01 September 2020

1980 – Retrospective album review – September

MMH Radio are looking at the album releases of 1980 that rocked our world on a retrospective month by month basis which include contributions from our team members . This month we look at  SEPTEMBER 1980.

***

Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Oz

After Black Sabbath sacked him, Ozzy Osbourne was nowhere. He booked himself into a hotel room and proceeded to spend more than three months behind closed curtains, just smoking, eating and drinking. He admits he was suicidal, not seeing anything in front of him music wise. Then Sharon Arden appeared, to inform Ozzy that her dad Don Arden was now in charge of his musical affairs, having apparently dropped Sabbath. Originally Ozzy was going to call his new band ‘Son Of Sabbath’ but ultimately, with the addition of bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake, together with Randy Rhoads (ex-Quiet Riot) guitarist extraordinaire, the band became Blizzard Of Ozz. They trooped off to a studio in South Wales and recorded an all-time classic debut.’I Don’t Know’ opened the album, closely followed by ‘Crazy Train’ with its “All Aboard!” chant from Ozzy, a track that has started many a rock show. The melodic ‘Goodbye To Romance’ gave way to a 49 second classical guitar instrumental from Rhoads called ‘Dee’, created for his mother. ‘Suicide Solution’ led to a court case in America after a teenager killed himself while listening to the track, but thankfully it was dismissed. ‘Mr Crowley’ arrives on the back of Don Airey’s keyboards, a tribute in some respects to the magician Aleister Crowley, before ‘No Bone Movies’ educates us about a porn fan. ‘Revelation (Mother Earth) was allegedly inspired by John Lennon’s ‘Mother’ and rounding it all off is the heavy rocker ‘Steal Away (The Night) with some superb guitar from Randy Rhoads.

 

Reviewed by Tony Heare

***

Molly Hatchet – ‘Beatin’ The Odds’     

Molly Hatchet were formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1971 by guitarist Dave Hlubek and they didn’t release their debut album until 1978. Two years of hard slog saw singer Danny Joe Brown leave the band due to his diabetes and other internal band issues. Danny Joe formed his own band whilst Molly Hatchet continued with singer Jimmy Farrar – a burly, gruff voiced bruiser from LaGrange, Georgia.

The band continued their work with top producer Tom Werman who had working relationships with Cheap Trick and Ted Nugent – although in recent posts on social media Nugent is currently questioning Werman’s credentials as a producer.

Werman was steering the band in a more rock direction but there’s still plenty of that southern stuff here with title track opener which has become a firm live favourite, the rousing ‘Double Talker’, ‘Penthouse Pauper’ and ‘Poison Pen’. All three guitarists – Hlubek, Duane Roland and Steve Holland, get to shine and the rhythm section of Banner Thomas and Bruce Crump just lock in and hold it all down. Werman’s production was crystal clear but still retained the rough edges to make the sounds accessible to the blue collar fanbase.

Farrar would only sing on one further Molly Hatchet album, the next years ‘Take No Prisoners’, as the band invited Danny Joe Brown back. Molly Hatchet then became a huge concern for their label Epic, but it didn’t stop this release from going platinum having achieved over a million sales.

Let’s not forget the continuing brilliant album artwork by Frank Frazetta and his recurring character -‘The Death Dealer’ – which is as much Molly Hatchet as the music.

Reviewed by Smudge

 

***

Kansas – Audio-Visions

I was incredibly disappointed when Kansas pulled out of Ramblin’ Man a few years back (only to be replaced by Devin Townsend) as I’ve never seen the band live in my 63 years on this planet !!

Mention Kansas to most people with a smattering of interest, they will probably know of “Dust In The Wind” and/or “Carry On My Wayward Son” – which have both had substantial airtime on FM and Rock stations. Normally bandied together with the likes of Styx, Boston, Foreigner, Journey etc etc, Kansas are probably one of the hardest working bands on the circuit with a significant number of live performances under their belt. Interesting that the band recently revisited their classic “Leftoverture” album with a major tour (and subsequent live album), which celebrated its 40 year anniversary – I seriously doubt this album will receive a similar accolade, being 40 years old too this month !!

