The Sound of Money: Eddie's Five Essential Studio Albums

by Jeff Fiedler

Husky-voiced Eddie Mahoney, later to drop two letters and cleverly rechristen himself Eddie Money for his stage name, may not have been as consistently successful commercially or as critically-beloved as many of his classic-rock peers, but then, few rockers of his generation also had his ability to bounce back from a flop, either: from the time he made his debut in 1977 through the end of the ‘80s, Money had a surprising knack for following up hitless albums with discs that’d unexpectedly launch him right back into the Top Twenty or even Top Ten on the national Top 40. Money also had as high-profile a cheerleader as any musician could hope to have, gaining a fan and early manager in the form of legendary concert promoter Bill Graham. Strangely enough, for all his success, his career has never truly been properly anthologized and no greatest-hits package disc exists that includes all eleven of his Top 40 hits (for some odd reason, “Maybe I’m a Fool,” “Endless Nights,” and “The Love In Your Eyes” almost always seem to each get left off, for starters), rendering his best studio discs necessary items for even more casual fans simply looking to collect only the hits, never mind the singles that failed but shouldn’t have or the excellent album cuts that were occasionally every bit as infectious as the songs released to radio. We consequently present to you, in chronological order, his Top Five most crucial platters, beginning with …

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Eddie Money (1977, Columbia)

It may not get the same love from critics as other albums from the late ‘70s to similarly go on to become enduring fixtures of any classic-rock station, but Money’s self-titled debut is no less fun of a listen. In a lot of ways, Money comes across here as a slightly more playful and less concept-album-driven version of Steve Miller, but that’s perhaps to be expected: he’s borrowed two of Miller’s bandmates here, bassist Lonnie Turner and drummer Gary Mallaber, both of whom played a crucial part in the artistic success of Fly Like an Eagle. Money also benefits from the production talents of Bruce Botnick, a former engineer for The Doors who had also co-produced Love’s seminal Forever Changes. [Botnick’s also responsible for producing, among other discs, Kenny Loggins’ High Adventure and the first two discs from power-pop greats The Beat.] But most importantly, the material is strong (especially during the album’s first half, which also includes such overlooked album cuts as “Wanna Be a Rock’n’Roll Star” and “So Good to Be in Love Again”), and each of the two side-openers would become instant classics: the hopeful, breezy rock-and-soul of “Baby Hold On,” driven throughout by underappreciated guitarist Jimmy Lyon’s unrelenting R&B-tinged rhythm guitar licks, and, perhaps even more famously, the percolating gallop of the conga-laced “Two Tickets to Paradise,” the rhythm track to which would have fit right at home on either of the two discs (Rock of the Westies and Blue Moves) from Elton John’s overhauled-and-expanded mid-’70s band. The album also sports what is arguably Money’s greatest single to miss the Top 40, a radical re-working of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” (sporting a sax solo from Tom Scott) that alters the song’s tempo entirely from a shuffle into a soul-rock tune comparable to Boz Scaggs’ “Hard Times,” resulting in a very rare example of a Motown cover that might actually be more deeply soulful than its original version.

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Life for the Taking (1979, Columbia)

Botnick returns as producer for this underappreciated sophomore outing, which duplicated the platinum success of the debut album and included many of the same players. The material’s noticeably a tad weaker this time out, so it’s not quite as essential a pickup as the debut, but it’s also not nearly as forgettable as many make it out to be, either, and contains many a fun moment, including the Bad Company-recalling “Gimme Some Water,” the sprightly Southside Johnny-like R&B of “Maureen” (which could have been a massive hit back in the early ‘60s for Gary U.S. Bonds had the song existed then), “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down,” the piano pounce of “Love the Way You Love Me,” and perhaps most critically, the sadly-lost-to-time Top 40 hit “Maybe I’m a Fool,” which casts Money’s brand of soul-pop in an ever-so-lightly-disco-tinged setting that makes the tune more easily danceable than anything from the debut without actually sounding like a selling out of any kind, much in the same way the Little River Band’s “Reminiscing” worked so well in discos without actually being a disco tune per se.

