Mountain – Nantucket Sleighride

ARTIST: Mountain

TITLE: Nantucket Sleighride

YEAR RELEASED: 1971

CHART ACTION:  #16 US, #43 UK

SINGLES: The Animal Trainer and the Toad (#76)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Don’t Look Around, Nantucket Sleighride (To Owen Coffin)

LINEUP: Leslie West, Felix Pappalardi, Steve Knight, Corky Laing

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The follow-up release for this loud proto-metal band doesn’t have the high of “Mississippi Queen”, but it’s a better album through and through.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Roaring out of the gate with “Don’t Look Around”, Mountain starts its second album like their first. However, instead of being a disappointment after that blast, the band settles in and delivers pretty decent cuts.

The title track, an elegy to Owen Coffin, who was an unfortunate victim of the shipwreck of the whaler Essex (the Dollop did an episode about it, and Owen Chase, a survivor, wrote a fantastic account about it. Coffin volunteered himself so others may survive). It’s a creative and moving telling of the tale (up to the shipwreck) and Mountain’s best song.

The other tracks don’t devolve into snoozers like the previous record. Even with a darker subject (“Tired Angels” is dedicated to Jimi Hendrix), Mountain keeps it heavy for most of the record, as they should. Sadly, this is the last Mountain record worth anything, unless you just LOVE blustery long live versions. And by long, I mean side or two side long.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band had some co-writers. Felix Pappalardi’s wife, Gail Collins, wrote most of the lyrics, but Sue Palmer also contributed lyrics as well.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A single and a live track. Nothin’ special.

GRADE B+:  This album has enough heavy tracks to make you eschew the compilation and grab this in total.  

Mountain – Climing!

ARTIST: Mountain

TITLE: Climing!

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION:  #17

SINGLES: Mississippi Queen (#21), For Yasgur’s Farm (#107)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Theme from an Imaginary Western

LINEUP: Leslie West, Felix Pappalardi, Steve Knight, Corky Laing

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Most of the band that backed Leslie West at Woodstock take the name Mountain (after his solo album) and release a record that has a couple of memorable tracks.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Let’s get this out of the way…”Mississippi Queen” has earned a place in the pantheon of riffs and intros. It’s been sampled enough to make it recognizable even if you know nothing else about the song or it.

Then there’s “Theme from an Imaginary Western”, where producer of Cream and now group member Felix Pappalardi had heard when producing Jack Bruce’s solo album and nicked it for Woodstock and this album. Those opened side one. To open side two, he also brought “For Yasgur’s Farm” from that performance as well.

And…meh.

There are a couple of soft throwaways, a few heavy throwaways, and you’re left with a semi-unsatisfying finish to a record that started with a great 1-2 punch. “For Yasgur’s Farm” isn’t anything to write home about, and sounds way too much like “Theme…” to make an impact. Mountain pulled its punches when it could have been a pile driver.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Originally, the drummer for the combo was N. D. Smart (formerly of the Remains and later with Gram Parsons). But other commitments got in the way so Laing stepped in. Also, at Woodstock “For Yasgur’s Farm” was titled “Who Am I but You and the Sunset

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A verison appends the live version of “For Yasgur’s Farm”.

GRADE B-:  The 1-2 punch from the beginning saves the record, but barely.  

Scorpions – Taken By Force

ARTIST: Scorpions

TITLE: Taken By Force

YEAR RELEASED: 1977

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: He’s a Woman – She’s a Man, Sails of Charon

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Steamrock Fever, We’ll Burn the Sky

LINEUP: Klaus Meine, Uli Jon Roth, Rudolf Schenker, Francis Bucholz, Herman Rarebell

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The pinnacle and endpoint of the Uli Jon Roth era, which is their most consistent album before it falls off a clip with a LOOOONG slow ballad. Sigh.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Scorpions had eschewed their progressive side for several years and three albums, but that influence came roaring back with this album. The incredible “Sails of Charon” definitely veers into progressive rock and fantasy elements, and Uli Jon Roth’s guitar playing in both riff and solo is incredible.

