Month: September 2017

Accept – Playlist: The Very Best of Accept

ARTIST: Accept                      accept

TITLE: Playlist: The Very Best of Accept

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Restless and Wild, Balls to the Wall, Fast as a Shark, Midnight Mover, TV War

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Neon Nights, Metal Heart

LINEUP: Udo Dirkschneider, Wolf Hoffman, Peter Baltes, Jorg Fisher, Stefan Kaufmann. Herman Frank was in for Fischer at times during this era.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: More seminal than popular, this German metal band was a bridge from the UK metal scene to the speed / thrash metal era.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “Fast as a Shark” has a frenetic pace and a intense double kick drum, and is definitely the bridge between the New Wave of British Heavy Metal to the speed / thrash metal that would define the ‘real’ (sorry Poison) metal of the mid-to-late 80’s. For that, Accept should be remembered.

It’s not like they didn’t have any other tracks worth mentioning. “Balls to the Wall” is a hell of an anthem (except it’s about a minute too long), “Restless and Wild” is a track that almost out Priests Judas Priest.

Vocalist Udo Dirkschneider was the face of the band. His gruff vocals, with a surprising high range, is the highlight amongst a lot of generally generic metal. Wolf Hoffman can spin a good riff or three, but without Udo they’d be just another metal band.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Stefan Kaufmann left in 1982, but after an album with Herman Frank, they asked Kaufmann back.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 

GRADE: B: Solid metal for the most part.

Shalamar – The 12″ Collection

ARTIST: Shalamar                         shalamar

TITLE: The 12 Inch Collection

YEAR RELEASED: 1995

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 10: Uptown Festival (#25 US, #10 R&B, #2 Dance, #30 UK), Take That to the Bank (#79 US, #11 R&B, #20 UK), The Second Time Around (#8 US, #1 R&B, #1 Dance, #45 UK), Right in the Socket (#22 R&B, #11 Dance, #44 UK), Make That Move (#60 US, #6 R&B, #30 UK), This Is for the Lover in You (#17 R&B), A Night To Remember (#44 US, #8 R&B, #15 Dance, #5 UK), I can Make You Feel Good (#102 US, #33 R&B, #7 UK), Dead Giveaway (#22 US, #10 R&B, #18 Dance, #8 UK), Dancing in the Sheets (#17 US, #18 R&B, #9 Dance, #41 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Deep disco fiends may know the rest

LINEUP: Jeffrey Daniel, Jody Watley, Howard Hewitt. Hewitt replaced Gerald Brown. Their last hit featured Micki Free and Delisa Davis instead of Watley and Hewitt. Gary Mumford was the original, original lead singer. Session players under the direction of Leon Sylvers played the tunes.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Disco, soul, funk vocal trio filled the dance floors for about six or seven years, and released some classics of the time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting out as a Don Cornelius studio only joint, when Shalamar became popular, Cornelius and Agent Dick Griffey found a trio to go out and sing and record. Producer Leon Sylvers worked the magic, and the trio of Jeffrey Daniel, Jody Watley and Howard Hewitt became stars in their own right after the third record.

Mind you, the trio was hired more for their dance moves than anything, but they had vocal talent as well. Sylvers, along with others, were the main songwriters, but Shalamar was an efficient vehicle for his works.

This is a collection of their 12” singles, which sound great and give you a chance to enjoy Sylvers’ production more than anything. You’ll boogie on with this.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After their big hit “Dead Giveaway”, most everyone jumped ship due to issues with management and their record company. “Dancing in the Sheets” was their last hit and without Sylvers the magic was gone.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A-: A good look at the disco / funk / R&B trend of the late 70’s and early 80’s..

