Friday, February 23, 2024

Counting down the Top 50 of '84 - Albums #5 - 1

(or, more accurately, my favorite albums released in 1984)

Difford & Tilbrook
Difford & Tilbrook

Produced by:Tony Visconti, E.T. Thorngren, Chris Difford, & Glenn Tilbrook
Billboard 200:55
CashBox 200:25
Rolling Stone 100:33

Top 3 Tracks
"Love's Crashing Waves"
"Action Speaks Faster"
"Man for All Seasons"

The songwriting duo from Squeeze put out this album after the group split up (temporarily) in the early '80s. Compared to the duo's usual fantastic writing, the songwriting on this release isn't that great, but even the best material couldn't hold up to the slick, flat production given here. However, this came out in the summer of 1984 and I listened to it non-stop, so I'm very familiar with all the tunes and arrangements. Difford & Tilbrook should have been more well known in the US, but this wasn't the release that would gain them that fame and recognition.

Big Bam Boom
Daryl Hall & John Oates

Produced by:Daryl Hall, John Oates & Bob Clearmountain
Billboard 200:5
CashBox 200:7
Rolling Stone 100:5

U.S. Billboard charted single: Hot 100 R&B Dance AC Rock
Out Of Touch124181
Method of Modern Love52115185
Some Things are Better Left Unsaid1885
Possession Obsession3069208

Top 3 Tracks
"Some Things are Better Left Unsaid"
"Method of Modern Love"
"Out of Touch"

This album was a marked departure for the group as they updated their "blue-eyed soul" sound to match the times. Lots of synths, sequencing, echo, and dance beats in a louder and noisier setting than we were used to with these guys. Now it sounds like every other dance/hip-hop album from the late '80s, so I guess these guys were actually ahead of their time in terms of sonic originality.

Learning to Crawl
The Pretenders

Produced by:Chris Thomas
Billboard 200:5
CashBox 200:4
Rolling Stone 100:1

  • Rolling Stone: ★★★★
  • Trouser Press: "100 percent Hynde. And it's fine."
  • CashBox: "one of early 84's success stories"
  • Billboard: "strong songs, crack performances"
  • Smash Hits (5 out of 10): "a patchy comeback LP"
  • Robert Christgau (A-): 'I'm not the kind I used to be/I've got a kid, I'm thirty-three' is certainly a quotable quote, and whether rock-and-rolling her baby or growling at fat cats Chrissie Hynde backs it up."
  • High Fidelity: "contains some of the Pretenders' finest music to date"
  • Stereo Review: Best of the Month

U.S. Billboard charted singles: Hot 100Rock
Back on the Chain Gang54
My City was Gone
Middle of the Road192
Time the Avenger
Show Me288

Top 3 Tracks
"Middle of the Road"
"Time the Avenger"
"My City was Gone"

This is The Pretenders' greatest album and a more complete album than any they previously released, including their spectacular debut (yeah, I said it). Plus, this music has aged well. The song My City was Gone is especially poignant to me now because it makes me think of the town I grew up in which has undergone significant changes and decay over the years.

Like a Virgin

Produced by:Nile Rodgers, Steve Bray, & Madonna
Billboard 200:1
CashBox 200:1
Rolling Stone 100:1

  • CashBox: "a healthy dose of disco-rock"
  • Billboard: "This second album brings considerable muscle"
  • High Fidelity: "Madonna pulls off the neat trick of outstripping her own fast start."
  • Rolling Stone (★★★½): "Rodgers wisely supplies the kind of muscle Madonna's sassy lyrics demand."
  • Smash Hits (8 out of 10): "a good all-American dance album"
  • Stereo Review: "sounds thin to me - not terrible, but predictably commercial"
  • Robert Christgau: B 

U.S. Billboard charted single: Hot 100 Dance AC
Like a Virgin1129
Material Girl2138
Dress You Up5332

Top 3 Tracks
"Material Girl"
"Like a Virgin"
"Dress You Up"

No sophomore slump here. Madonna brought in Nile Rodgers to produce, found a great bunch of dance tunes, put a sexy "Boy Toy" picture on the cover, and gave the whole package an ambiguous, suggestive, slightly controversial (at the time) title. With this album, Madonna moved from pop singer to pop icon. Madonna doesn't have a great voice, but she knows how to put together a package (e.g., the backing band for much of the album is freakin' Chic for chrissakes) and, with a few missteps, this album transcended the existing concepts of dance-pop and set the stage for dance music in the late '80s.

Stop Making Sense
Talking Heads

Produced by:Talking Heads & Gary Goetzman
Billboard 200:41
CashBox 200:29
Rolling Stone 100:16

  • Rolling Stone (★★★★): "a solid artistic statement from a band that's starting to have as much as they've given their listeners."
  • Stereo Review: "a great live performance"
  • Robert Christgau (B+): "a soundtrack, albeit for the finest concert film I've ever seen"
  • CashBox: "an electrifying LP"
  • Billboard: "sustains remarkable polish"

Top 3 Tracks
"Found a Job"
"Once in a Lifetime"
"This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)"

Simply put, this album represents the best concert movie ever filmed.

These are my personal top 10 albums released in 1984. 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 years since release
  • My opinion of the overall quality of the album
The top tracks for each album are solely my opinion.

Other album charts from MFD (formats vary):

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