Monday, June 8, 2015

Pointer Sisters - Break Out (1983)

How awesome is this record player!?

If you're over the age of 35, you'll probably remember the day you found out that Boy George was in fact, a man.  How about the day you found out that Mike Score was actually a hairdresser before singing with Flock of Seagulls.  OK, when you learned that Eddie Van Halen was the one responsible for the epic guitar solo in MJ's Beat It?  Here's another one.  The lead vocals on the Pointer Sisters 2nd single from 1983's Break Out, Automatic, was in fact not a man.  -Gasp  Those hooks belong to Ruth Pointer.  


This is was an interesting release for the time.  In 1983, we were literally just hearing about CD's.  Seriously, not factoring ABBA into it, Billy Joel's 52nd street was the first album spun to that devil plastic in 1982.  This album shot way up the charts on the strength of it's vinyl only release. in 1983.  It spawned 5 singles, went platinum 3 times, and won 2 minor Grammy awards.  I say minor because 1 category thankfully no longer exists, and the other is an arrangement award.  (Let's thank the resurgence of pop for killing that award a few years ago!)

The album had 2 initial releases.  Originally, a rather bizarre synth-pop, (Think super early Thomas Dolby stuff, or super nostalgia Eddie Murphy stuff.), song called Nightline, which was intended for Michael Jackson's Thriller was pressed for and recorded by the Pointer Sisters.  Wisely it was subbed out for the now immortal, (Thanks Jesse!), I'm so Excited on later releases of this album.  

This is one of those albums that you would be hard pressed to not find a favorite song.  Who didn't rock out to the Neutron Dance?  Their first single on the album, I Need You, which was more soul than pop. I'm going to call the lead song on the record their opus, Jump.  Hell, I even remember the first time I heard that song on the radio. 


This album also marked the early signs of the downfall of solid albums.  It's painfully obvious that all the most popular, (Note: I didn't say best), songs the Pointer Sisters have ever done on their most commercial record ever, (They've released 7 original albums) are all on the "A" side of this album.  That's not done by accident.  This album draws a clear line where popularity ends and album filler or "B" sides begin.  Sure, the practice has been around long before the 80's, but to a degree it wasn't obvious.  "A" sides historically had a way of just being hits.  They were the songs that would be played first and often.  Didn't feel like flipping a record or tape?  Just replay.  "B" sides on the other hand at one point in music history were at least manufactured to become great. at some point by some artists.  There was a period where an artists entire album had to be good for people to buy it, and people certainly did exactly that.  That's where we get the Classic Rock and Blues era.  These day's it's ultra rare for an artist to release an overall great album, why?  Well, progression.  Now we have the choice to pick whatever songs from whatever artists we want based on little more than what sounds great in the moment.  Heard something on the radio that was catchy?  Download it.  Out and about around town and hear a song that could have legs?  Bust out SoundHound, search it, tag it, and download it later.  So called "artists" know this, and therefore why on earth do they have to put any measurable effort into creating good music?  All they need is a hit or two, everything else is filler.  

With regard to the Pointer Sisters, their whole career was based on building up to this album.  They were consistently great from their inception with their first single, a country song mind you...


They went on to release their first album, a self titled gold certified, soul album, The Pointer Sisters in 1973.  From there they weathered through the disco 70's by weaving soul with pop all building to something that had to break out in a post Michael Jackson Thriller world.  You know, Thriller?  It's release basically changed music permanently, killed disco, and gave birth to cinematic music video's.  Yeah, that Thriller.  I would say that given the all the hidden little gems behind this album, all the hits, all the history of the group, that this was exactly why this album more than most of that age just stands the test of time.  So yeah, if you remember any part of the Pointer Sisters, you remember this album.  You remember your parents owning.  You remember rocking out to it before going out.  That's kind of the hallmark of a great overall album.  You don't forget it.  

Neutron Dance

If you have a turn table, get to a record store and get this album.  It was so popular it'll be cheap,but it won't be easy to find.  Not in great condition anyway.  Hell, I found mine doing some good old fashioned roadside crate digging.  Go own this album.  Next week, we're going to finally do some classic rock!  

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