Neal Smith will always be best remembered for his time spent as the drummer in the original Alice Cooper group between 1968 and 1974. Once seen, the image of that band becomes indelible. Not just for a body-stocking wearing, snake-wielding frontman, either. At their 1973 peak, Smith’s presence was like witnessing a blonde octopus attacking a drum kit. He allegedly always made sure his kit was one drum bigger than Keith Moon’s. There’s no denying that this man was a rhythmic god.
…And so, Real Gone reaches the inevitable end of The Great 80s Project, but what an amazing year for music! The charts didn’t always reflect the interesting things going on, but in terms of albums, it’s a year full of wonder.
In 2012, Blue Öyster Cult released ‘The Columbia Albums Collection’, a seventeen disc set rounding up their output for the label between 1973 and 1988. It was a set that was worth picking up even for those that owned some of the albums previously, as it also included a couple of discs of rarities. For a limited time, owners could even access four previously unreleased live shows via the BÖC website, which was a definite sweetener for those who’d bought ‘Agents of Fortune’, ‘Spectres’ and ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ a couple of times over already.
To promote the box set, the band held a one-off concert in New York. Finally released as ‘Iheart Radio 2012’ in the summer of 2020, when heard retrospectively, it isn’t a perfect set by any means, though it has enough to recommend it. Capturing the band in front of a select audience of 200 fans, the recording could have had a similarly flat atmosphere to ‘Agents of Fortune – 2016’ (released via Frontiers Records in early 2020), but due to not being tied to such a rigid setlist, founders Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and Eric Bloom, along with bassist Kasim Sulton, guitarist Richie Castallano and drummer Jules Radino, sound much less like a band going through the motions (no pun intended).
By the end of 2019, Jeff Scott Soto had celebrated thirty five years in the music business. One of melodic rock’s most gifted vocalists, in that time he’s released six solo albums and over thirty more as a full-time frontman with a band. Obviously, you’d expect such an extensive career to take in a live album or two already, but by the spring of 2020, Jeff had no fewer than seven live albums to his credit (three with Talisman and four solo), so in that regard, fans have been more than well served. With three of those already covering his output for Frontiers Records admirably, there’s initially a feeling that 2020’s ‘Loud & Live In Milan’ might just be surplus to requirements…
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.