Occasionally described as the “bastard son of Journey and Gentle Giant” (with very obvious links to the latter on the track “No One Together” which also happens to be the longest track on this album – and my fave track too, along with “Don’t Open Your Eyes” LOL) – Kansas walk the line between AOR and Prog and the majority of the tracks on “Audio-Visions” (the band’s 7th album) are less than 4 mins and very radio friendly with “Hold On” a very obvious and worthy single release and “scarf waver” (which seems to be the only track from this album featured on subsequent live albums throughout the band’s long career…)

I have to be honest, this album doesn’t “do it” for me. When I look back at earlier albums like the mighty “Leftoverture” and “Point Of Know Return” to name but two, I did start wondering if the band had decided to take a more radio-friendly approach to their music (like the aforementioned Gentle Giant, who bowed out with “Civilian” in the same year, which saw a rockier, more commercial aspect to the band as they struggled for acceptance).

I was recently asked what AOR meant and over the years, for me, it has had many connotations  – A_______ Oriented Rock (fill in the gap: American, Arena, Album, Adult) and for me, Kansas fulfil all four roles. On “Audio-Visions” the band stay “safe” – only really pushing the boundaries on the longest track – “No One Together” which is classic Kansas. Don’t get me wrong, the musicianship throughout is excellent as you’d expect and Steve Walsh’s voice is top notch, but overall a disappointing release, one for the purists !!

 

Reviewer – Steve Gould

*** 

Saxon -‘Strong Arm Of The Law’

Saxon hit the ground running in 1980 with 2 releases just four months apart both released on a French label predominantly known for disco. ‘Wheels Of Steel’ carried on the fine work from their debut released the year before then ‘Strong Arm Of The Law’ kept the momentum going along with their incessant touring with the likes of Motorhead. I wonder where they actually found the time to record new music.

Entering the UK album charts at a respectable #11 the album is littered with classics that the band still play live today like the awesome ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’, the title track itself – which is a true story about the band getting pulled over in Whitehall by the Prime Ministers security detail, without doubt the first ‘thrash’ metal song or at least the one that influenced all of them over there – ’20,000 Feet’ and the absolutely epic ‘Dallas 1PM’ which is about the assassination of President Kennedy – the band put in three shots to satisfy the conspiracy theorists.

Recorded at the Who’s studio , Ramport , which was located in one of the roughest estates in South London with Pete Hinton returning to produce, it still sounds fresh and vibrant today and it’s a monumental statement from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.

Reviewed by Smudge

*** 

Supertramp – Paris (live)

Recorded in the French capital during the Breakfast in America tour , this double live (4 sided) release is a monstrous piece of melodic rock opera recorded by a band who we were in full flow. If Supertramp were a heavy band this would be compared to the likes of Thin Lizzy’s Live and dangerous and UFO’s Strangers in the night. It is an essential listen and proves how good a band Supertramp were.

Reviewed by Skid

***

The Skids –  ‘Circus Games’

Formed in Dunfermline in 1977 at the height of Punk, The Skids much like The Ruts, were a bit more musical than the other punk bands out there and as a result heralded the New Wave movement which combined the energy of punk and melody of pop.

By 1979 they had bothered the charts with three singles – ‘Into The Valley’, ‘Masquerade’ and ‘Working For The Yankee Dollar’.

Line-up changes ensued before recording their third album – ‘Circus Games’ with Stuart Adamson returning after walking out during the recording of their second album. He stayed and added his talents to their most commercial release to date. Album opener ‘Circus Games’ is equal parts punk and pop with fourteen adult and child voices on the chorus all sung in a wonderful Scottish brogue. Adamson showed his chops and gave us an early insight into his Big Country sound. ‘Out Of Town’ is a shouty rocker made for the live environment with some Thin Lizzy like runs then ‘Goodbye Civilian’ brings some fledgling synths to the party. ‘A Woman In Winter’ has a real Celtic feel then we get some didgeridoo on the chunky ‘Hurry On Boys’ which builds nicely into the dramatic ‘Happy To Be With You’ and the equally dramatic ‘Devil’s Decade’. It’s back to the punky fun on ‘One Decree’ before we come down on the darker ‘Arena’.

