BusBoys – Minimum Wage Rock & Roll

The 1980’s owe a round of thanks to Comedian Eddie Murphy; not just for the laughs, but also for going out of his way to promote the BusBoys. In 1982 Murphy was staring with Nick Nolte in the hit movie “48 Hours”. Around this time, he had heard the BusBoys and seen them play live. They instantly became one of his favorite bands. Murphy made it a point to have the new wave band’s music included in the soundtrack to his new movie and got them a cameo in the film, playing on stage during a bar scene. He also had them open for him on his “Delirious” comedy tour and appear as musical guests on “Saturday Night Live”.

The BusBoys are one of the most overlooked new wave bands from the ’80s. Being one of the only primarily African-American new wave bands (drummer Steve Felix was white) their music was not surprisingly infused with R&B and soul. Still, the BusBoys sound was anything but typical for what was expected from black musicians in the ’80s. Was this because of stereotypes? Yes. Racism? To a degree. And the BusBoys often took this head-on with a satirical spin that slapped it right in rock and roll’s mostly white face. Like any good satire there was as much humor as there was truth in their lyrics.

Maybe this was too much for some people to digest. I don’t know. All I know is the BusBoys’ debut is one of the best new wave albums from the ’80s. It deserved so much more success than it received. At times, the album made you laugh, sometimes it made you think about the unjust reality of stereotypes and racism. But mostly, it made you just want to rock and roll.

Steven Wilson – Home Invasion: In Concert At The Royal Albert Hall

Steven Wilson is an amazing artist. I have had the pleasure of seeing him perform live three times. Twice in Detroit with his former band Porcupine Tree and once in Chicago as a solo artist. Listening to “Home Invasion: In Concert at the Royal Albert Hall” and looking through the 32 page book that accompanies the five albums in this box set makes me wish I would have made the trip to Chicago this past May to see him a fourth time. I won’t make that mistake the next time. Although hopefully, Detroit will be on his next US tour itinerary.

“Home Invasion” clocks in at almost three hours and captures Steven Wilson’s final of three performances at the Royal Albert Hall in England in 2018. The set spans the three most impressive phases of Steven Wilson’s illustrious musical career: Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, and of course his solo material. Steven Wilson’s music is in most often described as progressive or post-prog rock. In the middle of this set, Wilson unashamedly points out that some of some of his recent stuff is pop, and that if you can’t admit that you like pop music, your’re just trying to be a music snob. I have to agree. In reality though, Steven Wilson’s music so often spans across and incorporates so many genres that it stands alone in definition.

I have the day off of work today and decided that instead of sleeping in, I would get up at my regular time, do my normal routine, and after walking the dogs, head down to the man-cave with a cup of coffee and listen to “Home Invasion” in its entirety as the storms on the horizon roll in. I can’t think of a better way to spend a rainy Friday morning.

Eagles – One Of These Nights

1975’s “One of These Nights” is the album that brought the Eagles’ popularity up to the next level.

It’s not that they didn’t already have a strong following…But when you release your first #1 album, an album that sells millions of copies, has 3 top 10 singles, and gets nominated for four Grammy awards, winning the prize for one of them…well, that becomes a game changer. Even though “One of These Nights” was the album that made the Eagles superstars, they would prove they were truly worthy of that status, following it up with 1977’s “Hotel California” and 1979’s “The Long Run“.

One of the things that is cool about record collecting is some of the unique differences between the first pressings of a record and subsequent issues. For instance, the cover on this copy of “One of These Nights” is embossed, giving the artwork more depth and definition. Also on first pressings only, the record itself has a message written on the run out area. Split between the two sides on this copy is the phrase “Don’t worry – Nothing will be O.K.!”

Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Welcome To The Pleasuredome

A hedonistic mix of alternative music and dance club beats, “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” is one of the most amazing and somewhat controversial debut albums from the ’80s.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood really held nothing back on this record, lyrically or musically. The double album had four successful singles, including the lyrically controversial “Relax” (which got banned by the BBC just before hitting #1 on the UK charts). Despite breaking the top 10 spot in numerous countries, “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” only peaked at a modest 33 in the US. It really didn’t get a lot of radio airplay here, but if you went out dancing, you couldn’t help but hear at least a few songs from FGTH in the bars and clubs. What I heard there, was enough for me to own it.

The Police – Synchronicity

When I first heard what would be the final album by The Police I thought it was yet another new direction added to their already distinctive sound. Little did I know it was more of a return to their origins.

Before adopting the punk and new wave style that got them signed to a record deal in the late ’70s, the Police were a band that played jazz/rock fusion. With “Synchronicity”, The Police incorporated all of that along with avant-garde experimentalism into what became one of the greatest masterpieces from the ’80s.

This is an album I will never tire of.

The Power Station

The Power Station was the quintessential super group from the eighties.

