson – an American country/pop singer who worked with musicians such as Neil Yong sings during some of the chorus.

 

Van Halen’s first attempts at a power-ballad resulted in the closing song of the album, titled “In a Simple Rhyme”. Their desire for a more graceful and soft melody however is quickly cut off by their rock driven nature, though. It took Van Halen a few more years before they finally refined their perfect rock ballad sound, at least in my opinion.

This is a life performance from last year…David’s voice might not be what it used to be, however we still appreciate it!

 

The album’s other two songs – “Romeo Delight” and “Tora! Tora!”, also deserve an honorable mention. Those high-speed metal sounds are the reason why I said that the album has a bit of a “black hart” situation. Just listen…

 

Well, this is it for now. I hope my readers got the chance to remind themselves of this brilliant album which features some of the most unforgettable Van Halen tunes ever. In conclusion, I would say that if you are a Van Halen fan, this album is a must for your record collection. “Women and Children First” is the album with which Van Halen gloriously stepped into the 80s – it was a perfect statement that the decade is theirs to conquer. With a more refined and original sound, the band proved that they matured and got more serious about their music. I hope you guys love and appreciate it as much as I do!

Cheers! …And the cradle will rock!

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Credits:
Van Halen Lyrics, retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/
Van Halen “Women and Children First”, retrieved from http://www.allmusic.com/
Van Halen, “And the Cradle Will Rock”, retrieved from http://www.songfacts.com/
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 Greatest Rock Albums of the 80s] Eric Clapton – Money and Cigarettes

Today I woke up to some incredible news – one of my favourite male rockstars and in my opinion the greatest guitar hero ever – Eric Clapton will be releasing his 23rd solo album this spring! I am beyond happy and cannot wait to hear what this outstanding man has prepared for us this time.

In the spirit of the news, I decided to prepare a publication dedicated to my favourite Eric Clapton album – “Money and Cigarettes”, which also happens to be one of the greatest rock albums of the 80s (at least to me). This album is quite special and significant because it marks a new turning point in Clapton’s life – it’s the first album he releases after his rehabilitation from alcoholism. To many people who are not familiar with his story, the title of the album – “Money and Cigarettes” suggests that the songs you can find in it are all about the “rock ‘n’ roll wild life” – money, smoking, parties, etc. I thought about it myself when I first heard about it many years ago – Oh, another album about money and girls, etc…On the contrary, after his struggles with alcoholism, he felt very empty and devastated. He chooses this particular title “because that’s all I saw myself having left”, he said. Quite sad, isn’t it? Misfortunes aside, this album proved that he still had it – he was and still is a true rock ‘n’ roll God who always rises from the ashes and takes back his throne.

Before going any further with the songs and the themes, I would like to focus on some other important information and details. “Money and Cigarettes” was released back in 1983 as the eight studio album by Clapton. It consists of ten songs and it spawned three hit singles – “I’ve Got a Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart”, “The Shape You’re In” and “Slow Down Linda”. In terms of chart performance, it was not his greatest accomplishment indeed; however it got a few nice spots in Germany, Sweden and Norway’s album charts. In addition, his first single “I’ve Got a Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart” peaked at number 18 in the Billboard hot 100 chart, number 17 in Canadian top singles chart and unfortunately, barely got to UK top singles chart at number 83. I don’t understand why his native country didn’t respond that well to the album and its singles. In my opinion, the album didn’t quite match the new trends of the era – 80s and was still a little bit “old-school” and “70s”. Don’t get me wrong, personally I do love the way he blended his rock and blues with his one-of-a-kind low key, casual and gentle vocal delivery. I guess the people were just looking for something different, though.

The overall atmosphere of the album is very relaxing, calming and creates a very good mood – at least to me. The songs are easy to sing along with, not as complex as his previous works, however still possessing his special and distinctive touch. In addition, somehow all the songs from “Money and Cigarettes” can simply make you feel good while listening. For instance, songs like “Everybody Oughta Make a Change” (which is a cover by Sleepy John Estes by the way) or “Crosscut Saw” are very uplifting, spirited and perfect for having a drink with your best friend on a nice spring evening. On the other hand, love songs such as “Pretty Girl”, “Man in Love” and “Man Overboard” may be very pleasant, cheerful and gentle, however to some they might not be so memorable or in any-way original. To me, however, the sweet lyrics, in combination with a tender and unobtrusive guitar playing seem very soul-revealing and most certainly create a very warm feeling inside my heart, especially “Pretty Girl”.

 

 

Pretty girl you are the light of my life,
I mean my everything.
You are the one I chose to make my wife,
That’s why you wear my ring.

 

 

Feels like we’re falling into the arms of the night,
So if you’re not ready, don’t be holdin’ me so tight.
I guess there’s nothing left for me to explain;
Here’s what you’re gettin’ and I don’t want to change,
I don’t want to change.

 

 

I’ve seen you speeding down the highway when you ought to dig the scenery.
And you can wolf down your dinner in the time it takes to drink my tea.
You’re always rushing ’round everywhere you go,
You leave me eating dirt on the side of the road.
I can’t keep running much longer you always go too fast for me.

 

It ain’t no big deal, we’re all lucky to be alive,
I myself don’t believe in luck, or taking chances, I will survive.
Every move I make, every twist and every turn,
You scandalize and humble me, I may be slow but I will learn.

 

Many critics are not as thrilled as me when it comes to this album. For instance, some music reviews say that the album is an “average” effort from Clapton and it doesn’t actually possess any characteristic that can distinguish it from the enormous wave of rock albums, released at that time. I agree that some of his previous works are much more relevant, widely-recognized and produced with a unique “flavour” that is somehow missing in “Money and Cigarettes”. I mean – some of his preceding albums such as “Slowhand” and “No Reason to Cry” triggered such an explosive reaction from the fans and critics and if you hear some of the songs from those two albums you will get what I’m saying. However, what makes “Money and Cigarettes” so special (at least to me) is what it stands for – the strength of human will and the desire to change for better. Clapton quit drinking and became this positive person who took his life back and wanted to do something great with it. That’s one of the reasons why I respect him so much. This album marked a very new beginning in his life career-wise as well. He let go some of his previous band members and formed a new line-up. Furthermore, this album once again proves that his abilities to play and sing the blues are beyond extraordinary. It may not be as intriguing as his previous projects and most certainly not as commercial and mainstream as his next albums, however it does represent a very impressive point of his career. The songs from this album – songs such as “I’ve Got a Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart” or “Pretty Girl” are a symbol of his desire to move forward and create music for each and every mood or situation you can find yourself in. Also, this album tells us that he doesn’t necessarily have to be this outstanding, fiery and blistering guitar-God in order to create good music. Regardless, one thing he has always been to us – inspiring.

Check out the rest of the songs from the album! I’m sure you will immediately feel much more spirited and feel in a better mood!

Cheers!

Credits:
How Eric Clapton Got Out of Rehab and Released ‘Money and Cigarettes’, by By Nick DeRiso, retrieved from http://ultimateclassicrock.com
 I do not own any visual or audio material in this publication. All the credits and rights go to the owners and/or the publishers.

