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Category: 30 Years On

I listen to the number one album from 30 years ago, and then write a bit about it.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Hard Promises

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Hard Promises

I just love the anachronism that is the cover of this album. I’m not talking about the plaid shirt Tom Petty is wearing (which is in fact cool again thanks to hipsters), or his leather jacket. No, I’m looking at the racks of records in the background, and especially the display stand of 45 single records. No doubt the goal of the photo was to put Tom in a cool and hip situation, and I say “mission accomplished!”. Styles are cyclical, and LP records are presently cool (this time only partly thanks to hipsters, but also to luddites who like the sound of analog music), but 45 singles are much more rare now. My theory is that the kind of person who will get up out of their seat to change or flip a LP, instead of clicking a mouse a couple times, is not someone who would buy just a song or two from an artist. They buy the whole album and listen to it while drinking their microbrews and eating non-pasteurized cheeses. Single-song purchasers are the ones who now go to iTunes and download the latest hot single from the latest generic pop music sensation.

On to the actual content of the album Hard Promises by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (TPatHs). I’ve been a fan of TPatHs for a while, so I had already heard many of the songs on this album. There are a few weaker songs (like “Insider”) but overall the songs are entertaining. It’s typical TPatHs. I have, in fact, actually seen TPatHs live, in Atlanta, of all places. I can say that Mike Campbell is an excellent guitarist and that Tom Petty was definitely high during the concert.

One of the stated goals of this project is to see how popular music has changed over my lifetime. TPatHs are kind of a counter-example to this. TPatHs are still making music that doesn’t sound all that different from what they were doing 35 years ago. This is not a bad thing, per se, because good music is good music. I will say that if TPatHs have changed, they have gotten less rock ‘n’ roll and a bit more bluesy, but it’s not a big change.

In summary, if you like any TPatHs, you should check out this album.

Last: Van Halen – Fair Warning

Next: Santana – Zebop!
Van Halen – Fair Warning

Van Halen – Fair Warning

Yet again, I’ve fallen behind on my album schedule, so this will be brief. Fair Warning by Van Halen, hasn’t made much of an impression upon me. I will say that this photo of the band from 1983 is awesome and will serve as a guide for how I live the rest of my life, starting now. Contact me if you want to apply for the position of either a) alcoholic addict bandmate or b) groupie.

Last: Kim Carnes – Mistaken Identity

Next: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Hard Promises
Kim Carnes – Mistaken Identity

Kim Carnes – Mistaken Identity

I was going to accuse Kim Carnes of being a one-hit wonder with “Bette Davis Eyes” (which went to #1 on the charts, is the lead track of Mistaken Identity and the only song I had heard from this album previously), but I suspect that’s because her main genre is Country, and I never listen to Country. She is apparently very prolific and is active even today as a producer with the popular act Kings of Leon.

But the fact that she’s not a one hit wonder doesn’t change the (other) fact that I generally found this album to be merely fine. Not at all terrible, but not interesting to me. To her credit she has an excellent singing voice, the music is not slipshod, and the lyrics are not nonsensical, but it just didn’t appeal to me. My recommendation is to skip this album. However, if you do listen to it and you like it, I won’t accuse you of having bad taste in music. Now, if you admit to liking Yoko Ono’s music

Last: Phil Collins – Face Value

Next: Van Halen – Fair Warning
Phil Collins – Face Value

Phil Collins – Face Value

I am a fan of the BBC auto/entertainment show Top Gear. Often the three presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond, will be given a humorous challenge which involves accomplishing some ridiculous set of goals with inappropriate vehicles. A couple examples are crossing the Channel in a car-to-boat conversion and “caravanning” in questionably designed and executed homemade car-to-RV conversions. As a bonus to these challenges, often a pair will work together to sabotage the third presenter’s car in some humorous way. A favored method is to (permanently using glue) set the radio to loudly play music disliked by the target. In the case of James, it’s anything contemporary, and for Richard, it’s progressive rock.

Face Value by Phil Collins is solidly in the category of progressive rock, also known as “prog rock”, and every time I listened to it I thought about Richard getting stuck listening to prog rock. There are some aspects I like about this album, most notably the lead track “In The Air Tonight”, but the things I dislike the most about this album are actually what define prog rock and annoy Richard the most. Things like directionless piano solos and the over-use of synthesizers. It’s those songs that made me feel, well, bored, and stuck listening to the music.

Overall, this album isn’t anything special, and chances are you’ve heard the only good song enough times that you can safely skip this album.

Last: James Taylor – Dad Loves His Work

Next Week: Kim Carnes – Mistaken Identity
James Taylor – Dad Loves His Work

James Taylor – Dad Loves His Work

James Taylor - Dad Loves His Work Cover Art

It’s really hard to write a review of an album while asleep. Because that’s what Dad Loves His Work by James Taylor has done to me. It is a boring, pointless album. I actually like some of his earlier work from the 1970s, but this album is very uninspired.

Furthermore, what kind of musician needs welding glasses and gets his face dirty in the course of his work? The answer is, of course, an awesome one! I have trouble imagining what music that would require active welding might sound like, but chances are it would be more interesting than this easy listening drivel. I have listened to this album twice, and I hear no evidence of welding sounds. The cover is definitely false advertising.

Furthermore, again, I can’t figure out what James Taylor’s fatherhood has to do with anything on this album. It’s hard to tell, like I said, because I’m asleep, but there are no songs about or to his children. The album could equivalently be titled “White Male Loves His Work” or “33 Year-Old Lennoxian Loves His Work”. If he’s implying by the cover and the title that he loves to weld, I’m just confused, and so his he.

Huzzah! With this review I’ve caught back up to my review schedule. In fact, the next review isn’t due for a week and a half.

Last: AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Next: Phil Collins – Face Value
AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Interestingly, although this is the second AC/DC album I’ve reviewed as part of my 30 Years On project, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap in fact originally came out before Back in Black. This album was released in Austrailia in 1976, and only came to the ‘states in 1981, after the 1980 release of Back in Black.

I suspect that AC/DC was a major inspiration for the 1984 mockumentary (that I think is brilliant) This Is Spın̈al Tap. In fact, I think a straight line can be drawn from AC/DC’s song “Big Balls” to Spın̈al Tap’s “Big Bottom”. If you enjoy Spın̈al Tap, you’re likely to enjoy AC/DC and this album.

Most of what I said about Back in Black can also be applied to this album. AC/DC is fun band to listen to if you’re in the right mood. However, because the songs on this album don’t quite get the same airplay as those on Back in Black, this album is worth checking out at least once.

Last: Grover Washington Jr. – Winelight

Next: James Taylor – Dad Loves His Work
Grover Washington Jr. – Winelight

Grover Washington Jr. – Winelight

Here’s a quick and simple review of Winelight by Grover Washington Jr.:

  • Every time I listened to this album I felt over-dressed. No, I never listened to it wearing a tuxedo or a three-piece suit. I mean that wearing any clothes at all is being over-dressed for this album. It’s that kind of album.
  • It has only one song on it you’ve ever heard, Just the Two of Us, and likely only because you saw it in Austin Powers 2.

In summary, if you’re naked, go ahead and listen to the album. Or, you can watch Austin Powers 2 and hear the only song on this album you care about, but see some funny stuff happen at the same time. What’s funnier than little people?

Last: The Who – Face Dances

Next: AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap