Hello and welcome to the finale of our Risky Business recap. This has nothing to do with the awesome Tom Cruise movie but you would have known that if you had read the first two installments: First Wave and Second Wave. After promising 40 titles a year at launch, Risky Business released ten titles in 1993 followed by 18 additional titles in 1994. How many albums did they release in 1995?
Risky Business wasted no time in releasing their first titles for 1995, putting out four titles on January 17th 1995, led by Jail House Rock (Hits From The Big House), a collection of prison inspired tunes. The album kicks off with the immortal rebellion of "I Fought The Law" and later sees classic prison tales from Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard as well as Thin Lizzy's "Breakout", a classic rock ode to escape. An unrecognizable REO Speedwagon offers the cautionary tale "Prison Women", a Gary Richrath penned tune from the band's 1971 eponymous debut album. Overall, this not a bad collection of songs that sticks to the theme. It would be interesting to see what a modern day post "F*** The Police" and "Cop Killer" comp along the same lines would be like.
This one is all too obvious but its an all R&B tribute to coitus featuring "You Sexy Thing", "Pillow Talk" and "Lady Marmalade". A solid collection of both hot (James Brown brings his "Sex Machine") and cool ("Between The Sheets" with the Isley Brothers) songs about getting it on that some might mistake for soundtrack for a night of nookie, this one might be better off staying on the shelf. Its not that its bad cause it really isn't, its just that there is no nuance, no romance. Know what I mean?
Closing out the first wave of 1995 are two more Seventies collections, both of which are subtitled Greatest Hits of the 70's. Swingin' Singles blasts off with Boston's inspirational and nostalgic guitar orgy "More Than A Feeling" before marching through a usual suspects offering of other Seventies songs from the CBS vaults. Meat Loaf? Check. Electric Light Orchestra? Check. Edgar Winter Group? Check. And then there are three curiosities in a row:
- "Sandy (4th July, Asbury Park)" by The Hollies lest you think Manfred Mann's Earth Band had a lock on covering Bruce Springsteen;
- "Keep On Dancin' " by Gary's Gang as the soul disco representative on the album in it's full length disco mix no less;
- "Gonna Fly Now" by Maynard Ferguson brings the disco beat to this well-known song of motivation and ultimate triumph which some say is better than the original Number One hit version
Polyester Dreams is nearly a carbon copy of the previous disc in that it kicks off with a classic rock staple ("(Don't Fear) The Reaper") and then softer Seventies artists come through (Johnny Nash, Michael Martin Murphey and Dave Loggins) and there are even three curiosities though they are not all sequenced together this time around:
- "Baby Boy" by Mary Kay Place, a song I don't recall ever hearing before though I know who Mary Kay is and she is not the pink Cadillac saleswomen;
- "Instant Replay" by Dan Hartman is hyper kinetic disco at its finest but joltingly out of place among all the other tunes;
- "Where Do I Begin (Love Theme from Love Story)" by Andy Williams closes out the disc with the haunting melody which was set to a disco beat later on in the decade and featured on the compilation Mondo Disco
The second wave of 1995 dropped on March 7th as the label jumped from the Seventies back to Eighties with Hazy Shade Of 80's. The album gets off on the right track with the Breakfast Club and their catchy tune "Right On Track" which is the sole reason a few of my friends bought this CD. The rest of the disc features songs that usually don't show up on Eighties compilations which makes it a worthy purchase if you enjoy said songs. For me, it was six of one and a half dozen of the other. Does anyone really like King?
The Eighties kept coming with the next disc which contained still more Greatest Hits of the 80's. Get Into The Greed begins with the wonderfully upbeat "Love Plus One" and continues with the underplayed hit "Heaven (Must Be There)" by Eurogliders. Nik Kershaw completes the opening triplet with "Wouldn't It Be Good" at which point, they could have turned off the lights and closed up the disc knowing they were batting 1.000 or whatever the equivalent would be in cricket. But nope they decided to lop on a Kool & the Gang track, a good track but it just doesn't fit the groove, the vibe that had been established by the album's opening trio of songs. This is all too evident when the groove returns with the very next song and the song after that. This album is inconsistent but its a fine inconsistency with three more songs joining Kool & the Gang as flies in this really good bowl of soup:
- "Hearts On Fire" by Randy Meisner would have been an outstanding track on 1993's Blood, Sweat & Beers comp and has been a favorite of mine since this happened on February 27, 1981 but its just out of place here;
- "Cry Just A Little Bit" by Shakin' Stevens is a fine example of a man duetting with a drum machine but it just sounds disappointing amongst the other songs;
- "Fantasy" by Aldo Nova is a great song, an all-time favorite of mine coming in at #13 on my Top 100 of 1982, but it rocks a little too hard for this bunch don't you think?
With the third album of the wave, it seems we have been downgraded from the Greatest Hits of the 80's to merely Best of the 80's with Oldies But 80's. The album starts off on a high point with ABC's "Poison Arrow" and continues a level of quality and listenability for four more tracks before Karla DeVito sings a Jim Steinman song and the Hooters call us all zombies. The eighth track gets things back on track again as Nick, Dave, Billy and Terry - Rockpile - give us "Teacher Teacher", a nearly flawless song. The not so heavy metal of Orion The Hunter, an offshoot of the long dormant band Boston shows up with throat shredding high-notes aplenty and a little later Martha and Izora - The Weather Girls - give us a disco weather report like no other. That makes three Eighties albums in a row - dare we hope for a hat-trick plus one?
