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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Blondie

Parallel Lines

Review by Gary Hill

It would be easy to dismiss Blondie as a glossy hit machine. It would also be inaccurate and an injustice. Sure, they had their share of hits – and some of them were downright pure pop. But what band who was around in the 1980’s can’t be accused of having sold out for a hit? The truth is, Blondie was more of a band that made great music and did so, for the most part, without borders. To many Parallel Lines was the album that marked their rise to the top of the heap of hit makers. The truth is, it was still a great album loaded with a variety of music. I’d have to say that it holds up pretty well even through the ensuing years. In fact, maybe some time away makes the disc seem even stronger.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Hanging On The Telephone

The titular telephone opens the album. They fire out into a catchy kind of rocker that is still well set in a punk rock aesthetic. This is a killer tune and great album starter.

One Way Or Another
The guitar line that leads this off is just plain mean and the lyrical content of this is all about a stalker. It’s a real Blondie classic and has another of those almost dreamy choruses – and yet it’s evil sounding at the same time. There’s a killer guitar solo on the track and Harry’s got some more powerhouse deliveries at times. This is another number that wouldn’t have been out of place on Plastic Letters
Picture This
A more pop oriented cut, this is still not the super-polished pop that would be the rule for the band for a while. Indeed, it’s another track that could have found a home on the previous release. I like this one quite a bit as it gets more energy and layers added to it. 
Fade Away And Radiate
With its stripped down and rather mysterious texture, this has always been one of my favorites. There’s just something about the mood and tone that works really well. And, truth be told, I’d say there are definite hints of progressive rock on this one. Certainly the guitar solo – short as it might be – has a lot of Robert Fripp in it. The closing section, too, with its rather reggae-ish rhythm guitar reminds me at once of both Hawkwind and Rush. 
Pretty Baby
Here’s a rather bouncy number that’s more pop-oriented. Still, it also could have found a place on Plastic Letters. While not one of my favorites on this set, it has its charms. 
I Know But I Don't Know
This is a hard rocking, punky number that is another track that has some hints of progressive rock in it. It’s fun and interesting. 
11:59
There’s definitely a vibe here that’s similar to “Contact in Red Square” from Plastic Letters. This also has a more pop rock oriented texture. It’s still quite a strong piece, but perhaps not as potent as some of the other music here. The old school rock and roll keyboard solo on this leaves me rather non-plussed. 
Will Anything Happen
Another that seems to have definite ties to Plastic Letters – this time to “I’m On E,” this rocker works pretty well. It’s not so strong as to be highlight of the set, although the killer bluesy (albeit short) guitar solo is a nice touch – but it’s a strong one nonetheless.
Sunday Girl
This is a lightweight little pop dittie. It’s OK, but definitely not up to the level of a lot of the stuff here. 
Heart Of Glass
Somehow I’ve always remember this number as having a lot more of a disco sound to it. The track is certainly still a pop dittie, but it’s less disco than I thought. Sure, there are a few typical disco bits in the bass line, but overall this is not that different from a lot of the band’s other music to this point. It’s a better song than I remember. Apparently over-saturation in the past hurt my appreciation of it, but after time away it stands taller.
I'm Gonna Love You Too
Overall this another bouncy pop rocker, but it’s definitely tasty. There’s a killer rockabilly meets punk rock guitar solo and this is just a little quirky. 
Just Go Away
A hard rocker with a pop edge, this is fun. I’ve always loved the line, “your foot is firmly entrenched where a molar should be.” It’s angry and yet lighthearted – just like the song. 
Once I Had A Love (AKA The Disco Song)(1978 Version)
This bonus track is an early version of “Heart of Glass.” It has a much more rock oriented texture to it. I like it a lot. 
Bang A Gong (Get It On)
Another bonus, this one finds Blondie covering T-Rex. They do a raw and rather punky version and it’s tasty. It’s a live recording and lacks a little in terms of sound quality – but not much. 
I Know But I Don't Know (Live)
Here’s the next bonus track, a live version of the piece from earlier on the album. It’s a smoking hot rendition and might even work better than the studio take – despite a less than perfect live sound and recording. 
Hanging On The Telephone (Live)
The final cut (and final bonus number) of the set is this live rendition. The sound quality seems better here and this rendition is even better than the studio one that opens the set, I think. It’s a great way to bookend the album and an excellent way to close it even if it weren’t a bookend
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