 

 

 

 

 

5 Great Rock Records Produced by Mutt Lange

The fact is – not many people are familiar with the roles and responsibilities of a music producer. People enjoy listening to produced albums, get involved with the artists, buy the CDs, etc. However, how many of those people actually and truly understand the crucial role of the producer who stood behind the album? –I don’t think they are that many… Recently, I’ve been having these conversations and discussions about the significant part a producer plays in a music project, as well as his/her numerous duties and obligations as one. Every producer does different things and participates or specializes in different areas of production. Most importantly, however, a producer is the one, who gathers ideas, help artists establish find their sound and looks for creative ways to present this sound to the general public. In addition, a producer is the one who decides which song would go on a record and would fit perfectly into the concept of the project. Once the selection has been made, he/she starts working with the artist/s to build up the sound together and bring to life the vision of a perfect album. Not only that, but the producer is “the coach of the studio” – in combination with managing the mixing board, a producer also supervises, gives advices and suggestions on how to better record a song…He/she may even encourage or help the artists with their confidence in order for them to give the best performance – a true studio “persuasive diplomat”. In some cases, a producer may also help an artist with the lyrics of the song or may add some new ideas about the ways to sing it or play it. A producer also brings all the audio elements together, deals with all the technical aspects, and adds effects, quality…a spirit to a song. The producer simply puts all the ideas and visions together with the primary goal to achieve the best results possible.

Back to what I was saying….as expected, during those discussions the name of Mr. Mutt Lange kept on coming out. No reason to wonder – Mutt Lange is a huge name in the industry. He is the mastermind behind albums such as AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” and “Hysteria”, The Cars’ “Heartbeat City”, Nickelback’s “Dark Horse”, etc. Except (classic) rock records, he worked with artists such as Lady Gaga, Maroon 5, The Corrs, Muse, Michael Bolton, Shania Twain and many more. One might find it quite difficult to image that a rock ‘n’ roll and metal producer like him worked with country and pop musicians, however his talents are versatile and it’s quite obvious…He was and still is one of the most in-demand producers in the world. I’ve listened to pretty much each and every album he produced, regardless of the genre, and all I can say is that this person is a music genius. As cliché as it may sound, he truly is one – his creativity is beyond words; his vision and ideas are beyond excellent… He started his career as a music producer in the ‘70s and within just a few years he became responsible for one of the greatest records of all time… In the following publication, I decided to gather up 5 of his most important and influential records so that we can truly understand the brilliance of his mind…Those 5 albums made such a big difference and were so successful that we still cannot stop listening or talking about them! It’s a rather informative publication, through which I hope we can better understand what a huge difference a great producer can have on a record! Here we go…

AC/DC – “Back in Black” (1980)

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The second-best selling album of all time with more than 25 million copies sold, this album will forever remain as one of the greatest records of all time and a standard measure for any hard-rock band out there. Following up the tragic death of frontman Bon Scott, AC/DC were facing numerous difficulties and even thought about quitting. Brian Johnson was also dealing with many obstacles as the new vocalist. However, Lange’s influence once again stepped in and with brand new approaches he managed to give birth to “Back in Black” – an album that perfectly captured the electrifying energy, astonishing technical and lyrical arrangements and a new and reborn AC/DC, ready to take over the world. The album was released in 1980 and it quickly became their most critically respected album. It spawned 4 huge singles – “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Hells Bells”, “Back in Black” and “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, all of which redefined hard rock music and left a mark that can never be erased! Bravo, Mr. Lange!

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Def Leppard – Pyromania (1983)

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Where do I even begin with Pyromania? I already made an appreciation post about this masterpiece which you guys can check here – [The Greatest Rock Albums of the 80s] DEF LEPPARD – PYROMANIA (1983)
We owe this album to Lange – the genius who took Def Leppard under his wing and encouraged them to dig deeper till they find their real talents and true meaning of their music. In addition, he also co-wrote all the songs of “Pyromania”. It seems like his lyrical approaches and touches were exactly what the band needed. With this album, Lange managed to create the perfect balance between hard rock and mainstream rock. Not to mention that after its release, the career of Def Leppard reached its peak! Pyromania is also an extremely important landmark album because it revealed the possibilities of an album – it produced 4 hit singles (“Photograph”, “Foolin”, “Rock of Ages”, “Too Late For Love”) – something no other rock record did before. I will be forever thankful to Lange for producing one of my most beloved albums.

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Def Leppard – Hysteria (1987)

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“Hysteria” – the album that took three-years to record; the album that perfectly showcased the strength of human will and ability to overcome any difficulty; the album that became the most distinctive hard rock record of the era…and of course, probably my favourite album of all time! Mutt Lange once again took matters into his hands and helped Def Leppard make history. “Hysteria” produced 7 hit singles – an accomplishment so rare that we cannot but respect him for making it possible. Lange co-wrote all the songs of the album, including the smashing hit “Pour Some Sugar on me”. The album ended up selling more than 15 million copies worldwide and once again proved how important the vision of the producer is. What can I say, each and every song from this album is impeccably written and it combines catchy and captivating lyrics with flawless technical arrangement. Thank you, Mr Lange!

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Foreigner – “4” (1981)

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Before releasing this album, Foreigner were already a well-known and established name in the rock music scene. However, their 2nd and 3rd albums were not as successful as their debut album, so they turned to Mutt Lange for help to find a new approach…a “raw edge” – great strategy and perfect timing. The result was immediate – “4” hold the number one position on Billboard for 10 weeks, sold over 7 million copies and it spawned 4 outstanding hit singles that blew away people’s minds back then (and still are, at least to me). I mean, who doesn’t know or haven’t listened to “Urgent” or “Juke Box Hero” at least once in their lives? This album made the band famous internationally and broke all the records. In terms of style, “4” marked the beginning of Foreigner’s shift to more radio-friendly, hard rock sound, especially with songs such as “Head Games” and “Urgent”…and we love all of them. Interesting fact, Mutt Lange actually contributed with the background vocals as well! That’s what I was telling you about – the producer is responsible for and can engage in so many activities!

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Bryan Adams – “Waking Up the Neighbors” (1991)

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After helping so many artists and producing so many albums in the 80s, Mutt Lange triumphantly stepped into the new decade (90s) by producing Bryan Adam’s glorious hit album “Waking up the Neighbors”. The album sold more than 16 million copies worldwide and was number one on the British charts for 16 weeks. Those numbers should tell you that this album was indeed one of the best accomplishments of Mutt Lange as a producer. With few nice commercial touches and beautifully crafted melodic rock ballads, Lange did it once again. “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” is probably the first song that comes to our minds when we talk about Bryan Adams (well, maybe it’s just me). The song we all remember him by features in non-other than this album – it was also included on the soundtrack of the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in 1991 (yes, the movie with Kevin Costner). In addition to such unforgettable ballads, the album produced a number of nice and catchy rock tunes. Overall, brilliant work, Mr Lange!

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Well, this is it for now. Those were 5 great albums, produced by Mr Mutt Lange – one of the most notable, versatile and respected producers of all time.I gave you five, however we should know that throughout his career he has produced more than 40 albums and worked with artists from all possible genres.
I hope this publication gave you some insight about the important role a producer plays in a musical project. He/She can either be responsible for turning an artist/s into a global phenomenon or the other way around. In the cases I’ve shown you, Mutt Lange did the first thing – he helped those artists and bands establish a distinctive sound and name in the industry. For that, we will be forever thankful!


