I can turn back the hands of time

It’s fairly amazing that I continue to find, or rediscover, great old songs tucked away on vinyl from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. You’d think the well would eventually run dry. But hey, there were more than 500 albums released every year during those decades (I think the number is even higher these days), so it’s easy to overlook the gems hidden on albums you thought you knew.

Since 2015, I’ve published 36 posts that each offer a dozen “lost classics” worthy of your attention. For this post, I am featuring a fresh dozen of these unearthed beauties, mostly from the ’80s this time. Some you may recognize; others will be all new to you. In either case, they’re here because I think they’re proof of the preponderance of great music that was written, recorded and released in rock music’s formative years.

Naturally, you’ll find an accompanying Spotify playlist at the end. Crank it up! Revel in it. Bathe in it. Get up and dance to it!


“Alabama Getaway,” Grateful Dead, 1980

When The Dead signed with Clive Davis and Arista Records in 1978, they attempted a more commercial sound (“Shakedown Street”) that didn’t sit as well with longtime fans. The 1980 LP “Go to Heaven” was largely rejected at the time because it looked like a disco album (the band dressed in Bee Gees white suits on the cover), but the music was unfairly maligned. Time has somewhat mellowed the general disdain that critics and Deadheads felt upon its release, and I urge you to give this album a fresh look. Case in point: The band had appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1980 playing the spirited opening track, a Chuck Berry-ish romp called “Alabama Getaway,” a Jerry Garcia tune featuring “Captain Trips” on guitar and lead vocals, with new Dead member Brent Mydland contributing a surprising miniMoog solo and backing vocals. The song went on to become a concert favorite over the next 15 years until Garcia’s death in 1995.

“Lion’s Den,” Bruce Springsteen, 1982/1998

In 1982, Springsteen was writing songs at a furious pace as he geared up for his next rock album. He and the E Street Band recorded several dozen tunes, but he found that he preferred his homemade demos of about 10 of these because the sparse arrangements matched the dark, reflective lyrics, so he chose to release them as the startling LP “Nebraska,” a complete departure from all previous Springsteen albums. Critics gushed over it, but I was never crazy about it. Of the remaining E Street recordings, many were resurrected two years later to become the multiplatinum “Born in the USA” album. One of the best tracks from this period, to my ears, was the exhilarating “Lion’s Den,” which remained in the vaults until included on his 4-disc “Tracks” collection of outtakes in 1998. One listen will make you question Springsteen’s reasoning sometimes. How could a song this good languish on the shelf when it could’ve been polished up, maybe extended another minute or so, and been a solid rock radio favorite?

“Let’s See Action,” The Who, 1972/1981

This rocker was written in 1971 as part of Pete Townshend’s aborted “Lifehouse” project for The Who in 1971, and was released in the UK as a single in October of that year, reaching #16 there. Townshend recorded his own longer version, officially titled “Nothing is Everything (Let’s See Action),” on his first solo LP, “Who Came First,” which was released in both countries in October 1972. The Who’s version of the song, which packs more punch and features Roger Daltrey’s vocals and Nicky Hopkins on piano, didn’t show up in the US until 1981 when it was included on the compilation LP “Hooligans.” The lyrics borrow from the teachings of Townshend’s guru Meher Baba regarding positive impulses and cosmic soul searching: “Let’s see action, let’s see people, /Let’s be free, let’s see who cares, /Nothing is everything, everything is nothing…”

“What About Love,” ‘Til Tuesday, 1986

Emerging from Boston in the mid-’80s, ‘Til Tuesday was a favorite on MTV among fans of New Wave, particularly their amazing Top Ten hit “Voices Carry.” Lead singer Aimee Mann’s commanding, haunting lead vocals rightly became the band’s focal point, and her songwriting has made her a critic’s darling ever since. Although the group’s second LP, the beautifully produced “Welcome Home” in 1986, was chock full of excellent songs, it underperformed on the charts and led to the group’s dissolution two years later when their third LP stiffed badly. Tracks like “Will She Just Fall Down,” “Sleeping and Waking,” “Lovers’ Day” and “Coming Up Close” gave the album impressive consistency, but curiously, the sonically rich single “What About Love” managed to reach only #26. For my money, this is one of the best albums of the 1980s.

“All the Children Sing,” Todd Rundgren, 1978

Rundgren was feeling wistful and reflective in 1977 due to the breakup of his relationship with Bebe Buell, caused partly by the birth of Buell’s daughter, Liv, who turned out to be the result of a tryst between Buell and Aerosmith vocalist Steven Tyler. Rundgren chose to isolate in his upstate New York home nearby the Utopia Sound Studios he built there, creating a batch of songs that became “Hermit of Mink Hollow,” one of his most commercially successful LPs. The tracks were intended to be played on piano with minimal arrangements, and one of them, the autobiographical “Can We Still Be Friends?”, emerged as one of his biggest hits. The album opener, “All the Children Sing,” offered a sing-song melody and words that celebrated how children’s voices can bring such joy to the world.

