One of the most iconic artists to emerge from the singer/songwriter scene of the 1970s, Carly Simon gave music lovers much to enjoy and remember her by. Songs such as “You’re So Vain,” “Anticipation,” and “You Belong to Me” have become a part of the Great American Songbook. In the early 1980s, following her divorce from James Taylor, Simon predicted rock and roll’s future romance with standards (see Linda Ronstadt and Rod Stewart) with her beautiful Torch album. Shortly before her acclaimed association with the now-defunct Arista label, which included the hit single “Coming Around Again” and an Oscar for “Let the River Run” (from Working Girl), Simon recorded Spoiled Girl for Epic. The expanded import reissue of Spoiled Girl (Hot Shot) provides a new opportunity to revisit the underrated 1985 album. Beginning with opener “My New Boyfriend,” the album goes for a mid-eighties dance vibe, complete with synths and drum machines. The best of the dance cuts, “Can’t Give It Up,” should have been a club hit. Those longing for classic Carly can find her on “Tonight and Forever” and “Make Me Feel Something,” while the pithy “The Wives Are in Connecticut” is also a treat. Bonus tracks include “Black Honeymoon” (also a bonus on the domestic version of the CD), the single version of “Tired of Being Blonde,” and 12-inch remix and dub versions of “My New Boyfriend.”
In 1986, the year after Simon released Spoiled Girl, Peter Gabriel put out So, the biggest-selling album of his lengthy career. Like Simon, Gabriel was an iconic figure of the 1970s, first as a member of art/prog-rock act Genesis and then as a solo artist. His first three self-titled solo discs set the standard for modern pop, putting Gabriel in the same influential class as David Bowie. So (Realworld), newly reissued in a twenty-fifth anniversary three-disc limited edition, including the double disc Live in Athens 1987 set, opens with “Red Rain,” a song that updates and honors Gabriel’s solo sound. But nothing could have prepared listeners for the soul-slammer “Sledgehammer” (and its groundbreaking accompanying video). This was Gabriel at his funkiest, and all these years later the song still titillates and thrills. The exquisite “Don’t Give Up,” a glorious duet with Kate Bush, also retains its ability to move listeners. Gabriel also sings with Laurie Anderson on “This Is the Picture—Excellent Birds,” a song they co-wrote that also appeared on Anderson’s Mister Heartbreak disc. Further standout tracks include “Mercy Street” (dedicated to poet Anne Sexton), “Big Time” (an exercise in funk on par with “Sledgehammer”), and the anthem-like “In Your Eyes.”
With the Partridge Family firmly in his past and his solo career in full swing, David Cassidy released his first live album Cassidy Live (Bell/Real Gone) in 1974 (the same year, incidentally, that the Peter Gabriel-led Genesis released The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway). Recorded in England, the live set includes only one of Cassidy’s domestic hit singles (“How Can I Be Sure”), but is notable for his renditions of songs by Neil Sedaka (“Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”), Kim “Bette Davis Eyes” Carnes (“It’s Preying on My Mind,” co-penned by Cassidy), Leon Russell (“Delta Lady”), the Beatles (“Please Please Me”), and Stephen Stills (“For What It’s Worth”). The U.K. also comes into play on Cassidy’s 1985 disc Romance (Arista/Real Gone), available domestically on CD for the first time. Recorded in Britain after Cassidy relocated there in the early 1980s, the disc benefits from his access to a variety of performers including George Michael and Basia, who can be heard on “The Last Kiss” and the title cut, respectively. (Editor’s note: see David Cassidy at Houston’s Arena Theatre on February 1. Info: arenahouston.com.)
The year 1972 was also good for Jethro Tull. Coming off the positive commercial and critical success of Aqualung, the prog rockers (none of whom are named Jethro Tull) delivered the album-length epic Thick as a Brick (Chrysalis), now available in an expanded CD/DVD set. As envisioned by Ian Anderson, Thick as a Brick is, according to engineer Robin Black (in the new liner notes), “continuous, with one song bleeding into the next with no gaps.” Not a casual listen, Thick as a Brick still commands your attention, from the first familiar notes through the proggy freak-out about 21 minutes into the album. The DVD includes two additional mixes of the original album and more.
Step back ten years, from 1972 to 1962, and dig Booker T. & the MGs’ Green Onions (Stax), available in a fiftieth-anniversary edition featuring a pair of live bonus tracks. The title cut on the all-instrumental recording remains one of the standout tracks of the era—make that any era. Saucy and earthy, it’s the kind of tune that functions as one of the slats in the bridge that connected the 1950s to the 1960s and beyond. It’s got a great beat and you can dance to it—what more could you ask? Other classics on this Stax staple include “Mo’ Onions” and a cover of “Lonely Avenue.”
Fast-forward almost forty years, where the Mashed Potato dance moves of 1962 have been replaced by the more free-form twitches and gyrations of the early twenty-first century. The new-wave sound of the late seventies/early eighties underwent a revival, and the Faint—a band from Omaha, Nebraska (!)—was one of the purveyors. The Faint’s breakthrough album Danse Macabre (Saddle Creek) has been reissued in a considerably expanded tenth-anniversary edition. The first CD includes the original album, featuring the scream-disco of “Agenda Suicide,” and other dance-floor burners such as “Glass Danse,” “Your Retro Career Melted,” and “Posed to Death.” The second CD contains six bonus tracks, including covers of songs by Sonic Youth and Bright Eyes. The DVD consists of eight videos.
Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.