Album: Mavis Staples - Wildcats Soundtrack (1986)
Song: Show Me How It Works (1986)
These one offs always make the very best Anomalies. Mavis Staples was a singer that hadn't put out an album since 1979 by the time this soundtrack came out, and out of no where, appeared on this one track to knock it out of the park (co written by James Newton Howard).
The scene in the movie that this song plays during is a long marathon race of attrition where to win the respect of the players on the team, Goldie Hawn's character has to beat them all in a race where the last person standing is the only winner. As the race goes on, it starts raining, and eventually the entire track they are on is more like a muddy hellish landscape where dudes are literally falling to their knees. As it turns out, Goldie Hawn's character was a marathon runner in the past, and these high school would be athletes got schooled.
That's one of the reasons why this song is so cool. This chorus section, where Mavis keeps singing "show me how it works", is just so competitive and confident. It's another great sports anthem for you to just roll up your sleeves and show everyone what you can do. With the perfect lingering 80s guitar and keyboard chords and echoing vocals for dramatic effect, ultra meaty synth bass, and some well times cascading tom fills, this track is just stupidly encouraging.
Put this on your running playlists and show them all how it works!
Album: Marilyn Scott - Without Warning (1983)
Song: Only You
I first heard this song about 5 years ago. Just a random download from a music blog that has probably long since been shut down. The colours of the album cover immediately caught my eye, and caused me to take notice. While the entire album has a lot of dynamic range, this was the most energetic track on the album by far, and immediately got placed in the Anomaly folder. Marilyn's vocal style is much like that of John Farnham below, where she is constantly ad libing new parts and really showcasing a lot of command over the exact pronunciation of each lyric, as a form of art. It's very entertaining to hear and dissect.
Aside from the great vocal performance, this track once again features a tasty dose of crunchy, bouncy and warm synth bass, and some very energetic piano rhythm section. And it wasn't until many years later I found out it was Michael Sembello from "Maniac" who actually performed all the keys, and co wrote this song. The dude is a walking talking Anomaly. Listen to those crystal clear synth bells!
Since the entire album did not really have another song like this, we've got a real Anomaly on our hands, once again.
Album: Pointer Sisters - Break Out(1983)
I've been meaning to post this one for a while now. This is another two for one Anomaly where the video is just as entertaining as the song. And I mean that with absolutely no irony at all. This song is fantastic, and this video is mesmerizing.
Most people would probably know the Pointer Sisters best for their track "So Excited", which has been featured in just about every movie and commercial ever made. It is ultimately refreshing to also discover that almost all of the rest of their discography was of exceptionally high quality. This track really stands out for me for two reason. An unreasonable amount of synth (IE: the most reasonable amount), and Ruth Pointer's unbelievably deep vocals.
This track made it's rounds in the 80s and 90s, but I am sure most people who did not see it being performed assumed it was a man singing, and not a woman. This is one of the reasons this track in particular stand out so much to me as it is only one of a handful of their tracks that really emphasized Ruth's distinct qualities.
The interesting thing about females with naturally deeper voices is that by default, they sound unique. Just based on the lack of females who can, or who do pursue this vocal quality. You just do not get to hear it very often, and when it is done, and done well, it always sounds different than you are used to. There is always something infectiously original about it, and this track is pretty much on the top of the heap.
Aside from that, the Pointer Sisters clearly work well together. The back up vocal portions of this song all combine into this really marvelous tonal quality that kind of reminds me of when the Power Rangers would all morph together to create Megazord (not that I watched much Power Rangers... ... ...)
But on the topic of the power rangers, let's talk about this video. Who's idea was it to basically turn each sister into a dancing Power Ranger, each with their own unique skill and strength? The dresses and the colour schemes just scream, something. I am not sure what. I mean, I can't watch without wondering how in the hell they are able to dance so subtly, but so energetically and smoothly, while wearing those outfits and those pumps. Let's be honest, there is something absolutely intoxicating about their synchronized gyrations. And I don't even mean in a sexual way. I mean as a human enjoying what other humans can do, the singing, the dancing, this is really something else.
