Chrysalis Records, 1980

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Blondie’s fifth album, Autoamerican, is one of those records that demand to be turned up loud. The sound is simply amazing, and the production by ‘70s rock god Mike Chapman is crisp and immaculate. Even better, this CD has recently been remastered and now has additional bonus tracks -- so, by all means, do yourselves a favor and pick up a copy. You will not be disappointed.

Chris Stein and girlfriend Debbie Harry went all out for this one. No stone was left unturned in bringing as many genres of music to the table as possible. You want an orchestral instrumental piece to start things off? There’s “Europa.” You want to hear the first rap song to ever become number one on the Billboard charts? There’s “Rapture.” How about the reggae-influenced track that was number one during the week of the first AIDS cases being reported in my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 New York City? Yep, that would be appropriately titled “The Tide Is High.”

Why I never bought this album back in 1980, I’ll never know. I did have all of the hit 45s that were released from it, though. Honestly, I had no idea just how much else there was on Autoamerican that was worth the extra time and money. Blondie was a band that seemed as though they could do almost anything and they really knew how to create an aura. I mean, there are even two jazz numbers on here! The first, “Here’s Looking At You,” finds Harry joining a big band orchestra for a cute performance that’s as fun as a bathtub of bubbles. The second one, “Faces,” shows off her torchy side with somewhat less impressive results.

And yes, there are plenty of rock tunes on Autoamerican for the tried and true Blondie fans out there. All of them seem to have some kind of surprising twist thrown in to throw the listener off, which is a plus in my mind. After reading what seems to be some kind of philosophical treatise, Harry and the boys launch into the dance track “Live It Up,” which is almost as good as their huge breakthrough hit from a few years earlier, “Heart Of Glass.” Then, a mariachi band plays alongside Blondie on “Go Through It,” made even better with some impressive drumming from Clem Burke. Only “Do The Dark” and “Walk Like Me” have the traditional Blondie sound we have all come to know and love.

It’s also nice to hear the B-side “Suzy & Jeffrey” again after all these years; the album re-release wouldn’t have seemed complete without it. Two other highlights of this Blondie masterpiece are the heaven-sent “Angels On The Balcony” and the ‘60s-inspired “T-Birds.” The former unfolds into something that is absolutely gorgeous, while the latter harkens back to a more innocent time when Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” ruled the airwaves.

Rating: A

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© 2008 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Chrysalis Records, and is used for informational purposes only.