Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Cry For The ‘80s: How Huey Lewis And The News Were Cool

The Good: Decent music, Good voices, Some fun songs
The Bad: Some real lame rhymes.
The Basics: Huey Lewis and the News helped define the 80s sound and Fore! remains worth listening to. It's fun and easy on the ears.

Given the way I rag on the 80s sometimes, I think there are some who might think from my reviews that I do not appreciate the decade of my childhood. In a recent review of a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers's album, I complained that the sound was too 80s. My complaint was based on the idea that I see Tom Petty as a true original and my disappointment with that album was it felt like he was simply putting his sound in a style that did not fit it. But the truth is, sad to say, there is much about music from the 1980s I do enjoy, music that embodied the decade and created the weird mix of pop-rock vocals, techno and the dying days of disco.

The 80s saw a resurgence of the 50s vocal and instrumental combinations as embodied by Billy Joel, the J. Guiles Band and Huey Lewis and the News. Huey Lewis and the News is one of the bands that when I think of I recall a scene from Gilmore Girls wherein Rory notes that she found Lorelei's Bryan Adams c.d. behind the toilet. Yes, there are guilty pleasures we have with our childhood and Huey Lewis and the News is a band that it is profoundly uncool to like now.

Too bad.

On Fore! Huey Lewis and the News help recreate a sound that disappeared among the folk and psychedelia of the 60s and the disco and rock and roll resurgence of the 70s. In the 50s, much of rock and roll was vocals with music backing in a way to complement the vocals. Occasionally, there would be moments with instrumental solos (of instruments other than the guitar) and acapella moments as well, where there were no backing instruments.

Huey Lewis and the News recreate that sound that is smooth, vocally-based and easily listenable. Fore! has the now-classic tracks "Doing It All For My Baby" and the tongue-in-cheek "Stuck With You." One of the most 50s-esque songs on the album is the quirky "Hip To Be Square," which still rocks.

"Hip To Be Square" is a good example of the overall sound of the album. Huey Lewis gives strong vocals while supported by a strong background of saxophones, drums and keyboards. The song ends with strong backing vocals from, if I'm not mistaken from the liner notes, an assortment of football players. The song rocks with a sound that is both 80s new and 50s reminiscent with a hint of the big band sound that preceded rock and roll.

It's hard to find an album with such musical diversity these days, but Fore! has a surprising amount within the pop-rock field. The album is well arranged in that regard as well, with a strong sax song followed by one heavier on guitars and keyboards which then is followed by one where the vocals are strongest and so on. Fore! is surprisingly well put together.

That's not to say it's a perfect album. As is my way, even recognizing the age of the album (I give much leniency for 70s and before in this regard), there are some ridiculously simple lyrics with rhyme schemes that are predictable and easy. Despite the pretty awesome melody and harmony that makes up the refrain of "I Never Walk Alone," it's unforgivable for opening with "You could wind up stranded in the lost and found / So you better stick together if you want to stick around / Now me and the boys got our own little plan / Somebody out there will understand / And we'll have the world in the palm of our hand. . . " "Found/around," "plan/understand/hand," then "know/go," "fun/one," and "face/race/face" just are painful to read on the page for the rhymes, though Huey Lewis and the News present them remarkably well aloud.

I have to say I respect the collaborative effort Fore! represents. The songs are written by various members of the band, including some of the additional musicians credited on the album. While the bulk are members of the group, three or four tracks are written by artists who are not. The album is remarkably cohesive, though.

Because Fore! was originally released on cassette (and no doubt record) my usual complaint about length of the album is waived, though it would be nice for the album to be longer than the ten-track, thirty-eight minutes that it is. Note to 80s artists who have not yet released on c.d.s: Condense multiple albums to one disc, it'll make consumers happy!

Ironically, one of the tracks accomplishes the entire song perfectly before continuing on redundantly. "Naturally" would have been truly great as a short, burst a capella number with just the opening. Instead, it repeats with instruments and a bridge and it's too bad the band chose to do that.

All in all, Fore! is a fun, easy-listening pop-rock album that reminds the listener - or could educate new listeners to - why Huey Lewis and the News helped define the sound of the 80s. The best track is "Stuck With You," the low point is "I Know What I Like."

For other music from the same era, check out my reviews of:
Super Hits - Eddie Money
Aladdin Sane - David Bowie
Break Every Rule - Tina Turner


For other music reviews, check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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