A twofer Anomaly for the ages.
Though I do enjoy the video, the quality of the audio does suffer a bit. Although I am a sucker for VHS obliteration, I should also share the original album version so you can really enjoy the full spectrum of the Pointer Sisters' range.
Album: Little River Band - Playing to Win (1984)
Song: Playing to Win
It is a little known secret that John Farnham was the singer of the Little River Band for a period. John Farnham, for most of us, is probably best remembered as the singer of the songs Break the Ice and Thunder in Your Heart, from the 1986 BMX movie called "Rad".
Those two songs in particular may be responsible for sparking my love of 80s music entirely, but curiously enough, John Farnham did not write those two tracks, and they were never released on any album. There was actually supposed to be an album of his that featured those tracks, and many other more energetic tracks, but the record labels either sat on it too long, or decided it wouldn't sell. Those fools.
In the vacuum of energetic John Farnham songs that have been left after they decided not to release his best tracks, I started to sleuth around to see if maybe he did some more energetic tracks during his career and I stumbled across this little gem. Little River Band seem to be the butt of more than a few 70s jokes, but it seems like the band was well forgotten by the mass public by the time the 80s rolled around. During that time, the band managed to whip up one of the greatest sports anthems I have ever heard in this track. Everything about it gets me fired up to accomplish something. It's so melodic it might as well just be the boss theme from Contra, and John Farnham is really bringing that thunder from his heart all over the place.
But, then there is the video. How amazing is this piece of film? I actually love how blurry and grainy this clip is as well. It adds this weird 80s haze to the entire thing, where you can only barely make out the blurry masses of tracksuits, hair, long mics, and keytars just flailing all over the place. You get a two for one with this Anomaly.
On the topic of John Farnham, just take a look and listen to him performing this song live in 1990. The thing I particularly love about John Farnham is that he is a vocal performance artist. He loves to ad lib new parts, like a drummer ad libs drum fills. He is so full of energy and talent, it's really just fun to watch him go to work.
Album: Dare - Out of the Silence (1988)
These are some of the deepest embrasure breathy 80s vocals I can think of. It's like if Bryan Adams, or John Parr are purposely trying to sing in their signature style, just much much deeper and breathy. It's fascinating sounding, and even somewhat rare to my recollection, but it really gives this song a distinct quality. And if you ever try to sing along to it in your car, try not to pass out on some of the longer notes!
Outside of the fantastic vocals, this track is thick. The production on this song is absolutely massive, from the monstrous slamming kicks and snares to the meaty palm muted rhythm section, to the wash of 80s reverb. Everything is just designed to make this track sound huge.
The melodies, too, smack of the best kind of 80s. That sort of chord progression and energy that would fit better in an 8bit action game than a band. This sort of hyper melodic, unabashed melodic approach usually always results in an Anomaly track in my experience.
Let us all unbutton our denim wrangler shirts just a little, in honour of this track.
Album: Kenny G & G Force - Gravity (1985)
Song: Love on the Rise
I feel like I need to set the record straight. My whole life I grew up believing that Kenny G was the ultimate punchline. A musician who's adult contemporary music was the butt of all jokes, and clearly something only deranged sophisticates would endorse.
On a whim, I decided to check out his albums from the early to mid 80s, and to my absolute delight, these albums are phenomenal! Not afraid to drench a track in synth bass, and guest with 80s vocalists and players for maximum impact. Turns out, Kenny G was a synthy funkamaniac, and actually had some pretty edgy energy.
Who knew?! WHO KNEW!? Join the G Force!
