Monday, January 28, 2019

Star Trek Salutes Challenger

The cast and crew of the original Star Trek television series and films dedicated their fourth motion picture, 1986's The Voyage Home, "to the men and women of the spaceship Challenger whose courageous spirit shall live to the 23rd century and beyond . . . ."

--Raj Manoharan

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Living Years (1988), by Mike + The Mechanics

The sophomore effort by Genesis guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford’s other band is just about as good as their first, with such standout songs as the title track, “Nobody Knows,” “Don’t,” “Beautiful Day,” and “Why Me?”

This second album definitely turns up the volume a bit more, but its loudness is of the good kind, especially as it synthesizes the sounds of Genesis and The Police, as well as solo Phil Collins and solo Sting.

Rutherford also stretches his typically minimalist and atmospheric guitar textures and branches out into more adventurous lead playing. Vocalists Paul Carrack and Paul Young also take more chances with their singing, yielding pleasantly soulful results.

“The Living Years” is the crowning achievement of this collection and perhaps Mike + The Mechanics’ entire repertoire, becoming one of the biggest hit singles of the 1980s with continuous play on MTV and radio and remaining timeless and memorable to this day.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Mike + The Mechanics (1985), by Mike + The Mechanics

What a contrast from the rough-around-the-edges vocal rock of Mike Rutherford’s 1982 solo album, Acting Very Strange!

The Genesis guitarist/bassist goes from acting very strange to acting very slick, giving his regular band a run for its money in terms of both quality and commercial success.

The first thing he does right is stick to his four- and six-strings and keyboards and relegate the singing to Paul Carrack and Paul Young.

Also, his songwriting is markedly improved, with searching lyrics and lush arrangements and sounds that combine Genesis, The Police, and other pop-synth sounds of the 1980s, resulting in a timeless new age rock sheen.

The obvious hit here is “All I Need Is a Miracle,” which was all over radio and MTV. However, the real standouts are the cinematic tour-de-forces “Silent Running,” “You Are the One,” "A Call to Arms," and “Taken In,” the latter two of which presage Mike + The Mechanics’ 1988 hit title track, “The Living Years.”

This was the beginning of a long and successful second musical life for Rutherford, who continues to perform with The Mechanics.

--Raj Manoharan

Friday, January 11, 2019

Acting Very Strange (1982), by Mike Rutherford

Strange. Very strange indeed.

That voice does not go with that face.

On his last solo album before reassigning lead singing duties to others in his hit band Mike and the Mechanics, Genesis guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford belts out raw and throaty vocals on eight art rock/pop oddities that exude quirky but compelling weirdness.

The compositions and musical instrumentation are unsurprisingly very similar to Genesis, with a bit of Oingo Boingo and The Police thrown in for good measure. The latter comparison is not so much of a stretch, especially considering that one of the drummers is Stewart Copeland and that Acting Very Strange sounds like a distant cousin to fellow 1980s superstar guitarist Andy Summers’ one and only rock vocal record, XYZ, but jacked way up.

As for Rutherford’s earthy singing voice, it sounds like a mix of Peter Gabriel, Keith Richards, Joe Cocker, Ray Charles, Joe Elliott, David Lee Roth, etc.

This is not for every taste, but the title track, “Maxine,” and “Hideaway” (future shades of the Mike and the Mechanics hit “The Living Years”) are definite must-listens.

--Raj Manoharan

The Very Best of Peter Cetera (2017), by Peter Cetera

The last career retrospective that Peter Cetera released was 1997’s You’re the Inspiration, but the singles included on that album were rerecorded, and “Glory of Love,” the theme song from the film The Karate Kid Part II and one of the biggest hits and music videos of the 1980s, was glaringly omitted.

Now, 20 years later, we finally have a proper greatest hits collection from one of the most recognizable and popular singers of that decade, featuring the original recordings. In addition, “Glory of Love” is here in all its power pop and power ballad – ahem – glory.

My favorite tracks are “Glory of Love” (obviously), “Stay with Me,” “The Next Time I Fall” with Amy Grant, “Feels Like Heaven” with Chaka Khan, and “Restless Hearts.”

Regardless of whichever are your favorites, they are all gems. If you remember the voice and the songs, this will definitely take you back. This is a trip down memory lane worth taking.

--Raj Manoharan