Night Ranger - Dawn Patrol

Essential Series – Purist AOR Volume 2

86 / 100

Here is Volume 2 of The Essential Series – Purist AOR.

Written by: gdmonline

ARTICLE:The Essential Series – Purist AOR Volume 2
YEAR: 2018


So soon! We return with the Essential Series Volume 2. As Point Blank once sang, ‘I’m on a roll’. Unfortunately, our Texan friends didn’t make the cut for this selection of 10, and neither did a few others. Suffice to say, I think Volume 3 will follow soon after.

I kept this brace of selections in the mid-range of the 1980’s. Perhaps only one listed here falls outside that bracket: being REO Speedwagon‘s classic ‘Nine Lives’. As many pointed out in the comments on Essential Series Volume 1, there are so many to choose from, the list could be a top 100. The idea here is to keep it downsized to manageable chunks, and to discuss its merits accordingly. So, let’s do it.

The Albums

REO Speedwagon – 1979 Nine Lives

I was still in high school when this came out. Loved the alley-cat artwork, and more importantly the songs. Goodness, I thrashed this album at the time and enjoy revisiting it, in much the same way someone flicks through a photo-album. Ok, so maybe that wasn’t a good comparison, as photos from the past can surely make us look old and used in the here-and-now lol! One thing is for sure, this album has aged well. Songs like: ‘Meet Me On The Mountain’ and ‘Back On The Road Again’ are some of the heaviest tunes REO ever put out. Time for another revisit.

REO Speedwagon – Back On The Road Again

REO Speedwagon - Back On The Road Again

Riggs – 1982 Riggs

Tennessee rockers Riggs, led by the erstwhile guitarist Jerry Riggs released this stormer back in 1982. It got a worldwide release, and it was easy enough to acquire. The band started out in Knoxville, before moving to Atlanta. Tracks such as ‘Ready Or Not’, ‘One Night Affair’, ‘Over And Over’ and the beautiful ‘Don’t Walk Away’ are still compulsory listening even today. I picked up the Wounded Bird CD reissue a few years back, and it remains a treasured item in the collection.

Riggs – One Night Affair

Riggs - One Night Affairs (1982)

Night Ranger – 1982 Dawn Patrol

Well it was a great year wasn’t it? And for me, this album was a top pick. Who can forget the outrageous guitar solos on ‘Don’t Tell Me You Love Me’? I remember hearing this on the radio, and couldn’t quite believe that they kept a majority of the guitar solo spots intact for the single. It was unheard of then. Other gems include the AOR tastic ‘Sing Me Away’, ‘Can’t Find Me A Thrill’ and ‘Penny’, I still get goosebumps listening to these years later.

Night Ranger – Don’t Tell Me You Love Me

Night Ranger - Don't Tell Me You Love Me

Franke And The Knockouts- 1982 Below The Belt

I would say this album is the best representative of the AOR genre, ever. Their second album, there’s no sign of filler on this classic. Apart from the corny LP cover, the band had appealing songs all over, from: ‘Keep On Fighting’, ‘Your Just What I Want’, ‘Gina’, ‘Never Had It Better’ and ‘Without You’. Though to be fair, the whole album is a winner. Strange that the band didn’t do any videos from this album, not even a Solid Gold appearance, which they did on their previous album with ‘Sweetheart’. Reissued by Escape Music in 1998 along with the other two F&KO albums. Essential indeed.

Franke and the Knockouts – Keep On Fighting


I-Ten – 1983 Taking A Cold Look

No matter which way you look at it, I-Ten would eventually end up on an Essential Series List somewhere along the way. So it’s ended up here. The duo of Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, with a star-studded cast and a Keith Olsen production job, ‘Taking A Cold Look’ is a perfect fit for the GDM site, and remains a great listen, and a reminder of what decent AOR sounded like back in the 80s. Songs like ‘Quicksand’, ‘Alone’ (the one that put Heart on the singles map) and ‘The Easy Way Out’ are all very listenable. Thank goodness it hasn’t been forgotten, and thanks also to Rock Candy for the reissue too.

