This year, National Album Day is celebrating the 1980s. So we thought who could be better to pick their favourite albums from this decade than Brandon, who takes a lot of inspiration from the music and pop culture of the 80s.
Take a look at Brandon’s Top 5 below. Has he chosen your favourites too?
Bad (1987) – Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson’s seventh studio album Bad, released in 1987, was very much a product of some of the most talented musical professionals working in the music industry at the time. This album was, upon release, full to the brim with cutting-edge pop hits, and yet so much of it can still be appreciated in much the same way to this day. While its heavy use of (what were at the time) cutting-edge synthesisers, samplers and drum machines may sound a little dated today, with the advances in music technology since, its pristine arrangement, production and writing still very much hold up. I’d even argue that much of the pop releases of today can’t even compare with some of the tracks featured on this album. Composer/Producer Quincy Jones was at the helm of the production process for the album, and his masterful execution of the arrangement of the tracks featured deserves plenty of praise. Of course, Michael Jackson’s own mastery of his craft and his perfectionist approach are absolutely evident, with him arguably delivering his best album yet, with Thriller (1982) perhaps being the only contender. Bad draws many elements from a number of differing music genres, yet blends them together effortlessly, all while remaining firmly within the ‘pop’ genre.
Love Over Gold (1982) – Dire Straits
Released in 1982, Love Over Gold is the fourth studio album from Dire Straits. This may not seem like the most obvious choice of album to be included in a ‘Top 5’ of the 1980s, yet this album has certainly been influential to me in a number of ways and I feel it often doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. The composition and arrangement of the tracks featured on this album are what elevate it in my opinion. Mark Knopfler and the rest of the band really show what they’re capable of in terms of writing, performance and general musicianship. At times, this album plays more like a film score than it does a traditional album release, something that I feel is much a product of Mark’s own influences and musical approach. Its not so much the vocals or lyrical content that really engage me here, but the story told by the music itself, and the featured instrumental performances.
Suddenly (1984) – Billy Ocean
Suddenly, released by Billy Ocean in 1984 as his fifth studio album, is an expertly well written and produced album within the pop genre. Encompassing influences from genres such as R&B, soul and to a degree, Disco, Suddenly is a perfect blend of slow ballads, and energetic dancefloor grooves in my opinion. Billy Ocean really is a master of his craft when it comes to vocal performances, alongside having a great ability to craft catchy yet lyrically-engaging songs. Couple this with the efforts of famed producer Keith Diamond, and you have yourself a hit album, as evidenced by its successful sales performance at the time. The album also spawned several successful hit singles in the form of ‘Suddenly’, ‘Caribbean Queen’ and ‘Loverboy’, each distinctive in their own right.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984) – Various Artists
The Beverly Hills Cop Soundtrack, released in 1984 around the time of the film’s release, was comprised of both songs featured within the film, and parts of composer Harold Faltermeyer’s score. Again, this might certainly seem like an odd selection to be included in a ‘Top 5 Albums of the 80s’ list, but I have my reasons for choosing this. The trend of film soundtracks featuring a plethora of pop songs interspersed among the score was very much in full swing. The pairing of a hit song with a hit film was incredibly beneficial to both the film and the artist/band behind said hit song – showcasing just how valuable sync opportunities are with regards to increasing the popularity of either. Beverly Hills Cop (the film) was full of catchy tracks from the likes of Glenn Frey, Patti LaBelle, Shalamar and The Pointer Sisters. Even Harold Faltermeyer’s main theme from the score, titled
‘Axel F’ (after the film’s protagonist), became a hit in its own right. The success of each of the featured songs in mainstream music charts likely kept the film itself at the forefront of people’s minds for some time after the film’s initial release in theatres. And in turn, the artists/acts mentioned likely saw more chart success around that time than they perhaps otherwise would have. Composer Harold Faltermeyer even co-wrote and produced some of the songs featured in the film – Glenn Frey’s ‘The Heat Is On’ being one example. The soundtrack release, while not the first of its kind, certainly hit the nail on the head and delivered a fun listening experience that could stand on its own, away from the screen. The success of which could partly be attributed to music supervisor Kathy Nelson for her choices when initially licensing music for the film itself.
Invisible Touch (1986) – Genesis
Released in 1986, Invisible Touch was Genesis’ thirteenth studio album. According to the band members themselves, this entire album was crafted through improvisation during what was essentially the recording stage. The band didn’t begin writing material until they had gotten together in the studio to begin production on the album. As with a number of releases throughout the 1980s, the album made heavy use of digital music technology, with tracks featuring a vast mix of synthesised sounds, drum machines and cutting-edge production and recording techniques. This is clearly evident when listening to the album. Much like the other selections I’ve discussed thus far, the approach taken with this album has been somewhat influential to me and the ways in which I approach the production of my own releases, emulating the sound that releases like Invisible Touch helped pioneer. Engineer and producer Hugh Padgham had developed the now-iconic Phil Collins drum sound sometime prior to this album, using industry-leading mixing hardware at the time. That drum sound is one aspect that helps define Invisible Touch’s sonic identity, while also somewhat helping to define the sound of the decade itself.