Eagles – The Long Run

I don’t care what kind of music you prefer, it’s nearly impossible to not like the Eagles. All through the ’70s, their albums just seemed to get better and better, culminating in their 6th and final album for nearly 20 years, “The Long Run”.

The Eagles recorded “The Long Run” after being on the road for an excruciatingly long tour supporting the success of their previous album, “Hotel California”. The exhaustion from touring combined with the pressure of trying to come up with a worthy successor to their most successful album to date, resulted in writers block setting in for all the band members. It took a year and a half to come up with the songs for “The Long Run”, but it was well worth the wait.

The critics weren’t very receptive to “The Long Run” when it came out, giving it mostly lukewarm reviews. But what do they know? This is easily one of the best and most varied albums by the Eagles. There is something here for everyone, and it’s all something good.

But don’t take my word for it. “The Long Run” topped the album charts in multiple countries including the United States, where it sold over 8 million copies alone. It also scored three hit singles for the Eagles. “Heartache Tonight”, “I Can’t Tell You Why”, and the title track. And “Heartache Tonight” would end up earning the Eagles a Grammy for best rock performance in 1980.

My personal favorite song from this album is the side two opener, “Heartache Tonight”. Partly because of its addicting drum beat that you can’t help but stomp your foot to, partly because of Joe Walsh’s exceptional slide guitar solo, and partly because of the perfect vocal harmonies the Eagles were known for. But mostly, I think I like it because of the writers block that had set in. It prompted the Eagles to seek some outside writing assistance from one of my favorite artists and songwriters – fellow Detroiter, Bob Seger.

The Beatles – Hey Jude

“Hey Jude” was an album that kind of made up for the exclusion of certain songs from the U.S. versions of earlier albums by the fab four. The album was never released in the U.K., and contained singles and other songs that had never been available on any Beatles album released in the United States. Most had only been released in the States as 45 RPM singles. “Hey Jude” also contained a couple tracks that were only released as 45s in Britain, most notably the album’s title track.

Capitol/Apple records originally planned to title this album “The Beatles Again”. It was a last minute decision to change the title to the same name as the Beatles’ latest single at the time, which opens up side 2. It was so last minute in fact, that a few copies were released with the originally planned title printed on the record’s labels. These rare versions are highly sought by collectors. I am fortunate enough to have one of these in my collection.

UFO – No Place To Run

Michael Schenker is a brilliant guitarist. But that isn’t always good enough to keep yourself from being kicked out of a great band. You also need to be reliable. Unfortunately, Schenker’s drug and alcohol use made him anything but reliable, especially when it came to touring. So, after recording seven albums with Schenker as lead guitarist, the members of UFO kicked him out, replacing him with their much more reliable friend, Paul Chapman.

Chapman may not have been as creative as Schenker, but he was still a great guitarist. So good in fact that he helped make “No Place To Run” UFO’s most successful album in the U.S.

Some might say the success of the album was due to the record company choosing to have George Martin, known for his work with The Beatles, produce and help mix The album. But personally, I think the album could have been better with someone different at the helm.

I have nothing against George, he is a great producer. But to me, this really wasn’t a good fit. Although the members of UFO were great musicians, they were also known as a wild and hard rocking band. That wild edge seemed to be held in reserve on “No Place To Run”. It’s still a great album. But with the strength of the songs on it I think it had potential to be even better had they been allowed to cut loose more as on their previous records.

Nearly four decades later, UFO continue to perform as a successful recording and touring band. They just released their 22nd album, “The Salentino Cuts” in September, 2017.

Huey Lewis and the News – Sports

“Sports”, the third album from Huey Lewis and the News is one of the best albums to come out of the ’80s.

I honestly can not understand how anyone can not like this album. It is chock full of infectious songs with great hooks that combined blues, soul, and a little doo-wop with ’80s pop and rock. Then, as a bonus, they even do a cover of an old Hank Williams song, “Honky Tonk Blues”. It’s no wonder this record became their most successful album ever. I mean, what wasn’t there to like?

Yet…

I remember being being on a first date with a girl in the late ’80s and at one point in the evening she said that she didn’t like Huey Lewis because she thought he was too commercial. I didn’t argue my point (not a good thing to do on a first date) but at the end of the evening, I took her home, and like a good gent, gave her a kiss and said goodnight. I never saw her again after that night.

I wonder what ever happened to her.

…No I don’t.

Rush – A Farewell To Kings

Many bands go through changes. Sometimes it’s to avoid getting bored, wanting to try something new. Sometimes it’s an attempt to better find their footing. Sometimes it’s a search for that ever elusive radio friendly single. For Rush, “A Farewell To Kings” was an attempt at all three.

Rush’s debut, self-titled album, was a combination of hard rock and metal. Their second, “Fly By Night” was not as rough around the edges and more straightforward hard rock. Their third, “Caress of Steel” ventured more into progressive rock territory. It was a change that alienated much of their established fan base. Although a good record, it was for the most part was a flop for the Canadian trio. “2112”, their fourth album, struck gold for them with its melding together the styles of its predecessors.

