Month: October 2018

Suede – The Best of Suede

ARTIST: Suede                                          BestofSuede

TITLE: The Best of Suede

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #31 UK

SINGLES: Top 10: Metal Mickey (#7 US Modern, #17 UK), Animal Nitrate (#7 U), Stay Together (#3 UK), Trash (#3 UK), Beautiful Ones (#8 UK), Saturday Night (#6 UK), Lazy (#9 UK), Filmstar (#9 UK), Electricity (#5 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Brit-pop fans know the B-sides and album tracks here

LINEUP: Brett Anderson, Mat Osman, Bernard Butler, Simon Gilbert. Richard Oakes replaced Butler halfway through their hit tenure. Neil Codling joinde on keyboards later.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the original Brit Pop bands (taking the UK over from the Madchester scene), Suede’s singles were at times rock, pop, and bombastic prog all rolled into one.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A combination of sex, drugs, and glammy rock-and-roll, Suede’s influence and popularity in the UK is greater than we’ll ever know here in the US. Yet, the band was a tinderbox due to tensions through recording and touring. and the drug use of singer Brett Anderson.

Britpop didn’t make much of a ripple over hear (Oasis and the odd Blur track notwithstanding), and while the themes of Suede’s music had an audience here. At times Suede were too bombastic and really worshiping at the altar of Bowie and Marc Bolan. When Bernard Butler left, Anderson didn’t quite have the musical partner he needed.

This is a good introduction for most of the curious in the US, as it covers most all of their A-sides from their classic period, and has a few B-sides and album tracks. That second disc does drag a bit and lowers the grade, as some songs are definitely exile-worthy..

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Here, we have to officiallycall them the London Suede, but I’m not going to.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The first disc is the hits. The second are Brett Anderson’s favorites.

 GRADE: B : Had it been the first disc, it’s definitely an A-. The second disc has some duds.

Freezepop – Freezepop Forever

ARTIST: Freezepop                                                      220px-Freezepop-Forever

TITLE: Freezepop Forever

YEAR RELEASED: 2000

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None, but they did a remix EP

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Science Genius Girl, Get Ready 2 Rock, Freezepop Forever

LINEUP: Justine Gamache (Liz Enthusiasm), Kasson Crooker (The Duke of Candied Apples), Sean T. Drinkwater

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Boston based synthpop bands combines simple sounding synth lines and melodies with some lush backing. There’s more than meets the eye here. 220px-Freezepop_forever_elefant_release

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: At first, Freezepop sounds simple, a lark, with some silly songs about getting ready to rock and nerdy girls, and other such things. However, their melodies, while catchy and hooky, aren’t so straight forward and the vocals by Justine Gamache, while deadpan, have some depth to them, especially when overdubbed and vocoded.

The complexity shows in that many songs by them are used in Harmonix games (since Crooker is an engineer at Harmonix, they get an easy entrée there) and they’re pretty difficult to master.

You have to be ready for some twee, non serious tracks here and self references. But they’re pretty serious about their electronic craft.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band started in 1999 in Boston and is big amongst the college students there.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: They had a release on Elefant records with some extra tracks and videos.

 GRADE: A- : First their fun, second they’re pretty accomplished, and third, they’re fun.

Danny Brown – The Hybrid

ARTIST: Danny Brown               220px-Danny_Brown_The_Hybrid

TITLE: The Hybrid

YEAR RELEASED: 2010

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Underground hip hop fans only

LINEUP: Danny Brown with producers Quelle, Mainframe, Nick Speed, Danny!, Chuck Inglish, Denmark Vessey, 14KT, Frank Dukes, Slopfunkdust

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Non-commercial rapper releases first record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: He’s had no hit singles. He’s only had two charting albums. Yet Danny Brown is one of the most critically respected hip-hop artists going today.

He doesn’t sugar coat himself to go to radio. On repeated listens, this debut album takes you in. Using a variety of producers, Brown keeps his beats and backing fresh, and his flow and rhymes are strong and in your face. When he uses effects and tricks, you notice since it’s for embellishment.

This record didn’t get a lot of attention except for some deep hip-hop fans, but it’s solid and undeniably unique.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He used to be in a group called Rese’vor Dogs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few extra tracks

 GRADE: A- –  It’s easy to see why this got him some attention.

The Statler Brothers – Flowers on the Wall: Essential Statler Brothers / Gold

ARTIST: The Statler Brothers

TITLE: Flowers on the Wall: Essential Statler Brothers 1964-69 / Gold essential statler

YEAR RELEASED: Compilations

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 10: Flowers on the Wall (#4, #2 Country), Ruthless (#10 Country), You Can’t Have Your Cake and Edith Too (#10 Country), Bed of Roses (#58, #9 Country), Do You Remember These (#105, #2 Country), The Class of ’57 (#6 Country), I’ll go To My Grave Loving You (#93, #3 Country), Thank God I’ve Got You (#10 Country), Do You Know You Are My Sunshine (#1 Country), Who Am I To Say (#3 Country), The Official Historian on Shirley Jean Berrell (#5 Country), Nothing as Original as You (#10 Country), (I’ll Even Love You) Better Than I Did (#8 Country), Charlotte’s Web (#5 Country)…and more.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Susan When She Tried

LINEUP: Harold Reid, Lew DeWitt, Don Reid, Phil Balsley. Jimmy Fortune came in for Lew DeWitt later.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Two comps for classic country vocal group allows you to make one good one but with two omissions you need to grab. statler gold

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Statler’s got their breaks with “Flowers on the Wall” and then opening for Johnny Cash for about a decade. They were singers in the gospel quartet tradition and they also had a sense of humor and parody. The harmonies they sang were impeccable, and notable for Harold Reid’s booming bass.

