Month: April 2019

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – The Firstborn Is Dead

ARTIST: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds       220px-The_Firstborn_Is_Dead

TITLE: The Firstborn Is Dead

YEAR RELEASED: 1985

CHART ACTION: #53 UK

SINGLES: Tupelo

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Wanted Man

LINEUP: Nick Cave, Blixa Bargeld, Barry Adamson, Mick Harvey

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: For their second album, Nick Cave leads his Bad Seeds into a blues exploration. A scary, dark, demon-laced blues exploration.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “Tupelo”, based on a John Lee Hooker song, with some parts lifted from Lead Belly, and lyrics about Elvis Presley and Christ, is a perfect opener to this record. It’s a classic Nick Cave performance, with his voice evoking all kinds of emotions, and his band playing the menacing licks while singing the backing vocals as they were a cowboy band.

But the rest of the record doesn’t let up, either, with the blues and early rock-and-roll getting the Bad Seeds treatment. The band contributes greatly as well and it all concludes “Blind Lemon Jefferson”, a tribute to the old bluesman.

There’s not a lot wrong with this album, though their cover of “Wanted Man” isn’t as effective and “Black Crow King” overstays its welcome. Still, for “Tupelo” alone, it’s worthwhile.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title refers to Elvis Presley’s stillborn twin Jesse.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A CD vesion has a B-side

 GRADE A-: Creepy blues record thrills and chills.

The Mekons – Fear and Whiskey

ARTIST: The Mekons             R-1048893-1423850467-5698.jpeg

TITLE: Fear and Whiskey

YEAR RELEASED: 1985

CHART ACTION: None (sniff…)

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Sadly, no

LINEUP: Jon Langford, Tom Greenhalgh, Sally Timms, Susie Honeyman, Lu Edmonds, Rico Bell, Steve Goulding, Mark White

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Mekons, mark 2, trade anarcho-punk for anarcho-alt-country-before-its-time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After a couple of albums and a classic single or two, the original band of the Mekons petered out in 1982. But during the Coal Strike of 1984, the core of the group decided the time was nigh for a reboot, and The Mekons rode again.

But, there was a new sound. Instead of clattering punk rock, there was fiddle, slide guitar, and a country tilt to the entire sound. Now, there was still some anarcho-wierdness (“Trouble Down South”), and some experimental tracks (the spoken word “Psycho Cupid”) but traditional sounding songs like “Flitcraft” exist in this universe too, along with the fantastic lead cut “Chivalry”.

They’re still loose, they’re still political, but God love ‘em, they came back with a strong record that defied expectations.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: I’ll cover the early version of the band when I review their compilation, which will cover the entire gamut of the band. The classic mid-80’s and early-90’s albums will be reviewed in whole, though.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A: The Mekons definitely started some of the alt-Country movement, and they didn’t even know it.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Take Them On, On Your Own

ARTIST: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club          220px-TTOOYO

TITLE: Take Them On, On Your Own

YEAR RELEASED: 2003

CHART ACTION: #47 US, #3 UK

SINGLES: Stop (#19 UK), We’re All in Love (#45 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not here, maybe over there.

LINEUP: Robert Turner, Nick Jago, Peter Hayes

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: BRMC avoids the sophomore slump with a solid album that shows more diversity in sound and motifs.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s a fire and a snarl to this, the second album by the US born and UK loved (at the time) Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The sound is by parts more hard rock, yet more sonically adventurous, and also more in your face about subjects and riffs.

The trio coalesces as a true unit here, with everyone contributing to the overall shape of the song and the dynamic tension involved. It’s really a good step for the band to not just repeat the formula than won them UK fans and accolades.

Others in the critic-sphere didn’t appreciate this record as much, but to my ears, this is a worthy followup.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title track was a B-side, not on the album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Japan, of course.

 GRADE A-: They showed some growth and consistency here

The Dave Clark Five – American Tour

ARTIST: The Dave Clark Five                  220px-American_Tour_(_Epic_1964_)

TITLE: American Tour

YEAR RELEASED: 1964

CHART ACTION: #11

SINGLES: Because (#3)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, no, because Dave Clark kept everything under wraps (and still does)

LINEUP: Dave Clark, Mike Smith, Lenny Davidson, Rick Huxley, Dennis Payton

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A better than usual hit + filler thanks to some strong songwriting.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: At first glance, this may be “Because” plus 11 other tracks. Not so fast.

