Month: November 2019

The Meat Puppets – Up on the Sun

ARTIST: The Meat Puppets  220px-MeatPuppets_-_UpOnTheSun

TITLE: Up on the Sun

YEAR RELEASED: 1985

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Swimming Ground

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not

LINEUP: Curt Kirkwood, Cris Kirkwood, Derrick Bostrom

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Meat Puppets’ release a laid-back, country-tinged record that’s psychedelic and weird while being normal at the same time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This album is bifurcated, in that the guitar and the playing are pretty darn straight up – tight and impressive with Curt Kirkwood’s guitar’s sounding very clean and interacting well with his brother Cris’ bass and Derrick Bostrom’s drums. Everything is solid and clean.

Then, the songs, and the lyrics. Curt’s vocals are mellow and still trying to find a note or five, and at times “Up on the Sun” sounded like the record was warped as he was singing. There’s a lazy vibe – like they’re baked out in the sun (and I don’t mean they’re sunbathing). Here’s also where Curt and Cris start singing together (at times here), which can smooth out the ‘oddities’.

This is a more stylistically together album, so there’s not an element of surprise. It’s a good, kinda mellow record with some excellent playing.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Curt Kirkwood did the cover painting, and Bostrom did the sleeve art.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few outtakes

 GRADE A-: A fine, mellow-ish, trip.

The Meat Puppets – Meat Puppets II

ARTIST: The Meat Puppets 

TITLE: Meat Puppets II

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Lost, Plateau, Oh Me, Lake of Fire

LINEUP: Curt Kirkwood, Cris Kirkwood, Derrick Bostrom

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: An punk record? A psychedelic record? A country-rock record? All of them, for sure. It’s unique.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sure, you can quibble about Curt Kirkwood’s vocals (not really in any key known to mankind), and the stylistic diversions, and the uprooting of the punk norm (for those SST Records purists), but dang this is a fun record that’s, well, always keeping you guessing.

The opening track, “Split Myself in Two” is really punk rock with other overtones, but then as you move along to tracks like “Lost”, “Plateau”, and “Lake of Fire”, you’re in totally uncharted waters for an SST act. Acoustic guitars, country rhythms, jammy instrumentals, psychedelic overtones, mystical lyrics, and Lord knows what else. It’s like the Grateful Dead crossed with the Minutemen, or something.

If you can get past the vocals (I mean it, they’re surprisingly off-key, but earnest), and forget this was a punk band (was) on a punk rock label, then you’re in for an adventurous treat.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They played with Black Flag and Nig Heist on a tour, and the punkers in the audience didn’t get it. Long hair? Jams? Wow. Oh, and three of the tracks were on Nirvana’s unplugged record.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, outtakes and other tracks.

GRADE A+: Sod the vocals, and listen to “Plateau” on repeat, forever.

The Toadies – Rubberneck

ARTIST: The Toadies

TITLE: Rubberneck

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #56, #1 Heatseekers

SINGLES: Mister Love, Possum Kingdom (#9 Mainstream, #4 Modern, #40 Airplay), Away (#23 Mainstream, #28 Modern), Tyler, Backslider

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Come From the Water

LINEUP: Vaden Todd Lewis, Darrel Herbert, Lisa Umbarger, Mark Reznicek

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Grungy, hard-edged Austin band surprised everyone with a big 90’s hit, and that really was all they had in ‘em.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: One fantastic song and a few good riffs and ideas don’t a great album make – they barely make a good album. Such is the case for Rubberneck.

Sounding like the Pixies or Fugazi without the dynamic tension or intelligent lyrics, the Toadies came out of Austin to sign with a major label after a couple of indie released EPs, and once a radio station in Orlando started playing “Possum Kingdom”, they caught fire in 1995. Yet the album was disappointing after that song.

Riffs were there, and some interesting ideas were explored, but they didn’t go anywhere special. The first two cuts of the record, an instrumental and their most strident song, seemed to be a poor introduction to the rest of the album. Vaden Todd Lewis’ vocals are also a hinderance at times, trying too much for the shout without the subtlety needed at times. Except for “Possum Kingdom”, it didn’t come together.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Interscope rejected their second album, and they didn’t release a follow up until 2001. By that time, they were basically done-zo. Of course they reunited (three out of for) and are treading the boards today.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, outtakes on a special edition.

