After three months examining issues from the mid- or late-80s, we’re back to when SR was still doing Recordings of Special Merit. Seems like they had more reviews in these earlier days, too. This one rings no bells–my parents moved from Walton to Florence in September, so perhaps it got buried in the resultant chaos–but there are plenty of notable LPs to check out nonetheless.
–Jargon!, by Bruce Bartlett. Described as “an examination of the most commonly used descriptive audio terms.”
–In the classical section, they talk up the first compact disk releases on Telarc.
Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.
Best of the Month
–Deniece Williams, I’m So Proud (PG) “Each precisely enunciated word or syllable of a lyric is the cutting edge of an emotion that is bursting to be expressed.”
–Mitch Ryder, Never Kick a Sleeping Dog (JV) “Given a chance to return to the mainstream, Ryder has responded with the relief of an outcast welcomed back into the fold, but he has not compromised either his talent or his experience.” Don’t remember this one at all; John Mellencamp produced it, in what feels like an attempt to duplicate what Springsteen did for Gary U.S. Bonds (JCM did name-check Mitch a couple of years later in “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A”).
Casey did a “Whatever Happened To…?” piece on Ryder on the 8/18/79 show. A quick tour of Mitch’s page at allmusic.com shows he began recording again in the very late 70s, not long before the AT40 story. You remember how frequently VH-1’s Behind the Music episodes featured acts attempting to make a comeback? I’ve come to realize in re-listening to shows from the latter half of the 70s how often Casey was doing something similar with those segments, trying to lift up hit-makers from his earlier days in radio as they made another go at the spotlight.
Recordings of Special Merit
–John Denver and the Muppets, Rocky Mountain Holiday (AN) “You’d have to be an ogre not to like this encore pairing of America’s favorite nonhumans and the original far-out flower child.”
–Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (MP) “…a seductive disco beat, arm’s-length sensuality, cool waves of synthesizer sound, and arrangements (crisp horns and stinging guitar) that are as tight as a clenched, gloved hand.”
–Maze, We Are One (PG) “Maze modestly never promises more than it can deliver, which is soothing soul music that never lets you down.”
–John Coltrane, Bahia (CA) “This session has not been available for a long time, and I strongly recommend that you add it to your collection before it disappears from the catalog again.”
–George Kawaguchi and Art Blakey, Killer Joe (CA) “The last thing Blakey needs, of course, is another drummer, but Kawaguchi blends in smoothly with this talented group.”
—Bill Evans—A Tribute (PR) “Fourteen of the very best of today’s jazz pianists have contributed one performance each, and the result is a splendid entertainment.”
—Jazz at the Opera House (CA) This was a benefit concert to raise money to cover medical bills for SF jazz writer Conrad Silvert.
–Delia Bell, S/T (AN) “…one of the most impressive old-style country-and-bluegrass albums of the decade.”
–Bob Marley and the Wailers, Confrontation (MP) “Cult deity or not, as a prophet of hope and liberation Marley lives on through his music.”
–James Newton, S/T (CA) “..a wonderful exercise in restraint and timing…There is a classical air about this album, but it also has firm roots in jazz.”
–Thin Lizzy, Thunder and Lightning (MP) “…does what all great heavy-metal does—it lets you raise a little hell vicariously.”
–Richard Thompson, Hand of Kindness (SS) “…the new songs here are among Thompson’s best: they’re tuneful, they’re lyrically economical, and they leave just enough room for the composer to burn on guitar without being overbearing about it.”
Other Disks Reviewed
–Adam and the Ants, Dirk Wears White Sox (MP) “The disc sounds exactly like what this group turned out to be: a dead end.”
–The Fixx, Reach the Beach (MP) “The keyboards are consigned to electronic window dressing, the drumming barely keeps the time—it seems to chime every hour on the hour—and (Cy) Curnin is left to drift, deeply, soberly intoning some ludicrously opaque lyrics.”
–Goanna, Spirit of Place (MP) “…if this were an American band you’d find it shelved in country rock…it certainly compares favorably with what Poco and Pure Prairie League used to keep America enthralled with.”
–The Hollies, What goes around… (SS). “It is as useless a vinyl product as has crossed my desk in years, and I say that as a Hollies partisan from way back…the only exception is a brilliant revamping of the Supremes’ “Stop in the Name of Love”…
–Billy Joel, An Innocent Man (MP) “There’s just no way around it: Billy Joel is a consummate pop stylist, even when he’s doing doo-wop.”
–The Kinks, State of Confusion (SS) “This is hardly a great album…But after twenty years, even a less than epochal album from these guys sounds like a letter from home.”
–Stevie Nicks, The Wild Heart (AN) “Nicks either wrote or co-wrote all but one of the songs here, but it is just about impossible to tell what she is trying to say…The lyrics are all pretty and enigmatic but fleshless as a stray dog.”
–Robert Plant, The Principle of Moments (SS) “The songs here generally sound like rhythm tracks with lyrics written and recorded later, almost as afterthoughts.” I had a friend in college who called its first hit “Big Bore” and tweaked the opening line of the second single to, “I’m in the mood for monotony.”
–Donna Summer, She Works Hard for the Money (CA) “…the voice has not changed, but the quality of her material has.”
–Talking Heads, Speaking in Tongues (SS) “To these cynical ears, it’s mostly tepid art-school funk.”
Ryder had charted in July with a song from his new album. Music In The Key Of E has the deets here.
Bell’s champion was Emmylou Harris; Chet Atkins also appears on the album.
Thunder and Lightning was Thin Lizzy’s swan song. Phil Lynott had planned to continue on with a solo career, but drug/alcohol issues overwhelmed him just a little over two years after this issue was published.