Greg Kihn Band – “Best of Beserkley” ’75-’84

ARTIST: Greg Kihn Band             kihn

TITLE: “Best of Beserkley” ’75-‘84

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Remember (#105 US), The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em) (#15 US, #5 Mainstream), Sheila (#102 US, #39 Mainstream), The Girl Most Likely (#104 US, #57 Mainstream), Testify (#5 Mainstream), Happy Man (#62 US, #30 Mainstream), Jeopardy (#2 US, #5 Mainstream, #1 Dance, #63 UK), Love Never Fails (#59 US0, Reunited (#101 US, #9 Mainstream)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not

LINEUP: Greg Kihn, Steve Wright, Larry Lynch, Dave Carpender, Gary Phillips. Later Greg Douglass replaced Carpender. Robbie Dunbar was in the band very early.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Journeyman power popper had a couple of ‘one hit wonder’ records, but this compilation shows off his strengths in power-pop goodness.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: For a nine year period, Greg Kihn and his band did an album and a tour, and slowly built up a fan base who enjoyed his knack for melody and arrangement. Every song on here has redeeming qualities, and in the right universe could have been almost as big as his two well-known tracks.

The core of the band (Kihn, Wright, Lynch) stayed together for several years and built a bedrock for Kihn’s songs. While he was in the power-pop space, he never had one sound or locked-in style. Most everything is pleasant, and harmless.

Kihn is still playing today, as two hits means you can continue for life if you want. This is a good overview and should suffice for your Kihn needs.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Joe Satriani was in a later version of the band and played on one album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B+: It’s definitely a better compilation than you’d think – since nothing else but those two songs got airtime for the most part.

ABC – The Lexicon of Love

ARTIST: ABC                                                ABC-Lexicon

TITLE: The Lexicon of Love

YEAR RELEASED: 1982

CHART ACTION: #24 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Tears Are Not Enough (#19 UK), Poison Arrow (#25 US, #39 Dance, #6 UK), The Look of Love (#18 US, #1 Dance, #4 UK), All of My Heart (#5 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Show Me

LINEUP: Martin Fry, Mark White, Stephen Singleton, David Palmer with Anne Dudley, Brad Lang, and others

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The ultimate sophisticated dance pop album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: ABC, arragner Anne Dudley and producer Trevor Horn constructed this witty, smart, and sophisticated album that somehow escapes pretention (for the most part) and whisks you into a world of love, loss, and wordplay.

Two tracks “Poison Arrow” and “The Look of Love” are well-known 80’s tracks, but the entire album is full of pop hooks, elegant arrangements, and witty lyrics. Even the requisite ballad “All of My Heart” isn’t just a weepy ballad – the arrangement is exquisite.

ABC wouldn’t scale these heights again, but this record cements their legacy.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had a long form video called “Mantrap” directed by Julien Temple.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, versions with B-sides and dance mixes.

 GRADE A+: Best of the new-romantic class.

David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

ARTIST: David Bowie                      220px-ZiggyStardust

TITLE: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: #21 US, #5 UK

SINGLES: Starman (#65 US, #10 UK), Rock and Roll Suicide (#22 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Lady Stardust, Ziggy Stardust, Suffragette City

LINEUP: David Bowie, Mick Robnson, Trevor Bolder, Mick Woodmansey. Rick Wakeman played on a track.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A cultural touchstone of the glam movement and an influence to punk and art-rock for 70’s kids in the UK.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sure, a dystopian concept album had been done before, and an album where music was going to save the kids had been done before. Also, albums done as a ‘character’ had been done before. Why was this such a success?

In short, the music, lyrics, and total commitment by Bowie to the Ziggy Stardust persona and the theme, which was intentional, or perhaps serendipity. Ziggy also spoke to disaffected, questioning youth everywhere. His clothes, his sexuality, everything. It spoke to those kids.

This is Bowie maturing as a songwriter and hitting the right note with everything on the record. The riffs, tones, and arrangements are on point. Even the cover song, “It Ain’t Easy”, fit right in. Today, the record can still speak to everyone, and that in itself is remarkable.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It was said that Ziggy was influenced by Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, and some others, like Vince Taylor

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, some outtakes and B-sides (like “Velvet Goldmine”) and a stand alone single “John, I’m Only Dancing (#12 UK)

 GRADE A+: It’s Bowie’s best and it still resonates.

