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My Favorite Albums 1980-85

1980-85 were my teen years, and music was IMPORTANT, especially cause i was in a band (Mental Ward, and before that The Sniperz - egads!).   After spending far too much time on this, I present a bunch of my favorites (in some kind of rough order).  Some I loved then, some I have come to love since then.  And past the 150 mark, I may not have listened to the whole album (yet).  

FAVORITE ALBUMS 1980-85

  1. TALKING HEADS - Remain In Light (1980)

  2. XTC - English Settlement (1982) / Black Sea (1980) / Mummer (1983) / The Big Express (1984)

  3. THE CLASH - Sandanista (1980) / Combat Rock (1982)

  4. PRINCE - Purple Rain (1984) / 1999 (1982) / Around The World In A Day (1985)

  5. MINUTEMEN - Buzz Or Howl Under The Influence Of Heat (1983) / Double Nickels On The Dime (1984)

  6. KATE BUSH - Hounds of Love (1985) / The Dreaming (1982)

  7. ARVO PART - Tabula Rasa (1984)

  8. TRANSLATOR - Heartbeats and Triggers (1982)

  9. GREG BROWN- One Night (1981)

  10. GANG OF FOUR - Another Day / Another Dollar (1982) / Songs Of The Free (1982)

  11. STEVE TIBBETTS - Northern Song (1982)

  12. SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES - Juju (1981)

  13. ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN - Ocean Rain (1984) / Crocodiles (1980) / Porcupine (1983) / Heaven Up Here (1982)

  14. RITES OF SPRING - Rites Of Spring (1985)

  15. HUSKER DU - Zen Arcade (1984)

  16. SPLIT ENZ - Time And Tide (1982)

  17. TERRY RILEY & THE KRONOS QUARTET - Cadenza on the Night Plain (1984)

  18. URGH! A MUSIC WAR (VARIOUS ARTISTS) (1982)

A glorious cross-section of some of the better new music of the era, all recorded live for the film of the same name.  Mixing some well-known (The Police, XTC, DEVO, Echo & The Bunnymen, Gang of Four, X, Steel Pulse) with some more obscure gems (Skafish, Athletico Spizz 80, Pere Ubu, John Otway), this was a smorgasborg of 27 artists for new music fans in the early 80’s.  

  1. MISSION OF BURMA - Vs. (1982)

  2. KLAUS WIESE - Baraka (1981)

The solo debut from this dreamscape master.  Lusciously sublime tones carry you into the next world ...

  1. ITURI PYGMIES - Polyphony of the Deep Rainforest (1983)

I love the entrancing and complex vocal interplay of all “pygmy” music.  This one “documents a song-and-dance ceremony by a group of Pygmies in Mambasa, Zaire in 1983. Mambasa is a town at the entry to the Ituri Rain Forest, where Pygmies continued to live off of the land and feed themselves by hunting with bows and spears.”  It’s a field recording, no frills - often acappela, sometimes accompanied by the likembe thumb piano.

  1. DEAD KENNEDYS - Plastic Surgery Disasters (1982)

  2. U2 - War (1983) / The Unforgettable Fire (1984)

  3. THE JAM - The Gift (1982)

  4. THOMAS DOLBY - The Golden Age of the Wireless (1982)

  5. SONIC YOUTH - Bad Moon Rising (1985)

  6. CHAKA KHAN - Naughty (1980)

  7. PETER GABRIEL - Security (1982)

  8. DON CHERRY & ED BLACKWELL - El Corazon (1982)

Duo explorations crossing jazz and world terrain.  The Morrocan-ish groove of “Makondi” really gets down, while other tracks explore a softer palette.  Two masters just having fun and creating freely. Cherry plays a variety of instruments - pocket trumpet, piano, melodica, organ and the African stringed xalam, while Blackwell focuses on percussion.  

  1. CODONA - Codona 3 (1982)

3 masters (Don Cherry, Collin Walcott and Nana Vasconcellos) exploring a beautiful variety of textures.  From ambient to groove, all with a sweet improvisational flow and a wide variety of world instrumentation.  

  1. X - More Fun In The New World (1983)

  2. THE FALL - This Nation’s Saving Grace (1985) / The Wonderful And Frightening World Of The Fall (1984)

  3. JAMES BLOOD ULMER - Odyssey (1983)

A distinct sound which somehow merged rock, blues, funk, and free jazz.  Memorable songs with a uniquely choppy, “harmolodic” approach.