Album: Viktor Saltykov (Виктор Салтыков) - Армия любви (Army of Love) (1991)
Song: Sud'ba (Fate)
Viktor Saltykov (Виктор Салтыков) is essentially Russia's analog to Richard Page (the singer for Mr Mister). I am getting way in to this guy lately even though I can barely understand the characters used in the file names, haha. I have Russian torrent sites to thank for the archives.
This track is from roughly 1991 and title Google Translates to "Fate".
The music itself features a perfect amount of 90s E.Piano and subtle synth wooshes. But ultimately, this is just Viktor singing a pretty mellow, somber, and incredibly emotional tune, alone on stage, for a HUGE crowd of people in Russia. I just find everything about this song and performance fascinating.
There is a massive world of culture out there. It constantly boggles my mind.
Album: Michael Sembello - Bossa Nova Hotel (1983)
Why isn't this guy a house hold name? I've heard this song my whole life and never even knew who the song writer was. Let alone how hairy his shoulders are\were.
The official video is nice and everything, what with the spandex, dancing and gyration. But this version has a mountain of synths, guitars, keytars, Simmons drums, and so much shoulder hair. It's clearly the superior video.
REJOICE SEMBELLO FANS! HIS NAME SHALL BE CARVED IN STONE!
Album: Sade - Promise (1985)
Song: Is it a Crime
This vocal performance on this track is absolutely spine chilling.
Most people are probably familiar with Sade's track "Smooth Operator", but I couldn't have told you any of her other tracks, which is a damn shame, as it turned out.
Aside from the phenomenal music, the most notable thing about Sade is the vocalist, Sade Adu. Her performance and command over her voice send shivers across my torso. If the human voice is an instrument, this is an absolute showcase of how it can be used to portray emotion through song. The lyrics, combined with the very deliberate pronunciations take the listener along a wave of human feeling. I get those chills you get right before you spring in to action. Maybe it's like how yawning is contagious...
Sade is one of the few female vocalists who can powerfully sing in a lower range. Her actual speaking voice is surprisingly low, so this is no doubt a natural thing for her to do. As a listener though, we are treated to one of the velvetiest vocal performances I can recall. That would already be noteworthy if it were not also for the performance itself. You could not ask for a better singer to be lead in a jazz group like this.
Interestingly, on this album (and all of her albums) she worked with Andrew Hale, who was the composer of the LA Noire soundtrack in 2011, which was quite notable for it's similar smooth jazz feel. This track, though arranged by Sade, was actually written by Andrew Hale, and can almost act as a proto LA Noire song. And it shows!
Only this came out 25 years earlier... To think, the only reason I heard of this album at all was because of the Macintosh Plus Floral Shoppe Vaporwave album, which heavily sampled many of the tracks. Agree with it or not, there is something to be said about filesharing music, and culture. 30 years later, this song can still impact people.
Album: Sandy Lam - City Touch - Part I - City Rhythm (1988)
Song: Late Night Solitude (三更夜半)
Until recently, I had no idea that there was a prominent Cantonese pop scene in the 80s. You hear a lot about J-Pop in the west, but never will you hear of "Cantopop". Among the many prolific artists in the genre, none rise higher than Sandy Lam in terms of melody, energy and production. And wouldn't you know it, she is still putting out albums today that are still very good and worth checking out (I suggest looking for her 2012 album Gaia, if you are curious).
But my focus for this post is to focus on her most energetic track, "三更夜半" which translates to either "Late Night Solitude" or "In the Midst of the Night". The reason I make a big deal about that is because, surprisingly, this entire album was part of a multi-album series of connected concept albums that Wikipedia describes as, "portraying a surreal young urban professional woman in a realistic city of the late 80s."
This track in particular seems to touch on a very nuanced and cultural aspect of being a woman of strong tradition in Hong Kong who is torn between needing to keep a her perceived high social status while desperately wishing to seek a romance. I am positive a lot of this concept is lost in culture and translation, but from the sound of the performance, there is genuine feeling and conflict. It's a fascinating angle that you pretty much never see any pop music attempting to tackle.
