Modern English – After the Snow

ARTIST: Modern English 220px-After_the_Snow_-_Modern_English

TITLE: After the Snow

YEAR RELEASED: 1982

CHART ACTION: #70 US, #13 UK Indie

SINGLES: Life in the Gladhouse (#26 UK Indie), I Melt with You (#78 US, #60 Dance, #7 US Rock, #18 UK Indie), Someone’s Calling (#43 UK Indie)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I don’t think so.

LINEUP: Robiie Grey, Gary McDowell, Michael Conroy, Richard Brown, Stephen Walker

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Post-punk band emphasizes more keyboards, and brightens their sound, and record one of the 80’s MTV anthems.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Had you not gotten your MTV yet, but somehow got this album from a UK post-punk friend, you’d notice that the first side was a better, brighter sounding rendition of their gothy, moody tunes – more in line with their singles than their album tracks. Still, arty and all that. Not pop records, really.

Then, Side 2 has THAT SONG. You know….”I Melt with You”. It doesn’t matter that the rest of the album is kind of filler-y and back to the ol’ moody atmosphere. THAT SONG overwhelms everything.

There are nice nuggets on Side 1, essential listening for you gothy post-punkers out there. In fact, I bought this after hearing “Face of Wood” being played in a record store. But, 80’s new wavers may be disappointed.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: For some damn reason, the band remade “I Melt with You” in 1990 and don’t even think about it.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, different mixes and B-sides

 GRADE B+: Better than their debut and it has THAT SONG. Since no compilation is streaming now, just grab this and be done with them.

Modern English – Mesh and Lace

ARTIST: Modern English 220px-Mesh_&_Lace_cover

TITLE: Mesh and Lace

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #5 UK Indie

SINGLES: None on the album, but they’re bonus tracks.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not on this one

LINEUP: Robiie Grey, Gary McDowell, Michael Conroy, Richard Brown, Stephen Walker

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Post-punk band is Joy Division-lite, all mood and atmosphere with only a few compelling tracks.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Forming in 1979, signed by 4AD in 1980, and releasing this in 1981, Modern English were fast-tracked into the post-punk world and the Joy Division sector of that world. Their debut album contains none of their singles (I never understand this), and only a few album cuts rise to the occasion.

Atmosphere and mood are the keywords here. Everything is moody and stark and while some melodies and other parts escape, most of the time they’re hidden in the mood, whether it’s a slow or fast tempo. Also, the intros to the songs are long and tedious at times. You know, setting the mood for art and all.

If you missed this, don’t worry. Nothing here reminds me of their MTV hit. If you’re into the moody pre-goth post-punk era, indulge at your whim.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They used to be The Lepers, but changed that quickly. Also, the title cut was a B-side that didn’t make the album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with singles and B-sides. Weirdly, one of the singles (“Gathering Dust” (#36 UK Indie)) starts the deluxe CD. The other singles added were “Swans on Glass” (#46 UK Indie) and “Smiles and Laughter” (#16 UK Indie).

GRADE C+: All depends on your love for moody gothy post-punk. The bonus cuts make the package much more palatable.

Bauhaus – 1979-1983

ARTIST: Bauhaus 220px-1979-1983_cover

TITLE: Bauhaus – 1979-1983

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #36 UK

SINGLES: Eleven of the cuts 23 cuts were singles. Ziggy Stardust (#15 UK) and She’s In Parties (#26) were the only top 40 singles.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Bela Lugosi’s Dead

LINEUP: Daniel Ash, David J, Kevin Haskins, Peter Murphy

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Seminal post-punk and goth band’s compilations explains, somewhat, why they were and are a friggin’ big deal to some people.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The cult of Bauhaus is greater than their work. While they were definitely releasing some good, influential, music, their actual output is a bit overrated by their devotees (like most cult artists).

Part of the lore of Bauhaus is their sudden, surprise breakup just while the US was getting some of their material available over here. That and a video for “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” hit MTV about the same time as well. (Things moved slowly over here, you know).

They were the start of the goth movement (though I place them more in post-punk) and about a zillion bands started in their wake. But some of their stuff just languishes in place and goes on much much too long.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The attention paid to Peter Murphy as a model and focal point of their videos didn’t sit well with the rest of the band.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Only the first half is streaming as a collection, but you can put together second part using their other compilations and studio albums.

 GRADE B: This is probably ALL you need by them, and more.

The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

ARTIST: The Beatles 220px-TheBeatlesMagicalMysteryTouralbumcover

TITLE: Magical Mystery Tour

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #31 UK (as an import)

SINGLES: the EP hit #2 in the UK. Penny Lane (#1 UK, #1 UK), Strawberry Fields Forever (#8 US), All You Need is Love (#1 US, #1 UK), Hello Goodbye (#1 US, #1 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Am the Walrus, Fool on the Hill, Baby You’re A Rich Man

LINEUP: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr. Session players added things.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The soundtrack to the first real commercial oopsy by the Beatles sold well, but it was saved by singles found on the second side of the album. (No such luck in the UK at first release).

