ANDREW GOLD – Lonely Boy: The Asylum Years Anthology

Andrew Gold had a prolific career, but to many people he will be best remembered for three songs.  The schmaltzy MOR pop of ‘Never Let Her Slip Away’ gave Gold a massive hit in 1978; his ‘Thank You For Being A Friend’ eventually became an evergreen number thanks to being re-recorded as the theme for hit US comedy The Golden Girls and 1977’s ‘Lonely Boy’ became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.  A genuine pop classic, that song’s multi-layered kitchen sink arrangement ensures it sounds as good now as it ever did – a rival to the complex pop of 10cc and a track that gave Jellyfish every reason to exist.  It’s a four minute joy: a world of stabbed pianos and a story-telling verse leads into a massive chorus full of whoahs, which in turn gives out some great staccato guitar work and ultimately one of the greatest guitar solos you’ll ever hear.  If that sounds overly indulgent, it surely is – but it’s also power pop perfection.

‘Lonely Boy’ takes pride of place within this box set – presented in no fewer than four versions – but  that’s only a small part of the picture.  This anthology provides the ideal opportunity to explore Gold’s four albums for the legendary Asylum label, along with a host of extras within one lovingly curated package.

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ENUFF Z’NUFF – Brainwashed Generation

When Enuff Z’Nuff are at the top of their game, they’re a fantastic band.  Their first three albums (‘Enuff Z’Nuff’, ‘Strength’ and ‘Animals With Human Intelligence’ rank among the best melodic rock and power pop discs ever.  From that point on, you’ll find good songs scattered throughout their next half a dozen releases, but the cut and paste nature of these can be a little frustrating.  From 1999’s ‘Paraphernalia’ onwards, the band seemed to settle into a pattern of bulking out “new” releases with bits and pieces from their extensive vaults.  Their 2000 release ’10’ is a blatant example of this, having been pieced together from recordings made over the previous half a decade. Just one listen to ‘There Goes My Heart’ might even be enough to convince some listeners that the song had been kicking around even longer, such is its quality (being comparable to the best bits of the 1985 demos and the EZ’N debut album).  Their 2004 release ‘?’ was even more scattershot, featuring new songs alongside a bunch of material dating back to the ‘Animals…’ sessions in 1992.  Frankly, if the songs weren’t good enough in the 90s, they certainly felt like third division off cuts over a decade later.

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THE JAYHAWKS – XOXO

Stalwarts of the Americana scene, The Jayhawks have gone through a lot of changes over the years, both stylistically and in terms of line-up, but one thing that can usually be relied upon is their ability to release a great album. From their early records full of country influences, to the more commercial ‘Hollywood Town Hall’ from 1992, to the power pop infused ‘Sound of Lies’ and Byrds-ish ‘Rainy Day Music’, each record often borders upon essential listening. Even 2011’s slightly more downbeat ‘Mockingbird Time’ – marking the very brief return of founder member Mark Olson after a sixteen year absence – represented a band somewhere near the top of their game.

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PARASITES / LONE WOLF – Passport Split Series Vol. 4 EP

Approximately eighteen months after releasing two new songs on a split EP with the Raging Nathans, Chicago pop-punk legends Parasites gave fans yet more previously unreleased material in February 2020 as part a split with Dutch punks Lone Wolf. At the time of release, it started to feel like an eternity since the world last saw a new full length disc from Dave Parasite – his preference for releasing a couple of new songs every couple of years certainly keeps the fans ever hoping – but any new music is welcome, especially with one of the tracks from ‘Passport Split Series Vol. 4’ approaching somewhere near top-drawer Parasites.

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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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