Friday, July 31, 2015

Counting down the Top 25 of '85: Albums #5 - 1

A breakdown of my favorite albums from 1985

Honorable mention, in alphabetical order by artist:

DowntownMarshall Crenshaw

You're Under ArrestMiles Davis

Hot Diggety DogThe Dishes

The Dream AcademyThe Dream Academy

Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 & 2Billy Joel

Magic TouchStanley Jordan

Play DeepThe Outfield


Voices Carry'Til Tuesday

Wide Awake in AmericaU2

The Falcon and the SnowmanSoundtrack

25 VocaleseThe Manhattan Transfer
24 Whitney HoustonWhitney Houston
23 The Power StationThe Power Station
22 Around the World in a DayPrince & The Revolution
21 To Live and Die in L.A.Wang Chung
20 Alternating CurrentsSpyro Gyra
19 Fables of the ReconstructionR.E.M.
18 Low-LifeNew Order
17 Be Yourself TonightEurythmics
16 RiptideRobert Palmer

15 Dream Into ActionHoward Jones
14 Stay TunedChet Atkins
13 Soul to SoulStevie Ray Vaughan
12 Brothers in ArmsDire Straits
11 Listen Like ThievesINXS
10 Cosi Fan Tutti FruttiSqueeze
9 Songs from the Big ChairTears for Fears
8 Little CreaturesTalking Heads
7 In Square CircleStevie Wonder
6 Here's to Future DaysThompson Twins

Once Upon a Time
Simple Minds
A&M 5092
Produced by: Bob Clearmountain and Jimmy Iovine

U.S. Album Chart Peaks
Billboard Cash BoxRS

Rolling Stone★★★½
Smash Hits7/10

 U.S. charted singles: Hot 100 Rock Dance
 Alive and Kicking3225
 Sanctify Yourself14324
 All the Things She Said289

Top 3 Tracks
"Sanctify Yourself"
"Once Upon a Time"
"Alive and Kicking"

The music here is much more guitar-oriented rock-pop than the synth-pop of the band's earlier releases. This is a rawer sound and probably the band's best overall album.  Maybe.  Not sure.  These days, I'm listening to the earlier stuff more than this one, but I listened to this a lot back in '85. It must have come out in the fall, because I immediately associate this album with cooler weather.  In any case, it was the band's most successful album here in the US.  Maybe Jimmy Iovine was trying to make Simple Minds more like U2 when it should have gone the other way IMO. 

The Dream of the Blue Turtles
A&M 3750
Produced by: Sting and Pete Smith

U.S. Album Chart Peaks
Billboard Cash BoxRS

Rolling Stone★★★★
Smash Hits6/10

 U.S. charted singles: Hot 100 Rock AC Dance R&B
 If You Love Somebody Set Them Free31391017
 Fortress Around Your Heart8132

 Love is the Seventh Wave 171920

 Russians 1634

Top 3 Tracks
"Fortress Around Your Heart"
"Love is the Seventh Wave"
"Children's Crusade"

In which Sting attempts to merge pop and jazz in his own self-aggrandizing style of music.  What he ended up with was simply pop music played by jazz musicians.  Still, there was nothing else like it out there at the time, plus it was Sting, so I snapped it up upon release.  Some great jazzers here: Brandford Marsalis, Omar Hakim, Kenny Kirkland.  They take Sting's pop songs and make them better.  Not Sting's best album, that would come later with Ten Summoner's Tales, but still a great debut for someone like me who enjoyed jazz music and was a huge fan of the Police.

Black Codes (From the Underground)
Wynton Marsalis
Columbia 40009
Produced by: Steve Epstein

U.S. Album Chart Peaks
Billboard Cash BoxRS

Rolling Stone★★★½
Smash Hits-

 U.S. charted singles:

Top 3 Tracks
"For Wee Folks"
"Aural Oasis"

Released on my 19th birthday, my LP copy of this neo-bop album got a lot of playing time in my dorm room during my sophomore year in college.  Not only my favorite Marsalis album, it has become one of my favorite jazz albums. The young quintet here includes Wynton's brother Branford, Kenny Kirkland, Jeff Watts, and Charnett Moffett.  (If you'll recall, Branford and Kirkland also played on the above Sting album.)  The writing and playing here belies the ages of all involved.