But what of the music? I am pleased to say that even on the other side of the world, no one could resist the urge to use drum machines and synths galore. This entire track rests on a cloud of mysterious dissonant jazzy electric key chords, while being constantly peppered by an exceptionally meaty synth bass and low bitrate sampled brass stabs. It actually has a very 90s vibe to it, while still keeping a lot of 80s aesthetics.
But the real show stopper here are the vocals. Sandy Lam has an unbelievably sultry voice, and is excellent at conveying emotion, even without being able to translate the words. The entire album is sung in the Cantonese language, which is actually one of the prettiest languages in my opinion. Very apparent when you hear it wielded by such a strong performance. The music video here, too, has a surprisingly high quality to it. It is very refreshing to see a pop star sing about sex without having to get naked on film, or show off body parts, and still come off sexy as hell.
It might not be in a language you can understand, but still the language of music speaks very strongly through this track. Combined with knowledge of the high lyrical content, this track seems to be something you can translate by feel.
Cantopop... Who knew. Well, millions of people in Hong Kong, at least.
Album: Dee D. Jackson - Cosmic Curves (1978)
Song: Automatic Lover
Before I had heard this song, I didn't know that Italian Disco (Italo Disco) was a genre. Most noted for it's use of synth bass playing in staccato doubled down up octaves. It was actually this very youtube clip that ended up being my first exposure. While I was more or less just looking for synth music in general, the screen capture thumbnail seemed to promise something grand.
This track did not disappoint in any way. In fact, this may be one of the finer Italo Disco tracks I have heard, by virtue of it being well made, and well thought out. As the years went on, and consumer electronics got cheaper, the quality of Italo Disco acts was slowly being averaged toward the bland end of the spectrum. It appeared to be losing a lot of the charm that made it so popular.
Which is where this song comes in. The performance is about as powerful as you will ever see in Italo Disco. Dee D Jackson is really belting out some iconic and memorable lines, with a lot of character, but also technical skill. To my further delight, her performance on the video is also pretty spot on. It might be silly looking now (that outfit really isn't helping), but it is completely genuine. She owns it without a shred of doubt, even 40 years later. The chorus, though, is chillingly angelic, but thematically very cold. This really plays in to the theme of the song and album concept as a whole.
The entire album appears to be loosely based on a concept of a future world where love has been automated. Removed from the culture completely. In sort of a Demolition Man style world where a lot of the human connection has been deemed either too dangerous or unnecessary for whatever reason. The concept of the album appears to follow a sole female who eventually awakens to concept of human connection and begins to question everything.
While an entire story appears to unfold over the course of the album, this track, while it may appear to be completely ridiculous (especially when the robot starts dancing "The Robot") actually features some shockingly poignant lyrics that in many ways reflect the direction a lot of our world has been headed.
In almost literal instances, the lyrics are almost pleading for a human to love, rather than an autonomous robotic lover. The more I ponder this future scenario, the more it kind of hits me in the gut to imagine a world where you are forbidden connection with other humans, either culturally, or legally.
One particular lyric that for some reason almost made me tear up:
"He's programmed to receive automatic satisfaction. After love is dead where's a true reaction?"
My state of mind these days has me thinking a lot about history and politics, and the many examples of collusion in government and industry that shape our future. The nature of advertising and a constant agenda toward some form of propaganda. Where is the true reaction when we are not given access to all the information? If nearly everything we hear stems from some agenda, that stems from an agenda even higher, then is anything that actually shapes our times based on anything real?
The real reaction only comes from choosing to connect with other human beings. I feel like we are constantly informed to consider ourselves different from other groups of people. Divided by countries and regions, religions and ideologies, sex, sexual preference or just plain preferences of any kind.The more segregated we can be made, the less we can connect as a whole. The less true reaction can affect the outcome of this world.
I don't know, it just hit me pretty hard the other day. Bottom line. This track is a perfect Anomaly!
