Guilty pleasures – favourite pop albums of the 80s: Consolation list

Well, the thing with making lists is that there’s always room for afterthought! While compiling my 5-part list of 16 albums which represented my favourite releases from the 80s, there were a few high-profile artists that I considered and eventually excluded from the list. I did this because I could not pick a single album which had at least 50% of songs that were outstanding. But several of these artists did produce great work in the 80s across a series of 2 or 3 consecutive albums, so I felt that I had to recognize them as well. So here is (I think) the final entry in this series, which is the (poorly named) “consolation list”.

220px-HowardJonesDreamIntoActionHoward Jones – Human’s Lib (1983), Dream Into Action (1985): All four singles released from Howard Jones’ debut album Human’s Lib are outstanding. He is one of the few “British new wave” artists who had memorable lyrics as well as synth riffs. Who hasn’t sung along to that chorus from New Song – “don’t crack up, bend your brain, see both sides, throw off your mental chains!”. And the eerie synth intro and the thought-provoking lyrics of Hide and Seek still give me goose bumps. The mysterious lyrics and the scifi atmospherics (to me, at least) of Pearl in the Shell. What is Love? is catchy although the chorus becomes a bit repetitive for me. Then two years later, he was back with Dream Into Action which featured 4 singles out of which two are my all-time favourite Howard Jones songs. One is Things Can Only Get Better; I love the opening lines of the chorus – “And do you feel scared, (I do), But I won’t stop and falter”. The other is No One is to Blame, a song about unfulfilled desires which has a melancholy beauty not often found in songs of that era; the single version of this song incidentally was re-arranged and re-recorded by Phil Collins. And then of course, there is the cheeky Look Mama which I’m sure a lot of angst-ridden teenagers strongly identified with.

220px-David-bowie-lets-danceDavid Bowie – Let’s Dance (1983): After re-defining rock in the 70’s and arguably creating the basis for the punk rock movement, David Bowie released Let’s Dance in 1983 which contained probably three of his biggest hit singles – Let’s Dance, Modern Love and China Girl. None of the other songs in the album are in the same league and that’s why I didn’t include this album in my original listing. Critics actually considered this album to be a bit of a sellout, commercially and “poppy”, not having the same artistic merit as his seminal 70’s music. But regular folks just loved these three tracks and in my case, it eventually introduced me to the rest of his awesome body of work. The album is produced by the legendary Nile Rodgers and features Stevie Ray Vaughan on the guitar. This fact and David Bowie’s own rock pedigree is the reason I’m kind of conflicted whether this is a rock album that technically should not feature in a pop album list!

Huey_Lewis_and_the_News_-_SportsHuey Lewis and the News – Huey Lewis and the News (1980), Picture This (1982), Sports (1983), Fore! (1986): I can’t really listen to a full album from this group, because the songs start sounding pretty similar. Having said that, their first four albums yielded a wonderful collection of memorable pop-rock love songs, which are perfect for radio airplay and song dedications, ensuring that the group will earn royalties for years to come! Their first big hit was Trouble in Paradise from their self-titled 1980 debut album. Do You Believe in Love from the 1982 album Picture This is a wonderful example of harmony vocals in a chorus. The two songs I really like from their 3rd album Sports are The Heart of Rock and Roll and Heart and Soul; the latter track is now probably my favourite song of theirs and in fact it’s a cover of a little-known 1981 track by another band called The Exiles. In 1985, the group’s globally popularity was further boosted by the hit single The Power of Love, from the Back to the Future soundtrack. I think this song really represents their “aw shucks” all-American sound the best. All this goodwill meant that their 4th album Fore! in 1986 had a bunch of hit singles including two number 1’s, but it was clear that the hooks and riffs were starting to get pretty repetitive, especially songs like Hip to be Square and Forest For the Trees, which are great, but leave you with that nagging feeling that they sound like some other Huey Lewis song that you’ve heard before!

