Month: October 2017

The Beach Boys – Summer Days (And Summer Nights)

ARTIST: The Beach Boys                     SummerDaysandSummerNights.album.cover

TITLE: Summer Days (And Summer Nights)

YEAR RELEASED: 1965

CHART ACTION: #2 US, #4 UK

SINGLES: Help Me Rhonda (#1 US, #27 UK), California Girls (#3 US, #26 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Let Him Run Wild, You’re So Good to Me, Girl Don’t Tell Me

LINEUP: Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, and The Wrecking Crew

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A backslide in quality, as Capitol wanted a less complicated, hit friendly record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s a definite rushed atmosphere here. Brian Wilson was off the road, but Capitol Records wanted more hits, less melancholy. So, Brian cranked out some fluff, re-did one song for a single (now Rhonda had an H and a shorter arrangement), and a couple pieces of the usual filler.

That was about half of the record – the other half was marvelous, with deep tracks “Girl Don’t Tell Me” (a Carl Wilson solo vocal that’s so so so good), “Let Him Run Wild”, and “You’re So Good To Me”, and a great cover of “Then I Kissed Her” offsetting the two hit singles, which were brilliant Brian Wilson joints.

I’m exiling the fluff, as usual, since when the Beach Boys get fluffy, they really sink low. If only Brian was able to do a whole album like “Let Him Run Wild”. Sigh.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bruce Johnston was officially the bassist and Brian’s stand-in vocalist on stage, and he joined the band in their recording sessions from now until he left in 1973.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Alternate takes and a B-side 

GRADE: B-: I’m probably downgrading this a bit much, but it’s such a disappointment from their last album. Record companies….

The Pointer Sisters – Yes We Can Can

ARTIST: The Pointer Sisters                          yeswecancan

TITLE: Yes We Can Can

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 40: Yes We Can Can (#11, #12 R&B), Wang Dang Doodle (#61, #24 R&B), Fairytale (#13, #37 Country), How Long (Betcha’ Got a Chick on the Side) (#20, #1 R&B), Going Down Slowly (#61, #16 R&B), You Gotta Believe (#103, #14 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Anita Pointer, Ruth Pointer, Bonnie Pointer, June Pointer with Gaylord Birch, Tom Salisbury, Ron McClure, John Neumann, Chris Michie, and other session men taking their spots.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Compilation of their Blue Thumb era as a quarter, where they mixed funk and forties harmonies.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Pointer Sisters first incarnation was a mix of funk, soul, and the forties. They produced four studio and one live record in this era, and the highlights are here.

There’s some hot blues and funk backing the sisters, who really match well in their 40s-style four-part harmony.  Some of the tracks hearken back to the 40’s with arrangements and production, and those maybe aren’t as successful as the others – it seemed they were trying to fit into the genre and that constricted them a bit.

This era of the Pointer Sisters also showcased their songwriters, as they usually wrote about half the songs on their records, including the big hit “How Long” and the country song “Fairytale”.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: June Pointer was on one track only in their final album, and after that album she came back but sister Bonnie left for a solo career, and the Pointer Sisters became a trio for the rest of their heyday.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B+: Some of their 40’s tribute songs don’t quite work. Points for using the long versions of the songs so you can appreciate the funk.

Talking Heads – Fear of Music

ARTIST: Talking Heads                            Talking_Heads-Fear_of_Music

TITLE: Fear of Music

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #21 US, #33 UK

SINGLES: I Zimbra (#28 Dance), Cities, Life During Wartime (#80 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Memories Can Wait, Heaven

LINEUP: David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz with help from Brian Eno

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Another big leap forward, as the Talking Heads play with rhythms and sounds from outside the normal rock element.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Talking Heads could have recorded variations of their first two albums and gone along quite nicely, thank you, but David Byrne was always wanting to expand his sonic palette and utilize sounds and rhythms not usually associated with popular music.

Mostly it’s successful, with songs about cities, heaven, newspapers, nuclear war, electric guitars, crimes against the state, and a Dada tone poem. The band, along with Brian Eno, follows along with an expanded range of sounds, funky rhythms, and experiments. Even with the melancholy nature of the lyrics, the playing is joyous and light, except when it needs to be heavy and foreboding (as in “Memories Can Wait”).

There’s only one track that doesn’t work – the album closer “Drugs”, though I get what they were after. It wouldn’t be the last time that a Talking Heads album closer misfired.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The basic tracks were recorded in two days in Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz’s loft.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, an outtake and some alternate versions of tracks. 

GRADE: A: Another masterwork by the Talking Heads, who were just on top of their game.

Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis

ARTIST: Dusty Springfield     Dusty_Springfield,_Dusty_in_Memphis_(1969)

TITLE: Dusty in Memphis

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: #99

SINGLES: Son of a Preacher Man (#10 US, #9 UK), Don’t Forget About Me (#64 US), The Windmills of Your Mind (#31 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I doubt it.

