8/18/16

My 100 Favorite Albums from 1984: 20-11

Hello and welcome back to Day 9 of My Favorite Albums from 1984. Today, we breach the Top 20 but stop short of the Top 10, which closes out our countdown tomorrow. Eighty albums have been counted down, everything from hip-hop to hard rock but no country. I was and am a country music fan but it was slim pickings in 1984. How slim? There was a grand total of just two country LPs on my initial list of 1984 albums: Hank Williams Jr.'s Major Moves and George Strait's Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind? Sadly, my budding taste in contemporary jazz was a no-show in 1984. If you want diversity, check out the ten albums featured below.
David Coverdale was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2016 as a member of Deep Purple. Coverdale had only been a member from 1973-1976 when they broke up and he then briefly pursued a solo career, titling the first of his two solo albums White Snake. By 1978, Coverdale had formed a band and christened it Whitesnake. Their sixth album Slide It In was released in 1984 and is rife with the single entendres that dominate blues-based British hard rock - heck, even the group's name, as well as the title of the album, are dead giveaways to the unsophisticated schoolyard wit that lies within the lyrics. The next two albums are essentially rewrites of Slide It In though their biggest song is a re-recorded version of "Here I Go Again" from their 1982 album Saints & Sinners. I'm a fool for the three songs that open Slide It In: the title track, "Slow An' Easy", and "Love Ain't No Stranger".
With every over-produced rap or hip-hop joint I hear these days, I can't help but marvel at the stark simplicity of Run-D.M.C.'s debut album. The chemistry between the two rappers, the precise tag-team flow of their rhymes, cannot be overlooked either. But given the benefit of four decades worth of hindsight amid the continued evolution of hip-hop, it's the minimalist music and the production that stand out in my mind. Knowing that both this album and Whodini's Escape were produced by the same guy (Larry Smith) is a testament to his ability as a producer to bring out the strengths of each act and give them unique identities. As far as the individual tracks go, "Rock Box" is one of my most favorite songs of all-time but there are not any cuts on the album that I skip and that's something I cannot say about any other album of theirs. Like David Coverdale, Run-D.M.C. - along with Jam Master Jay - are also considered unlikely members of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. These next two albums are also by Hall Of Fame inductees.  
How cool it would be to say I was an early fan of reggae music, to say I had the instinct, the wisdom and the courage to be a fan. But I was late to the game, all my friends had rushed in and I was reluctant to be a "follower." My first roommate Doug had eclectic, trendy tastes but he was always at the front of the wave of popularity and one day he brought this album home and I swear he listened to it for a week straight - every time he was home, he was playing Legend and by that miracle of repeated exposure, soon I was a fan as well. I dubbed the album to tape and it became my all-important after work relaxation tape; Marley and me cruising in the Bug. There's a reason this album still sells a quarter million copies annually here in the States and I like to think it's the music and lyrics of universal love and peace. Legend is one of the greatest "greatest hits" albums ever.
Another one of the greatest "greatest hits" albums ever is 1984's Parliament's Greatest Hits - Uncut Funk...The Bomb, the third Parliament album I bought after picking up both Mothership Connection and Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome. The vinyl album was a useful tool for mixtapers like myself because it features the single edits of lengthy album jams and I tended to adhere to the K-Tel Method of making tapes, trying to fit as many songs as possible on each one. I picked up the CD version of The Bomb in 1987 and though full-length tracks had replaced a few of those cherished single edits, the disc quickly became one of my most regularly played discs, a title it retains to this day. Other, more extensive and comprehensive compilations have been released and duly acquired but none of them matches the ten tracks on this one.
If this countdown was based solely on the number of times I heard an album in 1984, Reckless would be up there in the Top 5 without a doubt. It was one of the most ubiquitous albums of the year despite coming out in November and it absolutely dominated 1985, spinning off an incredible six Top 15 singles on the Pop chart and an amazing seven singles over on the Rock chart. Since 1981's great single "Lonely Nights", Adams and his songwriting partner Jim Vallance had been continually improving their craft, mastering the all-important ballad and sing-along rock song formula and it paid off handsomely on Reckless, probably the one album that every single one of my friends and I had in common in our respective collections at the time. I love the tracks "Run To You", "It's Only Love", and "Summer Of '69" but listening to the whole album is like putting on that shirt that still fits after all those years - it's just comfy. And maybe a little embarrassing.

click on album title to listen
Billboard Peak
Billboard Year EndRolling Stone Year End
#album titleartist1984198519841985
20Slide It InWhitesnake40
19Run-D.M.C.Run-D.M.C.5389
18LegendBob Marley & The Wailers5499
17Uncut Funk...The Bomb!Parliament
16RecklessBryan Adams1216

