Joe Walsh – Barnstorm

ARTIST: Joe Walsh 220px-Joe_Walsh_-_Barnstorm

TITLE: Barnstorm

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: #79

SINGLES: I’ll Tell the World About You

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Mother Says, Turn to Stone

LINEUP: Joe Walsh, Kenny Passarelli, Joe Vitale. Help from Pau; Harris, Al Perkins, Chuck Rainey and Bill Szymcyk.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Known as a guitar hero, Joe Walsh’s first project after leaving the James Gang is really a band (called Barnstorm) and explores some of the folkier and spacier aspects of his music.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: If you listened closely to the deep cuts on James Gang albums, you know that Joe Walsh wasn’t always a headstrong guitar hero. He explored textures and tones using synths and acoustic guitars as well as electric guitar and bass. It’s this motif that he focuses on with Barnstorm, his new trio, and his ‘solo’ debut album.

Walsh played a lot of the synthesizers himself, and drummer Joe Vitale also helped on keyboards and flute, while Kenny Passarelli held things down on the bottom. That versatility in the studio allowed for the tracks to be filled with interesting flourishes and excursions (especially on “One and One / Giant Bohemoth”. The songs were also not as raucous, with tracks like “Here We Go” and “Birdcall Morning” settling for mood instead of pyrotechnics.

This album didn’t have a hit, and one track (“Turn to Stone”) was remade two years later. Walsh fans really need to find this one as it reveals a lot about what Walsh wanted in his early solo career and what he was capable of.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He really wanted the record to just have the artist listed as Barnstorm, but ABC Records decided to add Walsh’s name to it. This lead to the trio’s demise after their second album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A: A great record that was hard to find for many years and thus a lot of the songs disappeared from consciousness.

Blackfoot – Strikes

ARTIST: Blackfoot 220px-Blackfoot_-_Strikes

TITLE: Strikes

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #42

SINGLES: Highway Song (#26), Train Train (#38)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover songs by Spirit, Blues Image and Free

LINEUP: Rickey Medlocke, Charlie Hargrett, Greg T. Walker, Jason Spires. Pat McCaffrey plays keyboards. Donna Davis, Pamela Vincent, and Cynthia Douglas sing backup Shorty Medlocke and Cub Koda play harmonica.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After many years and two failed albums, Southern rockers finally get some success.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Before this album came out, Blackfoot had been together off-and-on since the early 70’s, and had recorded two basically unheard albums in the mid-70’s. Leader Ricky Medlocke’s grandfather wrote “Train Train” and added the harmonica beginning which became the touchstone track for the band.

With only one other hit single to their credit (“Highway Song”), you’d be surprised that this album isn’t…bad at all. They cover three tracks that fit their style and the other originals aren’t slap-dash either.  What is odd that the two hits are the last two tracks on the album, with “Highway Song’ extended to 7 ½ minutes (the 70’s man). But you know, whatever. The production and the embellishments with the female backing vocals and some keyboards keep this away from strict guitar boogie.

Southern rock was waning, and Blackfoot was one of the last ones that carried the banner of that genre (along with .38 Special). While this isn’t award winning, for those who like that Southern rock type of boogie, you could do worse.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The last name of Rickey and Shorty was actually Medlock, but Shorty added the “e” and his grandson followed.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B: For a band that’s kind of an afterthought (and looked down upon at times), this is decent enough to keep around.

Billy Ellish – Don’t Smile at Me

ARTIST: Billy Ellish 220px-Billie_Eilish_-_Don't_Smile_at_Me

TITLE: Don’t Smile at Me

YEAR RELEASED: 2017

CHART ACTION: #14 US, #12 UK

SINGLES: Charting (they all were singles of some form): Ocean Eyes (#84 US, #72 UK), Bellyache (#103 US, #79 UK), Copycat (#112 UK), Idontwannabeyouanymore (#96 US, #78 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe – a lot of people streamed this

LINEUP: Billy Ellish, Finneas

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: EP that collected all of her early singles and recordings which act as a prelude and taster for her LP debut.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Billy Ellish didn’t just show up out of nowhere. Even though she’s young, in 2015 she was using Soundcloud to upload files – and “Ocean Eyes” became a hit on that service. It revealed a sophistication in melody and a production by her brother Finneas that made it hard to believe that she was just a teenager.