 GRADE B-: It’d be a “C+” without “Possum Kingdom”. Just your average alt-rock record.

The Mamas & The Papas – The Papas & the Mamas

ARTIST: The Mamas & The Papas 220px-Cover_-_papas_and_mamas

TITLE: The Papas & The Mamas

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: #15 US

SINGLES: Twelve Thirty (#20 US), Safe in My Garden (#53 US), Dream a Little Dream of Me (#12 US, #11 UK), For the Love of Ivy (#81 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not from this one.

LINEUP: Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, John Phillips, Michelle Phillips. The Wrecking Crew provided the backing even though they moved studios

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: It was a downer year for all and this record was not bright and happy. But it was better than the last one by far.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Tensions were high within the group as they set about to record this album. John Phillips and Cass Elliot were feuding, the sessions for the album stalled out, and Elliot made plans to go solo.

Still, with all of this, the album aims high and mostly succeeds. “For the Love of Ivy” was a complex song with interlocking vocals. “Mansions” was another standout, and most of the second side was great but darker than their other material.

The times were changing here and the band was almost done. The public didn’t like their darker side and moved on. It less than three years, it was basically over.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The trouble may have started when John Phillips installed a studio in his house, and he could record as he wished. Which meant he diddled around and the vocals took forever thanks to Phillip’s perfectionism.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A-: Though it wasn’t well received at the time, it’s aged a lot better than you’d expect.

The Mamas & The Papas – Deliver

ARTIST: The Mamas & The Papas Deliver

TITLE: Deliver

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #2 US, #4 UK

SINGLES: Look Through My Window (#24 US), Dedicated to the One I Love (#2 US, #2 UK), Creeque Alley (#5 US, #9 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Covers of My Girl and Twist and Shout

LINEUP: Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, John Phillips, Michelle Phillips. The Wrecking Crew provided the backing.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Let’s Put On A Show!”

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Mamas & The Papas were still big business in 1967, with hit singles, album sales, TV appearances, and spearheading the Monterey Pop Festival. What happened was that when this album was put together, instead of seminal sunshine pop, it was time for show-biz! At least for side one.

Cover songs of well known songs and show tunes (though “Dedicated to the One I Love” is breathtaking), accompanying a kinda novelty that re-tells their story (“Creeque Alley” – charming in its own way). They exploit Cass Elliot’s natural charisma to propel the songs into something fitting for a variety show.

Which is kind of disappointing, really. Side two is much more in vogue with their other records – a combo of folk and sunshine pop with great harmonies, except for an instrumental (this was a vocal group, really, right?) Still, kind of a downer given the first two releases.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title is a sly reference to Elliot’s pregnancy and delivery of a baby in 1967.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 

GRADE B-: Could have been better. Some is great and some cringeworthy.

The Mamas & The Papas – The Mamas & The Papas

ARTIST: The Mamas & The Papas 220px-MamasPapas

TITLE: The Mamas & The Papas

YEAR RELEASED: 1966

CHART ACTION: #4 US, #24 UK

SINGLES: I Saw Her Again (#5 US, #11 UK), Words of Love (#5 US, #47 UK), Dancing Bear (#51 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Dancing in the Street (#73 US as a B-side)

LINEUP: Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, John Phillips, Michelle Phillips. Jill Gibson was in for Michelle Phillips for a spell. The Wrecking Crew provided the backing along with Ray Manzarek.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A sunshine-pop smash that masked inter-group turmoil.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Ten of the 12 tracks on the self-titled second album by The Mamas & The Papas were written (or co-written) by John Phillips, as his creativity was hitting full stride.

The group was also hitting full stride, using inventive arrangements and production lead by Lou Adler. The harmonies were spot on, and Denny Doherty’s and Cass Elliot’s leads were sassy and sweet as needed. “I Saw Her Again” and “No Salt on Her Tail” were classics of the 60’s (even if the last wasn’t a single).