But what really had eluded Rush to this point, and what their musical career needed, was significant radio airplay. “Closer to the Heart” the sole single released from their fifth studio album, “A Farewell To Kings”, would change that.

For the most part, “A Farewell to Kings” revisted the progressive rock elements that had not done so well for them earier. But by this time, Rush’s songwriting talents had become more refined and their fans had come to expect more diversity from them.

Being just shy of three minutes long. “Closer to the Heart” was one of Rush’s shortest songs, which made it a great contender to be picked up for heavy rotation on rock radio stations. The fact that it had a beautiful underlying melody, insightful lyrics, and high caliber musicianship with a great guitar solo, made it an inevitable choice. Consequently, “A Farewell to Kings” and it’s accompanying single, “Closer to the Heart”, catapulted Rush’s popularity to the next level.

Humble Pie – Smokin’

Humble Pie’s fifth album, “Smokin'”, can be summed up in two words: heavy groove. You can put those words together or keep them apart, either way, it’s accurate.

Peter Frampton had just left the Humble Pie in 1972, and the band had to prove they could make it on their own without him. With Steve Marriott at the helm, the Pie set out to make an album that was heavier and funkier than anything they had done before … or after. The result was magical.

Blues riffs and power chords dominate on “Smokin'”, making it an album that is best appreciated when played LOUD. The Pie have never sounded better than they do here. They play down and dirty electric blues-rock with a heavy dose of soul that makes it’s truly addicting. Don’t get me wrong, I love Peter Frampton … but in all honesty … he’s not missed here.

“Smokin'” was also an example of why CDs could really suck. When I purchased this album on CD, I could not believe how terrible it sounded. There was no care at all taken with transferring this album over to the digital realm. I’m not a vinyl snob. I have some old recordings that absolutely shine on CD. But when it comes to bringing a classic analog album over to digital, “Smokin'” is an example of how to do it wrong.

I had a friend ask me recently how vinyl albums could possibly sound better than CDs. This album is a prime example of how. There are cases where the opposite is true – where the CD is superior to the original album. Humble Pie’s “Smokin'” is not one of those instances. If you want to really appreciate this album, and know what it was all about, you need listen to it on vinyl.

And listen to it LOUD!

Dinosaur Jr. – You’re Living All Over Me

The second album by Dinosaur Jr, “You’re Living All Over Me” is not an album that’s for the faint of heart. Guitarist J. Mascis had a habit of cranking the distortion up on his guitar to levels that would make even Neil Young shudder in amazement. Yet he could somehow make it come out feeling melodic…bordering on controlled chaos.

I’ll admit, this is an album I have to be in the mood for (which tonight I am). It’s raw. It’s raucous. It’s as unforgiving as a sucker punch to your face. And it’s as exhilarating as sitting in the front seat of a roller-coaster that’s about to jump the tracks, but somehow it holds on.

Dinosaur Jr. is one of those bands that is hard to fit into a specific genre because they just did what they did, with no reservations and without ever asking forgiveness.
Punk rock.
Post Punk.
Alternative.
Indie rock.
Shoegaze.
Dinosaur Jr. was all of the above.

Joe Walsh – So What

Blues chords, great guitar riffs, and solid guitar solos. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. And it’s nothing Joe Walsh hasn’t put on an album before or after. But so what, his third solo album is essential to any rock lover’s colection.

Joe Walsh was pretty basic and straightforward with his albums. He never really did anything fancy… Except his solos. His solos kicked ass. Every time. He was a master on slide guitar that few could equal. He also played more than just guitar. He was very accomplished on keyboards and quite often would put a song that featured him playing synthesizer on his albums. “So What” was no exception.

Joe Walsh’s formula for making an album was simple – write good songs, play them well, and have excellent musicians back him up. On “So What”, those backup musicians were quite often members of The Eagles. A little over a year and a half later Joe Walsh would actually join the Eagles, bringing a little more edginess to their sound and helping them have their most successful studio album ever, Hotel California. But so what. His solo material was just as good.

Def Leppard – Pyromania

Although Def Leppard’s first two albums developed a solid fanbase for them, it was their third album that really broke them into the mainstream. Pyromania sold over 10 million copies and hit number 2 on the Billboard charts. Many of the songs on it still receive significant airplay on rock radio stations today.

Following the release of Pyromania, drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in an automobile accident. I give the friendship the band members held for him extreme kudos for what happened afterwards. They could have sought out another drummer. Instead, they decided to have a special drum kit designed for him that made greater use of foot pedals so he could still play drums with the band. The incident is documented in the 2001 film “Hysteria – The Def Leppard Story” which was named after their fourth album. I saw Def Leppard on tour, supporting that album. Rick Allen did a drum solo that was nothing short of amazing and was one of the highlights of the concert.

When I met my wife over 25 years ago, she didn’t have nearly as many records as I did. As a matter of fact, she only had a handful. Pyromania was one of them. I would have added it to my collection but I already owned a copy of it.