Ringo Starr – Ringo

When Ringo Starr released his third solo album in 1973, it was the closest any album would ever come to a Beatles reunion. All three of Ringo’s former bandmates share writing credits and perform on the record. True, they never all appear together on one song and there were no Lennon & McCartney penned songs, but hey, Beatles fans would take what they could get.

The album also included a slew of other guest musicians throughout and became Ringo’s inspiration for touring through decades following with his “All Star Band” of constantly rotating members.

“Ringo” remains among the most successful among the solo records from any former Beatle. It sold over three million copies, hit number 7 on the UK, number 2 in the US, and topped the charts in Canada. The album also score three hit singles fo Ringo: “Photograph”, You’re Sixteen”, and “Oh My My”.

Genesis – Abacab

“Abacab” is the perfect album to use as an introduction to Genesis. It is a perfect blend of their earlier progressive rock beginnings along with their later pop oriented songs.

Even though Genesis had made a conscious effort to move towards a more pop oriented sound with “Abacab”, they also strove to not abandon their progressive rock beinnings. Having heard their records before and after, I don’t think there could have been a more perfect first album for me to get by them back in 1981. “Abacab” left me eagerly waiting for the next Genesis album and inspired me to check out their back catalog while I waited. It’s not necessarily their best (althoug I’m sure some feel it is) but it is the best represrntation of what Genesis’ music was all about throughout their 28 year career.

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

If Barry Gordy Jr. had his way back in 1971, Marvin Gaye would have never recorded the album “What’s Going On”.

When the founder of Motown Records in Detroit first heard the title song Marvin Gaye had recorded for his next album, he was confident it would be a failure and refused to release it. Barry Gordy believed in the upbeat tempo and feel of the songs that had been the formula to Motown’s success. That was the record he wanted from Marvin Gaye. What Gaye delivered instead was a mid-tempo, multilayered song that made a sociopolitical statement against war, poverty, and brutality.

Barry Gordy felt “What’s Going On” would never sell and that it would be the ruin of Marvin Gaye’s career if it was ever released. Equal in his passion for the song, Marvin Gaye took a stand, refusing to write or record even one more note for Motown if the song wasn’t released. Barry still refused. It was his record company after all, and he had the final say.

But the song was released anyway.

Circumventing Barry Gordy, the VP of sales at Motown records decided to go behind his back and have the record pressed and released, sending some advance copies out to radio stations. It’s the kind of thing that will get you fired – unless you know you’re right. The song got heavy airplay across the country and when it came out “What’s Going On” became the fastest selling single in Motown’s history. Marvin Gaye was given the green light to make his album and make it his way.

“What’s Going On” didn’t ruin Marvin Gaye’s career, it defined it. It was his masterpiece. Like its title track, the album makes a strong statement. The soulful and beautifully layered songs lament against war, poverty, drug abuse, injustice, hate, and destruction of the environment. In contrast to the music, the lyrics to the songs don’t always paint a pretty picture, but they always make you think. This is an album that begs you to step back and take a look at the world around you; to take a good close look at “What’s Going On”.

The Psychedelic Furs – Forever Now

You really can feel the influence of producer Todd Rundgren on the Psychedelic Furs third album, “Forever Now”. Still, I wonder what David Bowie had done with it.

Adding just a little polish to their post-punk sound and expanding their music with the occasional cello or horns, Rundgren helped give The Psychedelic Furs their first big hit album in the US. They already had two in the UK, with producer Steve Lillywhite in the control room.

But Todd Rundgren wasn’t The Furs first choice to sit at the helm of “Forever Now”. David Bowie was a big proponent of the Psychedelic Furs, speaking highly of them on numerous occasions. The Furs had also considered Bowie a big influence and approached him first. Unfortunately, Bowie was tied up with work on his own album, “Let’s Dance”.

Although Steve Lillywhite was responsible for opening American audiences to The Psychedelic Furs, giving them their first taste of success across the Atlantic with their second album, “Talk Talk Talk” it was “Forever Now” that opened the band up to a broader base and gave them their first album to break into Billboard’s Hot 100. The song “Love My Way” also received significant airplay on MTV. Along with “Talk Talk Talk”, “Forever Now” is the Psychedelic Furs at their creative best.

Still, I wonder what David Bowie had done with it.

The Rivingtons – Doin’ the Bird

Although The Rivingtons only released one full length album, but with its combination of doo Wop and rhythm & blues it was enough to make a permanent mark on popular music.

Released in 1962, the Rivingtons’ best known song is “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” which kicks off the first side of “Doin’ the Bird”. The song is best remembered for starting off with its nonsensical title being sung by bass vocalist Turner “Rocky” Wilson Jr. which continues as the underlying foundation throughout the song. The album also includes other catchy original songs along with covers of Ray Charles’ “Unchain My Heart” and Little Richard’s Long Tall Sally” and “Slippin’ and Slidin'”.

Muse – Simulation Theory (super deluxe edition)

When Muse comes out with a new album, I never fully know what to expect, except I expect it to be totally awesome. With that, “Simulation Theory”, the eighth album from Muse, is exactly what I expected.