“Home and Dry,” Gerry Rafferty, 1978

This Scottish singer/songwriter composed many wonderfully infectious tunes and made nearly a dozen winning albums, but he shunned the limelight, touring very sporadically, and a developing problem with alcoholism certainly didn’t help, curtailing his life at age 63 in 2011. First with the 1973 Top Ten single “Stuck in the Middle With You” as part of Stealers Wheel and then on his own with the phenomenal “City to City” LP in 1978, Rafferty turned a lot of heads in the US and elsewhere. “Baker Street,” of course, was his biggest hit, followed by the pleasing “Right Down the Line,” but largely forgotten was the third single from “City to City,” a majestic track called “Home and Dry,” which reached #26 in the US late in 1978. I suggest you check out more of Raffery’s repertoire on LPs like “Night Owl” (1979), “Sleepwalking” (1984) and “North and South” (1988).

“First We Take Manhattan,” Jennifer Warnes, 1986

A starring role in the LA production of the musical “Hair” in 1968 helped Warnes kick off her career, and by 1977, she reached the Top 10 on US pop charts with “Right Time of the Night,” sounding uncannily like Linda Ronstadt. Two years later, Warnes was the singer of the Oscar-winning song “It Goes Like It Goes” from the film “Norma Rae,” which jump-started a successful run of movie soundtrack hit singles, including two #1s: From “An Officer and a Gentleman” in 1982 came “Up Where We Belong” with Joe Cocker, and from “Dirty Dancing in 1991 came “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life” with Bill Medley. Between those two award-winners, she earned high praise for her LP “Famous Blue Raincoat,” on which she covered some of songwriter Leonard Cohen’s finest tunes, including a new one he hadn’t yet recorded himself, “First We Take Manhattan.” It’s a powerful track, with Stevie Ray Vaughn making a guest appearance on guitar.

“Caribbean Wind,” Bob Dylan, 1981/1985

This is one of those Dylan songs he said he never fully finished, rewriting the lyrics and recording it more than once, but he never felt satisfied, so it was shelved. He first recorded it in 1980 and twice more in 1981 during sessions for his “Shot of Love” LP, with different lyrics in each case. It first appeared on the “Biograph” box set in 1985 and later on his “Side Tracks” compilation in 2013, and it’s such a fine song, you’ve got to wonder why he felty it unworthy of release at the time of recording. Backed by the likes of keyboardist Benmont Tench and guitarists Fred Tackett and Steve Ripley, Dylan offers a fine vocal performance and probably the best version of the lyrics, even though he has always said he isn’t really sure what the song is about. “Sometimes you write something to be very inspired, but you don’t quite finish it for one reason or another,” he said. “Then you’ll go back and try and pick it up, and the inspiration is just gone. Very frustrating.”

“Angel (What in the World’s Come Over Us),” Atlanta Rhythm Section, 1974

For ten years (1972-1982), the Atlanta Rhythm Section cranked out album after album of pleasing Southern rock, carried by the warm vocals of Ronnie Hammond and instantly accessible melodies and ensemble playing. They eventually had some big hits in 1977-78 (“Imaginary Lover,” “So Into You,” “Champagne Jam,” “I’m Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight”) but their early records were unjustly ignored. Their 1974 release “Third Annual Pipe Dream,” yielded their first Top 40 hit “Doraville,” a tribute to the Atlanta suburb where they recorded. Although it stalled as the follow-up single, “Angel (What in the World’s Come Over Us)” is even better, with the band jamming away on the main riff and giving hints of the strong musicianship ARS would bring to bear on subsequent albums.

“Keep On Going,” Fleetwood Mac, 1973

Between the formative blues music of the Peter Green period (1967-1970) and the sunny pop of the Buckingham/Nicks era (1975 onward), Fleetwood Mac managed to survive the 1971-1975 years thanks to great songs by Danny Kirwan (“Bare Trees”) and Bob Welch (“Hypnotized”). On their 1973 LP “Mystery to Me,” Kirwan had already split, but Christine McVie stepped up as a formidable singer and songwriter as well. Generally, each song’s writer also sang lead vocals, but in one case, Welch turned over his song “Keep On Going” to the dulcet tones of McVie, which served the recording better. A dominant, aggressive string arrangement gave the track additional oomph that helped it earn FM rock radio airplay then and ever since. I’ve always enjoyed most of the music from this middle period of the group.

