Month: August 2018

Brother Ali – Shadows on the Sun

ARTIST: Brother Ali            220px-Shadows_on_the_Sun

TITLE:  Shadows on the Sun

YEAR RELEASED: 2003

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Room with a View, Champion

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really

LINEUP: Brother Ali, Ant

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First wide-ish release by Twin Cities alternative rapper that gave notice that he was a force to be reckoned with in the underground community.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Brother Ali, an albino Muslim rapper from Minneapolis, is one of the most steadfast and focused of the alternative / underground hip hop community. This, his second album (and first that was really distributed), landed and created a buzz that continues to this day.

His rhymes and flow compel you to listen, and the beats and production by Ant are also compelling – there are hooks, great samples, and a tremendous blend of voice and beats. The content by Ali is about family, religion, injustice, and the power imbalance between the Government and the people in his community. It’s definitely a potent, powerful mix.

Ali also rhymes about privilege, male privilege especially. He’s angry, but hopeful. It’s a national debut that to this day is vital.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He had a previous release, on cassette only, with very limited circulation.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE: A+: I can’t get enough of this.

Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night

ARTIST: Neil Young                            220px-Neil_Young_TTN_cover

TITLE:  Tonight’s the Night

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #25

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Tonight’s the Night, Come on Baby Let’s Go downtown, Roll Another Number (For the Road)

LINEUP: Neil Young, Ben Keith, Nils Lofgren, Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina. A live cut featured Danny Whitte and Jack Nitzsche. Tim Drummond and Kenny Buttrey were on a track.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A dark album about the despair that emanated from overdose deaths of two of Young’s close friends.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Danny Whitten was a great musician and friend. He worked with Young in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, but he couldn’t stay off of smack and he died. Bruce Berry was a roadie and another close friend who also died from heroin. Young poured his grief into this album, recording it in late 1973 with other close friends as an elegy and eulogy.

It’s a loose, raw record. You can hear the frayed emotions and tension in the playing and singing. It’s not raucous, or loud. It sounds like a wake, which in a sense it was. After the success of Harvest, Young went dark, and that fueled his art.

Using guitar, piano, steel guitar, bass and drums, Young and his assembled friends made a statement. It should be required listening for anyone in pain and grief.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: One track, “Come On Baby, Let’s Go Downtown” was recorded live with Whitten on guitar. It later showed up on a concert recording from Young’s archives.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There is a version that’s even rawer and more gut wrenching that they may release later.

 GRADE: A+: Listen to this alone on a Saturday night when you’re alone and sad. It’s an album that speaks to you one on one.

Jason & the Scorchers – Fervor

ARTIST: Jason & the Scorchers          220px-Jason-scorchers-fervor

TITLE:  Fervor

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None – it was an EP

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Help There’s a Fire, Absolutely Sweet Marie

LINEUP: Jason Ringenberg, Perry Baggs, Warner Hodges, Jeff Johnson. Michael Stipe backs up on a track.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A band to put the ROCK in country-rock, the Scorchers created a proto alt-country sound with some hot rock guitar and cool country ballads.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: From Cornfield, USA (Sheffield, IL), Jason Ringenberg journeyed to Nashville and formed the Scorchers as a raw rock band with definite country leanings. After a four-track EP that was more style than substance, EMI put out this seven track EP to whet the appetite of the public.

The Dylan cover “Absolutely Sweet Marie” kills, as does the original “Help There’s a Fire” (remade from the original EP). They show their range with “Pray for Me, Mama (I’m a Gypsy Now)”, where Jason sings a sad country song.

Warner Hodges’ guitar work on electric and steel is stellar. Jason’s croon fits every song. It’s seven tracks of fun.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The four track EP, Reckless Country Soul (credited to Jason & the Nashville Scorchers), is on a compilation called Wildfires & Misfires)

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but it’s on an EMI Years compilation though

 GRADE: A-: It’s a damn roadhouse party in seven tracks.

U2 – War

ARTIST: U2                           220px-U2_War_album_cover (1)

TITLE:  War

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: #12 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: New Year’s Day (#53 US, #2 Mainstream, #10 UK), Sunday Bloody Sunday (#7 Mainstream), Two Hearts Beat As One (#12 Mainstream, #18 UK), Surrender (#27 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Seconds, “40”

LINEUP: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen with a little help from Kenny Fradley, Steve Wickham, and the Coconuts

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: U2 coalesces all of its strengths into one unifying force, creating an album that put them on the map all over the world and MTV too.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Beginning with a martial snare drum, and ending with a plaintive Psalm, U2 recovered from the uneven October with a classic that focused their sound, their lyrics, and their attitude.

Each member of U2 plays with a fire and passion befitting the songs, especially Larry Mullen on drums. He varies his sounds and attack to suit each track, but never interferes with the other elements. Bassist Adam Clayton’s work with Mullen creates a very solid rhythm section, allowing the Edge’s guitar (and e-piano) space to color and shape the tracks. “New Year’s Day” is one of THE tracks of the rock era.

