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1981

Classic; Trevor Rabin, Wolf, 1981

trevor rabin - wolfFor many people Trevor Rabin entered the spotlight when he joined Yes and gave them their first (and only) global hit with 90125 and the song Owner Of A Lonely Heart. Or maybe his name came up on the soundtrack of one of your favourite movies, the successful career he began after Yes.
But what many of you might not know, is that he started with a couple of solo albums before that. And this 1981 album is not even the first of those! I can actually recommended all of his albums (a new one was just released and will feature sometime later).

What is interesting, in hindsight, how does this fare when compared to 90125, the album he would make only a couple of years later? Well, his vocals are distinct, as is his guitar playing. Here less processed, but still you hear he has a good ear for melodies. In his song-writing one can notice that he is already exploring more complex structures. Yet there are also some plain rockers on beard. After all, hard rock was his chosen style here. But also there, he tries to expand on the genre by adding out of context instrumental parts. Who actually fit seamlessly…

With the help of people like Simon Phillips, Jack Bruce, Manfred Mann and Chris Thompson, it was already clear that Rabin was destined for bigger things. There is a certain promise in the songs! Track 1, Heard You Cry Wolf, is not only characterized with a keen chorus, but the extended solo part with a lot of keyboards is just fabulous. So whatever the reason, this is a tasty rock album by an accomplished musician. Still lifts my mood when I listen to it.

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Classic: Camel, Nude, 1981

camel - nude“Wake up, wake up”, it´s time to kick it back a little… In the Classic series I dug out this beautiful piece of art that is Nude by symphonic rockers Camel. With an extensive back catalogue like Camel’s, it is virtually impossible to find an album that says it all. I like Nude for a number of reasons.

First the story about Nude, set in the World War 2. It is in the booklet, so I won´t go into all the details here. Second it is the variety in the songs and the arrangements. Camel used a lot of guest, contributing on things like tuba, flute, piccolo, saxophone and cello. Being a band with extended instruments already. Third is the song Drafted. In the early days of my band we used to cover it. The piano and fretless bass are awesome, but the total build of the song and the guitar parts still strike a chord with me everytime I hear it.
Fourth it is because of the exciting instrumentals like Docks. Fantastic guitar and bass work again. You try to resist that groove…

And fifth and final reason, it is just a damn good album! Mellow to some, I can understand that, but I think worthy of everyone´s attention as I am sure it is capable of crossing borders between styles. I mean 30 years and counting, and I still can´t imagine ever selling it…

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Classic: Fischer Z, Red Skies Over Paradise, 1981

Fischer Z - Red Skies Over ParadiseAn exponent of the New Wave generation, Fischer Z released this all time classic in 1981 and conquered my attention with it. Recently I bought the CD version as the vinyl copy is probably down to it’s last couple of spins 😉

So what is there to like about this album? Well, there are those intelligent lyrics. Whether cunning like in Marliese, or You’ll Never find Brian Here, or social aware like in Cruise Missiles or Multinationals Bite. And all this wrapped in songs with staying power. In my humble opinion due to the fact there is a healthy dose of rock infused. And of course the songs and melodies itself. The already mentioned Marliese was a big hit in Mainland Europe, but to me, every song counts. Berlin is a perfect opener and immediately grabs your attention. The title track is s great example of how you can marry the new wave synthesisers sounds with guitars and play it all over rhythms made famous by The Police. You’ll Never Find Brian Here is a very funny song with addictive hooks, while Battalions Of Strangers impresses with it’s synthesiser arrangement and lyrics. Tracks like In England or Song And Dance Brigade may still reflect the time they were created in, they also are able to keep you interested.
Last but not least I want to mention the bass lines in various songs. Often very clever and off the map, yet providing a steady support as well.

So, in case you missed it at the time, a gem to own. I am sure it will prove a keeper.