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: In the UK, the six songs for the TV special Magical Mystery Tour were released as a double EP set. In the US, where that wouldn’t fly, they added five tracks from recent singles onto the B-side. Thank goodness for that.

Not to say that the movie songs are horrible, but they seem like leftovers or derivatives (especially the title track, “Flying” and “Your Mother Should Know”). The best tracks, “Blue Jay Way” and the all-timer “I Am the Walrus” were the last true gasps of the psychedelic experimentation that the Beatles performed. 220px-MagicalMysteryTourDoubleEPcover

The single tracks on the B-side included the brilliant double-sided hit “Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever” (the best value of any 45 ever, perhaps), and the almost as great “Hello, Goodbye”. That made the album a definite value for the US market, especially since the TV special  never was released here until much, much later.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: John and the Beatles just wanted the stand-alone soundtrack released in the US, but they didn’t have control over that.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE B+: An A+ second side for sure, but a B first side and I’m downgrading a bit as well for the patched together LP.

Public Image, Ltd. – Metal Box / Second Edition

ARTIST: Public Image, Ltd.  220px-PIL_-_Metal_Box_original

TITLE: Metal Box / Second Edition

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #18 UK

SINGLES: Death Disco (Swan Lake on the album) (#20 UK), Memories (#46 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, nothing hit the radio here.

LINEUP: John Lydon, Keith Levene, Jah Wobble, Richard Dudanski. David Humphrey and Martin Atkins also drummed. They went through 3 drummers in a year.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The pinnacle of the original vision of PiL, post punk, and the 70s UK ‘new wave’.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Just as the Sex Pistols influenced countless of bands that eventually exceeded their vision and scope, Public Image Ltd. also influenced countless bands that exceeded their vision and scope. But unlike the Pistols, very few, if any, released an album as essential and seminal as this.

From the packaging (originally three 12” singles packed in a metal film canister), to the sound (deep deep bass, jagged sharp guitar, atmospheric synths, wailing and intense vocals), to the attitude (zero fucks given, at all), PiL’s second album was vital to the evolution of punk, new wave, and rock in general. 220px-PiLSecondEdition

The opening cut, “Albatross”, is a 10 1/2-minute improvisation (Lydon free formed lyrics while the Levine spewed jagged-sharp guitar on a groove set out by Wobble and David Humphrey) that is menacing and compelling. The first five cuts on the album (the first 3 sides of the single set) are landmark post-punk. Then the second part of the record kicks in, throws that all away, and forces you to stand up and notice them experiment with sounds, chants, and form.

There’s something about this album that makes you come back to it. Wobble’s bass, Levine’s synths and guitar, Lydon’s lyrics, and the excellent drumming by the rotating crew all make it a landmark of rock.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The packaging of Metal Box was intended to make it difficult to listen to. There was only wafer thin paper between the records and the canister snugly fit the albums.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A+: A record that points the way to the future of pop, new wave, and rock in the 80’s and beyond.

The Rascals – Collection

ARTIST: The (Young) Rascals 220px-Young_Rascals_Collections

TITLE: Collections

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #14

SINGLES: Come on Up (#43), I’ve Been Lonely Too Long (#16)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover a few tracks you know – the best known by them is Too Many Fish in the Sea

LINEUP: Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati, Gene Cornish, Dino Danelli

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: For their second album, the (Young) Rascals write more of their songs, with mixed results – mostly from the covers.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Recorded over seven months in 1966 (in between tour dates), the Rascals (still Young Rascals at this time) moved on from garage rock towards a more soulful blend of tracks. They’re dominated by the organ of Felix Cavaliere, who also wrote the strongest tracks by the band.

Because the sessions were spread out (two singles released in 1966 – one of those actually appearing on the next album), the sound of the album doesn’t flow well. A couple tracks (“No Love to Give, a song written by guitarist Gene Cornish) were downright regrettable. Their cover of “Mickey’s Monkey” is fun, but the real gem is “Come On Up”, a raving rocker that’s their last gasp as a true garage band,

There are tracks in here that are going to be exiled, but the best are good to fantastic. Such is the album game in the 60’s.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The single “You Better Run” was released in May of 1966, but wasn’t on this album though the B-side (“Love Is a Beautiful Thing”) is.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE C+: This has some real clunkers, so pick the good ones and exile the rest.