They had a huge collection of hits, and gained steam after leaving cash thanks to some great TV marketing and appearances. Their hits collection was advertised on independent stations everywhere. Anyone of a certain age knows at least snippets of their biggest hits.

Yet despite the riches here, Gold focuses too much on later material and omits two tracks almost everyone knows: “What Ever Happened to Randolph Scott” and “The Movies”. That downgrades that collection. The earlier collection doesn’t have as many hits, but has some nice material that would have fit nicely with Cash on stage.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Not brothers, but named after a Kleenex box they found in a hotel room.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There are other compilations, but with split record companies it’s hard to get the early stuff and later stuff together, and they don’t solve the issue of “Randolph Scott” missing.

GRADE: B / B-  Gold needed a better selection and pacing.

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II

ARTIST: Led Zeppelin              220px-Led_Zeppelin_-_Led_Zeppelin_II (1)

TITLE:  Led Zeppelin II

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Whole Lotta Love (#4 US), Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman (#65 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The whole damn thing, unless you’ve been in the Marianas Trench.

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

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The album that made Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A simple three note riff concocted by Jimmy Page for a song directly stolen from Willie Dixon created the beast known as Led Zeppelin. Had “Whole Lotta Love” been absent from this Earth, what would classic rock stations build their playlists around?

This album had the blues (another one was stolen – from Leadbelly in “The Lemon Song”), ROCK (see above, along with “Living Loving Maid”), Robert Plant being all lovey dovey, and space form Jimmy Page and John Bonham to jizz all over the control board. Rock and roll man. Rock and roll.

As a teenager, this was the record by them I played the most. (My girlfriend at the time cringed when I sang along to “The Lemon Song”.Blame her?) Now, it’s one I play the least. It’s the most predictable, the most cliché ridden, and some tracks are skipped with regularity. I mean, it’s GOOD, but not great except for a couple tracks, and they stole one of them.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They got nabbed for plagiarism, and now the credits for “Whole Lotta Love” and “The Lemon Song” have put right that thievery.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. A bonus disc with backing tracks and rough mixes, with one unheard intro/outro that is very unique.

GRADE: B+: A couple tracks are boring, a couple tracks are just exercises in overplaying, and there are a few gems. But it’s the Zep I turn to the least, despite the highlights.

Lou Reed – Berlin

ARTIST: Lou Reed                      220px-Berlinloureed

TITLE:  Berlin

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #98 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: How Do You Think It Feels, Caroline Says

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Berlin, Men of Good Fortune, Lady Day

LINEUP: Lou Reed, Bob Ezrin, Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner, Jack Bruce, Aynsley Dunbar, Steve Winwood with help from Michael and Randy Brecker, Tony Levin, BJ Wilson, Gene Martynec, John Pierson, Allan Macmillan, and Blue Weaver.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Hey, let’s follow up our hit album with a song cycle about a couple living in Berlin who are hooked on smack and doomed in this life! That’ll keep the cash registers humming!”

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Wow. The themes and motif of this album should have about a billion trigger alerts for survivors of addiction, domestic violence, and suicide attempts. It’s Lou Reed telling a story of Caroline and Jim, two characters from a track on his debut album. And it’s not pretty.

The music and arrangements are outstanding, and there’s some great work by Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner on guitar. But the bleakness that Reed describes really hits home in the second half of the album – Side 2 for you vinylists. I don’t know if I can play it again it’s so dark and depressing, and Reed’s montone becomes creepier as the songs go along.

The most gut wrenching song is “The Kids” where Reed and producer Bob Ezrin put actual sounds from kids screaming for their mother in the background. I couldn’t deal with it.

It’s art and not pop, and I can see what Reed was aiming for, but it really stopped his career cold for a while as his audience couldn’t relate to the decay and desperation. It wouldn’t be the first time he did that.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bob Ezrin and Reed had planned a stage adaptation, but 86’d it due to sales. That would’ve been a laugh riot. Or not…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: This is a split decision. The second side is so bleak and dark I’m exiling ¾ of it. As a song cycle, and in artistic terms, it works. But as for enjoyment, oh man. No.

Squirrel Bait – Squirrel Bait

ARTIST: Squirrel Bait                                    220px-Squirrel_Bait_Squirrel_Bait_EP_

TITLE:  Squirrel Bait

YEAR RELEASED: 1985

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Technically an EP

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, maybe if you followed the family tree of Slint.

