For more than a year, some of my friends and I have been sharing music. We’re supposed to review/rate what gets shared with us, and share those reviews with the group, but that doesn’t always happen.
Since we have been playing this game for 80 weeks now, Spencer decided we should all share music from the ’80s. I don’t listen to a ton of music released in the ’80s. For the most part, I don’t think it’s very good. Mostly I discovered there are a lot of albums from the ’80s I don’t care for. But there are some great singles. I did find one I would have shared anyway, but before I get to that, here’s what my friends decided to share this week.
Eurythmics – Touch (1983)
I have heard very little Eurythmics. Maybe two songs. Well, more like just one, plus covers of it and another. So all of my expectations come from that, plus Spencer’s apprehension of their dated ’80s sound.
However, because I listen to Spotify on my phone for free in shuffle mode (because my work blocks Spotify on our computers), I ended up listening to a few more Eurythmics songs than just from this album. And some of them (I’m going to guess their more modern stuff, since it was more guitar based and less synth based) are pretty good. I’ll forego a review, but I’ll probably listen to a bit more of them.
Anyway, into the review…
I have not heard the original version of Here Comes the Rain Again. And it’s not bad. I really like the strings. But I like the Jack and White cover a bit more. But it doesn’t really feel very dated to me. Especially not like some of the others.
Who’s that Girl is okay, but the “solo”/instrumental break was terrible. That and No Fear, No Hate, No Pain (No Broken Hearts) tie for my least favorite songs on the album.
Aqua and Paint a Rumour were … interesting, but not un-enjoyable (although Paint a Rumour was pretty long). They were like a blend of world music being played by a ’80s band. Regrets and Cool Blue also felt dated (and weird) at times, but the latter was at least a little funky and I liked it.
Right by Your Side was less weird and had a little Caribbean influence. As a general rule, I’d prefer to replace synths with the instruments they’re pretending to be. I’d really like to hear someone cover this. The First Cut was super dated, but the synths really worked in that song. I can’t imagine it sounding any other way. I wouldn’t change a thing. Honestly, I was surprised it wasn’t a cover of Cat Stevens’/P.P. Arnold’s/Rod Stewart’s/Sheryl Crow’s The First Cut is the Deepest. But instead of a ’80s version of that song, I think I’m happier with what I got.
I was pleasantly surprised by this album. Maybe ’80s music is growing on me. There were still some bum tracks, but there are some real winners on this, too. 3/5
Back to the Future soundtrack (1985)
Scott shared this because Marty McFly should have shown up on Wednesday. Did anybody see him? Also, Back to the Future 2 has the Cubs winning the world series this year – and they’re still in the playoffs.
Even though Scott shared this on Monday, I waited until Wednesday to listen to it. I didn’t watch any of the movies. I don’t have the time. I guess that could have been a pun, I didn’t mean it to be.
The Power of Love is a good song, but I was kind of underwhelmed. I guess it’s been a while since I heard the original, because I found I prefer the I Fight Dragons cover. It’s just got more energy. And the guitar solo is way better. Way face meltier. And they open with the Back to the Future theme, which is sweet. I don’t feel like the Huey Lewis felt dated or anything, but by their nature IFD take you back to the ’80s with their sound. Even though the movie isn’t about video games, the extra stuff IFD adds in (I think) are an improvement. Back in Time, while not as well-loved (probably because the chorus isn’t quite as catchy as The Power of Love‘s), is a better song in my opinion. I didn’t love some of the horn hits in the background, but the guitar and sax solos were sweet. It was a pleasant surprise.
Speaking of, I was surprised by Time Bomb Town. There were some weird synths doing a call and answer with the vocals, and I didn’t really like them. Or Lindsey Buckingham (of Fleetwood Mac fame, if you didn’t know)’s vocals. They weren’t terrible, but they weren’t anything special either. And I have no idea what he was singing about. But the rest of the song had an almost Latin vibe to it, and I thought that was kind of cool. I was also surprised by Eric Clapton’s Heaven is One Step Away. I mean, I had heard his cover of I Shot the Sheriff, but I don’t really think of him as playing reggae. I’d actually call this two-tone ska, but that’s a nuance. I actually didn’t mind the synth horns, although the sax solo wasn’t great. However the synth steel drums were terrible. I know it was 30 years ago, but I’m pretty sure my $20 Casio has a better steel drum sound. It was ok, I guess, but I’d like to hear it with real instruments instead of synths. The Eurythmics had better still-obviously-synth-steel-drums two years earlier.
The two big highlights of the album were the Back to the Future theme and Johnny B. Goode. After the former’s intro fanfare, I really think it sounds like a Star Trek composition, which is a good thing. You could swap out footage, and it would fit. I’m sure there’s a Back to the Future/Star Trek one out there.
And how can you not love some blues rock? I am sure they exist, but I haven’t yet heard a bad version of Johnny B. Goode. I like some of the surf things that were thrown into this version, as well as some of the piano noodling. I mean Night Train is a jazz standard for a reason, and Earth Angel is pretty good too, but Johnny B. Goode really is just an inherently great tune.
I think this album deserves a 4/5 – and I feel confident there is no nostalgia padding involved. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing.
As a side note, Spencer listened to the 2-CD, released-in-1999 score version of the soundtrack. Since nobody else shared anything, and Spencer and I found drastically different versions of this suggestion to listen to, this week of listening was very different for Spencer and I.
Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman (1988)
I know this is not exactly what Spencer was going for when he said “some ’80s music.” This is folk rock rather than ’80s pop or glam metal or punk. But I was looking for an album I would share anyway by an artist we haven’t heard from yet.
I discovered Tracy Chapman when one of her albums came out about 10 years ago. That same year Reel Big Fish covered a song off this album, so I started checking out her back catalog.
I usually don’t care for political commentary in my music, but I like this. The music mostly feels like simple, anti-Vietnam War stuff from the ’70s, but the lyrics are almost ’80s punk. And her voice is great.
The lead single off this album, Fast Car, isn’t really my favorite. It’s okay. But I like Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution and She’s Got Her Ticket more.
Here’s what my friends thought:
“This album has aged well enough that I didn’t think it was a fair share for round 80. But technically it is a classic 80s album. I like fast car, illustrating the vicious cycle of poverty (its also a fun one to learn on guitar). Talking about a Revolution is a great one. Possibly my favorite on the album, though I like RBF’s cover better. The exposed sound and jarring message of Behind the Wall is always memorable. I like her tracks with band-backing best. Its a nice listen until you listen to the lyrics. Then its sobering. But not in a bad way. This is a very well done album.” 4/5 – Spencer
“This was a fantastic album. I’ve never listened to a whole Tracy Chapman album before, and honestly now feel sheepish. The music is so soulful, and his voice just harmonizes so well with the instruments and words. I actually listened to this one twice that week, and although not every song is perfect, the album as a whole just works.” 5/5 – Tim
Please leave your thoughts on any of these or your own favorite ’80s album/soundtrack in the comments below.