Jamiroquai – Return of the Space Cowboy

ARTIST: Jamiroquai  220px-The_Return_of_the_Space_Cowboy

TITLE: The Return of the Space Cowboy

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #2 UK

SINGLES: Space Cowboy (#1 Dance, #17 UK), Half the Man (#15 UK), Stillness In Time (#9 UK), Light Years (#6 Dance)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Doubt it

LINEUP: Jay Kay, Derrick McKenzie, Wallis Buchanan, Toby Smith, Stuart Zender, Gary Barnacle, Richard Edwards

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Socially conscious funky disco band concentrates on the groove and the lyrics, and it mostly succeeds (except in the US marketplace)

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Still a sensation in the UK, the retro-funk grooves of Jamiroquai add even more socially conscious lyrics to their stew of old-school sounds. Frontman Jay Kay sound uncannily like mid-70s Stevie Wonder, and he leads the band to the dance floor while being progressive in the lyrics.

The band toned down some of its more outlandish experiments (not that much digeridoo now), and became even tighter and focused. The international hits “Light Years” and “Space Cowboy” propelled the group to the world stage, and even onto the US dance floors, where they were a hidden gem.

Don’t dismiss them as just a retro band aping sounds from the past – they incorporate the past sounds with a modern flourish. It’s a great record for putting on and grooving.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Space Cowboy” won the Brit for the best music video

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, different mixes or live cuts, depending on where you were at.

 GRADE A-: Funky people making a funky record.

Kylesa – Time Will Fuse Its Worth

ARTIST: Kylesa  220px-Kylesa-TimeWillFuseItsWorth

TITLE: Time Will Fuse Its Worth

YEAR RELEASED: 2006

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you were into underground-ish sludge metal, yeah. Otherwise…

LINEUP: Phillip Cope, Laura Pleasants, Corey Barhorst, Carl McGinely, Jeff Porter

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Fusing influences and sounds, the metal band forges its own place in the metal pantheon.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Adding a dual drumming combo, and coming up with intriguing mixes of sludge, punk, psychedelia, and classic metal, Kylesa forges its own sound and identity.

Riffs are there, of course. But tracks like “What Becomes and End” and “Hollow Severer” are varied and thrilling, and the record has a more open sound that enhances their musical adventurousness without sacrificing the riff or power. Psychedelic influences also abound within tracks, given the listener space.

A couple of tracks, though, seem like filler (“Intermission” and “Outro”, showing off their dual drummers) but for the most part, this is a killer sludge / stoner metal record that holds up.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: McGlinley and Porter were the third and fourth drummers for the band since 2001.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 

GRADE A-: A first-class sludge / punk metal record.

Baroness – Red Album

ARTIST: Baroness 220px-Baroness_-_Red_Album

TITLE: Red Album

YEAR RELEASED: 2007

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably something on metal radio on Sirius or XM, who knows?

LINEUP: John Dyer Baizley, Allen Blickle, Brian Blickle, Summer Welch

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Storming out from Savannah, Baroness’ debut album hits all the right notes as it combines classic metal riffs with progressive rock elements.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Baroness had released two EPs and a split single before cranking out their debut, and my goodness was that prior work worth it.

Grabbing some sludge here, some progressive rock there, a bit of 90s era punk, and riffs everywhere, Baroness absolutely torches your eardrums. John Dyer Baizley, the artist, singer (howler more likely) and brains behind the band leads the crew into alternately banging your head and also stopping to listen intently because their chops are immaculate.

The only down part are a couple of the interludes. They seem out of place a bit, and don’t lead anywhere, at least not to where I hear it. Yet the album is still well worthwhile, and does demonstrate the metal clock didn’t stop in the 1990s.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There was an ‘untitled’ song that was 11 minutes of silence and a minute of…something. Not streaming as far as I could see.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A: There was hope for metal with albums like this.

Oasis – Definitely Maybe

ARTIST: Oasis 220px-OasisDefinitelyMaybealbumcover

TITLE: Definitely Maybe

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #58 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Supersonic (#11 Alternative, #31 UK), Shakermaker (#11 UK), Live Forever (#2 Alternative, #10 UK), Cigarettes and Alcohol (#7 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Rock ‘n’ Roll Star

LINEUP: Noel Gallagher, Liam Gallagher, Paul Arthur, Paul McGuigan, Tony McCarroll

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Led by battling brothers, Oasis causes a huge stir in the UK and intrigued listens in the US.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: When “Supersonic” started to come out of the airwaves on Alternative Rock stations in the US, it sounded loud, brash, and boastful, but not angry. Oasis channeled all kinds of UK rock influences and rolled it into one package. Some songs (“Shakermaker” for one) resembled other songs, but it all had some originality in there.

Their debut sound loud as hell, mainly because Noel Gallagher kept overdubbing guitars to a point where they had to boost everything else to make them heard after they changed producers and mixed what they had. The result is an immediate record with striking, memorable songs.

Not a perfect record by any means, but when this record was on, it was on and in your face. They did show a wistful side with “Live Forever” which was a precursor to their most famous work.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Noel Gallagher was the last to join, and on a condition that he would be given complete control. It was a wise move.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a Japanese version and a reissue with B sides and rarities

GRADE A-: Play loud. I don’t think you have a choice.