(In alphabetical order)
1) Cadillac by Fandango (1980)
This was Joe Lynn Turner's band, before joining Rainbow, and making a big name of himself. In the album Cadillac the AOR seeds had been sown, but still maintaining a Southern Rock style. So the album is a good mix of Southern Rock and AOR. It didn't produce any hit, but this of course doesn't mean it sucks. Blame It On The Night and Stranger were released as singles though. But the most interesting cuts here would be Fortune Teller and Gateaway. The former could easily be a Rainbow's song as well!
2) Explorer Suite by New England (1980)
This is definitely the best number among the list. A blend of Power Pop/ New Wave/ AOR/ Progressive Rock and even Symphonic Rock! It's one of those albums that you must listen to before you die in my opinion. But like it happens with many great albums, this album was a commercial failure. The A-Side is just excellent. The opener Honey Money and Conversation are excellent examples of Powerpoppish AOR. But the best cut of the album would definitely be the title track. With one word, it's just EPIC! The B-Side isn't bad either. Sealed With A Kiss and Hey You're On The Run have some great guitar and keyboard work respectively, and Hope is another good long cut (6 minutes long), but not that great as the title track. You'll Be Born Again is the weakest cut of the album, but it words perfectly as a Fade-out of an awesome album, like this.
3) Hi-Infidelity by REO Speedwagon (1980)
This was the album that made REO Speedwagon international superstars. Their rise to stardom, started slowly with You Can Tune A Piano But You Can’t Tuna Fish, and continued with Nine Lives, and finally reached the top with Hi-Infidelity. Every song on this album could be a hit. The biggest hits of the album, were the two Power Ballads, Keep On Loving You and Take It On The Run, and generally all songs on the A-Side were excellent, with my favorite being the opener Don’t Let Him Go. The B-Side wasn’t bad either, but not as strong as the A-Side, with Tough Guys being the most notable cut here, mostly of being perhaps the first song among the Melodic Rock genre using sampling techniques, particularly a sample from a movie.
4) Love Crimes by Harlequin (1980)
An underrated Canadian Rock band, that never managed to capture Loverboy's success (see below)., not even by half. Was it not good production of the albums? Lack of promotion maybe? Anyway, what it matters is, Harlequin deserved more than this. Anyway, Love Crimes is considered Harlequin''s best work, featuring two singles. Innocence and Thinking Of You, which were just their most recognizable songs. I wouldn't call them hits. Other interesting cuts here are, It's All Over Now, Heaven (Dial 999) and also the almost Progressivish Crime Of Passion.
5) Loverboy by Loverboy (1980)
The debut album of the biggest Canadian Rock band of the 80s. They really got lucky indeed (pun intended!). One of the strongest debuts in music, with Turn Me Loose, being their first big hit. And not only. It was one of the songs that defined the AOR genre in the later years. Their debut album was marketed as New Wave/Power Pop by the way, which is half true. Many AOR bands in the early 80s were marketed as such, because AOR wasn't a definitive genre yet, by the time. Also some cuts of the album, like the opener The Kid Is Hot Tonite (another hit from their debut as well), and Little Girl, fall into this category. Lady Of The 80s, Teenage Overdose and D.O.A. are stand-out cuts too. A must for the fans of the genre!
6) Matthew Fisher by Matthew Fisher (1980)
This one is a really cult album where I live, particularly in a certain region. It might had been a commercial failure in his homeland (UK), but here many songs from this unfairly overlooked album turned into hits, most notably Why’d I Have To Fall In Love With You. It had other very good cuts as well, like the ballad Only A Game, or the more Powerpoppish Give It A Try, and also the closer Running From Your Love with its string arrangements.
7) Never Run, Never Hide by Benny Mardones (1980)
Benny Mardones was an One-hit wonder artist, known for his song Into The Night, which almost reached the US Top 10. He is listed as a Blue-Eyed Soul which is definitely wrong. The guy was an AOR artist, he had nothing to do with lousy Soul crooners. Apart from Into The Night, this album contained other excellent cuts. The opener She's So French has some awesome guitar work, the very good American Bandstand which was a tribute to the famous American show of the same name, the Newwavish Hometown Girls and the Power Ballad Too Young. An overlooked artist, who was more than just Into The Night.
8. Permanent Waves by Rush (1980)
This one might fall under the Progressive Rock category. But since at this point Rush started to develop a more commercial sound, they might be branded as AOR. Actually the A-Side was leaning towards an AOR direction, whilst the B-Side was more Progressive Rock. The opener The Spirit Of Radio is an AOR classic and was a big radio hit, especially in the UK. Freewill released as a single but without any commercial success, and Jacob's Ladder might have been a hit I believe, if some Radio Edit version was released.
9) The Strand by The Strand (1980)
Another one of the overlooked albums, of the early AOR era. But let’s be honest here, this album could be better. It had awesome synths, but lacked guitar work to give it some kind of kick. Maybe with some good guitar work the album could go better. They released two singles called Long Hot Summer or Can't Look Back but still none of them managed to make any commercial appeal. Other good cuts from this album would also be Just A Little More Time, Prisoners In Paradise and I Like It Like That. Another notable thing here about the synths, is the fact they sound a lot like early 80s Arcade Games!
10) Touch by Touch (1980)
Someone can say, this is the album that pretty much defined the AOR sound during the following years. Listen to this album to notice how mid-80s it sounds. Unfortunately they only had only two minor hits, particularly Don’t You Know What Love Is and When The Spirit Moves You, whilst it should be one of the Top albums of this year. Each track is a hit of its own here. The power ballad Love Don’t Fail Me Now? Yes (You Need To Rock ‘n Roll) maybe? So high with its excellent guitar work? Or the awesome cover art with this sexy girl? Don’t get what got wrong with this album and it went so bad. But Touch would be remembered as the very first band who played in the big UK Festival Monsters Of Rock.