Do you remember the 1980s? Do you like 1980s music? Are you keen to hear all the many sounds of 80s pop music on a single album? Yes, yes, yes and yes: the album for you is Eyes of Innocence, the 1984 debut from Miami Sound Machine, better known as Gloria Estefan plus her husband and some guys who would be quickly forgotten about as her solo career took off. Me? I like some 80s music, yes, but I generally don’t require all of it to be performed on a single album by a single band. And yet that is what I got when the postman pushed this through my door.
Before you get to the music, the first thing to enjoy here is the CD itself. This seems to be an original CD from 1984 and so it has all the wonderful things that very early CDs have. The album art is designed for a 12″ record sleeve, so the track listing on the back is so small it’s barely legible. The disc itself is plain silver with a record company label and a second track listing in black capital letters. And on the inside, the booklet just has the back of the album again (with the track listing still barely legible) and, on the inside, where you might hope for some band photos or the lyrics or something, there’s a fourth track listing and a very long essay in six languages about how to wipe a CD if it gets various liquids spilled on it.
Miami Sound Machine sound like a nice bunch. Some bands write long lists of “thanks” on their albums that will inevitably mean they’ve picked favourites and left other people out. This album just says “thanks to everyone we’ve ever met”. That would seem to cover all bases. And when you press play, they’re covering all musical bases, with ten tracks that offer a surprisingly comprehensive tour around the variety of pop music circa 1984, from electro-pop hits to electric guitar-driven rock to slow, smoochy ballads and power pop. I was expecting a lot of Latin influence from a band whose members are Gloria, Emilio, Enrique and Juan, but what I got was the world.
|Track||Title||Word 1||Word 2||Word 3||Word 4|
|2||Prisoner of Love||Weirdly||grungy||rock||number|
|6||I Need a Man||Bonnie||Tyler||meets||Bananarama|
|7||Eyes of Innocence||Jiggy||song||about||nothing|
|8||When Someone Comes Into Your Life||Please||leave||my||life|
|9||I Need Your Love||Oh||god,||another||ballad|
|10||Do You Want to Dance||Daft||synth||with||harmonica|
So what’s here? “Dr. Beat” we all know, of course. Make of it what you will. Track 2 plunges us into sudden rock music, and then we’re on a rollercoaster. Track 4, “Love Me”, might be the most generic 80s pop song I’ve ever heard. “Orange Express” brings the Latin sound back with a wealth of half-baked lyrics like “I know that tomorrow the truth will come to find me, preparing the future to find my destiny.” At that point I knew there had to be a slow piano ballad here somewhere, complete with 80s twinkly noises, and there it was in track 8, like a totally serious version of the Papples’ “Beefy Tears”. Track 9 is a rejected Barry Manilow album track, and then “Do You Want to Dance” brings back the lively Latin pop with the sort of harmonica that made me check whether Stevie Wonder had made a cameo appearance. (He hadn’t.)
My tour of all the pop music of the early 1980s left me exhausted and a little bewildered. I’m not sure it’s actually safe to fly through so many styles in such a short space of time. Having had some time in a dark, quiet room to gather my thoughts and bring my heart rate back down, though, I think my favourite thing about this album was that one track is called “OK”, which represented something of an inflated view of its own quality. My least favourite thing was the headache I got from trying to read the sleeve notes.