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Articles Home » Blogs » The Essential Series - 2018 Purist AOR (Volume 1) by Gdazegod
 
The Essential Series - 2018 Purist AOR (Volume 1) by Gdazegod



ARTICLE: The Essential Series - Purist AOR (Vol 1), by Gdazegod
YEAR: 2018

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:


Background
I could sit here and discuss the merits of our favourite sub-genre of music AOR until I'm blue in the face. So I won't, suffice to say that the category means different things to different people. What are the boundaries between AOR and melodic hard rock for instance? Why do the Japanese lump what we call in Western Society 'west coast' and re-label it AOR over there? Does the term mean: Album Oriented Radio, or Album Oriented Rock? Why does a guy like Neal Schon totally denounce the term, when his band Journey created one of the AOR templates of all time? That album is mentioned in my list below.

There are so many imponderables, and yet after nearly three decades, AOR is a term that is still widely used in the industry. Including Ebay I might add, when hawksters and sharks will try and sell their wares for megabucks and include the tag 'AOR' in their listings, knowing full well that it will attract buyers (with loads of cash perhaps?) to go and waste their money on CD's that are definitely nothing to do with AOR. Just about every CD sold on Ebay that originates from 1993 to 1999 that is marginally melodic rock will have the tag 'AOR' thrown in to try and generate a sale. How many of those have you seen over the years?

Anyway, let's not muck around. The list below can generally be acknowledged as some of the best AOR albums ever released. Some may cross over into melodic hard rock, like the Bon Jovi release, but I think by and large, these can be attributed to the AOR category without too much hard thinking and head-scratching. Really though, this is the tip of the iceberg, as so many other pearls and gems could easily have swapped out some of those items listed. No doubt we'll be seeing more volumes in the coming weeks. Let's go.


The Albums


Billy Satellite - 1984 Billy Satellite
When someone asks me about a definitive AOR album, I'll always point them in the direction of this one. 1984 was truly a great year for the sub-genre, and this was at the top of the heap. I recall buying this in a downtown and temporary store space by the legendary Colin Morris Records, who was the equivalent of Shades (London) and Utopia Records (Sydney) in Wellington NZ. I spent a bucketload of money at that store. But for Billy Satellite, I think I paid $4.99 for a promo LP. I also picked up both Spys, Zappacosta, White Sister, Rail, Helix, Luba and a few others, for which my memory slips. Of course these were Capitol and EMI America off-casts. What a great day that was!

Refer GDM article: click here..



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Michael Bolton - 1985 Everybody's Crazy
The great man may have since disowned this LP, and refuses to play anything off it these days, but at the time, this record was the bomb. Tracks like 'Save Our Love', 'Can't Turn It Off', 'Everytime' and 'Don't Tell Me That It's Over' still sound great today as it did then. Not forgetting the title track either. Big hair, great AOR approved attire, it didn't get better than this!

Refer GDM article: click here..



==



Orion The Hunter - 1984 Orion The Hunter
The second half of the Boston guitar duo, but over the years, you just wonder what the real deal was with the guys that played on that first Boston record. How much involvement did Fran Sheehan and Barry Goudreau actually have in the studio? Tom Scholz will say 'not much'. Which is a shame really, as it debunks the mythical status I had of the band back in 1976 heading into 1977. So, Goudreau moved on, an ordinary solo LP in 1980, but he struck paydirt in 1984 with this essential slab of AOR. Another of my Shades import purchases to NZ, I played this religiously during 1984. 'Dark And Stormy Night' is an absolute classic. Glad to see this got regularly reissued over the years. I think I have all versions.. lol

Refer GDM article: click here..



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Dare - 1988 Out Of The Silence
I didn't know too much about Dare during 1988. I couldn't count on Kerrang nor Metal Forces for help, because they were six months out of date by the time they landed on NZ shores. I originally bought this as a cassette, as that was the only format I could find, so it got a fair thrashing in my car before I landed the CD. Just about every track is a winner. Need I say anymore? I remember tweeting Prof Brian Cox about this on Twitter last year. I was glad that he (grudgingly) acknowledged his participation, much to the surprise and shock of his many science/astronomy fanboys.

Refer GDM article: click here..



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Bon Jovi - 1984 Bon Jovi
'Ooh, she's a little runaway'. I remember hearing this song one Sunday morning on Kasey Kasem's Billboard Top 40 singles. This new band called Bon Jovi just scraped into the show at #40. I was hooked. Thankfully, the album was a local release in NZ and I was in like a rat up a drain-pipe. There is not one sign of filler on this epic LP, everything works to perfection. The Lance Quinn production was also epic. Superlatives flow everywhere on this album. I've said it before, I would've been a happy man had they retired at this point as a one-release band. Unfortunately, they went downhill from there. Just kidding.