  1. SPECIALS - More (1980)

  2. ADAM AND THE ANTS - Kings Of The Wild Frontier (1980)

A guilty pleasure, this was my introduction to “new wave” and every song is etched in

My brain.   Quite a curious mix of styles, with plenty of catchy (and wacky) chants over

Jangly acoustic guitar and punk-edged electric guitar, with simple drum rhythms.  

  1. KING CRIMSON - Discipline (1981)

  2. ELVIS COSTELLO - Trust (1981)

  3. SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK  - Good News (1981) / We All … Everyone of Us (1983)

  4. PHILIP AABERG - High Plains (1985)

  5. BIG BOYS - No Matter How Long The Line Is At The Cafeteria, There’s Always A Seat! (1984) / Lullabies Help The Brain Grow (1983)

One of the earliest and best funk-punk hybrids, from Texas no less.   You can tell that their live shows would have been a barrel of fun. From speedy punk workouts to jagged funky jams, this is from the days when punk was joyous and free of dogmatism.  

  1. PLUGZ - Better Luck (1981)

A tragically forgotten LA band that morphed into the much inferior Cruzados.  Raw and joyous rock with a punk edge.

  1. DANCE CRAZE (VARIOUS ARTISTS) (1981)

An amazing look at the 2 Tone ska explosion in England, which was an unusually racially-mixed movement of bands who amped up Jamaican ska with some punk energy.  This is the soundtrack to the film. The Specials, Madness, Bad Manners, The Selecter, Bodysnatchers, and The Beat.

  1. HAROLD BUDD AND BRIAN ENO - The Pearl (1984)

  2. RONALD SHANNON JACKSON AND THE DECODING SOCIETY - Barbeque Dog (1983)

  3. SQUIRRELBAIT - Squirrelbait (1985)

  4. FELA KUTI - I.T.T. (1980)

  5. PRETENDERS - II (1981)

  6. KELS KOCH - Kochin (1984?)

Never heard of this one?  No surprise, since it was an extremely limited cassette-only release by my friend, who happened to be an amazing songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist, way back in high school!  Now in The Million Sellers by the way.

  1. SACCHARINE TRUST - Worldbroken (1985)

A rambling jazzy-punky hybrid which gets extra points for being a completely improvised live recording.  Roping in Mike Watt from the Minutemen, this is a slightly psychotic and mysterious journey. You either love or hate Jack Brewer’s spoken-sung vocals, I enjoy his unique delivery.  

  1. THE INDESTRUCTIBLE BEAT OF SOWETO (VARIOUS ARTISTS) (1985)

Bringing South African music to the world’s attention, this is a great sampler of 12 groups playing different styles which all retain a joyous delivery.

  1. ORNETTE COLEMAN - Of Human Feelings (1982)

Joyous funky grooves, with a manic edge.   Suffers a bit from sameness, but what a groove it is!

  1. THE POLICE - Ghost In The Machine (1981)

  2. THIS HEAT - Deceit (1981)

  3. ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO - Full Force (1980)

Ranging from abstract explorations on the quiet side to driving jazz and some nice melodic pieces, this is a great document of the varied terrain the Art Ensemble covers

  1. BAD BRAINS - Rock For Light (1983)

  2. THE BIRTHDAY PARTY - Prayers On Fire (1981)

  3. DEVO - Freedom Of Choice (1980)

  4. MANUEL GOTTSCHING - E2-E4 (1981)

One of the earliest examples of what would become electronic dance music, and still better than most of what has come since

  1. PAUL MCCARTNEY - MCCARTNEY II (1980)

  2. REM - Murmur (1983)

  3. PSYCHEDELIC FURS - Talk Talk Talk (1981)

  4. SQUEEZE - East Side Story (1981)

  5. BRUCE COCKBURN - Stealing Fire (1984)

  6. SMITHS - Hatful Of Hollow (1984)

  7. MOEBIUS - PLANK - NEUMEIER - Zero Set (1983)

  8. THE WHO - It’s Hard (1982)

  9. THE CURE - The Top (1984)

Some of their most aggressive and edgy material, along with the catchy pop leanings which would come to dominate in later years.  

