Monday, April 27, 2015

The 1980s... take 2. Or 3.

For some reason, 2014 was a year that a number of my old favorites (or at least names I was interested in) came back to the fore with albums.  This is their third, fourth, fifth comeback... you lose track when you realize you thought some these groups were old in 1993.  As you'd imagine, several of these groups have aged better than others.
  • Billy Idol - Kings and Queens of the Underground.  I saw a Guitar Centers Session with Billy, who is still going strong after reuniting with guitarist Steve Stevens in 2005 (after essentially a 20 year split). Perhaps being in a audience-less studio threw him for a loop, as aside from "Rebel Yell," the performance for the first 45 minutes felt a bit old and tired (even on "Dancing with Myself").  Then came one of his new songs, "Postcards from the Past" -- he attacked it.  I got chills.  He was back in the moment:  you saw that glimpse of Billy Idol from 1983.  Based on that alone, I had to get the album.  Trevor Horn's production is great, and the album plays like a confessional.  Yes, his higher vocal range is pretty much shot, but it's fun listen.  I'll take off my snob blinders, sit back and enjoy.  Stevens is still a great player.  Verdict:  he's not reinventing the genre, but it's fun.  "Postcards" is clearly the highlight here.  Portable CD Case.
Billy Idol - "Postcards from the Past"
  • Enuff Z'Nuff - Covered in Gold.  TC once called these guys the "Bon Jovi of the 90s"... which obviously did not come to pass.  But they should not be discounted:  they have created some great albums over the years and recorded some phenomenal music in relative obscurity.  This is a covers album, and some are quite good.  Covering a combination of "She Sells Sanctuary," "When Doves Cry," and "Tears of a Clown" is just the level of insanity that (based on principle alone) I must endorse.  Oh and did I mention the cover of "Believe It or Not" (the theme from The Greatest American Hero)?  Unreal.  Verdict:  Portable CD Case.
Enuff Z'Nuff - "When Doves Cry"

  • Roddy Frame - Seven Dials.  Imagine you are Roddy Frame:  at 18, you write High Land, Hard Rain (under the band name Aztec Camera), only to spend the next 12 years failing to live up to that debut, then dropping that band name to do albums under your own name, then spending another 20 years still chasing that original brilliance as a solo artist.  And, unfortunately, failing.  I really feel bad for the guy, but Roddy's fourth solo album, while sunny in disposition, just makes me want to pick up and listen to the remastered, 30th anniversary version of High Land, Hard Rain.  Verdict:  "Postcard," "Into the Sun," and "On the Waves" save this from the Pile of Death.  Sorry, Roddy.
Roddy Frame - "Postcard"

  • Night Ranger - High Road.  When I start a review with a comparison to "Winger" or "Great White," that's not a good sign.  They sound a little raw vocally.  "High Road" and particularly "Don't Live Here Anymore" (except for the drawn out finish) are great, and "I'm Coming Home" is good; but other than that, my guess is I will have to go back to the second of their three comeback albums (2011's Somewhere in California) to really get the true 80s throwback experience from this band.  One positive:  lyrically, they do seem stuck in adolescence. So there's that.  Verdict:  Sell-back 1.
Night Ranger - "Don't Live Here Anymore"

  • Tesla - Simplicity.  Since their 2004 return, Tesla has released two albums of covers, and now two additional albums of original music.  To be blunt, they sound great.  It's pretty amazing that they have retained their blues/rock edge, but it's still there.  This one is a great driving album, which starts introverted, but picks up objectivity and steam with "Rise and Fall" and "So Divine."  Sure, there are some lulls, but overall this is a fun throwback listen.  Verdict:  Portable CD Case.
Tesla - "So Divine..."

- Snilch

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