Album: REBECCA - NOTHING TO LOSE (1984)
Song: ヴァージニティー (Virginity)
REAL EXCITING BAND EVERYONE CAN COME ALIVE!
This track was a random surprise that I had to make a video for. There is something about early 80s J-pop that is fascinating. There was certainly a lot more western influence in the types of instrumentation, and the song structures. On paper, you could compare this song to something similar to US rock group Heart. But in practice, everything about it seems to have an entirely different "translation", which really gives it a mysterious and intriguing quality, at least to my ears.
Specifically, I think it is the execution of the song. All the instruments and song structures are there, but it's clearly as if one specific genre is being interpreted through a different culture, in a way that highlights the differences in an ultra pleasant way. They are using all the same tools for the same means, they are just doing it in ways that were quite uncommon in the west.
One prime example is when the chorus of this song first plays (at 1:02). This is a very "American" style chorus, with very American style powerful female vocals. But the execution of it just sounds, different. The emphasis on these vocals or something, it's both familiar, but unexpected. It's hard to explain beyond that. But, I had to make a video for it and put it on youtube regardless. Check it out. Expand your miiiiiind.
Album: Future World Orchestra - Future World Orchestra (1982)
Song: Mission Completed
This is a very subtle kind of anomaly track. Usually there is some extreme quality in the songs I post that makes a tracks stand out. In this case, I guess that can be this album cover, hehe. Such a simple technique having the lights behind their eyes, and yet I can not look at this picture without just feeling good. That's when you start to notice their are wearing corduroy Mortal Kombat ninja outfits, and have huge mustaches. That's about as extreme as this song gets. But I suspect that it's mostly by design.
The song itself is chalk full of slow synth pads that are constantly making use of a gorgeous resonant cutoff filter. Underneath is a simple but surprisingly warm synth bass. The vocals are very flat with a chorused effect on them throughout, but in a cool futuristic mission control kind of way. Then throw in a couple fragile and floating synth solos toward the end, which have this hint of tragedy to them. They are happy, but also they feel distant, or nostalgic perhaps. Maybe the future is not as good as it seems?
Overall, there is a seeming robotic lack of emotion in this song. Almost something you would expect from our robot faring "future world orchestra". Even though it is loaded with ironic synths by today's standards, it still comes off as a somewhat tragic track to me. As if they are happy, but they don't really want to be? Just look at their facial expression on the album cover and think about it.
Mission Completed... But at what cost?
Just because it continues to baffle me, here is some live footage. I am like a deer in headlights watching this. Liking something seriously, and ironically can sometimes make your head spin.
Album: Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso - ... Di Terra (1978)
Song: Nel Cielo E Nelle Altre Cose Mutue
Every time we have a heavy snowfall (which is not often in the North West). I have this song loaded up and ready to go on my mp3 player. For some context, the first time I had ever driven in heavy snow, this song was playing, and perfectly captured my sense of danger and cautious wonderment. This was the kind of snow that was so so deep that everything just looked white. No road was visible, and all the cars were going under 20 km/h. Even at those speeds, any sudden acceleration and you were seeing cars spinning left and right.
This song starts out quite ominous and even scary sounding. It perfectly captured my apprehension having initially slid as soon as I pressed on the gas. But in no time, these wood winds and this brass open up so warmly it almost tells the story of the sun rising over my dark snowy town. It went from dark blue to light blue to white all during the course of this one song. At least, that's what it felt like. As the timpani start to swell my confidence continued to amplify, until I could only feel the sense the joy in the action of driving in crazy snow. I am sure I had a big ol' smile on my face. Other drivers must have thought I was nuts.
