This Chicago band actually sprung from the ashes of
early 70s one-hit wonders the Ides of March, remembered for the fun and
funky rocker "Vehicle." That one song to this day probably gets more
airplay than the bigger hits that Survivor made their stock-in-trade in
their giddy five year run as one of the biggest meat-and-potatoes singles
bands of the arena rock era.
Their first shot over the bow of the pop charts was
actually something of an oddity for the band. "Poor Man's Son" seemed
to be equally inspired by Styx and Springsteen, a blue-collar anthem
anchored on a funky guitar and organ line.
This brought the group to the attention of the man who
would become the band's mentor and benefactor for a few years... actor
Sylvester Stallone. He asked Survivor to write the theme to his movie
Rocky III. The song "Eye of the Tiger" became Survivor's only number one single and is
still the song they are best remembered for. It is a good enough song,
definitely a classic of the period with its macho, pounding guitar lines and
self-help book lyrics. Listening to Survivor's compilation, though,
you realize that it is far from their best song.
of the Tiger was much worse, "American Heartbeat" is everything that was
wrong with 80s rock (generic beat, mullet-headed lyrics) distilled into a
four minute chunk. The follow-up album, 1983's Caught In the Game
was something of a stiff, even though the title track (also included here)
was actually one of the better pop-rock singles the band recorded.The second single from their breakthrough 1982
The group didn't really hit its stride until their
1984 Vital Signs album. That album's
three hit singles were near perfect examples of the decade's arena rock.
"I Can't Hold Back" has the group "out-Journeying" Journey
with a soaring,
up-tempo love ballad that is simply gorgeous. The giddy love popster
"High On You" is also stunning in its simple hookiness. Then they turned down the lights for the smoochy
ballad "The Search Is Over," a song tailor-made for 10,000 swaying fans to
hold up their lighters to. Pleasantly, it is also one of the more
memorable power ballads of the time, and has aged surprisingly well.
Everything after that was a bit of a let-down, though
they did have a huge hit with another Rocky theme song ("Burning
Heart" from Rocky IV was as unmemorable as the movie it was used in)
and in "Is It Love?" they recorded one more near perfect love single.
The band never really recaptured the spotlight, and songs like the okay power
ballad "Man Against the World" and the on-auto-pilot rocker "Didn't Know It
Was Love" suggest that this wasn't all that unfair. "Desperate Dreams"
is the one later single here that sticks out as one that got away.
I was a little disappointed to find one song missing
here that I would consider a natural for this compilation; the band's "The
Moment of Truth" was a minor hit from the film The Karate Kid.
However, other than that one omission, this is a good reminder of a
solid, if sometimes overlooked 80s band.