Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Essential non-obvious 80s albums

My friend (and fellow pastor) Russell Smith pointed me to a post at the Evangelical Outpost where Joe Carter is reminiscing about his favorite (non-obvious) 80s music. Since I love 80s music perhaps above all else except folk, I bit.

Russell has a good addition to Joe's list (and those in the comments), though I disagree with him on a few points. Here are my picks for the essential non-obvious ones.

  • The Connells, Fun & Games. The first time I heard "Sal" I knew I was breaking through to a new dimension of music; in the midst of the Classic Rock, 80s pop, and semi-folk that I had grown up with, The Connells offered a freshness and creative spin on rock that was a welcome addition to my library (and to others to whom I introduced it). Favorite tracks: Sal, Motel, Hey Wow, Something to Say.

  • Indigo Girls, Indigo Girls. I thought I knew what contemporary folk music was (think: Jimmy Buffett and James Taylor) until I heard these two-- man, was I blown away! This was my true introduction to a love of modern folk that continues today. The 'Girls went on to produce many fine albums (and they're still at it), but the grit and honesty of this disc remains a great listen. Favorite tracks: Secure Yourself, Prince of Darkness, Tried to Be True, Love's Recovery, and, of course, Closer to Fine.

  • Van Halen, 1984. Is this one obvious? It is to me-- but then I was a VH nut for a while. I don't think there is a better example of 80s rock (NOT pop) than side one of the 1984 tape. (Side two has a totally different feel to it, though also quite good.) Favorite tracks: Jump, Panama, Top Jimmy, I'll Wait.

  • Amy Grant, Lead Me On. I'll go with my friend Russell on this one. This was a huge album-- loaded with great songs that are still good today. Russell's summary of it's importance is all that needs to be said. Favorite tracks: Lead Me On, Saved by Love, If These Walls Could Speak, Faithless Heart.

  • Peter Gabriel, So. I'm with Joe Carter on this one (and the next). A great collection of music-- there's much more here than "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time," including the time-tested "In Your Eyes" and a handful of other great ones. Gabriel was the original creative force behind the band Genesis, and went on to a critically-successful career (if not always on the charts). Favorite tracks: In Your Eyes, Red Rain, Don't Give Up, Mercy Street.

  • Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms. Bought it for the amazing guitar intro on "Money for Nothing" and was quickly won over by the amazing breadth and depth on the rest of this disc (actually, I had it on tape). The other hit from this album, "Walk of Life," is also fun-- but there is a lot of good music to be found here. Favorite tracks: Walk of Life, Your Latest Trick, Brothers in Arms, Why Worry, So Far Away.

  • Paul Simon, Graceland. Chock-full of great music with a definitive African influence, this one re-established Paul Simon as a star for a new generation. Everyone knew "You Can Call Me Al" from the radio-- which is, admittedly, a very fun song. But if you want to get a great (and diverse) taste of good music, check out the rest of the disc. Still plays regularly at the Eubanks house. Favorite tracks: You Can Call Me Al, Graceland, Diamonds in the Soles of Her Shoes, Under African Skies, I Know What I Know.

  • U2, The Joshua Tree. This was the album that carried them from semi-obscure, slightly agitated activist rockers to mainstream, heir-to-The Police band of the late century and early 2000s. Who can forget this awesome disc? Favorite tracks: Where the Streets Have No Name, With or Without You, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, In God's Country.

  • The Police, Every Breath You Take: The Singles. Summing up an amazing career with numerous hit albums and singles, the was to be the culmination of their career. (They later released a few other collections.) Suffice to say, every song (or nearly so) on here is familiar to just about everyone my age, and this is a standby and staple when looking for some good 80s tunes. Favorite tracks: Can't Stand Looking You, Message in a Bottle, Walking on the Moon, King of Pain, Wrapped Around Your Finger.

  • Asia, Asia. This was another great one, with many fond memories (many of them of riding in Russell's Bronco II). Asia was a great band with an underlying sense of faith and belief. Favorite tracks: Heat of the Moment, Only Time Will Tell, One Step Closer, Wildest Dreams, Cutting It Fine, Here Comes the Feeling

Runners-up: The Hooters,
Nervous Night; REM, Automatic for the People; Hank Williams, Jr., Greatest Hits; John Cougar (Mellencamp), American Fool; Genesis, Invisible Touch.

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