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!