LINEUP: Dusty Springfield. Reggie Young, Tommy Cogbill, Bobby Emmons, Bobby Wood, Gene Chrisman, The Sweet Inspirations.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Springfield goes to Memphis to boost her career, and while the commercial results weren’t there, the arrangements and production by Jerry Wexler, Arif Martin, and Tom Dowd, along with Springfield’s sublime vocals, made for a classic.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s hard for an artist to realize that they need to move in another direction to kick-start a career, but Springfield took a chance by signing with Atlantic Records and recording this album in the same place where so many Atlantic soul hits were recorded. Dusty_Springfield_-_Dusty_In_Memphis_(UK)

This is string heavy vocal pop with a soul music underpinning. Springfield’s delivery fits right in with the backing from the Sweet Inspirations and the crack session musicians, and the string arrangements add the right amount of depth without going to schmaltz.

The material is from A-listers as well (Goffin / King, Mann / Weil, Randy Newman, Bacharach / David among others). From material to production to performance, this is aces all the way.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Springfield was nervous about recording in Memphis with these players, and her nerves made for a difficult session. Her vocals were ultimately recorded in NY.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, packed with B-sides, singles, and other unreleased tracks from Springfield’s Atlantic era, including the fantabulous “Live Here with You” 

GRADE: A+: I was skeptical about giving this my highest grade, since it’s been such a hyped record by critics, but in breaking it down, it’s pert near perfect for any listener.

 

The Doobie Brothers – Toulouse Street

ARTIST: The Doobie Brothers                The_Doobie_Brothers_-_Toulouse_Street

TITLE: Toulouse Street

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: #21

SINGLES: Listen to the Music (#11 US, #29 UK), Jesus Is Just Alright (#35 US), Rockin’ Down the Highway

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The deep cuts got buried

LINEUP: Tom Johnston, Patrick Simmons, Tiran Porter, John Hartman, Michael Hossack. Bill Payne helped on keyboards. Dave Shogren contributed to two cuts before he left.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Finding a sweet spot with semi-rockin’, semi-country, laid-back tunes, the Doobie’s second album is better, and more popular.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Changing bassists, adding a second drummer, and polishing up their songwriting helped the Doobie Brothers break through on this album. Not that it’s a world beater, but it’s better than their first by leaps and bounds.

The sound still isn’t that adventurous, though befitting the name of the album they add horns and try to invoke a New Orleans groove to a few tracks, and also throw some gospel with a cover of the Byrds arrangement of “Jesus Is Just Alright”. There’s some tracks that are primarly acoustic tracks, and a couple that could be off-ramps to concert jams. All in all, a definite mainstream 1972 record.

The penultimate cut “Disciple” shows what the Doobies could be if they wanted to rock all the time. Alas, no.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Hossack left the band because of disagreements with producer Ted Templeman.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B: I don’t have bad things to say about this. It’s standard and mainstream, with decent deep cuts. They could rock out if they wanted to.

Love – Love

ARTIST: Love                    220px-Love_Album_Cover

TITLE: Love

YEAR RELEASED: 2011

CHART ACTION: #57

SINGLES: My Little Red Book (#52)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really, no.

LINEUP: Arthur Lee, Johnny Echols, Bryan MacLean, Ken Forssi, Snoopy Pfisterer. Maybe John Fleckenstein and Don Conka instead of Forssi and Pfisterer.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Sunset Strip stars’ first album creates some buzz, but doesn’t resonate with the general public despite its quality.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Maybe it was the fact that they were too LA, didn’t like to tour, too oblique at times, too complicated at times, or even the fact they were a mixed-race band, but for whatever reason Arthur Lee and Love never clicked in the general marketplace.

Psychedelic sounds were slowly becoming mainstream, but Love’s combination of psychedelia, sunshine pop, and garage sound was an elevation of style over what was the mainstream. The Sunset Strip crowd loved them, and bands covered them, but those cats didn’t drive sales.

Still, it’s a fascinating album of a band straddling several musical camps. Lee and Bryan MacLean’s songs are strong, and the eclecticism is a positive.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: John Fleckenstein and Don Conka left the band (Conka was sadly let go due to drugs, and Lee’s “Signed DC” is a tribute to his friend) before recording this, and two songs may have them on it.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. A B-side and mono mixes. 

GRADE: A-: A great debut of the time that could have been a big hit in different circumstances.

Thank You Scientist – Leave Your Light On

ARTIST: Thank You Scientist                       perils of time travel

TITLE: The Perils of Time Travel

YEAR RELEASED: 2011

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: No, it’s an EP

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I bet no.

LINEUP: Salvatore Marrano, Tom Monda, Russ Lynch, Greg Colacino, Ellis Jasenovic, Andrew Digrius, Odin Alvarez

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Modern progressive rock band throws the kitchen sink at you and…it works!

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Music with a shit-ton of 16th notes, time signatures without 4’s in them, and throwing the back pages of the chord book at you – that’s Thank You Scientist in their first EP also use violins and horns along with the gutiars and keyboards you expect from a prog band.

