I bet you have albums in your collection — physical or digital — that you absolutely love but would find in a bargain bin of a record store or in neglected corner of a thrift shop.
I call these albums 99-Cent Masterpieces.
I’m always disappointed when I see Blue Sky Mining by Midnight Oil in a cutout bin, even though it’s an album every bit as consequential as Diesel and Dust. In Tua Nua is a band I thought deserved a bigger break in the US, as evidenced by the number of times I purchased The Long Acre for cheap.
And I bought Break Out by the Pointer Sitsters for $2 at Goodwill, thinking it would be fun to have the album with “I’m So Excited” on it. I wasn’t prepared for how underrated this album is.
Yes, the singles off the album are karaoke staples and can probably be encountered as background music for your shopping experience. But the deep cuts on the album aren’t just filler. “Easy Persuasion”, “Dance Electric” and the minor single “Baby Come and Get It” are every bit as solid as “Automatic” and “Neutron Dance”.
I’d almost forgotten about “Automatic”, a showcase for June Pointer’s deep alto and perhaps the most fascinating single off the album. Maybe it’s all the 80s synths, but it feels like it emerged from a dance club in Birmingham, England than Oakland, California. I like it more than “Jump (For My Love).”
It’s baffling this album isn’t consistently ranked on critics lists. Sure, it moved a lot of units in its day, but sometimes, a hit album actually deserves to be a hit. And Break Out certainly qualifies.
The only label to have shown this album much love is Cherry Red in the UK, which repressed a 2011 deluxe edition back in October 2020. Yes, this album is good enough that I recommend seeking out the expanded edition.
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.
The 1983 Favorite Edition list is not terribly cosmopolitan. And why should it? I would have been 11 years old at the time, and pre-teens, even precocious ones, aren’t renowned for sophistication.
Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
Clannad, Magical Ring
U2, Live Under a Blood Red Sky
David Bowie, Let’s Dance
Duran Duran, Seven and the Ragged Tiger
Huey Lewis and the News, Sports
The Police, Synchronicity
10,000 Maniacs, Secrets of the I Ching
The Waitresses, Bruiseology
Other favorites from the year:
Culture Club, Colour By Numbers
Violent Femmes, Violent Femmes
Cyndi Lauper, She’s So Unusual
The Pointer Sisters, Break Out
MTV was the big driver of music in this era, but I wouldn’t have known it because my parents refused to subscribe to cable. The household wouldn’t welcome cable TV till well after I had moved out after college … in 1997.
So my exposure to music in 1983 was limited to American Bandstand and Solid Gold. For a short while, a syndicated TV show called Prime Time Videos aired on broadcast affiliates, but it would not last.
I was still heavily into Pac-Man, even though my parents refused to welcome a game console or computer into the house. It’s a wonder how I’ve made computer programming my career.
So if this list seems particularly safe, it’s a reflection of the limited avenues of consumption. It’s probably why I have such a voracious appetite now.