The Cars' studio albums have been boxed before - most of them showed up on 2009's Original Album Series, while in 2014 there was a cheap and basic set called Studio Album Collection, 1978-1987 - but the 2016 set The Elektra Years 1978-1987 is handsomely produced and newly remastered, two features absent on the previous sets. Ric Ocasek handled the digital remaster, while David Robinson is the art director on the set, overseeing the replicas of the original albums and coming up with the spiffy retro artwork. Sadly, "Tonight She Comes" - a hit single featured on 1985's Greatest Hits and never part of an actual album - wasn't added as a bonus track to either Heartbeat City or Door to Door, but that's the only flaw on this otherwise nicely assembled, affordable set.
Verities & Balderdash is a very strange and wonderful album. “Cat’s in the Cradle” was the driving force behind the album’s sales, but there’s a lot more to appeal to listeners, along with enough personal, topical material to make it seem a bit didactic at the time, but Chapin was cultivating a politically committed audience. Verities & Balderdash walked several fine lines, between topical songwriting and an almost (but not quite) pretentious sense of its own importance, humor and seriousness, and balladry and punditry, all intermingled with catchy, highly commercial ballads such as “I Wanna Learn a Love Song” (which is about as pretty a song as he ever wrote).
In the decade since releasing his 2006 debut, Brent Cobb also emerged as a Music Row songwriter, landing songs with high-profile artists like Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, and Kenny Chesney, among others. His move into the Nashville establishment may have brought his career some well-deserved success, but as an artist, his heart remained rooted in the Deep South of his hometown, Ellaville, Georgia. Produced by Brent's cousin Dave Cobb (Shooter Jennings, Sturgill Simpson) at his Low Country Sound studio, Shine on Rainy Day is personal and soulful, with little of contemporary country's gloss and a stripped-down, earthy poeticism that some have likened to Kris Kristofferson's early albums.
The Cars' 1978 self-titled debut, issued on the Elektra label, is a genuine rock masterpiece. The band jokingly referred to the album as their "true greatest-hits album," but it's no exaggeration – all nine tracks are new wave/rock classics, still in rotation on rock radio. Whereas most bands of the late '70s embraced either punk/new wave or hard rock, the Cars were one of the first bands to do the unthinkable – merge the two styles together. Add to it bandleader/songwriter Ric Ocasek's supreme pop sensibilities, and you had an album that appealed to new wavers, rockers, and Top 40 fans. One of the most popular new wave songs ever, "Just What I Needed," is an obvious highlight, as are such familiar hits as "Good Times Roll," "My Best Friend's Girl," and "You're All I've Got Tonight." But like most consummate rock albums, the lesser-known compositions are just as exhilarating: "Don't Cha Stop," "Bye Bye Love," "All Mixed Up," and "Moving in Stereo," the latter featured as an instrumental during a steamy scene in the popular movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Richard Strauss was filled with doubt as to whether he would be capable of expressing in music the crazed revenge of "Elektra" after writing his opera "Salome" with its shocking story. It is quite understandable that he had trouble in composing the work, although such difficulties are not in the least evident during the course of the drama or in the musical flow. Drawing on natural sources, the forceful melodies make use of polyphonic, complex motifs and extreme dissonances. Here and there, Strauss’s typical chordal harmonies gleam through, though hardly audible, taking the harsh dissonances and chromaticism to the very extremes of atonality.