Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Mr. Mike Project

I haven't been posting much lately, mainly because my free time has been spent burning CDs for my car. Burning CDs for car stereo playing should be an easy task - unless you're a music obsessed person who likes to hear things a certain specific anal retentive way. In my case, for a long time I've wanted a set of CDs to play that focus on my favorite genre of Rock music: Arena Rock.

Arena Rock aka AOR for Album Oriented Rock is the ultimate expression of Rock music for me. Rock music stripped of deep meaning, endlessly hooky with flashy instrumentation and choruses meant to be shouted in basketball stadiums and hockey rinks. This is the least respected of all Rock music genres. It's referred to as Corporate Rock, Commercial, Lowest Common Denominator Appeal, the list goes on. Heavy Metal, Punk, Alternative rock all have nice shiny well researched box sets to sum up their styles nicely. But Arena Rock? Arena Rock gets clumsily slapped together comps from Time Life or what not, endlessly repackaging Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" with Warrant's "Cherry Pie" in every way conceivable. Plugged, unplugged, original recording, re-recording - so many different ways to do the same thing over. So I've set out to make my own box set of sorts, a bunch of CDs that follow the evolution of Arena Rock from it's early 80's zeitgeist to it's evolution into Hair Metal with bits of Soft Rock, Hard Rock and Prog Rock thrown in. And yes, "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" is included.

I debated on if it was worthwhile to blog about this, but dammit if you can't be excessively self indulgent on your own blog then where can you do it? I burned two CDs for each year in the 80's and to kick this thing off is the magical year 1980. The Seventies had just ended, Disco was dead, Punk and the New Wave were threatening to become the main voice of Rock as 70's Arena Rockers steamlined their sonics to include comfy synthesizers. To represent this wonderful time of tube socks and George Brett chasing a .400 batting average, here's my two CDs of 1980.

Disc 1:

The Tubes - Talk To Ya Later

Fee Waybill and his Bay Area gang of theatrical misfits tried to have it both ways by selling out and being ironic simultaneously. With the help of Producer David Foster and axe man Steve Lukather, they made it work for two albums.

Santana - All I Ever Wanted

I didn't hear this blazing track until I bought the Greatest Hits CD, my wife was sooo happy she knew a song that I didn't.

Jefferson Starship - Girl With The Hungry Eyes

A Bay Area trifecta, Paul Kantner lays down his last decent song about the girl with the perfect lips.

The Sherbs - I Have The Skill

Cheap guitars and cheaper synths make the magic on this ditty with the brain dead lyric "If there's a chance, I'll take my chances". And yet this song's hook sticks in my head for days.

Greg Kihn - The Break Up Song

Bay Area rock continues with this Kihntageous track. they don't write 'em like this anymore. They also don't write "Jeapordy" or allow it for download either. WTF!

Ted Nugent - Wango Tango

Well, had to include something from the Motor City Madman even if the 80's weren't kind to him. Wango Tango has a good dose of the wild crazy Nuge that he's famous for.

Phil Collins - In The Air Tonight

The first single from Phil Collins as a solo artist suggested he would be keeping a Genesis based prog pop approach, but a few years later he was bopping to Su-Su-Suddio and lamenting every social cause under the Sun.

Alan Parsons Project - Games People Play

Before Dr Evil had them create the "LASER", Alan Parsons had this driving ode to empty nest syndrome.

Meat Loaf - Dead Ringer For Love

The follow up to Bat Out Of Hell didn't disappoint, other than in terms of popularity, song quality and record sales. But still, this manic riff on "Summertime Blues" is outrageous fun with a game Cher throwin' 'tude to boot.

AC/DC - You Shook Me All Night Long

It's now a rock & roll standard, AC/DC's biggest hit delivers a monster hook with all their sleazy urgency intact.

Black Sabbath - Heaven & Hell

C'mon, it's Sabbath with Dio. How can anyone say no?

Joe Walsh - All Night Long

Another oddball (same disc as Ted Nugent), Joe Walsh's struttin' rocker is a classic good time jam.

Journey - Any Way You Want It

The definitive Arena Rock band kicks out the definitive Arena Rock anthem or at least a killer ring tone.

Queen - Another One Bites The Dust

Freddie Mercury and co. find a way to make a slightly menacing dance song with a disco beat. Probably one of the best remembered songs of my generation.