220px-Phil_Collins_-_No_Jacket_RequiredPhil Collins – Face Value (1981), Hello I Must Be Going! (1982), No Jacket Required (1985), …But Seriously (1989): Wow, I so wanted to feature a Phil Collins album in my original list. Given how much I love his music, whether it be as a solo artist or as a part of Genesis, it seemed inevitable that I would do so. When I started scanning through his albums however, I found that all my favourite songs were actually spread out across a bunch of albums, with No Jacket Required almost making the cut for inclusion into my original list. Eventually, I’ve named his first 4 solo albums here. Starting with his debut album Face Value, the standout track here is In the Air Tonight, mesmerizing with just that simple (almost primal) back beat sitting under the hypnotic vocals before it launches into that amazing drum break at the end; my hair stands on end every time I play it. You Can’t Hurry Love was the big hit from his 2nd solo album Hello, I Must Be Going!. And if that song doesn’t sound like a typical Phil Collins song, it’s because it’s a cover of a Motown soul hit for the Supremes in the 1960’s. Eight out of the ten songs in the album were released as singles but I don’t really care for most of them. Strangely the song I really like is one that didn’t make the cut – It Don’t Matter to Me. In 1984, Phil Collins partnered with Philip Bailey for the global hit Easy Lover. This is the quintessential pop song, driving rhythm guitar and beautifully harmonized vocals. On the back of this success, came Phil Collins’ big one, No Jacket Required. The first single, Sussudio propelled it to superhit status (it went on to win the Album of the Year Grammy in 1988); it’s signature upbeat sound featuring a horn section and drum machine combo, is simplistic but oh so catchy! At the other end of the spectrum is the meditative One More Night, which was the first single from the album. Phil Collins has this way of singing that can make a song sound so poignant. Case in point is Take Me Home with backing vocals from Sting and Peter Gabriel, which was the last of the 4 singles from the album. And finally, at the end of the decade, he had one of the best selling albums in history with …But Seriously; it garnered a lot of buzz for it’s “homeless song” Another Day in Paradise (which won him a Grammy). I didn’t care for most of the songs in this album, except for one which really gets me every time I listen to it – I Wish It Would Rain Down; a good song to listen to when you’re feeling down and want to wallow in it for a bit! Do You Remember? and Father and Son are similarly introspective songs which I like a lot. All are good listening for a mellow evening. The final track in the album is Find a Way to My Heart, is a lovely upbeat song with that signature horn section that brings to an end an amazing decade of hits from one of the most commercially successful pop/rock artists in history.

So there you go! I’ve sneakily added 4 more artists (via 11 albums) to my list. I think that does it. To conclude, here is a list of everything I covered in over 6 posts.

Favourite albums:

  1. Men at Work – Business as Usual (1981)
  2. Leo Sayer – World Radio (1982)
  3. Kid Creole and the Coconuts – Tropical Gangsters (1982)
  4. Joe Jackson – Night and Day (1982)
  5. Duran Duran – Rio (1982)
  6. Duran Duran – Seven and the Ragged Tiger (1983)
  7. The Police – Synchronicity (1983)
  8. Genesis – Genesis (1983)
  9. Nik Kershaw – The Riddle (1984)
  10. Peter Gabriel – So (1986)
  11. Madonna – True Blue (1986)
  12. Michael Jackson – Bad (1987)
  13. T’Pau – Bridge of Spies (1987)
  14. George Michael – Faith (1987)
  15. Level 42 – Running in the Family (1987)
  16. R.E.M. – Green (1988)

Favourite artists with great songs across multiple albums:

  • Huey Lewis and the News
    • Huey Lewis and the News (1980)
    • Picture This (1982)
    • Sports (1983)
    • Fore! (1986)
  • Phil Collins
    • Face Value (1981)
    • Hello I Must Be Going! (1982)
    • No Jacket Required (1985)
    • …But Seriously (1989)
  • David Bowie
    • Let’s Dance (1983)
  • Howard Jones
    • Human’s Lib (1983)
    • Dream Into Action (1985)

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