HELLOWEEN, Helloween EP Heavily influenced by Iron Maiden down to the outrageous album covers, German power-metal meisters Helloween layered welcome tongue-in-cheek humor into their arcane epics about long-vanished pagan tribes and Wagner's Ring cycle. They never quite broke through to the U.S. metal mainstream, but albums like Keeper of the Seven Keys, The Time of the Oath and The Dark Ride were plenty for them to accrue a respectable cult following stateside. As of 2013's Straight Out of Hell, Helloween is still powerin' on.
Did You Know? In fall 1985, the prolific Helloween followed their EP with the album Walls of Jericho, featuring the songs "Metal Invaders," "Reptile" and "Ride the Sky."
WHITNEY HOUSTON, Whitney Houston Even more than the runaway blockbuster it became, eventually selling more than 13 million copies, some have marked Whitney Houston as the beginning of pop's "diva era." Certainly between the frothy "How Will I Know" and ginormous ballads "Saving All My Love For You" and "The Greatest Love of All," it went a long way towards defining R&B's poppier side for the latter half of the '80s. It was released on Valentine's Day, when Houston was all of 21 years old.
Did You Know? Jackson 5 alumnus Jermaine Jackson, aka Michael's brother, is one of the album's producers.
CHRIS ISAAK, Silvertone In 1985, Elvis was certainly a less distant memory than today -- he had only been dead for eight years -- but pompadoured crooner Chris Isaak quickly jogged people's memories even as he charmed people his own age. Although Roy Orbison is probably a closer parallel due to his goosebump-raising croon, when it came to mid-'80s rock singers Isaak could brood like nobody's business. Thankfully he remains a potent mid-size draw who still comes through the Arena Theatre or House of Blues every few years.
Did You Know? Isaak got a big boost the next year when "Gone Ridin'," a snarling rockabilly number that proved he weren't no pretty boy, was featured in David Lynch's Blue Velvet.
LL COOL J, Radio Radio was one of the first albums that alerted America to hip-hop culture, going gold at a time when rap was all but unheard of outside New York City. It wouldn't have if not for the MC at its center, as 17-year-old LL bursts with testosterone-fueled charisma and attacks the mike like it had just hit on his sister. Meanwhile, it helped Rick Rubin transition Def Jam from a punk/hardcore label into one that would shortly release records by Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys, and thus change American culture as we know it. Needless to say, Radio still sounds great today.
Did You Know? The first full-length album released on Def Jam records; before this, Rubin had only put out singles.
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CHARLIE SEXTON, Pictures For Pleasure Austin-raised Charlie Sexton was already a seasoned veteran of Joe Ely and local soul legend W.C. Clark's bands by the time he cut Pictures for Pleasure at age 17. Memorable mostly for the classic New Wave single "Beat's So Lonely," the album set Sexton up as a potential teen idol, but his destiny lie along a different path: in the early '90s he and Doyle Bramhall Jr. teamed with Stevie Ray Vaughan's surviving rhythm section to start the Arc Angels, one of the greatest groups in rock history to release only one album (1992's Arc Angels). Sexton is back in stores this week as Bob Dylan's lead guitarist on Shadows In the Night, his third time to hold the position since 1999.
Did You Know? Sexton, his brother Will, Dave Matthews and Jakob Dylan are part of a supergroup called the Nauts, who have recorded but are yet to release an album.
BONUS: FIVE MORE DEBUTS FROM 1985
A-Ha, Hunting High and Low
Allison Krauss, Different Strokes
The Jesus and Mary Chain, Psychocandy
Love and Rockets, Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven
Sisters of Mercy, First and Last and Always
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