References:
Robert John “Mutt” Lange Facebook Fan Page – https://www.facebook.com/Robert-John-Mutt-Lange-
Top 10 Mutt Lange Records by Eduardo Rivadavia, retrieved from http://ultimateclassicrock.com
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~

[Song Appreciaion Post] Foreigner – Reaction to Action

 

…And the list of favourite rock songs I admire and cherish with all my heart goes on and on…
For today’s song appreciation post, I decided to take a journey back to 1984, when one of my favorite rock albums was released. Yes, I’m talking about “Agent Provocateur” by the American/British rock band Foreigner. I’ve always kept this album very close to my heart and that’s why to me, the following publication is a very special one. Not to mention that I owe a lot to Foreigner – they were one of the first rock bands I started listening to back in the day and one of the bands that introduced me to the genre when I was just a little girl. Anyhow, as I said, in my opinion “Agent Provocateur” is a very important album despite what all the critics say. One might think that in terms of musicianship, technicality and influence, “4” is their most distinctive and remarkable album, however to me things don’t just necessarily stand that way…Anyhow, this is not the time to defend the album from all the negative reviews it received throughout the years…

This morning I was once again listening through the songs of “Agent Provocateur” and decided to make this song appreciation post dedicated to (in my opinion) the second best song of the album – “Reaction to Action”, the first one being “That Was Yesterday”. I get that to many people “I Want to Know What Love Is” is probably THE song from this album and as a matter of fact to many fans it is their most respected and widely-recognized song of all time. It is a classic dreamy, emotional power ballad with inspirational chorus that will live forever – however, to me it’s not their greatest song and definitely not the song they should be remembered by.

That is why I decided to shift the focus to “Reaction to Action” which was released as the third single from the album back in 1984. It didn’t score that well on the charts. Even though it was one of the strongest and most hard-rock driven songs from the album, it only made it to #54 on Billboard charts. Doesn’t matter – to me and to many (Foreigner) fans such numbers cannot truly represent the personal value and meaning of a song in general.

“Reaction to Action” was written by Mick Jones – the founder of Foreigner and Lou Gramm – the lead singer of the band. Some other songs from the album were also written by those two – perfect collaboration and music craftsmanship, indeed. The song itself is a perfect example of AOR (Album Oriented Rock) and to many critics the characteristics of the song make it quite dull, cliché and even tasteless. Regardless, the song includes very charming and cheerful lyrics, in combination with a nice rhythm and perfect vocal delivery. In 2016, such AOR rock songs are definitely considered outdated and don’t attract much attention, except from those people who still listen to the music of a long gone era – the 80s.
I don’t believe in things such as “overall trend” and “common perceptions” – I believe in personal, subjective feelings and emotions that a song can bring to different people, at a different time and on a different level. With this song for example, each time I play it, I feel energized, uplifted, motivated and stimulated – as mainstream as it is, it also triggers some confidence and brightness. It’s very radio-friendly and perfect-for-a-party song that is mixing some elements of classic Foreigner hard rock with pop music. Many people, including critics seem to become quite mad when they see how classic rock bands start making such radio-friendly pop rock songs, however we need to understand that artists change, accept or reject new trends, try or don’t try new styles and directions. All I can say is that I love the lyrics, the upbeat sound and the soulful and profound vocal delivery by Lou.

Enjoy the nice song and play the whole album! Cheers all!

It’s hard getting through to me
I’m truly elusive
I got my own point of view
I am the one of a kind
And I tell you l’il girl
I’m fascinated by you
There’s something about you
That makes all the difference
Like the night is to day
Well I can get along without you
But I know that within you
You’ve got what I’m missing
And I’ll find a way
To get reaction to action
Hey, say the word that would thrill me
Yeah, I need reaction to action
Just one look that would kill me
You got a way of drawing attention to you
You know you stand out in a crowd
But the way that you play
With any man’s affections
Should never be allowed
See I consider myself
The one who will show you
I’d go as far as to say
Girl, I ain’t leaving here without you
But you better understand
There’s only one rule in this game we’re gonna play
And that’s reaction to action
Maybe like a word that would thrill me
I need reaction to action
One look that would kill me
Give me reaction to action
It’s getting late I’d better make a definite move
Reaction to action
And after that baby, it’s up to you
I need reaction to action
Just a word that would thrill me
I need reaction to action
You know what I’m talking about
Give me some reaction to action
You got a look, you got a way that’ll kill me
Reaction to action, reaction to action, action
Baby, don’t think about it, just react
Reaction to action (x6)

P.S I do not own any photo or video material used in this publication. All the credits go to the photographers, owners or uploaders of the visual/audio materials.

 

[The Greatest Rock Albums of the 80s] DEF LEPPARD – PYROMANIA (1983)

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Def Leppard – Pyromania Album Cover (by Andie Airfix)

Greetings!

On the 20th of January, we celebrated the 33th anniversary of Def Leppard’s groundbreaking and era-defining album “Pyromania”. Released back in 1983, this album not only changed the face of the 80s, but it also became one of the biggest reasons behind Def Leppard’s major success and fan recognition back in the days. To me personally, “Pyromania”, along with their following album “Hysteria” are the two albums that mostly characterize and represent Def Leppard…not to mention that those two albums are some of my all-time favorites.
To mark the anniversary of this incredible masterpiece, I decided to dedicate a publication which can hopefully give some insight and also show my appreciation and love for it. Also, I would like to provide some basic information about it so that the readers can have a better idea of the impact and the greatness that lies within this album. Needless to say, I adore and appreciate each and every song from this album which makes this publication a very special one.
Finally, this album focus marks the beginning of a new category of posts on this blog – The Greatest Albums of the 80s…what better way to start than with Def Leppard’s “Pyromania”?

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Def Leppard 1983 ; (credits to the owner of the photo)

Since this is going to be an album focus publication, I would like to begin with some of the major details regarding the album. “Pyromania”, as already mentioned, was released on the 20th of January back in 1983 and it’s Def Leppard’s third studio album. Along with the album, the band also organized a concert tour that lasted for one whole year, in order to support and present their new project to the world. It was an European tour, however it did have a huge impact…after all, in the 80s it was all about the “live concert experience”. Going back to the album itself, it was indeed a huge success as it reached number 2 on the Billboard 200, number 4 in Canada,  and number 18 on the UK album charts – those are some major achievements and prove that the album was and still is worthy of admiration and listening. In its original release, the album sold more than 6 million copies in the USA alone and since than it sold more than 10 million copies – thus It was certified 10x “platinum” by the RIAA in 2004. The artwork of the album is also pretty amazing, don’t you think? It includes a skyscraper caught on fire and a bullseye which is directly pointed at the flaming building. The artist behind this memorable and classic hard rock cover is Andie Airfix – the guy who also a few years later does the cover of “Hysteria”. Some say it predicted 9/11 and consider it rather controversy; however I try to stay away from such interpretations. To me it’s fresh, futuristic and rocknroll!