My first guess would have been another Eighties album based on the title and artwork of Party On... but the artist list on the front cover gives it away as a kind of Sixties, Toga Rock style disc featuring a solid track list - with the exception of Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music". Here's a test for song appropriateness for discs like this: close your eyes, now imagine watching the movie Animal House then imagine hearing a particular song in Animal House. Try imagining "Play That Funky Music" playing anywhere in Animal House - as background music, on the radio, being performed on stage by Otis Day & the Knights - it just doesn't work. Case closed, the Prosecution rests your Honor.
The Eighties were back for the third wave of Risky Business releases on August 29th. For those of you playing along at home, Into The Anxious 80's is the 37th disc in the Risky Business discography and the first to proudly proclaim it contains New Wave Hits of the 70's & 80's. I sincerely doubt these were hits of any sort for many of the bands listed and I know at least six of the acts had bigger hits. The two songs I like more than all of the others are Translator's "Everywhere That I'm Not" ("That's impossible/That's im") and Red Rockers new wavy take on "Eve Of Destruction" though I still prefer the doom and gloom of the croaky-voiced Barry McGuire original, which appeared back on the Risky Business album Songs Of Peacemakers, Protesters and Potheads.
Wave Goodbye To The 80's begins with a song I regularly featured at the end of mixtapes in the late Eighties and early Nineties. "Under The Milky Way" always felt more like an ending song rather than a song about beginnings. (INXS's "Don't Change" was another tape closer for me.) As more than a couple of reviewers note, Wave Goodbye To The 80's is filled with less popular, more underground artists and songs, aside from Thompson Twins and Men At Work. Other than The Church, Freur gets a lot of play with their cute "Doot Doot". Several of these artists and songs also appear on Richard Blade's Flashback Favorites series.
Another straight-themed compilation that although amazingly diverse (has more soul and R&B songs than you would imagine) plays well from start to finish. I would have preferred Arlo Guthrie's version of "City Of New Orleans", one of my personal calming and relaxing songs instead of Willie's honking-harp update. (For the record, The City Of New Orleans train still runs regularly between Chicago and New Orleans.) First three songs that came to mind after listening to this album were Ozzy's "Crazy Train", Blackfoot's "Train Train" and "The Silverton" by C.W. McCall. Sure a few more songs will come to me in the future.
For the fourth and final disc of the third wave of 1995, Risky Business attempts to do for country what they did for R&B on Sex In The 70's and fail miserably. Very surprised Jimmy Buffett's "Why Don't We Get Drunk" didn't make the tracklist - must have been a licensing issue. Having said that, these three songs from Sexy Country kinda sorta live up to the album's title:
- Charlie Rich's "Behind Closed Doors" is pretty and tasteful and respectful and says it all without actually saying it all, ya know
- Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through The Night" is better when sung by a female - give me Olivia Newton-John, Anne Murray, Tammy Wynette, Deana Carter, Gladys Knight, Jeannie C. Riley, Martina McBride or Sammi Smith;
- Exile's "Kiss You All Over" is very disco for a supposed country song and those are two genres that just don't mix. The boys had a pretty good sound going in 1978-1979 - their albums Mixed Emotions and All There Is are above average pop and worth a listen if you get the chance
What would turn out to be the final four releases on the Risky Business label hit stores on November 14, 1995. We Came To Play - The Best of Arena Rock is an early Jock Jams style comp featuring songs played at sporting events. I've attended sporting events from the pewee to the professional level and have heard all of these songs. Maynard Ferguson's disco Rocky theme shows up for the second time on a 1995 Risky Business album. Nothing new here. Easterhouse's "Come Out Fighting" is on We Came To Play and also featured on Hazy Shade Of 80's.
The Ultimate Party Survival Kit disc was a lot like a CD some of my DJ friends had back in the day, collecting those songs that were somewhat essential to a gig, any gig. Songs like "The Bunny Hop", "The Hokey Pokey" and "The Chicken Dance" are on this disc which also contains a trio of ethnically diverse songs by King Of the Polka, Frankie Yankovic. If updated there would probably be a few country line dance tunes and The Macarena on there. But Ultimate? Hardly.
Here's a great idea - round up some of the many great Beach Boys covers out there and put them on a disc. Turns out there are not that many really great Beach Boys covers beyond maybe "God Only Knows" so Got You Covered! Songs Of The Beach Boys falls flat. Probably worst album in the whole discography.
Which brings us to the very last disc issued on the Risky Business label. It's another tribute, gathering songs that paid tribute to artists who have passed, from Buddy Holly up through Marvin Gaye, with many stops in between. Depending on your pop sensibilities, this is either an admirable idea or kind of ghoulish. While I genuinely enjoy a couple of these songs, grouping them all together and listening to them in one setting feels a little on the ghoulish side. The album's title - Gone But Not Forgotten - serves as Risky Business's own epitaph. After forty-four releases and more than 500 songs, they rode off into the pink sunset on their CD-wheeled bicycle.