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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1979

[The Manhattan Transfer - Extensions]

A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.

1979 is officially the year I started collecting music. And it’s all because of a post-disco hit about the Twilight Zone theme song. This list, though, couldn’t have been compiled till 2006.

  1. Gang of Four, Entertainment!
  2. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Evita
  3. Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd
  4. Philip Glass, Einstein on the Beach
  5. Midnight Oil, Head Injuries
  6. Talking Heads, Fear of Music
  7. The Clash, London Calling
  8. Michael Jackson, Off the Wall
  9. The Police, Reggatta de Blanc
  10. Emmylou Harris, Blue Kentucky Girl

Other favorites from the year:

  • The Manhattan Transfer, Extensions
  • The B-52’s, The B-52’s

The hit in question is “Twilight Tone” by the Manhattan Transfer.

Though more renowned as a jazz vocal quartet, the group wouldn’t get on my radar till “Twilight Tone” invaded the airwaves. Search YouTube for a performance of the song on a variety show — it’s amazing what people will endure for art. Or gimmickry.

My parents relented and bought the Extensions album for me. Of course, I played “Twilight Tone” to death, but I also dug the other songs on the album. Unlike “Twilight Tone”, they ranged from doo-wop to a capella. One song was a bizarre novelty with the singers voices rendered at chipmunk speed. You could say this was Manhattan Transfer’s disco album.

I’ve included it in the extended list. As fond as I am of the album, I have a better sense of what 1979 really offered as a year in music.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1981

[Go Gos - Beauty and the Beat]

A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.

If there were a year I was least interested in music, it would be 1981. And it was a remarkable turn of events, because I had amassed quite a 7-inch collection the year before.

  1. Duran Duran, Duran Duran
  2. Lou Harrison, Three Pieces for Gamelan with Soloists / String Quartet Set
  3. Eurythmics, In the Garden
  4. U2, October
  5. The Police, Ghost in the Machine
  6. ABBA, The Visitors
  7. Black Flag, Damaged
  8. Brian Eno and David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
  9. Bucker and Garcia, Pac-Man Fever
  10. Rick Springfield, Working Class Dog

Other favorites from the year:

  • Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat
  • Gang of Four, Solid Gold
  • Grace Jones, Nightclubbing

1981 marked the start of my fascination with the classic video games of the era. I would also take an interest in computers and programming. My parents actively discouraged me from pursuing either interest, but it would not stop me from sneaking away to the arcade when we went to the local malls.

That didn’t mean I was totally unaware of music. Of the titles on this list, I would have listened to the Police, ABBA, Rick Springfield, the Go-Go’s and Buckner and Garcia. And I would have definitely seen Grace Jones in the press.

If there was one album I really wanted to get at the time, it would have been Pac-Man Fever by Buckner and Garcia, mostly for the maze patterns on the inner sleeve that would have help you to win the game.

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45 Albums for 45 Years: A Birthday Retrospective (1970s)

[New York Dolls - New York Dolls]

The album that started my collection was Extensions by Manhattan Transfer. The hit single from the album, “Twilight Tone”, took the iconic hook of The Twilight Zone theme song and turned it into a post-disco hit. My 7-year-old ear loved it to death, and I wouldn’t stop pestering my parents till I had the album in my possession.

That’s the earliest, cognizant memory I have of music. Before that, I just hummed along with whatever was playing on the radio, my vocabulary not developed enough to understand any of the lyrics, let alone remember song titles or artist names.

The majority of albums on this list were discovered many years after their original release. I didn’t want to exclude music from the first decade of my life just because I hadn’t yet developed listening habits.

Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra, Xanadu

My brother owned this album.

Gang of Four, Entertainment!

I checked this record out of the library back in high school, but I didn’t understand it at the time. I had to go through a schooling in punk and post-punk before I could seek this album again. I became so enamored of it, I snatched up tickets to the original line-up’s tour in 2005.

Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

I didn’t take the plunge with this album till it was available on eMusic, but I’ve known about it since high school.

Yvonne Elliman, Love Me

I heard Elliman’s singles all over radio, but I never learned who she was because DJs had that awful habit of never mentioning who was playing. It would take a few decades before I would seek out the album with her most memorable music.

Clannad, Clannad 2

No Clannad collection should exclude the six folk albums, but if I had to choose one, Clannad 2 would be it.

Emmylou Harris, Pieces of the Sky

No Emmylou Harris collection should exclude her first six albums, but if I had to choose one, Pieces of the Sky would be it.

New York Dolls, New York Dolls

My introduction to David Johannsen was not through the New York Dolls but through Buster Poindexter. Given the Dolls’ Velvet Underground-like influence, I’m sure I would have found my way to this album through some other means.

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Looking ahead: January-March 2015

[Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love]

Barely two weeks into 2015, and the release schedule for the rest of the first quarter looks incredibly busy. Some of them are Musicwhore.org favorites, and others ought to be.

Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love, Jan. 20

NPR First Listen has featured No Cities to Love in this week before the album’s release, and damn if it doesn’t sound like Sleater-Kinney never went away.

The Decemberists, What a Terrible World, What a Wonderful World, Jan. 20

It’s probably too much to ask for this album to be the best R.E.M. has recorded since splitting up.

Exposé, Exposure (Deluxe Edition), Jan. 20

For an ’80s radio pop album, Exposure is pretty enduring. A deluxe edition, though, means endless remixes of the album’s four hit singles.

Kate Pierson, Guitars and Microphones, Feb. 17

Cindy Wilson’s absence was sorely felt on the B-52’s Good Stuff, the follow-up to the massive hit Cosmic Thing. So it’ll be interesting to hear how Kate Pierson sounds without the rest of the band around her.

Gang of Four, What Happens Next, Feb. 24

That’s the question with only Andy Gill as the only remaining original member of the band.

Shiina Ringo, “Shijou no Jinsei”, Feb. 25

Post-Tokyo Jihen Shiina Ringo has been sparse with new music, but with a new single arriving barely three months after an album, does this mean the drought has ended?

Madonna, Rebel Heart, March 10

I’m so past hoping this album is anywhere within league of Like a Prayer, Ray of Light or, heck, even Bedtime Stories. MDNA was just plain forgettable.

Inventions, Maze of Woods, March 17

Now, that’s a quick turn-around.

Death Cab for Cutie, Kintsugi, March 31

Chris Walla is no longer with the band and consequently no longer at the producer’s desk. Codes and Keys is the closest Death Cab has reached to the sublimity of The Photo Album or Transatlanticism since signing to a major label. So this album is pretty much make-or-break.

Björk, Vulnicura, March 2015

The most interesting aspect of this announcement, for me, is the silence from Nonesuch Records regarding its release.

Vinyl reissues

Guided By Voices, Bee Thousand, Jan. 27

On my list of Albums I Want Reissued on Vinyl, Bee Thousand resides in the upper echelon. Previous entries on said list included The Woods by Sleater-Kinney, The Photo Album by Death Cab for Cutie, the self-titled Metallica album and Floating Into the Night by Julee Cruise. All these titles appeared in 2014.

Sigur Rós, Ágætus Byrjun, Feb. 17

I’m also holding out hope for a Takk … reissue.

LOVE PSYCHEDELICO, ABBOT KINNEY, Feb. 18

All of LOVE PSYCHEDELICO’s albums are getting a vinyl reissue to coincide with a pair of retrospectives coming out the same day. ABBOT KINNEY, however, is the duo’s best.

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