The album masked a lot of issues, though. Michelle Phillips had cheated on John with Doherty, upsetting the dynamic, and then when Michelle was caught in an affair with former Byrd Gene Clark, they booted her from the group. Jill Gibson came in, but was let go after three months. Songs were recorded, re-recorded, and re-re-recorded. What Gibson actually sang on was and is unknown. That really doesn’t matter. What matters is the end product.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The false start on “I Saw Her Again” (before the third chorus) was an engineering mistake by Bones Howe (a legend in his own right in Sunshine Pop), but Lou Adler kept it in.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A-: A classic of Sunshine Pop, deep cuts and hits all working well.

Firehose – Fromohio

ARTIST: Firehose 220px-FROMOHIO

TITLE: Fromohio

YEAR RELEASED: 1989

CHART ACTION: None.

SINGLES: Time With You

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: What Gets Heard

LINEUP: Ed Crawford, Mike Watt, George Hurley. Kira Roessler played and sung too.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A record much like their previous, except a couple of solo spots for George Hurley.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Unlike If’n, Fromohio (taken from Ed Crawford’s sometime nom-de-band – Ed Fromohio) isn’t a leap forward, more like a retrenchment towards what worked previously. That’s OK, and some of the songs were pretty good (“What Gets Heard”, “Time With You”), but others seemed just repeated themes from their previous records.

They also had two drummer showcases, and a guitar exercise. Those would be OK had not the other material been as strong as the previous album – but it really wasn’t.

All in all, it seemed like Firehose was marking time here. A better record than most of their contemporaries, but still marking time.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Watt started calling his bass “Thunder Broom”. Plus, the title track from the previous album is on this one.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B: I didn’t think it was as good as any of their other SST records.

Firehose – If’n

ARTIST: Firehose 220px-Ifn_Firehose_Album_cover

TITLE: If’n

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION: None.

SINGLES: Sometimes

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: For the Singer of REM

LINEUP: Ed Crawford, Mike Watt, George Hurley

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A coalescence of the band strengths. This has the playfulness of the Minutemen, but definitely is its own thing.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After a tentative first record, Ed Crawford fits in with his bandmates and turns out an excellent album with hardly any shadow of D. Boon in it.

Crawford’s guitar now fits in fully with Watt and Hurley, and allows Crawford’s natural swing and phrasing to come through, and it opens up a lot of possibilities to the trip. They branch out into different modes and motifs seamlessly here. Crawford’s voice is more confident, and Watt’s around to growl a bit too.

This record also contains one of the all-timers of the 80’s “For the Singer of REM”. The lyrics send up and tribute Michael Stipe, and the guitar parts from Crawford are definitely Peter Buck-ian. That track is where Firehose all comes together.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The album cover shows a picture of Husker Du, who recently left their record company, SST.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A: A much better and more cohesive effort, with an all-timer in “For the Singer of REM”.

Firehose – Ragin’ Full-On

ARTIST: Firehose 220px-Ragin',fullon

TITLE: Ragin’ Full-On

YEAR RELEASED: 1986

CHART ACTION: None.

SINGLES: Nope

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Brave Captain

LINEUP: Ed Crawford, Mike Watt, George Hurley

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Surprise! Watt and Hurley, grieving after D. Boon’s death and the loss of the Minutemen because of it, regroup with Minutemen fan Ed Crawford and form Firehose.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: NOTE: NOT FIREHOUSE.

From seemingly out of nowhere (at least to those not plugged into the West Coast punk scene) came Firehose, which gathered Mike Watt and George Hurley along with Minuteman fan-boy / guitarist Ed Crawford (from Ohio).

This, their first effort, sounds a bit tentative since the trio was just learning to work together. Watt and Hurley knew each other, but had to figure out how to play with Crawford, who was a bit more conventional than D. Boon, though he tried to be a bit outside.

That was one of the issues – Crawford tried too much to be in the spirit of D. Boon’s guitar work and that was not his strength. He did work well on some tracks, especially his tracks like “Brave Captain”, “The Candle and the Flame”, and “Choose Any Memory”.  The ones that Watt wrote (or-cowrote with his wife Kira Roessler) he struggled a bit with.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: THIS ISN’T FIREHOUSE.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B: For a band just coming together after a tragedy, it’s surprisingly good, but there was room for improvement.