The band sounds tighter and more focused, which may be due to new drummer Herman Rarebell. The opener, “Steamrock Fever”, introduces the double-tracked harmonies of Klaus Meine, which becomes a trademark for the band as they continue their career.

Yet, I can’t rate this an “A” because the very last track of the original album, “Born to Touch Your Feelings” is an interminable slow ballad. The Scoprions wouldn’t or couldn’t stay away from them. Alas.


NOTES & MINUTIAE: Yet another controversial cover, but this time only because of the image of the graveyard and the gun battle juxtaposed with the tombstones.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a track (“Suspender Love”) and a live version of “Polar Nights” originally left off of the original CDs of their live album.

GRADE B+:  One track can really upset the apple cart on the grade. I was all prepared to give this an “A-“ but that last ballad…oof.

Scorpions – Virgin Killer

ARTIST: Scorpions

TITLE: Virgin Killer

YEAR RELEASED: 1976

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Virgin Killer, Pictured Life

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Catch Your Train

LINEUP: Klaus Meine, Uli Jon Roth, Rudolf Schenker, Francis Bucholz, Rudy Lenners. Achim Kirschning played keyboards when needed.  

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The moment when the Scorpions really get their act together and start world domination. Or would have, if that cover didn’t get in the way. (NOTE: There is no way in hell that I’m showing the original cover. Wikipedia got a pass – I don’t think I will).

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After three albums, this band of German rockers found their niche, and on this, their fourth album, they pert near perfected their hard rock tracks. The songs written by Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker have caught up to Uli Jon Roth’s contributions (for the most part). And Roth’s guitar work is still as unpredictable and invigorating as ever.

Four of the five songs on the first side, concluding with the title track (a song about time ravaging the youth – no, really). Yet, Roth still sings two tracks (he shouldn’t have), and there were two ballads that interfered with their rock-and-roll fury.

This is close to the pinnacle of the 70’s Scorpions, and got them into bigger venues around Europe and some whispers in the states. Alas…the cover.


NOTES & MINUTIAE: The controversy about the cover is in the Wikipedia page for this album (along with the original cover). It’s…not the smartest thing they ever did.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Nope.

GRADE B:  If they could have stopped with the bland ballads and Roth singing, this would have been a great record through and through, But I’m yelling about this 46 years in the future…so it’s a bit late, right?

The Scorpions – In Trance

ARTIST: Scorpions

TITLE: In Trance

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: In Trance

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Top of the Bill

LINEUP: Klaus Meine, Uli Jon Roth, Rudolf Schenker, Francis Bucholz, Rudy Lenners. Achim Kirschning played keyboards when needed.  

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After mixing epic prog with hard rock, the Scorpions drop the prog and focus on mid-70’s hard rock with decent results.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After a decade, and a big band shakeup in 1973, the Scorpions seemed to get it together with this, their third album. (Their first is practically a different band, and meh, their second isn’t streaming but many cuts are on comps). Uli Jon Roth breaks out on this album, instilling many songs with classic riffs along with guitar wizardry that many after tried to copy.

While a more concise song attack is helpful, the inclusion of some less than exciting ballads really slow the momentum. The first side has two snoozers in particular. Also, Roth vocalizes on two cuts (Klaus Meine really should be the only voice for the Scorps) and Roth’s instrumental is kind of a snoozer.

Still, this is a step forward for the band, and set the stage for their eventual success.


NOTES & MINUTIAE: This is the first of many Scorpions album covers to cause controversy, and that they had to change up after release. Their next album’s cover would DEFINITELY cause consternation.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Nope.