Guadalcanal Diary – Walking in the Shadows of the Big Man

ARTIST: Guadalcanal Diary     

TITLE: Walking in the Shadows of the Big Man

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Watusi Rodeo, Trail of Tears

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Why Do the Heathen Rage?, Pillow Talk

LINEUP: Murray Attaway, Jeff Walls, Rhett Crowe, John Poe

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Athens scene band, jangly guitars, but a different deal than REM due to the more linear story songs and harmonies.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Hearing the guitars, you think that maybe Guadalcanal Diary cribbed something from older scenesters REM, but then when Murray Attaway sings, and the lyrics are definitely mostly straight forward story songs or love songs, with harmonies from the rest of the band, it becomes more of a second cousin band to their more famous scene-mates.

Their debut, produced by REM producer Don Dixon, show off the band’s strengths in harmonies, and creating a mood. Yet, it seems slight, since two of the tracks were instrumentals, and another was a live version of  Kum Ba Yah”.

Guadalcanal Diary had promise – a more traditional sound still with the college radio / independent streak. This debut showed off some of the things that endeared them to fans later down the road.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Dixon had recorded an EP for them, and this album to put out on a local label. When they got signed, they convinced Elektra to release this record and not make them record new tracks.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, B-sides and their first EP are appended. 

GRADE: B: It’s really good in most spots, but it’s slight and seems slapped together at times.

Bloodrock – Bloodrock

ARTIST: Bloodrock                                          Bloodrock

TITLE: Bloodrock

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #160

SINGLES: Gotta Find a Way

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nooooo

LINEUP: Jim Rutledge, Ed Grundy, Stephen Hill, Lee Pickens, Nick Taylor

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Managed by Terry Knight, the brother band to Grand Funk Railroad isn’t the worst rock band of the 70’s, and that’s about it.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The song “Castle of Thoughts” kind of sums up Bloodrock. Half decent guitar riffs and drumming, including cowbell, a keyboard player noodling during the breaks between verses, and lyrics which probably sounded deep on the fourth doobie of the night, but really are inane.

Bloodrock was shaped by manager Terry Knight as the brother band to his wunderkinds Grand Funk Railroad, but while GFR had some personality, and a little bit of complexity and power, Bloodrock sounds thin. Singer Jim Rutledge tries, but doesn’t convey much except shouting the lyrics in a gruff monotone.

There are a couple of highlights, and the only reason I’m reviewing this album is that they don’t have a collection, and they have some ‘infamous’ songs that they’re known for coming up in their career.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had backward masking on “Gotta Find a Way”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE:C-: Mediocre playing, bad lyrics, most exiled.

Styx – Man of Miracles

ARTIST: Styx                       220px-Styx_-_Man_of_Miracles

TITLE: Man of Miracles

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #154

SINGLES: Best Thing

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None, and there’s a reason for that

LINEUP: Dennis DeYoung, James Young, John Curulewski, Chuck Panozzo, John Panozzo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Styx tries to pivot to rock away from progressive rock, with semi-embarrassing results.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: As much as John Curulewski could hit those high harmonies on “Lady”, the rock songs he wrote for this album as a way to get radio to become interested in Styx were, um, not good. The vocals sound like parodies and there’s a forced energy that permeates them.

James Young’s rockers are no better. Add to that a track that was already on an album, and you have a band at a definite crossroads with themselves. Dennis DeYoung steps up and creates some of his better early work, and while they were trying to get away from prog, “Man of Miracles” seems to be one of their better prog efforts and does set up their next few records.

This was their last effort for the Chicago-based Wooden Nickel, and they were lucky to have some good timing with a single released two years prior (“Lady) to keep their career moving.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Best Thing”, already on their debut album, was on this album too and released as a single. When this was re-released, a horrid cover of “Lies” by the Knickerbockers replaced it. Then, “Unfinished Song” replaced that, though it was on another album as well. The streaming version has “Lies”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: See above for the fun. 

GRADE:C : They were damn lucky “Lady” was a hit, because this wasn’t cutting it, despite Dennis DeYoung’s efforts.

The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys Today!