The reasons behind the album’s positive response from the public are numerous but to me personally, the success of the album comes from the brilliant hard rock mastermind of the producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange. He not only set new standards and characteristics of mainstream hard rock of the 80s with this album, but he was also responsible for the memorable, radio-friendly and easy to remember and sing with lyrics. Sometimes, people don’t really understand the role and the importance of the music producer – he/she is not only another full-time member of the band but also the figure that glues together ideas, concepts and intentions for the songs, lyrics, performances, etc. In this case, Mutt Lange’s ingenious vision is what lies behind the success of “Pyromania”. In order to get the right sound and create this “hard rock stronghold”, the producer recorded each member of the band individually – a rather unique approach causing many bumps along the way. Despite all, the results were beyond impressive. To me and probably to many other rock music fans and critics, this albums serves as a transition – a turning point and progression from their previous rather raw, wild and heavy metal albums to more radio-friendly, modern, catchy, sophisticated and easier to fall in love with sound. As David Fricke of Rolling Stone magazine said, they put “some much-needed fire back on the radio” with this album!

Furthermore, “Pyromania” is the first album to feature guitarist Phil Collen. I absolutely adore him and his talent – his guitar riffs are like thunder!! He comes in the band after the previous lead guitarist – Pete Willis was fired due to alcohol problems. The album was already half-recorder when he steps in and I guess that things were not that easy at the beginning. I’m not going to get into details about Phil right now but what we need to know is that he still remains the band’s lead guitarist – quite impressive, don’t you think? I am so proud of them, being together for so many years and overcoming so many obstacles. Except firing their previous lead guitarist and the death of Steve Clark (co-lead guitarist and songwriter), the band’s members have always been together and that’s one of the many reasons why I respect them so much.

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Phil Collen – guitarist of Def Leppard Pyromania – Tour ’83 (credits to the owner of the photo)

Let’s talk a little bit more about the songs of the album. The tracklist includes 10 songs, all of which possessing that special spirit, aura and groundbreaking new sound of the band. “Photograph”, “Rock of Ages” and “Foolin” found their place in top 40 USA charts and in people’s hearts as well. Those three songs received major recognition and constant airplay on MTV due to their melodic hooks, refined guitar riffs and captivating passionate lyrics. This exposure gave Def Leppard the chance to prove that they are not just another radio-time-filler-band, but rather an important and powerful name, ready to make history. Just listen…
(The music videos are just so typical for the 80s era…hilarious!)

I hope many of you got reminded of these all-time classics! Along with the three songs, the album includes “Rock! Rock (Till You Drop)”, “Stagefright”, “Too Late For Love”, “Die Hard the Hunter”, “Comin’ Under Fire”, “Action! Not Words” and “Billy’s Got A Gun”. All these songs are beyond remarkable, however I am entitled to have a favorite one and that has to be “Too Late For Love”. This song, to me is one of the greatest power ballads of the 80s and it perfectly illustrates the vocal abilities of Joe Elliot like no other song… not to mention the powerful lyrics and compelling guitar riffs that just make you lose yourself…This song is one of the reasons why 1980s melodic hard rock movement gained popularity. It is the perfect ballad and I recommend each and every one of you guys to listen to it again…

 

Of course, the other songs are worth listening to as much as the ones I put here, however, I’m gonna let you guys go grab the album from your CD shelf and play it or if you became curious and interested – to go and buy it at your local CD store.
Overall, it is a brilliant album – no second opinion about it. It can appeal to any audience of any age – it’s just that good! It is also a MUST HAVE album in your CD/Vinyl collection. If someone asks me to name some of the most distinctive rock albums of the 80s, I will most certainly start with this one. It is that influential and that era-representing. It becomes obvious how hard the producer and the members worked to create it. The details, the musicianship and the lyrics of the songs made it a major catalyst and stimulant for numerous follow-up bands and the overall rock sound of the 1980s. Def Leppard just simply changed the rules of the game…

Oh and of course – I just had to…

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Me, wearing DEF LEPPARD’s PYROMANIA album T-shirt

This is it for now, stay tuned for more rock music!

—-

Credits:
  1. Rolling Stone Magazine – “Best Albums of the Eighties” (Def Leppard – Pyromania no. 62), retrieved from http://www.rollingstone.com
  2. The Story of Def Leppard’s Breakthrough Album, ‘Pyromania’ by Michael Gallucci, retrieved from http://ultimateclassicrock.com
p.s I do not own the videos and the photographs from this publication (except the last one). The credit goes to the owners and uploaders of the media materials.

[Saturday Night Song Focus] Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer

Greetings!

It’s Saturday and it’s time for my weekly scheduled publication dedicated to a particular song. Once again, I would like to say that the choice is primarily based on my personal preferences and decisions. I was wondering which song to talk about today and suddenly the playlist on my phone decided to play this one so I thought it would be nice to tell you something about this iconic song by Peter Gabriel. Actually, it also happens to me one of my favorite songs of the 80, even though I’m not such a huge fan of Peter Gabriel. Don’t get me wrong, he is indeed one of the greatest “blue-eyed” soul singers, along with others such as Phil Collins, Steve Winwood and Robert Palmer. However, to me Peter Gabriel was always too eccentric and a little bit weird, wild and careless. I mean, we all remember those grotesque Genesis live performances in which he was dressed as a frog and a flower… He is though one of the most iconic figures of the 80s and I give him all the credit for that. He is not only famous for his distinctive vocal delivery, but he was also an activist and also made a protest song for Steve Biko – a noted black South African anti-apartheid activist who died in a prison.

Now let’s talk a little bit more about the song (somehow I always get carried away for which I’m sorry…). “Sledgehammer” was written, produced, composed, performed and pretty much all done by Peter Gabriel himself. The song was released back in 1986 from one of his most famous albums – “So”. It quickly became a huge hit – it topped Billboard Hot 100 in the USA, became #1 in Canada, #4 in UK, etc. Everyone simply fell in love with this catchy upbeat song with such distinctive and unique lyrics. Peter Gabriel’s music has always been influenced by 1960s soul musicians and we can also clearly see it in “Sledgehammer”. In particular, in this song, we can see the influence of Memphis label – Stax Records. Furthermore, the song has numerous distinctive elements, including a horn section and a synthesizer flute with which the song begins. I have to say the flute at the beginning is probably the most memorable part of the song! The reason why I love this song so much is because it has very interesting lyrics – I’m not saying they have special quality, I’m saying to me they are funny and catchy. Also, I love the drums, bass and sax in the song – the whole composition is just perfect! In term of genre, I would say most certainly a mixture between classical “blue-eyed” soul and commercial rock. However I think it has a lot of elements of funk music – The incredibly well-crafted mixture of genres is what made this song so legendary…

The music video is also one of the greatest music videos of all time – that’s just my personal opinion. Maybe now to many of you guys it may seem like nothing, however back in the days the MV was revolutionary! Say whatever you wish to say but facts are facts – up to date, the music video of “Sledgehammer” is the MOST PLAYED music video in the history of MTV!!! This speaks volumes! In addition, Peter Gabriel won the impressive nine MTV awards at the 1987 MTV Music Video Awards – the most awards a music video has ever won. He also got best British video award during 1987 Brit Awards. He also got nominated for Grammys – record of the year, song of the year and best vocal performance. Unbelievable, right…? The song and its music video were just making history and everyone loved it! The music video includes “claymation, pixilation, and stop motion animation that gave life to images in the song” done by Aardman Animations and Brothers Quay. The whole thing looks extremely unique and I can’t believe back in the 80s people could make things like that…revolutionary! There’s of course an irony in all this… Peter Gabriel absolutely hated the idea of music videos. To him, the emergence of MTV and the trend to produce music videos for every song was meaningless and was declining the value of the artist. I guess he also thought that “video killed the radio star”. Finally after so many years of pulling away and resisting the new trend and demand, he decided to produce a music video – and what a video that was. I guess he just said to himself – if I have to do it, I may as well just make something people have never seen before…and he did!

