R.E.M. - reckoning  (I.R.S.)      I hate to say it, but this is my favorite album of 1984. I really tried to resist, but this album has been the soundtrack of my life for the last two months. Despite the rave reviews of reckoning that you've read everywhere, it isn't Murmur, (my all-time favorite album). What it is, however, is the guitar on "Time After Time (annElise)" burning its way into my head and the way "HarborcOat" kicks in with its double-tracked chorus and how "so. Central Rain" and "7 chineSe bros." should be top ten singles and the way "letter Never seNt" grew on me like mold on bread and the incredible riffs that run through "little america" & "Pretty Persuasion" and the all-out Rock of "second Guessing" versus the beauty of "camerA" and the sing-along chorus of "(don't Go back TO) ROCKVILLE." That's all. Just another collection of great Rock and Roll songs, each with its own personality but unified by an overall, and right now unbeatable, sound. Oh yeah, best show I've ever seen at the Star Palace.

-- Boy Wonder

Echo and the Bunnymen - Ocean Rain   (Geffen)      Normally when a group makes it known that they are going to use a string section on their next LP you immediately assume that they've sold out in typical Barry M. fashion. Not so with the Haremen on their latest, Ocean Rain. While not as forceful as last year's Porcupine, their conviction is still there in a stylized and melodic setting. Natural strings pack more force than any synthesizer and the B-men prove it. All cuts good.

-- Tim Gaskill

Violent Femmes - Hallowed Ground  (Slash)      The follow-up to last year's critically acclaimed debut sees the Femmes leaning toward their Folk-Blues-Jazz roots and away from Rock. Not that Hallowed Ground is a Folk album -- if anything it's a totally unique combination of all of the Femmes' influences, that leans towards Folk. Some tracks may be difficult for people who enjoyed the debut, but after repeated listening most fans will find this album easily as good as last year's. Gano's lyrics concentrate less on sex and more on darker issues with death and murder popping up at nearly every corner. (Tim Gaskill thinks that "Never Tell" is the greatest song ever. - Editor)

-- Rev. Kirk

The Call - Scene Beyond Dreams   (Mercury)      First let me say that Scene Beyond Dreams is the Call's weakest album. Secondly, let me say that it is also very good. With the advent of a new keyboard player their sound is much more synth-oriented. This doesn't mean that it's as bad as some people think. The mere mention of a synthesizer immediately sends some people into a discoure as to why the new Violent Femmes album is so great. My point is that a synth can be used in a creative and exciting way, if it is used right. Most bands (read: P-Furs) when they go synth forget all about their guitars. The Call strikes a balance between guitar and synth on this one. Although the sound has been toned down, the message is delivered with typical Michael Been angst. Compare this with the new Furs, and you witness a change that works versus a change that fails horribly. Let's hope The Call don't completely forsake integrity on their next record.

-- Tim Gaskill

The Dream Syndicate - Medicine Show  (A&M)      It was obvious by the Dream Syndicate's stage show that they are aiming their sound towards the mainstream, a suspicion I had when I was listening to this record and comparing it to the better Days of Wine and Roses. Gone is the feedback-laden guitar ambience of that record, having been replaced by keyboards and more conventional guitar solos. Still there is Steve Wynn's psycho voice, ("Yeahhhhhh," "Awwwwwww") and some great songs ("Still Holding on the You." "Burn" and all of side two) make it worthwhile. If they do break, they'll be mainstream with a difference just like their idols Lou Reed and Bob Dylan. List price: $6.98

-- Boy Wonder

Rank and File - Long Gone Dead  (Slash/WB)      To be more Country or not to be Country? Is this really the issue here as some people make it out? (Are these the same "some people" who don't like synths? - Editor) While Country can denote bad songs of heartache and unfaithful women, often in tastless manners, RAF succeed in making good Pop with Country sounds utilizing basic Rock and Roll energy. Oh yeah, see them live if you can. You won't be disappointed. Great cuts: the title track, "Hot Wind," "John Brown," "Sound of the Rain," etc.

-- Tim Gaskill

Next Time: Less than a two month wait. Hopefully

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I was listening to The Who -- Live at the Fillmore East 1968