Like Muse’s last few albums, “Simulation Theory” is more than just a collection of songs; there is a theme wrapped around all of them. This time though, the trio steps back a bit from the seriousness of “The Second Law” and “The Resistance”, instead diving into a
science fiction virtual reality world. But that’s not to say there aren’t also underlying sociopolitical statements. This is Muse I’m talking about after all.

I pre-ordered the super deluxe edition of “Simulation Theory” because from what I had already heard from the singles released on the Internet, I knew I was going to like it. It was packaged as a double album with basically, an alternate version of the album on a second record and both records on CDs. It also came with free pre-release digital downloads for some of the songs. I would have gladly paid the price for this just for the two records alone. The album artwork designed by “Stranger Things” artist Kyle Lambert fits the sci-fi theme of the album perfectly, as does the heavy use of synthesizers and electronics in the music.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, it also came with pre-release access to tickets for their upcoming concerts. I have seen Muse live twice already and look forward to seeing them again. Those two shows rank among the most amazing concerts I have been to, ranking right up there with Rodger Waters performing The Wall, Pink Floyd, and TSO.

My favorite song on the original album is probably “Break It to Me” with its strange chord bends on the guitar. My favorites on the bonus record are tied between the gospel version of “Dig Down” and the live version of “Pressure” performed with the UCLA Bruin Marching Band. I thought the latter was such an odd combination when I read it in the credits, I didn’t know what to expect. But it was awesome. Exactly what I expect from Muse.

The Human League – Dare

The Human League’s third album, “Dare”,
was for the most part, my introduction to synth-pop and electronic music. Up to that time, I had listened to a lot of bands that used synthesizers and loved the versatility and expanded sound they brought to rock and roll. But I don’t think I had ever heard a band that used synths exclusively; no guitars and no real drums. If I had, The Human League was the first to make an impression on me.

“Dont You Want Me” was the first song I heard off of “Dare”; it was all over the radio in 1981. But it wasn’t the airwave saturation that grabbed me; it was the switch-hitting baritone and alto vocals of Philip Oakey and Susan Ann Sulley. It was the lyrics. It was the catchy hook of the song. And of course, it was the synthesizers. Only synthesizers.

Scritti Politti – Cupid & Psyche 85

The 1980s saw a huge rise in the popularity of synth-pop bands. Scritti Politti was one of many that had success with only a couple of albums and then faded away. “Cupid & Psyche 85” was their most successful album, finding its biggest popularity in the UK where it hit the #5 spot on the charts and spun off three top 20 singles. In the US, the album peaked the charts at 50 and had only one hit single, “Perfect Way” which went up to #11.

The first song I heard off “Cupid & Psyche 85” was “Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)”. I remember being immediately grabbed by the song’s funky groove. What made me want to listen to the whole album though was its crisp, production and innovative use of synthesizers and electronic keys. That same production and innovation resonates through every song on “Cupid & Psyche 85”. It is a synth-pop album that showcased what the genre was capable of.

Bob Welch – French Kiss

Bob Welch released French Kiss, his debut solo album, in 1974. Before that, he was the person most responsible for transitioning Fleetwood Mac from an edgy blues band to more melodic rock and roll superstars. Yet he was not inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the rest of the band.

Welch joined Fleetwood Mac as their rhythm guitarist in 1971, when Jeremy Spencer and lead guitarist Peter Green left the group. Almost immediately, Welch’s musical opinions clashed with Fleetwood Mac’s remaining guitarist Danny Kirwan. A year and a half later Kirwin was fired for his alcohol abuse and increasingly volatile behavior. Although Welch’s influence had already started a metamorphosis in Fleetwood Mac’s sound, the change became much more pronounced once Bob Welch had more creative input.

Bob Welch left Fleetwood Mac in 1974 to pursue other musical interests. He was replaced by Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. With the new lineup, Fleetwood Mac continued on with the musical style Bob Welch was significant in helping them forge.

Although Bob Welch was not one of the original founding members of Fleetwood Mac and left the group just before they had their greatest commercial success, I think it was unfair for the RRHoF to not have included him in the roster of Fleetwood Mac band members to be inducted. Fleetwood Mac would have probably never transitioned into the superstar band they became without Bob Welch.

Elton John – Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player

Elton John had so many great albums that anyone with a decent sized record collection is going to have more than one album by him. I guess my collection is no exception.

The title to “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player” came from a night of joking around Elton John had with Groucho Marx. At one point during the evening Groucho, in good fun, ripped into Elton pretty well. In retort, Elton John blurted out”hey, don’t shoot me, I’m only the piano player”. As a nod to that evening there’s a poster to a Marx Brothers’ movie in the background of the album’s theater marquee designed album cover.

Typical to many Elton John’s albums from this era, “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player” came with a bonus. Packaged in the gatefold album cover along with the record,was a 12 page booklet with a collection of photos and the lyrics yo the songs.

When it came out, “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player” hit the top of the charts in both the US and the UK.
It also gave Elton John two more hit singles, “Daniel” and “Crocodile Rock”. “Midnight Creeper” is one of my personal favorites from this album. I still believe it could have easily been a third hit single.