As the buzz happened, she and Finneas did more recordings and released them as singles or they were used for soundtracks. It’s rather impressive that she and her brother can conceive and release these tracks that are sophisticated and dark, and not necessarily custom made for the pop charts. She’s blazing her own trail which is refreshing.

This relatively short EP is a great intro to Ellish, if you have been under a rock this past year, and if you’re not, it shows that she and her brother were already making music that didn’t conform to pop’s barriers.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: As time went on, they added new singles to the very original EP release. You can do that with streaming.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, see above. And Japan, of course.

 GRADE A-: Even as early as 15, Ellish was creating her own brand of electropop.

Aztec Camera – High Land, Hard Rain

ARTIST: Aztec Camera 220px-High_Land,_Hard_Rain

TITLE: High Land, Hard Rain

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: #129 US, #22 UK

SINGLES: Pillar to Post, Oblivious (#18 UK), Walk Out to Winter (#64 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I doubt

LINEUP: Roddy Frame, Campbell Owens, Craig Gannon, Bernie Clark, Dave Ruffy

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Melodic jangly pop rock written by a young Scottish wunderkind.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Roddy Frame was 16 when he formed Aztec Camera, and by his 19th birthday he was recording their debut album for Rough Trade. But this wasn’t some teenage love story – Frame was much like Michael Brown of the Left Banke and Emmit Rhodes of the Merry-Go-Round. He was writing sophisticated pop songs at a young age with complex themes and melodies.

The first track, “Oblivious”, is an all-timer. Written with a keen sense of melody, with a great hook, the arrangement is sophisticated and the lyrics are deft wordplay. It’s hard to believe that it’s not the work of someone with years of experience behind him.

The rest of the album isn’t as bright and pop-friendly as that track, but Frame and the band still have a maturity beyond their years, and the album sounds fresh especially when comparing to the more production and electronics heavy records of that time.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They released two singles in 1981 that aren’t really compiled anywhere.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, three additional B-sides.

GRADE A-: One all-timer and the rest decent-to-good pop songs. It’s well worth some spins.

Dokken – The Best of Dokken

ARTIST: Dokken 220px-BestOfDokken

TITLE: Best of Dokken

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Breaking the Chains (#32 Mainstream), Into the Fire (#21 Mainstream), Alone Again (#64 US, #20 Mainstream), Just Got Lucky (#27 Mainstream), The Hunter (#25 Mainstream), In My Dreams (#77 US, #24 Mainstream), Dream Warriors (#22 Mainstream), Burning Like a Flame (#72 US, #20 Mainstream #78 UK), Walk Away (#48 Mainstream)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Tooth and Nail

LINEUP: Don Dokken, George Lynch, Mick Brown, Jeff Pilson. Juan Croucier was in the band early on before he bolted for Ratt.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pop metal band had one deadly weapon in George Lynch, and screwed it up with inane lyrics and songwriting.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Oh, Dokken. You listen to them, and some things rouse you, and then, there are things that make you cringe. Now, pop / glam metal wasn’t the genre where wordsmiths went, but Don Dokken was not one to eschew clichés when presented with lyric writing issues. “Burning Like a Flame”? Please.

This collecton covers their first era, before their inevitable reunions and long time cash grabs. MTV made the band as it showcased their perfect locks and good looks, but as for the music, Lynch aside, it was damn generic, at best.

Dokken does have some decent riffs in their songs, but most of their tracks are mid-tempo sing alongs or love songs that appeal to 8th graders.

 NOTES & MINUTIAE: Their first record was released in Europe in 1981, then released in the US after some doctoring in 1983.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE C: I gave it a whirl, but I didn’t like them then and I really don’t like them now.

Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – God Fodder

ARTIST: Ned’s Atomic Dustbin 220px-Ned's_Atomic_Dustbin-God_Fodder

TITLE: God Fodder

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: #91 US, #4 UK

SINGLES: Kill Your Television (#53 UK), Until You Find Out (#51 UK), Happy (#11 Modern, #16 UK), Trust (#21 UK), Grey Cell Green (#24 Modern)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Less Than Useful, Selfish

LINEUP: John Penney, Gareth ‘Rat’ Pring, Alex Griffin, Matt Cheslin, Dan Worton

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: UK band with two bassists take the late 80’s shoegaze and post punk sound and make it more melodic and driving,

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After touring with the Wonder Stuff, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin recorded a couple of singles that turned heads at Sony, and in 1991, their debut record was released in the UK (and then in the US). It made them stars in the UK, and somewhat popular among the alternative crowd over here, and for good reason.