GRADE B-:  It’s an halfway decent album with a couple of lasting tracks and some ballads that just fall flat. It may be best to seek out the three comps of their RCA work and grab the best cuts,

Ray Charles – True Genius

ARTIST: Ray Charles

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TITLE: True Genius

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Top 10: Georgia on My Mind (#1 US, #3 R&B, #24 UK), Ruby (#28 US, #10 R&B), One Mint Julep (#8 US, #1 R&B), I’ve Gor News for You (#66 US, #8 R&B), Hit the Road Jack (#1 US, #1 R&B, #6 UK), Unchain My Heart (#9 US, #1 R&B), Hide Nor Hair (#20 US, #7 R&B), I Can’t Stop Loving You (#1 US, #1 R&B, #1 UK), You Don’t Know Me (#2 US, #5 R&B, #9 UK), You Are My Sunshine (#7 US, #1 R&B), Take These Chains From My Heart (#8 US, #7 R&B, #5 UK), No One (#21 US, #9 R&B, #35 UK), Busted (#4 US, #3 R&B, #21 UK), Baby Don’t You Cry (#39 US, #7 R&B), Makin’ Whoopie (#46 US, #10 R&B, #42 UK), Crying Time (#6 US, #5 R&B, #36 UK), Together Again (#19 US, #10 R&B, #48 UK), Let’s Go Get Stoned (#31 US, #1 R&B), Here We Go Again (#15 US, #5 R&B)< Yesterday (#25 US, #9 R&B, #44 UK), I’ll Be Good to You (#18 US, #1 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: In the Heat of the Night, I Don’t Need No Doctor

LINEUP: Ray Charles, the Raeletts, and session players and sometimes guests.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A compendium of Charles’ best tracks after leaving Atlantic Records. There’s some great stuff but it also showcases his decline as a performer and an influencer on the charts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Did you know that after 1963, Ray Charles only had one Top 10 pop hit? That he had just one #1 R&B hit after 1962? The decline of Ray Charles on the charts, which was steep after his groundbreaking Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music sets (1962 and 1963, is quite telling in this set.

In this set, Charles and / or his producers tried to be all things to all people. He dabbled in jazz, focused on C&W for a couple of years, returned to R&B and rock on occasion, and made most of his records in the vocal pop arena where his records were competing with many others. Charles, many times, had corny arrangements, too many strings, and backing vocals that inhibited him. He also had a heroin habit that he couldn’t kick until 1965.

He also owned his masters for this era, so recording fresh material wasn’t a big priority for him when his hits started to get play on oldies stations. Except for occasional sightings on the charts, he was more of a nostalgia act with a few C&W and R&B duets. As this set goes on, you wish that his voice wasn’t wasted on gunky adult contemporary ballads and unnecessary cover versions.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: His third arrest in 1964 was the one that got him to kick the habit. He had to choose rehab or jail, and wasn’t released from parole until 1966.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, and many of his post-Atlantic albums aren’t streaming, so you’re stuck with this.

GRADE B:  His Atlantic Records set is well worth the investment in time and money, even if you’re not a Charles completist. This, not so much. You have to pick and choose to avoid the syrup.

PAGES! I GOT PAGES!

No, not the yacht rock group!

But I’ve updated all of the pages where I dish out small reviews to various bands and records. This was an effort to clean up and out my catalog, so enjoy my leftovers, as it were!

Green River – Dry As a Bone / Rehab Doll

ARTIST: Green River 

TITLE: Dry As a Bone / Rehab Doll

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Swallow My Pride is probably the most well known one..

LINEUP: Mark Arm, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Bruce Fairweather, Alex Vincent

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A collection of the 1986-88 recordings by the seminal grunge band that shows a band always on the verge of imploding.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: They were doomed to be short lived. Shoehorning indie ride-or-dies with hard rock / metalheads set on a major label recording contract could only go on so long. Green River stuck around from 1984 through the end of 1987, finishing their last recordings after they technically split up. This collection takes their last two releases as a combo and adds in outtakes

 

Dry As a Bone was recorded in 1986, but not released for another year, and it is the more cohesive of the two records. Mark Arm’s more in charge and the songs seem more Mudhoney-like. By Rehab Doll, the guitarists and bassists won out in terms of song construction and style, and the safer aspects of their tastes dilute the end product. Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Bruce Fairweather then went on to form Mother Love Bone, and the former two later schemed up Pearl Jam.

While this is a good document for the evolution of Seattle, it’s not anything special not vital. The parts were greater than the sum.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They released an EP before this one that’s a bit edgier since Steve Turner (future Mudhoney) was in the group. Edgier, not better.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: C+: For historical use only, really.