With no further due – enjoy the song and the memorable music video!

Velina

xoxox

Single / Album Cover


 

Music Video


 

Lyrics

You could have a steam train
If you’d just lay down your tracks
You could have an aeroplane flying
If you bring your blue sky back

All you do is call me
I’ll be anything you need

You could have a big dipper
Going up and down, all around the bends
You could have a bumper car, bumping
This amusement never ends

I want to be your sledgehammer
Why don’t you call my name
Oh let me be your sledgehammer
This will be my testimony
Show me round your fruit cakes
‘Cause I will be your honey bee
Open up your fruit cakes
Where the fruit is as sweet as can be

I want to be your sledgehammer
Why don’t you call my name
You’d better call the sledgehammer
Put your mind at rest
I’m going to be-the sledgehammer
This can be my testimony
I’m your sledgehammer
Let there be no doubt about it

Sledge sledge sledgehammer

I kicked the habit (I kicked the habit)
Shed my skin (Shed my skin)
This is the new stuff (This is the new stuff)
I go dancing in, (We could go dancing in)
Oh won’t you show for me (Show for me)
I will show for you (Show for you)
Show for me (Show for me), I will show for you

Yea, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I do mean you
Only you, you’ve been coming through
Going to build that power
Build, build up that power, hey
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
Going to feel that power, build in you

Come on, come on, help me do
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, you
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
It’s what we’re doing, doing
All day and night, come on and help me do, come on and help me do


Credits:

[90s] [Album Focus] Best-Selling Soundtrack Of All Time – The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album

Greetings!

So I’ve been meaning to dedicate a publication to the greatest soundtrack albums of all time, however due to busy schedule I’m afraid I cannot do it at this point. Instead, I decided to focus on just one for the – the best of the best, the greatest of the greatest and the best-selling soundtrack albums of all time – Whitney Houston’s “The Bodyguard”.
As I always do, I’m going to start the post with some background information…Back in the day, especially in the 80s and in the 90s there was a heavy cross-media promotion. Unlike today, in the past a media product was usually heavily tight with other media products such as books and music. The movie industry started relying heavily on soundtrack in order to boost the popularity of the movie – it was the other way around as well – soundtracks were relying on the movies to boost their sales. Basically, films and music were together in an inseparable marriage. I don’t know what actually happened, however… – nowadays I feel like movies don’t really invest much in memorable and grandiose soundtracks the way they did before. Time has surely changed…
The practice of cross-promotion between a movie and a soundtrack became a trend since the introduction of Television back in the 50s and 60s. It was a brilliant win-win strategy which left us with the most memorable movie themes and songs ever! Helping the other industry out and capitalizing heavily at the same time became a major business model. Simply all the movie and music producers were working together in order to create a unique and memorable artistic product. In addition, 70s and the 80s marked the rise of blockbusters – you know, those high budget and incredible movies featuring all the famous stars and great effects. Blockbusters have always relied on promotions and heavy exposure to the public in order to obtain revenues – that’s only natural. One way to gain additional promotion was to use music – which of course became the most powerful tool! I’m not sure what the correct line of events is though – one could argue – is the soundtrack promoting the movie or the movie was promoting the soundtrack!? See, that’s what I’m talking about – those two media products were inseparable and had a huge impact on one another! The music of a movie simply represents the spirit and the identity of the movie itself – it is as equally important – no second opinion about that! Little by little, from just one or two theme songs, the idea of a whole album became a cultural phenomenon –producers started investing on whole albums filled with music from the movie. I believe it all started with Saturday Night Fever – one of the greatest soundtrack albums of all time, that’s for sure (kudos to BeeGees). Once it was established that such albums are extremely popular and well-accepted from the audience, everyone just simply jumped on the bandwagon – soundtrack after soundtrack – great albums after great albums. I mean, who can ever forget the original soundtrack albums of “Flashdance” or “Footlose” or “Dirty Dancing”? – no one that is…

Going back to the greatest soundtrack of all-time… I don’t think the album or the movie needs much introduction. It’s one of the all-time classics which will simply remain in history for their brilliance…I will focus on the soundtrack album because it’s an album-related publication, after all. So here we go…the best-selling soundtrack of all time by the princess of pop herself…


 

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Released: November 17th, 1992
Genre: Pop, RnB
Label: Arista
Producer: Clive Davis, Whitney Houston, Jazz Summers, Tim Parry
Tracklist:
*“I Will Always Love You”
*“I Have Nothing”
*“I’m Every Woman”
*“Run to You”
*“Queen of the Night”
*“Jesus Loves Me”
*“Even If My Heart Would Break” (performed by Kenny G and Aaron Neville)
*“Someday (I’m Coming Back)” (performed by Lisa Stansfield)
*“It’s Gonna Be A Lovely Day” (performed by the S.O.U.L.S.Y.S.T.E.M.)
*“(What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” (performed by Curtis Stigers)
*“Waiting for You” (performed by Kenny G)
*“Trust in Me” (performed by Joe Cocker, featuring Sass)
Singles: “I Will Always Love You”, “Someday (I’m Coming Back)”, “I’m Every Woman”, “I Have Nothing”, “Run to You”, “Queen of the Night”, “It’s Gonna Be a Lovely Day”


 

The album features a bunch of  other artists – many people think it’s just her songs; however that’s not the case. We have Lisa Stansfield and Kenny G and of course, Joe Cocker…all brilliant musicians and voices. The album was co-executive produced by Whitney Houston and the great Clive Davis – the person behind ARISTA records. Whitney had full control over the album – she chose specifically each and every song. The theme song was supposed to be a completely different one; however they lost it to another movie.Can you imagine that – one of the greatest ballads of all time – the ballads of the ballads, the most powerful and tear-breaking performance by a female artist almost didn’t happen….Whitney’s male co-star – Mr. Kevin Costner was actually the one who suggested that they should record “I Will Always Love You” as the theme song. Maybe some of you don’t know but the original song was written and performed by Dolly Parton – the famous country diva. How did they manage to transform such a slow, rather boring and I’d say “background” music to this amazing and powerful composition, I have no idea. Kudos to the brilliant producers!
The success of the album was almost immediate. Whitney became the first act to sell more than a million copies of an album within a single week period! This makes the album the fastest-selling album in the history of music! She also won a Grammy and for the album of the year and the RIAA certified the album 17 times Platinum. Over 44 million copies have been sold worldwide to day, which makes the album the best-selling soundtrack of all time – well, how can it not be?

Of course, the album is mostly remembered by the phenomenal ballad we all know and love with all our hearts – “I Will Always Love You”. The song appealed to all markets and to people of all ages – it was a mixture of soul, RnB, pop and contemporary music. It also received huge airplay. The single spent fourteen weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The album itself topped the Billboard 200 for 20 weeks. The following singles that were released from the album followed the success of the theme song – with “I’m Every Woman” (a Chaka Khan cover) and “I Have Nothing”, Whitney Houston became the first female act to have three songs in the Top 20 at the same time.

