My Top Rock Albums of All Time

#25. Whitesnake – Whitesnake (1987)

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Prior to the summer of 1987 I had no idea Whitesnake even existed. I was a typical sixteen year old, hanging out with friends listening to music and going through the height of my hair metal phase. 1987 was an absolutely fantastic year for hard rock/metal music and by the summer of that year there had already been a ton of great releases (White Lion’s Pride, Lee Aaron’s self titled LP, Motley Crue’s Girls, Girls, Girls to name a few). Hanging out at my friend Sean’s house one hot day in July, he told me that he had just bought a killer hard rock album by this British band named Whitesnake and that it absolutely rocked. The album cover looked pretty cool, and Whitesnake sounded like a bad ass name for a band so I was curious to hear what it sounded like. Although it had been released back in April, we were just getting our hands on it now (living in a small Northern Ontario town had its disadvantages when it came to accessing a lot of metal music).

We put the album on the turntable, (starting with side one track one naturally) and I was instantly blown away when I heard David Coverdale start to belt out “Crying In The Rain”. What a track to start an album with!!!…. From the first 30 seconds I was hooked. Coverdale’s vocal range was astounding, he was hitting notes I don’t think I had ever heard before, while the guitars came crunching in creating this sonic boom that just begged to be played at full volume. The album was full of standout tracks, including the signature Whitesnake hair metal ballad “Is This Love” and the power pop metal hit “Here I Go Again”. My favourite song on the record however, quickly became “Still Of The Night”, which to this today remains one of those songs I just have to crank as loudly as possible. It also certainly helped that all the videos from the album featured Coverdale’s new MTV ready band (including the amazing Vivian Campbell) and the lovely Tawny Kitaen (who became the fantasy rock chick for every teenage boy in North America). The entire album was fantastic, with nary a filler song on the whole thing. The secondary tracks (Bad Boys, Gimme All Your Love etc) all rocked with ferocity and the album quickly became the soundtrack to our summer. It appealed to the guys who wanted to rock and the girls we hung out with who loved playing “Here I Go Again” over and over. I soon discovered that there were 6 more Whitesnake albums and ended up picking up a few of them (of which “Slide It In” quickly became my second favourite Whitesnake record).

“Whitesnake” remains the best Whitesnake album and in my opinion still stands today as one of the crown jewels of 80’s hair metal.

My favourite track from the album (and the best video)!

And one of the most iconic power ballads of all time!

 

#24. Quiet Riot – Metal Health (1983)

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Up until the autumn of 1983, most of my musical consumption to that point had consisted of generally pop/rock fare (Survivor , Journey, The Police, Toto, Men At Work and others). To me heavy metal music was actually a bit scary (and so were the “big kids” that listened to it). I remember going to record stores and flipping through the albums in the heavy metal section, seeing bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and their frightening (at least it was to me back then) album covers with characters like “Eddie” staring back at me. The very limited amount of heavy metal music I had heard was loud, fast, aggressive and intimidating to a 12 year old boy growing up in a small Northern Ontario town. I wasn’t exposed to much heavy metal music in video form either, as MuchMusic was yet to exist and we didn’t get MTV in Canada. CBC’s “Video Hits”, Good Rockin’ Tonite and the American classic show “Friday Night Videos” were my main avenues of music video consumption and for the most part consisted of the standard pop/rock hits of the day.

It wasn’t until watching Good Rockin’ Tonite one Saturday in October 1983 that I became fully aware of how heavy metal music was going to become a significant part of my life.  Good Rockin’ Tonite was a great purveyor of Canadian hard rock, and had introduced me to bands like Loverboy, Chilliwack and Helix all of whom became staples of my music collection. On the show that night was a video by a band called Quiet Riot (I had no idea who they were) of a song called Cum On Feel The Noize, which had been rocketing up the American music charts. The video started playing and I was transfixed…. that opening drum beat, Kevin DuBrow’s killer vocals and the song suddenly grabs me and doesn’t let go. It was the heaviest song I had ever heard and I loved every minute of it. Not only was it loud and aggressive it had a fantastic melody and that gang chorus begged to be sung along with. Cum On Feel The Noize is by far the premier track on the record, but there are a number of other great tracks including the hard rocking “Slick Black Cadillac” (which was originally on Quiet Riot II and was re-recorded for the Metal Health album) and the classic title track “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” which rocks with ferocity.  Other album cuts have stood the test of time, including the song “Breathless” (a fast rocker with Frankie Banali’s rollicking pounding of the drums) and the piano based ballad “Thunderbird”, which I actually like more now than I did back then.

I played the absolute hell out of this album; I think I went through at least 2 cassettes and 1 LP before buying the CD later in the 80’s. Although I don’t listen to the album as much as I used to, it will always be the record that opened my ears and my mind up to the crazy world of heavy metal. Thank you Quiet Riot!

Enjoy some of the classic tracks from this landmark metal album!

