Urgent music request: forgotten AOR!
March 5, 2020 6:56 AM   Subscribe

Last year I discovered two albums that, despite my familiarity with the artists, had somehow escaped my notice but which are easily IMO their best work: Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti and Journey's Infinity. Obviously I knew the songs therein that got radio play, but there's so much good stuff on each that never did! Help me find more forgotten/never-noticed rock/early-metal from the mid-'70s through the mid-'80s. Timely replies preferred, as I have a road trip tomorrow.

It doesn't strictly HAVE to be from the mid-'70s to mid-'80s, but it needs to sound like it is. Not looking to go very much heavier than Sabbath for this. Also not looking to go too prog, so probably no need to bring up Mastodon.

Other similar stuff I like:
some Blue Oyster Cult - Boston - all but the earliest Pink Floyd - basically all Sabbath - the harder/edgier Tom Petty - the less sappy Elton John - small doses of Bon Jovi - most Porcupine Tree

It's also perfectly OK for suggestions to include a degree of synthesizer; I've been on a huge synthwave/retro-'80s-synth kick lately too.

Similar stuff I do NOT like:
Foreigner - most Aerosmith - most The Who - anything intensely bluesy (e.g. Humble Pie is too bluesy, though I am having some good results auditioning these suggestions from a prior AskMe) - anything too country-fried (e.g. most Clutch I've heard is too country-fried for me)

I come to you, AskMe, because YouTube and Spotify are largely suggesting the usual AOR suspects to whom I need no introduction.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Are early Judas Priest or The Scorpions too metal for you? Both bands definitely had AOR hits with tunes some folks would consider more "hard rock" than metal.

Or even AC/DC for that matter. (I mean, I personally would consider most Sabbath "heavier" than most AC/DC . . .)
posted by soundguy99 at 7:17 AM on March 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Have you considered scanning through Billboard Top 100 listings for the time periods you're interested in? I'm sure much of what you already know or do/don't like is on these lists. But maybe looking them over will jar your memory for other stuff.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ List_of_Billboard_Mainstream_Rock_ number-one_songs_of_the_1980s
posted by CollectiveMind at 7:26 AM on March 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

On the hippy side, these are oddities, and good.

Bob Dylan & The Band-Before the Flood
Loggins & Messina-On Stage
Santana & Buddy Miles-Live
posted by j_curiouser at 7:29 AM on March 5, 2020

Do you know Funkadelic? The fact that they're not played on classic rock radio feels like a conspiracy (I mean, I know it's just regular old racism, but still). Same goes for the Isley Brothers.

It feels like we as a culture have completely forgotten about Grand Funk Railroad but those boys had some serious jams.

Queen had so many more great songs than just the 6 or so that get regular radio airplay.

If you like Sabbath you may enjoy the German funhouse mirror prog version, Lucifer's Friend

Maybe too prog, but Gentle Giant always feels like a lost classic when I listen to it.
posted by saladin at 7:38 AM on March 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

Also, b/c of your time constraint, it's not of any use to you now. But Spinitron will soon have an advanced search feature that lets users search any date for music any radio station in the country may have played on that date. I'm thinking college stations and non-mainstream, AOR stations might have played exactly the kind of non-usual suspects you're looking for.

posted by CollectiveMind at 7:39 AM on March 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thin Lizzy's album cuts are way better than I expected — people definitely seem to think of them as a band with a few good singles, but I was pleasantly surprised. I was addicted to their Live and Dangerous for a while.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:41 AM on March 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

This is early for your time period, but T Rex's Electric Warrior (the album with Bang a Gong on it) is solid all the way through. Maybe not a masterpiece like Physical Graffiti (what is?) but a damn good rock album.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:41 AM on March 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

I like the grooves you do, perhaps some with more blues than you might prefer. Most of these are well-known but have strong tracks throughout. All links go to Youtube playlists of the albums. I'll try to think of more later. Enjoy, and don't drive too fast when you're rocking out.

Layla - Derek & the Dominos (yes, some is very bluesy, but some other songs just rock)
Moonflower - Santana
Making Movies - Dire Straits
Tattoo You - Rolling Stones
Mother's Finest - Another Mother Further - (If you like Custard Pie from Physical Graffiti, check out MF's version of Mickey's Monkey and then the original from Smokey Robinson & the Miracles for an example of Page/Plant appropriation without credit)
posted by conscious matter at 7:46 AM on March 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Your "too-prog" mileage may vary, but there's an awful lot of good Rush from the '80s and '90s that never saw much radio airplay - great songs on Hold Your Fire, Power Windows, Grace Under Pressure, Counterparts, and Test For Echo
posted by Daily Alice at 8:54 AM on March 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

You almost hit the bullseye with Physical Graffiti. Now you must put Presence on permanent rotation.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:54 AM on March 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Queensrÿche Operation Mindcrime is a goodie.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:31 AM on March 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think this Deep Cuts playlist on Spotify is what you're after.
posted by jquinby at 9:58 AM on March 5, 2020

Judas Priest - Sad Wings of Destiny
Sammy Hagar - Three Lock Box
Deep Purple - In Rock
Deep Purple - Machinehead
Blue Oyster Cult - On your feet or on your knees (early live album)
posted by 445supermag at 10:27 AM on March 5, 2020

