DJ Fiskars creates the ultimate AOR playlist for One Quart Magazine. Not only does he unearth some real hidden gems from the genre, but he offers insight into the burgeoning AOR DJ scene in Helsinki.
I tried to avoid the hyper obvious cuts in the like of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ et al.: for that stuff you should watch the ever-hilarious mockumentary Yacht Rock. Albeit the roots of this music are in the West Coast of the U. S. of A. I took a global approach to the this here listing. Enjoy!
One Quart Magazine presents DJ FISKARS: Keep the Fire (an AOR playlist)
Rudy Norman ‘Back To The Streets’
From what I gather, Rudy is just a guy next door from Baltimore who put out a super smooth 7” in 1980. The man himself re-issued it recently, making the achingly rare record available for fans across the globe. The vibe is strong on this one.
Loggins & Messina ‘Pathway To Glory’
Japan is the mecca of smooth music of all kinds. They highly appreciate this stuff. Let this super nice single sided 12” re-issue of a mega classic serve as an example
Browning Bryant ‘Liverpool Fool’
Browning Bryant was a teen sensation of some kind: he was only 16 years old when this song was recorded. The LP was produced by Allen Toussaint, who also wrote the majority of the songs. The backing band was The Meters(!), giving the record a superb New Orleans flavour.
Peter Gallway ‘Harmony Grits’
A bit of a slippery case, category-wise. Somewhat folky, somewhat jazzy – and definitely smooth 70’s SSW feel all over this one.
Caliban ‘Digital Reggae’
Stretching the terminology a bit with this obscure 7″ private press release from the mysterious UK artist Caliban. Nice-yet-not-smooth mix of synth funk and guitar shreds in a freaky backbeat setting. Payola$ meets 10cc on acid.
Joe Vitale ‘Man Gonna Love You’
Joe’s debut album operates more on the classic rock side, and contains nice cuts like the short but sweet “Step On You”, but things really took off with the cosmic Plantation Harbour LP. Top tunes are plenty, “Man Gonna Love You” leaning ever so slightly towards the tropical.
Attitudes ‘In A Stranger’s Arms’
Attitudes, like so many AOR bands (beginning with Toto), was created in a Los Angeles bar where a couple of studio musicians decided to give it a go. The band’s four members came together while working as session musicians during the recording of George Harrison’s album Extra Texture (Read All About It).
Bill LaBounty ‘Livin’ It Up’
The ultimate dude emancipation song – with a twist. Easily the most requested tune at our AOR parties: we have a good crowd.
Gordon Haskell ‘The Right Time’
Ethereal balearica AOR from the former King Crimson bass player/vocalist. On the verge of being too senile, even for me, but let’s slip it in anyhow.
Don Brown ‘Don’t Lose Your Love’
A fellow DJ Tony Sirén tipped me about the mellow AOR disco vibes of this song. The 12” seems a bit difficult to obtain, but the track is included in a compilation called Wheedle’s Groove Volume II that sure looks interesting.
Terence Boylan ‘Don’t Hang Up Those Dancing Shoes’
Sometimes AOR is such an easy genre for a record collector. If you prefer the LP format it gets even easier: this stuff is all around you and it’s mostly dirt cheap. By the way of an example: Teemu Fiilin (a key member of the Helsinki AOR mafia) picked up this slow burner from a dollar bin at Fennica Records.
The Doobie Brothers ‘Real Love’
The single sided promo 12” of this. Perfect for that 23.00 “party about to start” moment.
Lindsey Buckingham ‘Trouble’
Lindsey Buckingham’s first solo album Law and Order is pretty solid. It also appears to be very edit-friendly: at least two of the songs have been modernized for the dance floor of today – ‘Johnny Stew’ by Justin Vandervolgen and ‘Trouble’ by Prince Language. Both edits are pretty useful, think Siltanen around midnight.
