Month: October 2019

Au Pairs – Stepping Out of Line: The Anthology

ARTIST: Au Pairs Steppingoutofline

TITLE: Stepping Out of Line: The Anthology

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None. Their original albums did chart in the UK

SINGLES: You, It’s Obvious, Inconvenience

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: We’re So Cool, Come Again

LINEUP: Jane Munro, Lesley Woods, Paul Foad, Peter Hammond

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Mined from the same vein as the Gang of Four, the Au Pairs jagged punk funk was focused mostly on feminism and sexuality.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The guitars are sharp and pointed, dishing out short small riffs, while the bass and drums keep up a funk rhythm. The vocals are strident, sometimes more commanding than singing (especially later), and no, this isn’t the Gang of Four – it’s Au Pairs. 220px-Playingwithadifferentsex

Lesley Woods spouts rails against sexism and advocates for feminists, with a touch of politics, while other guitarist Paul Foad tries to answer the best he can. Meanwhile, the stars are bassist Jane Munro and drummer Peter Hammond, who keep the grove going and the dance floor hopping.

This collection grabs everything they recorded, including BBC sessions. For the most part, there’s quality and distinction here, but the material tails off in both performance and quality during their second album (Woods sounds hoarse.) They broke up before their third album sessions in 1983, and that may have been for the best since their first statements were their best. 220px-SenseAndSensuality

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They delivered a rousing “Come Again” during Urgh! A Music War.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B+: A sadly forgotten band except for post-punk scholars and die-hards. It brought feminism and discussions of sexual freedom to the scene.

The Exploding Hearts – Guitar Romantic

ARTIST: The Exploding Hearts 220px-Guitar_Romantic

TITLE: Guitar Romantic

YEAR RELEASED: 2003

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Modern Kicks, I’m a Pretender

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Matt Fitzgerald, Adam Cox, Jeremy Gage, Terry Six. King Louie Bankston helped on keyboards.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Hearkening back to the late 70’s UK, The Exploding Hearts had a lo-fi UK punk sound and were poised to break out, until tragedy struck.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sounding like a lost record from 1978 UK, full of hooks and attitude, The Exploding Hearts burned up Oregon and the West Coast with their sound and style.

They were definitely punk, but in the mode of Buzzcocks crossed with the Rubinoos. The production of the record was a bit raw, but it fit perfectly. The songs stuck with you as they were full of hooks and verve.

Sadly, they never got their deserved breakout due to tragedy. On their way back from a show in San Francisco, they were about 100 miles way from Portland when their van had an accident, causing the death of three members, leaving just guitarist Terry Six behind.

They had a lot of potential, and it snuffed out just like that. We still have this record to remember them by, though. ehearts

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Singles, compilation songs and alternate mixes are captured on Shattered, which includes a few songs destined for their next album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A: It’s a damn shame they’re gone as this record is top-notch.

 

Deep Purple – Deep Purple in Rock

ARTIST: Deep Purple Deep_Purple_in_Rock

TITLE: Deep Purple in Rock

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #143 US, #4 UK

SINGLES: Speed King

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Child in Time

LINEUP: Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ian Paice, Jon Lord

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After changing their lineup, and indulging Jon Lord’s symphonic jones, Deep Purple’s classic combo records their first album and, well, it’s good.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Seeing their fortunes dwindle, and their US record company go belly up, Deep Purple jettisoned their singer and bass player – adding Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. The classic lineup was born, and the first thing they did was….the symphonic record (covered in quickie form on the site).

Cranking out of the gate with “Speed King”, and moving through seven tracks that are mostly driving rock with progressive flourishes (especially the epic “Child of Time” – where Jon Lord gets his money’s worth), Deep Purple in Rock established the band once and for all in the UK. Later, the band toured the world and set the stage for their later success, wiping away their former status as the UK’s answer to Vanilla Fudge.

