Month: September 2018

Yes – The Yes Album

ARTIST: Yes                                      220px-The_Yes_Album

TITLE:  The Yes Album

YEAR RELEASED: 1971

CHART ACTION: #40 US, #4 UK

SINGLES: Your Move (#40), Yours Is No Disgrace

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Starship Trooper, I’ve Seen All Good People (Your Move is part of this suite)

LINEUP: Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Bill Bruford, Tony Kaye. Colin Goldring played the recorder

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The breakthrough album, helped by a focus on musical suites and new guitarist Steve Howe.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Two changes to Yes improved their lot a great deal since their 1970 album. First, the band focused on long prog-rock suites that showcased their chops and abilities. Second, the band replaced departed Peter Banks with Steve Howe, who had been in Tomorrow and other groups.

Howe’s guitar style and versatility with acoustic and electric guitars helped the band build up the suites and allowed for excellent transitions, as showcased in “Yours Is No Disgrace” and “Starship Trooper”. The latter cut is probably the pinnacle of Yes’ early prog rock days. He also added another vocal element along with Anderson and bassist Chris Squire, which richened the vocal sound.

Even with a couple of lesser cuts on the second side, this is really where to start with Yes for the curious.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: On the cover, Tony Kaye is seen in a cast, as he broke his foot in a car accident the night before.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a studio version of Howe’s guitar solo “The Clap” and single edits.

 GRADE: A-: Three classic Yes suites, and the filler’s not bad, really.

Rick Derringer – Playlist: The Very Best of Rick Derringer

ARTIST: Rick Derringer                     71++RgMezdL._SX425_

TITLE:  Playlist: The Very Best of Rick Derringer

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Hang on Sloopy (#1 US, #5 UK), Rock and Roll, Hootchie Koo (#23 US), Teenage Love Affair (#80 US), Let Me In (#86)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Still Alive and Well

LINEUP: Rick Derringer and various session people, plus his own group called Derringer, which existed in the mid-70’s

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Guitarist and vocalist for the McCoys, Johnny Winter, and Edgar Winter’s solo career is compiled in a single disc that illustrates the problems he had sustaining a solo career.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s no doubt Rick Derringer’s a good wingman, as his worth with both Winter brothers and Weird Al show. He’s also got a good rock-and-roll voice. But as a songwriter, he’s got few highlights outside of “Rock and Roll, Hootchie Koo”.

“Still Alive and Well” works well, and various dribs and drabs from his group Derringer are decent enough. But his 70’s solo albums found him straddling glam and hard rock, with no real purpose, and some of his tracks are just cringeworthy (who the hell thought “If I Weren’t So Romantic, I’d Shoot You” was a song title that would be both a single AND the title of an album???)

I was quite disappointed here – but it illustrates why you’ve not heard much besides his big solo hit.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He recorded a version of “Real American” for Alex Jones’ show. I don’t need to say more.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: C: Many tracks exiled. Just not great

Lorde – Pure Heroine

ARTIST: Lorde                                   Lorde_Pure_Heroine

TITLE:  Pure Heroine

YEAR RELEASED: 2013

CHART ACTION: #3 US, #4 UK

SINGLES: Royals (#1 US, #1 UK), Tennis Court (#71 US, #78 UK), Team (#6 US, #29 UK), Glorey and Gore (#68 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not on the radio

LINEUP: Ella Yelich O’Connor (Lorde), Joel Little

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Kiwi teen wunderkind’s debut long player becomes international blockbuster, and perhaps forged a ‘new path’ in pop music.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Some say she’s not as young as she says she is, but that’s neither here nor there, really. Lorde, whether 16 or 20 or whatever, created a pop music that was less about a teenage dream than teenage angst and society’s impact on the youth in suburbia.

Her vocals are a bit beyond her years – a smoky sound that talk-sings in some places and also evokes a smoky jazz club in other places. With producer and co-writer Joel Little, Lorde crafted catchy melodies, hooks, and beats that fit around the lyrics well, and evoked the proper mood.

It’s an encouraging debut for the New Zealander, who isn’t a naif in the woods here as she’s been in the business and signed since age 12.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She released an EP in 2012 that had “Royals” on it and anticipated this album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A version with five additional cuts that are superfluous, including a cover of “Swinging Party” by the Replacements.

 GRADE: A-: Hearing this gives me hope about pop music.

 

Misfits – Walk Among Us

ARTIST: Misfits                       220px-Misfits_-_Walk_Among_Us_cover

TITLE:  Walk Among Us

YEAR RELEASED: 1982

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I’m sure the converted know them all.

LINEUP: Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only, Doyle, Arthur Googy

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First released full-length album after a boatload of singles and EPs.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After false starts, band changes, label reluctance, and instability in general, the (in) famous Misfits finally released a full length album in 1982. Was it worth the wait?

Well, maybe. It depends on who you talk to.