Heavy hitting hard rock techno funk with a heavy dose of overdone ’80s polished production that somehow fits perfectly and ties it all together. My biggest issue was when they touched taboo. “Bang a Gong (Get it On)” belonged to T Rex. Always did. Always will.

Well…

At least that was my stance up until I heard Robert Palmer team up with members of Chic and Duran Duran in 1985…and they totally ROCKED it! I’ve tried to decide who’s version I like better. Never could. Never will.

Alice Cooper – Lace And Whiskey

An often overlooked gem in Alice Cooper’s dicography, “Lace and Whiskey” reaches into both familiar and new territory for the famed shock rocker. In typical Alice cooper fasion “Lace and Whiskey” focuses as much on concept and theatrics as it does rock and roll. The 1977 album tell the story of “Maurice Escargot”, a heavy drinking private eye, much in the vien of “Philip Marlowe” from the 1940s. Contrary to Cooper’s two previous solo records, and seventh as part of the Alice Cooper band, Aice doesnt don any makeup for the theatrics here. The main character is more of a straight shooter (literatively and figuratively) than on earlier concept albums by Cooper.

Although there are some rockers on “Lace and Whiskey”, most notably, the album opener “It’s Hot Tonight”, the music odten reaches further into broadway theatrical territory than Cooper’s albums ever had before. It made for one of the more intriquing albums of Alice’s career, often setting up visual scenery with the words and music similar to his previous effort, “Alice Cooper Goes to Hell“. This undoubtedly continued to alienate some of Alice’s hard rock fans and failed to get a lot of airplay on rock radio stations at the time. Many others, like me, embraced the creative originalty of Alice Cooper’s further immersion with combining theatrics and rock and roll.

The Jam – Setting Sons

In the late 1970s, punk rock met the British mod revival with The Jam. No album better encompassed their sound than 1979’s “Setting Sons”. Musically, The Jam combined the energy of the Sex Pistols, the urgency of The Clash, and the rock/R&B power and sensibilities of The Who to create a sound that gave them a sound that was all their own.

Setting Sons was originally released in 1979, but because they never reached the popularity in the US that achieved in Great Britain, I didn’t discover them until 5 years later when an Army buddy turned me on to them. “Setting Sons” was the first record I heard by them and is still my favorite from their catalogue.

I remember “Eton Rifles” sounding distantly familiar when I first heard “Setting Sons” in ’84, so I’m guessing the song received at least some airplay on Detroit radio stations in ’79, but it flew under my radar. Fortunately, that wouldn’t be the case the second time around.

R.E.M. – Murmur (Japanese pressing)

Although I loved “Murmur” from the first time I heard it, I always thought the overall recording sounded muddy, with the individual instruments buried among themselves…until I heard the version released in Japan.

When released in other countries, albums can sometimes come out on different record labels. Sometimes, that can mean two versions of the same album. Most of the time, there’s an extra song on one of them or the song order is changed. But sometimes, the albums sounds noticeably different. I think anyone who has heard both, will agree that the sound of the Japanese version of REM’s 1983 debut, “Murmur” is significantly better than its US counterpart.

Athens, Georgia band REM released “Murmur” in 1983. It came out on I.R.S. records in the Unites States; the album’s Japanese release was on the CBS/Sony label. Even though they came out at the same time the Japanese version was mastered with a brighter sound that more clearly defines the individual instruments. Bill Berry’s bass is significantly more noticeable. It gives a more driving sound to the songs. The brighter sound also helps bring Peter Buck’s jangly guitar stylings more up front.

I got rid of my US version of “Murmur” long ago. After hearing the Japanese version, there was no desire to keep it. The Japanese version is far superior.

Paul McCartney – Снова в СССР

Glasnost. A Russian term meaning transparency and openness often associated with the end of the cold war era between the USA and Russia. It happened in the late 1980s when Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev headed the two most powerful countries in the world. Tensions were relaxing between the two superpowers.

In 1988, as a gesture of peace and cooperation between the nations of the Western world, Paul McCartney made arrangements to have a studio jam session that was done while prepping for his next album pressed and released only in Russia. It was didn’t take it long to become a huge success in Russia. It also didn’t take long for copies to be smuggled out of Russia and sell upwards of $100 in the US and the UK.

“Снова в СССР” is Russian for “Back in the USSR”. The album is a collection of covers performed by McCartney and his band. They are in top form, playing all the songs live in the studio which give the album a very unique feel. It’s easy to pick up on the joyous vibe between McCartney and his band just having fun playing familiar songs.

“Снова в СССР” is one of my favorite albums by Paul McCartney and not because of its scarcity. Actually, it’s not that scarce any more. In order to prevent the smuggling across the border, “The Russian Album”, as it became known, was released to the rest of the world in 1991. This copy however is not one of the reissues; it’s one of the original russian copies.