Classic: Mother’s Finest, Iron Age, 1981

mother's finest - iron ageOh, I can still remember listening to this LP over and over on my room. I was and am still very impressed by Mother’s Finest. First because of the singing of Baby Jean and Glenn Murdock, with Baby Jean especially having a great set of pipes and both being very soulful.
Second it´s because of the groove in this often hard rocking tunes. The slapping of bass player Wizzard is pretty uncommon in a rock band, but oh how he drives the band forward. The guitar soloing is adding to the picture, as are the keyboards in some of their more known tracks (Piece Of The Rock anyone?).
And last but not least it is because of the songs and themes of the band. This record has to be one of the heaviest they ever made, but the songs still are catchy as hell. Whether it´s All The Way, Earthling, or that magnificent track Evolution (why wasn´t that a big hit all over the place, there is just no justice), this music puts a smile on my face even before I hit play.

After years I was able to find it on CD. Only to discover they messed up the track order and titles. But hey, don´t let that avoid you from falling in love with this as well! They made up for it with a couple of live tracks. And let me tell you, the band rule on stage…

Classic: Thin Lizzy, Renegade, 1981

thin lizzy - renegadeThis band will need little introduction. But I am sure some will question me picking just this title from the Lizzy back catalogue for my Classic series.
But to me the addition of Darren Wharton (Dare) on keyboards and Snowy White on guitar, gives this album a little extra. The excellent shuffle of drummer Brian Downey has always been underrated in my humble opinion. He deserves a little extra attention. The band is completed by Scott Gorham on guitars. As we all know, Thin Lizzy´s main man Phil Lynott is a very competent singer, song writer and bass player. The band is famous for the double lead solo´s and there are plenty of those here as well.

Renegade opens with that spooky synthesiser intro to Angel Of Death. The lyrics are an interesting read. If I remember correctly, Lynott´s dad was a soldier. Some very cool interludes here as well.
Next tracks are textbook Lizzy. Especially Hollywood and Leave This Town deserved to be huge at the time. With Fats we get a track with a special vibe. The excellent (almost fret-less sounding) bass playing here proves a perfect base for this homage to Fats Domino. And the piano playing by Wharton is also beautiful.
The classic guitar intro to Mexican Blood is a great way to set the mood for this track. The keyboards add a fine texture to this already addictive love story.
The album closes in style with It´s Getting Dangerous. Another track that sucks you into it. Wonderful arrangement and vocal performance. The chorus will haunt you for days. ” I remember him when we were friends, when we were young, way back then”… chilling!

Classic: Blue Oyster Cult, Fire Of Unknown Origin, 1981

Blue Oyster Cult - Fire Of Unknown OriginFirst, this is a great band, with numerous releases that are candidate. I had a real hard time deciding which album I would use for my Classic series. So after giving it some thought I went for this one.

For those unfamiliar with the band (too many?), Blue Oyster Cult are an American band that have been around since the early 70´s.  They are the self proclaimed inventors of Heavy Metal (live with at times 3 guitar players) and have a thing for alien abduction, occult themes, crazy songs with a great sense of humour (I´m on the lamb, but I ain´t no Sheep, or She´s as beautiful as a Foot come to mind), have at least 2 songs burned into our collective memory (Don´t Fear The Reaper and Burning For You, the latter from this album) and have a guitar wizard (Donald ” Buck Dharma” Roeser) among them who also likes to sing lead when he can. With more vocalists on board, that is not always easy ;-).

The music is not as heavy as one might think. To modern standards this will be considered melodic rock among many. Top songs for me are the already mentioned Burning for You, with that instant guitar riff and catchy chorus, the hypnotizing melodies of Don´t Turn Your Back, the drama of Veteran Of The Psychic Wars or the haunting song that is Joan Crawford. All in all an album that still rotates in my play-list and that never bores me.

For those interested, the other releases I considered were Secret Treaties, Agents Of Fortune and The Revolution By Night. Check all those out and make up your own mind. But frankly, every album they released over the years has a worthwhile quality, even when at times containing a song or 2 that is slightly below par.