Beginning with 1985's The Rock'n'Roll Era and ending with 1999's Modern Rock, there are now several hundred Time-Life albums from dozens of series and collections in The Hideaway Archives. As 1989's Sounds Of The Seventies series was wrapping up in 1994, I signed up for Sounds Of The Eighties collection and received the disc 1986 in my mailbox a short time later.
After receiving maybe 10 discs in the series - one every other month - a disc titled Sounds Of The Eighties - The Rolling Stone Collection: 1986-1987 showed up in my mailbox one day in 1995. It had some good tunes but radically different artwork than previous volumes in the series so I thought maybe they were going a new way, with Rolling Stone signing on to bring a certain hipness to the series as the track selection for that one particular disc was edgier than the earlier discs. Another thirteen discs in Sounds Of The Eighties series came in the mail and then I never received another disc in the series so I assumed it was over. Maybe that Rolling Stone disc was a one-off, an experiment. I would later discover there was five other discs in the Sounds Of The Eighties - The Rolling Stone Collection subset and that all six discs had been issued as a box set. Below are the six discs in chronological order based on the years of music they contain:
The first six tracks on 1980-1981 are classic rock - or more correctly - classic hits radio staples as Blondie and The Go-Go's rarely get airplay on classic rock radio where the only female singers seem to be Stevie, Grace, Linda, Pat, Chrissie and the Wilson Sisters. Those six tracks may appear on other volumes in the Sounds Of The Eighties series (I don't know, I didn't check) but I doubt any of the next fourteen tracks made the cut. This disc is choice cut after choice cut after choice cut though I prefer to listen to it on Shuffle, relishing the small coincidences like when the Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley tracks are played back to back. Weakest track for me is U2's "Gloria" - have always loved hearing it in concert but really don't care for the studio version. October also happens to be one of my least favorite U2 albums so I can't even suggest a substitute song from it. But after giving it some thought, I'd replace "Gloria" with Thin Lizzy's "Chinatown" for reasons that are my own.
If you know anything about my musical proclivities, you know that the music of 1982 is my jam. The beauty of the 1982-1983 disc is the seamless mix of tunes from both years as the music of 1983 sounds an awful lot like that of 1982 for a very good reason as a whole heck of a lot of it was actually recorded in 1982. So when I say I love the music of 1982, I'm talking about the songs and albums released that year AND the songs and albums recorded in 1982 but released later. Sort of like musical gerry-mandering, isn't it? As good as the 1980-1981 disc is and it is really good, the 1982-1983 disc plays better to my tastes and the only weak track is Dylan's which is probably heresy to the average first generation reader of Rolling Stone who holds Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan as sacred. And if I had my druthers, I'd swap out Clapton's "Ain't Going Down" for "I've Got A Rock 'N' Roll Heart" from the same album.
I just realized as I was looking at the tracklist for the 1983-1985 disc that I've seen all but seven of the acts live and some of them more than once. I wanted to like this disc more than I do but I found myself playing the "what if?" game while listening to it more so than the two discs above. Like, what if we replaced "Jump" (which sounds funny to me without the "1984" intro anyway) with "Panama" and what if we subbed in "Infatuation" for "Some Guys Have All The Luck"? Only three tracks in we'd have a more rockin' album for sure. I'd likewise offer up same-album alternatives to tracks by Los Lobos ("Don't Worry Baby"), The Cars ("Hello Again"), Dire Straits ("So Far Away") and Frankie Goes To Hollywood ("Relax"). It's not that the songs on 1983-1985 are not favorites, it's just that I like my suggested alternatives better. I guess you could consider those original tracks the weak ones. Or not.
Here's the one that's been in my collection the longest and I have mad love for it. The 1986-1987 disc is just stacked with great tracks including two each from George Michael's Faith and U2's The Joshua Tree albums. And that Beastie Boys songs I alluded to in the last post finally showed up here alongside killer songs from Midnight Oil, Steve Winwood, Robert Cray and New Order. I've got a huge emotional investment in the years 1986-1987 as I became a husband and then a father during that time so it all sounds good to me even thirty years down the line.
Out of all the discs in this collection, the 1987-1988 disc is perhaps my least favorite. I'm a huge Rod Stweart fan and ditto John Mellencamp and 10,000 Maniacs but the songs here by those artists are among my least favorite by them. Same can be said for Jane's Addiction, Living Colour, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. So there's a third of the disc. There is a really good section on the disc beginning with track 9, Metallica's epic "One" and running through track 12, The Church's hauntingly beautiful "Under The Milky Way" past Robert Plant's ghosts of Zeppelins past rockabilly rave-up "Tall Cool One" and R.E.M.'s often misunderstood "The One I Love" at numbers 10 and 11. And for maximum boom-bap, I play "Colors" and "Bring The Noise" back to back.
The final disc in the Sounds Of The Eighties - The Rolling Stone Collection covers the years 1988-1989 and it starts off with a thunderous roar of rock from Neil Young and his call to arms "Rockin' In The Free World" before dissolving into a skippable R.E.M. track. The Buster Jones song is completely out of place here in my opinion but it gives way to a sweet run from Tom Petty through the Cowboy Junkies covering Velvet Underground. Some days I welcome Tone-Loc's "Wild Thing" with its classic rock riff Frankenstein backing track and other days I reach for the Skip button and as for the back half of the album, I count three songs I never skip and two others I sometimes pass by.
etc.Much like I would find out there were five more discs in The Rolling Stone Collection, I would also later discover that two other discs had been issued in the Sounds Of The Eighties series in 1996: Movie Hits Of The '80s and TV Themes Of The '80s. They are among the rarest and most sought-after Time-Life discs in existence, each fetching up to $300 in used condition.
A variation of the Movie Hits disc was later released featuring the cable channel
Skinemax Cinemax logo above the title while a variation of the TV Themes disc was part of a three-disc set of TV Themes discs along with discs featuring TV themes from the Sixties and the Seventies. By variations, I mean that the albums had differing artwork - the tracklistings remained the same.