Molly Hatchet – Molly Hatchet

ARTIST: Molly Hatchet                220px-Molly_Hatchet_-_Molly_Hatchet

TITLE: Molly Hatchet

YEAR RELEASED: 1978

CHART ACTION: #64

SINGLES: Dreams I’ll Never See

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Bounty Hunter, Gator Country

LINEUP: Danny Joe Brown, Dave Hlubek, Steve Holland, Duane Roaldn, Banner Thomas, Bruce Crump. Jai Winding played keyboards

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut album takes the torch from Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers, though not as successfully.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Florida’s Molly Hatchet was the next group up for Southern Rock fans, after the demise of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the meander to irrelevance of the Allman Brothers. This debut, in fact, covers “Dreams” by the Allman brothers, albeit with a new title and a different arrangement.

The three guitar lineup for Molly Hatchet was tight, without a lot of overplaying and or showing off. Some tracks really work (“Gator Country” and “Dreams I’ll Never See”) and some just seem perfunctory. The main difference for the band is the distinctive voice of Danny Joe Brown. That voice was a signature element of Molly Hatchet during their hitmaking years.

All in all, this is decently decent. There’s nothing that makes your head hurt, nor anything that makes you really want to play this 250 times in a row.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The cover paining is by Frank Frazetta, titled “The Death Dealer”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B: Not their best, far from their worst.

Cat Stevens – Matthew & Son

ARTIST: Cat Stevens                         220px-Matthew_and_Son_cover

TITLE: Matthew & Son

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #173 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: I Love My Dog (#118 US, #28 UK), Matthew & Son (#115 US, #2 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Here Comes My Baby

LINEUP: Cat Stevens, John Paul Jones, Nicky Hopkins, other session players

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A young singer and songwriter releases and album with a surprise hit or two in the UK.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is more of a pop oriented album than his more famous work, but that doesn’t mean its  just trifly throwaways.

Cat Stevens was just 18 when he started to record this album with some sessions that became singles and slowly worked on the album as time allowed. When it was released, it was better than you’d expect. The original for “Here Comes My Baby” is surprisingly strong with interesting percussion and the two hits are definitely keepers.

His voice is pretty unmistakable, even in his teenage years. The downfall is some of the tracks are a bit over-orchestrated and Stevens struggles to find his voice in the midst of the orchestrations. Still it’s pretty darn decent as these things go.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: In the US, they cut it from 14 tracks to 12, of course.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes a later single “I’m Gonna Get Me a Gun” (#6 UK)

 GRADE B: A baroque-pop album with little filler but a tad too much orchestration at times.

Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul

RTIST: Aretha Franklin                     220px-ArethaFranklinLadySoul

TITLE: Lady Soul

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: #2 US, #1 R&B, #25 UK

SINGLES: (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (#8 US, #2 R&B, #79 UK), Chain of Fools (#2 US, #1 R&B, #37 UK), (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone (#5 US, #1 R&B, #47 UK), Ain’t No Way (#16 US, #9 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Covers some well known tracks too

LINEUP: Aretha Franklin, Roger Hawkins, Eric Clapton, Bobby Womack, Joe South, Jimmy Johnson, Tommy Cogbill, Spooner Oldham, King Curtis, Warren Smith, other horn players, Erma Franklin, Carolyn Franklin, Cissy Houston

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A classic record containing crucial hits and soulful interpretations, backed by a crack band. What’s not to love?

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Featuring tracks written especially for her, some originals written by her or her sister, and some nice covers, this album burned up radio and turntables in 1968.

Two singles released in 1967 paved the way, whetting everyone’s appetite for the album. The first three singles are signature tracks for her entire career (interesting that “Natural Woman” only hit #8 since that’s such an anthem). Aretha’s depth shows while giving performances of the covers like “People Get Ready”. She puts it all in those tracks as well instead of just quickly finishing them to make the numbers.

With such a packed record, it shouldn’t be a question what grade to give it. The question should be is it better than her first Atlantic record. Hmmm….

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Carolyn Franklin wrote “Ain’t No Way”, which charted as a B-side. It’s that good.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, single mixes and a long version of “Chain of Fools”

 GRADE A+: Another classic Aretha record.

John Prine – Diamonds in the Rough

ARTIST: John Prine                     DiamondsJohnPrine

TITLE: Diamonds in the Rough

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: #148

SINGLES: Everybody

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Souvenirs, Yes I Guess They Oughta Name a Drink After You, The Great Compromise

LINEUP: John Prine, Steve Goodman, David Bromberg, Dave Prine, Steve Burgh

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from this troubadour mines the same territory of his excellent debut, but this time the song depth isn’t quite there. That’s kind of a quibble.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Instead of front to back classics, the second album from John Prine merely has some classics interspersed through the record. Oh, darn.