J. Geils Band - Love Stinks

The Boston rockers serve up Stonesy swagger with a biting sense of humor to create an anti-love song.

Pat Benatar - Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Pat in her original sexed up body suit wearin' tough chick persona, taunting the object of her affection backed by future husband Neil Geraldo's slashing guitar.

Kenny Loggins - I'm Alright

The beginning of his Soundtrack God reign started with this feel good classic that broke him out of his Yacht Rock shell and powered the film Caddyshack.

Rossington Collins Band - Don't Misunderstand Me

Surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd initally formed this unit, showing that while Ronnie Van Zant's charismatic story telling was gone they could still stir up a commotion.

Disc 2:

Yes - Tempus Fugit

The only Yes album to not feature spacey singer Jon Anderson showed the aging proggers in a more punky, new wavey form.

Donnie Iris - Ah Leah!

He looked like Buddy Holly while bringing a unique personal touch to anthem rock.

AC/DC - Back in Black

The Aussie rockers bring down a burgeoning riff that makes every man, woman and child believe they're a badass.

Loverboy - Turn Me Loose

Like a Reeses Peanut Butter cup, this Canadian quintet mashed together Arena Rock with New Wave in an innovative way. And they even brought tha funk too.

Genesis - Turn It On Again

Nobody writes concert opening tracks like Arena Rock bands and Genesis fired up rock geek nation with proggy classiness.

REO Speedwagon - Keep On Loving You

One of the original power ballads, REO drove to the top of the charts with this love song for guys who like to hear their voice echo and the girls who like to hear them.

Ozzy Osbourne - Crazy Train

Randy Rhoads plays on this. You do the math.

Touch - Don't You Know What Love Is

I didn't find out about this band until a few years ago, they're fondly remembered among the melodic rock crowd. I've got to admit after hearing this song for a week, I'm hooked.

Angel - I Ain't Gonna Eat My Heart Out

Still not sure if this is from 1980 or 1978 but I figured what the hell, gotta have some Angel. Mainly known as the dorky band that wore all white and tried to rip off Van Halen's version of "You Really Got Me" a few months before VH's debut, Angel keyboardist Gregg Giuffria would go on to form a group I really liked, Giuffria.

Michael Stanley Band - He Don't Love You

Remember when hard working bar bands could write clean cut good time rock & roll and sell it to people?

Judas Priest - Living After Midnight

A headbanging party anthem for the ages all done up in spikes and leather.

April Wine - I Like To Rock

Canada strikes again, no other country (not even the States) had an appreciation for meat and potatoes Arena Rock quite like our neighbors to the North. Watch in awe as the Myles Goodwin simply states his case and then interpolates the Beatles "Daytripper" towards the end.

Heart - Even It Up

The last gasp of classic era boogie rock Heart, when the public would see them again they would have gaudy clothes and hair teased up to the stratosphere.

The Babys - Back On My Feet Again

Just before joining Journey, keyboardist Jon Cain teamed up with AOR mainstay John Waite for two albums of strong Arena Rock. This clean, anthemic ballad hinted at what was to come.

Jackson Browne - Boulevard

Browne was still trying to keep up with the times in the 80s as he applied his literate lyrics to straight ahead pop rock like this tune.

707 - I Could Be Good For You

I just wrote about this song recently, a sleek piece of pop rock straight from the Bay.

Billy Squier - The Stroke

'Ol Billy dominated Arena Rock for a few short years, kicking it off with this inventive ode to, uh, rowing his boat?

Rush - The Spirit of Radio

"But glittering prizes and endless compromises shatter the illusion of integrity, yeah." Is there a better lyric in 1980? I think not!

That's it, my first two CDs of my Car CDs are done. Of course I couldn't fit in nearly all the songs I wanted to, but if I did include all those songs I would end up burning probably 100 CDs instead of just 20. Next time this story continues, we'll be in 1981!


Some Kinda Wonderful said...

Wowwee Mr. Mike! Where can I buy it? That sounds like a killer comp. Can't wait to hear about the rest of your discs. You did say you were doing two for each year of the 80's, didn't you? Sweet... :)

Mr. Mike said...

Thanks SKW! I'll definitely post the following years, though I'm having a hard time filling in 1987 - 1989. Its been a great way to dig up old favorites and discover new songs.