Essential Series - 2019 Hi-Tech Vol 1

geoviangeovian Earth Orbit
edited November 2020 in Essential Series

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ARTICLE: The Essential Series - Hi-tech Volume 1, by Gdazegod
YEAR: 2019

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image


Background

You've often heard the term 'hi-tech AOR' used on the Glory Daze site. In fact, we've been using the term for the last two decades. That is: since the website was first birthed.

The term really is a style attributed to over-production and studio wizardry during the early to mid 80's. There was an explosion of synthesizers, sequencers, electronic drums and drum programming, plus of course all the fancy dress codes and coiffured hairstyles.

Probably one of the precursors to the hi-tech sub-genre would have been the new romantic sub-genre, and before that: modern new wave circa 1980 and 1981. Bands like The Cars, Berlin, Platinum Blonde and Men Without Hats.. That sort of thing.

The hi-tech scene didn't last very long, killed off by the grunge disaster of the 90's, the advance of technology becoming cheaper and more accessible (I know this personally, as I acquired a load of gear myself).

Plus of course, major record labels were going broke, changing ownership, and losing trust and goodwill from all the top bands and recording artists who had deals before and were left washed up on the shore of broken dreams as the 90's rolled through like an unrelenting king tide.

The war thus became (and still is today) independent releases looking to win the marketing and PR battle.

For the few years that hi-tech was in vogue, there were some decent releases, but I think we'll all admit that the scene was pretty contrived for what it was. Let's look at a few of them.

The Albums

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Planet 3 - 1990 Music From The Planet/Heart Of The Big Machine

There are two versions of this one album: 'Music From The Planet' (Japan) and 'Heart Of The Big Machine' (Europe, Sweden I think). Initially released in 1990, I didn't pick this up until 1993 through Mike Shannon's CG Discs boutique mail order. And what a pleasant surprise it was. To me, this represents some of the best elements of the hi-tech sub-genre, even if its release date was maybe five years outside the traditionally accepted window of opportunity. Songs such as 'Born To Love', 'Criminal' and the immense 'The Day The Earth Stood Still' all retain the wow factor decades later.

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Planet 3 - Criminal


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Keven Jordan - 1991 No Sign Of Rain

I've shouted from the rooftops long and loud about this bloke and this album for many years. I've reviewed both his albums and even interviewed the great man back in 2003. 'No Sign Of Rain' could easily sit in one or other sub-genre, but I put it in here as I believe it's a better fit. I still like to drag this out occasion, just to hear the magnificence of songs like 'She Lives' and 'The Path That Leads To You'. A desert island disc for mine.

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Keven Jordan - She Lives


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The Arrows - 1985 The Lines Are Open

A really excellent Canadian band who got better as the 80's wore on, after their 1982 EP debut. Fronted by Dean McTaggart, 'The Lines Are Open' is full of infectious songs ('Talk Talk', 'Chains', 'Hampton Avenue') with a ton of synth overlay, brash production and typical hi-tech arrangements. Gotta love it!

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Arrows - Talk Talk


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Eight Seconds - 1986 Almacantar

Ottawa band Eight Seconds are also featured in our Essential Series of Canadian bands back in 2017. If they are mentioned twice does that mean they get a gold star? Lol! 'Almacantar' is their second (but first major label) release and is as bombastic as it gets. Some cracking songs here, check out 'Kiss You (When It's Dangerous)', 'Where's Bula' and the immense 'Sincere'. Enough said.

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Eight Seconds - Sincere


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Tim Feehan - 1990 Full Contact

This volume contains numerous Canadian entries. I'm wondering if I haven't got the article title wrong? In this case, Alberta's Tim Feehan reached his major label zenith (for MCA) even if it wasn't a best seller. 'Full Contact' is another of those albums which sits on the cusp of hi-tech and west coast, but I lean more toward the former, with his prior albums a better fit for the latter I would suggest. The highlight for me: the rather awesome 'Can't Let Go'.

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Tim Feehan - Can't Let Go


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David Pack - 1985 Anywhere You Go

Long time Ambrosia main-man David Pack drops the bonafide west coast sound and boosts it with some hi-tech overdrive. What a result! Much of this is repeat-play, with tracks such as the title track 'Anywhere You Go' and the amazing 'She Don't (Come Round Anymore)' which are both utterly brilliant!

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David Pack - She Doesn't (Come Around Anymore)


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A-ha - 1985 Hunting High And Low

We'll be writing something a bit more about this album very shortly. It recently came to light that: 1) we hadn't reviewed it previously; 2) we had interviewed drummer Mike Sturgis a few years back, and we did talk about A-ha briefly, particularly because he was involved with the live band at the time after its 1985 release, and 3) with Dave's recent Unsung Albums Essential Series article from the other day, maybe this album could have been one of my Unsung Contenders? Not for long. This album is definitely a musical icon from the 80's decade, with the hit singles 'Take On Me' (plus clever animated video) and the essential 'The Sun Always Shines On TV'. Both memorable tunes from that era.

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A-Ha - Take On Me

A-Ha - The Sun Always Shines On TV


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Mr Mister - 1985 Welcome To The Real World

This album was the 1985 breakout for Los Angeles super-musos Mr Mister. All personnel (Richard Page, Steve George, Steve Farris and Pat Mastelotto) are all well-known names in the El-Lay session scene. To me, it was somewhat surprising that this became a big of a success as it did, with two over-exposed hit singles ('Broken Wings' and 'Kyrie Eleison'), propelled by a tapestry of keyboards, interesting rhythmic percussion and tight songs. Overall verdict? Excellent!

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Mr Mister - Broken Wings

Mr Mister - Kyrie Eleison


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Gamma - 1982 Gamma 3

Around about the time of this album, Ronnie Montrose's love affair with keyboards had reached its peak. Though admittedly you did hear tracings of keys and synths as far back as 1979's 'Gamma' debut ('I'm Alive' and 'Thunder And Lightning' anyone?) When 'Gamma 3' was released, keyboardist and producer Mitchell Froom had joined the fold, giving the album far more leaning toward the hi-tech camp rather than the previous hard rock sound. You'll be getting no complaints from me! Check out material such as 'Mobile Devotion', 'Condition Yellow' and 'Third Degree' for evidence!

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Gamma - Mobile Devotion


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The Cars - 1984 Heartbeat City

It was one of the bigger selling albums from 1984, and a timely contender for MTV with its made for viewing songs. The Cars tended to get more hi-tech as the 80's wore on, though they were always in this sub-genre right from the start. When we are talking hi-tech, we could never forget to mention The Cars who were significant contributors to the image, production and style. It goes without saying.

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The Cars - Drive

In Summary

Though it appears the hi-tech sub-genre had a short shelf life, there are enough interesting releases that will make it possible to venture into further volumes as more releases come to light. We haven't even touched on the European motherload yet, bands like Channel 5, Valet Parking and the outrageous Balanx! More to come, I promise.


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