The 80’s in ten musical steps

When the world stops making sense, when the news headlines are too much to take, I temporarily turn to a lighter side and take great delight in listening to music. Hard for me to pick only one genre, as I feel like a kid overwhelmed by the choices, standing in front of hundreds of colored and shiny candies. As the 80’s nostalgia is presently a massive draw, I thought I would try to select ten underrated or forgotten LP’s from that era.

  • MI0003515866“Around The World In A Day” (1985) by Prince: it is almost impossible to pick one among Prince’s profuse musical creation, as there is few musical flaws. Prince produced all his major youth albums in the eighties. The 80’s are definitely Prince’s decade. Still I believe that his 7th studio album has been underrated, even if “Raspberry Beret” was a chart-topping song. This 60’s revival LP was however not a huge commercial success. Although it holds some gems. I find “Condition Of The Heart” intensely emotional, very theatrical. “The Ladder” is vaporous and “Temptation” overpowering.

  • Night_and_day_JJ“Night And Day” (1982) by Joe Jackson: I must have worn out this LP. Every track is simply brilliant. The album is still today very pleasant to listen to and I think ity is in no way outdated. I never get tired of it probably because of the freshness and the classy touch emerging from this opus. It is a coherent, harmonious album. Each tune leads naturally to the next one. My three favorite tracks are: “Steppin’ Out” for the catchy and soaring beat ; “Breaking Us In Two” for the delctable shivers it brings down my spine and “Real Men” for the lyrics puzzling over gender roles.

  • The_Flat_Earth_(album_cover)“The Flat Earth” (1984) by Thomas Dolby: I always found this CD very strange and this is precisely that mysterious and spellbinding atmosphere which carries me away. I also appreciate this album as a whole because once again, it is a consistent work but my favorite tracks are: “Screen Kiss” because I feel like I have been touched by butterflies wings ; Mulu The Rain Forest” because I can almost smell the thick and humid atmosphere shrouded in mystery ; “I Scare Myself” because the melody is so obvious that it flows like a clear brook ; “Hyperactive” because it makes me feel itchy like it should.

  • SOS_Band_album_On_the_rise“On The Rise” (1983) by The S.O.S. Band: Produced by Jam & Lewis (Janet Jackson, Prince, Boyz II Men,..), this classic R&B album is so haunting and sensual that it inevitably will get you moving and grooving. If most tracks are uptempo but non troppo, the album is worth the listening if only for glittering ballads as “Tell Me If You Still Care” and “Just Be Good To Me”.

  • Loose ends“So Where Are You?” (1985) by Loose Ends: Second album by successful British band Loose Ends, SWAY? contains no tracks that should be put aside. All makes sense. The LP has an urban contemporary mood and fires some of the best smooth and slack material. I’m thinking about “Hangin’ On A String (Contemplating)”, “If My Lovin’ Makes You Hot” or “The Sweetest Pain”. The first song I mentioned is by far my favorite track, for the lush arrangements and the velvety obsessive melody. Definitely soothing.

  • Tracy_Chapman_-_Tracy_Chapman“Tracy Chapman” (1988) by Tracy Chapman: This deep warm voice artist is necessary and beautiful… and sadly very much underrated. Every time I listen to “Talkin’ Bout A Revolution”, it brings tears to my eyes and chills to my soul. “Poor people gonna rise up And get their share”… Those words still echo and make sense today. “Across The Lines” is simply stirring and still of-the-moment. “Little black girl gets assaulted (…) Lots of people hurt and angry She’s the one to blame”.  Another great song from this album is “Mountains O’ Things” talking about our desire to consume more and more and our sad solitude among material things. “Why do the babies starve When there’s enough food to feed the world”, she sings. Still wondering today. More beautiful ballads filled with pastel emotion sprinkle your soul with delight.

  • Debarge“Rhythm Of The Night” (1983) by DeBarge: Sibling music band like the Jacksons or the Osmonds, the DeBarges were at the peak of their success in the mid 80’s but quickly ended up on the scrapheap. Their R&B music is not bad at all though. Feelgood and wiggling, the tracks on “Rhythm Of The Night” deserve more than a brief listening. Here are the secret ingredients of an irresistible recipe: a persuasive ballad (“Who’s Holding Donna Now”), a swaying tune (“You Wear It Well”), a tropical dance inducing beat (“Rhythm of The Night”) and a squirt of fresh sounds.

  • Michael_Franks_Passionfruit_CD“Passionfruit” (1983) by Michael Franks: This is my idea of coolness and class. Every Michael Franks album sounds like an iridescent pearl in an oyster. I pick this album from the 80’s but I could have chosen another one as Franks’ breezy ocean sound is velvet for the ear and the mind. California born singer and composer Michael Franks is often labelled as a smooth jazz artist but his influences go from jazz to bossa nova and pop. My special picks on this album: “Amazon”, “Sunday Morning Here With You”, “Rainy Night In Tokyo”, “How The Garden Grows” because it may be chilly or drizzling or foggy or freezing, I am elsewhere, somewhere on a tropical island where all is sweet and scenic.

  • Donny Osmond“Donny Osmond” (1989) by Donny Osmond: Too goody-goody to be true, Donny Osmond has been long underestimated (although this entertainer has been into show business for 50 years). From adulated teen idol in the 70’s to has-been in the 80’s, he made his comeback with this eponymous album thanks to Peter Gabriel who suggested him to crack the veneer. Credited as the “mystery artist” in a New York radio station, he was often mistaken for George Michael and when he was revealed, people’s response was enthusiastic. More rugged and sizzling (in the Mormon meaning of the words, of course), his music is genuinely pleasant and lively, and perfectly fitting into the 80’s. Not to mention Donny’s voice which is both wide-ranging and richy warm. “Soldier Of Love”, “Sacred Emotion” (both were smash hits) and to a lesser extent, “Hold On” have charted on the Billboards. The album holds beautiful ballads -as remote from his early treacly ballads as it can be- such as “I’ll Be Good To You”, “Only Heaven Knows” and “I’m In It For Love”. Forget the good looks, taste the good sounds.

  • Hearsay_(album)“Hearsay” (1987) by Alexander O’Neal: Classic Jam & Lewis production, “Hearsay” is peppered with strong as well as enjoyable melodies. This is the sound that got me hooked to this artist. “Hearsay” is not only soul oriented, or funk stuffed, or R&B, or pop, or new jack swing, or else… It is a toothsome blend of genres and fizzy music delightfully popping in your ears. My choice: “(What Can I Say) To Make You Love Me?”, “The Lovers”, “Fake”, “Never Knew Love Like This”, “Sunshine”… Well, as a matter of fact, I like all of them. What happened to good music nowadays? Yes, I know, I sound like my grandmother!
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