Album review: The Cars - (self titled) 1978. If I could calculate the number of spins I gave this little masterpiece when I was a kid, it would have probably made up for the most listened tracks in my entire life's history. Just lately I've started to pick up on it again, and have really started to get into their music (again). This article will deal solely with the debut album of Boston-area rock group The Cars. A quick lowdown on this album's personnel: Ric Ocasek (b. March 23, 1949, Baltimore, MD) - Lead vocals, rhythm guitar. Benjamin Orr (b. Sept 8th, 1947, Lakewood, OH/died Oct 3, 2000, Atlanta, GA) - Lead vocals, bass guitar. Elliot Easton (b. Dec 18, 1953) - Lead guitar, backing vocals. Greg Hawkes (b. Oct 22, 1952) - Keyboards, percussion, saxophone, backing vocals. David Robinson (b. Apr 2, 1959, Woburn, MS) - drums, percussion, backing vocals. (It's really tricky to get pics from that time period for some reason!) The record was released on Elektra records on June 16th, 1978. It was recorded at AIR Studios, London, from December 1977, to February 1978. The producer was Roy Thomas Baker (who would go on to also produce one or two more albums for the band). Despite having recorded the record in the UK, the band was commercially disliked by much of their audience, and was more popular in America. Their record reached #18 on the Billboard charts. It went gold AND platinum in the States during winter of 1978. It clocks in at 38 minutes and 40 seconds. Most of the songs on the album were written solely by Ric Ocasek, with the exception of "Moving in Stereo" and "All Mixed Up", which were co-written with keyboardist Greg Hawkes. A Russian model named Natalya Medvedeva (July 14, 1958 - Feb 3, 2003) is featured on the album cover. "Good Times Roll", the opening track, peaked at #31 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 1978. It begins simply; just the guitar. You almost think it's going to be a typical record if you're listening for the first time. In come the vocals (supplied by Ric Ocasek); after the vocal intro comes the synth, and suddenly it's off on a traditional, though electrified flight of song. This seems to be a rather uni-form for the entire record. My favourite lyric from this song: "If they've got thunder appeal, let them be on your side." "Best Friend's Girl" begins with a handclap. (For the record, I love handclaps.) Ric Ocasek's vocals follow, telling the story of a protagonist who's smitten for his best friend's girlfriend, stating "she used to be mine". It was released as a single (with "Moving in Stereo" as its B-side) and shot up to #3 on the charts in the UK. My favourite lyric from this song: "Every new boy that she meets - he doesn't know the real surprise." (Maybe suggesting that she's gonna leave the guy for his friend.) "Just What I Needed" follows with the typical format (oddly enough, all three of the first tracks on the record clock in at 3:44) but feature Benjamin Orr on vocals instead. This track was also released as a single, reaching #17 in the UK, and #27 in the US. Its lyrics deal with a seemingly sarcastic protagonist that doesn't mind if a certain girl hangs around, but needs her more than he'd like to admit. My favourite lyric from this song: "So, bleed me." (I love the way Ben articulates the lyric. That's all.) "I'm in Touch With Your World" is an incredibly bizarre track, and is unlike most of the other tracks on the record. It features Ric Ocasek's vocals, and many different instruments used by Greg Hawkes to create a number of different noises. The melody is kind of rough compared to the other tracks on the record, if spooky. My favourite lyric from this song: "You get the diplomatic treatment/you get the force-fed future/you get the funk after death." Wrapping up Side A of the record is "Don't Cha Stop", which follows with the typical catchy format of the other songs on the record. Vocals belonging to Ric Ocasek, it's an anxious tune about (to put it as nicely as possible) certain acts that can be carried out with the mouth/hands. With a melody to be a certain earworm, flipping the record over is nearly required. The lyric from the song that just completely gives it away: "Right here your hands are soft and creamy. Right here your mouth is wet and dreamy. Sounds just what I like, dim down the light." Introducing side B of the record, "You're All I've Got Tonight" is a lesser popular radio favourite. Lots of synth, lots of guitars, and lots of Ric Ocasek's hiccuping voice as he delivers a song depicting a man who knows a girl who doesn't respect him, but he doesn't care, because he just wants a little action - he doesn't necessarily want her. My favourite line from this song: "I don't wanna feel sorry for you. You don't have to make believe it's you." Next up, "Bye, Bye Love". (Not to be confused with the Everly Brothers' song.) Benjamin Orr sings once again; the vocals are incredibly strong. In the midst of the song is a short synth solo; like the preceding track, it's a lesser-popular song but is still played on FM stations today. The lyrics suggest the main character's uneasiness toward letting his lover go (simply because she makes him uneasy). My favourite line: "You think you're so illustrious, you call yourself intense." "Bye, Bye Love" seems to intertwine seamlessly with the next song, "Moving in Stereo". (Most of you might remember this track being used in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High".) Though the track wasn't released as a single, it still received airplay, like most of the songs from the record. It was cowritten by Greg Hawkes; vocals are shared by both Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr. It is the longest song on the record, clocking in at 4:41. It's incredibly mellow; from what I've assessed personally, there really is no meaning to the song. The song itself is basically stating the fact that the sound "moves", in a way, through your stereo. I heard from someone I knew, years ago, (and this may or may not be true) that part of the gimmick was meant to disturb people wearing headphones. The lyrics that travel through the stereo run: "Life's the same/I'm moving in stereo. Life's the same/except for my shoes." A high-pitched siren sound, heard at the end of the track, blends in with the final segment of the record: "All Mixed Up", which also features Benjamin Orr on vocals, and was co-written by Greg Hawkes. It builds slowly; the intro is a quiet, mellow, albeit polite one. By the end the sound is full-force, and "(everything will) be alright" is repeated several times until the song fades out. Though the lyrics are very simple, they suggest a tale of a woman who is not much of a dependable person - she doesn't depend on the protagonist, though he depends on her and is constantly let down. The most prevalent lines in the song: "She says, leave it to me - everything will be alright" pitted up against lines like "I wait for her forever, but she never does arrive." Toward the end the listener is treated to quite a bit of sax, provided by Greg Hawkes. Overall the record is an undeniable classic of the 70s. Often classified as "new wave" or "rock", though seemingly unclassifiable. I rate the lyrics to be at a 7 of 10; some songs seem to be "filler songs" but Ric's lyrical talent is top-notch with an ear for popular music. I rate the musicianship itself to be at a 9 of 10. It's incredible, and unlike anything most people had heard before that time. If the listener has time to zero in on particular instruments, one at a time, it becomes apparent that each band member is doing their part, and doing it with grace and style. I rate the album itself to be a 9 of 10. I consider "I'm In Touch With Your World" and "All Mixed Up" to be generally weak spots - "filler" songs, if you will. Generally it's a sensible, fun record. It's visually distinctive; the music itself is also distinctive in terms of sound and style. Terrific record. If it's not part of your collection, it probably should be. And just one more pretty photo for good measure: From left to right: Elliot, Dave, Ric, Ben, and Greg.