The Impressions – People Get Ready: The Best of Curtis Mayfield’s Impressions

ARTIST: The Impressions

TITLE: People Get Ready: The Best of Curtis Mayfield’s Impressions

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Top 20: Gypsy Woman (#20 US, #2 R&B), It’s All Right (#4 US, #1 R&B), I’m So Proud (#14 US, #14 R&B), Keep On Pushing (#10 US), You Must Believe Me (#15 US), Amen (#7 US), People Get Ready (#14 US, #3 R&B), Woman’s Got Soul (#29 US, #9 R&B), Meeting Over Yonder (#48 US, #12 R&B), Can’t Satisfy (#65 US, #12 R&B). You Always Hurt Me (#96 US, #20 R&B), We’re a Winner (#14 US, #1 R&B), We’re Rolling On (#59 US, #17 R&B), I Loved and I Lost (#61 US, #9 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really. It’s packed with B-sides and deep cuts too.

LINEUP: Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden, Fred Cash. Session musicians. Richard and Arthur Brooks sang with them early in their ABC career.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A great and deep collection of the ABC / Paramount years for the Impressions, when Curtis Mayfield masterminded the sound and style.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Surviving the loss of lead singer Jerry Butler and moving to Chicago to record for ABC / Paramount, Curtis Mayfield guided the Impressions through the 60’s.

Mayfield was the songwriter for the Impressions and also wrote solo hits for Butler, and using his songs and production by Johnny Pate the vocal trio (they lost the Brooks brothers after 1962) went from standard R&B towards more socially conscious and uplifting songs, and a more contemporary soul sound, Everyone now knows “People Get Ready”, but from the original “Gypsy Woman” through “We’re a Winner” the group evolved without losing quality.

This collection scoops up 40 tracks recorded for ABC / Paramount before they left for Mayfield’s own record company. Mostly a singles act until 1967, this is the best way to experience the Impressions mid 60’s era. It’s full of great songs you know and gems hidden away.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Mayfield started to focus on albums with a message starting with We’re a Winner. The title of the album was also the motto for Curtom Records, Mayfield’s label

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: A: One of the keystone soul acts of the 60’s gets the collection they deserve.

Loudness – Crazy Nights

ARTIST: Loudness

TITLE: Crazy Nights

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Crazy Night, Let It Go, So Lonely, This Lonely Heart, You Shook Me

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Committed 80’s metal heads may know more

LINEUP: Minou Niihara, Akira Takasaki, Masayoki Yamashita, Munetaka Higuchi. Michael Vescera replaced Niihara in an effort to gain a US audience. Didn’t work.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Japanese heavy metal pioneers’ English major label output is compiled here. It’s better than a lot of their contemporaries.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: They came, they saw, they tried, they didn’t quite make it. Armed with riffs, a decent guitarist in Akira Takasaki, and a knowledge of the contemporary heavy metal scene, Loudness signed with Atco Records and make a try at stateside success.

The translated lyrics into English with some help, added some keyboards on occasion (from guys like Greg Giuffria) and the the results was pretty decent mainstream metal. The vocals didn’t really have any more accent than the Scorpions or other European metal bands, and they got a cult following by touring relentlessly.

Alas, in 1989 they made a play for the big time here, and got an US singer to front them. Well, it didn’t change their sound really, and didn’t break them. What’s worse, they alienated many Japanese fans. So…not good. They then lost their US contract and US singer bailed on them mid-tour to sing with..Yngwie Malmsteen. Welp.

You could do a lot worse than Loudness for your 80’s metal fix. Really, they’re a perfectly decent band that could fit right in with your Priest, Maiden, and Def Leppard.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: In 2001, they got the original band back together (OK, bass player Yamashita replaced the original original within a few weeks) until drummer Higuchi died of liver cancer in 2008. They regrouped and are still going strong. Their Wikipedia page is definitely translated from Japanese.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: They were decent enough that they should have had hits instead of some of the hair bands.