Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday 80s Flashback for February 10, 2012

["Short Takes"] -- In the 80s, I subscribed to MUSICIAN magazine, which covered a wide range of music styles and boasted some seriously sharp writing in music criticism. My favorite feature in MUSICIAN was a page of "Short Takes" by J.D. Considine. This was a single page of record reviews, with each review ranging in length from one sentence to a full paragraph, and it appeared after the magazine's full-length reviews. With this format, Considine could easily weigh in on 12 or more new releases and you could read them all in a single commercial break. In my opinion, Considine was at his best when he was both snarky and brief. He was so good at being snarky that, in reply to a particularly perturbed subscriber's letter, an editor wrote: "Mr. Considine is employed for the sole purpose of p****ing off our readers." It is any wonder I enjoyed his work? So, for this week's flashback, I have selected singles from three albums for which Considine employed the cold concision of a miser in his scathingly brief reviews. Read and hear more after the break.

Flashback #1"We were ring-around-the-rosy children | They were circles around the sun."

In 1988, James Taylor released his 12th studio album, Never Die Young. (He was a mere 40 years old at the time). The album reached #25 on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum, but it was critically panned (AllMusic gives it three stars out of five). And the title track, the only song from this album to chart, peaked at #80 on the Billboard Hot 100. What was J.D. Considine's review? He posed the following question: "Did you ever notice that as some people get older, they start to repeat themselves?"

Flashback #2"Words that form a sentence | Words that form a phrase | In a poem or a letter | Could not convey the meaning | Of what this man has done."

Hershey, PA, does not immediately come to mind when you think of indie band breeding grounds. But in 1986, the guitar and synth driven band called The Ocean Blue played their first jangly notes in the chocolate capital. It took them two years to land a record deal with Sire records, and another year before they released their eponymous debut album. Their first single, "Between Something and Nothing," was a hit on college stations and the Modern Rock charts. Critics were less than enthused about the band. And J.D. Considine summarized the whole extent of The Ocean Blue with one line: "Echo of the Bunnymen." He was not wrong. But in The Ocean Blue's defense, there were many echoes of the Bunnymen between 1988 and 1990. 

Flashback #3"When you want the dream to last | Take a chance, forget the past."

In 1985, guitar legends Steve Hackett (Genesis) and Steve Howe (Yes, Asia) teamed to form the AOR driven band, GTR (that's the abbreviation for "guitar" when labeling multiple tracks in the recording studio. Clever, no?). Hackett and Howe tapped former Bronz vocalist, Max Bacon. (Note: Bronz appeared in the Angels in the 80s flashback, July 8, 2011). GTR was focused on creating a contemporary sound without the use of keyboard synthesizers. They instead employed Roland guitar synthesizer pickups and MIDI to generate all the synthesizer sounds on their self-titled debut which was released in 1986. The album went gold, peaking at #11 on the album charts. Their first single, "When the Heart Rules the Mind," was a hit, soaring to #14 and staying on the charts for four months. Critics, however, were lukewarm on the project. AllMusic again dishes out a mere three stars for this supergroup's effort. And J.D. Considine penned perhaps his most favorite piece in three decades of music criticism: His review for MUSICIAN magazine's Short Takes read simply, "SHT."


Once again, I remind you that the rule of three applies when doing Flashbacks. As I've made my three offerings, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the archives. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

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I'll see you in seven!

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