Joel Goldenberg: The Stylistics and others

Styx in 1977

Greetings! Things are dragging a bit on the so, so, so long S list that we'll speed things up with more artists/groups and shorter reviews. We start with one of the best early soul groups of the 1970s.

•••

The Stylistics: Sublime, and a 10 out of 10 for heart tugging, especially on the dramatic You Are Everything, one of the most perfectly constructed songs ever. A close second is You Make Me Feel Brand New, the group's biggest hit. The Stylistics' first greatest hits collection pretty much has the best stuff, except for the excellent You'll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart).

•••

Styx: Classic rock with a hint of Broadway, thanks to Dennis DeYoung's dramatic vocals, at least in the 1970s and early 1980s. Their best, lyrically and musically, is Come Sail Away, especially the keyboard break and the way the band comes crashing back in after that. Other favourites — Too Much Time On My Hands (helped by the very humorous video, and sung by Tommy Shaw), Babe (one of the first power ballads, and not shades of Barry Manilow as the rest of the band thought) and, God help me, Mr. Roboto. Yes, I know it's used to ridicule the band, but the hooks are undeniable.

•••

Sugarloaf: Their classic rock-ish big hit Green-Eyed Lady sounds fantastic in Dolby Atmos movie setting, with some of the opening instrumentation sounding on headphones like it's coming from my chest area. And I love the cheekiness of Don't Call Us, We'll Call You, which according to legend was an act of revenge against a record company. The revenge was perpetrated through a touchtone telephone sound which could be identified as an unlisted Columbia Records number in New York City.

•••

Donna Summer: Simply the best artist of the whole damn disco genre (Chic wins hands-down as the best group). Her On the Radio greatest hits collection from '79 is nearly perfect (especially for including the short, more propulsive version of the Kraftwerk-inspired I Feel Love, one of the most impressive songs of all time, although the longer versions are best for club dancing), except for a couple of things. It omits an amazing guitar solo on 1979's Hot Stuff and misses what I think is one of her best songs, a cover of Barry Manilow's Could It Be Magic, an improvement on the original by several magnitudes. I especially love the drumming on that track. On the Radio has mostly short versions of her songs, but the full-lengths are also worth checking out on her individual albums.

•••

The Sunrays: This band was created as an act of revenge by Murry Wilson, father of Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys. The abusive Murry was fired as manager of the band during sessions for the #1 hit I Get Around, and probably thought he could produce a better group than the one Brian was leading. The Sunrays did come up with one very memorable hit, I Live for The Sun but they otherwise faded into obscurity. While I Live For the Sun is fun in the sun, Brian was far advanced production-wise.

•••

Supertramp: I must tearfully confess that when I first heard The Logical Song on the radio back in 1979 while travelling on Autoroute 13 towards the West Island of Montreal (yes, I remember that detail) , I thought a woman was singing. I soon found out that was not the case. While the group occasionally irritates me with their wailing hamonicas or whatever they're using, they amassed a great deal of classic rock songs, some laced with humour and most of them on the great Crime of the Century album, which also has wonderful surround-like effects. My favourite — Hide In Your Shell, an epic song.

Next time: The Supremes and others.

 

 

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.