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso is one of the most prominent Italian prog bands, with an absolutely massive library of great albums. These guys were the top of the heap. With a library that large, this became another good example of a file I had to copy in to the Anomaly folder, for fear of forgetting it. Even to this day I can not tell you the name of this song even though I am looking right at it. No, the only way to remember this song was to put it in the Anomaly folder, and here I am, probably 9 years later, still enjoying the majesty of this song. I could have picked a better song of theirs to first expose people to them, but this song and I shared an experience that I thought would perhaps be fun to read. Enjoy!
Album: Deftones - Adrenaline (1995)
How good was this album... It was 1995, and the grunge philosophy was stagnating due to over commercialization. Conflicting emotions meant caring and not caring, or looking like you care, and looking like you don't care, were all weighing heavily on the young adults of the time. I was too young to even have an opinion when this album was released, but looking back on it now, hearing the actual emotion in the vocals, the lyrics, and the physical playing and performance, I get the sense that this album was a true boiling point caused by social indifference and pretension.
It's almost like having to practice social nihilism and not actually being happy about it. When you read the lyrics, and you hear how many times they specifically reference being bored or not being what is expected. The title of this track for example is flat out, "Bored". I just get such a strong sense of purpose and real emotion behind this album, and this song perfectly embodies it all. As a result, I think it feels really transcendental. The music itself is immensely creative. From the use of super compressed vocals going from whispers to screams, to the completely bizarre production style, to the the extremely uncommon play style and patterns of the drummer. This seems like a result of kids that aren't happy not being themselves (welcome to the commercialization of grunge), who went to great lengths to actually BE themselves.
This song kind of serves as an anthem to me. If you truly want something to exist, you have to create it. The hard part is knowing what you truly want, or what your surroundings dictate you should want.
Album: Mari Hamada - LUNATIC DOLL (1983)
Song: Noah (ノア)
Here is a 1983 heavy metal (borderline thrash) song from a Japanese female singer called Mari Hamada. This song continues to blow me away.
1983, mind you. The production is unbelievably crisp and clear, which really allows you to fully appreciate the off the wall energy of the drummer, bass player and the guitar players. Seriously, the drummer Munetaka Higuchi (most known from the band Loudness) is practically loosing his mind on these fills. To be honest, this is one of the fastest songs I can think of for 1983 and prior. I haven't done my research thoroughly, but at the surface level, I would consider it shocking.
What tips it over the edge is that it is fronted by Mari Hamada, who later went on to be a pretty popular J-Pop\Rock artist who is still putting out pretty gnarly albums today. What makes this worth noting though is that her performance is stellar! This is a lead vocal performance that is ultra memorable (to me at least). Seems like a lot of the energetic vocalists of this era were still trying to "figure it out". Odd dynamics and production, strange control over screams and singing parts, etc. Mari Hamada really seemed to have this stuff figured out, even as far back as 1983.
I am far from an expert on Japanese music, but I would have to hope this track is genuinely noteworthy, and worth looking back with fresh perspectives today. Also, that 1983 cover art... Yes. Yes to all of that!
Album: Hubert Kah - Goldene Zeiten (1984)
Song: Wenn Der Mond Die Sonne Beruehrt
I once organized my Anomalies folder by the date the track was released under. To my delight, the year that had by far the most submissions was the year 1984. To clarify, the Anomaly folder is where I literally "copy" mp3s from their archives and paste them (making a double). I've been doing this for nearly 12 years now, and there has never been any rhyme or reason to why, when, or where I look for tracks. They find me. I have come across 1600 tracks in my time.
With that in mind, consider that of all of those tracks, the majority of them come from the year this track came out. What was it about this particular year that ended up producing the sounds I will blindly and at randomly gravitate towards? That is something I will definitely post about in the future, as I have a lot of thoughts on the subject. But what about this track?
Hubert Kah is a German synth pop group that had a pretty decent following in the west. So much so that they re-recorded the album this song was on in English as well, which is kind of rad. But I definitely much prefer the original German vocals. They just feel more natural, and cold.
