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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Underappreciated ’80s: Blue Murder, Blue Murder


Pop metal bands multiplied like rabbits during the late ’80s.

Only a few years after the massive chart success of groups like Quiet Riot, Guns N’ Roses, and Bon Jovi, record labels signed anyone with hair and a guitar to meet the demand. It was easy for good bands to get lost in the background noise, especially when they paired quality music with pictures of themselves in ridiculous outfits.

Case in point: Blue Murder.

Guitarist John Sykes (ex-Thin Lizzy) founded Blue Murder after helping David Coverdale’s Whitesnake achieve its largest commercial success with 1987’s Whitesnake. Sykes’ new band, featuring bassist Tony Franklin (ex-The Firm) and drummer Carmine Appice (ex-Vanilla Fudge), came out of the gates strong in 1989 with its own self-titled album.

And what an album it is—apart from the pictures of the band. But let’s focus first on the music.

Sykes had the good sense to bring back the full, deep sound that so many run-of-the-mill hair metal groups had lost. The album cover, shown above, seems to reflect the cool rock vibe in Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple-influenced tracks like “Ptolemy” and “Valley of the Kings” which pair well with the bombastic drive of “Riot” and “Sex Child.” Credit producer Bob Rock—later to score big with albums like Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood and Metallica’s so-called Black Album—for weaving a rich tapestry of sound that made the album stand out among its contemporaries.

The back cover and the insert photograph (shown below), however, make Sykes and company look like gay pirates:


The image, to be fair, hints at several songs’ unusual mix of straightforward rock with folksy, Gypsy-like elements. For example, the album’s biggest single, “Jelly Roll,” merges a jaunty first half with a more typical, rock ballad-type closing section. And the opening of “Ptolemy” conjures up images of Mediterranean galleys and the docks that greeted them.

But did we really need to see the band members in period pieces?

Blue Murder is certainly better heard than seen. With yours eyes closed, you’ll find that it's another underappreciated ’80s treat.

15 Comments:

At June 05, 2008 6:19 PM, Blogger Barbara(aka Layla) replied to my musings ...

David, certainly you jest, why these outfits are totally macho and the guys are just yummy! Totally HOT! You silly boy!

Seriously though - I have never heard of them, I have heard of each of the individuals but not the band. I guess I need to take a listen (with my eyes closed)

 
At June 05, 2008 7:59 PM, Blogger Zen Wizard replied to my musings ...

I will "pandora.com"-it, forthwith.

 
At June 05, 2008 8:16 PM, Blogger Zen Wizard replied to my musings ...

When you pandora.com them, you get some good stuff--for them, you get mostly cuts off the album, "Nothin' But Trouble."

There was clearly a lot of talent in that band--exp. the vocals.

 
At June 05, 2008 8:17 PM, Blogger Zen Wizard replied to my musings ...

I meant, "ESPECIALLY" the vocals.

 
At June 06, 2008 7:15 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Barbara: Try "Jelly Roll," "Riot," and "Billy" first; I think you'll like them. Or just trust me and get the album.

ZW: That's too bad--that follow-up album wasn't nearly as good. I was surprised, too, with the good vocals from Sykes, who initially had sought a singer for his group but ended up doing vox himself.

 
At June 06, 2008 10:17 AM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

Didn't most 80s hair metal bands end up looking like gay pirates though?

I might just have to check these guys out. Thanks for the recommendation.

 
At June 06, 2008 1:40 PM, Blogger Jessica replied to my musings ...

Heard of them, but have never heard their music. I'll have to listen. They DO look like gay pirates! lol :)

 
At June 06, 2008 2:51 PM, Blogger Jessica replied to my musings ...

I totally take that back...I have heard them! lol They are good. Duh...Blue Murder the song=Blue Murder the band!

 
At June 08, 2008 3:58 PM, Blogger Maggie replied to my musings ...

You need some sort of cornea-burning warning at the beginning of the post. Those ass pirates were more than I could take.

I will, however, take a listen.

 
At June 09, 2008 3:32 PM, Blogger Metal Mark replied to my musings ...

I think it's my top ten albums of 1989 for whatever that's worth. The production was really strong. There were just so many hard rock bands pouring out between 1988 and 1991 that not everybody could get somewhere.

 
At June 10, 2008 12:41 PM, Blogger Zen Wizard replied to my musings ...

Last.fm plays the album pictured. As well as some videos.

Sometimes last.fm is not as good as pandora.com because they seem to use a different genome formula but in this case I guess it's better.

 
At June 13, 2008 5:59 PM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

Never really heard of them sorry. Although Bon Jovi and Quiet Riot remember those! They still play Bon Jovi at every Purdue mens basketball game at the under 4 media timeout

 
At June 13, 2008 11:40 PM, Blogger The Phoenix replied to my musings ...

Whoa...they look like Prince's Revolution.

 
At June 14, 2008 11:06 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

I've returned from some time overseas without access to e-mail--what a strange feeling! Thanks for your comments ...

Perplexio: I think it is one of the better late-80s rock albums, despite the pictures.

Jessica: Indeed! One of the few bands with a band name, album, and song of the same name.

Maggie: Sorry about the lack of a warning. I'll be more thoughtful next time.

Mark: We agree on that, then. I'd heard that John Sykes wanted to get another vocalist, which is odd because he's pretty solid.

ZW: I'm not familiar with either site.

Phats: They didn't hit the big time, so I'm no surprised you missed them.

Phoenix: Rising from the ashes again, huh? It's good to see you back.

 
At June 18, 2008 7:27 PM, Blogger BeckEye replied to my musings ...

I've always loved that Jelly Roll song. Love can break your heart, indeed.

And, to be fair, all male musicians looked like gay pirates in the '80s. As for the Wilson sisters, I'll never forget that someone in a magazine once referred to their "What About Love" period look as "pirates on acid."

 

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