Yeah, there are some instrumentals, but the band gets into them with great vigor. And “Come on Over” is a blatant rip of “Glad All Over”, but still stomping fun. But what makes the deep cuts special is the booming bass of Rick Huxley. His deep bass lines, unusual for the UK scene, make his sound distinctive and adds a sonic character to the tracks that the usual UK 60’s bands didn’t have. Add in Dave Clark’s booming drums.

Sure, it’s short and sometimes slight, and probably best for DC5 or beat group fanatics, but they’ll love it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Dave Clark has allowed some whole albums to stream. Of course, there was such a disparity between US and UK albums (the band didn’t release many UK albums until 1968, but cranked out 13 between 1964 and 1967, including four each in 1965 and 1966.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B: My sister left me this album and I played it quite a bit as a kid, because it’s right in a kid’s wheelhouse. It’s got charm and stompability.

Sleater-Kinney – Call the Doctor

ARTIST: Sleater-Kinney               220px-Callsoctorskinney

TITLE: Call the Doctor

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None really

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Call the Doctor, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone

LINEUP: Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein, Lora Macfarlane

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from Olympia feminist punks establishes their cred as one of the best bands of the scene in the 90’s.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting out with the blast of “Call the Doctor”, a punk anthem for sure, but then moving to a complicated track like “Hubcap”, then a complete screamer like “Little Mouth”, Sleater-Kinney showed versatility in their attack and sound. They could change it up and still scream loudly if need be.

As the record goes on, you can feel Sleater-Kinney reveling in their songs and feminist power, strategically placing rage so you don’t get worn out. The structures of the songs are also varied and tricky, with the two-guitar attack varying and the riffs flowing (but not always the way regular rock riffs are constructed). When Corin Tucker says, “I’m the Queen of rock-and-roll”, there’s so much conviction that you believe her and will follow her.

You needed this record in 1996, and you need this record in 2019 to combat the crap going on in the world, right now.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Now, when they play “Joey Ramone” live, they change the reference in a lyric from Thurston Moore to Kim Gordon.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A+: Every song either grabs you immediately, or sneaks up on you later. Play it loud, and scare the patriarchy.

Solange – Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams

ARTIST: Solange                                 220px-Solange_-_Sol-Angel_And_The_Hadley_St._Dreams

TITLE: Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams

YEAR RELEASED: 2008

CHART ACTION: #9 US, #180 UK

SINGLES: Charting: Sandcastle Disco (#1 Dance, #149 UK), T.O.N.Y. (#62 R&B, #1 Dance), Would’ve Been the One (#3 Dance), Fuck the Industry (#6 Dance), I Told You So (#5 Dance)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really

LINEUP: Solange Knowles, Sean Hurley, John Broussard, Manny Patino, Phillip Todd, Noel Langley, Neil Sidwell

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Beyonce’s sister makes a non-teen-pop album and impresses for the most part.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It was six years after her debut (a forgettable teen dance-pop record) and Solange Knowles came out with a varied album with lots of references to 60’s soul and 70’s funk coupled with a modern production.

Sure it could have done with a little trimming (it’s almost an hour long wwith a couple of six minute tracks that could have shunk a bit) but it was a fine effort and established her as an artist in her own right.

But, as she became a bigger thing (perhaps due to the elevator video with Jay-Z?), in 2015 they released a deluxe version which grabbed some single B-sides and club mixes and made it a 17 track monster. It included a cover of “The Thrill Is Gone” done with BB King, and excluded “Sandcastle Disco” the first single from the album. You can’t stream that song now, anywhere, which is a very curious thing.

There already was at least four other bonus editions done, and three of the five added tracks were on those versions. “Fuck the Industry” was also it’s own single released in 2010. So not only to re-release another ‘deluxe’ edition, and then removing the first single from it? Hmmm, very curious decision suits.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “T.O.N.Y.” was the only original not co-written by Solange. It was a Cee-Lo Green / Jack Splash joint.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, as I yelled about above.

GRADE B: Pleasant soul / R&B record with homages to the old days, but needed some trimming and fewer record company shenanigans.