It’s punk rock with horror ethos, which is fine. Glenn Danzig conveys the requisite evil emotions, and the band plays with fervor. What’s happening here is the same-same-same of a lot of the tracks, especially the ‘whoa-ho-whoa’ backing vocals.

I’m not part of the cult – I missed that railroad, and I’ve always been skeptical. This didn’t really convert me, but it’s NOT bad, really. It’s decent enough, and enough time has passed where it’s not really ‘scary’ anymore except to some zealot fundies.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had an album ready to go in 1978, but shelved it due to band changes and no record company interest.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: Honestly, it’s not as good as the hype, but it’s also near the end of their road.

Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

ARTIST: Black Sabbath                            220px-Black_Sabbath_SbS

TITLE:  Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #11 US, #4 UK

SINGLES: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A National Acrobat, Spiral Architect

LINEUP: Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward. Rick Wakeman (!) plays on a track.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Continuing their trend of experimenting with other motifs, Sabbath breaks out the synths, a prog musician, and strings.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The beginning riff, and the outro, is Sabbath gold. Tony Iommi broke out of his writers block with those riffs, and today they inspire guitarists everywhere.

And a few of the following seven tracks, such as “A National Acrobat” and “Spiral Architect” are heavy and worthy as well. Though “Spiral Architect” really could have been a Moody Blues song if it wasn’t so riffy. “Sabbra Cadabra” has a swing that’s not usually found with the group and the use of Rick Wakeman on synths and piano add a lot to it.

But…not everything works. Ozzy’s synth doodlings aren’t clever or revealing. Iommi’s acoustic piece feels like it’s repeating the others he’s done, and they just don’t seem that into some of the songs. The production seems a bit unheavy as well – it’s missing something.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Cardigans (!) covered “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: It’s a record with “A” material and “C” material (or “C-“ to be honest).

Pavement – Brighten the Corners

ARTIST: Pavement                   220px-BrightentheCorners

TITLE:  Brighten the Corners

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: #70 US, #27 UK

SINGLES: Stereo (#48 UK), Shady Lane (#40 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Fans, only

LINEUP: Stephen Malkmus, Bob Nastanovich, Scott Kannberg, Steve West, Mark Ibold

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After the relative laziness of Wowee Zowee, Pavement perks up a bit, but a few songs fall flat.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Stephen Malkmus seemed to have woken from the haze of his mind after Wowee Zowee, at least at the beginning of this, Pavement’s fourth full-length disc.

Starting with “Stereo” and “Shady Lane”, the band front-loads the record with witticisms, and continue with “Date w/IKEA” (snarking on IKEA isn’t just a 2010’s thing). Yet the albums calms down a bit after the opening, and in my ears it falls into a lull.

It’s not easy to be the ‘it’ band of the indie scene. Pavement here was trying to give everything that the fans wanted (except the ones who liked them when they were just noisy), and while it succeeds on some levels, as an entire album it falls a bit short of some of their earlier work.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Mitch Easter, famous for producing early REM and other jangly bands, is a co-producer.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, the Nicene Creedence Edition has a ton of extra cuts, B-sides, live stuff. The usual huge package.

 GRADE: B+: It’s focused, which you may or may not like in Pavement, but it seems to be mining some of the same ground as before. It’s still pretty good, and gave fans what they wanted.

The Monkees – Head

ARTIST: The Monkees                                     220px-Monkees-Head

TITLE:  Head

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: #45

SINGLES: Porpoise Song (#62)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Circle Sky

LINEUP: Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and lots of session musicians and actors

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The soundtrack to the Monkees gobsmackingly odd movie is just as odd as the movie.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “Porpoise Song” and “Circle Sky” are amongst the Monkees’ best tracks. Peter Tork has a couple of nice songs here as well, and a lot of session and LA musician heavyweights play on this. But it’s…strange.

Of the 14 original tracks, only six are real songs, and one is their “War Chant” which has more significance in the movie than on this soundtrack. One of the real songs is yet another tribute to music of vaudeville – making it the third such ‘tribute’ in a year.

The dialogue in oddly placed, and just makes no sense in context without the movie. I guess this could have been an EP, but the strategy was to have a multi-media experience. But the movie was buried and mostly unseen, and thus this album made no sense to a lot of people and was way way over the head of many of their fans. It’s sad, because “Porpoise Song” and “Circle Sky” deserve more than this.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Jack Nicholson was the one who compiled the dialogue and wrote the script for the movie.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: As usual, Rhino documents the heck out of this group. There is a nice live version of “Circle Sky” which shows that the band was competent out on the road.

 GRADE: C-: This is best picked apart, and the good tracks saved and the other stuff just shunted off.