Tracks like “Flight of the Rat” and “Bloodsucker” are prime examples of Deep Purple, and are a developmental step in the music that soon became heavy metal. This record definitely shows that a band can re-invent itself to play off its strengths mid-career, and not have a ponderous pretentious record stall them out.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Black Night” was released as a single apart from the album and was a smash in the UK (#2) and a minor US hit (#66)

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A version with “Black Night” plus outtakes.

GRADE A-: Welcome, Deep Purple! We’ll mostly forget your earlier stuff.

Tame Impala – InnerSpeaker

ARTIST: Tame Impala  220px-Tame_Impala_-_Innerspeaker

TITLE: InnerSpeaker

YEAR RELEASED: 2010

CHART ACTION: Heatseekers #28, UK #144

SINGLES: Solitude Is Bless, Lucidiy, Expectation, Why Don’t You Make Up Your Mind

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Desire Be Desire Go was the lead track on their (his) EP

LINEUP: Kevin Parker, Dom Simper, Jay Watson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Australian multi-everything channels the acid and psychedelic rock of the 60’s to near perfection.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After an EP and a single set some tastemakers aback with the back-to-the 60’s psychedelic vibe, Tame Impala (really Australian Kevin Parker and some friends helping here and there) released their debut album. It really channels the psychedelic era with fuzzed out guitars, echoey vocals that sound like their through a Leslie, and just a fabulous sound all together.

Sounding like John Lennon singing in a canyon, Parker’s vocals hearken back to the 60’s, as does his instrumentation. But there’s something modern sounding as well. The production is excellent, and the use of a breadth of sounds and studio effects make this a homage instead of a straight copy.

While the album loses steam a bit at the end, it’s still a fabulous record, and reminds one of a psychedelic Todd Rundgren since he did almost everything himself.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The self titled EP and the “Sundown Syndrome” single are streaming. There was also a 2008 EP with three songs and three remixes, though two carried over. The streaming of the 2009 EP just has four of the six tracks, since one is on this album and the other was cut.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: There is an EP with B-sides streaming separately.

 GRADE A-: A great tribute / homage to the psychedelic sound from a modern studio hound.

Pat Benatar – Ultimate Collection

ARTIST: Pat Benatar 220px-Pat_Benatar_Ultimate_Collection

TITLE: Ultimate Collection

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 40: Heartbreaker (#23 US), We Live for Love (#27 US), Hit Me With Your Best Shot (#9 US), Treat Me Right (#18 US), Fire and Ice (#17 US), Promises in the Dark (#38 US), Shadows in the Night (#13 US, #50 UK), Little Too Late (#20 US), Looking for a Stranger (#39 US), Love Is a Battlefield (#5 US, #17 UK), We Belong (#5 US, #22 UK), Ooh Ooh Song (#36 US), Invincible (#10 US, #53 UK), Sex as a Weapon (#28 US, #67 UK), All Fired Up (#19 US, #19 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hell Is for Children, I Need a Lover, Precious Time, Anxiety (Get Nervous), Le Bel Age

LINEUP: Pat Benatar, Neil Giraldo. Mostly Roger Capps, and Myron Grombacher, Scott St. Clair Sheets’ guitar gave way to Charlie Giordano’s keyboards in 1982 or so. Others filtered in after 1985 or so.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Rock ‘n’ roll singer with a tough exterior is a hit machine from 1979 to about 1987 or so.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Three top 10 singles, and three top 10 albums say one thing, but 9 top 40 albums and 15 top 40 singles say another. And the latter say more about Benatar’s influence and popularity than anything else.

She was a rocker without apology, and that may have hurt on pop radio a bit, but MTV came along at the right time for her, and she, along with husband Neil Giraldo, made that transition to videos work for her, using her sexuality and personality to great effect. She also has an ear for covers, tackling songs by the Rascals and Paul Revere & the Raiders.

This collection collects her singles and some important album cuts as well. As time went on, her material softened a bit, moving to pop and she was less interesting. She then tried genre experiments as well (four cuts from her jump blues album seems a bit much) before fading away. But for the fan, or even the casual fan, this is the best collection and mostly shows her strength.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She was a singing waitress early in her career.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE A-: There’s a bit too much time spent on her later stuff, but all of her important work is here.

