The Alarm – Strength

Hailing from Wales in the United Kingdom, The Alarm was a band that had a sound falling somewhere in between mainstream rock and alternative rock music of the 1980s. It was both a blessing and a curse for them. The blessing was they got some airplay on both the long-established rock radio stations and the newer alternative stations that were gaining an audience. The curse was they were too alternative for the mainstream and too mainstream for the alternative to really make a significant mark in either market.

Personally, it was that finding the middle ground that drew me to their music. I always felt they were one of the most underrated bands of the ’80s.

Howard Jones – Dream Into Action

Synth pop was at the height of its popularity in the mid ’80s. It was a music style that could easily provide addictive hooks and innovative sounds, but it could also be ruined if an artist was overly dependent on the musical technology they used and less confident in their musical ability. Howard Jones knows how to find the perfect balance between composition, musicianship, and innovation. His second album “Dream Into Action” is a perfect example.

Howard Jones had a knack of knowing when to keep the arrangement of song sweet and simple or make it densely complex. That intuition helped him create a trend-setting album tha is complexly powerful and beautifully simple in all the right places.

“Dream Into Action” was the second album by Howard Jones. Other than some background vocals and a few bass lines Jones had his brother lay down, he plays and sings every note on this album.

Often overlooked and underrated by music critics, Howard Jones’ music often didn’t receive the radio airplay his contemporaries, but that never deterred him and he continues to write, record, and perform his music today.

“Dream Into Action” remains one of my favorite albums from the ’80s. It includes the hits “Things Can Only Get Better” and “No One is To Blame”. But like with many great albums, it’s the collection of songs that weren’t hits that truly define it. That’s where “Dream Into Action” is at its best.

Ted Nugent – Free For All

Ted Nugent is well-known for his exceptional guitar playing as well as his outspoken political views. I don’t talk politics here, so let’s just talk about guitar playing. But not Ted’s. Let’s talk about the “other” guitarist in Nugent’s band, Derek St. Holmes.

I had the extreme pleasure of seeing Derek St. Holmes play last night at a local Detroit concert venue, the legendary Token Lounge (which I remember seeing one or two bands at way back in the ’70s and ’80s). I left that show last night realizing that, because he played as the “other” guitarist alongside Nugent, Derek St. Holmes was a vastly overlooked guitar legend.

St. Holmes, who now lives in Nashville, was up in his original stomping grounds in the Detroit area, I believe for the Christmas season. While in the area, he scheduled a night to perform at the Token. When he saw Glocksmith, a local Detroit area band, playing at a nearby venue, he immediately asked them to be his backing band. I have a couple of friends who play in Glocksmith and I have seen them play live many times. There was no way I was going to miss this show.

After the show, I couldn’t help but realize what an awesome guitarist St. Holmes is. He was definitely held back by being the rhythm guitarist with Nugent. That’s probably why he left in the late seventies and teamed up with Aerosmith’s “other” guitarist Brad Whitford to form Whitford/St. Holmes. Unfortunately, Brad Whitford returned to Aerosmith when they reformed, squelching any chance of Whitford/St. Holmes ever having a chance of making it.

Derek St. Holmes put on a great show last night, Performing many of the songs he played and sang lead vocals on while in Ted Nugent’s band, as well as some from Whitford/St. Holmes. My only gripe with the show was that my friends, Randy Peavler on Bass and Dave Goldsworthy on guitar, were left somewhat in the shadows – although they were graciously given their moments to shine. That’s a personal thing though. For most people at the show last night, it was all about the often overlooked “other” guitarist from Ted Nugent’s band, Derek St. Holmes.

For me though, it was about my friends in Glocksmith getting do a show with one of their heroes, and a true guitar legend.

Derek St. Holmes and Glocksmith – Stranglehold