1979 was hardly a banner year for the music business.
A sales slump sent the major record labels into a panic — perhaps they had tightened the screws a bit too much with the $8.98 list price. This slump was one factor that helped to slow the explosion of new bands which began with the punk revolution of 1976. Another factor was the rapid assimilation of some of the best artists of the fringe of the New Wave (Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, et al.) into the mainstream.
It can be taken as a measure of the success of those people, or perhaps of the incredible damage that disco has done to the business during its short reign at the top, that of these 10 acts, only Fleetwood Mac boasts the same lineup it sported in 1975. Anyway. Here is the top 10 of 1979.
1.) Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Armed Forces
Net as compelling as This Year's Model, but then, what could be as compelling as that. Costello's bitter and cynical musical genius rides high, while the Attractions remain one of the few inimitable bands in the world. Their sound is so unique, that the listener cannot help but be drawn to it. "Sundays Best," which appears only on the English pressing (Radar) is possibly the best song that the man has committed to vinyl.
2.) Cheap Trick - Cheap Trick At Budokan
This seminal live album of the 70s served to bring acclaim to Cheap Trick. The mix is pretty rough, and it's only a single disc, but the playing, particularly that of Bun E. Carlos, is masterful. For sheer joy in playing, check out the versions of "Ain't That a Shame" and "Surrender." An essential album for any collection.
3.) Graham Parker And The Rumour - Squeezing Out Sparks
A brilliant comeback effort by a man who shares more in common with Elvis Costello than either cares to admit. Parker's career was eclipsed by the rise of Elvis'. Unlike Costello, however, he shows an overriding concern for the people he sings about, particulary women. Parker could be in the running for the title of the John Lennon of the 80s .
4.) Nick Lowe - Labour Of Lust
England's Warren Zevon? No, but for those who thought that Pure Pop For Now People was a bit too wierd, this one's not. Nuff said.
5.) Ian Hunter - You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic
The title of this album is too long, and it makes me want to throw up when I hear Barry Manilow covering "Ships" which is a Hunter song, see? But then again, Ian can probably live off the royalties from that bastard for life, so I guess that it's OK. In another comeback effort, Hunter takes the backbone of the E Street Band, and uses it to make his best album since Mott, all the way beck in '73.
6.) Ron Wood - Gimme Some Neck
There used to be this band called the Faces. There used to be this other band called the Rolling Stones. Now, I don't know about you, but there are so many ex-Faces in the Rolling Stones these days that I call them the Rolling Faces, but the point really is that Ron Wood plays guitar for the Stones now just like he used to do for the Faces. He also releases the occasional solo, LP, which is what this is. It's also very good, and a whole lot of fun to listen to. A lot of Rolling Faces play on it, and so .do a lot of other famous people. Best bar. room rock on a major label award, please. Thank You.
7.) Ramones - It's Alive
"Hey — we're the Ramones and this one's called 'Rockaway Beach'." And for the next four discs, the Ramona deliver powerhouse rock and roll with all the subtlety of a King Tiger tank (Germany 1944) on speed. Or is that a jackhammer to the face? Anyway, this was recorded when Tommy was still drumming for the band, and for my money, he's a better drummer than Marky any day. Besides, how could you possibly resist live version of such tunes as "Blitzkrieg Bop," Teenage Lobotomy," and "Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World." The only punk band with a sense of humor.
8.) Tom Robinson Band - TRB Two
Tom Robinson is madder than hell, and he's not going to take it anymore. The most political rock since the Sex Pistols. Buy it before he burns himself out. Period.
9.) Fleetwood Mac - Tusk
Boy, did I ever think this album sucked the first time I heard it. But then I really listened to it carefully, and discovered that the reason this thing sounded so flat is that everything is so bloody subtle. I mean, this is headphone music. But at the same time it's good background music, too. For situations when the Ramones just simply won't do, you know? Look, do you want to get laid or not?
10.) Cheap Trick - Dream Police
What, two Cheap Trick LPs? So it's not as good as the first two albums. So you just got through reading a review where I outlined all it s flaws. It's still better than the drivel most of you people listen to. Besides, after I've spent the last two years telling you how great these guys are, what else can I do? There is a rumor going around that these guys are going to be the next Beatles anyway, and it's probably true. So there.
Honorable Mention: Pink Floyd - The Wall
This one was just hitting the record racks as we went to print. I've only heard it once, but it could very well be regarded as better than Dark Side of the Moon. We'll have to wait and see.