Classic Album – The Cars – debut (CD review)

The Cars (1978) – – CD review –

The debut album from the Cars still sounds fresh, and you can’t get away from the songs; they get played on classic rock, oldies, AC, even all-eighties stations dig back for their songs; and for good reason.

The Cars is a perfect blend of the seventies rock that was out then, and the eighties New Wave that would soon rule the charts.  There’s enough guitar grit in the crunchy power chords and Elliot Easton’s rubbery solos to keep the rock guys happy, but there’s also just enough element of odd in Greg Hawkes keyboards, and especially in Ric Ocasek’s and Benjamin Orr’s vocals, which sound British, even though they were from Boston.

I don’t know how many times “Just What I Needed” gets played, yet it still jumps out of the speakers.  Smartly, side one opens with all three singles (“Good Times Roll,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” and “Just What I Needed”) in a row.  And, any red-blooded male will have a soft spot for “Moving in Stereo,” later featured to great effect in Fast Times at Ridegmont High (Phoebe Cates, anyone?).

It’s easy to want to give credit for the great sound and arrangements on the record to stalwart producer Roy Thomas Baker.  However, a 2002 reissue of this album featured these songs in demo form, showing that the Cars had these songs already in tip-top shape.  The only thing Baker added was a fine layer of gloss and his signature Queen-like background vocals.

The album is sequenced so the songs follow with little or no space between them, especially on side two, where the songs actually fade into one another.   This was neither dinosaur rock nor weird New Wave but a perfect mix of both.  The Cars would keep this mix together for their followup, the decent Candy-O, and then plunge headlong into New Wave and keyboards would dominate their remaining albums.  They would score bigger hits, but the Cars still stands as their greatest achievement.  — Tony Peters


Let me set the scene for this one: it’s my tenth birthday and I have just gotten my first stereo system! That alone would have been enough, but when your best friend shows up with a copy of “The Cars“ debut album for your gift, it is a birthday I will never forget. The best friend in the story you ask? The one and only Tony Peters! What a great pick too.  This kid knew good music before he could walk. Benjamin Orr, the bass player, grew up in Lakewood, Ohio and went to school with my aunt. He was Benjamin Orzechowski at that time. They just called him Benny 11 letters. Every track on this album is great.   This album begs to be listened to in its entirety and the last two tracks “Moving in Stereo”and “All Mixed Up” demand it. This album is sure to be a favorite for anyone.  — James McCann