Not only was the soundtrack a musical phenomenon and a complete triumph, but the movie itself simply became one of the greatest romance stories of all time. This whole project once again proves my point – cross-promotion is needed and it should be very well thought of! In this case, the movie promoted the soundtrack and vice-versa. The results – smashing box-office success and the greatest and most memorable ballad of time… In my opinion, the powerful an unmatched vocal delivery of Whitney Houston and the success of the album completely overshadowed the movie. However, in this case it turned out just great!

There’s absolutely no point in talking about the quality and excellence of this soundtrack – just listen to the songs and lose yourself to the feeling… Every song is so inspirational and so well-crafted that you just can’t stop replaying. That’s the magic of Whitney’s voice and her aura in general – she is able to convey so many emotions with her voice that at one point you just don’t know whether to cry, smile or be happy. I grew up listening to this album (yes, I have it in my CD collection, of course) and it just means the world to me! I am extremely sad that we lost this gorgeous queen and will always wish I could go back in time and enjoy her projects all over again…
One thing I have to say, she was also a brilliant actress and we can most certainly see it in “The Bodyguard”. I miss her and I will always love her…
Also, I wish they could make great soundtracks like this one nowadays – I’ve been waiting and waiting but so far all we have does not deserve to even be mentioned… Let’s wait and see….

Velina

xoxox


Credits:
“The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album” by Arion Berger, November 13, 2013, retrieved by Rolling Stones Magazine
“Top 10 Best Selling Movie Soundtracks”, retrieved by http://www.sky.com
“The Bodyguard (soundtrack)”, retrieved from Wikipedia

 

Top 5 Best-Selling Debut Albums of All Time

Debut Albums collage!with link

Greetings!

For today’s publication I decided to make another informative (hopefully) list which this time is going to be dedicated to albums, rather than singes or songs. The publication won’t be based on my personal opinion; rather I would like to list the top 5 best-selling debut albums of all time.

First impressions count! The following albums made such great first impressions that they not only launched successful careers but also became a cultural landmark. The success of a debut album may give us some sort of idea how popular an artist/band can be. It also works as a key to set up a fan base and make impressions in the music industry. In my opinion, the initial impact has to be for sure the strongest one. Smash hit album release is a MUST in order to grab the audience and establish a name for yourself in the industry. Also, a debut album is important because it sets some sort of standards and expectations from the musician/s and the following projects. Many musicians are remembered by their unbelievably good debut albums. Unfortunately, some of them were not able to live up to those high standards in their second albums or following projects. Such are the cases with some of the following musicians – Guns ‘n’ Roses for instance – great debut album but where are they now? My point is that, in music industry, especially nowadays with the development of media, artists need CONSISTENCY – which also happens to be one of the most difficult things to achieve! That’s why musicians such as Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson were so great (and still are). Album after album they completely proved to their fans and to the industry that they most certainly are not a one-album-wonder.
Back to the debut albums, the following is a list of 5 best-selling debut albums. I am considering a part 2, which hopefully can happen sooner. I hope you enjoy the music and learn something new!
Here we go…


Guns ‘N Roses – Appetite For Destruction

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The ultimate game changer for Guns ‘n Roses and in my opinion the main and only reason why they are so famous and loved by fans all over the world. It also happens to be the best-selling debut album of all times! It is also the 11th best-selling album in the United States alone! The album sold more than 30 million copies worldwide – such an impressive number! The album was released on July 21st, 1987 and it spent more 147 weeks on Billboard chart! Axl, Slash and the boys spawned 7 singles from the album. Four of those singles – “Sweet Child O’ Mine“, “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City” each peaked top 10 positions on the Billboard Hot 100 (#1, #5, and #7). Producer Mike Clink deserves nothing but huge applause! The album was released under the Geffen Records label – do I have to say more? This is probably one of the greatest record labels in history! The album became one of the most powerful forces in rock music history and its songs will always be a hit! Unfortunately, the only member left in the band is Axl and nowadays things are just not working well for him. The rest of the members departed and pursued solo careers. This is a perfect example how a band can have a tremendous success and in time gradually but steadily fall from its grace~ Too bad, the guys were rockin’ it!


 Boston – Boston

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It saddens me that so many people are not aware of this amazing band and the legacy they left. Their self-titled album “Boston” was released back in 1976 and the success of the album was a surprise to so many people. Indeed, this unknown band came literally out of nowhere and dropped this amazing album which still remains the second best-selling debut album of all time! The album was released under the label of Epic Records and was produced by the great John Boylan and Tom Scholz, The album produced three singles, each of them absolute and smashing hits – “More Than a Feeling”, “Foreplay/Long Time” and “Peace of Mind”. Interesting fact, till today the songs from this album are constantly being played on radios all around the world, mostly in the USA, of course. The style of the album is often referred as “Boston style” rock, however in my opinion if I have to place a genre or style of music, I would say radio-friendly rock with classic elements and melodic guitar hooks! The influence and trend this album created was enormous. They were blamed for the creation of so called “corporate” rock and for the “transition of mainstream American rock from blues-based proto-metal to power pop”.


 Hootie and the Blowfish – Cracked Rear View

Cracked-Rear-View-cover

On number three, we have the debut album of Hootie & the Blowfish – Cracked Rear View, which was released back in 1994 under the label of Atlantic Records. Till today, it remains their most successful album. It was also the best-selling album of 1995! The album spawned five hit singles – “Let Her Cry,” “Hold My Hand”, “Only Wanna Be with You”, “Time” and “Drowning”, four of which became ultimate smashing hits. There was some sort of controversy – they were sued by Bob Dylan for unauthorized use of his lyrics in the song “Only Wanna Be With You”. Regardless, the album became a total hit! It appealed to both young people and the older generation – one of the reasons why it was such a success story. Another reason may be the catchy but soulful lyrics. The sound of the album is more alternative, pop oriented rock rather than heavy-sounding like the previous two albums.


Britney Spears – …Baby One More Time

Britney-Spears-Baby-One-More-Time-cover

Oh my…Remember when Britney was like 18 years old and became this huge global phenomenon back in the late 1990s? The popularity of this debut album was unimaginable! Oh and yes, I also had it – I was a kid once! I was 7 years old when this album came out and I remember how happy I was the moment I got my hands on it. She was the perfect pop star and quickly became my idol – only because of this influential debut album! The album came out on January 1999 and it quickly won the hearts of many young fans all over the world! The album is fourteen times platinum, according to the RAA and it turned into the 5th best-selling album of all time in the USA. She released five singles from the album – “…Baby One More Time”, “Sometimes”, “(You Drive Me) Crazy”, “Born to Make You Happy” and “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart”. Needless to say, the title song of the album was the most successful one among these songs, even though each one of them broke the records! The songs were catchy, rhythmic, easy to dance to and so innocent – they immediately reached to the hearts of the teenagers of the 90s! Britney got tons of nominations, Grammys and pretty much all the acknowledgements you can imagine – people and the music industry simply fell in love with this pop sensation! Interesting fact, the title song – “…Baby One More Time” was originally supposed to be given to the famous girl trio TLC, however they rejected it – such a huge mistake, if you ask me. In conclusion, I have to say this album is everything! It gave a new meaning to pop and it changed the music industry! This is one perfect example of how powerful a debut album can be! It was the ultimate revival of teen pop! Rolling Stone wrote: “Britney Spears carries on the classic archetype of the rock & roll teen queen, the dungaree doll, the angel baby who just has to make a scene.”