  1. BIG BLACK - Bulldozer (1983)

  2. JOE JACKSON - Beat Crazy (1980)

  3. COMSAT ANGELS - Land (1983)

  4. KLARK KENT - Music Madness from the Kinetic Kid (1980)

  5. BRIAN ENO - Ambient 4:  On Land (1982)

  6. THE EX - History Is What’s Happening (1982) / Pokkeherrie (1985)

  7. ZAZOU / BIKAYE / CY1 - Noir Et Blanc (1983)

An exhilarating collision of disparate worlds - electronica meets the Congo meets the avant-garde.  So far ahead of its time that nobody has caught up yet.

  1. MCCOY TYNER - 4 X 4 (1980) / 13th House (1984)

  2. WALL OF VOODOO - Call Of The West (1982)

  3. PSYCHIC TV - Dreams Less Sweet (1983)

  4. STEVIE WONDER - Hotter Than July (1980)

  5. JANE SIBERRY - No Borders Here (1984)

  6. BOB MARLEY - Uprising (1980)

  7. MEAT PUPPETS - Meat Puppets II (1982)

  8. SWINGERS - Counting the Beat (1981)

  9. OINGO BOINGO - Good For Your Soul (1983)

  10. DUKES OF STRATOSPHERE - 25 O’Clock (1985)

  11. CAPTAIN BEEFHEART - Ice Cream For Crow (1982)

  12. ANDY SUMMERS & ROBERT FRIPP - I Advance Masked (1982)

  13. GARETH WILLIAMS & MARY CURRIE - Flaming Tunes (1985)

  14. MICHAEL BROOK - Hybrid (1985)

Rhythmic ambient dreamscapes with guitar soaring in and out

  1. VIRGINIA ASTLEY - From Gardens Where We Feel Secure (1983)

Pastoral loveliness, quite a nice soundtrack for a summer stroll in the English countryside.  Piano, flute, some guitar and lots of chirping birds.

  1. JOHN MARTYN - Grace & Danger (1980)

  2. SECTOR 27 - Sector 27 (1980)

After Tom Robinson’s band from the 70’s disbanded, he formed this short-lived group, which continued his impassioned songwriting craft and strong, punk-edged rock

  1. HAIRCUT 100 - Pelican West (1982)

  2. NICK HEYWARD - North of a Miracle (1983)

  3. VIOLENT FEMMES - Hallowed Ground (1984)

  4. REPLACEMENTS - Let It Be (1984)

  5. RAT MUSIC FOR RAT PEOPLE (VARIOUS ARTISTS) (1982)

(Mostly) live recordings of many of the west coast’s finest punk of the early 80’s (DK’s, DOA, Flipper, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, T.S.O.L., Dils, Avengers) plus Bad Brains from the East!

  1. SLOVENLY - After The Original Style (1984)

I always loved this band’s off-kilter style, especially the unique guitar approach and interesting melodic sensibility. This is a great first album carving out their unique place in the post-punk musical spectrum.  

  1. NEIL YOUNG -  Re-ac-tor (1981)

Doesn’t get the props of some other NY + Crazy Horse albums, but all the songs are pretty good rockers, especially “Shots”

  1. THE CHURCH - Of Skins And Heart (1981)

Jangly, dreamy rock with great songwriting and a bit of a punk edge

  1. BAD RELIGION - How Could Hell Be Any Worse? (1981)

  2. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN - Born in the U.S.A. (1984)

  3. JOY DIVISION - Closer (1980)

  4. BLACK FLAG - Damaged (1981)

  5. MX-80 SOUND - Out Of The Tunnel (1980)

  6. VAN MORRISON - Common One (1980)

  7. THE DICKIES - Stukas Over Disneyland (1983)

  8. RUSH - Signals (1982)

  9. FRANCIS BEBEY - African Moonlight (1984)

Bebey was one of the more experimental African artists of his time, combining influences in ways rarely heard before.  From Cameroon, he also lived in the U.S., France, and Ghana.

  1. ROBERT WYATT - Nothing Can Stop Us (1982)

  2. SHRIEKBACK - Care (1983)

  3. JOAN ARMATRADING - Walk Under Ladders (1981)

  4. GEORGE CLINTON - Computer Games (1982)

  5. UNITS - Digital Stimulation (1980)

  6. JERRY HARRISON - The Red and The Black (1981)

  7. MASSACRE - Killing Time (1980)

  8. BOBBY MCFERRIN - Bobby McFerrin (1982)

  9. PROLETARIAT - Soma Holiday (1983)

A lesser-known but great punk band from Boston in the vein of Gang Of 4, The Ex and Wire.  Raw, edgy, and politically charged.