“Moonlight in Samosa,” Robert Plant, 1982

When Led Zeppelin disbanded in 1980 following the death of drummer John Bonham, most observers figured Jimmy Page would be the one to watch, but it turned out to be Plant who pursued the more ambitious recording and touring schedule. His debut solo album, 1982’s “Pictures at Eleven,” was the result of Plant’s new collaboration with British session guitarist Robbie Blunt, who deserves credit just for trying to fill Page’s shoes. Indeed, on the lovely, downbeat track “Moonlight in Samosa,” it is Blunt’s understated electric and acoustic guitar work that stands out as counterpoint to the quieter side of Plant’s vocal stylings. Through 11 studio albums of quality material and performances, Plant has put up as solid a track record as we could hope to expect from one of rock’s most amazing vocalists.

“See the Lights,” Simple Minds, 1991

Among US music listeners, Simple Minds has one of the most overlooked catalogs in rock. Sure, we obsessed over “(Don’t You) Forget About Me” (from “The Breakfast Club”) and their 1985 LP “Once Upon a Time” (with “Sanctify Yourself” and “All the Things She Said”) but there was so much more from singer/songwriter Jim Kerr and the band. Their audiences in the UK and Europe were always more appreciative, giving them numerous Top Ten album chart successes throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. From their solid 1991 LP “Real Life,” check out the impressive “See the Lights,” the last of their songs to sneak into the US Top 40 and a bonafide hit on alternative and mainstream rock charts. It has such a pleasing groove and arrangement, and hearing it again reminds me to play their music more often.


The harmony and melody remain

I’ve been feeling mellow and deep in thought in recent weeks. For me, that’s the perfect time to turn to quieter musical vibes with wistful lyrics that tug at the heartstrings.

Typically, my “lost classics” entries on this blog are uptempo rockers, but this time around, I’m presenting “The harmony and melody remain,” a dozen meditative tracks that offer delicate song melodies to go with more intimate, more personal lyrics.

As always, there’s a Spotify playlist at the end which allows you to listen as you read.


“The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress,” Judy Collins, 1975

Jimmy Webb is widely recognized as one of the more sublime songwriters of the ’60s and ’70s, whose tunes won scads of awards and became some of the most popular tunes of his era: “Up, Up and Away,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “MacArthur Park,” “Galveston,” “All I Know,” “Scissors Cut,” “Mr. Shuck ‘n Jive.” Artists like Glen Campbell, Art Garfunkel, The 5th Dimension and others loved singing Webb’s lovely melodies and emotional lyrics. A personal favorite is Judy Collins’ stunning rendition of “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress,” Webb’s heartbreaking metaphor to lost love.

“Give Me Some Time,” Dan Fogelberg, 1977

I was a big fan of Fogelberg’s 1974 LP “Souvenirs,” which featured Joe Walsh as producer and lead guitarist, turning Fogelberg’s thoughtful folk rock songs like “Part of the Plan,” “Illinois” and “There’s a Place in the World For a Gambler” into shimmering tracks. 1975’s “Captured Angel” was a bit of a misfire, but Fogelberg came back in 1977 with “Nether Lands,” a strong collection of songs that deftly alternated between ballads and rockers. Among the prettiest is “Give Me Some Time,” in which the narrator implores his new romantic interest to slow down and allow him sufficient room to get over his previous relationship, “to talk myself into believing that she and I are through, then maybe I’ll fall for you…”

“Games of Magic,” Bread, 1972

Every one of Bread’s hit singles was written and sung by David Gates, a fact that grated on the group’s other singer-songwriter, James Griffin. Typically, Griffin’s tunes had more muscular arrangements, particularly when juxtaposed with the wispy ballads Gates wrote. The record label was happy to let Griffin fill out album sides with his songs, but they insisted on sticking with the winning formula of Gates’s songs and vocals for the singles. Too bad; some of Griffin’s tunes would have made fine singles, especially “Games of Magic,” an engaging track from the band’s biggest LP, 1972’s “Baby I’m-A Want You.”

“Here Today,” Paul McCartney, 1982

Six months after John Lennon was murdered in New York City, McCartney took on the challenge of writing a tribute to his fallen comrade for his 1982 LP “Tug of War,” made problematic because of the estrangement they had gone through following The Beatles’ breakup. The lyrics take the form of a hypothetical conversation between the two, in which they confess that, despite a fruitful songwriting partnership, maybe they didn’t really know each other all that well. It’s deeply moving, and McCartney has said he usually gets emotional when he sings it in concert. “John was a great mate and a very important man in my life, and I miss him, y’know?”