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No Control (1982, Columbia)

Money bounced back nicely both artistically and commercially from the 1980 flop Playing for Keeps with this platinum effort overseen by the legendary Tom Dowd, best known for his extensive production work for the likes of Eric Clapton (it’s Dowd who helmed both “Layla” and “I Shot the Sheriff”) and Rod Stewart (everything from Atlantic Crossing through Blondes Have More Fun. ) On a purely sonic level, the album is more vibrant and airy-sounding than any of Money’s releases up to this time, while the music itself takes on slight hints of new wave, updating Money’s sound in a way that makes him sound a bit more contemporary without sounding desperate or contrived. The makeover apparently worked, as Money’s commercial fortunes were briefly revived, resulting in the jittery rock of the Top Twenty hit “Think I’m in Love” (which fit in nicely on the radio dial at that time alongside such similar rockers as Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend” and Rick Springfield’s “Love Is Alright Tonite”) and the sultry stomp of “Shakin’,” which weds bluesy ZZ-Top-like verses to a simple-yet-oh-so-effective arena-rock chorus Billy Squier would have killed for.

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Can’t Hold Back (1986, Columbia)

After another commercial flop in 1983’s in Where’s the Party?, Money – now producing himself, with the assistance of Richie Zito – once again proved, to quote one of his late ‘70s hits, that you can’t keep a good man down by turning in this wildly successful comeback effort that proved to be his best album since his self-titled debut and yielded a greater number of hit singles as well. The one here that everyone remembers is Money’s all-time biggest hit, the goose-bump-inducing arena-rock of “Take Me Home Tonight,” which ingeniously works in brief snippets of the Ronettes classic “Be My Baby” and, cooler still, utilizes Ronnie Spector herself to sing them; hearing Spector ad-lib to her heart’s delight during the song’s closing moments is as fun a moment as any to be found on any arena-rock side from the late ‘80s, and the song deservedly rose all the way into the Top Five, out-charting anything Money had done before, “Two Tickets to Paradise” and “Baby Hold On” included. [Ironically, the song was originally intended as a duet with the Motels’ Martha Davis, and it was Davis who proposed that Spector be contacted.] Strangely, nothing else from this record has managed to endure on radio the same way “Take Me Home Tonight” has, but it’s not for lack of good material. Heck, even the album’s hitless second side still has some surprisingly infectious material, like “Bring on the Rain” and “We Should Be Sleeping” and a song that even The Who’s John Entwistle took notice of enough to cover himself in “Stranger in a Strange Land.” But it’s often forgotten that this album actually yielded another near-Top Ten hit in the #14-peaking nostalgia-minded “I Wanna Go Back,” which is every bit as ridiculously catchy as “Take Me Home Tonight” and really should have been a Top Ten hit in its own right, and a near-Top Twenty hit in the equally infectious world-weariness of “Endless Nights.” Both singles remain not merely among the most underappreciated singles of Money’s career but among the greatest lost 45s of all of 1987 as well.

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Nothing to Lose (1988, Columbia)

It didn’t close out his chart account per se – he’d still go on to have one more Top 200-charting album (albeit one that peaked at #160) in 1991’s Right Now and two more Top 40 hit singles in 1989’s #11- peaking “Peace in Our Time” (one of three new cuts included on his first greatest-hits album) and the 1991 power ballad “I’ll Get By” – but as Money’s last studio album of the Eighties, Nothing to Lose marks the end of the most seminal part of Money’s career both commercially and artistically, and nothing he would do afterwards would fit quite so well alongside his earlier albums. Zito returns as Money’s co-producer here and the two nicely re-capture the same winning sound of Can’t Hold Back. Though the disc is a bit too front-loaded, consequently preventing it from feeling as consistently engaging a listen as its predecessor, the best songs are still quite appealing and Money would score another two sizable hits in the infectious stadium rock of “Walk on Water” (Money’s second and final Top Ten hit) and “The Love in Your Eyes,” the latter tune co-written by ‘70s cult rocker Adrian Gurvitz (Three Man Army, The Baker-Gurvitz Army, The Graeme Edge Band).