Backstreet Boys – Backstreet Boys

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Backstreet Boys! The famous boyband we all love and grew up listening to! I’m 100% sure that all of the 90s girls had a crush on them – they were those perfect, talented and handsome guys, singing about love and romance. My favorite one was Nick – he was just so adorable! Anyhow, back to the album – it is a bit confusing because internationally, the album was released in 1996 in Canada, Europe and Asia. However, their debut in the USA was one year later – in 1997 and they repackaged the initial international album and released a new version with some new songs. The USA release coincided with their second international album, titled “Backstreet’s back” so it contained songs from both the original 1996 debut and the 1997 follow-up “Backstreet’s Back“…It was always so puzzling to me and difficult to follow which album was where and when… Bottom line is, the debut album became one of the most successful debut albums of all time. It reached number four on Billboard and has been certified fourteen times Platinum by the RIAA for sales. The numbers are beyond impressive…but how can they not be? – the album produced some of their most famous and signature songs – songs we still know by heart and sing. I mean, who doesn’t know “Quit Playing Games with My Heart” or “As Long As You love me”… or of course…”Everybody”! The debut album also established their names and crafted their special and unique sound and style. I just want to go back in time…… too many memories!


This is it for now! The top 5 best-selling debut albums of all time! We have rock, alternative and pop artists who did so well with their career-launching albums that they simply made history!
I deeply recommend you guys listen and enjoy the albums because they have really beautiful and meaningful songs – they are best-selling for a reason!
Enjoy~

Velina

xoxoxo

 


Credits:
“Top 10 Best Selling Debut Albums in US History” by Adriano Valente, retrieved from http://www.therichest.com
“List of best-selling albums”, retrieved from Wikipedia

[Saturday Night Song Focus] Daryl Hall & John Oates – Out Of Touch

Greetings!

Due to busy schedule unfortunately the blog had to be left without a daily publication for a few days. For that I am sorry and I would definitely try my best to post things regularly from now on! The first few posts were a bit here and there – I am still experimenting and establishing the blog’s identity and what types of publications I would like to have on here. I was thinking about it and decided to make something like a weekly program – a consistent publication that will appear every week and will deal with a similar issue. I was wondering what it could be and then I decided that I’m gonna turn Saturday night into a song analysis/focus night! Every Saturday from now on, there will be a publication dedicated to a song. Of course, needless to say, the song would be chosen based on my personal preferences and views. I would also like to emphasize on variety – I will try to include different genres, eras, styles, etc. Those weekly song focus publications will also present additional song related media materials such as music video, artwork, lyrics and others. Most importantly, however, the aim of this publication would be to give some background, historical overview and significance of the song. I hope by doing so, my readers can learn something interesting about a song while listening to it!

*drumroll* ….
The first song I am going to talk about is Daryl Hall & John Oates’s “Out of Touch”. I know it is supposed to be a song review; however I cannot just say nothing about those two! Their story began from Philadelphia – the place where soul music bloomed. The duo was heavily influenced by 60s Motown soul artists and we could most certainly hear it in their work. In terms of production and signwriting they were considered simply as white people copying Motown sound. However, in the 1980s they finally established their own style. Believe it or not, they soon invented a very distinctive fusion between rock ’n’ roll and soul music. They called this genre “ROCK AND SOUL” – sounds cool, right? Their sound was carefully crafted by heavy use of electronic elements and they even experimented with funky and futuristic styles. “At their best, Hall & Oates’ songs were filled with strong hooks and melodies that adhered to soul traditions without being a slave to them by incorporating elements of new wave,” – said critics Stephen Thomas Erlewine and J. Scott McClintock. One of their first big successes was the song “I can’t go for that” which topped the Billboard chart in 1981. The song was covered by numerous artists. Personally, my favorite cover of this song is Simply Red’s “Sunrise”. Their success continued with songs such as “Maneater” which also topped the chart in 1982. If I have to be honest, “Maneater” is probably one of my most favorite pop songs from the 80s – it’s just so good! Their sound however was becoming way too soft, so they called Mr. Neil Kernon – a notable heavy metal producer who worked with bands such as Scorpions and Judas Priest. He helped them enhance their sound and make it a little bit heavier. The result was the song I want to present today – “Out of Touch”. Furthermore, I wanted to say a few more things about Hall & Oates before focusing on the song. When we think about the most successful duos of all time, many of you would probably say Righteous Brothers or Simon & Garfunkel or Tina & Ike or Everly Brothers or even Daft Punk. Surprise! According to the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) Hall & Oates is the most successful duo in popular music! They have seven RIAA platinum albums and six RIAA golden albums. They have sold more than 40 million records which makes them the second best-selling duo of all time (the Carpenters hold the record with more than 150 million records sold). Those two were unstoppable! Great innovators and probably the most definitive blue eyed soul artist of the era!

About the song itself, “Out of Touch” was released in 1984 and was the lead single from their 1984 album Big Bam Boom. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for two weeks in December 1984. Just a quick reminder that back in the 80s it was very difficult for a song to top the charts –since there were so many ground-breaking and prolific artists, a song rarely stuck on top of the charts for a long period of time. As writers and producers of the song, both guys are being credited. Also, if I have to place a specific genre next to the song I would say pop rock, definitely.
The video is just hilarious! Every little element of it just perfectly illustrates what a wild, crazy and irrational decade the 80s was! The MV begins with the “Dance on Your Knees” intro, which is the opening song of the album. Daryl Hall manages to quite well embrace the spirit of the song and as we can see he is totally feeling it – the funny leopard costumes, jumps, awkward dances, overly dramatic gestures and of course – the definitive hairstyle of the era! I just love his style of delivery in the MV. John Oates is also bringing it – he and his extremely odd and bizarre dancing moves are so entertaining to watch. It was obvious that they don’t really know what’s going on but they don’t even care – the musicians of the 80s were all about having fun, feeling good, free and dance crazily. My favourite element of the MV has to be the huge drums and the huge drumsticks! Watching Oates sitting behind those enormous drums and trying to play with the huge drumsticks is absolutely hilarious! The Music Video was also heavily featured on MTV back in the day when MTV actually played music!
I will wrap things up by saying that this is one of my most favorite songs from the 80s! The lyrics are extremely catchy and you can’t but sing with them! The value of the song, at least in my opinion, lies with the distinctive drum and bass elements and in the funky, new wave sound. In terms of vocal delivery, Hall is just perfect!
Nothing more to say! Just enjoy the song!

(Oh and by the way, I am not going to talk about the dreadful cover that was made a few years ago by United Nations. To me it was just one huge mess and the only thing it managed to achieve is to insult the work of Hall and Oates. Not to mention the tasteless and horrible music video.)

