Month: January 2018

Brenda Holloway – 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection – The Best of Brenda Holloway

ARTIST: Brenda Holloway

TITLE: 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of Brenda Holloway

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation brenda holloway

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Every Little Bit Hurts (#13), I’ll Always Love You (#60), When I’m Gone (#25, #12 R&B), Operator (#78, #36 R&B), Just Look What You’ve Done (#69, #21 R&B), You Made Me So Very Happy (#39, #40 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really

LINEUP: Brenda Holloway and the Motown session dudes

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Motown’s replacement for Mary Wells didn’t have the career she should have, as she was seen as temperamental and ‘difficult’.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: One of the first West Coast Motown signings, Holloway’s first single was a big hit and quite memorable. But soon, the label stopped the ‘star making’ machine for her and she seemed to be forgotten for a few years.

Holloway recorded some perfectly fine tracks that went unreleased, or not pushed by Motown so they languished in the charts. She was popular with musicians such as the Beatles, and was good on TV. Still, the last recording success she had was from her own song (“You Made Me So Very Happy”) before she left the Motown circus.

There’s not a lot of Holloway material out there, so this is a good representation. She could have been a big star had Motown let her be as independent as she wanted to be.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She had to sue Motown and Berry Gordy for royalties resulting from the Blood, Sweat, and Tears cover of “You Made Me So Very Happy”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B: A short but pleasant compilation that makes you wish Motown treated her better.

Seals & Crofts – Seals & Crofts’ Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Seals & Crofts               220px-Seals_Crofts_Greatest

TITLE: Seals & Crofts’ Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #11

SINGLES: Top 40: Summer Breeze (#6), Hummingbird (#20), Diamond Girl (#6), We May Never Pass This Way (Again) (#21), I’ll Play for You (#18)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh no, unless your parents were soft-rock Baha’i hippies.

LINEUP: Jim Seals, Dash Crofts, and the best LA session dudes.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Long time writers and sidemen get together and create a string of 70’s hits that are ubiquitous and annoyingly hooky.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This compilation album (not in any order, really) summed up their first seven albums, and wisely focused on their hits and some of the more harmless tree-hugging hippie stuff while avoiding the controversial tracks and the songs about their faith.

The big hits are ones that everyone knows from their parents, or their dentist, or soundtracks, and they have a tendency to stick into your ears – that’s how well crafted and hooky they are. Their full length records, though, are slogs so this is definitely one to stick with.

It’s not comprehensive, though – a full comprehensive overview is not streaming. So this misses their last big big hit. seals crofts high 5

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Get Closer” (#6) was released the year after this collection came out. It’s on a smaller Rhino comp. The best part of that song is the vocal by Carolny Willis, who used to be in Honey Cone.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: C+: Downgraded for being incomplete and out of order, and somewhat for being full of ear worms.

Black Flag – Hard Volume

ARTIST: Rollins Band                   Rollins_Band_Hard_Volume

TITLE: Hard Volume

YEAR RELEASED: 1989

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hard, Planet Joe

LINEUP: Henry Rollins, Chris Haskett, Andrew Weiss, Sim Cain

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second full studio album hampered by production, redundancy, and a too long jam (later expunged)

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Normally, Theo Van Rock makes the Rollins Band crackle and burn, but this mastering or mix here seems muddy and flat. The same could be said about some of the material.

While Andrew Weiss’s bass takes a starring role, and Chris Haskett’s guitar can still heat up igloos, the back half of the album finds Rollins in the midst of howling his dirges, and using a lot of repetition to get his point across.

The last track of the original release was a way-way too long jam that was thankfully snipped out on re-release in favor of demos and some outtakes that would be re-recorded to make future appearances on records. This is one Rollins record that’s not vital to own.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It would be three years before the Rollins Band released another studio album, though they still toured constantly.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, see above. 

GRADE: C: A clunker with a few glimmers of hope (and a good bass sound).

Snow Patrol – When It’s All Over We Still Have to Clear Up

ARTIST: Snow Patrol                            220px-When-Its-Over-album-cover

TITLE: When it’s All Over We Still have to Clear Up

YEAR RELEASED: 2001

CHART ACTION: #129 UK

SINGLES: Ask Me How I Am (#96 UK), One Night Is Not Enough (#92)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None.

