Stereo Review In Review: January 1980

I don’t think that my father exactly fancied himself an audiophile, but he did purchase a decent stereo system around the end of 1973, complete with receiver, turntable, reel-to-reel, and speakers. He’d been buying vinyl since before I was born, both classical and rock; we had several shelves stuffed full with LPs in our basement. He took meticulous care of all of it, including carefully dusting records off both before and after playing them (a trait I did not remotely inherit from him). As I got older and became more interested in music myself, I took notice of a stack of Stereo Review magazines in the basket we used to keep our periodicals (mixed in with Mom’s Good Housekeeping, no doubt). I don’t know if Dad started his subscription for the equipment or music reviews, but by the time I was 12 or 13 I became all about reading the latter.

Sometime in the last couple of years, added scans of copies of Stereo Review to their archives; I’ve referenced a few of these in posts already. Toward the end of last year, I decided I would begin a monthly feature in which I take a look at highlights in an issue of the current month selected from the period I was a faithful reader (approximately 1977-86). I don’t have a real feel yet for the form this should take, but we’re going to wheel something out today anyway and see where it leads. The inaugural post in this series comes from 40 years ago. Drumroll, please…

The stable of reviewers changed some over the years, but these are names I mostly recognize. Chris Albertson did jazz, Noel Coppage generally covered country, and Phyl Garland mostly did R&B. Peter Reilly and Joel Vance got the rock/pop albums that Steve Simels didn’t want (or at least that’s how it seemed). To be honest, I’d forgotten that SR had a Disco section for a while, so Edward Buxbaum doesn’t ring a bell; neither does Paul Kresh, and I couldn’t immediately tell what he did in this issue.

Pop Music in the Eighties, by Lester Bangs
Bangs may be best known now for being name-checked in “It’s the End of the World As We Know It,” but in his time he was a highly regarded, if mercurial, rock critic. I don’t recall reading any of his stuff prior to his death in March of 1982, though I certainly had heard the name. Here, he’s trying to predict the future of various genres of popular music. Parts of his forecast are laughably wrong, while others feel prescient. Here’s a taste; click on the link a couple paragraphs up and go to page 74 if you’re interested in checking out more. (I don’t know that I could have lived on a steady diet of his writing, I’ll confess.)

Alanna Nash interviews Charlie Daniels
Nash had already written a Dolly Parton biography by this time; later she’d go on to pen several books about the life of Elvis Presley. I know of her primarily because she eventually took over Coppage’s country beat in the reviews.

She mentions in the article that her conversation with Daniels took place in a hotel room in Lexington, KY (a bit of internet sleuthing indicates the CDB played Rupp Arena on 8/26/79); Nash is a Louisville native, so maybe she was still based there at the time. My main takeaways from the piece: Daniels considers his music both very simple and very uncategorizable (don’t call him country), and he says one shouldn’t view all Southern music bands as a monolith. It’s interesting enough, and starts on page 80.

Stereo Review gave extensive coverage to both classical and popular music. Each month, they chose four or five recent releases as Best of the Month (two of them popular), flagged numerous others as a Recording of Special Merit, and wrote a few lengthier reviews, often for well-established acts or promising newcomers.

Obviously, we’re going to be strictly popular here. This time out, I’m simply going to list the highlights; I may include snippets from reviews in future installments. I’ll admit that several of their picks are completely unfamiliar, but maybe I can take this as an opportunity for some long-overdue investigation. Initials refer to the reviewer, natch. (Here’s the link again, if you want to check anything out. BofM starts on page 85, while popular reviews begin on page 116.)

Best of the Month
Bette Midler, Thighs and Whispers  (PR)
Joe Jackson, I’m the Man (SS)

Recordings of Special Merit
Phil Everly, Living Alone (NC)
Steve Forbert, Jackrabbit Slim (NC)
Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Bros. Band, Straight Ahead (NC)
Hall and Oates, X-Static (PG)
The Osborne Bros. and Mac Wiseman, The Essential Bluegrass Album (NC)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Damn the Torpedoes (SS)
Rose Royce, Rainbow Connection IV (PG)
Sweet Inspirations, Hot Butterfly (PG)
Tom Verlaine, S/T (SS)

Dante’s Inferno, S/T (EB)
The Duncan Sisters, S/T (EB)

Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio, Dedications (CA)
Joanne Brackeen, Keyed In (CA)
Shelly Manne, French Concert (CA)
Dave McKenna/Scott Hamilton/Jake Hanna, No Bass Hit (CA)
Buster Williams, Heartbeat (CA)

Featured Lengthier Rock/Pop Reviews
The Boomtown Rats, The Fine Art of Surfacing (SS)
Jimmy Buffett, Volcano (PR)
Fleetwood Mac, Tusk (NC)

Selected Other LPs Reviewed
Herb Alpert, Rise (PR)
Cheap Trick, Dream Police (SS)
Foreigner, Head Games (JV)
Crystal Gayle, Miss the Mississippi (NC)
Barry Manilow, One Voice (PR)
Weather Report, 8:30 (JV)

I carry around in my head recollections of a modest number of the reviews I encountered in SR–if there’s anything from this issue I remotely remember, it’s the Petty.

We’ll close with a few music selections from the Special Merit listings that are totally new to me. Those horizons won’t expand on their own…

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