In addition to reaching 118 on the Billboard 200 album chart, it also spent 42 weeks on Billboard's jazz album chart, peaking at #2 where it was held out of the top spot by Stanley Jordan's Magic Touch album. 

The Moo Album
The Judy's
Wasted Talent JWT4044
Produced by: The Judy's

U.S. Album Chart Peaks
Billboard Cash BoxRS

Rolling Stone-
Smash Hits-

 U.S. charted singles:

Top 3 Tracks
"Teenage Millionaire"
"Wilma a Go-Go"

I've owned this gem first on cassette, then once that was stretched out, I found an LP, burned the vinyl to a CD when that technology became available, then finally purchased a CD when it was re-released through the band's website.  Sounds like a lot of trouble?  Nah - worth it.  Coming from a non-traditional power trio from the Houston suburb of Pearland, we're treated to plenty of 2 minute songs full of hooks and witty lyrics.  Need a genre?  Let's go with "minimalist power pop-ish New Wave satire."

Even though they played gigs around Texas frequently in the '80s, I only caught them once:

I don't have memories of getting a concert tee, but surely I did, right?

Cupid & Psyche 85
Scritti Politti 
Warner Bros. 25302
Produced by: Scritti Politti and Arif Mardin

U.S. Album Chart Peaks
Billboard Cash BoxRS

Rolling Stone★★★½
Smash Hits6½/10

 U.S. charted singles: Hot 100 Dance
 Perfect Way116
 Wood Beez914

Top 3 Tracks
"Perfect Way"
"Wood Beez"

I don't know why I love it, but I do.  I know absolutely nothing about Scritti Politti and I've never heard any other SP albums.  One of those albums where you hear one song ("Perfect Way") on the radio and decide to take a chance on the full thing.  I did just that over Christmas break in 1985 ("Perfect Way" peaked on Dec 21), put the tape in my car and listened over and over, never hitting the ffwd button.  It's all bubblegum synthpop and it's all good.  Sure, the production and CMI Fairlight synth sound dated now, but that just makes this pop treasure a perfect time-capsule.

These are my personal top 25 albums released in 1985.  The following criteria was used on a very slippery sliding scale:
  • How often I enjoyed the album at the time of release
  • How often I've enjoyed the album over the past 30 years
  • Overall quality of the album
The top tracks for each album are solely my opinion and are presented in order of preference.

  • Billboard magazine chart information is available from the Billboard website, the American Radio History archives, Google Books, or any of the wonderful Record Research books.
  • The Cash Box chart information was taken from The Cash Box Album Charts, 1976-1985 (1987).
  • The Rolling Stone chart information was compiled using Rolling Stone magazine's DVD-ROM set, Cover to Cover: The First 40 Years (2007).
  • The Rolling Stone ratings were taken from either the Rolling Stone Album Guide, 3rd ed. (1993) or the Rolling Stone Jazz & Blues Album Guide (1999).
  • The Virgin ratings were taken from The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music (1997).
  • The Robert Christgau ratings were taken from Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s (1990).  They are also available at his comprehensive website
  • The Smash Hits ratings were taken from the archives at Like Punk Never Happened.


  1. Quite a Top 5 you've got there, my friend... Looks awfully familiar to me, for some reason. – I can tell you right now that 4 of those 5 have an open invitation to the next Digglinator family BBQ. After all the heartache caused by his little stunt at #4, however, Gordon will no longer be welcome around these parts. Forgive? One day, perhaps... Forget? Not on your life, Gordon!**

    **Little Orphan Annie decoder ring for above comments sold separately.

  2. Here's a fun fact:

    On the very same night you witnessed the moo-ving performance by The Judy's, Billy Joel™ and his "Uptown Girl" Christie Brinkley were enjoying their first night as a married copule.