Police – Synchronicity

Police - SynchronicityI’ve long had a love-hate relationship with the final Police album, but upon a recent listening I finally decided I love it more than I hate it.

So what’s not to like? Quite simply one of the most overexposed songs of the 1980s, “Every Breath You Take”. And hey, I even like the song, but it was played so often that I can really only bear to hear it once a year or so. (That said, I’ll take “Every Breath” over anything the current crop of producer-packaged teenybopper acts can cough up, so my boredom with the song is a relative thing.)

What is there to like about Synchronicity? Possibly Sting’s best work ever, with some crisply literate lyrics and some excellent music to go behind them. Mixing mythological metaphors with literary references and interesting concepts, the songs are both memorable and thought-provoking. So much so, in fact, that I think it points out why I skip “Every Breath” most of the time – its somewhat repetitive and predictable lyrics are sharply out of place on Synchronocity.

4 out of 4Some of the better songs, including “King Of Pain” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, made a somewhat smaller splash as singles, while others – including the mesmerising “Tea In The Sahara” – can only be found on the album. Overall, even with the clichè-ridden “Every Breath”, Synchronicity is an outstanding album, engaging both musically and intellectually.

Order this CD

  1. Synchronicity I (3:23)
  2. Walking In Your Footsteps (3:35)
  3. O My God (4:00)
  4. Mother (3:03)
  5. Miss Gradenko (2:00)
  6. Synchronicity II (5:04)
  7. Every Breath You Take (4:13)
  8. King Of Pain (4:59)
  9. Wrapped Around Your Finger (5:12)
  10. Tea In The Sahara (4:11)
  11. Murder By Numbers (4:31)

Released by: A&M
Release date: 1983
Total running time: 44:30

Return Of The Jedi – music by John Williams

Return Of The Jedi soundtrackI’m still not sure what to think of this one. I’ve always suspected that I liked Return Of The Jedi – both the movie and music – more than most people do. It’s become fashionable to blast Jedi for a crime no worse than featuring the Ewoks (but hey, so long as George Lucas never again does anything with Howard The Duck, I don’t give a crap if he loads Star Wars Episode III with a malicious herd of Jedi-slaying Ewoks doing the bidding of Emperor Palpatine). Jedi also has the dubious distinction of being one of the two films from the original trilogy which received the most extensive revisions when Lucas unleashed the Special Editions in 1997 – and from a musical standpoint, Jedi was revised quite extensively indeed.

For one thing, the Sy Snootles Band number Lapti Nek (still available on the Jedi portion of the Star Wars Anthology) was replaced by a new tune, “Jedi Rocks”, executed in an even more cartoonish style. I’ll be the first to admit that I only fail to skip “Lapti Nek” on CD once a decade, but “Jedi Rocks” really gets on my nerves. I find it doubly irritating since John Williams himself didn’t even compose it.

The other major musical revision occurs at the end of the movie. New CGI scenes were grafted into the Ewok celebration showing victory/freedom shindigs taking place in other parts of the galaxy, from Tatooine to Coruscant. This then leads into a radically different outcue leading into the end credits – but truth be told, even though I prefer the original music from the movie, I like the new piece of music on its own. And I have a feeling we’re going to hear it again in the new trilogy as a theme for Anakin Skywalker.

3 out of 4 starsFor me, personally, the jury’s still out on the “tweaked” versions of the Star Wars films – as well as their soundtracks. This one would’ve gotten four stars, but “Lapti Nek” and the original version of the final cue leading into the end credits weren’t even included as archival bonus tracks. I only let Lucas off the hook so much for his revisionist filmmaking.

    Order this CD in the StoreDisc one:

  1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare (0:22)
  2. Main Title / Approaching Death Star / Tatooine Rendezvous (9:21)
  3. The Droids Are Captured (1:17)
  4. Bounty For A Wookiee (2:50)
  5. Han Solo Returns (4:01)
  6. Luke Confronts Jabba / Den Of The Rancor / Sarlacc Sentence (8:51)
  7. The Pit Of Carkoon / Sail Barge Assault (6:02)
  8. The Emperor Arrives / The Death Of Yoda / Obi-Wan’s Revelation (10:58)
  9. Alliance Assembly (2:12)
  10. Shuttle Tyderium Approaches Endor (4:09)
  11. Speeder Bike Chase / Land Of The Ewoks (9:38)
  12. The Levitation / Threepio’s Bedtime Story (2:46)
  13. Jabba’s Baroque Recital (3:09)
  14. Jedi Rocks (2:42)
  15. Sail Barge Assault – alternate (5:04)
    Return Of The Jedi soundtrack - 2004 re-releaseDisc two:

