Stereo Review In Review: August 1981

No articles this month, though Paul Kresh did fold a chat with George Rose, who starred as Major-General Stanley, into his review of The Pirates of Penzance soundtrack below. The reviewers were pretty liberal about granting the Recording of Special Merit designation this time around; I don’t know if this was a particularly good month, or if they collectively were deciding to use it more frequently.

Hard for me to say how many SR reviews really planted themselves in my head over the years–maybe 20? 30?–but one of them, that of Hard Promises, is in this issue.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Irv Cohn, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

Best of the Month
–Leo Kottke, Guitar Music (JV) “…reveals him as once again confident, assured, and at the top of his form as both artist and producer.”
–Carole Bayer Sager, Sometimes Late at Night (PR) “What is startlingly apparent in this collection of Sager’s songs is that she has not only discovered her own identity, personally and artistically, but in the process has arrived at what amounts to a summation of the attitudes of the young women of her generation, a kind of rulebook for making life in the Eighties congenial.”

Recordings of Special Merit
Pop/Rock/Soul/Country:
–Terri Gibbs, Somebody’s Knocking (PR) “…all the tracks indicate an interesting performer with innate style.”
–Dan Hartman, It Hurts to Be in Love (IC) “These songs are elaborate productions…(t)hrough all that, though, something extraordinarily likable shines.”
–Junie, Junie 5 (PG) “It is good to hear an album in which the artist seems to be stretching some of the old formats to create fresh sounds.”
–Ben E. King, Street Tough (PG) “He sounds as good today as he ever did, his voice as rich and mellow as a fine cognac, and he handles phrasing like a master.”
–Mass Production, Turn Up the Music (IC) “As the name implies, Mass Production’s productions are big. They are also quirky, funky, and fun.”
–Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio, A Woman Needs Love (PG) “The careful mix of uptempo dance music with slower selections makes this an excellent party album.”
–Brenda Russell, Love Life (PG) “Her performance here is sweet and sassy, and the songs…are a fascinating amalgam of soul and rock with just enough barefoot-folk flavor from the Sixties to lend them an air of distinction.”
–Split Enz, S/T (JV) “All of the vocal material deals with the ups and downs of courtship—specifically, the fear of not being wanted or of not trusting the beloved—and it is an impressive display of writing craftsmanship.”
–Three Degrees, Three D (IC) “…the trio sings with power and grace, and Moroder provides balanced, energetic support.”
–Muddy Waters, King Bee (JV) “Waters, now in his sixties, has a combination of calm authority and frisky charm that makes you believe almost anything he says in his songs.”
–Robert Winters, Magic Man (CA) “…delivers his songs in a voice that is at times reminiscent of both Ray Charles and Al Green but has a wider range than either.”

Jazz:
–Count Basie, Kansas City Five (CA) “I hope the session here is representative of what is to follow and that we can expect the addition of a sympatico horn now and then.”
–Milt Jackson, Night Mist (CA) “The solos are good and plentiful…”
–Ellis Larkins, S/T (CA) “…provides lessons in subtlety, good taste, timing, and dynamics.”
–Jeff Lorber Fusion, Galaxian (IC) “For Lorber fans, the augmented orchestral sound of most of the album may take some getting used to, but this time more is simply more.”
–Modern Jazz Quartet, More from the Last Concert (CA) “…as fine a representation of the group’s artistry as you are likely to find.”
–Art Tatum, Solo Masterpieces, Vol. 10 (CA) “I would be hard put to recommend a better musical value.”

Featured Reviews
–Gary U.S. Bonds, Dedication (SS) “Its music is as heartfelt and spontaneous-sounding as you remember it from its first go-around, but it is also wise and knowing in a way it could not have been in 1961.”
–Brian Eno and David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts/Public Image Ltd., The Flowers of Romance (SS) “…it’s no surprise to me that both (albums) are archetypal hippie albums, vintage Sixties psychedelia from start to finish, or that both have been received as avant-garde.”
–Gilbert and Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance (PK) “…even though all of the fun of the energetic and inventive staging doesn’t come through on discs, the show sounds better on the album than it ever did in Central Park or it does at the Uris.”
–The Grateful Dead, Reckoning, Volume One (NC) This was the acoustic half of a two-part release from a concert at Radio City Music Hall. “Even if you have all the previous Grateful Dead albums, you don’t have these same songs played this way.”
–Shot in the Dark, S/T (NC) “I wouldn’t think you frivolous if you called it an Anglo-American answer to ABBA; it has that kind of lightweight charm and zest for melody and harmony.”
–Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Reach Up and Touch the Sky (JV) “This is one of those rare live albums that justify the genre: there’s something here that could never have been captured in the studio.” One of two acts that never really clicked nationally whose work I remember seeing trumpeted over and again in the pages of SR during my junior high and high school years–the other was Mink DeVille.
–Fats Waller, The Complete Fats Waller, Volume II, 1935 (CA) “There is simply no way to convey adequately in writing the wit and musicianship that oozes out at every turn of these records.”
–Glenn Yarbrough, Just a Little Love (PK) “When Glenn Yarbrough sings, every word comes through loud and clear, and every note glows with life.”

Other Disks Reviewed
–Jefferson Starship, Modern Times (NC) “It does no good to overrate the past, but if this album is a reflection of what the years have done to us—and it probably is—we really should be in a hurry to on to more interesting times.”
–Robin Lane and the Chartbusters, Imitation Life (JV) “The Chartbusters are sturdy musicians and Lane has a good voice, but the band tends to play safe and Lane tends to lecture.”
–Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Hard Promises (SS) “…though this is clearly his weakest album, at least it’s an honest failure; he’s not pandering to anyone.”
–Santana, Zebop! (JV) “…the younger Santana was entertaining; the older one just seems to pound away trying to be ingratiating.”
–Sylvia, Drifter (NC) “…seems to opt for a style somewhere between cowgirl and countrypolitan…but the instrumentals do have a certain zing to them…Her voice is good enough to warrant careful handling.”
–Sarah Vaughan, Copacabana (PR) “The wonderful Vaughan sound, butterscotch mellow already, overpowers the bittersweet, delicate moods of the songs.”
–Joe Walsh, There Goes the Neighborhood (NC) “The instrumentals in general, a few guitar licks aside, get the same low-energy, lick-and-promise treatment as the songwriting.”
–Yellow Magic Orchestra, BGM (IC) “…too busy pushing at the frontiers of electronic rock to worry about accessibility.”

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