Pat Benatar ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’
For whatever reason, lists like this tend to gravitate towards the masculine. But there’s a galaxy of noteworthy female artists, too; like Pat Benatar with this AOR My Love staple. Gotta love the 80% rocking vibe. (The song also happens to be super delightful to play on Guitar Hero.)
Loredana Bertè ‘In Alto Mare’
Super funky Italian AOR from the Bangers folder. Works wonders in almost any circumstances.
Mikael Rickfors ‘Turn To Me’
AOR was huge in Sweden, and the breezy vibes are still strong (at least in Göteborg). This Chris Rea -esque 12” from Mikael is one of the big singles from the era. Someone told me that this was recorded in Compass Point Studios (legendary recording studio founded by the owner of Island Records, Chris Blackwell), but don’t quote me on that.
Strix Q ‘Det Känns Som Första Gången’
Another nugget from Sweden is this jazzy AOR-disco number from Magnus Uggla’s backing band. (Yes, these guys play on the underground smash hit “Sommartid”, too.)
Nohelani Cypriano ‘Lihue’
Anthem level Hawaiian AOR bliss. Also sampled in Ruudolf’s ‘Herttoniemest ikuisuuteen‘. I would give credit to Dj Anonymous for introducing the song to the Helsinkians.
Fleetwood Mac ‘The Chain’
Obviously, there’s a shitload of Mac songs that could end up on the list. You could probably compose the whole thing exclusively of Mac songs. Sometimes you just want to drop a slow burner at peak hour: this tune is tried and trusted.
Starbuck ‘A Fool In Line’
Even though the debut single ‘Moonlight Feels Right’ is the definitive Starbuck track, I thoroughly enjoy the reserved synth funk vibe of the ‘A Fool In Line’. Xylophone solo included.
Alessi ‘Driftin’ ‘
It just doesn’t get more L.A. than this.
Dan Hartman ’I Can Dream About You’
Our AOR nights tend to flow in the following pattern: 60s SSW music—cosmic-y weirdo stuff—70s west coast soft rock—80s club bangers—WMD level TUNES (‘Boys Of Summer’, ‘Edge of Seventeen’, ‘Ride Like The Wind’, ‘Africa’, etc. – usually at this point Teemu drops some Van Halen to the mix, too; giving the audience a glimpse of the “other”, heavy metal side of AOR). Here’s a track representing the 80s club stuff bang on: play it after whatever song and you’re golden.
Pat Metheny Group and David Bowie ‘This Is Not America’
Pat and his group are responsible for a large number of softies. ‘Slip Away’ and ‘Are You Going With Me’ are a touch on the cosmic side and could end up on this list easy. But there’s something in Bowie’s melancholy vocal performance that lifts this song to a different level.
Bruce Hornsby And The Range ‘The Way It Is’
People surely react to this song because of Tupac, but just listen to the original song. So epic, and what a world class air piano opening. There’s a message in the music.
Toto ‘Takin’ It Back’
The futuristic sounds of the intro must have been sampled a number of times. Solid Groove & Sinden’s ‘Overbooked’ is a somewhat forgettable, yet still nice example from the 2006 club music sector.
Carly Simon ‘Why’
Truly one of the most epic ones. This has been around forever (Larry Levan played it in Paradise Garage) and still if you go to any decent midsize club or a bar with a sound system, you might easily hear this as one of the last songs. The Chic production packs such energy, reminding us once again that the BPM count doesn’t matter.
Rush ‘Spirit Of The Radio’
Now, I know some of you might wonder why the hell would anyone include a song like this to a list like this. But hell, I’ve played the track at AOR parties with great success. This is one of those pieces of art that manages to be dumb and smart at the same time (think Gustave Flaubert’s Bouvard et Pécuchet or Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers of R. Kelly’s Trapped In The Closet). What a power song – and an apt ending to our AOR list.
As an addition to this, DJ Fiskars Everlasting Cuts can be found here.