  1. Parade of the Ewoks (3:28)
  2. Luke and Leia (4:46)
  3. Brother and Sister / Father and Son / Fleet Enters Hyperspacee… (10:40)
  4. The Emperor’s Throne Room (3:26)
  5. Into The Trap / Forest Ambush / Scout Walker Scramble… (11:50)
  6. The Lightsaber / The Ewok Battle (4:31)
  7. Leia Is Wounded / The Duel Begins / Overtaking The Bunker… (10:03)
  8. Superstructure Chase / Darth Vader’s Death / Main Reactor (6:04)
  9. Leia’s News / Light Of The Force (3:24)
  10. Victory Celebration / End Title (8:34)
  11. Ewok Feast / Part Of The Tribe (4:02)
  12. The Forest Battle – concert suite (4:05)

Released by: RCA/Victor
Release date: 1997
Disc one total running time: 73:16
Disc two total running time: 74:47

Electric Light Orchestra – Secret Messages

Electric Light Orchestra - Secret MessagesOriginally conceived and recorded as a double album, Secret Messages was for some reason cut down to a single album and released in 1983, bestowing upon the world a somewhat grating single “Rock ‘n’ Roll Is King” (I’m sure you’ll remember the chorus: “Wham-a-lam-a, bam-a-lam-a, rock ‘n’ roll is king!”) and then, for all intents and purposes, disappearing into undeserved obscurity. This entry on my Damn Near Perfect Album List is, like Time before it, an example of just how good ELO was in the 80s, even if radio didn’t think so. I can’t think of a song on here that I don’t like, with the possible exception of the CD bonus track “Time After Time”, which bears4 out of 4 stars more resemblance to Jeff Lynne’s work on Electric Dreams than to ELO, and perhaps there lies a hint as to why Secret Messages was halved prior to release, though some of the deleted songs heard on Afterglow are just fine. My highest recommendations!

  1. Secret Messages (4:43)
  2. Loser Gone Wild (5:25)
  3. Bluebird (4:06)
  4. Order this CD in the Store Take Me On And On (5:02)
  5. Time After Time (4:00)
  6. Four Little Diamonds (4:05)
  7. Stranger (4:27)
  8. Danger Ahead (3:53)
  9. Letter From Spain (2:51)
  10. Train of Gold (4:21)
  11. Rock ‘n’ Roll is King (3:45)

Released by: Jet
Release date: 1983
Total running time: 46:38

Alan Parsons Project – Ammonia Avenue

Alan Parsons Project - Ammonia AvenueWith this album, the Project entered a bit of a decline. Largely dictated by demands from their parent label Arista, vocalist Eric Woolfson takes center stage as the predominant voice, moreso than on any other Project album except the later Freudiana. This is not a bad thing, because I quite like Woolfson’s voice, but there is such a thing as too much, especially when it was the norm by this time for the group to use several vocalists instead of focusing on one for most of an entire album. This album spawned the semi-hit “Don’t Answer Me”, a 50’s retro ballad which3 out of 4 also became the Project’s first widely-distributed music video – naturally, given the faceless nature of the band, it was animated! Also featured is possibly my favorite Parsons instrumental of all, “Pipeline”.

    Order this CD in the Store

  1. Prime Time (5:03)
  2. Let Me Go Home (3:20)
  3. One Good Reason (3:36)
  4. Since The Last Goodbye (4:34)
  5. Don’t Answer Me (4:11)
  6. Dancing on a Highwire (4:22)
  7. You Don’t Believe (4:26)
  8. Pipeline (3:56)
  9. Ammonia Avenue (6:30)

Released by: Arista
Release date: 1983
Total running time: 39:58

Big Country – The Crossing

Big Country - The CrossingAs legend has it, this band’s unique sound (heard vividly on their sole big hit “In A Big Country”) came from the two lead guitars playing the same note simultaneously, evoking a bagpipe effect befitting the band’s proud Scottish origins. It was certainly a unique sound, and though Big Country has retained a cult following ever since then, this album contains the single that people probably remember most from the radio. “Fields Of Fire”, a lesser-known single, is also worth a listen – overall, it’s a very unique sound. Whether you’re in an 80s pop nostalgia mood, or you just really liked this very interesting sound, I think you’ll probably like Big Country.

