Month: December 2018

Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde

ARTIST: Bob Dylan                          220px-Bob_Dylan_-_Blonde_on_Blonde

TITLE: Blonde on Blonde

YEAR RELEASED: 1966

CHART ACTION: #9 US, #3 UK

SINGLES: One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later) (#119 US, #33 UK), Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (#2 US, #7 UK), I Want You (#20 US, #16 UK), Just Like a Woman (#33 US), Leopard-Skin Pill Box Hat (#81)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands, Visions of Johanna

LINEUP: Bob Dylan, Kenny Buttry, Jerry Kennedy, Al Kooper, Charlie McCoy, Wayne Moss, Pig Robbins, Robbie Robertson, Henry Strzelecki, Joe South, Wayne Butler, Rick Danko, Bobby Gregg, Paul Griffin, Bill Lee.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the first double albums  – it defines what a double album should be.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: If the album had “Visions of Johanna”, “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”, and a side of backwards Chipmunks songs, it’d be an “A” just for those two songs.

If the album had “Just Like a Woman”, “Stuck Inside of Mobile…”, “One of Us Must Know”, and “Absolutely Sweet Marie”, and the other side was Slim Whitman yodeling the Beatles, it’d be an “A’ for the first side.

Add to that “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine” and the other singles, and side three’s hidden gems, you got an A+. Any questions?

NOTES & MINUTIAE: One of the best songs during these sessions (in either NYC or Nashville) was “She’s Your Lover Now”, but it broke down after 21 takes and was never finished.

As important of an artist that Dylan was, the sessions sheets and release dates have been in doubt for years, even among those who research Dylan every day. It’s like he showed up and played and people who were supposed to write stuff down weren’t doing that.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A+: A contender for a Top 5 album of all time.

Black Oak Arkansas – Definitive Rock: Black Oak Arkansas

ARTIST: Black Oak Arkansas                    boa definitive rock

TITLE: Definitive Rock : Black Oak Arkansas

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Jim Dandy (#25)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I’m sure someone’s heard other stuff by them. The question begs, why?

LINEUP: Jim Dandy Mangrum, Rickie Lee Reynolds, Harvey Jett, Pat Daugherty, Stanley Knight, Wayne Evans, Tommy Aldridge. Probably others. I ain’t lookin’ at each albums credits.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The stoopedest swamp-rock of the 70’s.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: They had three guitars, but really didn’t need ‘em. (Unlike Skynyrd, who really made three guitars work in space). They had energy, yes, and a “sense” of humor, and probably put on a good show, but also they sported inane lyrics mostly ineptly sung by Jim Dandy.

Then why have I kept over half of this record, then? Well, when Jim Dandy doesn’t do his ‘wacky character’ voice, he’s kind of engaging, like a primordial David Lee Roth. They could rock out when their asinine ideas, gimmicks, or jokes didn’t stand in the way. And, everyone needs some 8-track tape tunes in their life.

After 1974, their career slowly faded away like the business end of a Marlboro Red. You gotta pick and choose very carefully. I mean carefully. They covered “Taxman” and “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”. You wanna go THERE?

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Formed in 1963 or so as The Knowbody Else, they’ve had 70 members or so, including their present touring band. You probably know Tommy Aldridge from his work with Ozzy and Whitesnake. Other members have played with Johnny Winter, Cinderella, Gene Simmons, Krokus, REO Speedwagon, Winger, and the Bluesbreakers.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE C: They catered to the shirtless heathens of the 70’s – those who stood on the hood of their ’73 Chevy Impala, barefoot, sun baked, in the grass parking lot of the festival, drinking Stroh’s and smoking heaters with an occasional hit of grass or a snort of cheap wine or whiskey.

Steppenwolf – Steppenwolf the Second

ARTIST: Steppenwolf                        220px-SteppenwolfTheSecond

TITLE: The Second

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: #3

SINGLES: Magic Carpet Ride (#3)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Radio stayed away from the rest, and still does.