The Muffs – The Muffs

ARTIST: The Muffs              220px-The-Muffs-album

TITLE:  The Muffs

YEAR RELEASED: 1993

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Big Mouth, Lucky Guy, Everywhere I Go

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They do an Angry Samoans song

LINEUP: Kim Shattuck, Ronnie Barnett, Melanie Vammen, Criss Crass

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Spun out of the Pandoras, the Muffs’ debut has punk and power pop tendencies, enhanced by Kim Shattuck’s snotty rasp.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Muffs emerged from the chaotic Pandoras, and got notice with their sharp poppy punk songs and Kim Shattuck’s raspy yet melodic shouts.

The debut record showcased the Muffs as a quartet as fellow Pandora Melanie Vammen was on board. The tracks are concise and taut, but have room for some changeups and textural embellishments. Most of these tracks are catchy with vocal hooks despite the rasp.

Yet there’s a sense that Shattuck and the Muffs put out too much product. Sixteen tracks (plus a bonus yowler at the end) are a bit much. They did record a lot of tracks, but there were plenty for even more B-sides, etc.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Everywhere I Go’ was used for a Fruitopia (remember that) commercial.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A version with demos and remixes

 GRADE: B+: They needed to cut down some of the extraneous stuff but all in all a good debut for punk and power pop fans.

Jackie Wilson – The Ultimate Jackie Wilson

ARTIST: Jackie Wilson                           jackiewilson

TITLE:  The Ultimate Jackie Wilson

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 10: Reet Petite (#62 US, #6 UK- #1 UK on re-release), To Be Loved (#22 US, #7 R&B, #23 UK), Lonely Teardrops (#7 US, #1 R&B), That’s Why (I Love You So) (#13 US, #2 R&B), I’ll Be Satisfied (#20 US, #6 R&B), You Better Know It (#37 US, #1 R&B), Talk That Talk (#34 US, #3 R&B), A Woman A Lover A Friend (#15 US, #1 R&B), Night (#4 US, #3 R&B), Doggin’ Around (#15 US, #1 R&B), Alone at Last (#8 US, #20 R&B, #50 UK), Am I the Man (#32 US, #10 R&B), My Empty Arms (#9 US, #25 R&B), I’m Comin’ Back to You (#19 US, #9 R&B), Baby Workout (#5 US, #1 R&B), Whispers (Gettin’ Louder) (#11 US, #5 R&B), (Your Love Keeps Lifing Me) Higher and Higher (#6 US, #1 R&B), I Get the Sweetest Feeling (#34 US, #12 R&B, #9 UK, #3 UK on re-release), (I Can Feel Those Vibrations) This Love Is Real (#56 US, #9 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: He covered a lot of popular hits late in the 60’s

LINEUP: Jackie Wilson, some very white background singers, session musicians, and some help by Lavern Baker, the Chi-Lites and Count Basie.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the best early soul / R&B singers of the rock era is well, almost too well, documented here.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Jackie Wilson was a natural entertainer, and as a singer he evoked emotion and joy. “Mr. Excitement” on stage, many times his records were middle-of-the-road glop more suited for a crooner than someone with his vocal range and style. Even his blues records were over-produced with strings and white-bread backing vocals.

Still, when he was allowed to cut loose he was one of the best. The list of singles is impressive, but more impressive is his influence on his contemporaries and those who followed. Elvis and Michael Jackson were huge admirers. James Brown and Solomon Burke no doubt looked at his stage show and formulated how they could match or top it.

Wilson’s life was tragic in many ways, but his legacy makes him well-remembered. This collection has all of the highlights, and while it’s a bit bloated it’s the best overview around.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He collapsed on stage in 1975, and was in and out of hospitals and nursing homes in various states of comas until he passed away in 1984.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: None

 GRADE: B+: I hate to give this a higher grade because of the glop he sang that Brunswick made him (so he could crossover to the easy listening market), but there’s enough of that stuff on there that makes this a slog at times. Still, you need plenty of Jackie Wilson in your collection.

Cut Chemist – The Audience’s Listening

ARTIST: Cut Chemist                           220px-The_Audience's_Listening

TITLE:  The Audience’s Listening

YEAR RELEASED: 2006

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: The Audience Is Listening Theme Song, The Garden, What’s the Altitude

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Cut Chemist with guests Hymnal, Edan, Mr. Lif, Thes One

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: DJ record full of samples and beats that holds together better than most, and has some innovative raps intermixed.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Cut Chemist is a known DJ and mixer, and has spent time manning the turntables for groups like Ozomatli and the Jurassic 5. After leaving the Jurassic 5, he spent almost two years constructing this album.

It’s pretty successful for what it is, and it’s not really flashy or pandering to the masses. Tracks like “(My First) Big Break” will have you playing “What’s that sample from?” He makes it difficult by changing tempo and pitch of the samples (he did this especially with a Minutemen sample on that track).

DJ records aren’t for everyone, but this one is among the best of the bunch. It’s varied enough for repeated listenings.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It took him a year to clear samples for this.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A Japanese bonus track.

 GRADE: B+: Clever and inventive DJ work.