Tuesday, November 17, 2015

CD Odyssey Disc 801: Pat Benatar

What was supposed to be my last normal day before a busy social calendar from Wednesday through Saturday instead ended up being a bit crazy when a windstorm knocked a tree down in my front yard. Nature’s not one for minding your weekly schedule.

Disc 801 is….Crimes of Passion
Artist: Pat Benatar

Year of Release: 1980

What’s up with the Cover? Pat stretches on the ballet bar in her sparkly 1980s dance outfit. Observant viewers will note how high up her waist the ballet bar comes, showing just how incredibly short she is. Incredibly short, but incredibly sexy.

How I Came To Know It: I grew up with this album, but I only recently purchased it because I always felt that her album before this one (“In the Heat of the Night”) and after it (“Precious Time”) were both better.

How It Stacks Up:  My youthful recollection was correct. Of the three Pat Benatar albums I own, this is my least favourite. Here’s the full recap:

  1. In the Heat of the Night: 4 stars (reviewed back at Disc 667)
  2. Precious Time: 3 stars (reviewed back at Disc 784)
  3. Crimes of Passion: 2 stars (reviewed right here)
Ratings: 2 stars but almost 3

 “Crimes of Passion” is Pat Benatar’s best-selling record, but for me it represents a bit of a sophomore slump.

All the elements of her other early albums are there, including the pure rock power of her voice, the hard rock music edged with pop (or vice versa, depending on who you ask) and the brief forays into New Wave. For some reason it doesn’t inspire me the same as her other records.

Fortunately, there is “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” This is probably her most famous song and if you don’t just want a Pat Benatar compilation album, you kind of have to own “Crimes of Passion” just to have this one song. Sure it is the height of cheese-ass, but it is so good at being cheese-ass. The riff is nothing creative, but it is instantly recognizable and writing those kind of riffs is harder than it seems. Also, Benatar is at her best when she is doing “tuff rocker girl,” inviting some guy to romantically duke it out it is hard to resist.

And just to remind you about how solid her pipes are, Benatar lets the last round of the chorus climb up to another level as she fires away will singing “fire away.” It is good fun, and a staple at high school dances in my day. Guys and girls would pantomime the song as they got playfully and mutually excited about each other.

Unfortunately, the other songs on “Crimes of Passion” don’t live up to the same standard. Similar tracks like “Treat Me Right” and “You Better Run” are pretty good songs, but they feel like pale imitations to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”

When Benatar gets serious on “Hell is for Children” her intentions are pure, and the emotion she puts into this song about child abuse is real and present. Unfortunately, the lyrics let her down in places. For example:

“Because Hell, Hell is for children
And you know that their little lives can become such a mess”


“It's all so confusing, this brutal abusing.”

This weird mix of cutesy expressions (“it’s all so confusing,” “such a mess”) with serious subject matter is jarring and not in a good way. It’s too bad, because the tune could work with some more care put into the words.

 “Out-A-Touch” feels like it is trying a bit too hard to do New Wave, and Benatar’s rock growl is a bit too organic for the style of music the song is trying to pull off. If anything, she sounds too real for the mod detachment that New Wave needs.

Prisoner of Love” is a distinct pleasure, and a very guilty one. It is a kitschy love song from a time in music which featured far too many. Silly and pointless, this song could be recorded today by Katy Perry without anyone blinking an eye, but I can’t seem to care. It makes me want to dance (swinging my arms eighties style) and I like it.

I also enjoyed Benatar’s cover of the Kate Bush song, “Wuthering Heights.” Kate Bush’s version is gloriously wacky (with video to match – check it out here). Most would be hard pressed to sing this song’s high notes, but Benatar not only does it, she infuses it with power very different from Bush’s more folksy and fay delivery. I can’t decide which version I like better, and that’s always a good sign for a cover song.

If you don’t know, this song is inspired by the Emily Bronte novel of the same name. I’m not one for the Bronte sisters’ work (I prefer my 19th century Gothic novels with more murder and vampires), but I like it when a long and arduous Bronte novel can be delivered in a four and a half minute pop song.

While overall I wanted this album to be better, it is sharply produced and has enough in the way of good harmless fun to stay interesting. I’ll be keeping it in my collection and even sneaking it into the rotation once in a while.

Best tracks:  Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Wuthering Heights, Prisoner of Love

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