Sunday, February 11, 2018

Jarrod Lawson-Jarrod Lawson (2014)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: February 11, 2018

Even though I'm still in the 80's mood, it was also nice to break away from the tunes of my favorite decade to just chill to some smooth Sunday-night jazz. It had been a long time since I last peeked in on the Youtube channel of a blog follower to check out some of her music recommendations, remembering that she largely favored jazz and soul—a superb combination that delighted my ears for the 70+ minutes I spent tuning in to the self-titled debut of this very vocally-talented Jarrod Lawson. Liked this guy from the moment I heard him singing on the opener, "Music & It's Magical Ways", which is a great anthem for us music lovers, talking about the wondrous, lasting effects that songs have on us. And already on this opening anthem is the jazz production itself shown off with the extended instrumental in the closing movements, something that my ears and I would get to enjoy many more times throughout this soothing, hour-long listening adventure. Such as on "Sleepwalkers", where the groovy bossa nova-style rhythm and elegant piano spark my senses; "All That Surrounds", which is one of those dreamy smooth jazz pieces that makes you wanna drift up into the clouds with; and "Spiritual Eyes", which is unexpectedly catapulted into a funky jazz dance thriller! But more about Jarrod's dynamite, soulful voice: it makes every one of these songs a shining, marvelous moment, and it's showcased extremely well on the acoustic piano piece, "Everything I Need", and the ambient, trippy piece simply called "Needed". And that dynamite voice is appreciated even more when he's got some powerful meaningful words to share. "Walk In The Park": 7+ minutes of musical bliss that sees Jarrod speaking the absolute truth when he delivers the line ' one man's struggle is another man's walk in the park '. "Redemption": aside from showing off his versatile chords when his voice soars into the stratosphere in his earnest deliveries of 'I believe there will be redemption' repeatedly throughout, something struck me when he says something about this system we live under 'keeping us overweight and uneducated'. Then there are the religious messages he sends on both "Together We'll Stand" and "Gotta Keep". On the former, he explains that the love of money has brought us to our present state of the union and that earthly power doesn't mean a thing to him—rather, he'd prefer to serve Our Creator and keep faith in His capable hands—while the latter encourages listeners to continue praising Him:

1. Music & It's Magical Ways
2. Sleepwalkers
3. He's There
4. Walk In The Park
5. All That Surrounds
6. Think About Why
7. Redemption
8. Spiritual Eyes
9. Together We'll Stand
10. Needed
11. Everything I Need
12. Gotta Keep

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Sheila E.-In The Glamorous Life (1987)


Here's another oldie-but-still-a-goodie that I've been wanting to shed "The Music Spectrum" spotlight on ever since I've been gathering up the 'S' artists in my collection. The first song much of the mainstream music-listening world will surely think of when they hear the name Sheila E. is certainly the hit title track to her debut album: "The Glamorous Life". And it certainly brings back all of those fond memories of my childhood, just as so many of these other 80's radio hits always do. Didn't bother to understand the story back then—I was surely too caught up in the song's funky beat and that signature blaring trumpet that accompanies the music—but the lyrics made a lot more sense to me once I reached adulthood, Sheila singing about a woman who'd rather have material things to make her happy instead of, as she says, a man's touch. A real and true story that a lot of women can still relate to, I would imagine. Though most people have probably only heard the four-something-minute edited versions that receive generous airplay on the throwback radio channels; I wonder how many listeners have indulged in the whopping 9+ minute-long studio version? Well it's all right here in its original music glory, complete with a wonderful extended instrumental show during the final minute or so; as a bonus treat, you'll get a club remix of it at the very end. And for those same people who've never heard the 9-minute original, how many of you have heard anything on this album beyond "The Glamorous Life"? I would imagine not so many, unless you were a Sheila E. fan. While it's hard to find another track here that tops that memorable oldie, there are still many pleasant listens to be enjoyed. "The Belle Of St. Mark" is so totally 80's with its sweet, bubbly sound and the catchy glow of Sheila happily singing ' I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love with the Belle of St. Mark ' in her lofty voice over and over in the chorus. "Shortberry Strawcake": I remember this one because of the purposeful, dyslexic switch-around of what we know as the popular dessert called 'strawberry shortcake'. This one's simply a funky instrumental showcasing the talents of the musicians and the production staff. "Noon Rendezvous": a romantic ambient piece that is more like a sweet tease, highlighting her smooth, lofty voice but ending rather abruptly just as you begin to sink into the music. "Oliver's House": it too is so totally 80's and becomes catchy when she keeps repeating 'fun'—fun at Oliver's house, with the wild party she sings about at the beginning verses—alongside the funky beat and the piano accompaniment. "Next Time Wipe The Lipstick Off Your Collar". Now you already know a song with this kind of title is all about a woman discovering that her man's been cheating; the evidence is all right there in bright red. I like the slow, orchestral rhythm on this one; it gives the song a theatrical feel and actually is perfect for the humorous, quirky story that she tells throughout. My favorite part is when she says that they no longer have to go out for dinner—hamburgers are cool instead—and that they no longer have to go out dancing—just their backyard will do. Not glamorous at all.....