The two bassists add a texture that the UK sound at that time didn’t have – as one bassist played harmonies working with the shoegazey-style guitar and the other was a traditional bass attack along with the drums. They utilized tempo changes, hooky melodies, and pedal effects to create a unique sound that did fit in with the times.

For the most part, the songs are diverse and inviting, but a few tracks sound same-same and that kind of drags it down a little. However, this is a fine debut and brings one back to 1991, in the midst of grunge and shoegaze and on the cusp of Brit pop.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Their independent record company released the first two singles and other tracks on an EP that the band didn’t authorize.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A-: At the time, it was a refreshing sound and interesting instrumentation. It still sounds decently fresh today thanks to the music’s unique qualities.

Barry Goudreau – Barry Goudreau

ARTIST: Barry Goudreau

TITLE: Barry Goudreau

YEAR RELEASED: 1980220px-Barry_goudreau

CHART ACTION: #88

SINGLES: Dreams (#103)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Barry Goudreau, Sib Hashian, and Brad Delp or Fran Cosmo signing lead.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: When Tom Scholz put Boston on hiatus, he encouraged other band mates to do other projects. Ta da!

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Barry Goudreau was the ‘other’ guitarist in Boston (basically learned Scholz’ stuff for the stage for the most part), and when Boston went on hiatus while Tom Scholz fought the record company, he grabbed drummer Sib Hashian, and singer Brad Delp to record some tracks that Scholz rejected for Boston albums.

Kind of “Boston” light, in a way, and that’s how it was promoted.

It kinda had the Boston sound thanks to Delp being on vocals on 2/3 of the record (Fran Cosmo sang on the other 1/3 – and in the mid-90’s Cosmo became Boston’s studio vocalist – go figure) but it didn’t have the meticulous Boston sound (airtight and oh-so clean), and the songs didn’t quite have the same impact or power. Only in a few instances do you get that Boston guitar sound, and it’s not exactly right either.

But I really was expecting worse, for some reason. This is a passably decent rock-and-roll record, and if it wasn’t related to Boston it may not have had the high expectations that some put on it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: By 1983, Goudreau and Cosmo had formed Orion the Hunter, and later Goudreau and Delp formed RTZ

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B-: There’s some Boston-esque sounds here, and some decent rock-and-roll tracks. So if you’re into that, it doesn’t hurt to give this a whirl.

Bobbie Gentry – I’ll Never Fall in Love Again: The Best of Bobbie Gentry

ARTIST: Bobbie Gentry  gentry

TITLE: I’ll Never Fall in Love Again: The Best of Bobbie Gentry

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Ode To Billy Joe (#1 US, #17 Country, #13 UK), Okolona River Bottom Band (#54 US), Touch ‘Em With Love (#113 US), I’ll Never Fall in Love Again (#1 UK), Fancy (#8 US, #26 Country), All I Have to Do Is Dream (#27 US, #6 Country, #3 UK), Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head (#40 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: She covers Tobacco Road

LINEUP: Bobbie Gentry, sessioneers. Glen Campbell duets on “All I Have to Do Is Dream”

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Good overview for Gentry’s career except it misses a charting single for her (“Louisiana Man (#100 US, #72 US Country)

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Bobbie Gentry was a rarity in Nashville in the 60’s – a female writing most of her own songs and singing about themes such as women’s liberation and equality. Most of her songs were character sketches about what she observed while growing up in Mississippi.

“Ode to Billy Joe” is the one everyone remembers. It’s an iconic story song with an ambiguous ending. Her material, though, was oriented towards concept-type albums. She also was heavily involved in production as well, but wasn’t credited because of…reasons (her being a woman and all). The production was fairly sophisticated and varied, with horn charts and dynamic sounds.

From 1967 through 1971 she released six solo albums and a duet record with Glen Campbell. Then after a 1972 single, she stopped recording, but worked on TV and in Las Vegas. Then by 1980, after three marriages, she just disappeared. She’s still alive, living in Memphis, but is very reclusive. Her legacy is strong, though, and should be discovered by more than the nostalgic.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She had a replacement series in 1974 called the The Bobbie Gentry Happiness Hour.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but there are bigger collections out there for advanced studies.