As with most of the tracks I end up posting, the track is completely bathed in reverb. It's clearly out of control, but once you are in the track, you don't really notice. it just makes everything feel icy and digital. But melodic, too.
Anyway, for comparison, here is the English version as well so you can compare which one sounds better. I would definitely recommend you try to forget about what the lyrics are saying, and just try to enjoy the art of speech. German synth pop of this calibre does not come around very often. Enjoy it over the English one while you can!
Album: Alusa Fallax - Intorno Alla Mia Cattiva Educazione (1974)
Song: Non Fatemi Caso
This is one of the tracks that set me on my path to isolate and document all exceptional tracks I stumble across. This was one of the first songs I ever copied into another folder so that I would not forget it (the name is not that easy to remember for a non-Italian speaker, hehe). To this day I still have no idea what this singer is singing about, but the performance he gives is one of my all time favourites. The emotion that this man is capable of belting out is bone chilling.
This track starts out fairly typical for a mellow Italian prog jam. It's quite sombre, and kind of minimal instrumentally. The vocals are already quite distinct, having a clear flamenco influence to them. Rolled "R" sounds, and a notable rasp.
However, by the time the chorus rolls around this track shows its true colours. After an awesome melodic build up, this chorus lets loose and the man goes from a room tone voice to an out manly emotional scream at the top of his lungs. But not a manufactured or distorted scream like you would hear in rock or metal. No, it's like a man's scream in real life. Either out of frustration, or anguish, whatever it is, it sounds like raw emotion without pretension.
Regardless, I have no idea what this song is about lyrically, but it is easy to fill in the blank and add your own meaning. If you are ever feeling some inner anguish, I would imagine this track will help you vent some emotional stress.
Album: Vladimir Furduj Furda - Furda, Furda (1985)
In spite of an extremely tense political atmosphere of the former Yugoslavia at the time, there happened to be a very strong music scene in the 70s to the 80s. So much so that I almost always make it a point to check out anything labelled as having come from Yugoslavia. This track was no exception. Based on this cover alone, I simply had to know...
I was not prepared, at all, for one of the most inspiring Flugelhorn performances I've ever heard (performed by Goce Dimitrovski). It's oozing with so much reverb in the best possible way. It sounds like it is being played in a concert hall with no one in it, and is exceptionally introspective as a result.
Hidden in the background is a slowly pulsing synth bass pad that is just fat enough to give the track some heft without stealing the show from the horn.
The whole track as a result sounds remarkable similar to something you would hear in Blade Runner. As in, I can practically picture Deckard walking in to his lonely, super high-tech but scattered and messy apartment. The lights on really low, surrounded by mind boggling futuristic technology, but being eaten up inside with personal inner turmoil. Sometimes you just need to have a good sit down and think kind of evening.
Vladimir Furduj-Furda, no where in your casual sneaker and sweater wearing cover did you prepare me for this! Why does a lead drummer even have a song this soulful on his album anyway?
Album: Ronnie Laws - Mr. Nice Guy (1983)
Song: Big Stars
Ronnie Laws was a very early former member of Earth, Wind & Fire. He was original the saxophone player for them, before eventually moving on to his own solo projects and collaborations. He's a bit of a Renaissance Man though, as he handled playing synths, piano, saxophone and his own vocals on this album.
Right from the get go, this song is saturated with one of the most lush and fat synth bass leads. This synth is so fat that is is just feels juicy, squishy and warm. Turn it up and let it wash over you. I can hardly think of a synth bass I have enjoyed more than this one, and it is just ripping it up for the entire track. If I had to wager, I would guess it is a Roland Juno 60, which had just come out earlier that year, and was quite well regarded for this type of chorus laden sound. I specifically bought the TAL-U-NO-X Juno 60 emulation VST with the intent of recreating this bass patch, and I have come surprisingly close.
Gorgeous synth bass aside, this track is slick. The entire track is played in the "pocket". What I mean by that is, if you are snapping your finger to it, you can wait just a little bit off the beat to snap your finger and somehow sound like you are on even better time with the track.