1. The Belle Of St. Mark
2. Shortberry Strawcake
3. Noon Rendezvous
4. Oliver's House
5. Next Time Wipe The Lipstick Off Your Collar
6. The Glamorous Life
7. The Glamorous Life [Club Edit]

Sunday, February 4, 2018

BLUE MERCEDES-Rich And Famous (1988)


Back from another extended break and right back to the good ole 80's with another guilty pleasure from my pop music collection. I'm surprised at my myself that the too-short-lived British duo, BLUE MERCEDES, only lasted long enough to release exactly one album: "Rich And Famous". If you like senseless 80's pop with quirky male vocalists singing quirky songs with quirky lyrics an themes, but with all of it put to catchy and very groovy dance beats, then this is something that absolutely needs to be part of your next throwback music-listening lineup! When I casually tuned in to this via my iPod about a week or so ago while on a relaxing evening walk in the January cold, I was all smiles, enjoying every song just as I remembered the first time. While I'm still perplexed by what they're talking about on the sweet ballad piece, "Crunchy Love Affaire" (and where does the 'crunchy' even come in to play here?), I got their rather humorous, oddball ways of romantic charm all figured out everywhere else. Like on the opener, "I Want To Be Your Property", where they want to be exactly that for the woman. "I Hate New York" is my biggest favorite because of the beat, plus the humor the title incites in me, as he's singing about the fact he hates living in The Big Apple when the woman he loves isn't there with him. "Treehouse" is a playful song about building exactly what the title suggests built on love, but it's the lively, explosive production of the chorus with the banging drums and all that wins me over here! "Run For You Love" is the grooviest jam on the album; just totally addicted to the bass line in the beat and that quirky, digitally-disguised voice with its stuttered, chopped-up delivery of the title during the chorus. "See Want Must Have" is simply all about wanting everything he sets his sights upon while "Heaven On The Earth" is like an extension and the sunny sequel to "I Hate New York", having now experienced heavenly pleasure now that the woman is back in town. And there's no other town he'd rather be than Lovesville, which is confidently declared on Track #4's "Welcome To Lovesville". I've done my best to relay why "Rich And Famous" is still 'rich and famous' in my book, but I invite you to take a ride with BLUE MERCEDES to get the full picture yourself and award your own ears with musical wealth:

1. I Want To Be Your Property
2. See Want Must Have
3. Love Is The Gun
4. Welcome To Lovesville
5. Your Secret Is Safe With Me
6. I Hate New York
7. Treehouse
8. Heaven On Earth
9. Run For Your Love
10. Crunchy Love Affaire
11. I Want To Be Your Property [Def B4 Dishonour USA Mix]
12. Love Is The Gun [Miami Mix]
13. See Want Must Have [Funk Ass Mix]
14. Run For Your Love [Pop Art Mix]

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Barry Lane-Warning (1988)