“And So It Goes,” Billy Joel, 1989

Most of Joel’s songs are well-crafted pop-rock tunes with catchy hooks and clever lyrics that had him appearing regularly in the Top Ten over his 20-plus year career as a recording artist. If I had to pick Joel’s most exquisite melody, it would be this magnificent ballad from his 1989 LP “Storm Front.” With a hymn-like structure carried by Joel’s piano and tender vocal treatment, Joel tells the story of his doomed relationship with model Elle MacPherson from six years earlier. He wrote it and made a demo in 1983 but never committed it to an official release until 1989. It was released as a single but peaked at #37, perhaps because it didn’t have the good-natured vitality people had come to expect from his hits.

“Martha,” Tom Waits, 1973

With his muttered vocals and boozy vignettes, Waits established himself immediately with his 1973 debut LP “Closing Time,” a riveting cycle of melancholy songs that redefine wee-hours loneliness. “Ol’ 55” became a hit when The Eagles sugar-coated it with harmonies and pedal steel, but the real gems here are the ones that Waits delivers alone on piano or guitar — “I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love With You,” “Grapefruit Moon,” “Lonely” and the title track. Most impressive is “Martha,” an achingly sad song about reaching out in a long-distance call to a long-ago love. You’ll need a hug after hearing this one.

“Pink Moon,” Nick Drake, 1972

Drake was a gifted, tortured soul who suffered periodically from a depression that eventually consumed him at only 26. He wrote introspective songs and delivered them in a painfully shy manner. Drake released three LPs in his short life, none of which sold well until decades later. His final one was “Pink Moon” in 1972, highlighted by his smoky voice that recalls a jazzier Donovan. The title track became a surprise hit in 1999 when it was used in an artful Volkswagen commercial, piquing the interest of art/folk music fans in the UK and the US alike.

“18th Avenue,” Cat Stevens, 1972

By the time he released his 1972 chart-topping album “Catch Bull at Four,” Stevens had broadened his approach to involve orchestration and more diverse instruments and arrangements. These songs are more keyboard-oriented than the delicate guitar songs that dominated “Tea For The Tillerman” and “Teaser and the Firecat.” In particular, the striking piano and synthesizer he used in “18th Avenue” brings drama and tension to the fraught lyrics (note the parenthetical title “Kansas City Nightmare”). The narrator seems anxious to evade “the path dark and borderless” and grab a plane out of town “just in time.”

“Finally Found a Friend,” Grayson Hugh, 1988

Possessed of one of the most soulful voices I’ve ever heard, Hugh came to our attention in 1988 with his remarkable “Blind to Reason” LP and its sly hit “Talk It Over.” I could’ve sworn Hugh was black, based on the way he wraps his voice around his R&B melodies. This album and its well-regarded follow-up “Road to Freedom” (1992) should’ve made Hugh a star, but it never happened. I implore you to check out his music, especially tracks like “Romantic Heart,” “Tears of Love,” “Empty as the Wind” and the gratitude-soaked “Finally Found a Friend.” You won’t be disappointed.

“And I Go,” Steve Winwood, 1982

Beginning at age 15 in The Spencer Davis Group, then in Traffic and Blind Faith, and a lucrative solo career in the ’80s and beyond, Winwood has been one of the most talented singers England ever produced. He also wrote dozens of iconic songs like “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” “Can’t Find My Way Home” and “Back in the High Life Again.” Curiously, his 1982 album “Talking Back to the Night” remains one of his most underrated works, with contagious numbers like “Big Girls Walk Away” and the title song screaming for more airplay. On the quieter side, “And I Go” shows Winwood’s abilities at crafting a slower tempo track.

“Pieces of April,” Three Dog Night, 1972

Three Dog Night was known for selecting great songs by then-unknown songwriters and giving them the exposure they needed. “Pieces of April,” written by Dave Loggins of “Please Come to Boston” fame, became the vocal group’s 14th Top 20 single in less than four years. It appeared on their highest-charting LP, 1972’s “Seven Separate Fools,” and was the only single the group released that featured just one of the three singers (in this case, Chuck Negron) without their trademark harmonies and sharing of lead vocals. Loggins (Kenny’s second cousin) later recorded his own rendition, but it’s tough to top this lovely version.

“Blessed,” Lazarus, 1971

Thanks to Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, this trio from West Texas secured a record contract on the strength of Bill Hughes’ gorgeous melodies and spiritual lyrics. My guitar compatriot Ben and I together learned a few of the songs, most notably “Blessed,” which became something of a signature song at our occasional performances. The upbeat tempo and hopeful lyrics remind listeners that when things seem difficult or desperate, that’s the time to “turn it over” to a Higher Power. Lazarus lasted long enough for a second LP (“A Fool’s Paradise”) in 1973 before Hughes went his own way and began a solo career that included writing for TV and film.