Bono gets a little heavy handed and preachy in a couple songs (it IS Bono) which makes a couple songs less than stellar, but most every track is worthy of heavy play. This is where to start – it’s the bedrock of U2 for years to come.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Edge sings the first two stanzas of “Seconds”. I…I did not know that. Also, the Coconuts (from King Creole’s band) sing backup in three tracks

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, B-sides and remixes.

 GRADE: A: Had Bono reigned himself a skosh on a couple tracks, it would have been an A+

Tom Jones – Gold

ARTIST: Tom Jones                                       tomjones gold

TITLE:  Gold

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 20: It’s Not Unusual (#10 US, #1 UK), With These Hands (#27 US, #13 UK), What’s New Pussycat (#3 US, #11 UK), Once There Was a Time (#58 US, #18 UK), Green Green Grass of Home (#11 US, #1 UK), Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings (#49 US, #7 UK), I’ll Never Fall in Love Again (#6 US, #2 UK), I’m Coming Home (#57 US, #2 UK), Delilah (#15 US, #2 UK), Help Yourself (#35 US, #5 UK), A Minute of Your Time (#48 US, #14 UK),  Without Love (There Is Nothing) (#5 US, #10 UK), Daughter of Darkness (#13 US, #5 UK), I (Who Have Nothing (#14 US, #16 UK), She’s a Lady (#2 US, #13 UK), Till (#38 US, #2 UK, The Young New Mexican Puppeteer (#80 US, #6 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Thunderball (#25 US, #35 UK)

LINEUP: Tom Jones and majestic pop orchestras

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Welsh singer, who made your mom and grandma all excited and stuff, had a deep catalog that fit his overly dramatic voice and style.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: As cheesy as some of these songs are, they also show the talent of Tom Jones to interpret songs and make them his own. From 1965 through 1972, when he really started to focus more on shows than recording and the pop styles moved away from his forte, he was an international star on TV and the radio, and sold a lot of records.

This collection is from his peak period, from his first single “It’s Not Unusual” in 1965 through 1975. While it may be a lot to plow through, it hits every twist and turn Jones navigated through those years and how he kept contemporary (somewhat) in those times.

Tom Jones is a legend, and oh, call him Sir Tom Jones. He’s still out there hoofin’ it on stage when he can.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He did have a hit with the Art of Noise covering “Kiss” in 1988, and sang “You Can Leave Your Hat On” for the soundtrack of the Full Monty. You can find those easily.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: Good, cheesy, fun.

Paul Collins Beat – The Beat

ARTIST: Paul Collins’ Beat        220px-The_Beat_LP

TITLE:  The Beat

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Let Me Into Your Life, Don’t Wait Up for Me, Rock ‘N Roll Girl

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None, but I mixed You Won’t Be Happy a million billion times

LINEUP: Paul Collins, Steven Huff, Larry Whitman, Michael Ruiz

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A slice of power-pop heaven from one of the Nerves. It fell to almost deaf ears.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Despite appearances on American Bandstand, and a lot of critical acclaim, this outstanding power pop record didn’t sell or make many dents on FM radio airplay. The question of why needs to be answered, but there’s no accounting for taste.

Through the grooves (and now digital bits), Paul Collins and his band (which initially was The Beat just like the UK ska-band, thus forcing a Paul Collins Beat moniker here and an English Beat moniker there) plays through these power pop songs with gusto and verve. Melodies, harmonies, and hooks are in abundance. Many tracks leave you singing or humming them well after the record is done.

There’s one misstep here, a slow piano ballad which sounds like it should be on a Journey album or something. Aside from that, there’s not a miss as the catchy songs roll past you in a rush.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He was part of the Nerves with Peter Case and Jack Lee. The Nerves more famous for being namechecked by every Power Pop historian than anything they recorded (which was only four songs).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: One extra track that should have replaced the ballad.

 GRADE: A: What Power Pop could be!

Sloan – Navy Blues

ARTIST: Sloan

220px-Sloan_Navy_Blues

 

TITLE:  Navy Blues

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION: #5 in Canada

SINGLES: Money City Maniacs (#7 Canada, #4 Canada Alternative), See Says What She Means (#21 Canada Alternative), Keep on Thinkin’ (#85 Canada)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not here, eh?

LINEUP: Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland, Jay Ferguson, Andrew Scott

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A bit more hard rocking record from the Canadians, as if they inhaled the faster late-period Beatles songs and re-arranged them in their own way.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Thanks to a pizza commercial, some fine power poppin’, and bass line inspired by AC/DC, Sloan hit a commercial peak in Canada with “Money City Maniacs”, a quintessential power pop song if there was ever one. Yet that’s not the only fine, inspired track here.

