Wilson and Alroy's Record Reviews - We listen to the lousy records so you won't have to.

Year In Review: 1981

Although disco was finally dead, pop music hadn't fully recovered by 1981. The only really ear-catching recordings were incremental advances: King Crimson's Discipline, which synthesized the best of prog rock and New Wave, and Rickie Lee Jones' Pirates, whose free-wheeling narrative style carried the 70s L.A. soft-rock formula into new territory.

Solid efforts were suddenly everywhere, though. New Wavers like Elvis Costello, Squeeze, and U2 put out decent, but predictable records while poser Adam Ant ruled the British airwaves. Pat Benatar was among the best of the corporate rock acts that went on to so much success in the 80s. Prince was still on the way up, dragging his compadres the Time with him, and older R & B stars like Rick James and Quincy Jones still had some ideas. As for the rock dinosaurs, they hadn't been completely swept away either: the Who and Frank Zappa showed the clearest signs of life.

Some acts were in trouble, of course. American radio was cluttered with residual 70s soft rock sludge merchants like Hall & Oates and Olivia Newton-John. Many 70s stars like Joan Armatrading, Larry Graham, Curtis Mayfield, and Carly Simon suddenly lost their grips. Aretha Franklin was still stuck in an awful rut. George Harrison's album was a disappointment, despite his attempt at a John Lennon tribute. And Funkadelic fans got stung with a lookalike record put out by some ex-Funkadelic singers. (JA)

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