ARTIST: The Beach Boys                              BeachBoysTodayCover

TITLE: The Beach Boys Today!

YEAR RELEASED: 1965

CHART ACTION: #4 US, #6 UK

SINGLES: When I Grow Up (To Be a Man) (#9 US, #27 UK), Dance Dance Dance (#8 US, #24 UK), Do You Wanna Dance (#12 US).

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Please Let Me Wonder, Help Me Ronda (original)

LINEUP: Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Dennis Wilson PLUS The Wrecking Crew

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The first album where Brian entrusts his songs to the famous Wrecking Crew of studio musicians.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Brian Wilson’s songs were evolving, changing, become more complex, and the sound he wanted certainly wasn’t going to be replicated by the band itself. Brian had stopped touring after a mental breakdown, and the result was a leap forward in musical structure and complexity.

Starting with Dennis’(!) vocal for “Do You Wanna Dance”, the first side of up-tempo numbers have deep cut classics like “Good to My Baby” and “Don’t Hurt My Little Sister” along with the first two singles. Brian’s falsetto, my goodness…

The second side has three of Brian’s best ballads to date, especially “Please Let Me Wonder”. A couple of ok tracks, and the usual unbearable talky album filler (though it’s positioned at the end for easy exiling) are there.

It’s the first Beach Boys album that sounds like a conceptual whole without a lot of filler or half-assed instrumentals. Just one of THOSE cuts.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This album was only issued in mono on first release. Also, “Help Me, Ronda” was later remade as “Help Me, Rhonda”, shorter and punchier – and that’s the version everyone knows.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, the formerly unreleased stereo mixes along with some singles.and B-sides. 

GRADE: A-: A set up for Pet Sounds, though there’d be some detours on the way.

20/20 – 20/20

ARTIST: 20/20                         R-1213210-1370911704-5407.jpeg

TITLE: 20/20

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #138

SINGLES: Cheri, Tell Me Why (Can’t Understand You)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, please.

LINEUP: Steve Allen, Ron Flynt, Chris Silaygi, Mike Gallo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Another heartland power-pop band (though this one formed in LA with guys from Oklahoma) met with critical acclaim but little success.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Shining harmonies, some tight guitars, interesting keyboard flourishes, and hooky tunes. With all of those elements in its favor, 20/20 became more of a legend than a success. Well, they were a legend in certain power pop circles. They never had success.

Fans of the Shoes and other like-minded bands were dazzled by the potential of 20/20, especially since they had the blessing of Bomp! Records (who put out their first single). But they didn’t hit with the general public, except for some limited play on power pop friendly stations.

It’s also kind of an uneven album. The faster cuts seem to not have as much polish and substitute energy for hooks, and for a band that thrives on hooks and polish, that’s an issue to my ears. Most of this is prime power pop, but really for connoisseurs only. Still, I’m a connoisseur.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Mike Gallo, who had the name and the idea, met Steve Allen and Ron Flynt (who were from Tulsa). Gallo was then asked to leave after or during the recording of the album. Ah, well.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: It was released on a combo CD with their second album. At times, that CD went for $30 or more. 

GRADE: A-: Enough good to outweigh the unconvincing tracks.

Taylor Swift – Red

ARTIST: Taylor Swift                       220px-Taylor_Swift_-_Red

TITLE: Red

YEAR RELEASED: 2012

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (#1 US, #4 UK), Begin Again (#7 US, #30 UK), I Knew You Were Trouble (#2 US, #2 UK), 22 (#20 US, #9 UK), Red (#6 US, #26 UK), Everything Has Changed (#32 US, #7 UK), The Last Time (#103 US, #25 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: With seven singles, probably no, unless you’re one of the badillion people who have this record.

LINEUP: Taylor Swift, with 44 studio musicians and six additional backup singers (!!) Not like the old days, is it?