From the early 70s, but my favorite under appreciated classic rock era band is Mott the Hoople, who did a lot more than "All the Young Dudes". My two favorite albums are Brain Capers and The Hoople, but they've all got lots of great material on them, with a combo of Stones swagger and Dylan storytelling that works out to something like a Springsteen and Clash collaboration. Other great glam era records that didn't register much in the States but would sound great on rock radio: Roxy Music's Country Life, Mick Ronson's Slaughter on 10th Ave and Sensational Alex Harvey Band's Next.
posted by bendybendy at 10:38 AM on March 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

If Genesis is at all your thing, (especially if you like Phil Collins, which not everybody does), then every single Genesis album is varying degrees of great. You cannot go wrong. Maybe start with Duke or And Then There Were Three if you like Phil, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway if not.

The only qualifier I have is that Invisible Touch is so poppy as to be close to a Collins solo album. But I personally love that album, too.
posted by billjings at 11:16 AM on March 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

Boston's "Third Stage" album only had a couple of radio-ready tracks (you've probably heard "Amanda"), but the whole album is excellent.

Night Ranger's first album, "Dawn Patrol", much of which does not sound like the single hit it generated ("Don't Tell Me You Love Me"), is definitely worth a look here, too.
posted by hanov3r at 11:21 AM on March 5, 2020

I don't see any New York Dolls here yet. I'd start with their first (self-titled) album, from 1973. Steely Dan's first album, Can't Buy a Thrill (1972) has some great songs on it besides the not-forgotten-at-all "Reelin' in the Years," though most are mellower.

Also: it's easy to forget because Eno had all this experimental glam wizardry going on and Ferry was such a louche crooner, but Roxy Music also had some classic rock vibes in their mix. Phil Manzanera's guitar just does not let up sometimes--see Re-Make/Re-Model and don't be frightened away by the saxophonist's... protective lizard suit recently shed by Bowie under a piano somewhere? (I love this video and often want to live in it.)
posted by miles per flower at 11:27 AM on March 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

One currently underrated heavy rock band from the 70s is Uriah Heep, kinda goofy in The Spinal Tap mode, but many catchy rockin tunes over various albums.
posted by ovvl at 11:31 AM on March 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I love Queen's 1977 album, News of the World. There is one particular song that stands out as being a hidden gem: "All Dead, All Dead", written and sung by Brian May, who also played piano on the song. I don't think this song gets much radio play, but it's excellent. An added bonus (for me, anyway) is that Brian May wrote it about his cat, although you wouldn't necessarily know it from the lyrics.
posted by JD Sockinger at 11:34 AM on March 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

You might like Roky Erickson, you might like SPARKS, you might like Big Star, maybe The Boomtown Rats.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 12:13 PM on March 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

Oh, yeah, also Кино is like the best band that America has never heard of. You should check them out.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 12:47 PM on March 5, 2020

I'm not sure I'm quite capturing your taste but I'll give it a shot with these:

- The Nazz: Nazz Nazz ("forget all about it a while" is their best song. This is 68 I think but you can hear the 70s production values in there)
- Blodwyn Pig: Getting to This ("Worry" is fantastic)
- Steely Dan: The Royal Scam
- Jethro Tull: Aqualung ("Cross Eyed Mary" is great)
- Gene Clark: No Other (title song is beautiful)
- someone mentioned Phil Manzanera above and K-Scope might be up your street.

Lastly you said you like synths. Does it need to be synths and guitars? Do you like Gary Numan type stuff? If so, Robert Palmer's album "Clues" is great. My favourite from that is "I dream of wires".

If I get proper internet access at work tomorrow I'll try to come back and add links. Please listen to those I mentioned, though. I have good taste.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 2:06 PM on March 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I ran out if time to link it in the post above but the Robert Palmer - I Dream of Wires link is here. That's if you're okay with synths only.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 2:13 PM on March 5, 2020

Sorry, I'm really late posting this, but I'm excited because your taste sounds very similar to mine (so you may know about all these already). Here are some of my favorites from some of your favorites.

Astronomy by Blue Oyster Cult, is, I think, one of the best songs written in the 1970s.

Dead Flowers from The Rolling Stones (maybe a little too honky tonk for your tastes but give it a go, the lyrics are great).

Night Watchman from Tom Petty

Bitter Sweet Symphony
By Verve

Man In The Wilderness Styx

No More No More. It's Aerosmith and I know you said you didn't like them but the entire Toys In The Attic album is great (You See Me Crying is another track I'd recommend from it) and shouldn't be missed I think .
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:49 PM on March 5, 2020

Slightly proggy, slightly rocky, slightly trippy and very hippy, the work of Steve Hillage (ex Gong, later part of System 7) is often brilliant.
posted by srednivashtar at 4:21 PM on March 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I truly don't know if this will fit in your categories but Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus was on permanent rotation for me through much of that period and is one of only about three live albums I can stand to listen to.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 4:35 PM on March 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. A couple of sappy hits but tons of wonderful "album cuts".
posted by Billiken at 11:42 AM on March 6, 2020

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