“Souvenirs” and “The Great Compromise” are on most people’s list of Prine favorites. Not everyone can get allusions to the compromised history of the US and Vietnam into the same song.

But a few tracks are too much like each other or like those from his first album. Variety is a little short here. The songs are mostly fine, but for that, the album suffers a bit.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The album took three days and focused on bluegrass and other country idioms.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A-: Not as rich as his debut, but it’s still a fine album.

 

Low – Long Division

ARTIST: Low                                    220px-Low_Long_Division

TITLE: Long Division

YEAR RELEASED: 1995

CHART ACTION: Nope

SINGLES: Shame

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Ummm…no

LINEUP: Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker, Zak Sally

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Sparse, slow, elegant.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Up there, I said sparse, slow, elegant to describe the album in an nutshell. I don’t think anything else can describe this album.

The second long-player from Low digs into the slowcore, with beauty in slowness, in space, in minor keys and harmonies. But it doesn’t seem depressing all the way through. It even sounds uplifiting at times when they move from a very quiet and spase arrangement to something more ‘lively’.

Tracks like “Violence”, “Caroline”, and others were a definite antidote to the post-grunge clatter that was happening. In its quiet, angst and hope are delivered without sound-alike noise.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: AllMusic lists a track as written by the guys in .38 Special. Though it shares a title, and Low has covered some oddball tracks outside of their idiom, this is not that .38 Special song.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A: The more you listen, the more you’re enchanted by the slow elegance.

 

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III

ARTIST: Led Zeppelin               220px-Led_Zeppelin_-_Led_Zeppelin_III

TITLE: Led Zeppelin III

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: The Immigrant Song *(#16)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Tangerine, That’s the Way

LINEUP: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the least well-known records is amongst its strongest.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Thinking of what “Classic Rock” radio plays of Led Zeppelin III, and I come up with “The Immigrant Song”. That’s it – that’s the list. It’s their loss, really. 220px-Led_Zeppelin_III_volvelle_

This album is rather bifurcated – with Side 1 being heavy duty (“Celebration Day”, “Out on the Tiles”) and Side 2 being of acoustic flavor (not necessarily quiet thanks to “Gallows Pole”). You hear Jimmy Page on banjo and John Paul Jones on mandolin and they’re quite skilled.

The heavy songs crunch, but have more tricks than the band’s earlier heavy tracks. The acoustic songs are a revelation. Sure, Jimmy Page dazzled with a couple of acoustic solos before, but the whole band shows their versatility – even John Bonham dials back the drums somewhat. Somewhat.

Only the experimental last track falls short, a tribute to eccentric’s eccentric Roy Harper. That downgrades the record a tad – until then it as pert near perfect.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The joining of the tracks between “Friends” and “Celebration Day” was due to an engineer accidentally erasing the beginning of the latter. Ooopsy.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes – a second disc with different mixes and a couple of outtakes. One (“Jennings Farm Blues”) became “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” when done acoustically.

 GRADE A: Underrated by the masses, but it’s one of their best overall.

The Mars Volta – Frances the Mute

ARTIST: The Mars Volta                   220px-Frances_the_Mute

TITLE: Frances the Mute

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: #4 US, #23 UK

SINGLES: The Widow (#95 US, #7 Alternative, #25 Mainstream), L’Via L’Viaquez (#53 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you bought it only…

LINEUP: Omar Rodriguez Lopez, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Jonb Theodore, Ikey Owens, Jaun Aldrete de la Pena, Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez. Also Lenny Castro, Flea, John Frusciante, Larry Harlow and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Impressive, yet ultimately overwhelming, concept album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The second record by the Mars Volta is a concept supposedly finding one’s birth parents, but it’s not as straight forward as you think. The story gets a bit lost as you listen to the staggeringly complex tracks.

Only one of the five tracks is under 10 minutes (“The Widow” at 5:50) and “Cassandra Gemini” is 32 ½ minutes long! Now, long songs don’t necessarily mean something is boring, pretentious, or indulgent, yet these tracks seem to verge upon being too much for anyone to take all at once, even with the great sounds and riffs. frances mute single

There’s also sound effect and found sounds through the record that disturb the flow (at least to may ears) and while they may be necessary for the ‘story’ I could do without.

I love the sound and idea of the story, it’s just way way too indulgent.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title track was left off the album for time, so it was released as a B-side and streams separately.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE C+: Maybe I need to spend more time with it, but it’s such a slog that the great parts are obfuscated by the breadth of the tracks.