Deep Album Cuts Vol. 21: The Pretenders

This month, Chrissie Hynde released her first solo album ever, Stockholm. This is remarkable both because she's 62 years old (and amazingly well preserved), and because I never thought she'd have any need to make an album outside of The Pretenders. Half of the band's founding lineup died tragically after their 2nd album, and the only other surviving member besides Hynde, drummer Martin Chambers, has sat out a couple albums since then (1990's Packed! and 2008's Break Up The Concrete) while remaining a touring member most of that time. She'd collaborated with other artists many times before, and in 2011 released an album with the group J.P., Chrissie & The Fairground Boys that was pretty good, but that record was done with another singer/songwriter. Stockholm is all Chrissie Hynde, and it really sounds like a Pretenders album, really one of the  best in a while. Still, a good time to look back at the catalog of a great, great band.

The Pretenders Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. The Wait
2. Mystery Achievement
3. Up The Neck
4. Tattooed Love Boys
5. Bad Boys Get Spanked
6. The English Roses
7. Jealous Dogs
8. Watching The Clothes
9. I Hurt You
10. I Remember You
11. Light Of The Moon
12. Downtown (Akron)
13. When Will I See You
14. Love Colours
15. Nails In The Road
16. One More Time
17. Complex Person
18. Walk Like A Panther
19. Almost Perfect
20. The Last Ride

Tracks 1, 2, 3 and 4 from Pretenders (1980)
Tracks 5, 6 and 7 from Pretenders II (1981)
Tracks 8 and 9 from Learning To Crawl (1984)
Tracks 10 and 11 from Get Close (1986)
Tracks 12 and 13 from Packed! (1990)
Track 14 from Last Of The Independents (1994)
Tracks 15 and 16 from ┬íViva El Amor!  (1999)
Tracks 17 and 18 from Loose Screw (2002)
Tracks 19 and 20 from Break Up The Concrete (2008)

I did something with this mix that I hadn't done in any of the 20 previous Deep Album Cuts mixes: I presented the artist's career in chronological order. I've often considered the possibility of doing that, but there's always been some compelling reason not to, usually because I had some particular sequence in mind or a killer opening track not on the first album (not an issue here since "The Wait" has always been my favorite Pretenders song) or a killer clocking track not on the most recent album. This does have the consequence of the frontloading the mix with the great James Honeyman-Scott/Pete Farndon stuff from the first two albums and leaving the often unfairly ignored later albums to try and live up to those. But from a sequencing standpoint, it worked for me, and I think the whole thing holds together and shows how consistent The Pretenders have been over the years. And while Get Close is a bit too glossy and Break Up The Concrete is a little too lo-fi, I think the band has survived the changing fashions in rock production well and it's nice to just hear the very gradual changes in sound over the decades.

Pretenders is one of my favorite albums of all time, and Pretenders II is a fine sequel, although at times it feels very much like a sequel -- another Kinks cover, and "Bad Boys Get Spanked" is such a clear successor to "Tattooed Love Boys" that I enjoyed putting them back-to-back on this mix. Learning To Crawl has the Thriller-like distinction of only having 2 tracks that weren't released as singles, and both are included here. Johnny Marr briefly joined The Pretenders right after The Smiths broke up, and a very good track he co-wrote with Hynde, "When Will I See You," showed up on Packed! a few years later. Highlights from the later albums including the incredible vocal performance on "One More Time," and a couple odes to Hynde's native Ohio, "Downtown (Akron)" and "Almost Perfect," to set alongside the hit "My City Was Gone."

Although several Pretenders albums have featured covers of songs originally by notable artists (Bob Dylan, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Divinyls), Get Close is the only album that features a couple of previously unknown songs not written by Chrissie Hynde. The hit "Hymn To Her" was supposedly written by an old friend of Hynde's while the track "Light Of The Moon" is a more mysterious case. One of the song's three co-writers, Carlos Alomar, wrote on a blog that it was a song by an unnamed band he was producing that he decided to submit to Jimmy Iovine for the Pretenders. Iovine had the band go back in the studio and add the song to the already-finished album as a potential hit, although it ended up not being released as a single at all. But Alomar was also an auxiliary member of Simple Minds, and at the time Hynde was married to Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr, and "Light Of The Moon" bears a conspicuous similarity to "Don't You (Forget About Me)," which was a huge hit just a year earlier. Weird stuff. Another interesting cover in the Pretenders catalog: "Walking Like A Panther," a UK hit by The All Seeing I co-written by Jarvis Cocker (come to think of it, I'd love to hear a proper Jarvis/Chrissie collaboration someday).

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
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