Stereo Review In Review: December 1980

It wasn’t done on purpose, but I think this is the fifth time this year I picked an issue with a review of a George Benson album; the best has been saved for last. And I suppose it’s only fair that since Garfunkel has gotten two Best of the Month nods recently that Simon receives some positive recognition. Onward–let’s see what else is in this issue from forty-one years ago.

Article
Music for Christmas, by Richard Thompson and James Goodfriend
It’s a little late for this year, I realize, but the titles recommended include recordings by the Boston Camerata, the Boston Pops, the Carpenters, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, John Denver & the Muppets, Percy Faith, Johnny Mathis, and Andy Williams. One wonders what they might have selected forty years later…

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
–George Benson, Give Me the Night (PG) “Instead of succumbing to the strident and repetitious excesses of pop funk (in the manner of, say, Herbie Hancock), he has applied his own standard of excellence to popular music, bringing it up to his artistic level.”
Cornelia Street: The Songwriters Exchange (NC) “But (folkie singer-songwriters) are still out there, those troubadours with their simple acoustic backing, and Stash Records has made a beautiful little album with some of them…” Coppage cites Rod MacDonald as the best of this bunch. The name was new to me, but he went to become one of the founders of the long-running Greenwich Village Folk Festival. The one artist appearing on the disk that I’ve heard of is Lucy Kaplansky.
–Paul Simon, One-Trick Pony (PR) “One song after another demonstrates Simon’s gift for seizing and holding up to the light those almost reflexive emotional conclusions about a person, a time, a place, or a relationship that any poetry, even on the pop level, must offer if it is going to communicate anything at all.”

Recordings of Special Merit
–Herb Alpert, Beyond (PR) “This is not an album for purists or musical weight-watchers, but it’s a lot of fun for us self-indulgent types.”
–Dexter Gordon, Landslide (CA) “…most intriguing because they are demonstrations of the influence the immediate musical environment can have on a seasoned player.”
–David Grisman, Quintet ’80 (NC) “A small, extremely agile combo using bluegrass instruments…plays little tunes that take the dangdest turns and jumps you ever heard.”
Honeysuckle Rose Soundtrack (NC) “…Nelson does dominate it, and he doesn’t just throw his reputation out there—he performs.”
–Ben E. King, Music Trance (PG) “Ben E. King is like a shot of aged bourbon; mellow in bouquet but still packing a mighty punch.”
–Donald Lambert, Harlem Stride Classics (CA) “The program is straight out of the repertoires of Fats Waller and James P. Johnson, two masters Lambert greatly admired…”
–Junie Morrison, Bread Alone (PG) “Morrison’s musical style is tastefully eclectic, with a cupful of funk, a jigger of pop, and just a dash of rhythmic and harmonic experimentation. At his best, he vaguely reminds me of the early Sly Stone…”
–John Otway, Deep Thought (SS) “It’s not for all tastes, to be sure, but if you’re the kind of weirdo who thought the Bonzo Dog Band was just too commercial, Otway may be your man.”
–Teddy Pendergrass, TP (PG) “Not since the days of the late Otis Redding has a male singer been capable of dredging up such delightfully uncontrollable gut responses.”
–Minnie Riperton, Love Lives Forever (PG) “…a bittersweet reminder of the treasure we lost with Riperton’s death.”
–Sam Rivers, Contrasts (CA) “This set will not disappoint the venturesome, but you don’t have to be that to enjoy it. It is a stunning rainbow of musical inclinations.”

Featured Reviews
–The B-52’s, Wild Planet (SS) “No, the punk theoreticians are right: America’s glory, her true Culture, is what we throw away, and so, to look for Significance in Wild Planet, to try to make either more or less than what it is, is completely to miss the point—which is, of course, simply ‘Which way to the drive-in?’”
–Chevy Chase, S/T (SS) “…this disc is unlikely to catch on with the Cheech and Chong crowd. But if there’s any justice, it will at least wind up as a cult favorite.”
–The Charlie Daniels Band, Full Moon (NC). “Since chauvinism seems to be as inevitable as death and politics, I guess we’re lucky to have a fellow as nice as Charlie working it into songs.”
–Cecil McBee, Compassion (CA) “The music is adventurous enough to satisfy any aural daredevil who has not completely lost his or her sense of beauty, yet all the basic jazz values have been preserved with due reverence.”
–Mabel Mercer, Echoes of My Life (William Livingstone) “The twenty-five songs included here are so well matched to her very special interpretative gifts that they sound as though she had written them herself, recollecting in tranquility some of the events from a rich and varied past.”
–Split Enz, True Colours (JV) “Their songs will etch themselves in your memory with or without laser technology.” (The vinyl contained laser-etched patterns.)
–Al Stewart, 24 Carrots (NC) “But all the songs here bear repeated listening, and, like Brueghel paintings, keep showing you little things you didn’t notice before.”
Times Square Soundtrack (SS) “Even if the soundtrack sells, it’s unlikely to be influential for the simple reason that it’s not a particularly exciting package; mainstream rock seems quite interesting by comparison.”

Other Discs Reviewed
–Pat Benatar, Crimes of Passion (NC) “Pat Benatar is more than just one kind of singer, however, even if this album repeatedly suggests she has more as a vocalist than she shows.”
–Rick James, Garden of Love (IC) “There’s a lot in these high-stepping cuts to please his established fans and plenty of very accessible music to appeal to new ones.”
–Ramsey Lewis, Routes (PR) “If Ramsey Lewis weren’t as gifted an instrumentalist as he is…he’d be hard put to survive the flashy chaos of this album.”
–Bob Marley and the Wailers, Uprising (PG) “…though everything on this new album sounds rather familiar, it is no less a pleasure to hear.”
–Martha and the Muffins, Metro Music (SS) “…what results when you take a bunch of bright, likable kids and lock them in a room with Roxy Music records for the duration of their adolescence.”
–The Statler Brothers, 10th Anniversary (NC) “It has a sort of retrospective quality despite its all-new material, for it puts together various examples of what the Statlers do.”
–Barbra Streisand, Guilty (PR) “Her Majesty is feeling playful this month and has decided it would be nice for subjects to hear her in a lighter mood than is her usual wont.”

Love the title track to this album, and this cut has much of the same joyous feel.
I need to go back and give 24 Carrots more attention.
Coppage called this Rod MacDonald track “the best new song I’ve heard in many moons.”
Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack helped finish this track after Riperton’s death.

Over the last two years I’ve examined in varying degrees twenty-four of the 143 issues of SR between November 1976 and September 1988. Strolling through my past in this fashion is immensely enjoyable—I’ve even bought a couple of issues off eBay for old times’ sake. There are plans to keep thumbing through the archives over at worldradiohistory.com, but my guess right now is that SRIR will become more of an occasional, rather than monthly, feature here going forward.

Later this week: we jump forward twelve months in time to begin a tour of three year-end charts from forty years ago.

One thought on “Stereo Review In Review: December 1980”

  1. Never heard of “Cornelia Street: The Songwriters Exchange,” but will have to seek it out. Sounds like a forerunner of the Fast Folk Musical Magazine, which featured the same performers (and a lot of others) on various releases from 1982 through ’97.

    Liked by 1 person

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