Stereo Review In Review: April 1984

At this juncture, SR was in the process of giving itself a design makeover. This turned out to be the final issue to include Recordings of Special Merit; featured reviews were also about to become much less of a thing. What were the last albums to get the RSM designation? You’re about to find out.

Articles
–The Compact Disc Bandwagon, by Christie Barter
EMI is now issuing CDs! And RCA is the first to put out a new album simultaneously on LP, cassette, and CD (the Eurythmics’ Touch).

–Musicals on Video, by Louis Meredith
New home-release tapes of A Star Is Born (Garland/Mason edition), A Hard Day’s Night, and (of all things) Heaven’s Gate get the thumbs-up from LM.

This month’s reviewers are Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance. We also have Video Reviews from Meredith, even though he still appears to be a free-lancer at this point.

Best of the Month
–Debbie Campbell, Two Hearts (AN) “…serves not only as a showcase for Campbell’s impressive talents as a singer-songwriter but also as a sampling of the evolving ‘Tulsa Sound’…a stylish integration of country, blues, and rock.”
–The Parachute Club, S/T (MP) “…perhaps the first rock band of the Eighties to fuse an articulate social awareness, almost old-fashioned in its sincerity, with dance music as contemporary as Boy George.”
–The Pretenders, Learning to Crawl (MP) “Although (the album) seems almost mercilessly fixed on the tragic—aging, infidelity, loneliness, desertion, pain, decay—it’s not the ordeal you’d expect. Hynde manages to sidestep self-pity and seize upon a steely, passionate perceptiveness.” There’s a much less aggressive posture here than in their excellent debut disk, but LtC is easily my favorite Pretenders album.

Recordings of Special Merit
–The Everly Brothers, Reunion Concert (JV) Recorded at the Royal Albert Hall on 9/23/83. “Their vocal harmonies and attack are as crisp as ever, and their genial professionalism is infectious.”
–Stéphane Grappelli and Marc Fosset, Stephanova (JV) “(Grappelli’s) playing is as sturdy but intricate as a stained-glass design, and equally as colorful. Fosset, who plays with a touch of (Django) Reinhardt but does not imitate him, supports and complements Grappelli with a frisky delicacy.”
–John Hiatt, Riding with the King (SS) “The songs here will probably remind you of the early Elvis Costello because, apart from the obvious similarity in their voices, Hiatt too has a flair for word play, a good eye for the details of contemporary culture, and an attitude toward relationships that might be described as cautiously cynical. He’s a lot funnier than Costello, however…”
–Patti LaBelle, I’m in Love Again (PG) “This album has plenty for those who already like Patti LaBelle and even more for those aren’t certain that she appeals to their taste.”
–U2, Under a Blood Red Sky (MP) “What comes across (about The Edge’s work) in the studio as a powerful but primitive technique is transformed here…into something nearly archetypal—fiercely rhythmic, clean, agile…(This album) reveals U2 as a band capable of performances that match the intensity of their music.”
–Jane Voss and Hoyle Osborne, Pullin’ Through (AN) “…more than just a deftly concocted mood-brightener—it’s a hot toddy for the soul.” There’s very little of Voss and Osborne on YouTube, so I took matters into my own hands: last week I went on eBay and purchased this LP as well as their previous album Get to the Heart (which had received a Best of the Year Honorable Mention in the February 1982 issue). I guess I’d classify them as retro, as in 1910s-30s retro. There’s a small band to accompany Osborne on piano and Voss on guitar (she does 80-90% of the singing, too). After one listen, I’d say Get to the Heart is the better album; how much you like either of them depends largely on how Voss’s voice strikes you. It’s entertaining stuff, but I think she over-stylizes at times, more often on Pullin’ Through. I don’t regret the purchases, however.

