Month: December 2017

The Offspring – Ignition

ARTIST: The Offspring                             220px-The_Offspring-Ignition

TITLE: Ignition

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Bad Habit, Kick Him When He’s Down (#22 Alternative on re-release)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe you do, maybe you don’t

LINEUP: Dexter Holland, Noodles, Greg K, Ron Welty

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Their first Epitaph release is a perfectly fine early 90’s punk record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Offspring were semi-known in the Southern California punk scene when they got the attention of Epitaph Records, and the label released this, their second album, in 1992. It got some traction in Southern California, and that seemed to be all fine and dandy, until, well, the hit happened on their next one.

It’s not really that far off of any of their subsequent releases, though it doesn’t really follow trends or try to be funny in search of a follow-up hit. Songs like “Kick Him When He’s Down”, “We Are One”, and “LAPD” are all familiar punk rants for various flavors.

Had the Offspring not become famous, this would have been a decent enough record to hang a career on. It certainly has credibility and honesty.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Dexter Holland had received his MS degree by this time and was going to start on his PhD around the time of this album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B:  It’s nothing special, but it’s a good punk record.

Dave Davies – Hidden Treasures

ARTIST: Dave Davies         davies

TITLE: Hidden Treasures

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Death of a Clown (#3 UK), Susannah’s Still Alive (#20 UK), Lincoln County, Hold My Hand.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Mindless Child of Motherhood, Funny Face, Love Me Till the Sun Shines (Kinks releases)

LINEUP: Dave Davies with the Kinks as backing band (Ray Davies, Mick Avory, and either Pete Quaife or John Dalton). Nicky Hopkins and other session players also contribute.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After some solo singles, Davies was encouraged to record an album in the late 60’s. He had finished some tracks, but it never was released as a full record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Dave Davies, the guitarist and foil to brother Ray in the Kinks, usually contributed a tune or two for each Kinks record. “Death of a Clown” became a hit as a solo single, and after a few other singles, the record company asked Dave to provide an album.

Not as prolific as his brother, Davies tracks slowly accumulated, but after a couple of singles missed the mark the record company dropped the idea, and even Davies himself was rather relieved.

Yet, the tracks are interesting and have value. Some show up on Kinks albums and B-sides, but some languished in the vault until various compilations came out of the woodwork. This one collects the album as it was proposed and other various Dave Davies tracks credited to the Kinks or solo.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Dave Davies wrote several tracks for his high school girlfriend, whose parents made them break up even though Susannah was with Dave’s child.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: This version is basically the deluxe version of the originally planned album. 

GRADE: B:  Dave’s contributions are underrated, as this collection shows.

 

Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine

ARTIST: Rage Against the Machine      220px-RageAgainsttheMachineRageAgainsttheMachine

TITLE: Rage Against the Machine

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: #45 US, #17 UK

SINGLES: Killing in the Name (#1 UK), Bullet in the Head (#16 UK), Bombtrack (#37 UK), Freedom

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Brother John / Iko Iko

LINEUP: Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk. Maynard James Keenan and Stephen Perkins add backing vocals on a track.+

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Incendiary debut from the rap / metal / alternative group wears you out with its constant haranguing, but the high points stick with you.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Rage is definitely the key word for this group, since the first album is all about rage, activism, and support for the oppressed.

The metal / hip-hop hybrid joins a great trio anchored by guitarist Tom Morello, who has a lot of fretboard tricks up his sleeve. Zack de la Rocha’s angry raps are powerful and sound fresh even today – it seems like not much as changed since 1992.

Yet, anger and rage can only carry you so far, especially when after about half of the album the songs and causes all blur together only to rally again with the closer “Freedom”.

Some part of me is sad that this record is still relevant – as we haven’t moved forward in society.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The video for “Freedom” highlights the cause of Leonard Peltier from the AIM.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Lots of bonus material in several editions 

GRADE: A-:  The high points are great enough to move this into the “A” category, even with the lack of diversity on the back half of the album.

The Neville Brothers – Fiyo on the Bayou

ARTIST: The Neville Brothers    220px-Neville.fiyo.bayou

TITLE: Fiyo on the Bayou

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Sitting in Limbo

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Brother John / Iko Iko

LINEUP: Art, Cyril, Charles, Aaron and Charmaine Neville with a bunch of New Orleans session musicans (including Art’s son Ivan).

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A better album from the Neville’s than their debut as a group.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Compared to the greatness of the Meters, to Aaron’s ballad work, and other projects the Nevilles have been associated with, this album still seems a bit of a letdown.

