Friday, September 16, 2011

Top 40 Albums of the 1980s (#40-#31)

40. 'The Ocean Blue'

The Ocean Blue

I have never owned another album by this Hershey, Penn., band, but I still pop in this cassette (yep, tape) quite often when I'm in the car. It's a beautiful blend of new wave and jangle pop. I saw them open for the Mighty Lemon Drops in 1990. Most of the crowd was there for the headliners, and they were great, but I bought the ticket to see these guys.

39. 'Oranges and Lemons'


I had just about given up on them. I was way into XTC's early, more spastic work, but by the time 'Skylarking' arrived, outside of a handful of singles, I had grown tired of their maturation. Then this perfect piece of pop exploded on, of all places, MTV. The singles "Mayor of Simpleton" and "King for a Day" were good, but so were the deep cuts. This is, arguably, the band's strongest overall album.

38. 'Crazy Rhythms'

The Feelies
The Feelies - The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness (mp3)

So Velvet Underground. So New York. So nerdy but cool at the same time. Sort of like Big Star, this is one of those bands that had little commercial success, but all of the right people heard them and went on to form great bands the kids did discover. The Feelies have yet to make a bad album, including one really good one earlier this year, but 'Crazy Rhythms' is the record that will (and should) place them in the music-history books.

37. 'Zenyatta Mondatta'

The Police

I didn't realize until very recently that a great many Police fans think this is the band's weakest moment... an absolute throwaway record. Shocking. Clearly, I'm not with the majority. I like their entire discography, but I think, from beginning to end, this is the trio's best LP.

36. 'Big World'

Joe Jackson
Joe Jackson - Right and Wrong (mp3)

He really is the man. Joe Jackson can do it all, be it classical, jazz, film score or, of course, rock 'n' roll. This time around, he recorded a live three-sided album of brand-new material and asked the crowd to keep quiet. The result is as spontaneous as a live show can be, but the sound quality is that of a studio recording. It was even mixed on the spot. He does his usual genre hopping, and the lyrics are razor sharp, especially on "Right and Wrong" and "The Jet Set." Jackson was prolific this decade, and many of his albums were considered for this list, but 'Big World' came out on top.

35. 'Learning to Crawl'

The Pretenders

What a singles juggernaut. "Back on the Chain Gang," "2000 Miles," "My City Was Gone," "Middle of the Road," "Show Me" and "Thin Line Between Love and Hate" were all here. Even after seeing this impressive tracklist, I still believe this isn't the band's best album of the decade. See you a little later, Chrissie.

34. 'Speaking in Tongues'

Talking Heads

I know I'm going to get ripped, but this will be the only appearance by the Talking Heads. What? Where is 'Remain in Light,' right? Well, I'll tell you. Their first two albums are among my all-time favorites. This one is a distant third. Outside of two stellar live albums, that's about it for me and Talking Heads. Besides, I'll take "This Must Be the Place" and "Burning Down the House" over "Once in a Lifetime" and "Crosseyed and Painless" any day. So, suck it.

33. 'Suburban Voodoo'

Paul Carrack
Paul Carrack - What a Way to Go (mp3)

This was a prolific period for Paul Carrack. Just prior to this stellar solo album, he was briefly a member of Squeeze and sang lead on their biggest hit, "Tempted." In '82 (and a few years more), Carrack joined up with Nick Lowe and formed the band Noise to Go and, later, Nick Lowe & His Cowboy Outfit. They recorded some great albums, including one with Lowe's wife Carlene Carter that was seriously considered for the list, but I think this one was their best moment (by a whisker).

32. 'I Just Can't Stop It'

The English Beat
The English Beat - Two Swords (mp3)

Wow, what a debut! Almost all of my favorite ska albums missed the list because they were released in 1979, but here's one that just made it. The band's last album, 'Special Beat Service' from 1982, almost made the cut, too, and it would definately make my "Best Side Ones" list (if I had one). I was listening to this on cassette when I totaled my first car (Volkswagen Scirocco). Yet, I can still see past that incident and say this was one of my favorite records from my youth.

31. 'Ocean Rain'

Echo & the Bunnymen

Ian McCulloch and the lads were joined by a 35-piece orchestra for a lush album pretty far removed from the post-punk sound of their previous three records. At the time of its release, most of the big music mags gave it lukewarm reviews. I didn't care. After hearing "The Killing Moon," I knew I had to have 'Ocean Rain.' As a kid, I was really only into the band's singles. It wasn't until I grew up a bit that I discovered how great this album was. I wonder if any of those reviewers ever came around to its charms.

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