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Steve Holtje: December 14, 2008

Favorite 1978 LPs, part 3

I finish ranking the rock/pop/soul albums of 30 years ago. This week it’s ##21-50.

  1. Buzzcocks – Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites (United Artists [now EMI])

    Another Music is uneven but darn good for a debut, highlights ranging from the wit of “You Tear Me Up” to the angst of “Fiction Romance” to the punky declaration of “Autonomy” to the great krautrock rip of “Moving Away from the Pulsebeat.” No sophomore slump on Love Bites, despite coming out a mere six months later. It’s even arguably better, with “Real World,” “Ever Fallen in Love,” “Operators Manual,” “Nostalgia,” “Just Lust,” and “Sixteen Again” one of the strongest LP sides of the year, though the songwriting falls off precipitously on side two.

  2. Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes – Hearts of Stone (Epic)

    Star of the Jersey Shore, pal of Bruce (who contributes two songs and a third of “Trapped Again,” which he liked enough to record himself eventually), and old soul devotee, Johnny Lyon wielded a journeyman voice with an old pro’s wiles, and this was his finest hour (well, 38 minutes) in the studio. Brassy arrangements and the rolling basslines of Alan Berger make the soul derivation clear, but the soaring guitar leads of Billy Rush and, on the magnificent title track, producer/Jukes co-founder Stevie Van Zandt, are pure ‘70s rock melodrama in its finest form. Many of their other albums had filler (often jokey tracks), but every single song here is good (with Van Zandt writing everything Springsteen didn’t), and many are great.

  3. XTC – White Music (Virgin)

    The manic energy on XTC’s debut album is dazzling. Barry Andrews’s keyboards vastly differentiated the group from everyone else on the scene. Go 2, issued later in the year, is also a favorite.

  4. Tom Waits – Blue Valentine (Asylum)

    Sure it’s shtick, but it’s great shtick, accompanied by greasy lounge music that’s both great music and superb sleaze. Anybody who thinks his voice isn’t a magnificent instrument just doesn’t get the joke, which has never been more explicit than on the uberschmaltz arrangement of “Somewhere” from West Side Story.

  5. Television – Adventure (Elektra)

    An underrated album, perhaps by me as well. It’s less iconic, certainly, than Marquee Moon, overall more contemplative/haunting, but Tom Verlaine’s lead guitar playing here is often just as thrilling.

  6. Rolling Stones – Some Girls (Rolling Stones [now Virgin])

    Not a bad track here, something that hadn’t been true in six years for them. There’s the inevitable sense of self-parody that had started infecting Mick Jagger’s lyrics over a decade earlier, but when the music’s this good it’s practically a moot point.

  7. Brian Eno – Music for Films (EG)

    Amazingly evocative short instrumentals written not for existing films, but in the hopes of interesting filmmakers looking for music. Calling this “ambient” shortchanges how imaginative it is, how much personality it has, how it drastically changes the ambience.

  8. Neil Young – Comes a Time (Reprise)

    After a period of dark and heavy albums, Young emerged with this light and breezy LP. The only hard-rocking track is a bit of a joke (“Motorcycle Mama”), but “Look Out for My Love” and “Lotta Love” – not coincidentally the only two tracks with Crazy Horse – have real depth and bite. The rest is mostly just charming, but that suffices. Not prime Neil, but at the time it was nice to hear him happy for a change.

  9. Cheap Trick – Heaven Tonight (Epic)

    “Surrender” is so much better than everything else here that I thought this album was disappointing. Then everything else grew on me.

  10. Willie Nelson – Stardust (Columbia)

    Years before jazz standards albums by non-jazz singers were commonplace, Willie pioneered the idea, and did a better job than anyone who’s followed. Half the reason why is that he always had a jazzy sense of vocal phrasing; the other half is that he didn’t go change his style and hire a bunch of jazz guys to back him (though there are some horns, they’re just for flavor), instead keeping the vibe rootsy, a combination of country and soul.