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Firmly moving from country with dabbles in pop to a total pop star, Taylor Swift begins her true pop culture domination.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: (This is Ms. Swift’s fourth album. The first three I’ve put in my country music playlists to go through later. Why? Because, that’s why…)

A battalion of musicians and producers descended on whatever studios Taylor Swift was recording in, and the result was the album that put Taylor Swift on the way to super-ultra-duper stardom, and one of the forces driving pop culture in this decade.

Despite the vast array of talent, Swift has made this album sound like her own – as she’s in control and not a puppet of the producers. It has a current pop sheen, has the requisite electronic gizmos and tools (but doesn’t over do them – it uses auto tune and the like as enhancements, not substitutions), and the true pop songs are candy for the ears.

It’s not perfect, because there’s bloat. There’s four or five too many songs, and sometimes the ballads and slower songs are stuck in the way. Most pop albums could use some paring in these times, and this is no exception.

Yet, this is definitely a touchstone for the 2010’s, and cuts on this record will be long lasting.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There were 38 engineers, mixers, producers, assistants, programmers, etc. credited. Also, Swift’s hair stylist and make-up artist are credited. Ok then.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Of course, the deluxe version has a few b-sides and demos. 

GRADE: A-: Some bloat, but even after five years you’re not sick of the best songs.

The Long Ryders – State of Our Union

ARTIST: The Long Ryders               state of our union

TITLE: State of Our Union

YEAR RELEASED: 1985

CHART ACTION: State of Our Union (#66 UK)

SINGLES: Looking for Lewis & Clark (#59 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, probably not unless you were in my house in the 80’s and 90’s

LINEUP: Sid Griffin, Tom Stevens, Stephen McCarthy, Greg Sowders. Snake Davis & His Longhorns play on a track

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Major label debut for the fathers of alt country combines country, blues, and rock in a delightful mix. No one bought it here in the US, though.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A complaint in the 80’s was that ‘real rock and roll’ was going away, thanks to the New Wave hipsters and hair-metal glamsters. Well, the Long Ryders practically gave the US ‘real’ rock and roll, to crickets.

The Byrds and Gram Parsons figure in heavily here, but so does CCR, and hints of Memphis blues and Buck Owens show up here as well. Rock was always an amalgamation of those elements, and the Long Ryders delivered. The single, “Looking for Lewis & Clark” burned up some college radio airwaves, but they never broke a video in MTV, which doomed them here. The UK was kinda into them for a bit, but they only charted for a week or two.

Not a perfect album (a couple of cuts slow the thing down a bit), but it still should have been a hit for those who wanted rock and roll. Alas, no.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: All four members of the band contributed songs, and three of them sing lead.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Some bonus tracks on the CD.

GRADE: A-: It coulda been an alt-country contender, if it was released 10 years later.

 

The Jesus Lizard – Head

ARTIST: The Jesus Lizard                    220px-JesusLizHead

TITLE: Head

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Nooooo

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They played Killer McHann at almost every show

LINEUP: David Yow, Duane Denison, David Wm. Sims, Mac McNeilly

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Texas weirdos kick it up a notch and release a full-length album with sinister sounding tunes and David Yow all over.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: David Wm. Sims’s bass is rumbly and menacing, Mac McNeilly pounds the drums and locks into Sims, and Duane Denison’s guitar chars whatever is in its way with riffs and fills. Then…there’s David Yow.

Yow’s vocal delivery ranges from incomprehensible, to distorted, to deranged. Sometimes, in one song, he’s all three. Definitely not for the weak of heart, or those who really insist on melody or something like that. They’re excused here.

The Jesus Lizard’s still trying to figure out their best approach, but this, their first full-length, is getting close. A couple of tracks lumber on where the menace becomes boring. But there’s some classics, especially “Killer McHann”, a concert staple.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was the first release featuring McNeilly. They had used a drum machine before.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The CD included their debut EP

GRADE: B+: A step in the evolution of a crazed band.