Jefferson Starship – Gold / Playlist: The Very Best of Jefferson Starship

ARTIST: Jefferson Starship Gold_Jefferson_Starship

TITLE: Gold / Playlist: The Very Best of Jefferson Starship

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation (s)

CHART ACTION: #20 US (Gold)

SINGLES: Top 40: Miracles (#3 US), With Your Love (#12 US), Count on Me (#8 US), Runaway (#12 US), Jane (#14 US, #13 UK), Find Your Way Back (#29 US, #29 UK), Be My Lady (#28 US), Winds of Change (#38 US), No Way Out (#23 US, #59 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Stranger, Layin’ it on the Line

LINEUP: Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Pete Sears, David Freiberg, Craig Chaquico. Marty Balin sang on their first four records. Mickey Thomas on the others (Slick missed one). Papa John Creach and John Barbata were also on the first four records, and Aynsley Dunbar and Donnie “Slugger” Baldwin on the later ones.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Let’s make a lot of money!”

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: At first, it wasn’t a total sell-out crash grab, as Marty Balin and Grace Slick wrote some interesting songs on their first two albums (“Caroline”, “Miracles”, “Fast Buck Freddy”, “Play on Love”). Then “Miracles” hit, and by gosh they loved that money. 71J8ovqYusL._SX522_

So they did the easy thing, releasing commercial album after commercial album, and after Marty Balin left, and Grace Slick took a sabbatical, they became just another rock band with a couple of great songs (“Jane” of course). Even with Slick back in the fold, they became more and more bland, and soon morphed into the vile thing called Starship.

The Gold compilation has 12 tracks (in its streaming form, on vinyl it was 10 with a single), and The Very Best of Jefferson Starship repeats some and adds tracks from their Mickey Thomas records, and avoids Starship entirely.

When you listen to classic Airplane, then stuff like “With Your Love”, you gotta shake your head, and admire the audacity of the sellout.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Balin left due to the aftermath of Grace Slick’s infamous drunken incident in Germany. But first, he sang “Light the Sky on Fire” (#66 US), which was used in the Star Wars Holiday Special. Yep.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. I myself had to make the Playlist stuff myself since that’s not streaming, and I added a couple of other tracks.

 GRADE B-: Baby boomer selling out for cash. Hmmm….

Jefferson Airplane – After Bathing at Baxter’s

ARTIST: Jefferson Airplane 220px-After_bathing_at_baxters

TITLE: After Bathing at Baxter’s

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #17

SINGLES: The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil (#42), Watch Her Ride (#61)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Martha, Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon

LINEUP: Marty Balin, Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Airplane decided to go full-tilt psychedelic, and the album has a lot of trippy elements to it, man.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I don’t think this was Marty Balin’s group anymore, but he had to have gone along with it. His voice, as harmony singer mostly, is all over the place, and his “Young Girl Sunday Blues” is one of the highlights.

Starting with the outstanding yet challenging “The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil” and ending with Kantner’s statement “Won’t You Try / Saturday Afternoon”, the Airplane moves the listener through a truly acid-drenched trip, complete with experimental sounds, anti-war statements, hippie imagery, and general electrical tom-foolery.

Their status, after one successful album, was such that they got to do what they wanted, and how they wanted. While the freedom was welcome by the band (after RCA put the screws to them on their first album), it’s lack of direction meant fewer sales and less radio play on AM stations.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The album title was code for “tripping on acid”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Alternate cuts and mixes.

 GRADE B+: The weird for weird-sake cuts drag it down.

Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow

ARTIST: Jefferson Airplane

TITLE: Surrealistic Pillow220px-Jeffair

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #3

SINGLES: My Best Friend (#103), Somebody to Love (#5), White Rabbit (#8)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Today, Plastic Fantastic Lover

LINEUP: Marty Balin, Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Changing drummers (a big plus) and female singers (who brought a couple of songs from her old band that you may have heard of), the Airplane make a psychedelic folkie LP that puts them on the map.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This was still mostly Marty Balin’s group. His folkie instincts came through on some of the cuts (especially at the end of side 1), but it’s not all in his voice, nor his songs. Former drummer Skip Spence has a track, as well as mysterious ‘friend’ Tom Mastin. Kantner and Kaukonen each have a solo credit, and then there’s the two songs the new singer Grace Slick brought them. I think you know them.