Yet, it’s joyous, and has room for old New Orleans standards (“Brother John / Iko Iko”), Aaron’s balladeering (“The Ten Commandments of Love” and “Mona Lisa”), and a cover of the Meters “Hey Pocky Way” and “Fire on the Bayou”.

What’s bothering me a bit is the way the horns are charted and produced – it seems too generic and sterile for me on some cuts. To me, the horns should have been looser and more in the groove. Here they just seem added on. That’s a downgrade – which is a shame because the underlying funk is there.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Meters released an album called Fire on the Bayou. If it worked once…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B:  Blame this on the horn charts, but it’s good for a quick funky fix.

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin

ARTIST: Led Zeppelin           Led_Zeppelin_-_Led_Zeppelin_(1969)_front_cover

TITLE: Led Zeppelin

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: #7 US, #6 UK

SINGLES: Good Times Bad Times (#80)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Dazed and Confused

LINEUP: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham, John Paul Jones

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The debut from the rock and roll behemoth is mostly blues rock, with a couple of interesting diversions and a closing cut that points their way to domination.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: From the ashes of the Yardbirds Jimmy Page emerged. With studio whiz John Paul Jones and relative unknowns Robert Plant and John Bonham in tow, the new group recorded this album on their own and gave it to Atlantic Records. The company eagerly snapped it up, and the rest is history.

Most of the album is rooted in the blues, much like the Yardbirds. Two Willie Dixon tunes (“You Shook Me” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby”) were pure blues, while “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” was a standard of blues and rock bands throughout the 60’s. “Dazed and Confused” is definitely in a slow blues style.

The album’s most important cuts diverge from the blues. “Good Times Bad Times” and “How Many More Times” are riff driven, and while the latter does use some blues call-and-response, and ref3erences blues songs, the riff is pure hard rock. “Communication Breakdown”, on the other hand, has a riff that could be a speed metal or punk riff – miles ahead of its time. Most heavy songs at the time were slow and lumbering – not this one.

The band tends to ramble on some cuts (they needed an editor), and their version of “You Shook Me” isn’t as good as the Jeff Beck Groups, but this debut changed the course of rock in three cuts.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: When the Yardbirds split, Jimmy Page had the rights to the name of the band, and had to tour Scandinavia to fulfill contracts. So he recruited this band as “The New Yardbirds”, and then changed the name.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: One bonus track, the title track.

GRADE: A-:  “How Many More Times” points to the future.

John Mellencamp – American Fool

ARTIST: John Cougar (Mellencamp)          220px-JC_American_Fool

TITLE: American Fool

YEAR RELEASED: 1982

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #37 UK

SINGLES: Hurts So Good (#2, #1 Mainstream), Jack & Diane (#1 US, #3 Mainstream, #25 UK), Thundering Hearts (#36 Mainstream), Hand to Hold on To (#19 US, #89 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No one knew the deep cuts

LINEUP: John Cougar (Mellencamp), Larry Crane, Mike Wanchic, Kenny Aronoff, George Perry with help by Mick Ronson (!)

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The breakthrough finally happens, thanks to MTV and constant touring.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: John Cougar finally, finally struck the big time after a few years of regional success thanks to “Hurts So Good”, a catchy rock-and-roll fun-time number with a great video. The Hoosier then became a household name with “Jack and Diane” – really one of the most polarizing songs of the 80’s. You either loved it, or wish it didn’t exist. (I fall into the latter camp).

The album that follows those songs isn’t horrible – it could be said “Jack and Diane” is the worst song there (well, I say it). There are a couple of other high points, but we definitely have a mostly hit+filler situation here – with the hits coming at the beginning and the second side of the LP may have been almost totally neglected on turntables and cassette decks.

There’s some progress here on the songwriting front, and he’s not afraid to be sentimental, but songs like “China Girl” (not the Bowie / Pop track) hold him back, along with…you know.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The record company almost cancelled this record and released him.   

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: One bonus track, the title track. 

GRADE: B-:  It was a huge album, but it has a lot of meh filler.

Neil Diamond – All-Time Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Neil Diamond            diamond

TITLE: All Time Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #15 US, #25 UK

SINGLES: Top 10: Cherry Cherry (#6 US), Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon (#10 US), Sweet Caroline (#4 US, #8 UK), Holly Holy (#6 US), Cracklin’ Rosie (#1 US, #3 UK), I Am..I Said (#4 US, #4 UK), Song Sung Blue (#1 US, #14 UK), Longellow Serenade (#5 US), Love on the Rocks (#2 US, #17 UK), Hello Again (#6 US, #51 UK), America (#8 US), Heartlight (#5 US, #47 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Almost every major hit by him is here

LINEUP: Neil Diamond, session musicians

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Almost (ALMOST!) the ultimate collection for every casual Neil Diamond fan.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Singer, songwriter, very serious man Neil Diamond is seemingly timeless. Almost everyone has heard at least one song (especially those attending sporting events), and he’s an artist whose work spans generations. Grandmothers who swooned to him in 1972 are bringing their granddaughters to his concerts now.

