Monday, November 24, 2014

Pat Benatar - Tropico

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Tropico, the sixth album from Pat Benatar. The November of 1984 release spent twenty-two weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 14. It also reached number 31 in the UK, number 26 in Germany, number 23 in the Netherlands, number 21 in Canada, number 19 in Sweden, number 16 in France, and number 9 in Australia.

Side one opens with “Diamond Field”, the B-side to the promotional third single. It managed to reach number 20 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. The song is propelled along by a cascading drumbeat, a catchy guitar hook, and Pat’s melodious voice.

Next is the Grammy nominated “We Belong”. As the debut single, it hit number 22 in the UK, number 8 in Canada, number 7 in Australia and New Zealand, number 5 in Switzerland and on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 3 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. I’ve always liked how the synth hooks on this one flow from speaker to speaker in a rather hypnotic way. In a lot of ways, this hit reminds me of their earlier songs from the late 70’s and early 80’s.

“Painted Desert”, the second single for Europe, features a Spanish guitar arrangement at the start which is followed by a slower, Santana-lite rock rhythm. This song paints a beautiful picture of a woman struggling with her surroundings and situation after a break-up. Pat’s vocals are haunting and heartfelt at the same time.

“Temporary Heroes” was released as a promotional single. It features a bit of an industrial beat on the verses, while the chorus is quite catchy (it is the part of the song that I remembered most).

The first verse of “Love in the Ice Age” makes a commentary on changes in society, with relationships becoming a bit more impersonal. It then takes a more refined focus on how things have changed between two once heated lovers.

Side two starts with the “Ooh Ooh Song”, the second single in North America. It went to number 89 in Canada, number 78 in Australia, number 41 in New Zealand, number 36 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 22 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. The chorus pays homage to 60’s girl-groups while the verses have a high-energy, rapid-fire vocal delivery from Pat.

The B-side to the European second single was “The Outlaw Blues”. The synth hook gives the track a new-wave flavor, while the rest of it has an American western rebellious attitude.

“Suburban King”, which tells of a union worker who finds himself unemployed and miserable, was the B-side to the first single. At just a minute forty eight, it is the shortest track on the record. It definitely feels like more could have been done with it; perhaps adding a nice instrumental jam by the band to fill it out.

“A Crazy World Like This” a pleasant mid-tempo pop-rock number about trying to make sense of the world follows. This one does have an instrumental bridge that works well.

The album closes with “Takin’ It Back”, a firm statement from the band to their record label. Here they firmly make their stand that their cooperating days were over.

Back in 1984 and 1985, I knew the singles from Tropico thanks to radio airplay. I picked this one up earlier this year when I was filling in my digital library to complete my 80’s Pat Benatar play lists. I like that the band did some experimenting with their sound a bit more with this one; you can see them pushing against the hard mold that their record label was continually attempting to cast them into.

For more from Pat Benatar, click here.

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