Refer GDM article: click here..



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Journey - 1986 Raised On Radio
This release just snuck in, with other contenders nipping at its heels. It's probably the most radio friendly album they ever released, and looking back, Neal Schon could be forgiven for asking: 'what the fuck was I doing?' By this stage, Journey was Steve Perry's band and he called the shots essentially. Still, you can't dismiss tunes like 'The Girl Can't Help It', 'Suzanne', 'Happy To Give' and 'I'll Be Alright Without You'. Despite playing this quite a bit during 1986, I still preferred listening to 'Infinity' and 'Departure' more.

Refer GDM article: click here..



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Strangeways - 1987 Native Sons
For me, this ranks as one of the best AOR albums ever. Perhaps ranked #1. I only got to hear this for the first time in 1990, a full three years after its release. I couldn't quite believe what I was hearing. Still can't. The follow-up 'Walk In The Fire' is great too, though different in style. Tracks like the essential 'Goodnight L.A', 'Shake The Seven' and 'Face To Face' are incredible, and the guitar solo from Ian Stewart on 'Where Do We Go From Here' is one in a million. They don't quite make records like this anymore.

Refer GDM article: click here..



==



Van Zant - 1985 Van Zant
This band could easily have slid into the Southern Rock category, if their prior albums were anything to go by. However, with a label change (from Polydor to Geffen), a name change, an image change and a noticeable musical change from southern rock to commercial AOR, then these guys land in this category. Some great tunes here, and an album that deserves hunting down on CD. Easy to find, through a Unidisc Canadian reissue. 'Midnight Sensation' is a qualified classic.

Refer GDM article: click here..



==



Asia - 1985 Astra
The band at this point were suffering from over-exposure and personnel problems. 'Astra', though not a commercial success was a fantastic sounding record, thanks to Mike Stone's mastery behind the dials. Unfortunately, the band jacked it in at this point, and resurfaced five years later as Asia 2.0. I love this album, and I have admiration for the previous two as well. 'Too Late'? Never..

Refer GDM article: click here..



==



Le Roux - 1983 So Fired Up
A band I still adore, and when they dropped their bayou/swamp rock persona for AOR, I was in heaven. 'Up' and 'Last Safe Place' are essential albums for your collection, but this 1983 beauty is the pick of the bunch. Bringing in Fergie Frederiksen on lead vocals was a masterstroke, but let's not forget the contribution that Jeff Pollard made to the band, but he had departed by this stage. 'Lifeline', 'Carrie's Gone' and 'Turning Point' are absolute belters.

Refer GDM article: click here..




In Summary
To wrap up, there are so many good albums in this category that I never found room in this volume. Riggs, Signal, Preview, Airborne, I-Ten, Michael Stanley Band, Aviator perhaps, and of course that second Balance album. More to come, so many gems yet to highlight. Stick around for the next installment.


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Comments
#1 | melodiapositiva on February 10 2018 19:43:27
Wow! this could be almost my top ten too Smile Could 'Toto IV' be on this list? Maybe that one is more westcoast, isn't it? I would add 'Vital Signs' from Survivor as one of the more perfect AOR albums of all time.
#2 | dtabachn on February 10 2018 20:29:27
A sub-genre I've enjoyed since I was a teenager and not easy to define as stated in the article. Thanks to the old Heart Of The Rock site for helping me discover so many great albums, George. Agree with all the selections, I would just mention Streets for a future volume. Orion The Hunter, Bolton, Van Zant and Strangeways are my most beloved ones.
#3 | englandashes on February 11 2018 00:13:24
Excellent article, interesting George mentioned the location of purchases, here are my memories....shop


1 - Billy Satellite, Van Zant - Milton Keynes Record Fair, probable dealer, Roger Careless.

2 - Michael Bolton, vinyl copy from Bedford Record Fair at the Corn Exchange, CD version Torre Records In Torquay

3 - Orion The Hunter, £2.99 from Andys Records, Cambridge

4 - Dare and Strangeways both from Our Price, Bedford, formally Sounds FX....

