The Way It Is
Native Virginian Bruce Hornsby embodied the phrase "music-business journeyman" before his breakout in 1986 with The Way It Is, his debut with the Range. He'd spent time in Sheena Easton's band and appeared on a Yellowjackets record or two before the smart, thoughtful pop-rock of this album's title cut hit the radio. Drawing on the quieter end of the singer-songwriter tradition, Hornsby and crew also showed knowledge of a wide range of American music beyond rock. ("Every Little Kiss," for instance, opens with a quote from Charles Ives.) The piano base of this music won Hornsby fans on the order of Elton John, and did much to bring acoustic textures to late-'80s mainstream radio. It remains a left-of-center emblem of what the airwaves would go for in a surprisingly omnivorous time musically.