The classic song that launched Quiet Riot into the mainstream:

The hard rocking title track:

One of my favorite tracks from the album:

 

#23. Journey – Frontiers (1983)

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1983 was a pretty important year in terms of my musical development. I had been interested in music for awhile, with the local AM radio station being my main source of pop/rock tunes. I turned 12 that summer and my big birthday gift was a record player! Not one of those kiddie type record players but a real turntable! Either I had bugged my parents enough that they caved in, or perhaps they were just tired of me using their stereo (and scratching all their records!). At any rate, I finally had my own turntable although I was seriously lacking in having any records to play on it! One Saturday morning my prayers were answered!!! Inside the newspaper that day was a flyer advertising an unbelievable offer…. you could get 13 records for a penny!!!!!! (including shipping I think in total it was $1.86).

(the famous Columbia House flyer! circa 1983)Image result for columbia house record club

Needless to say, I thought this was possibly the best thing I had ever seen! I spent days convincing my mother to let me sign up and finally she said yes. I spent hours going through the flyer selecting my 13 albums (of which I actually still have half of them). One of the very first albums I selected was Journey’s “Frontiers”. I had seen the music video for “Separate Ways” on “America’s Top Ten w/ Casey Kasem” and had bought the 45 a few weeks earlier. Separate Ways had quickly become my favourite song and I wanted the whole album desperately. After what seemed like an eternity my package arrived from Columbia House and I finally had “Frontiers” in my hands!

“Frontiers” is my absolute favourite Journey album and one I still enjoy listening to regularly today. I think Side One of the album probably ranks as one of the best Side One’s of any rock album out there. It’s perfectly sequenced in terms of song selection. What better to track to kick off a record than “Separate Ways”. Jonathan Cain’s now iconic keyboard riff starting us off and then Neal Schon’s amazing guitar kicks in. If you’re not already hooked by this point, Steve Perry’s mesmerizing voice grabs you and doesn’t let go. Separate Ways is one of those epic rock songs that is absolutely timeless. Still to this day every time I hear it my fingers go to the volume button and it gets cranked! Separate Ways hit #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for 6 weeks. It’s a shame the video wasn’t very good (it was Journey’s first concept video), although I don’t think it qualifies as one of the worst ever (as some people say).

The second track, “Send Her My Love” was the 4th single released from “Frontiers” and hit #23 on the Hot 100. It’s a beautifully crafted, epic ballad featuring Steve Perry’s heart felt vocal performance (you can almost feel the emotion he conveys) and a fantastic Neal Schon solo. The lyrics are so emotional and poignant, a song that deeply conveys that feeling of lost love. The music video returned Journey to a more comfortable live performance captured on the Frontiers tour.

Coming out of “Send Her My Love”, it’s almost a bit of a shock to the system when the rocker “Chain Reaction” kicks in! I will admit I wasn’t initially a huge fan of this song back in 1983 (I usually skipped over it when I listened to the record) but it has really grown on me and I think it’s one of Journey’s more underrated rock songs. I think it fits in really well now with the other tracks on side one. Great vocals, a driving beat and of course the epic guitar work (there’s a great guitar outro to this track) are all hallmarks of this song. It wasn’t officially a single, but charted on rock radio and the band did another concept theme for the video (once again not the best music video).

The band released the next track on the album as the third single and “After The Fall” became my second favourite song on the record. A solid mid-tempo rocker, After The Fall hit #23 on the Hot 100 and also appeared in the Tom Cruise flick Risky Business. Another great vocal performance by Perry and one of their best choruses and vocal harmonies are key trademarks of this amazing song. Another killer guitar outro by Schon finishes and fades us out and ready to head into one of the best rock ballads of all time.

The last track on Side One of “Frontiers” stands as one of the absolute best rock ballads of all time. “Faithfully” starts with the absolutely beautiful Jonathan Cain piano which sets the tone for Steve Perry’s absolutely breath taking and emotional vocal. No song better captures the feeling one has when you are missing that special someone. Jonathan Cain wrote the lyrics to convey just how difficult it was to be on the road maintaining a relationship and family life and Steve Perry’s performance puts you in Cain’s place, feeling that emotion and hardship. Neal Schon’s guitar adds a whole other level of emotion and angst to the song and you can certainly feel it come out as the guitar solo kicks in. Released as the second single from Frontiers, it hit #12 on the Hot 100 and the accompanying video featured the band on the road.

It’s funny, looking back now I think I rarely actually listened to Side Two of “Frontiers”. Although the songs aren’t as strong as those on Side One, there are some great tracks including the rockers “Back Talk”, “Edge of the Blade” and “Rubicon”. The title track is an interesting experiment and worth a listen. Interesting to note that at the last minute, executives from Columbia decided to pull 2 tracks (Only the Young and Ask The Lonely) from the album and replace them with Back Talk and Troubled Child. Only the Young ended up on the Vision Quest soundtrack and actually became a hit for the band and one of my favourite Journey tracks.

As a special bonus, here’s my original 1983 Frontiers album that I got from Columbia House:

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Considering I played the hell out of this record, it’s in surprisingly good shape! and yes, I did write my initials in black marker on the back cover…. oh silly child.