Sports (30th Anniversary Edition)
Their early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in ’83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He’s been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humor.
That’s Patrick Bateman talking about Huey Lewis and The News’ third album, Sports. It’s – still – a pretty good review of the record, even if it’s parody. There’s a good portion of the record that runs close to parody anyways, so of course it’s fitting.
Sports has just been reissued to celebrate 30 years; it comes now as a double-disc, the original album and a bonus run of live versions of the songs from the record, in order but taken from different concerts.
It’s a testament to the band that versions of songs from Sports from 1983 through 1987 and even last year in 2012 have the same driving rock’n’roll meets crass-rockabilly and slick saxophone pop. This is a helluva good band. And Huey, smug and wonderful, was (and is) a good frontman.
Sports is a pretty great record. Hard to fault. You can say you never liked it – or you don’t ever want to hear it or you are sure you don’t like any of it but that’s your fault. All of that would be your fault. It’s not the record’s fault.
This is a set of great pretty-much-perfect pop-rock songs ushering in an era (the mid-1980s) where the new rock-stars didn’t really arrive overnight, they did their time too but they sounded fresh compared with the hangovers and hangers-on from the 1960s and 1970s who were, for the most part, lost in the 1980s.
Huey Lewis & The News followed up Sports with their other really big album, Fore!, and then it was back to the bar-room rock stuff, still playing stadiums for a bit but diminishing returns. The fans will tell you this is a super-good band, a must-see band still. Anyone else will tell you it’s, at best, guilty pleasure stuff.
Probably, as is almost always the way, the truth lies somewhere in-between.
But damn there are some good songs on this record. There always was. They always will be. The singles – big, big singles – still have some pounce and prowl to them. If The Heart of Rock & Roll isn’t quite Springsteen or Seger that’s because The News was never really trying to be The E Street Band or that Silver Bullet crew. There’s a snap to this band – sure their first two albums were a little too new wave for a fictional psychopath but by Sports they’re a great pop band. They have a rock’n’roll energy but this is unit-shifting radio stuff. And they’re so good at it.
I Want A New Drug – clearly Ray Parker Jr’s favourite song from the album – still has something. Heart and Soul is good. But it’s If This Is It that’s the best track here I reckon. It hints at what was to come with Fore!
The live versions on the second disc are solid, the band always nails them. But it’s the studio cuts that run deepest; that mean the most.
You couldn’t quite imagine an album like this ever again. That might even be for the best. But man this is a great set of songs. Guilt-free party pop-rockers.
Happy Birthday Sports