This is a collection of all of his big hits until 1983, well, all but one. “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” is represented, but as a solo song, not his hit duet with Barbra Streisand. The collection is also weirdly sequenced – like they went to a random number generator or something to put the tracks together.

Though he released a lot of albums in the 70’s (with a lot of pretentious album titles), this distills Diamond into one nice-sized chunk for almost everyone who has an inkling that they may like Diamond.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He didn’t have a #1 album until 2008’s Home Before Dark. 

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B+-:  The sequencing would be better chronologically. And it missed the Streisand duet.

Frank Black & The Catholics – Pistolero

ARTIST: Frank Black & the Catholics              220px-Fb-pistolero

TITLE: Pistolero

YEAR RELEASED: 1999

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: I Gotta Move

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Bad Harmony, I Love Your Brain.

LINEUP: Frank Black, Scott Boutier, David McCaffery, Rich Gilbert

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from Frank Black’s group continues his foray into straight rock and roll. The songs are a bit more off-kilter in a Frank Black way.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “More Rock!” is what Frank Black decreed, and thus, the second record from his association with the Catholics rocks in much the same way as the first. Yet here, the songs are more Frank Black-ian, with twists and turns, manic vocals, and off-kilter subjects.

It’s still pretty straight forward, production wise, as it was recorded live to two track. Yet the songs themselves are varied enough to avoid the same-same sound. Black and Rich Gilbert’s guitars mesh well together, though Gilbert’s not as adventurous as Joey Santiago.

It’s not the Pixies, but it’s what we had by him in 1999, and that was fine.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Rich Gilbert became the group’s lead guitarist for this album 

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A-:  It’s rock, with weirdness, but not really weird rock.

 

Rufus – Rufusized

ARTIST: Rufus                                    Rufus_-_Rufusized

TITLE: Rufusized

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #7 US, #2 R&B, #48 UK

SINGLES: Once You Get Started (#10 US, #4 R&B, #2 Dance) Please Pardon Me (You Remind Me of a Friend) (#48 US, #6 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The deep cuts played on some radio stations.

LINEUP: Chaka Khan, Tony Maiden, Kevin Murphy, Bobby Watson, Andre Fischer

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Rushing back into the studio, Rufus recorded a set that kept their momentum that fit right next to their last record, even with turnovers in personnel.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: To many people, Chaka Khan was Rufus, and that impression caused a few of their old members to bolt. But the replacements fit right into the groove established earlier in 1974, so all was good for this album.

It’s got a similar funky feel, and Chaka Khan’s vocals are the focal point (except for the funky instrumental “Rufusized”). None of the songs have reached the cultural zeitgeist of their early hits, yet most all of the cuts are quality, especially the early feminist anthem “I’m a Woman (I’m a Backbone)”

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Keyboard player Nate Morgan was on the album cover, but didn’t participate in the sessions.  And officially, the band is now Rufus (featuring Chaka Khan), but that’s unweildy.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: A-:  A perfectly fine funky record.

Earth, Wind & Fire – Last Days and Time

ARTIST: Earth Wind & Fire                 Lastdaysandtimealbum

TITLE: Last Days and Time

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: #87, #15 R&B

SINGLES: Mon (#104)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Bread’s Make It with You and Where Have All the Flowers Gone. No, really.

LINEUP: Verdine White, Maurice White, Philip Bailey, Jessica Cleaves, Roland Bautista, Ronnie Laws, Larry Dunn, Ralph Johnson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A re-booted band and a new record label. EWF begins its journey to being a top flight funk / soul / disco behemoth.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A change in record company coupled with a change in band – that signaled a change in the direction for Verdine and Maurice White’s horn-based funk and soul outfit.

Maurice began using the kalimba extensively, coloring their work with the sound of the talking drum. They also got a dynamite singer in Philip Bailey, whose falsetto covered all of the high notes and blended with the other vocals to create some ethereal backing vocals. With Bailey on board, romantic ballads were also in their wheelhouse now.

The covers were ‘interesting’ but not horrible. EWF were skilled at arranging those songs to make them their own. The only things that don’t fit are the three ‘interludes’, which are more annoying than anything else. Those I exiled.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Roland Bautista left the band soon after, but joined the group again in 1981 and stayed for a couple more years. 

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B:  The interludes knock it down a little bit, but this is a fine unheard gem that showcases the band forming their new sound.