Gary Clark, Jr. – Black and Blu

ARTIST: Gary Clark, Jr.                               220px-Blak_and_Blu

TITLE: Black and Blu

YEAR RELEASED: 2012

CHART ACTION: #6 US, #44 UK

SINGLES: Bright Lights (#29 Adult Alternative), Ain’t Messin’ Around (#10 Adult Alternative)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Third Stone from the Sun

LINEUP: Gary Clark, Jr., Mike Elizondo, Zac Rae, JJ Johnson, Scott Nelson, and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Guitar wonderkind releases his first major solo album that straddles many genres.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Gary Clark, Jr. made his name as a guitarist. As time went on, and reputation grew, he started a solo career (he had two very small albums released early on in his career that really have vanished, probably for good reason) and put together a sound which encapsulates many other genres, such as blues, rock, soul, R&B, and hip-hop.

This album covers the whole gamut of those styles and indluences, and also shows off his guitar work (especially on his cover of “Third Stone from the Sun”).  It’s remarkable how wide a range he covers in these tracks.

But there’s an antiseptic feeling here – and a feeling that he needed to cut down some of his showman-like solos in the studio. So it’s not perfect, but it’s a good start for an artist that will be a force for a long time as he improves songwriting and tightens up his jammy excesses.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He also released a mix-tape of version and remixes in 2014..

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, two extra tracks on the Deluxe version, and those tracks are pretty decent.

GRADE B: Impressive, but flawed in a way. Still, worth hearing.

Buddy Miles – Expressway to Your Skull

ARTIST: Buddy Miles                        R-2329881-1349028879-9692.jpeg

TITLE: Expressway to Your Skull

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Train, Spot on the Wall

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Wrap It Up

LINEUP: Buddy Miles, Herbie Rich, Bill Rich, Jim McCarty, Bill McPherson, Marcus Doubleday, Virgil Gonsalves, Terrence Clements, Ron Woods

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Horn based blues, rock, and soul filling the void when the Electric Flag went kaput.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Electric Flag, who paved the way for Blood, Sweat, and Tears and Chicago, had a very short life and fissioned apart quickly due to drug issues and creative scuffles. Buddy Mikes, he of the drumming chops and huge afro, became the leading voice of the Flag as time went on, and when they split he formed his own combo, the Buddy Miles Express.

They immediately got gigs, and recorded this album pretty quickly in late 1968. It was pretty standard blues rock and soul with horns. Miles really wanted Jim McCarty from the Detroit Wheels and Herb and Bill Rich, and filled in the horn section with others he knew.

While the album wasn’t a success, and was rather generic with some interesting parts, the band opened for Jimi Hendrix and Hendrix did some production work for them, and Miles joined the Band of Gypsies as well, while maintaining this band (a revolving membership to be sure).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The followup, Electric Church, charted, but isn’t streaming. WHY? You can get the tracks on a playlist on You Tube.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE B: Got some soul, rock,and blues if you need a fix.

Chumbawumba – Never Mind the Ballots

ARTIST: Chumbawumba                      Chumbaballots

TITLE: Never Mind the Ballots

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION: #2 UK Indie

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hahahahah, um…no.

LINEUP: Lou Watts, Harry Hamer, Mavis Dillon, Alice Nutter, Danbert Nobacon, Boff Whalley, Dustan Bruce, Simon Lanzon, Neil Ferguson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Politics and elections!

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A musical play or anarchist agit-prop opera or whatever you want to call it – Chumbawumba’s second album is all about electoral politics featuring two candidates, the public, and how the two supposedly opposite sided candidates seem to want the same thing in the end

Funny how that’s appropriate now as well.

Musically, this is a much better and more commercial (sounding, commercial sounding, people) record. The band really can play well, and the arrangements are complementary to the lyrics and messages.

The messages, themes, and motifs are radical commentary on the UK’s issues in the late 80’s, but the political messages rather much fit to any political system. Candidates will be about one thing, mainly. That’s power. No matter what they say, that’s what they want.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had promo T-shirts in English and French that said “THE VOTE CHANGES NOTHING! THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES!”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. This isn’t streaming, but it’s available on You Tube.

 GRADE B+: You probably need to somewhat agree with their politics to really enjoy it, but it’s good.