Originally this came with a free second album entitled ‘Strength Through Joy’ which brought up allegations of Richard Jobson being a nazi sympathiser. The band lasted for another two years then split. As an epitaph this is quality, the songs are well crafted and it’s produced with a high shine and polish by Mick Glossop who would go on to work with both Gillan and UFO.

Reviewed by Smudge

***

White Spirit – White Spirit

NWoBHM has a lot to be accountable for, it was a time for bands to break out of the club circuit and evolve and the family tree of the movement has lots of cross pollination. White Spirit were formed from the NE of England. Their debut single “Back to the grind” got them noticed and they released their debut and only album on MCA moving from the now legendary Neat records. The album is a decent collection of tracks and is above average and should be in any die-hard collection. The band, however will be know more for the founder member guitarist Janick Gers who was poached to join Ian Gillan’s solo band and eventually becoming the 6th member of another NWoBHM band called Iron Maiden.

Reviewed by Skid

***

Dead Kennedy’s – Fresh fruit for rotting vegetables

There aren’t many albums of the punk genre that still scream decades later. There are those debut offerings of UK bands that were stylised and manufactured efforts (no names mentioned, Mr McClaren) and there are those that swim with unique raw vibes just echo profusely (Damned! Damned! Damned! and Buzzcocks’ Spiral Scratch EP anyone?) Then there was the US punk movement which elevated itself in various styles… One band the makes me sneer and shudder in the best possible way (at the same time) is Dead Kennedys. ‘Fresh Fruit’ is the giant puss filled pimple that stands on the face of US Punk and has yet to be popped – from the stomping intro of Kill The Poor which explodes as a solid opener. And let’s be honest and to the point here, if you haven’t twitched your ears or turned your head to the speakers by 33 seconds in on that track then you’re on dead ground for the remainder. Without divulging too much into the wealth of many short burst tracks – it’s nothing short of a masterpiece setting the groundwork for many bands that came after and a giant influence from the US West Coast to Walsall to Wurzburg. The era of DK between 1980-81 is indicative of what was to come and how the attitude and movement was to progress. Sure we had the Oi and hardcore side of Punk, we were passing the initial introduction of Punk and then New Wave (of what it was and then was to become), Fresh Fruit came at a the right place and the right time. The album has gone on to sell in excess of 300,000 copies in Europe alone in 40 years. It’s something to behold. Easily giving it 5 litres of gob out of 5. Standout tracks (that aren’t bloody obvious): Kill The Poor, Let’s Lynch The Landlord, Chemical Warfare, III in the Head, Viva Las Vegas (one of the best covers ever recorded and one of the best album closing tracks of all time).

 

Reviewed by Steve May

***

Simple Minds – Empires and dance

Empires and dance is the third studio album from the art rockers (that’s what they described themselves as at the time) Simple Minds. You could describe this as a bit of a marmite album as you’ll either like it or not. I found myself enjoying most of it. I Travel which is the opening track is a typically new wave track full of electronic sounds and actually really catchy and danceable. It failed to chart while celebrate the following single release was a fan favourite and was only released after the band had left the Arista label and as a result it also sold very poorly, it has a very soft cell sound about it and could easily be mixed with tainted love. This fear of gods is a nice little rock track which reminded me a lot of Blancmange’s Living on the ceiling not in the actual song but just the way that Jim Kerr’s voice was executed with the reverb. Today I Died Again a broody little number and a typical Simple Minds sound with their big bold anthemic sound. Capital City sorry Jimbo but I hated this track it’s a bit of a dirge but worry not because one of this albums later tracks made me reach for the off button. Constantinople Line reminded me of a Japan track with it’s eastern flavoured sound and I liked it. Twist-Run-Repulsion reminded me a lot of Visage’s fade to grey and tbh this is the worst track on the album, Just way too much going on or was that the point? Squeeky saxes do not make for an interesting listen. Thirty Frames A Second is an interesting number with its dark synth flavour and I could easily have seen it being used as an instrumental in a cyberpunk novel. Kant – Kino probably the shortest track on the album at 1.51 so more or less just an end piece to Thirty Frames A Second. And finally Room which has a distinctly western vibe to it and once again showing that Simple Minds are one of those artists that like exploring their musical backgrounds and not sticking to one format and to a certain extent it works. This album shows Simple Minds off and very well too. A shape of better things to come.