LINEUP: John Kay, Michael Monarch, Goldie McJohn, Rushton Moreve, Jerry Edmonton.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Steppenwolf’s second (hence the title) is lighter at times, more psychedelic, more political, and more of a hodge-podge (and strained through a Leslie, as it were).

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “Magic Carpet Ride” was a monster hit, of that there is no question, and is one of the best hard psychedelic songs from the era. And at first listen, this record seems like it will be a worthy successor to their first album.

Yet upon more listens, it seems weaker and more unfocused.

The band does try to mix up their sound, getting quieter at times and diminishing the hard sound of the first album. But many of those quieter songs don’t really stand up to scrutiny, with only “28” really being outstanding, while “Tighten Up Your Wig” sounds nice but is a blatant rip of “Messin’ with the Kid”.

The sides end with lengthy tracks. “Don’t Step on the Grass, Sam” is a ham-fisted pro-pot song, while the end of Side Two is a long suite with five tracks that range from hard rockin’ to scarily political. There’s some duds in there which dilute the quality of the suite.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Drummer Jerry Edmonton sings two tracks, the openers to each side.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B: There’s enough good stuff in here to have it over a greatest hits album, but it’s not as good as I thought it was when I was young.

Wilco – A.M.

ARTIST: Wilco                              220px-Wilco

TITLE: A.M.

YEAR RELEASED: 1995

CHART ACTION: #27 Heatseekers

SINGLES: Box Full of Letters

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Must Be High, Casino Queen

LINEUP: Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Ken Coomer, Max Johnston, Brian Henneman. Lloyd Maines adds some pedal steel.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Jeff Tweedy’s Wilco is first out of the gate for the post-Uncle Tupelo bands, but the record is flat and peters out at the end.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Even though Jay Tweedy won the battle of Wilco vs. Sun Volt (as it were) in the end, the debut Wilco album definitely didn’t start out great for him or the band.

A.M. was an alt-country album really wedded to Uncle Tupelo’s sound, and while it had a few good to great tracks (the first half of the record), the second half became boring and predictable.

That’s a shame, since the first three tracks (“I Must Be High”, “Casino Queen”, and “Box Full of Letters”) are great. Overall, it’s good but it was disappointing to everyone. Wilco wouldn’t disappoint much after this.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: John Stirratt sang one song on this album – the only non Tweedy vocal on any Wilco record.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B-: If you lop it off at about track seven, it’d be an A- or B+.

Billy Bragg – Life’s a Riot with Spy vs. Spy

ARTIST: Billy Bragg                    220px-Life's_a_riot

TITLE: Life’s a Riot with Spy vs. Spy

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: #30 UK

SINGLES: It’s kind of an EP in length, though it made the LP charts in the UK.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Milkman of Human Kindness, A New England

LINEUP: Billy Bragg

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First seven song collection from Billy Bragg, alone with his guitar and voice.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Billy Bragg had a failed career as a punk rocker in Riff Raff, and dropped out of the British Army, before busking around London and playing small concerts with just him and his electric guitar. He alternated love songs and political rants and grew a fan base. After some intrigue behind the scenes, this became a hit in the UK.

These seven songs don’t lack for a lack of instrumentation. Bragg’s guitar and voice make up for that in passion and heart. The songs are fully formed – at times sentimental – at times angry. He’s a pure heart in the music business and it shows here, and his lyrical game was on point from the beginning.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was mastered at 45 RPM, and John Peel first played a track at the wrong speed. Oops.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, outtakes and demos that double the length.

 GRADE A-: Two of the tracks are all timers, and the rest aren’t that bad, once you get used to the solo guitar and voice.

Fleetwood Mac – Future Games

ARTIST: Fleetwood Mac                220px-Fleetwood_Mac_-_Future_Games

TITLE: Future Games

YEAR RELEASED: 1971

CHART ACTION: #91

SINGLES: Sands of Time

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, no. Nothing from this record.