LINEUP: Gary Lightbody, Mark McClelland, Jonny Quinn

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Dull record that belies the strengths of the band for the most part.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The second full-length record from this group of Scotsmen just seems to be slow and moody for the sake of being moody.

While some may like the quiet, detached sounds and then morose subject matter, it just seems that the band more enjoys wallowing in the dour than creating some memorable hooks or melodies.

At times, the tracks do break out and get somewhat alive, but for the most part this is a record to avoid except if you really, really like them.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Songs from their next breakthrough were written during the ending sessions but held back.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, the B-sides to the singles of the album were added on. 

GRADE: C-: It put me on a path towards a nap, and that probably wasn’t the intent. EXILED

Matt Pond PA – The Green Fury

ARTIST: Matt Pond PA                                220px-Matt_Pond_PA_The_Green_Fury

TITLE: The Green Fury

YEAR RELEASED: 2002

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None none

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No, sir. None either.

LINEUP: Matt Pond, Steven Gunn, Jim Hostetter, Jim Kehoe, Mike Kennedy. Josh Kramer, Brian McTear, Eve Miller, Matt Raisch

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Baroque / classical pop artist releases second album of sneakily hummable and inventive chamber pop tunes .

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sometimes an artist will use strings and classical-type arrangements to make a grandiose and pretentious statement. This isn’t one of those records. This does have a few of those moments, but most of the record is reflective and tasteful.

Matt Pond and his band roll through an album that’s somewhat a cycle about neighborhoods and yards and suburbs, and using vocals, arrangements, and pop sensibilities it slowly reveals itself to be memorable, if not melodious.

Some of the tracks seem more experimental in nature, and they don’t always work (“Crickets” for one). Still, it’s an admirable album by an ambitious leader and his band.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Pond took on a job writing music for the Oxygen Network around this time.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B+: A good record to chill to, or be immersed in.

Van Halen – Women and Children First

ARTIST: Van Halen                 220px-Van_Halen_-_Women_and_Children_First

TITLE: Women and Children First

YEAR RELEASED: 1980

CHART ACTION: #6 US, #15 UK

SINGLES: And the Cradle Will Rock… (#55 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Everybody Wants Some!!

LINEUP: David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony. Nicolette Larson sings backup on “Could This Be Magic?”

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Their songwriting has improved, but it still seems too short .

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s eight listed tracks, though one is an intro, and another (“Fools”) has a long intro as well. The songs, though, are almost as good as their debut album – with no covers and somewhat enhanced sonic range.

Eddie Van Halen’s electric piano adds depth to “And the Cradle Will Rock…” There’s some good work in incorporating acoustic guitars into their repertoire on the second side, and while many of the tracks are party songs, at least one sounds like they’re kickin’ it on the back porch and it doesn’t sound half bad.

Still, it just seems too short. I think leaving them waiting for more is a great idea, but I really want more, especially since some of my favorite Van Halen deep cuts are on this one.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “In a Simple Rhyme” ends with a track called “Growth”, which was faded out until this album was released on CD. It was a way to start a jam or a medley into other songs on tour. Also, almost every live clip of “Romeo’s Delight” has Roth forgetting the second verse.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B+: Savant David Lee Roth said “Everybody Wants Some!!” but I want more than this album gave me.

Pantera – The Great Southern Trendkill

ARTIST: Pantera                  220px-Pantera_The_Great_Southern_Trendkill

TITLE: The Great Southern Trendkill

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #4 US, #17 UK

SINGLES: Drag the Waters, Suicide Note Pt. 1, Floods

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you bought it, you know it. Otherwise, no.

LINEUP: Phil Anselmo, Dimebag Darrell, Rex Brown, Vinnie Paul

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: An even louder and aggressive record than the other 90’s Pantera albums, except for the ballads.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting out with a hearty GROWL from Phil Anselmo, Pantera’s fourth major label album is loud and angry. Sometimes that’s all you need from metal, but, in this case it’s not

The songs that have a memorable riff and melody (well, as melodious as Anselmo gets) and hook are right there with the best of their tracks. That’s only a couple. The rest of the aggressive ones are just a blur of volume.

The ballads get them encroaching on Alice in Chains territory that doesn’t really bring out the strengths of the group (which in my ears are all metal). And that makes a track like “Floods” a bit schizophrenic, with a definite mellow kind of vibe, then it hits you over the head in kind of an abrupt transition.