“Somebody to Love”, written by Slick’s brother in law, and “White Rabbit” were songs that Slick’s former band, the Great Society, had in their repertoire, to very minor success. The Airplane versions were turned up and turned on, and along with tracks like “She Has Funny Cars”, “3/5 of a Mile in 10 Second” and “Plastic Fantastic Lover”, the Airplane really took off.

The really slow ballad and a couple of the folkie tracks detract from the psychedelic onslaught, somewhat to the album’s detriment. But it’s still a good snapshot of a group ascending to its apex, quickly.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Jerry Garcia played on this album, unless he didn’t, and he arranged many of the tracks, unless he was just a ‘sage counsel’. I think people were too stoned to really remember.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. B-sides and cuts left off for…reasons I guess.

 GRADE A-: They flew pretty high here, and became the ‘voice’ of hippies and San Francisco.

Jefferson Airplane – Jefferson Airplane Takes Off

ARTIST: Jefferson Airplane 220px-Jefferson_airplane_takes_off

TITLE: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off

YEAR RELEASED: 1966

CHART ACTION: #128

SINGLES: It’s No Secret, Come Up the Years, Bringing Me Down

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Blues from an Airplane

LINEUP: Marty Balin, Signe Anderson, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Skip Spence

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pre-Grace Slick and pre-hippie Jefferson Airplane release a rote folk rock album with a few highlights.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This was definitely Marty Balin’s group. He formed it, and shaped the sound of the album with his folk-rock songs. Sometimes co-written by Paul Kantner, and assisted vocally by Signe Anderson, Balin has some good hands helping him, but it’s definitely his show.

Bassist Jack Casady makes his impact felt right away with some melodic and powerful bass lines, while the guitars lack the usual fireworks of later years (though Jorma Kaukonen’s playing is elegant and precise). That musicianship helps elevate the slightly above average songs.

Balin’s material is augmented by three covers, which are the weakest tracks (they just sound off), and “Come Up the Years” is beautiful but skeevy. (It seems very much a Lolita tale). All in all, a record that wouldn’t make a ripple outside of folk-rock zealots, but then they changed Balin’s vocal assistance.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Skip Spence left soon after to form Moby Grape, and Signe Anderson left to form a family. They grabbed this singer named Grace to replace her…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. B-sides and cuts left off because RCA didn’t like the very mild sexual references.

 GRADE B: An OK folk rock record, but they’d turn into something else soon enough.

Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm

ARTIST: Waxahatchee 220px-Out_in_the_Storm_Waxahatchee

TITLE: Out in the Storm

YEAR RELEASED: 2017

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Silver

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: This should have been on several adult alternative stations.

LINEUP: Katie Crutchfield, Katie Harkin, Katherine Simonetti, Alison Crutchfield, Ashley Anwine

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Katie Crutchfield forms a strong band and lets her rock instincts take over. The result is a fabulous record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Storming out of the gate with “Never Been Wrong”, Katie Crutchfield and Waxahatchee add a big sound to her songs, while retaining their personal nature and introspection.

It’s loud at times, and while it’s not polished it’s got a big sound that carries out through the speakers. When she gets quiet with acoustic guitars, it’s still raw and powerful. The record definitely has a 90’s – early 00’s rock vibe with fuzzy guitars, hooks, and harmony vocals but it sounds immediate and rich, not tinny and dated.

The band she put together includes her sister, former bandmates, and fellow female alt-rock travelers, and they’re very sympathetic to her material. One can’t wait for Crutchfield and Waxahatchee’s next full statement.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The album was recorded live for the most part with some overdubs for harmonies and solos.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Demos.

GRADE A+: It’s a powerful rock album and shows that not all confessional and breakup albums have to be overly self-indulgent.