My wife thinks there is no way I have listened to all of my albums, CDs and singles. Well, I have, all 2000+ of them. It happened over time as I collected them, not simply during this century. Of course, I have my favorites, who doesn’t. And, many of them, I have documented in this blog over the past couple of years. Still, there are many that probably are not familiar to many of you. I have gone through my collection to pick out the 40 albums that I love that you should check out before you die. And, these albums are only from the Eighties. Long live the music of the Eighties!
So, without further ado, here are the 40 albums from the Eighties that have been overlooked over time. No, I have not included underrated Prince albums or anything by The Bangles, Cheap Trick or any other artist I love. I have tried to bring to light some outstanding albums by artists with whom you should become familiar. So, here we go!
1. ABC – How to Be a Zillionaire (1985). ABC took its original Motown sound and combined it with the then-state of the art sounds of the Art of Noise to create a whole new dance music.
2. Aldo Nova – Aldo Nova (1982). This album was the sound a fresh take on hard rock and metal by a long-forgotten artist.
3. Cameo – Word Up! (1986). The funk of the Eighties.
4. Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Sessions (1989). A haunting cross of country blues and the Velvet Underground. Simply stunning.
5. David + David – Boomtown (1986). These two Davids went on to greater heights as producers and songwriters, but they left us with a timeless critique of modern life.
6. Fine Young Cannibals – Fine Young Cannibals (1985). A fantastic debut that I prefer over the more popular follow-up.
7. Game Theory – The Big Shot Chronicles (1986). This pop masterpiece was wrongly overlooked at the time and continues to be overlooked. Is it a modern Pet Sounds? No, but it’s awfully good.
8. Heart – Private Audition (1982). This is the sound of a great band expanding their palette.
9. Henry Lee Summer – Henry Lee Summer (1988). Indiana’s greatest secret finally got the national deal he always deserved, and Henry Lee delivered.
10. Hooters – Nervous Night (1985). The sound of a power pop band at the height of their abilities.
11. Jeff Healey Band – See the Light (1989). The debut of this blind blues gunslinger is as impressive as anyone at the time.
12. Jerry Harrison – Casual Gods (1988). Sure, this is the sound of a former-Talking Head burying his past while expanding upon it.
13. Jesse Johnson’s Revue – Jesse Johnson’s Revue (1985). You think Prince had the only unique pop/rock/funk sound in Minneapolis? This former-Time guitarist proved he had his take on the Purple sound.
14. John Hiatt – Bring the Family (1987). Another Hoosier finally honed his songwriting with the help of a stellar backing band.
15. Katrina & the Waves – Katrina & the Waves (1985). This power pop album is way more than “Walking on Sunshine,” which means the album should be a classic too.
16. Keith Richards – Talk Is Cheap (1988). Mick and Keith were estranged at the time, so Keith proved his songwriting skills.
17. King’s X – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989). This was the new sound of metal at the end of the whole metal scene.
18. Kiss – Creatures of the Night (1982). Kiss’ last great album before they removed their makeup.
19. Little Steven – Voice of America (1984). The reason Steve Van Zandt left the E Street Band, giving voice to some of the most gripping political rock statements of the Eighties.
20. Los Lobos – By the Light of the Moon (1987). This album represents Los Lobos at their most accessible while maintaining their artistic dignity.
21. Love & Rockets – Love & Rockets (1989). Love & Rockets, a darling of the college rock scene in the Eighties, had a fluke hit with “So Alive.” Little did people realize just how great this album was.
22. Neneh Cherry – Raw like Sushi (1989). Jazz great Don Cherry’s daughter released one terrific pop/soul/hip hop/rock mix of an album, topped off by the single “Buffalo Stance.”
23. Nu Shooz – Poolside (1986). This husband/wife duo create one enduring dance album that was so much more than just “I Can’t Wait.”
24. Peter Wolf – Lights Out (1984). The former lead singer of the J. Geils Band ventured out on his own to create an updated sound of the old blues rock Geils standard.
25. Ric Ocasek – Beatitude (1982). Much more experimental than The Cars while maintaining his pop vision.
26. Rickie Lee Jones – Pirates (1981). Jones created her masterpiece before she withdrew from the spotlight. The only problem is that this album lacked a hit song like “Chuck E.’s in Love.”
