By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
HUEY LEWIS AND THE NEWS – SPORTS (1983)
It’s funny how things work out. I didn’t think I’d be doing a piece on this particular album because I’d been waiting around to buy the 30th anniversary edition CD when I could find it at a cheap enough price.
But as luck or good fortune would have it, an online music friend of mine named Jeff spotlighted the follow up album Fore! on a music message board on which we are both active members. He does an Album of The Week feature on that board and after reading his piece I wanted to check out Huey Lewis and The News a bit more. Of course, growing up back in 1983 & 1984, I heard a lot of their music on the radio since they were all over the airwaves on 92 Pro FM out of Rhode Island and on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 countdown show on Sundays.
But I didn’t have the albums and only knew the hits. I was going to pull the trigger on the CD version, but I did a check of one of my cassette boxes and wouldn’t you know it, I had a copy of Sports.
I’m actually quite happy that I had the cassette and could do this article because I got to kind of discover the music all over again. There were four Top 10 hits plus a Top 20 hit out of the nine songs, but even more exciting to me was how the album tracks were pretty darn good as well.
Having sold seven million copies of the album when it was first released (the liner notes for the 30th anniversary reissue apparently say the album is nearing 10 million in sales), the hit songs really don’t need much rehashing. “The Heart of Rock and Roll”, “Heart and Soul”, “If This Is It” and “I Want A New Drug” were all instant classics back then and given that they still show up on what would be considered adult contemporary or easy listening stations that people like me have to listen to at work, they are still classics. The latter of those four songs remains my favorite song from the band. I think back to singing along to the radio when that song was playing and having to explain to my somewhat taken aback mother that it wasn’t actually about drugs. She wasn’t overly protective but displayed the appropriate parental concern until shown it wasn’t necessary.
The surprising thing to me about the Top 20 song “Walking On A Thin Line”, besides that I barely remember it as a “hit” song, is that when you listen to the lyrics, they are kind of dark at times. Maybe it’s my slightly twisted take on life, but that additional little edge made the song that much more interesting to me this time around.
As for those four album tracks, the one odd thing I found was the song “Bad Is Bad” wasn’t a single. I could’ve sworn I heard that all over the radio because I remember it like it got played to death as most 1980’s singles would be. I remembered it far more strongly than “Walking On A Thin Line”, an actual hit. I don’t know why that is.
The band’s cover of the Hank Williams song “Honky Tonk Blues” was surprisingly effective. I’m not a huge fan of old time country music but I’ve found when I hear covers of those types of songs I can be moved to liking them a lot more than I might’ve expected.
The remaining two tracks are “Finally Found A Home” and “You Crack Me Up”. The first track starts off a bit slower but then takes off with a lively engaging soundtrack. The entirety of the performance really won me over and I dug into the song a lot. If I got to pick a set list for one of the band’s concerts, I would put the track on it. The latter of the two songs starts out fast and continues that way throughout the tune. It is another song that builds up a big enveloping vibe for the listener, drawing them in and invariably you will find yourself singing along.
Huey Lewis and The News might look like the guys who play in a bar band on the occasional Saturday night gig, but boy did they have something going for them on this album. That isn’t an earth-shattering revelation I know, but I liked being reminded of just how good they were during their heyday.
NOTES OF INTEREST: Ray Parker Jr. was apparently sued for plagiarizing “I Want A New Drug” for his “Ghostbusters” song with an out of court settlement being reached.
Longtime Doobie Brother John McFee played the pedal steel guitar on the band’s version of “Honky Tonk Blues”.
The album cover photo of the band was taken at the 2 AM Club in Mill Valley, CA which was one of the clubs the band played on their way up.