GRADE A-: Because she had such a short career, she’s usually forgotten except for “Ode to Billy Joe”. She shouldn’t be.

The Amboy Dukes – The Amboy Dukes

ARTIST: The Amboy Dukes 220px-The_Amboy_Dukes_album

TITLE: The Amboy Dukes

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #183

SINGLES: Baby Please Don’t Go (#106)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover I Feel Free and Let’s Go Get Stoned

LINEUP: Ted Nugent, John Drake, Steve Farmer, Rick Lorber, Dave Palmer, Bill White

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Detroit garage / psychedelic rock stuck out from the usual hippy/dippy psychedelic crowd thanks to Ted Nugent.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting with a frenetic cover of “Baby Please Don’t Go”, Detroit’s Amboy Dukes rolled through a set of covers and originals in a half psychedelic, half garage motif.

Nugent formed this band after relocating from Chicago, and found Steve Farmer, who could write lyrics and put together truly psychedelic tracks that utilized Nugent’s guitar playing. John Drake was the vocalist, and sometimes his soul-tinged vocals didn’t fit the material. One interesting point was keyboard player Rick Lorber who added some piano to the mix – not a usual garage or psych instrument and his playing adds some color to a few generic sounding tracks.

It’s a spotty record, with Nugent being the star as his guitar prowess was already shining through. They do sound like they’re having fun – but psychedelic weirdness like “Psalms of Aftermath” are rather dated and tiresome. However, they’ve got a depth of tracks that many other younger garage bands didn’t have.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Mainstream was a jazz label that decided to take an interest in rock at this time, and the Amboy Dukes was one of their first signings.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with a couple of spare tracks.

 GRADE B-: It’s pretty decent for what it is, and Nugent adds a couple of points as well with his guitar work.

George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

ARTIST: George Harrison  220px-All_Things_Must_Pass_1970_cover

TITLE: All Things Must Pass

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: My Sweet Lord (#1 US, #1 UK), What Is Life (#10 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Isn’t It a Pity, If Not for You, Beware of Darkness, Art of Dying

LINEUP: George Harrison and a Phil Spector Wall of Sound including: Eric Clapton, Gary Wright, Bobby Whitlock, Klaus Voorman, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Rino Starr, Billy Preston, Jim Price, Bobby Keys, Alan White, Pete Drake, Peter Frampton, Dave Mason, Badfinger, Gary Brooker, Ginger Baker, and others, probably.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The debut ‘true’ solo album from George assembles songs he had written since 1966 forward, and it’s a stunning, stunning album.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: George Harrison’s contributions to the Beatles as a songwriter was limited (though after 1966 the others did acknowledge his improvement) and as a result he had a backlog of songs just waiting to be worked out and released. When the Beatles broke up, he had that chance.

Playing the demos for Phil Spector, the two set about finding the songs that they would begin for this project. It was an immense session, with Spector bringing in huge lineups of musicians and recorded them live, like he did in the old days. Then over time, overdubs and orchestration were added (it took a while due to various issues, such as Spector breaking his arm and being plastered on cherry brandy. Still, with time and patience, the album came together and was released to the world in late 1970.

And what a record it was! Four sides of music, including a co-write with Dylan and a Dylan song he heard during a recording session he was attending. The songs combine so many influences: gospel, ragas, blues, rock, soul to name a few. The lyrics are mostly spiritual (as fitting Harrison) yet not so preachy as to be a harangue, though some are lighter (“Apple Scruffs, “The Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)”) and a track about the Beatles’ situation in 1969 (“Wah Wah”). Even with the Wall of Sound that Spector put on the songs, you can’t mistake Harrison’s guitar work and his vocals are not lost, either.

The 18 tracks on the main album fit together flawlessly and are a testament to Harrison’s songwriting ability at the time. There is a third LP of jams that were recorded during the sessions, and while ‘interesting’ they’re superfluous and Harrison made sure they were packaged separately in the set. (Basically, he didn’t want to lose them but didn’t want them part of the main albuim).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: When re-released in 2001, Harrison added some new artwork to the booklet, created a web site, and sequenced the jam LP as he originally intended.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with new mixes and single versions.

GRADE A+: The jam LP aside, this is one of the most perfect albums released.