Featured Reviews
–Ian Anderson, Walk into Light (MP) “…rates as the musical shock of the year so far: Ian Anderson’s return from hysteria, brain intact.”
–Dick Hyman, Kitten on the Keys: The Music of Zez Confrey (JV) “(Hyman) plays the pieces with respect and good-natured understanding. Neither overly serious nor excessively frisky, he interprets Zez Confrey as a fully formed musician, which is what he was.”
–John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Milk and Honey and Heart Play: Unfinished Dialogue (MP) “The picture of Lennon that emerges is that of…a cowed husband sitting around in his pajamas, chin propped sadly into his palm, stirring his coffee and sighing into the late afternoon…Yoko Ono’s contributions are far more interesting, probably because…you don’t expect too much.”
–The Pointer Sisters, Break Out (PG) “The sound is enhanced by synthesizers and electronic everything, but the music overrides the gimmickry thanks to the songs’ captivating immediacy.”
–Larry Willoughby, Building Bridges (AN) Cousin Rodney Crowell produced this. “Willoughby is not nearly the poetic writer that Crowell is, but unlike so many others who operate in the mainstream of country music, he never allows his work to veer into cloying sentimentality.”
–PolyGram Re-releases Jazz Classics (CA) Albertson looks at albums from Holiday, Basie/Fitzgerald, and Gillespie, as well as an all-star affair recorded live at the Hollywood Bowl. All were originally released on the Verve label.

Other Disks Reviewed
–Irene Cara, What a Feelin’ (PG) “The best thing about this album is the cover photo of Cara, who is much lovelier than anything she sings here.”
–Duran Duran, Seven and the Ragged Tiger (CA) “Not only does one track sound like the next, but the whole album sounds like something you’ve heard before.”
–Echo and the Bunnymen, S/T (SS) “Only the truly superlative modern production clues you that you’re not listening to your big brother’s scratchy old Iron Butterfly records.”
–Larry Elgart, Hooked on Swing (PR) “Elgart still plays masterly saxophone…but I would prefer to hear him employ his talents without needless retro trappings.”
–Moby Grape, S/T (SS) “This album is a collection of extremely uninspired Seventies country-rock…could just as easily be Firefall or the Little River Band or any number of similar nonentities.”
–38 Special, Tour de Force (MP) “…further indication of its assimilation into the AOR mainstream…there’s a sameness, a generic quality…that caters to the unadventurous ear.”
–Utopia, Oblivion (JV) “…(Rundgren’s) humor here is, for the most part, so self-absorbed and morose that it’s not effective even as a black joke.”
–Luther Vandross, Busy Body (PG) “The trouble with this album, as with his two previous releases, is that he has relied too heavily on the least of his gifts (composing). It reaches true creative heights only when he is singing songs written by others.”

Video Reviews
–Elton John, Visions (LM) “…I’m happy to report that Elton’s goony charm remains intact throughout, but the songs simply do not support all the production gloss.”
Jazz in America (CA) [Featured Review] A look at somewhat recent releases from Dizzy Gilespie, Gerry Mulligan, and Max Roach.
Making Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ (LM) [Recording of Special Merit] “… this is an exciting release. For one thing, it doesn’t take itself particularly seriously. More important, Jackson comes off less as a performer than a force of nature..”
–The Men of Chippendales, Muscle Motion (LM) “Ostensibly, this is just another one of those workout programs…but it could turn out to the sleeper comedy video of the year.”
–Rod Stewart, Tonight He’s Yours (LM) “…doesn’t even have much to recommend it on the technical level. Stewart’s not in good voice, the shooting is routine or worse, and the sound suggests an unmixed off-the-board feed.”

Here are three of the tracks from Two Hearts. This is not Glen’s daughter, who spells her name Debby. Campbell passed away from cancer in early 2004. Could be another eBay purchase soon.

The Parachute Club lasted for a couple more albums before parting ways. This was a top 10 hit in Canada in the middle of 1983.

The story goes that Confrey was inspired by a literal kitten skittering across the piano.
One of the true highlights from Learning to Crawl. Bracing television performance here–wish I’d seen Chrissy in concert way back when.

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