5 - Bon Jovi - Andys Records, Bedford

6 - Journey - Bobs Records, Milton Keynes Market.....only on a Thursday .....or maybe Cob records at Porthmadog.....but tape version from WHSmith, Bedford

7 - Asia - Woolworths, Bedford

8 - Le Roux - mail order from a seller, that always charge me a fortune......still haven’t forgotten, obviously still not bitter...bugs
#4 | dangerzone on February 11 2018 00:16:49
It’s funny you made this list mate because I’ve often pondered doing something similar, with just pure AOR album I love. I always consider it too challenging. I know for a fact I’d have Bolton’s 1983 album in there. For me it shades ‘Everybody’s Crazy.’ Giuffrias debut would also be up at the top. Le Roux and Van Zant are both right on.
#5 | tompa on February 11 2018 12:01:28
Thanks for an interesting article. That Strangeways album is every bit as good as you describe it.
#6 | reyno-roxx on February 11 2018 17:47:32
My difficulty has always been in determining what constitutes pure AOR and what is actually just good, solid, melodic hard rock. I would place the likes of Night Ranger, Giant, Speedway Blvd, Touch, Autograph, Streets, Icon and Hughes/Thrall in the latter category. Which would leave my Top 10 looking something like this:

Giuffria - S/T
Franke & The Knockouts - 'Below The Belt'
Le Roux - 'So Fired Up'
Spys - S/T
Orphan - Lonely At Night
Michael Bolton - 'Everybody's Crazy'
Balance - S/T (is the 2nd album verging on hard rock?)
The Babys - 'On The Edge'
Honeymoon Suite - 'The Big Prize'
Airrace - 'Shaft Of Light'

With special mentions to Virginia Wolf 'Push', Mr Mister 'Welcome To The Real World', Kansas 'Drastic Measures' and Jeff Paris 'Race To Paradise'
#7 | jefflynnefan on February 11 2018 20:54:18
The terms AOR, Melodic Rock and Pomp have always been a bit confusing to me as well. I'm surprised nobody has mention 1985's Fortune, 1986's Silent Scream by Shooting Star. I guess FM's Indiscreet and JLT's Rescue You would fall more into the Melodic Rock category.
#8 | gdazegod on February 12 2018 01:18:12
Chris, those would be all be AOR for mine, Fortune maybe corralled into the Pomp camp.
#9 | dangerzone on February 12 2018 05:16:39
I could include about 100 albums in a list like this, but expanding on my earlier comment, a top ten of mine would look something like this:

‘Michael Bolton’ - ST
Nielsen Pearson -Blind Luck
Giuffria - ST
Journey - Frontiers
Night Ranger - Midnight Madness
Maxus - ST
Balance - In for the Count
Uriah Heep - Abominog
Michael Bolton - Everybodys Crazy
Survivor - Caught in the Game
#10 | gdazegod on February 12 2018 05:42:46
Nielsen and Pearson and Maxus would probably be a better fit in the West Coast category. My first volume of West Coast faves includes N&P within there.
#11 | dangerzone on February 12 2018 14:13:36
I guess the way I view the term AOR may be more broad than others here. It’s hard for me to pigeonhole albums into categories within the genre.
#12 | Explorer on February 12 2018 16:17:35
It's difficult to argue with your choices here George. As regards the terms `AOR, Melodic Rock` etc, like pretty much everyone else here the lines get (very) blurred at times, but suffice to say the albums you`ve chosen are all Grade A classics.
#13 | bpdp3 on February 13 2018 01:48:31
Great list, and I have no problem admitting that this site introduced me to most. Nothing to argue with these choices!
The van zant is the odd-man-out for me... didn't see that one coming and it's totally unfamiliar. Something new to investigate...
#14 | swazi on February 13 2018 17:25:39
For any AOR lover the Van Zant - s/t definitely is a Must-Have. Such a gem!!
#15 | jeffrey343 on February 14 2018 15:42:26
I just happened to play that Van Zant album twice last week, before this article came out. I have a hard time mentally putting it anywhere other than "Southern Rock", although it fits in perfectly with the albums mentioned here. There was a very brief period, with not many albums, of "Southern AOR", where .38 Special settled for a couple of albums, and a few others dabbled. That's a sound I really started to miss later in the '80s.
#16 | Nick C on February 18 2018 01:18:26
i've been holding back a little not trying to upset folks but although I like this list... I'm not sure any of these would be in my top ten AOR albums, much as I like many of them. For starters the Journey album, when it came out was just okay, I'd say ...it still is ok, but to compare it to Frontiers, Escape or even Departure then it hasn't stood the test of time...sure Be Good to Yourself is a classic, as is the title track but the rest is getting swamped in MOR territory. Much as I love M Bolton - Everybody's Crazy...it felt more forced than the "first" Micheal Bolton album (not counting the two Bolotin albums)...which just rocked. The Billy Satellite - a good album, but to me seems very workman like a bit ploddy in parts. Am I being a miserable old git? But this is just as I remember it. Dare....good album, Abandon is a classic but to me I'd be looking towards Spys (both albums), Toy Matinee, Toto - Isolation, Breathless and Balance to a few. Some albums statures grow over time...some are given the crown when they came out ...but it rusts.
 
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