LINEUP: David Grubbs, Clark Johnson, Brian McMahan, Peter Searcy, Ben Daughtry. Britt Walford drummed on two tracks taken from their demo.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Punky band from Louisville document themselves after opening  for several prominent bands who were touring in the midwest.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: These were kids who were inspired by the punk scene and not radio. Just out of high school, they toured with Husker Du and Black Flag, among others, and got enough buzz to get in a bidding war of sorts between punk labels before settling with Homestead.

The sound is definitely an evolution of the original punk scene, with melodies and textural changes that complement the punk, and doesn’t sound like it was grafted onto it unwillingly. “Sun God” may be the beginning of the emo movement with Peter Searcy’s pleading over a simple guitar line, then a mild cacophony. It’s like Die Kreuzen with better production and a better lead singer.

There’s still a lot of hardfastrules here, but the variety in sounds is something that differentiated the band from other youngsters trodding the punk rock boards in the 80’s

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Steve Albini designed the cover. .

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B+: Pretty good EP that was influential for the right people.

The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic

ARTIST: The New Pornographers             220px-Mass_romantic (1)

TITLE:  Mass Romantic

YEAR RELEASED: 2000

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Letter from an Occupant (#139 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Mass Romantic

LINEUP: Dan Bejar, Neko Case, John Collins, Kurt Dahle, Carl Newman, Fisher Rose, Blaine Thurier

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Alternative pop / rock ‘supergroup’ of sorts coalesces together for a first album full of fun twists and turns.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Grafting together members from Zumpano, Destroyer, Limblifer, and the Eavporators, along with Neko Case and filmmaker Blaine Thurier, The New Pornographers were a definite power-pop / indie rock Canadian supergroup.

Unlike other supergroups, the band members didn’t just give the band leftovers. From the beginning they collaborated and constructed a unique sound that identifies them even if you’ve heard the voices on other records. Their guitars and synths, and intros and rhythms are fairly unique to the band.

AC “Carl” Newman is the ringleader of this bunch, and he organized the production of the record over three long years. But this is worth the wait – the New Pornographers’ debut established them as truly greater than the sum of their parts (even with Neko Case along!)

The album also sounds fun. Even if it took a while the band sounds like they’re enjoying themselves and love playing with each other. This kicked off their career and they’re now an important part of the indie rock landscape.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band knew each other from the Vancouver music scene.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A Japanese version with two extra songs.

 GRADE: A-: A witty power pop record that started the band and its members on their ride.

Dada – Puzzle

ARTIST: Dada                                         220px-DPuzzle

TITLE:  Puzzle

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: #111, #2 Heatskeers

SINGLES: Dizz Knee Land (#5 Alternative, #27 Mainstream), Dim (#24 Alternative), Dog, Dorina, Here Today – Gone Tomorrow

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: That was probably all that was released to radio unless you had a deep deep cut station around.

LINEUP: Michael Gurley, Joie Calio, Phil Leavitt

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album for jammy alternative rock trip scored a video and radio hit, and the album is deeper and varied than that song.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Dada’s vocal style is based around harmonic duets between Michael Gurley and Joie Calio. At times, their harmonies emulate the style and structure of the Beach Boys (though not as deep and rich with only two – the influence is there though). Musically, the trio is definitely into jam band territory at times with Gurley’s excursions, riffs, and solos.

This album is varied, and shows the versatility and inventiveness of the band, along with some humor as in “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”. They can also tell a sad story like “Timothy”. But the hit “Dizz Knee Land” followed them in the 90’s thanks to MTV and radio.

There aren’t many missteps here, and it’s well worth your while to dig past the hit and dive in.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They opened for Sting, Crowded House, and …Izzy Stradlin.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A version with some B-sides

 GRADE: A: This was a better record than I remember. Well worth your effort to stream.

Mott the Hoople – Mott the Hoople

ARTIST: Mott the Hoople            220px-Mottthehoople1969

TITLE:  Mott the Hoople

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: #66 UK, #185 US

SINGLES: Rock and Roll Queen

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover the Kinks, Doug Sahm, and Sonny Bono

LINEUP: Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs, Verden Allen, Overend Watts, Dale Griffin

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut for Mott the Hoople is a bit unfocused and fussy, thanks mainly to producer Guy Stevens.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Well, the first three tracks of their debut are covers, including an instrumental of “You Really Got Me”. That raises red flags. Yet their originality hit with the single “Rock and Roll Queen” (a title oft-used later by many other bands) it demonstrated their smarts and chops. But Guy Stevens, the manager and producer, made some creative choices that obscured their originals in favor of those covers.

Ian Hunter was a late addition to the band, showing up right before this recording, and Hunter was going through a lot of Dylan affectations at the time. But the power of the band with Mick Ralphs and Overend Watts made rockers notice, and while they didn’t buy their records they were big on the live circuit.

They did the late 60’s, early 70’s thing of jamming a bit too long, and Hunter’s Dylan impersonation doesn’t grow on you. But they got their foot in the door here even if it took a while form them to burst through it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Just an FYI, record company issues make it so a comprehensive compilation isn’t quite possible now, at least streming.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a couple of B-sides..

 GRADE: B-: I waver between liking this, or exiling it. I’ll keep it thanks to Ralphs and Watts.