I mentioned before how my sisters each had their own slice of the family record collection, only to cede music purchasing duties to my brother and me.
Shadow Dancing belonged to my eldest sister. We played it a few times on the record player till it went out of fashion. Then the record pretty much sat on the shelf till it disappeared altogether without anyone noticing. I tried to track it down in 2019, hunting all around my mom’s house with no success.
I had already bought a sealed copy from Hungry Ear Records in Honolulu the year before, assuming I would never track down the vinyl collections of my siblings. Although disco is a towering influence on dance music today, it’s still fashionable to dunk on the genre. (Hello, institutional homophobia!)
Even I treated Andy Gibb with some fair amount of derision toward the end of the 1980s.
It’s not deserved.
Strip away the era’s sonic hallmarks — the California smoothness of the Eagles, the disco strings — and you’re left with a set of some durable songwriting.
Side A hogs all the hit singles, leaving Side B to fend for itself, which it does quite well. “One More Look at the Night” always felt like something I had heard on the radio, only to find it was never released as a single. Same for “Good Feeling.” Under Toto’s hands, “I Got You” could have been more prog rock.
Even the singles deserve re-evaluation. The title track is a perfect target for haters because it’s the ultimate earworm. Hear that string intro once, and it’s impossible to wipe it from memory. Also, check out the modulations on “(Our Love) Don’t Throw It All Away”.
Shadow Dancing epitomized its era so well, it suffered a backlash when tastes moved on. I don’t get the impression its reputation has recovered, and it doesn’t really warrant obscurity.
Play this album next to Janet Jackson’s Control, and you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking they were born in the same era. Sam Sparro evokes the R&B sound of the 80s with such affection it makes me nostalgic for a style of music against which I actively rebelled at the time.
The Damned, Machine Gun Etiquette
I picked this album up at the thrift shop solely on the reputation of providing the name for Japanese garage rock band Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. And I don’t really like Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. But I do like this album quite a lot.
Jay Som, Anak Ko
I heard this album playing at Sonic Boom around the time of its release. I had intended to listen to it in full on a streaming service when I got home. That never happened. Nearly a year later, I snagged a copy at the thrift shop.
Andy Gibb, Shadow Dancing
This album probably came to symbolize what sucked about disco, but I don’t think it’s been given its due credit. There is some fine writing on this album, and its commercial success shouldn’t be a knock against it.
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.
Our retrospective ends at 1978 because my collection starts thinning out at this point. I was 6 years old at the time and just starting to become aware of songs on the radio. Of course, nothing on this list would have appealed to 6-year-old me.
Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians
Brian Eno, Ambient 1: Music for Airports
Kate Bush, The Kick Inside
Emmylou Harris, Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town
Blondie, Parallel Lines
Andrew Lloyd Webber, Variations
Andy Gibb, Shadow Dancing
Willie Nelson, Stardust
Kate Bush, Lionheart
The Police, Outlandos d’Amour
Other favorites from the year:
Clannad, In Concert
Rap Reiplinger, Poi Dog
I loved Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, but when my dad saw her perform on Solid Gold, he hated her on sight. “She looks drugged,” he would complain, so I wasn’t allowed to listen to Blondie. That didn’t stop my brother from picking up the 7-inch singles for “The Tide Is High” and “Rapture.”
I can only imagine what dad would have said if he saw Kate Bush dancing in “Wuthering Heights.”
If any album on this list would have appealed to 6-year-old me, it would be Rap Reiplinger’s Poi Dog. Local radio played Reiplinger’s skits regularly, and I enjoyed hearing “Room Service” over and over again.
I didn’t realize those skits were available on an album. I thought only radio could broadcast them, so it wasn’t until Poi Dog was reissued on CD in 1992 that I could relive that thrill.
Reiplinger forged the Honolulu stand-up comic scene, and it died when he did in 1984. Or maybe it was the humorlessness of the 1980s.