LINEUP: Danny Kirwan, Bob Welch, Christine McVie, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Another album, another lineup, though this one would last two whole years!

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Jeremy Spencer’s gone. Peter Green’s long gone. But John McVie’s new wife, Christine (nee Perfect) is now a full-time band member. Bob Welch, a California guitarist relocated to Paris, joined up after an ‘audition’ where he didn’t play a note. That was a good decision by the band.

This moves way away from the blues, into more of a mellow rock dominated by Danny Kirwan and Welch, with Christine McVie contributing two quintessential Christine McVie tracks. It’s mellow sound that would become the hallmark of Mac between the blues and the Buckingham / Nicks era.

Songs like the title track and “Morning Rain” are pleasant enough, and it struck the US market enough to hit the Top 100. The UK avoided this version of the group like the plague, as none of the five albums with Welch ever charted there.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This originally had seven songs, with three long-ish ones on side one. The record company said they wouldn’t release a seven song album (at least not from them), so they added a 2 ½ minute jam quickly and called it good.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B-: It’s got its moments, and Welch is underrated as a FM member (so is Kirwan). But it’s mellowness can only carry it so far.

Roxy Music – Country Life

ARTIST: Roxy Music                             220px-Roxy_Music-Country_Life

TITLE: Country Life

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #37 US, #3 UK

SINGLES: The Thrill of It All, All I Want Is You (#12 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Out of the Blue, Prairie Rose, Bitter-Sweet, Casanova

LINEUP: Bryan Ferry, John Gustafson, Eddie Jobson, Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera, Paul Thompson.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The record that Roxy Music was building up to since they formed.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This record has everything: energy, elegance, sophistication, dirty-sounding guitar, sex, Germans, alienation, and Bryan Ferry’s quintessential detached observational vocals and lyrics.

The players are all on top of their game, with Phil Manzanera’s guitar shining, Eddie Jobson’s violin and keyboards adding distinct color and flavor, and Paul Thompson’s solid and intricate drumming. Ferry even adds harmonica (!).

Not only was this their first Top 40 hit in the US, it set up for Roxy Music to have some imprint on the singles chart the next year. The drive of “All I Want Is You” and “Casanova”, the chaos of “The Thrill of It All”, the German oom-pahs of “Bitter Sweet”, and my personal favorite Roxy song of all time “Out of the Blue”, featuring Andy Mackay on oboe, Thompson and John Gustafson’s rhythm section work, Manzanera’s dirty guitar during the chorus, and great production by Chris Thomas with the flange.

This is hot and cool at the same time. The album cuts and the singles all co-exist into one outstanding package.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Several countries censored the album cover. Sigh.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A+: The pinnacle of art-rock.

Foo Fighters – Foo Fighters

ARTIST:Foo Fighters                    220px-FooFighters-FooFighters

TITLE: Foo Fighters

YEAR RELEASED: 1995

CHART ACTION: #23 US, #3 UK

SINGLES: This Is A Call (#2 Alternative, #6 Mainstream, #5 UK), I’ll Stick Around (#8 Alternative, #12 Mainstream, #18 UK), For All the Cows (#28 UK), Big Me (#3 Alternatie, #18 Mainstream, #19 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Alone + Easy Target.

LINEUP: Dave Grohl. Period. Except for a guitar solo by Greg Dulli.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A grief stricken Dave Grohl mourns Kurt Cobain by making his own record. It became a surprise hit.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Punk fans knew Dave Grohl as the drummer for Scream. Fans everywhere knew Grohl as the drummer and sometimes backing vocalist for Nirvana. But no one expected Grohl to become a successful solo artist. But here we are.

Some of these songs had been simmering in Grohl’s notebooks for years, and a cassette called Pocketwatch came out with some of his demos, but no one except insiders knew what Grohl was capable of or up to until this demo was shopped around under the name Foo Fighters and he signed.