  1. J GEILS BAND - Freeze Frame (1981)

  2. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS - The Firstborn Is Dead (1985)

  3. PETE TOWNSHEND - Empty Glass (1980)

  4. STEPHAN MICUS - Wings Over Water (1982)

  5. ANDY AND THE RATTLESNAKES - Last Summer To Dance (1981)

Little known but potent rock and roll revivalists who were kind of LA’s version of the E      Street Band, complete with passionate vocal delivery, and with a more dance-oriented focus and a bit of punk passion.  

  1. AU PAIRS - Playing With A Different Sex (1981)

  2. TOM WAITS - Swordfishtrombones (1983)

  3. DAVID BOWIE - Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (1980)

  4. PHAROAH SANDERS - Journey to the One (1980)

Though certainly not as compelling as his early 70’s albums, which are amongst my favorites of all-time (esp. “Live at the East,”  “Elevation,” “Black Unity”), this is an enjoyable album of fairly smooth jazz with a little bit of his legendary fire in the mix, as well as some sublime beauty.

  1. STEVE REICH - Tehillim (1981)

Another variation on Reich’s hypnotic pulse, here with strong vocal parts

  1. 100 FLOWERS - 100 Flowers (1983)

  2. ENGLISH BEAT - Special Beat Service (1983)

  3. CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN - Telephone Free Landslide Victory (1985)

  4. BUTTHOLE SURFERS - Butthole Surfers (1983)

The first and perhaps most potent blast from the acid-trip punk contingent.  

  1. TIME ZONE - World Destruction (1984)

Ok, i know it’s really a single but since it’s one of the finest songs of the early 80’s I had to get it on here somehow.  Afrikka Bambaata teams up with Johnny Lydon for a whoppin’ good tune

  1. RAIN PARADE - Emergency Third Rail Power Trip (1983)

  2. MEREDITH MONK - Dolmen Music (1981)

  3. POGUES - Run, Sodomy, and the Lash (1985)

  4. HEART - Bebe Le Strange (1980)

  5. TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS - Hard Promises (1981)

  6. THE UNKNOWNS - The Unknowns (1982)

Haunting songs with a retro-rockabilly meets new wave feel.  Little known LA band that i discovered on New Wave Theatre. A bit like the Cramps without the campy element.   “City of Angels” and “The Streets” are classics.

  1. DAVID MURRAY OCTET - Ming (1980)

Some fast-driving blowouts, some swingin jazz, some funky jams, some explorations

  1. PERE UBU - The Art Of Walking (1980)

  2. DEUTER - Silence Is the Answer (1980)

  3. WILL ACKERMAN - Passage (1981)

  4. EINSTURZENDE NEUBATEN - Halber Mensch (1985)

  5. ROEDELIUS – Wenn Der Sudwind Weht (1981)

A lovely melodic dreamscape fitting for a drive through the countryside.  A solo effort by this Cluster member, showing the potential for synthesizers as a thing of beauty.  

  1. GENESIS - Abacab (1981)

  2. CAMBERWELL NOW - Meridian (1983)

From the ashes of This Heat came this group exploring similarly unconventional terrain, but with less of an abrasive edge than This Heat.  This, their first release, is not nearly as potent as later releases, which upped the rhythmic intensity

  1. ALI FARKA TOURE - Ali Toure dit “Farka” (1980)

  2. MUHAL RICHARD ABRAMS - Blues Forever (1982)

A sprawling jazz and beyond jazz work, from avant to straight up driving tunes, all with an 11-piece big band.

  1. DEAD CAN DANCE - Spleen and Ideal (1985)

  2. DAVID BYRNE & BRIAN ENO - My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981)

  3. RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON - Shoot out the Lights (1982)

  4. TOM ROBINSON - North By Northwest (1982)

  5. THE REIVERS - Translate Slowly (1985)

  6. ROBERT FRIPP - God Save The Queen / Under Heavy Manners (1980)

  7. FLIPPER - Gone Fishin’ (1984)

  8. YELLO - You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess (1983)

  9. SIMPLE MINDS - New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84) (1982)

  10. E.W. WAINWRIGHT, JR. - African Roots of Jazz (1981)

A communal, spiritual vibe runs throughout these heavily rhythmic pieces, often with a group choir chiming in.   Latin-jazz influence, as much as African.

