Lost 80's

The 'Lost Eighties' page is all about albums that, as they say, seem to have fallen off the critical radar. In this case they're albums from the 80's that seem to have been forgotten apart from the likes of a few old gits like me. Unfortunately for everyone else us old gits now have the internet where we can express our opinions ...

In some cases I had the original cassettes, then 'upgraded' to CD, and am now seeking out the original vinyl LP's. For the others I bought the original LP's when they came out, avoiding the whole tortuous process. If I knew then what I know now.

A few off these albums were influences on the whole alt.country / Americana music scene (didn't it used to be just 'Country Rock'?) and many are almost unavailable on CD - unless you've got very deep pockets. Do yourself a favour and buy a decent turntable, then go hunting on musicstack.com or netsoundsmusic.com and enjoy them as they were meant to be enjoyed.

When choosing sample lyrics I always seem to go for the darkest ones, usually about failed relationships. That's just me. If you think the whole LP is like that then you might be in for a pleasant surprise.

Green on Red - No Free Lunch

Jason & the Scorchers - Fervor / Lost & Found

Del Fuegos - Boston, Mass

Cult - Electric

Rainmakers - Rainmakers

Randy Travis - Storms of Life

The Judds - Why Not Me?

John Cougar Mellencamp - Uh-Huh

Lyle Lovett - Lyle Lovett

Dogs d'Amour - Errol Flynn

Woodentops - Giant



Green on Red - No Free Lunch

No Free Lunch

It's always difficult to ignore an album that sounds like it was fun recording it. This one is no exception. Since then Dan Stuart (singer) has disappeared but Chuck Prophet (guitar, now singer as well) has carved out a solo career with some great CD's and a dedicated set of supporters when he tours around Europe. He's well worth seeing live if you get the chance.

Sample lyric:
Maybe get a house someday
Find a wife raise a family
That don't mean you have to die

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Jason & the Scorchers - Fervor / Lost & Found

Both Sides of the Line

No apologies for including an EP and an LP under one heading - the CD's 'Essential' and 'Both Sides of the Line' couple the two together, if you don't want to go hunting for the original LP's.

Country-Punk is how they were described at the time. A category which only ever had one band on its list: Jason and the Scorchers. One of the most incendiary live bands I've ever seen, capable of performing the slowest of slow old country ballad that would suddenly explode into a snarling rock song. Then they'd slow it down again, but by now you knew it was going to another place at some point and the anticipation was part of the fun. Fantastic, and not to be missed. I think they've reformed and are touring again. See them if you can. I know I will.

The EP has the great demolition and reconstruction of Dylan's 'Absolutely Sweet Marie'. It's hard to explain just what an impact this had when it first came blasting out of the speakers. Like someone had taken your favourite bits of different musical styles and combined them into something new, and much more than just a sum of its parts. The LP 'Lost & Found' just doesn't let up, and there aren't many albums that manage to maintain their intensity all the way through. One day the universities will be doing courses charting the course of modern Country music, with Jason & the Scorchers top of the syllabus. Think I'm joking? Care to bet on it?

Sample lyric:
You're going out for the evening, going out with a friend
Do you really want me to believe that again?

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Del Fuegos - Boston, Mass

Boston, Mass

I'm a great fan of Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen but this album has a swagger about it that, at times, kind of make them seem like old men. Closer to the snarl and bite of Tom Petty, but with an affection for its subject that Mr Petty never managed. These are tales of small-town America, and the people who inhabit it, told by a band who knew exactly what they were doing. It's quite ferocious in parts, and the bass runs have enough substance to support a small dwelling. I have no idea who they were then or what they're doing now. Thanks for this LP, though.

Sample lyric:
The car we bought together just started to rust
The world we made came between the two of us

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Cult - Electric

Electric

Scores low in any 'big and clever' contest. Clear winner in a 'relentless rock that just obliterates anything else' contest.

This is music to drive to. Lose your licence with a smile on your face.

Sample lyric:
Livin' in a shack in a one-horse town
Trying to get to heaven 'fore the sun goes down

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Rainmakers - Rainmakers

Rainmakers

Why did so many great American bands of the 80's do better in the UK than back home? Many even recorded or relocated here (Green on Red and the Long Ryders, for example) and toured here and on the European mainland more than in the US. Mind you, the Eagles first album was recorded in the UK so maybe that set the precedent - 'Take It Easy' and 'Train Leaves Here This Morning' were recorded in SW London. Work that one out.

Anyway, many in UK will recognise 'Let My People Go-Go' before their American peers. And that song is just one of many on the LP combining great music with incisive, sometimes laugh-out-loud, lyrics.

