Top 5: No More Love on the Run
I have covered something like 1700 highway miles in the last couple of weeks, with more travel to come. Here's a list of five albums that have been in the CD player this week.
AM Gold: 1974. Of all the series of 60s and 70s music Time-Life has produced in the last 15 to 20 years, AM Gold might be the most impressive. It spans the years 1962 through 1979, and does a fine job capturing the flavor of AM radio in the era--mass appeal, playing lots of different things, some that sound pretty good yet today, and some that are cringe-inducing in the extreme. The series is limited to what it can license, of course--which is why you'll never find the Beatles or the Rolling Stones on such series. The 1974 disc might be the most fun of them all, with all of the year's essential trash in one convenient package: "The Night Chicago Died," "Billy Don't Be a Hero," "Rock the Boat," "Seasons in the Sun," and plenty more.
30 Number One Hits/Elvis Presley. This album isn't as strong as the similar Beatles' project, 1, because to make the claim that every song is a number one, it's got to cherry-pick from rock, country, R&B, and easy listening charts. Nevertheless, it's the Elvis CD to have if you're only having one--provided you program out "Wooden Heart," which is stupid enough in English, but goes off the scale when it features one verse in phonetic German with oompah band accompaniment.
Greatest Hits/Billy Ocean. Ocean scored five top-five smashes between 1984 and 1986, including a couple of Number Ones, "Caribbean Queen" and "There'll Be Sad Songs (to Make You Cry)," but even if you didn't know any of them, you'd recognize them as mid-80s music strictly from the production. There wasn't a live drummer within a hundred miles of the sessions--drum machines only--and the songs have that cranked-up trebly sound so prevalent at that time. Nearly 20 years later, the uptempo numbers sound best--"Loverboy" is still great--but the ballads haven't held up at all.
You and Me/Phat Phunktion. A Madison-based R&B/hip-hop show band and one damn funky bunch of (mostly) white people. What they're doing isn't especially innovative--their debt to Earth, Wind, and Fire is audible on every track--but they're having one hell of a good time, and they're terrific live.
Kamakiriad/Donald Fagen. For Steely Dan fans, this album's 1994 release was a huge event, since we'd heard nothing from either Fagen or Walter Becker since the early 80s. It paved the way for the revival of the Dan in the late 90s--and for that alone, it's one of the most important albums of the decade. That said, it's not as good as Fagen's 1982 release, The Nightfly, or Steely Dan's 2000 Two Against Nature--but it's better than 2003's Everything Must Go.
More miles next week, more tunes to play. See you along the way.
Note: This is our regular Friday feature on this blog. There's another music-related Friday feature making its debut today at the Daily Aneurysm--the Friday Random 10, in which I put my laptop music collection into shuffle mode and list the first 10 songs that come up. (Other people do it with iPods. Sue me).