  1. P.E.A.C.E. (VARIOUS ARTISTS) (1984)

A sprawling compilation of all sorts of “punk” - not all great, but a lot of great tracks by some very obscure bands from across the globe.

  1. MICHAEL JACKSON - Thriller (1982)

  2. DICKS - These People (1985)

  3. BILLY JOEL - Glass Houses (1980)

  4. GEORGE WINSTON - Autumn (1980)

  5. PHILIP GLASS - Koyaanisqatsi (1983)

  6. SAVAGE REPUBLIC - Ceremonial (1985)

  7. NO MEANS NO - You Kill Me (1985)

A taste of greater things to come.  Rhythmically heavy prog-punk grooves, with a maniacal lyrical edge.  Think Birthday Party, Saccharine Trust, Jesus Lizard

  1. KATE WOLF - Give Yourself To Love (1983)

The sweetest of folksingers.  Music for a cozy singalong by the fire with friends.

  1. UB40 - Signing Off (1980)

  2. KINKS - State of Confusion (1983)

  3. STEVIE NICKS - Bella Donna (1981)

  4. DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS - Too-Rye-Ay (1982)

  5. BILLY SQUIER - Don’t Say No (1981)

  6. A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS - A Flock Of Seagulls (1982)

  7. SOFT CELL - Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret (1981)

  8. PAYOLAS - No Stranger To Danger (1982)

  9. VAPORS - New Clear Days (1980)

  10. THE THE - Soul Mining (1983)

  11. BLANCMANGE - Happy Families (1982)

  12. HOODOO GURUS - Stoneage Romeos (1984)

  13. GO-GO’S - Beauty and the Beat (1981)

  14. CODE BLUE - Code Blue (1980)

  15. THE CARS - Shake It Up (1981)

  16. RESIDENTS - Commercial Album (1980)

  17. RENALDO AND THE LOAF - Songs For Swinging Larvae (1981)

  18. LINDA RONSTADT - Mad Love (1982)

  19. JONATHAN RICHMAN - Jonathan Sings! (1983)

  20. JOHN COUGAR MELLENCAMP - Uh-Huh! (1983)

  21. JOHN LENNON & YOKO ONO - Double Fantasy (1980)

  22. DREAM SYNDICATE - Days of Wine & Roses (1982)

  23. BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE - This Is Big Audio Dynamite (1985)

  24. THE GORDONS - The Gordons (1981)

Heavy churning throb from New Zealand.  They would later morph into Bailter Space, another fine band.

  1. MAN SIZED ACTION - Five Story Garage (1984)

A Minneapolis band overshadowed by contemporaries like Husker Du and the Replacements, but a pretty damned good mix of melodic punk and post-punk.

  1. MINOR THREAT - Out of Step (1983)

  2. ADRIAN BELEW - The Lone Rhino (1982)

  3. AC/DC - Back In Black (1980)

  4. MICHAEL HEDGES - Aerial Boundaries (1984)

  5. THE CALL - Modern Romans (1983)

  6. HUMAN SWITCHBOARD - Who’s Landing in My Hangar? (1981)

  7. TOM TOM CLUB - Tom Tom Club (1981)

  8. MARVIN GAYE - Midnight Love (1982)

 

NEW WAVE THEATRE

And I must mention the huge impact of the TV Show "New Wave Theatre" - a precious window for those of us stuck in Montana to check out some of the best (and the worst) of new underground music.  It was a bizarre 3-ring circus, with space-age philosophical musings by host Peter Ivers, plus bizarre little skits and fake ads, and the legendary band interviews, where Peter's question was always "What is the meaning of life?".  And the music - so many great bands and artists, some of whom barely got around to releasing any official recordings.  Some of my favorites who appeared during the 3? years (1981-83) of the show:

BLASTERS, X, TOP JIMMY & THE RHYTHM PIGS, CIRCLE JERKS, RED WEDDING, MONITOR, RAYONICS, DEAD KENNEDYS, THE FIBONACCIS, STEPMOTHERS, 45 GRAVE, UXA, PLUGZ, UNKNOWNS, LEGAL WEAPON, THE GENERALS, LEVI DEXTER & THE TRIBE, SNAKEPIT & ZAM, ANGRY SAMOANS, BAD RELIGION, FEAR, ANDY & THE RATTLESNAKES, BRAINIACS, CIPHER