When I first heard the lyrics of "The Boys Of Summer", I formed a deep connection with the song. The chorus stands out in my head, forever reminding me of my one true love, the mother of our three children, my partner in crime and the times we have had. Like the album above, Building The Perfect Beast was very popular amongst my friends; someone almost always had the cassette playing in their car. I can listen to these three songs and be done with it: "The Boys Of Summer" (which weirdly reminds me of Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield" sometimes), the Billy Joel-like "Sunset Grill", and the highly danceable "All She Wants To Do Is Dance" though if I have the choice, I prefer the Extended Dance Remix.
Another "love at first listen" album, How Will The Wolf Survive? has been a never ending source of enjoyment. Los Lobos has put out other really good albums since 1984 but none of them come close to the near-perfect storm of musicianship and songcraft that infuses this album's eleven tracks. From the album-opening blues-stomper "Don't Worry Baby" through the tender "A Matter Of Time", the groovin' "I Got Loaded" through the rock-a-billy boogie of "Evangeline" and "I Got To Let You Know" to the album-closing title track - and all the wonderful East L.A. barrio-infused songs in between, How Will The Wolf Survive? is that rarest of breeds, a universally critically acclaimed album that's ridiculously good looking actually fun to listen to. It's also barely half an hour long, too, so do what I did and add the ...And A Time To Dance EP from 1983 to the playlist for dang near an hour of great music. Heck, make it an even hour by throwing on "Set Me Free (Rosa Lee)" and "Shakin' Shakin' Shakes" from 1987's By The Light Of The Moon.
The Go-Go's struck gold and multi-platinum right out of the gate with 1982's Beauty and the Beat, an album that still ranks as one of the best debut albums ever released. Self-doubting the veracity of that last statement, I just checked and according to those music list-making machines at Rolling Stone, Beauty and the Beat is the 75th Best Debut Album of All Time, just ahead of Devo, Drake, and some yahoo named Elvis Presley. To follow up that magnificent album, the girls rushed back into the studio and put out Vacation, which has some good songs but comes nowhere near the consistent quality. (I direct your attention to their Behind The Music episode for reasons, excuses, and rationalizations.) Then along came Talk Show in 1984 with its all-out pop-assault vehicle "Head Over Heels". So yeah, I listened to Talk Show more than Vacation but if you tripled my listens to both albums, then added them together and doubled them again, they'd still come up as but a fraction of the number of times I've heard Beauty and the Beat. I do like like "Turn To You", "You Thought" and "Yes Or No" on Talk Show as well.
If I had made this list before April 21st, 2016, Sheila E.'s The Glamorous Life would surely have been in the Top 10 but due to some strong emotions and attached tender memories, it tumbled all the way down here to number 12. Oh, the humanity. The ugly truth is I like all six cuts on this album, but especially the title track, "Oliver's House" and "The Belle Of St. Mark". Ideally, those in charge of such things will issue a Super De Duper Deluxe Edition of The Glamorous Life album with the Club Edit of "The Glamorous Life" and the Dance Remix of "The Belle Of St. Mark" as well as the non-album b-side "Too Sexy" and the single edits for the title track, "The Belle Of St. Mark", "Noon Rendevous" and "Oliver's House". And let's not forget her dynamic duet with Prince that year "A Love Bizarre" "Erotic City".
Though the tour behind the album was a fiasco of the first order on many levels, the Victory album by the full-strength Brothers Jackson is one of my very favorite albums. Essentially, this is their White Album in that each brother except Jermaine, who joined the project late in the game for the cash-in tour after recording and releasing his own self-titled solo album a few months earlier in 1984, recorded a song (or two) with a band of studio all-stars across eleven different studios rather than as a cohesive unit. Surprises include songs by Randy ("One More Chance" and "The Hurt") and Jackie (album openers "Torture" and "Wait") as well as Tito's Earth, Wind & Fire tribute "We Can Change The World". Brother Marlon offers up the album's last track, the bubbly "Body". I'd buy an Expanded Edition of the album with remixes, single edits and the three songs Michael had recorded with his good friend Freddie Mercury in 1983: "There Must Be More to Life Than This", "State of Shock", and "Victory".
click on album title to listen
Billboard Peak
Billboard Year EndRolling Stone Year End
#album titleartist1984198519841985
15Building the Perfect BeastDon Henley131317
14How Will the Wolf Survive?Los Lobos479447
13Talk ShowThe Go-Go's185047
12The Glamorous LifeSheila E.28
11VictoryThe Jacksons47434

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