It’s not bad, I’m not going to lie. But it’s something that won’t be on my regular rotation.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band was fighting among themselves, so Anselmo did his vocals in another studio away from the rest of the group.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A live track in Japan, and an anniversary edition, of course.

 GRADE: C+: I’m not feeling this one.

Neil Young – On the Beach

ARTIST: Neil Young                 220px-On_the_Beach_-_Neil_Young

TITLE: On the Beach

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #16 US, #42 UK

SINGLES: Walk On (#61 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: For the Turnstiles

LINEUP: Neil Young, Ben Keith, Tim Drummond with cameos by Ralph Molina, Levon Helm, Rusty Kershaw, Graham Nash, Billy Talbot, David Crosby, George Whitsell, and Rick Danko

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Young’s first studio album since his commercial breakthrough is a despairing look at 1974 from several angles.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The year 1974 was a bleak one for those who had hoped the Sixties would bring change, and the tone and tenor of this Neil Young album fits in well with the national malaise.

With songs about energy companies, politics, fame, serial killers, and cynicism, this is not a sunshiny walk in the sand. There’s some harrowing imagery throughout the record, and the tone is rough and ragged, with the mix deliberately being a rough monitor mix instead of the full mix done by the engineers.

There’s some glimmer of hope, as “Walk On’ points to a way out of fog. It’s a fantastic record, and a bummer of a record.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Young and his guests consumed a marijuana and honey concoction during the recording sessions called Honey Slides.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A: There’s hardly a mis-step (depending on how you feel about “Motion Pictures”), and it does take you back to a time where it seemed nothing was going to go right in the world.

ZZ Top – Fandango!

ARTIST: ZZ Top                     220px-ZZ_Top_-_Fandango

TITLE: Fandango!

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #10 US, #60 UK

SINGLES: Tush (#20)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Heard It on the X, Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings, Thunderbird

LINEUP: Billy Gibbson, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Half studio, half live, half of a great album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I’ve been wondering about this release. The studio side is probably the best, most cohesive side the band had done in their career, with the only true misstep is the subtle racism / sexism in “Mexican Blackbird” that probably didn’t raise any eyebrows in 1974.

The live side starts with the smokin’ hot “Thunderbird” (after about a minute of milling around), but then only has two more tracks, including a ending medley that really didn’t work.

Why didn’t the band release a whole show (or most of it) on three sides, and then side four the new studio tracks? Not having more studio tracks may be burnout or writer’s block – they were on tour for a long time in 1973 and 1974. Still, the brevity of the live side makes this not a great value, no matter how hot the studio tracks were.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Thunderbird” was a track originally done by the Nightcaps, but they never applied for the copyright. Oops.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: More live tracks, but from a much later show, and just three of them.

 GRADE: B: I wish I could score it higher – and it would be if it were a studio EP or a double set with more good live material.

Thin Lizzy – Shades of a Blue Orphanage

ARTIST: Thin Lizzy                          220px-Thin_Lizzy_-_Shades_of_a_Blue_Orphanage

TITLE: Shades of a Blue Orphanage

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not here, but the first bonus track put them on the map.

LINEUP: Phil Lynott, Eric Bell, Brian Downey. Clodagh Simonds plays keyboards.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The second album repeats many of the same problem their first album had – though it is more of a rocker than a folker.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: When your second album starts out with “Rise and Dear Demise of the Funky Nomatic Tribes” you just wonder what the hell you’re getting yourself into – and to boot the track starts with a drum solo. Starts…with a drum solo. Then the riff kicks in and all seems to be well. At least for that track.

Thin Lizzy was still definitely a work in progress in 1972. They weren’t totally convincing as rockers, and didn’t quite have the focus in storytelling, either. What they had was glimpses of good stuff in and around the full tracks. Still, there are a couple of cringy clunkers that make you wonder. The production is flat and all mid-range – it’s like Brian Downey’s cymbals don’t exist.

Struggling to find an audience, Thin Lizzy’s next move was to release a traditional folk song as a single. You know it…”Whiskey in the Jar”.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The name of the album was taken from the bands the group was in before forming Thin Lizzy, Shades of Blue and Orphanage.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with the A/B of “Whiskey in the Jar” (#6 UK) and BBC tracks. 

GRADE: C: It’s safe to say that single saved their career (at least in the UK).