Single Cover

daryl-hall-and-john-oates-out-of-touch-rca

MUSIC VIDEO

 

LYRICS

Shake it up is all that we know
Using the bodies up as we go
Waking up to fantasy
The shades all around aren’t the colors we used to see
Broken ice still melts in the sun
And times that are broken can often be one again
We’re soul alone
And soul really matters to me
Take a look around

You’re out of touch
I’m out of time
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around
x2

Reaching out for something to hold
Looking for a love where the climate is cold
Manic moves and drowsy dreams
Or living in the middle between the two extremes
Smoking guns hot to the touch
Would cool down if we didn’t use them so much
We’re soul alone
And soul really matters to me
Too much

You’re out of touch
I’m out of time
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around
x2

Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
(Out of touch)
(Out of touch)

You’re out of touch
I’m out of time
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around
You’re out of touch
I’m out of time
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around
You’re out of touch
I’m out of time
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around
You’re out of touch
I’m out of time
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around
You’re out of touch
I’m out of time
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around
You’re out of touch
I’m out of time
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around
You’re out of touch
I’m out of time
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around
You’re out of touch
I’m out of time
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around

Songwriters: HALL, DARYL / OATES, JOHN
Out Of Touch lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Album Focus – Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975)

Some people say that the era of the CDs is long gone. However believe it or not, there are people like me out there who still purchase and collect CDs. I have this little CD shop near the place I live (I have to take a picture next time) and I just love spending hours and hours there. They have these huge wooden shelves with tons and tons of CDs and even vinyl records. The whole atmosphere just screams my name!
Anyhow, a few days ago I went there to look for some albums and spend some quality “me” time. After hours of literally checking every single album on the shelves and a huge struggle not to buy all the albums I saw, I ended up buying the debut album of one of my most favorite rock bands – Rainbow. The title of the album is “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow” and it was released on the 4th of August, 1975. Can you believe this? It has been 40 years since this album hit the shelves. It turned out I bought it on its 40th year anniversary – such a pleasant coincidence. Originally I was hoping to come across and buy their “The Very Best of Rainbow” album that came out in 1997, however I couldn’t find it (still not giving up, though). Then, the lady from the CD shop was kind enough to find me the debut album from the storage. The album itself was imported from the USA and of course, it’s a remaster. I just had to buy it – it is such a rare precious and a must for every Rainbow or Ritchie Blackmore or Ronnie James Dio fan. In the following post I would briefly present the album and its songs. This is not a band profile publication, so I would like to focus on the album itself, rather than the members. I decided to dedicate my first publication to this debut album because it is the most recent CD I purchased and because it is the debut of my blog

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Rainbow_-_Ritchie_Blackmore's_Rainbow_(1975)_front_cover

Album Title : Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow
Released: 1975 (Vinyl Record) ; 1999 (CD in remastered form)
Genre: Hard Rock, Progressive Rock, Heavy Metal
Record Label: Oyster (UK) ; Polydor (Worldwide)
Members: Ronnie James Dio – lead vocals; Ritchie Blackmore – guitar; Micky Lee Soule – piano, mellotron, clavinet, organ; Craig Gruber – bass; Gary Driscoll – drums
Singles: “Man On The Silver Mountain” ; “Snake Charmer” (October 1975)
Produced by: Ritchie Blackmore, Martin Birch and Ronnie James Dio
Interesting fact: The album was recorded in Germany. It is the first ever project of Ritchie Blackmore after his departure from Deep Purple. Vocalist Ronnie James Dio, consider this album as the best Rainbow album.

Tracklist:
1.Man on the Silver Mountain
2.Self Portrait
3.Black Sheep of the Family
4.Catch the Rainbow
5.Snake Charmer
6.Temple of the King
7.If You Don’t Like Rock n’ Roll
8.Sixteenth Century Greensleeves
9.Still I’m Sad (The Yardbirds cover)

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Firstly, I would like to start with the album cover. It was made by American fine artist David Willardson. Honestly speaking, I am not such a huge fan of cartoon-style album covers. Realistic album covers (photographs) or simplistic designs have always been more striking to me. On the cover we see a castle which also happens to be a guitar and there’s a rainbow behind it. It is very colorful and too Disney-like I would say. It’s only natural since the artist worked for Disney at that time, but still…The trend of putting unique and rather strange, surrealistic art on an album cover was very strong at that time – especially the second part of the 70s. For instance artists such as Roger Dean and Storm Thorgerson were extremely popular with bands like Pink Floyd, YES and Asia. Back to Rainbow’s cover, I do really like it – why? – because it is very distinctive and easy to remember. Also, there’s something very magical and mysterious in the painting itself – I just want to enter into the rock castle and never go out…
Real-life picture of the album cover ~ That’s how it looks; Very distinctive, right?

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Secondly, I would like to talk more about the songs from the album. I am not going to comment on each and every song; rather than that I will focus on the overall picture, as well as on two songs in particular – my favorite songs from the album.
Bottom line is, if you like the combination of hard rock and poetic, fantasy-oriented lyrics – this is the album for you. Most of the songs are a bit gloomy in terms of lyrics, except “If You Don’t Like Rock ‘N’ Roll” which is very upbeat and in my opinion is the perfect 60s rock’n’roll nostalgia song! In terms of vocal and guitar delivery I would say that the album is rather simplistic, not as progressive and innovative as some people would like it to be. However, to me that is exactly why the album is so good! Ritchie’s riffs are not as complicated and aggressive as they used to be back when he was with DP and that is the beauty of it! Ronnie, on the other hand is just perfect – in my book of the greatest male rock vocals of all time, he is definitely in top 10. I don’t think anyone can sing those highs the way he does – just play “Black Sheep Of The Family” or “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves” and you will see what am I talking about!

The two songs I wanted to talk about are “Man On The Silver Mountain” and “Catch The Rainbow”, which in my opinion are the best songs of the album.

One of the most memorable song intros ever (at least to me)! Ronnie said that it’s “a semi-religious song, the man on the silver mountain is a kind of God figure everyone is crying out to.” – rather interesting right? It was co-written by Dio and Blackmore. When Ronnie died in 2010, the words “The man on the silver mountain Ronnie James Dio” were put on his grave. The song is a classic and it defines an era – I don’t have to say more. It’s memorable, catchy and very powerful – the greatest thing is that it delivers that power to the listeners. Ronnie’s vocals are beyond perfect! Personally, my favorite part of the song, as well as lyrics is when Ronnie sings :
“Come down with fire
Lift my spirit higher
Someone’s screaming my name
Come and make me holy again” ….and then we hear the memorable guitar riff! ❤

“Catch The Rainbow” is probably the gloomiest song from the album. However, I don’t think it is that type of song that brings out sad emotions and feelings (at least to me). The song itself was not released as a single, however it remains one of their most famous works. The song is loved that much probably because it is often connected with  “Little Wing” by “The Jimmy Hendrix Experience”. To me personally, its strongest point is the simplistic yet powerful guitar riff and the background choirs that create a very mysterious and a bit psychedelic vibe. Lyrically speaking, the song is very poetic and beautiful. I especially love the chorus:
“We believed we’d catch the rainbow
Ride the wind to the sun
Sail away on ships of wonder”

A real life picture of the CD with the tracklist and the covers of each and every song on the right part of the case. Very well-packaged, indeed!

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Finally, I just want to say that to me, this is one of the most expected and successful debut albums of all time. Ritchie and Ronnie are an amazing team and I wish Ronnie was still with us to continue working together… I am very glad I bought the album and I would recommend it to everyone who enjoy rock music from the 70s. The album possesses an essence…a special and unique atmosphere which is no longer present in today’s music; not to mention quality songwriting and brilliant musicianship… Catch the rainbow!

Me, enjoying the newest addition to my CD collection!

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