27. Robbie Nevil – Robbie Nevil (1986). Nevil is remembered for his great pop hit “C’est La Vie,” but this album is so much more.
28. Robert Cray – Strong Persuader (1986). We all know “Smoking Gun.” But, Cray brought the blues into the Eighties.
29. Simply Red – Picture Book (1986). Forget Culture Club. The real white soul singer of the Eighties was Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall. And, Picture Book proves it.
30. Terence Trent D’Arby – Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby (1987). D’Arby claimed this album was greater than Sgt. Pepper. He may have been correct as his take on the Prince mix of rock and R&B is timeless.
31. The Cult – Electric (1986). These college rock darlings took on the Zeppelin sound and made it their own.
32. The Outfield – Play Deep (1986). Power pop was predominantly an American thing, at least, until The Outfield co-opted the sound perfectly. Might be the best Cheap Trick album of the Eighties.
33. The Pursuit of Happiness – Love Junk (1988). Honestly, I thought this was a Todd Rundgren album when I first heard it. That’s probably because the album was produced by the man himself.
34. The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues (1988). Scotland’s own version of U2 goes a little Celtic folk on this album, making the band’s sweeping cinematic sound even more gripping.
35. Toni Childs – Union (1988). This woman should have been as huge as her voice. She is the great lost diva of the Eighties.
36. Tubes – The Completion Backwards Principle (1981). Everybody’s favorite performance art band of the Seventies went for a parody of the corporate rock (AOR) sound popular in the early Eighties. I think the joke was lost on many.
37. Various Artists – Krush Groove OST (1985). One of the finest documents of the early rap scene.
38. Warren Zevon – Sentimental Hygiene (1987). Zevon enlisted R.E.M. to help him bring his latest music to life, creating his best album since 1978’s Excitable Boy.
39. X – More Fun in the New World (1983). X, L.A.’s favorite punks, deliver their most accessible album, while it fell on deaf ears.
40. Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers – Conscious Party (1988). Reggae’s first son and his sisters joined forces with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth from Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club to brought reggae into the modern era.
3 thoughts on “The 40 Most Underrated Albums of the 80s in My Collection”
I love your picks, man. I just wish you wrote more about each. This is a bravely diverse list to include Aldo Nova and Heart among some more avante-garde selections, better than any of the lists like this I’ve seen on pop-up web sites on my browser.
TPOH “I’m an Adult Now”, Ric Ocaseks “Something to Grab For” and “Jimmy Jimmy” …great stuff, but I didn’t think ANYONE remembered the great David&David album “boomtown”. That album could bring on a cluster of focal seizures for me.
Thank you sir for the kind words! I truly love some noncommercially successful albums by mainstream artists. Usually, those are the albums in which the artist is attempting to become something more than a money grabber. Maybe, sometime, I will write some longer reviews of the albums I have in my collection. I am seeking new ideas because frankly I believe I have pretty much covered most of the stuff I enjoy. Currently, I feel like I have become redundant.
I’m just finding this blog/site so by the time I read through it I’m sure there will be new content. I occasionally have a good idea. Perhaps something on the Ed Sheeran decision and tying it to some other copyright music cases? The story about Eric Carmen’s settlement with the Rachmaninoff estate for is interesting. if you’ve heard Piano concerto #2, Carmen’s “All By Myself” is unmistakably lifted and he was, to his credit, honest about it. There’s the John Legend/Classics IV case, Zeppelin/Taurus/Jake Holmes/Willie Dixon et al. This topic could be several installments.
You may have covered this topic here, but the whole used record store experience of the 80’s/90’s, references to comic book guy and B.O. being de rigeur. I was a frequent visitor to many of the Harvard Sq used record shops back then and really miss it.
An album for this 80s list I might have included? “Point of Entry” Judas Priest. It’s like the Satanic Verses to Priest fans, but I love “Don’t Go”, “Turning Circles” and this line from “Heading Out To The Highway”:
“It’s easy to go/along with the crowd/and find later on that your say ain’t allowed”