Reviewed by Mark Parker

***

David Bowie – Scary monsters

Bowie… The man… The Thin White Duke… The legend. And Scary Monsters was the first album to get me to recognize the man for his real abilities and prowess. A solid album after we left his Berlin trilogy into the the turn of the decade and the changing scene. Bowie’s ideals and sounds were never left behind and often aligned or ahead of their time. The Scary Monsters era sat side by side alongside it all. Not groundbreaking – but complimenting the movement from New Wave and progressively infused with the New Romantic movement and fluctuations of a former sound interwoven. An album more in tune to a contemporary sound. In an era where The Blitz Club and The Rum Runner were pivotal venues with accelerating movements of changing trends it rode the wave like a beast alongside Roxy Music, Japan and the alike. As with the former albums, Scary Monsters is solid for it’s tracks. It bounces, but the structure of the album is mismatched. This is not as a detraction of it’s content, but the flow jumps. But that is my view…. Hardcore fans may disagree. Whilst it sits on some solid tracks (Teenage Wildlife, Scream Like A Baby, Scary Monsters, Fashion), the only track that has always thrown me is It’s No Game (Pt.1). Alas, the album is great and whilst Bowie moved from the fan pleasing vibes and more into crowd pleasing era of the 80’s – his break into 1980 is one of greatness. But like anything else that came before or after – you can’t compare it to anything else that came from Mr Jones’ catalogue. Four out of Five.

Reviewed by Steve May

***

 

 

The rest are all reviewed by Skid

*** 

Peter Criss – Out of Control

Although technically still in Kiss, Peter Criss released his 2nd solo LP as his tenure as the bands drummer was being taken over by Eric Carr. His mothership band were on a run of bizarre and to be fair below par standard albums with Unmasked and The Elder , so any decent release by any of  the bands membership would have technically sold well. This was likewise poor overall and bombed. It was totally lost in history when Kiss released the magnificent Creatures of the Night 2 years later with Eric Carr concreted in as a great choice of a tub thumper replacement but also proved he was a much better drummer. If Criss is of interest to you, check out his 4th solo LP Cat #1, which is the high water mark of his solo career, otherwise stick with Kiss Alive!

*** 

John Cougar – Nothin’ matters and what if it did

The 4th studio LP sandwiched between John Cougar (1979) and American Fool (1982) had 2 top 30 US singles Aint even done with the night and This Time , but overall it was a very average release by the man who would end up adding his name Mellencamp and hitting the big time with the next long player release.

*** 

XTC – Black Sea

The bands fourth LP spawning 3 big singles with Generals and Majors, Towers of London and Sgt Rock (is going to help me)

*** 

The Doobie Brothers – One step closer

The last DB LP with Michael McDonald, the bands 9th album contained the hit single Real love and as a whole is a decent effort.

*** 

Utopia – Deface the music

Todd Rundgren and the band’s 5th release was meant to be a tip of the hat to The Beatles by using certain riffs and beats from the fab four songs as inspiration for the dozen or so songs on the album. A total fail for me.

*** 

Next Month – Gillan , Diamond Head , Killing Joke , Status Quo , The Damned and so much more.