At times, they sound a bit like fellow prog travelers Coheed and Cambria, but on this album they don’t have a dense storyline that will take 418 albums to resolve. These are just five tracks with good guitar riffs, jazz, intriguing vocals from Salvatore Marrano, excellent musicianship, and enough oddities to keep you guessing.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The bands from that rock hotspot of Montclair, New Jersey

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: A-: I don’t particularly like the drum sound, but I can live with that. This is a quite intriguing debut EP.

Tami Lynn – Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone

ARTIST: Tami Lynn                              love is here tami lynn 2

TITLE: Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: I’m Gonna Run Away from You (#4 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Mojo Hanna, That’s Understanding

LINEUP: Tami Lynn and session players

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Intriguing soul album half-pieced together from older tracks, and then new tracks with spoken monologues between the cuts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This record is interesting in many ways, outside of the good to great soul music that it contains. The second side is many of Tami Lynn’s singles (or tracks she recorded as singles) dating back from 1966, with “I’m Gonna Run Away from You” belatedly hitting the charts in 1971 in the UK thanks to the Northern Soul junkies.

That gave Lynn a chance to fill out an album, and the first side is interesting as it’s some good soul slow jams, ending with a jubilant “That’s Understanding”. The tracks have monologue introductions by Lynn, talking about the stages of a love affair. love is here tami lynn

Those spoken pieces don’t add much to the tracks as far as I’m concerned, so it kind of ruins the flow of what otherwise would be a good to great soul record.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She sang backing voals for many groups in the 60’s and 70’s

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B: A downgrade for the monologues, which ruin the flow.

Eric Clapton – No Reason to Cry

ARTIST: Eric Clapton             EC_No_Reason_to_Cry.jpeg

TITLE: No Reason to Cry

YEAR RELEASED: 1976

CHART ACTION: #15 US, #8 UK

SINGLES: Hello Old Friend (#24), Carnival

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Sign Language

LINEUP: Eric Clapton, the Band, Yvonne Ellman, Bob Dylan, Ron Wood, Carl Radle, and so many others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Clapton rallies a bit, and makes an album that’s not boring.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Breaking out of the torpor of his previous album, Eric Clapton worked with The Band at their studio, and had a duet with Bob Dylan on the latter’s “Sign Language”. As with any duet with Dylan, Bob’s got his own rhythm, and his gruff growl and Clapton’s reedy voice (which is raspy this time around too) don’t mesh that well, but at least it’s played well by The Band.

Elsewhere, there are a couple of blues tunes, songs written by Rick Danko, and the typical laid-back shuffles that Clapton was specializing in during this time. There’s some energy here, though. I credit The Band.

It’s not a masterpiece, but at least Clapton’s on the right path here.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Dylan was just hanging around, and not only growled a duet with Clapton, offered another track. Clapton passed, but Ron Wood, also hanging out, grabbed the song “Seven Days” for his solo album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B: At least you won’t fall asleep here.

The Isley Brothers – The Essential Isley Brothers

ARTIST: The Isley Brothers             essential isley

TITLE: The Essential Isley Brothers

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 10: Twist and Shout (#17 US, #2 R&B, #42 UK), This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You) (#12 US, #6 R&B, #3 UK), It’s Your Thing (#2 US, #1 R&B, #30 UK), I Turned You On (#23 US, #6 R&B), Love the One You’re With (#18 US, #3 R&B), Lay Away (#54 US, #6 R&B), Pop That Thang (#24 US, #3 R&B), That Lady (#6 US, #2 R&B, #14 UK), What It Comes Down To (#55 US, #5 R&B), Summer Breeze (#60 US, #10 R&B, #16 UK), Harvest for the World (#63 US, #9 R&B, #10 UK), The Pride (#63 US, #1 R&B, #52 UK), Livin’ the Life (#40 US, #4 R&B), Take Me to the Next Phase (#1 R&B, #50 UK), I Wanna Be with You (#1 R&B), Don’t Say Goodnight (It’s Time to Love) (#39 US, #1 R&B), Between the Sheets (#101 US, #3 R&B, #52 UK), Down Low (Nobody Has to Know) (#4 US, #1 R&B, #23 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Shout (#47 US),

LINEUP: Ronald Isley, O’Kelly Isley, Rudolph Isley. The 1975-1985 group had Ernie Isley, Chris Jasper, and Marvin Isley

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Comprehensive look at the essential hits for the venerable brother vocal / funk group.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Even though “Shout” and “Twist and Shout” are well-known, those records didn’t really break the group for good. Not even Motown could, but when the vocal group added the younger brothers and in-laws to the mix, and got really funky, that’s when they had staying power.

For many years in the 70’s, they covered rock songs and made them funky and soulful, garnering hits with songs by Steven Stills, Seals & Crofts, and Eric Burdon. They lived on the R&B chart for most of the 70’s, mining a funk / disco groove with extended mixes.

They also had success with ballads, hearkening back to their Motown days, which makes for a quite diverse collection. All in all, this is a collection for those interested in the evolution of soul to funk to modern R&B.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They recorded a few tracks with a very young Jimi Hendrix, and this collection isn’t streaming the one track that was a single from those sessions, but really, it’s not that great.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A-: I’d say this would be a definite one for the collection, but it’s kind of bloated and the sequencing’s kind of odd.