'Warning' is right! That's because this latest 80's discovery of mine turned out becoming a lot more addictive than I thought it would, and for those of you who are crazy about 80's synthpop music like I am, then it just might become a new addiction for you too! I was casually browsing the German music catalog when I came across this Barry Lane, a guy whose name I felt somehow should've been familiar to me. But seeing it wasn't listed among the entries in the 'B' section of my music library, then it's safe to say his lone album from 1988 is something I'd never heard before. Which is good, because I always have an ear for 80's music that I've never heard before! In my initial listen, I gathered Barry's style is that of one of those romantic crooners who is a poetic balladeer at heart but has the mentality of a dance/pop singer, as evidenced by his delightful Italo-disco-sounding remake of the timeless classic, "Save The Last Dance", as well as his majestic performance delivered on my #1 favorite, "See My Need", which I loved as soon as the dreamy chords melted into my ears and continued to love with his lofty vocals repeatedly delivering his earnest words of 'please surrender yourself to me'. Something in particular I enjoyed about this album: every song has a way of ending up becoming super-catchy the longer the song moves along. Noticed that right off the bat with the opener, "Take A Chance", which is his spin on the popular take-a-chance-on-loving-me style of song and features some fun play with the digitally-disguised vocal effects chiming in with alternating 'take-take-take, chance-chance-chance' from the left and right audio channels midway through. "On both Journey To The Moon" and "Blue Body Dancer", it's the chorus that hooks me; the former's sing-along construction is what hooks me in particular. The big attraction about "Hearts Are Burning" is its big-time pounding bass line and energetic beat, plus the strong, fantastic finish when Barry declares ' you're the only one to give me love tonight '. There's another that finishes in big-time fashion: "Hold My Hand". The album's concluding track has a happy, romantic air about it that delights the ears anyway, but then there's the festive instrumentals and the perky beat and Barry's earnest words about how he simply wants to hold the woman's hand. "Never Forever": another favorite that I instantly liked as soon as the music started. Perfect synthpop beat, mellow tonality of the chords, the light calypso and thunderous drum beats...the production is fabulous! And his smooth vocals again make me think of him as that romantic crooner whose words melt ever so nicely over the music. I also love the title track itself, where he confesses that a woman broke his heart without warning—hence the title—which results in his fantasy and dream being over. Despite the sadness emanating the heart-broken lyrics, the music itself has a certain spark that delights my ears—good enough reason to like this song or anything else that was recorded back in my favorite decade:

1. Take A Chance
2. Journey To The Moon
3. Blue Body Dancer
4. Young Girl
5. See My Need
6. In A Night Like This
7. Warning
8. Save The Last Dance
9. You Can Give Me Tenderness
10. Hearts Are Burning
11. Never Forever
12. Hold My Hand

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Steve Perry-Street Talk [Remastered Edition] (1984)


Wow—I should be devoting more time to this whole updating-my-music-library thing more often! Seems I've had a lopsided focus on the 'S' entries of my music library over these past few weeks, but when I keep digging up these golden goodies from the past that feed my insatiable nostalgia for the 80's, how can I help it? One of the most iconic voices in rock music well-recognized and respected from my favorite decade belongs to Steve Perry, remembered and adored by many as the lead vocalist of the legendary band JOURNEY for several years. But I imagine Steve really hasn't ever needed to be part a band with the amazing, husky voice he carries, a distinction he proved all the way back on first of his solo accomplishments entitled "Street Talk". Had almost forgotten this was the one where he cranked out two of the greatest hits in 80's rock music history: "Oh Sherrie" and "Foolish Heart". Both will forever take me back to the memorable radio-listening years of my childhood—"Oh Sherrie" always capturing me with that familiar ' you should've been gone ' wailed acappella right at the beginning and its so wonderfully-delicious hook, ' oh Sherrie, I'm in love ' while "Foolish Heart" delights me with its the tender warmth and breezy groove. Yet there's so much more to talk about on "Street Talk" than that perfect pair of timeless classics that have remained eternal staples on the soft rock airwaves . There's the lovely piece called "I Believe" that bounces along like one of those retro-throwback pop jams from the 60's and gets marvelously jazzed up with a saxophone instrumental midway through (which I think should've been infused into the music all throughout). Or any number of the lively, energetic rockin' jams that jump start you and whose hooks will make you stop what you're doing and wanna dance because the chorus hooks are just too catchy to miss out on: "It's Only Love", "You Should Be Happy" (really, I can stay hooked on just the hook here; otherwise, it's just much too short!), "Captured By The Moment" and "Makes No Difference" (I like these where Steve shows off the range and versatility in his voice, here showing off the higher and loftier side as he's practically screeching some of the lyrics). He and his voice are clearly the talk of this entire "Street Talk" , but there's some songs in particular where I found him to be absolutely astounding: "She's Mine", where his warnings of ' don't hang around here no more, don't show your face here no more ' sees him staking his claim to his woman loud and clear, "Running Alone", which is one of those power ballads that sneak up on you with the soft and gentle beginnings before the music intensifies and the singer lets it rip with the soaring vocals; and "If Only For The Moment, Girl", which I'd completely forgotten was featured on another memorable album, "We Are The World", which was also the charity song that Steve contributed to as part of the star-studded ensemble, USA FOR AFRICA. And every album from the 80's has to have those one or two songs that are simply fun listens; the guilty pleasures here are the pop-perfect "Go Away" and the short n' sweet bluesy rocker "My My My" (the 'm-m-m-m-m-my' delivered in the chorus is like the best part of the song). They say that talk is cheap, but I beg to differ in this case because I'd say my words of praise for this "Street Talk" album are gonna be worth a whole lot to someone:

1. Oh Sherry
2. I Believe
3. Go Away
4. Foolish Heart
5. It's Only Love
6. She's Mine
7. You Should Be Happy
8. Running Alone
9. Captured By The Moment
10. Strung Out
11. My My My
12. Harmony
13. Makes No Difference
14. Don't Tell Me Why You're Leaving
15. If Only For The Moment, Girl

Monday, January 22, 2018

Stacy Lattisaw-I'm Not The Same Girl (1985)


I just love it when one music super-addiction leads to another music super-addiction! All of these endless playbacks of Peabo Bryson/Roberta Flack jam "Comin' Alive" that I've been enjoying for months now has had me doing all sorts of fun stuff—from creating my own remixes of it to researching the official lyrics to it. The latter had to be what I was doing when my eye caught the name of the talented girl you see pictured above tagged to that song's title after the search results popped up. Double-checking the lyrics, I realized they were exactly the same as the words I've had memorized and embedded in my head from constantly listening to and hearing mental echoes of the 1983 Peabo/Roberta original. Excitement, thrill and giddiness filled me up with me with having gotten my latest 'Music Surprise Of The Day'; I knew that I absolutely had to track down and hear this Stacy Lattisaw version as well! Perfect timing, considering I'd yet to complete my cataloging of the 'S' entries in my music collection, plus the fact that there were a couple of Stacy's albums I was looking to add to my library anyways. Well "Comin' Alive" 'comes alive' even more when it's the powerful, piercing voice of a nineteen-year-old girl leading the way and a catchy, poptastic dance beat to go along with it! Guess this was the 'remix' that I had hungered for all along! Except Stacy's remake is missing the signature 'whoo!' from the ' comin' alive, comin' alive, I got this feeling that I comin' alive ' breakdown after the chorus—a small oversight I can forgive when her high, soaring vocals delivering the words astound me as much as they do! And yes,I've already enjoyed countless replays of this remake. And further yes, I've also thought about creating my own remixes of it, as it too—just like the Peabo/Roberta original—is much too short for my taste. Might be a while before I get around to starting that project, but in the meantime, I've got so many other newly-discovered Stacy Lattisaw addictions to occupy my ears. For instance, the awesome jam that is title track, which is definitely my #2! Here she broadcasts her maturity and intelligence in not being fooled by the same lies that the other girls were tricked by, and proves she knows the game by leaving the guy for good. But it's the catchy dance beat, the haunting arrangement of the chords, the way the pitch goes up and down during her delivery of the chorus and her soaring vocals before the big chorus that dazzle me here! "Can't Stop Thinking About You": a sweet and sunny song fit for a teenage girl in love, and I like how the pitch keeps going up in the closing moments to add a touch of accent to the music. Then I got to enjoy a flurry of charming ballads that cast that starry, soft rock radio glow: "Now We're Starting Over Again" (this one, in fact, sounds like a song I might've heard years ago on that memorable competition show "Star Search", where a lot of teenage talents got their starts), "He's Just Not You" (bitter and sweet—the new man in her life isn't quite the same as the one whom she really longs for) and "I Thought It Took A Little Time". And for a little romantic campy-ness, there's the bouncy groove "Together", which reminds me of any one of those homely 80's sitcom theme songs heard in the opening or closing credits. Stacy Lattisaw may forever be the same talented girl singing on this album, but listening to these same songs has certainly made me into a different man of late:

1. Can't Stop Thinking About You
2. Coming Alive
3. Now We're Starting Over Again
4. He's Just Not You
5. I'm Not The Same Girl
6. Toughen Up
7. Together
8. I Thought It Took A Little Time

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Peabo Bryson & Roberta Flack-Born To Love (1983)


You've seen this pair featured here at "The Music Spectrum" before, but that was to individually highlight select albums from their respective solo careers. But for tonight's feature presentation, two of the greatest soul singers in contemporary music unite to bring you "Born To Love", a fine collection of duets that I've been hooked on for the better part of three months now! Going back to the late summer and early fall of last year, I was determined to go back in time and to start exploring the discography of many of the music legends whose music is still fairly unknown to me. And considering that, around that same time period, I was in the process of gathering up the 'R' artists in my music collection, it was a perfect time to check out everything that Ms. Roberta Flack recorded—both during my favorite decade as well as during the 70's before I was born. I'd been moving right along—one album at a time in no particular order—when I came to a dead halt with what at first I thought was her 1983 solo release until I'd hear the familiar voice of Peabo Bryson joining in with her. As always, listening to Peabo paired up with the sweet soulful voice of a lady is always a joy, and nothing that he and Roberta perform here may be more enchanting than the memorable opener, "Tonight, I Celebrate My Love". Even before playing this whole album, I had already known about and heard that quiet storm classic countless times between all the hours of tuning in to the soft rock and r&b radio stations during my lifetime. Sometimes, though, it's just better to hear it in its uninterrupted album so that you can enjoy all of its original magic. Yet that's not the only quiet storm slow jam that is worthy of celebration. Equally enchanting on the ears is the marvelous "I Just Came Here To Dance", where they confess not having been looking for love when they came to the party, but ending up finding a lover anyways. It's like a romantic play on that old adage that you often find exactly what you're looking for when you're not even looking for it. "You're Lookin' Like Love To Me" is one of the sweetest soul songs I've ever heard, talking about how a man or a woman can be so beautifully appealing to the eye that it instantly triggers romantic affection. That starry soft rock radio glow envelops me every time I listen to the dreamy and cuddly number about the possibilities of loving again on the one simply called "Maybe"; I get the exact same feeling listening to "Blame It On Me". Peabo is absent, however, while Roberta is performing alone on "Can We Find Love Again?". Would've sounded great as a duet, but Roberta gives a scintillating performance, questioning the chance for romance to get fired up again. I especially love her powerful, rising vocals whenever she delivers the title lyrics in sync with the breezy groove—just so, so perfect. Peabo and Roberta surely conquer the quiet storm slow gems, but they prove they can also thrill you on the dance floor too! "Heaven Above Me" is the first piece of evidence—a terrifically jazzed-up pop jam that might sound as a surprise coming from this soulicious pair known more so for their ballads. And that second piece of evidence? "Comin' Alive". If I had to vote, this surprise of a post-disco jam would have earned the award for my personal 'Super Addiction Of The Year' for 2017! I just love everything about this song—from Roberta's opening grown to the groovy dance rhythm to the sparkly, magical lyrics about one who brings the other to life with the other's romantic charm. But the part of this song that I'm eternally hooked to is the breakdown when they go 'comin' alive, comin' alive, whooo!, I got this feeling that I comin' alive '. Unfortunately, the breakdown only occurs one time in the original recording, which wasn't nearly enough for me. So I had started a mini side project where I made like a DJ/producer, using special software to create my own remix to extend that breakdown beyond the original eight bars (you music composers know what I'm talking about here). The end result was actually two working extended remixes: the four-and-a-half minute '2017 Extended Mix' and the seven-and-a-half minute '2017 Super Extended Mix'. The latter one I am especially proud of, and includes the Australian electronic pop duo EMPIRE OF THE SUN as a special guest (you'll have to listen for yourself). My "Music Spectrum" exclusive creations have pretty much satisfied me in the absence of official remixes (I don't believe there are any), although I have a couple more ideas for two other mixes I would like to work on, one that extends that twinkly beat drop right after that breakdown part. I the meantime, I'll just keep on loving "Born To Love" as it is now; no telling when I'll be able to overcome my ongoing addiction and advance forward in Roberta Flack's discography:

1. Tonight, I Celebrate My Love
2. Blame It On Me
3. Heaven Above Me
4. Born To Love
5. Maybe
6. I Just Came Here To Dance
7. Comin' Alive
8. You're Lookin' Like Love To Me
9. Can We Find Love Again?