When I hear these vocals, I just can't help but look at this album cover, and that ultra prominent mustache. It just feels like the 80s to me. There is a gental confidence to the delivery, and I just don't sense any malice or bad intentions. Mr. Nice Guy is absolutely right.
The synths throughout the rest of the song are subtle, but extremely effective. From little synth key cascades, to another rich resonant patch during the instrumental interlude half way through.
Finally, Ronnie Laws lays down some practically orgasmic soprano sax lines. I mean, most people would probably say they sound corny, but in the context of this track, that mustache, and this synth bass you just have to bow down to something bigger than you.
I love every second of this song, and I hope it becomes a favourite for all of you as well.
Album: Here Today - Whistle In the Yard 12'' (1982)
Song: Whistle In the Yard
Here is an absolute banger from 1983. The genre is post-punk new wave. But really it's quite unique sounding beyond that label. The production quality is absolutely infectious and really on point. It's definitely a dark track, but it feels like it was recorded by a pop group that just wanted to do something dark. Vibrant pink album cover, with a dark and defiant tone.
The song itself has a smattering of that 80s 'wash of guitar' sound. Something you might expect U-2 to do with their guitars, but done much more aggressively and close quarters. The bass is gritty, and there are tons of little bass fills peppered in there that give this song a sense of urgency. The vocalist is also breaking the 'fourth wall' a lot by purposely derailing the conventional vocal structure. Yet more defiance.
The melodies also have that trademark 80s skepticism to them. There is something undeniably pure about strife and opposition in the early 80s. Nothing was fully digital yet. It's completely analog emotion, but at the very end of the completely analog world. It could just be me, but the name of the band also seems to reference that change. Here, today. A unique time for music to say the least.
This song is a defiant keeper.
Edit: The original video got taken down. All I could find was a version of the entire vinyl EP. In any case, the first track is the one I had originally posted. So just hit play.
Edit: The original video got taken down. All I could find was a version of the entire vinyl EP. In any case, the first track is the one I had originally posted. So just hit play.
Album: Judie Tzuke - Sportscar (1980)
Track from 1980 that almost seems like it should be coming out now. There is a very unique "modern" quality to the enigmatic vocal melodies and rhythms. That thing that a lot of new music does, where the vocal timing is really hard to predict. I don't usually hear that in music that is over 35 years old. It's neat to hear, though.
Aside from the enigmatic vocal phrasings, the lyrics are pretty much worthy of fist pumping. It's a pretty defiant theme that basically calls out people who act arrogantly, and selfishly, and expect that people should be impressed by their material possessions. Judie Tzuke wasn't having any of it. It's an absolute delight to hear even 35 years later.
As a side bonus, here is a version of the song being performed live during the time of the album's release. The reason I am posting this as well is because just look at the performance here. Considering the theme of the song, just look at her up on stage. The confident body language, and her energy hitting this exceptionally difficult vocal part. It just makes me happy that this happened. I don't know why.
Album: Joseph Williams - Joseph Williams (1982)
Song: I Didn't Do It
Film composer John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T., etc) had a son who evidently made some insanely rockin' 80s music.
I've heard a lot of music in my travels on the internet. Immediately this track stands out as something exceptionally unique. The way the guitars and the bass are synchronously playing that opening riff. The tonality and the performance of it is just so "meaty". The first time I heard it, I was fully prepared to hear some heavy rock. As soon as the vocals kicked in, I almost couldn't believe what I was hearing.
It's like a mix of Michael Jackson and John Farnham (Break the Ice, Thunder in Your Heart). Super high quality, super characteristic and energetic pop vocals, matching the energy of this stupendously heavy rhythm and brass track. I can't help but be left wondering how it is possible that this track is not something you still hear today.
Add to that the son of the most famous film composer of all time, and you have an Anomaly if I ever heard one.