Sample lyric:
The generation that would change the world
Is still looking for its car keys

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Randy Travis - Storms of Life

Storms of Life

It's pretty much straight country music from the lantern-jawed Mr Travis. The lyrics, however, move his music into a different sphere. In the great tradition of 'old' country - and, incidentally, most blues music - these are great songs about love, cheatin' hearts, traveling and the lure of the whisky (or, I suppose, whiskey) bottle. I try to kid myself that I'm equally influenced by either good music or good lyrics but I think when it comes down to it, it's probably the latter that wins the day.

A touch of humour helps as well, and Mr Travis - no, I won't call him 'Randy', ever, even if by chance I meet him - has enough of that to stop it getting too heavy. Most of these aren't his own songs, but he sings it like he means it which is all that really matters.

People seem to fall into two distinct categories when it comes to 'music I listen to when I'm feeling low'. Personally, the upbeat stuff just makes things worse. A listen to 'Storms of Life', however, is just the tonic.

Sample lyric:
They say hindsight's 20-20 but I'm nearly goin' blind
From starin' at her photograph and wishing she was mine

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The Judds - Why Not Me?

Why Not Me?

Beautiful harmonies, and a set of very strong songs, from Mum Naomi and daughter Wynonna. This is country music with class, the same kind on class that Dolly Parton possesses - proud, independent, fun-loving women with super-size doses of sex-appeal. Shame there's not more like them around these days.

Like the music of the great Charlie Rich it seems a shame to just lump this music in the 'country' category when some songs could just as easily be called 'pop' or 'rock 'n roll' or any other category you care to mention. Heartfelt, but without any schmaltz, I defy anyone not to fall in love with this album. It's irresistible.

Sample lyric:
You've been lookin' for love all around the world
Baby, don't you know this country girl's still free?

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John Cougar Mellencamp - Uh-Huh

Uh-Huh

The current CD cover is, possibly, the most crap CD cover in the world ever. My old cassette has a slouching, denim-clad Mr Mellancamp with a cigarette on the go. The new (US?) one makes him look like a rent boy. Try to ignore that and listen to the music.

Rock. From the middle of America, with no excuses or pretences to be anything else. Attitude, as well. And he could write songs. According to the sleeve notes it was recorded in just 16 days, and it sounds like it - a young band on the top of their game and unafraid to just go for it whenever they had the chance. That would explain 'Jackie O', with its cha-cha beat and xylophone solo then. Followed by 'Play Guitar', which is all about, er, how great it is to play guitar. You just know they had fun recording it.

Sample lyric:
I said: growing up leads to growing old and then to dying
And dying to me don't sound like all that much fun

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Lyle Lovett - Lyle Lovett

Lyle Lovett

First things first. Mr Lovett once married Julia Roberts. For that fact I will always hate him.

This album is pretty much straight country, with a great sound and some cracking lyrics (written by Mr Lovett). These songs do go off in odd directions sometimes - when you listen to the LP for the first time you may not really realise how many other genres he ropes in. Which, of course, is why it's so good. Damn, he's clever.

A lovely, understated, LP. Sometimes less really is more. After this one he went off and lots of albums that, whilst they may be yet even more clever and feature large bands and jazz music, aren't as good. I still hope he'll come back to country music because I think he makes better music when he doesn't try so hard.

Sample lyric:
And if I were the man she wanted
I would not be the man that I am

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Dogs d'Amour - Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn

Of all the most underrated attributes in a rock band, a sense of humour has to be top of the list. AC/DC have survived better than their peers because of it, and the Dogs' output - erratic though it was - served it up in spades. All they ever wanted, it seems, was to take the piss and have as much fun as the Faces. An admirable quest. Of course, when a band is as obvious as that it's also easy to overlook the fact that they may have more to offer.

In the Dogs' case they wore their hearts on their sleeves. Bless 'em. On this album it's obvious that, once the money started coming-in, all was not well in paradise. There may be a downside to having access to as many drinks / drugs / groupies as you want. Discuss. See also Guns 'n Roses, Motley Crue etc.

The Dogs d'Amour were better than the bands mentioned above because they could actually write songs. This is an LP of great songs, taking you back and forth from ballads to rockers much as an early Rod Stewart LP did. And in my books that's high praise indeed.

Sample lyric:
He was a drunk but always happy
This was a girl he might marry

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Woodentops - Giant

Giant

Sometimes great albums arrive from the middle of nowhere, along with the bands who make them, and then disappear the same way. I know nothing about the Woodentops apart from the fact that they made this great album before disappearing back from where they came. Perfect. If only more bands had the same class. Say your piece then stop and go away, never to reform.

Lovely 80's jingle-jangle pop music. Much better than many of their, now more famous, contemporaries. And one of those albums you can play to just about anyone and they'll like it. My original (cassette) copy of this album was swiped by my Dad - he said, quite rightly, that it was great driving music - and it's only recently I've replaced that knackered cassette with a vinyl copy. It's great to hear it again, this time without the tape hiss.

Sample lyric:
Sometimes you try harder for me
Than I try for myself

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