by Jeff Fiedler
Common Thread is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which we offer up mini-reviews of a small (and often very diverse) assortment of albums that all have one specific shared trait; that "common thread" can vary from column to column.
My Ever Changing Moods, Style Council (1984, Geffen)
In the U.K., Paul Weller is rock and roll royalty, having served as frontman for one of the most beloved British bands of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, The Jam, and later going on to a wildly successful solo career in the ‘90s. In the U.S., where the Jam were little more than a cult favorite and failed to even so much as crack the Hot 100, his success on the singles charts is mostly limited to his guest appearances on Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova,” but he did manage to reach the Top 40 exactly one time on his own, via his role as frontman of the heavily R&B-influenced ‘80s duo The Style Council, who reached #29 with the jazzy soul-pop of this album’s title track.
The History Mix, Volume 1, Godley and Creme (1985, Polydor)
This British duo, while massively popular in their homeland, reached the American Top 40 just once, with this album’s lead-off single, the haunting, passionate Top Twenty ballad “Cry.” But their legacy in this country is so, so much more than that one single. To start with, both Kevin Godley and Lol Creme had already been in two bands with sizable American hits to their credit: Hotlegs, who reached #22 in 1970 with “Neanderthal Man,” and 10cc, who climbed all the way to Number Two in 1975 with the atmospheric art-pop of “I’m Not in Love.” [Creme would later join another successful international act, art-pop dance band The Art of Noise.] But perhaps their biggest legacy of all is as music video pioneers; not only did their face-morphing video for “Cry” prove to be wildly influential (even the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, would employ the same trick for his video to “Black or White”), but the two men would be among the most wildly-in-demand music-video directors of the ‘80s, lensing such iconic clips as Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit,” Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film,” and the Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” to name just a few of their most influential moments.
Everything, Climie Fisher (1987, EMI)
This pop duo – consisting of Simon Climie and Rob Fisher – didn’t last very long and just managed a single Top 40 hit during their brief existence, via this album’s “Love Changes (Everything)” (that many listeners mistook the single for a new Rod Stewart record was actually quite fitting: the song was, in fact, originally written for – and turned down by – the legendary British rocker), but don’t be deceived: both men have quite a few hits to their credit – lots of them. Fisher had already reached the Top 40 four separate times as one-half of the new-wave duo Naked Eyes (“Always Something There to Remind Me,” “Promises, Promises”), while Simon Climie is responsible for co-writing such massive hits as Pat Benatar’s “Invincible,” Rod Stewart’s “My Heart Can’t Tell You No,” and Aretha Franklin and George Michael’s “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” and would go on in the late ‘90s and beyond to become Eric Clapton’s favorite go-to producer and co-writer, working with the legendary guitarist on nearly every album he’d release from Pilgrim onwards.
Heart Over Mind, Jennifer Rush (1987, Epic)
Rush, born in Queens, New York, is ironically a much bigger international pop star than she is in her home country and racked up multiple Top Ten hits in France, Germany, and Switzerland during the back half of the ‘80s. Her Top 40 success on U.S. shores, in contrast, is limited to this album’s second single, “Flames of Paradise,” a bright and bubbly duet with Elton John that managed to crawl as high as #36 before descending back down the charts. Her only other Hot 100 appearance came with a song she co-wrote for her self-titled debut, “The Power of Love,” which topped the charts in Canada, the U.K., France, Norway, and Austria, but stalled at #57 in the U.S.. Ironically, even in the U.S., she’s reaped more royalties from that one song than she ever did from “Flames of Paradise”: Air Supply covered it shortly after and took it to #68, Laura Branigan followed suit two years later and took it all the way to #26, and then Celine Dion revived it in 1993 and had her first American Number One hit with the song, the single topping both the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts for a full month.
Boys Club, Boys Club (1988, MCA)
This pop duo was very short-lived, but their one hit was a big one, “I Remember Holding You” making it all the way into the Top Ten, peaking at #8. But it was far from being Gene Hunt’s lone brush with Top 40 success. Hunt, better known by his birth name of Eugene Wolfgramm, was, along with his brothers and sisters, a member of the wildly successful family band The Jets, who were a common sighting in the Top Ten during the late ‘80s with such dance-pop singles as “Crush on You,” “Rocket 2 U,” and “Cross My Broken Heart” and the lovely ballads “You Got It All” and “Make It Real.”
See the Light, Jeff Healey Band (1988, Arista)
Blues aficionado (and renowned record collector, having a collection of 78s that numbered over thirty thousand) Healey sadly died of cancer in 2008 shortly before his forty-second birthday, but the gifted Canadian-born guitarist’s story is an interesting one. Healey lost his sight at the age of one as a result of the rare eye disease retinoblastoma and took up guitar a mere two years later, developing his own unique technique of playing that involved placing the guitar flat on his lap. If that reminds you of a character from the Patrick Swayze cult classic Road House, there’s a good reason for that: Healey both inspired and played the part of Cody, the house-band leader at the Double Deuce. But Healey would have a major hit in real life as the leader of the trio the Jeff Healey Band, who rocketed all the way into the Top Five with their definitive reading of the John Hiatt-penned ballad “Angel Eyes,” one of the most criminally underrated 45s of the late ‘80s.
If My Ancestors Could See Me Now, Ivan Neville (1988, Polydor)
It shouldn’t be so surprising that this multi-instrumentalist is as gifted as he is – he’s the offspring of R&B legend Aaron Neville and the nephew of Art, Charles, and Cyril Neville of the Neville Brothers. But though he’s played on many occasions with his famous relatives, Ivan’s also made a name for himself in the industry as an in-demand session player, and he even won a fan in no less than Keith Richards, who hired him outright to serve in his backing band the Xpensive Winos for his occasional solo tours and albums. Ivan even had the distinction of doubling as Keith’s opening act upon momentarily becoming a solo star with the release of this disc, which spawned a Top 40 hit in the infectious and toe-tapping “Not Just Another Girl.” Neville would even do a stint as a full-time member of the Spin Doctors for the latter half of the ‘90s, serving as the band’s keyboardist and even assuming the lead vocalist role for several tour dates after Chris Barron lost his voice.