*****BONUS TRACKS*****

10. Comin' Alive [2017 Extended Mix]
11. Comin' Alive [2017 Super Extended Mix]

SLY FOX-Let's Go All The Way (1985)


With all of my recent talk in this new year about listening to post-New Millennium electronic/synthpop groups whose music resembles the sounds of my favorite decade, why don't just back to the 80's for real? Boy am I glad I made some progress towards the end of last year with getting the 'S' entries of my music library organized. While I still got several artists to go before moving on to the 'T' artists, I was able to reconnect with a lot of familiar names whose tunes I haven't heard in ages! Among those on this 'S' re-connection list is the too-short-lived duo that called itself SLY FOX. Every 80's music lover has surely infinitely countless replays of the duo's breakthrough hit, "Let's Go All The Way", whether on the radio airwaves, MTV or whatever 80's throwback pop music compilation might be in your stash of physical CD's. For years and years, "Let's Go All The Way" stood as the only SLY FOX song that I'd ever heard! And by years, I mean about.....say thirty of them? I have to admit—I initially wasn't a childhood fan of "Let's Go All The Way"; I think something about the slightly monotonic and mechanical delivery of this song was something I simply couldn't get used to, similar to how a lot of early DEPECHE MODE songs didn't appeal to me three decades ago. But now as an adult, and with both my musical awareness and appreciation having heightened over time, "Let's Go All The Way" is now a golden oldie I can get with, particularly because of the dynamite slammin' beat and the accompanying suspenseful chords, plus the 'jum jum'—the untranslatable words repetitively droned right at the opening movement—and the equally-untranslatable 'zeeeee' buzzed the background all throughout. A rather quirky, new-wavish style of song, I would say, but then that's the awesome 80's for you. And with this special edition of the original 1985 release, you get treated to a whopping seven remixes for extended listening pleasure. But despite "Let's Go All The Way" being so hugely popular within the music mainstream, I myself enjoyed everything else on this album more! When I randomly put this album on my car's iPod, my ears took notice of a lot of good jams that I knew only could've came from the 80's, but had no idea SLY FOX was the performer until I pressed the button on my stereo display and saw their name scrolling horizontally across the text window! All of them are exciting, have highly-addicting hooks and totally capture the feel-good dance/pop of the 80's, with my personal faves being "Como Tu Te Llama" (loved this one even before my first time hearing it, thanks to the Spanish title, which gets translated during the song as ' tell me what's your name '), "Stay True" (my #1 favorite, in fact; everything about this song just thrills me—from the sound of the chords to the emotional lyrics and the rising vocals of one of the guys when he earnestly delivers the 'all I want to do is stay' line before the chorus), "If Push Comes To Shove" (love the sweet, happy sound of the music and the part that goes 'if push comes to shove, then I have to have your love' ; these simple guilty pleasures are what I sorely miss about the 80's) and "Merry Go Round" (the subtle 'reggae/carnival' rhythm fits the song's title and theme perfectly, and I like how they incorporate the old adage 'round and round and round it goes, where it stops, nobody knows' when talking about the dizzying phenomenon of love). Even the album's lone ballad is a thrill: "Won't Let You Go". It's tagged as being a wedding song, and the thunderous, backing orchestral display beneath the serene piano ambiance in combination the emotional words from the soul molds this one into quite the majestic musical joy:

1. Let's Go All The Way
2. Don't Play With Fie
3. I Still Remember
4. Won't Let You Go (The Wedding Song)
5. Como Tu Te Llama (What's Your Name)
6. Stay True
7. If Push Comes To Shove
8. Merry Go Round
9. Let's Go All The Way (Blix Mix)
10. Let's Go All The Way (Diamond Dub Mix)
11. Let's Go All The Way (DMC Multimix)
12. Let's Go All The Way (Dj G Sweet Mix vs ICP)
13. Let's Go All The Way (Single Edit)
14. Let's Go All The Way (Short Blix Mix)
15. Let's Go All The Way (Bonus Beats)
16. Como Tu Te Llama (Reduced Remix)