Cut after cut showcases the bands gifts of melody, arrangement, and harmony. Most of the time, the band hits the mark, but “Chester the Molester” is cringe worthy lyrically even if it’s done lightheartedly (that may make it worse).

Skip that track, and enjoy the rest, especially reveling in how the album starts off with “She Says What She Means”.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The opening track, “She Says What She Means’ was the last track recorded  and only written by Chris Murphy as an answer to the other rockin’ songs penned by Patrick Pentland.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: In Japan

 GRADE: A-: Downgrading for “Chester the Molester”, but otherwise a fantastic power pop record.

Son Volt – Straightaways

ARTIST: Son Volt                               220px-Straightaways

TITLE:  Straightaways

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: #44

SINGLES: Back into Your World, Caryatid Easy

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Way Down Watson

LINEUP: Jay Farrar, Dave Boquist, Eric Heywood, Jim Boquist, Mike Heidorn

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second Son Volt album seems unfocused and a bit of a letdown after such a strong debut.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Jay Farrar and crew’s second album starts off sort of strong with “Caryatid Easy”, a straightforward rocker with a country tinge. It gives one hope that their second album would be as good as their first, or close to it.

But that’s not the case. As the album rolls along, the songs become more laborious and ponderous. The last half of the album especially gets a bit languid (mostly thanks to Farrar’s vocals on the slower ballads), and the lyrics more and more obtuse. It’s not that there’s not good material here, but it comes down to pacing. “Caryatid Easy” could have / should have been in the middle somewhere and “Cemetery Savior” or another mid-tempo track could have been the opener.

The lack of a really memorable track also makes this record a bit disappointing. There’s not one that I could really recall without listening to it again (unlike other songs that I sing or hum in my head all of the time). It’s just falls short.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Eric Heywood is credited as a full band member on this album, though he was also the touring guitar tech.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: Good songs, not great songs, and the pacing and sequencing isn’t the best.

Kid Creole & the Coconuts – Kid Creole Redux

ARTIST: Kid Creole & the Coconuts                    creole redux

TITLE:  Kid Creole Redux

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: I’m a Wonderful Thing baby (#18 Club, #44 R&B, #4 UK), Stool Pigeon (#25 Club, #7 UK), Annie I’m Not Your Daddy (#18 Club, #2 UK), There’s Something Wrong in Paradise (#35 UK), The Lifeboat Party (#49 UK), Endicott (#21 Club, #80 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Yolanda, Animal Crackers

LINEUP: August Darnell, Coati Mundi, Adriana Kaegi and a huge cast of other characters

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Retrospective of fun 80’s band that mixed disco, tropical rhythms, and a cavalier attitude.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: August Darnell formed Kid Creole and the Coconuts and became the persona of Kid Creole, a bon vivant ladies man with a slick tongue and a sartorial flair. They were New York and club favorites, and  had some great success in the UK, and were always a party to see live.

Their albums weren’t always the hallmark of consistency, but there were fun live and in small doses a joy on the dance floor. This collects their most noteworthy songs on their albums (except it misses “Mister Softee” which they did on SNL).

It’s hard to explain a band like them, except to listen to “Stool Pigeon” or “I’m a Wonderful Thing, Baby” and you’ll get it. Morris Day owes Kid Creole something for his schtick.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They never hit higher than #145 in the album charts, despite club play and fun videos.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B: It’s a fun collection, but could be a bit longer and more in chronological order.

Fetchin Bones – Bad Pumpkin

ARTIST: Fetchin Bones                          Fetchin_Bones_-_Bad_Pumpkin

TITLE:  Bad Pumpkin

YEAR RELEASED: 1986

CHART ACTION: Nooooo

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: You gotta be a college radio junkie to have remembered them.

LINEUP: Hope Nicholls, Danna Pentes, Aaron Pitkin, Gary White

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A little ahead of their time in regards for commercial success, Fetchin Bones major label debut is still a good retro listen.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After two now-off-the-grid albums, Capitol Records signed the North Carolina quartet based on their live shows and word of mouth. While the material was pretty good, you could tell the studio wasn’t always their friend.

Vocalist Hope Nicholls has a quirky intensity that drives the songs, and the rest of the band follows with a mix of jangle, quasi-country, and a little grime. Guitarist Aaron Pitkin definitely know his Peter Buck chords, but also adds some distortion and pedal work. The lyrical storytelling is fun and consistent. But Nicholls is the star, and when Gary White sings a song about being stuck in Indiana (“Greeensburg”), you miss her even if the song is great.

I don’t think Capitol knew what to do with them once they signed them, and this fell between the cracks, only to live on as influences, and in dank memories of those who saw them live.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Their first two albums were released on DB Records, one of the better independent labels in the 80’s

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B+: The second side falls off a bit at the end, but for those of us who were in college in the 80’s, it’s a nostalgia trip.