Rating: 3 out of 4

  1. In A Big Country (4:45)
  2. Inwards (4:38)
  3. Chance (4:25)
  4. 1,000 Stars (3:54)
  5. The Storm (6:21)
  6. Harvest Home (4:21)
  7. Lost Patrol (4:53)
  8. Order this CD in the Store Close Action (4:17)
  9. Fields of Fire (3:32)
  10. Porrohman (7:53)

Released by: Polygram
Release date: 1983
Total running time: 48:59

Doctor Who: Earthshock

Doctor Who: Earthshock soundtrackThis is a CD reissue of a 1983 album simply titled Doctor Who – The Music, which was the first such soundtrack of the show’s customarily abstract electronic music. The majority of the music from that original album hails from the popular 1981-83 period including such pivotal episodes as The Keeper Of Traken and Earthshock, though additional material added to the disc represents the early 70s (particularly two original and very, very abstract musique concrete pieces created by Delia Derbyshire, the producer of the original Doctor Who theme). I do have a complaint about the album – it’s the intertwining of sound effects with the music. If I wanted to hear the TARDIS 3 out of 4materializing, I’d dig out 30 Years At The Radiophonic Workshop or watch the show itself. The attempt at creating atmosphere manages simply to be distracting. Other than that, I heartily recommend this for Doctor Who fans, but with the abstract nature of some of the music, it may appeal only to dyed-in-the-wool Who fans.

Order this CD

  1. Doctor Who theme – 1963-1979 version (2:39)
  2. The Sea-Devils (5:19)
  3. Meglos (1:42)
  4. The World of Doctor Who including the Master’s theme (2:40)
  5. Blue Veils and Golden Sands / from Inferno (3:28)
  6. Nyssa’s Theme (0:43)
  7. Kassia’s Wedding Music (0:49)
  8. The Threat of Melkur (0:55)
  9. Exploring the Lab (1:48)
  10. Nyssa is Hypnotised (1:00)
  11. The Leisure Hive (5:35)
  12. The Delian Mode / from Inferno (5:35)
  13. Omega Field Force (1:54)
  14. Ergon Threat (1:03)
  15. The Termination of the Doctor (2:10)
  16. Banqueting Music / from Warrior’s Gate (1:31)
  17. TSS Machine Attacked / from Kinda (1:07)
  18. Janissary Band / from Snakedance (0:18)
  19. Subterranean Caves (2:36)
  20. Requiem (0:39)
  21. March of the Cybermen (5:13)
  22. Doctor Who theme – reprise (1:52)

Released by: Silva Screen
Release date: 1991 (originally released in 1983)
Total running time: 50:36

Dave Edmunds – Information

Dave Edmunds - InformationIf this album is famous for anything, it’s probably famous for being oft-mistaken for ELO. Jeff Lynne of ELO fame produced the first two singles from an album that sounds like Dave Edmunds’ attempt to refashion himself as a synth-pop-rocker after years of a perfectly satisfactory career as an old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roller. The Lynne-produced “Information” and “Slipping Away” (the latter of which Lynne also wrote) sounded almost exactly like ELO’s 1983 Secret Messages album, with the trademark harmonies, keyboard and guitar work in just the right amounts. Edmunds produced the rest of the album, and it’s still good stuff, even with the unusually synth-heavy tone of the whole thing. Among the best on this album rating: 3 out of 4are “What Have I Got To Do To Win?” (my favorite, an experiment in synth-heavy blues rock) and “Don’t Call Me Tonight”, and Edmunds even makes a concession to pure rock – and heavy blues rock at that – with “Wait”. It’s not for nothing that Edmunds earned himself a reputation as one of Britain’s best rockers.

Order this CD

  1. Slipping Away (4:19)
  2. Don’t You Double (3:13)
  3. I Want You So Bad (2:36)
  4. Wait (4:10)
  5. The Watch On My Wrist (2:07)
  6. The Shape I’m In (2:26)
  7. Information (3:52)
  8. Feel So Right (3:29)
  9. What Have I Got To Do To Win? (3:16)
  10. Don’t Call Me Tonight (2:26)
  11. Have A Heart (2:55)

Released by: Columbia
Release date: 1983
Total running time: 34:49