I-Ten – Takin’ A Cold Look

I-Ten - Taking A Cold Look

Toto – 1984 Isolation

There are many highlights through the back-catalog of Toto. I like just about every album well into the 90’s. They have taken a few twists and turns along the way, and after the Grammy success of ‘Toto IV’, you could definitely say ‘Isolation’ was a detour off the highway. The band bought in former Trillion and Le Roux singer Dennis ‘Fergie’ Frederiksen, and pumped out a set of harder rocking tunes, nothing like what was heard on the west-coast oriented ‘Toto IV’. Some people will get it (as I do) while some others don’t. Songs like ‘Endless’, ‘Angel Don’t Cry’, ‘Holyana’, ‘Lion’ and the title-track ‘Isolation’ are a spread of tunes by a band willing to take a chance and spread their wings a bit. They came back to a more commercial climate with ‘Fahrenheit’ and ‘The Seventh One’ a few years later.

Toto – Angel Don’t Cry

Toto - Angel Don't Cry

Survivor – 1984 Vital Signs

We’ve got loads of Survivor fans here. Some prefer the Bickler era, some the Jamison area. I like both, but I think the 1984-1988 period is the one that does it for me. The first time I heard Survivor was ‘Poor Mans Son’ off 1981’s ‘Premonition’, I kinda like ‘Vital Signs’ due to its commercial nature, and it being closely aligned to the purist AOR angle I’m pushing for with this article. ‘I Can’t Hold Back’, ‘High On You’, ‘Popular Girl’, ‘The Search Is Over’ and the essential pairing of ‘Broken Promises’ and ‘Everlasting’ makes this a winner for me, amidst a host of other good albums from their catalogue.

Survivor – Popular Girl

Survivor - Popular Girl (Live in Japan 1985)

White Sister – 1984 White Sister

Angel, Journey and Giuffria fans listen up, if you haven’t heard this album do so post-haste. I remember writing this review and quoting from several sources. Huge production (thanks Gregg Giuffria), bombastic keyboards from Gary Brandon a muscular front-man delivery from Dennis Churchill-Dries. Still counts as one of the best albums from 1984. Debatably, this LP could sit in a few different categorised Essential Series Lists. I’ve put it in this one for now.

White Sister – Promises

White Sister : Promises

Fate – 1986 A Matter Of Attitude

I wanted to throw a few extra 1986 albums in the list, like FM, Aviator and LRB, but in the end I opted for Danish boyz Fate. Quite how they ended up being un-Danish and pro-American must have been amusing to rock fans back in 1986, but I thought they did a grand job. Unfortunately this was the only album that succeeded, as the debut before this, and ‘Crusin’ For A Bruisin’ didn’t hit the mark. With songs like ‘I Can’t Stand Losing You’, ‘Summer Love’ and the effortless ‘Limbo A Go Go’, and the David Lee Roth flavoured ‘Do It’, this album is a winner.

Fate – I Can’t Stop

Fate - Won't Stop - HQ Video

Signal – 1989 Loud And Clear

They were a short-lived band unfortunately. Mucked about by their Management and their label. Suffice to say that ‘Loud And Clear’ was a highlight among many highlights during 1989. There’s not much to dislike about ‘Loud And Clear’. I remember talking with Mark/Marcie Free about the album and the recording at the time, and there was a suggestion that Waddy Wachtel was lined up to produce it. I’m sure if he did, the album would’ve sounded completely different. There are gems here, but for mine, ‘This Love, This Time’, ‘Go’, ‘Could This Be Love’ and the opener ‘Arms Of A Stranger’ are GDM approved and absolutely Essential Series certified.

Signal – Does It Feel Like Love

SIGNAL "Does it feel like love"

In Summary

It didn’t take long to transition from Volume 1 of the Essential Series to Volume 2. Just a span of a couple of weeks. Volume 3 will be up in a month or so, as I have had to knock back a few contenders that didn’t make this list. By no means are they less essential, it just means that there are so many more to come.

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