The Great 80s Project: 1986

With debut albums from Crowded House and The Housemartins standing alongside massive hits from Madonna, a-ha and Red Box, 1986 would already have a strong enough grounding to challenge 1984 as one of the decade’s finest years for music. With Huey Lewis’s ‘Fore!’ challenging 1983’s as his masterpiece, a strong AOR debut from Robert Tepper and Jackson Browne’s ‘Lives In The Balance’ channelling a very commercial sound, it was also very much a year for great Transatlantic AOR and sounds that now seem so entrenched within that decade, you can’t help but love them.

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DENNIS DEYOUNG – 96 East: Volume 1

Beloved by many within the melodic rock community, Dennis De Young is someone worthy of being called a legend. His years spent recording with pomp rock legends Styx gave the world a handful of classic albums. His on/off solo career also brought big success in the US, with his 1983 album ‘Desert Moon’ being highly praised. He even wrote a musical based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In terms of a career, after fifty years, he’s pretty much done it all.

All good things must come to an end and with his ’26 East’, Dennis closes his half-century in the spotlight the best way he knows how. Few would have the balls to say goodbye with a double volume of autobiographical material (except, perhaps, Neal Morse), but DeYoung makes such an indulgent concept seem like a fitting epitaph.

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FM – Synchronized

When FM released their ninth studio album ‘Heroes & Villains’ in 2015, it kicked off a second golden age for the band. An album loaded with great songs, it showed Steve Overland and friends in their best shape since the late 80s. A re-recorded version of their classic ‘Indiscreet’ released the following year presented a really muscular sound and proved that re-recording old work does occasionally work out for the best and 2018’s ‘Atomic Generation’ – although sticking somewhat to a well-established formula – suggested their knack for a catchy chorus was as sharp as ever. In addition, vocalist Steve Overland found time to record an enjoyable solo album in 2016 and an absolute cracker of a disc with his side project Lonerider in 2019. At a time when so many of the older “legacy” AOR acts either sounded long past their best or were going through the motions, FM seemed to spend a half-decade going from strength to strength.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Music For Gloves: Ghost Highway Recordings

Purveyors of a whole world of pop punk and power pop music, Spanish Label Ghost Highway Recordings will be best known for distributing records by The Dahlmanns, Bullet Proof Lovers and Electric Frankenstein. Their contribution to a series of charity releases ‘Music For Gloves’ not only gives a quick insight into the label’s wares, but offers fans a few previously unavailable gems for a good cause.

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NEGATIVE THOUGHT PROCESS – Hell Is…Much Better Than This

Bringing together ex-members of Strike Offensive and Victorian Whore Dogs, UK crust punk/hardcore band Negative Thought Process are an angry bunch. ‘Hell Is…Much Better Than This’ finds the trio absolutely raging through a half dozen tracks in under ten minutes, but also stretching out musically a little further than you’d expect from a band so heavily influenced by grind/crust sounds. It’s all relative, of course, as its difficult to stretch too far when you’ve set boundaries that dictate that nothing should exceed two minutes, but NTP often sound so much more interesting than a lot of similar bands.

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