Yes, this is a demo with Grohl playing and singing all of the material except for Greg Dulli’s solo on “X-Static”. After Grohl was signed, the demos were re-mixed (but not re-recorded), released, and it became a huge hit. The Foo Fighters were born.

The songs and performances are all strong, as Grohl was channeling his grief over Cobain’s death into a cathartic session. It’s not as punkish as Nirvana, definitely not like Scream. The weakest part are Grohl’s vocals, mostly because he was unsure of himself. But almost all of the tracks, including deep cuts like “Floaty” are strong and boded well for Grohl and the Foo Fighters career.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The songs were recorded in the order that appeared on the album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A: This, this is a lot better than I remember. Highly recommended.

The Waitresses – Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful?

ARTIST: The Waitresses                                 220px-The_Waitresses_-_Wasn't_Tomorrow_Wonderful_

TITLE: Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful?

YEAR RELEASED: 1982

CHART ACTION: #41

SINGLES: I Know What Boys Like (#62)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really

LINEUP: Patty Donohue, Chris Butler, Mars Williams, Tracy Wormworth, Billy Ficca, Dan Klayman. David Hofstra and Ariel Warner where on early recordings.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Out of nowhere, now iconic, hit results in the formation of a band and an album deal.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The original “I Know What Boys Like” had a different band than what’s more commonly known as the Waitresses, as only singer Patty Donohue and leader Chris Butler were around for that. However, with its success, Butler pulled together an band which included former Television drummer Billy Ficca, and released this record of several more ironic new-wave tracks.

Butler’s guitar work isn’t in a typical new wave style (he was in Tin Huey, who were art-damaged denizens of Cleveland) but the rest of the band smooths out the rough edges, and Donohue’s sassy sing-talk vocals holds everything together.

At times, there’s too much saxophone (the kind of force it into some spots that it doesn’t really belong), and sometimes the songs are a bit too long. But tracks like “No Guilt”, “Wise Up” and the title track are worthy companions to the mega-hit.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: David Hofstra and Ariel Warner quit the band during recording sessions. Warner, a backing vocalist, had stage fright.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with the “Christmas Wrapping” EP.

 GRADE B+: Not consistently great, but better than you’d think for a one-hit new-wave wonder.

James Brown – The Singles, Vol. 5: 1967-1969

ARTIST: James Brown                    brown 5

TITLE: The Singles Vol. 5: 1967-1969

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 10: I Can’t Stand Myself (When You Touch Me) (#28, #4 R&B), There Was a Time (#36, #3 R&B), I Got the Feelin’ (#6, #1 R&B), Licking Stick – Licking Stick (#14, #2 R&B), Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud (#10, #1 R&B), Goodbye My Love (#31, #9 R&B), Give It Up or Turnit a Loose (#15, #1 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Soul Pride

LINEUP: James Brown with the James Brown Band, the Dapps, and the Fabulous Flames

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Uneven period for Brown, with some fantastic future looking funk, political commentary, and some schmaltz.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: James Brown diversified his backing band, and use the Cincy area band The Dapps on several recordings in this era (Neil Young sometimes bassist Tim Drummond was in the Dapps). The Dapps and the James Brown Band both moved towards funk away from soul with the moving bass lines and spare guitar parts. The best singles here move towards funk, or have Brown taking a stand during the civil rights era.

But, this era also has a lot of Brown instrumentals, where he joins either band and piddles around on the organ, or he croons schmaltzy tracks. There’s a lot of filler tracks, as Brown’s singles alternated between tremendous proto-funk and languid ballads.

Brown experiments with keys and motifs here, putting some songs in modes that weren’t used in soul most of the time, especially on “I Can’t Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)”

The end of the collection (“Give It Up or Turnit a Loose” and “Soul Pride”) set the table for Brown’s next period, where he brings the funk.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There’s some singles here credited to the Dapps, but Brown is all over the organ on them.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B+: Really great tracks, then really blah filler. But it’s on the way to Brown’s funk period.