Month: January 2020

The Amboy Dukes – The Amboy Dukes

ARTIST: The Amboy Dukes 220px-The_Amboy_Dukes_album

TITLE: The Amboy Dukes

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #183

SINGLES: Baby Please Don’t Go (#106)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover I Feel Free and Let’s Go Get Stoned

LINEUP: Ted Nugent, John Drake, Steve Farmer, Rick Lorber, Dave Palmer, Bill White

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Detroit garage / psychedelic rock stuck out from the usual hippy/dippy psychedelic crowd thanks to Ted Nugent.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting with a frenetic cover of “Baby Please Don’t Go”, Detroit’s Amboy Dukes rolled through a set of covers and originals in a half psychedelic, half garage motif.

Nugent formed this band after relocating from Chicago, and found Steve Farmer, who could write lyrics and put together truly psychedelic tracks that utilized Nugent’s guitar playing. John Drake was the vocalist, and sometimes his soul-tinged vocals didn’t fit the material. One interesting point was keyboard player Rick Lorber who added some piano to the mix – not a usual garage or psych instrument and his playing adds some color to a few generic sounding tracks.

It’s a spotty record, with Nugent being the star as his guitar prowess was already shining through. They do sound like they’re having fun – but psychedelic weirdness like “Psalms of Aftermath” are rather dated and tiresome. However, they’ve got a depth of tracks that many other younger garage bands didn’t have.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Mainstream was a jazz label that decided to take an interest in rock at this time, and the Amboy Dukes was one of their first signings.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with a couple of spare tracks.

 GRADE B-: It’s pretty decent for what it is, and Nugent adds a couple of points as well with his guitar work.

George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

ARTIST: George Harrison  220px-All_Things_Must_Pass_1970_cover

TITLE: All Things Must Pass

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: My Sweet Lord (#1 US, #1 UK), What Is Life (#10 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Isn’t It a Pity, If Not for You, Beware of Darkness, Art of Dying

LINEUP: George Harrison and a Phil Spector Wall of Sound including: Eric Clapton, Gary Wright, Bobby Whitlock, Klaus Voorman, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Rino Starr, Billy Preston, Jim Price, Bobby Keys, Alan White, Pete Drake, Peter Frampton, Dave Mason, Badfinger, Gary Brooker, Ginger Baker, and others, probably.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The debut ‘true’ solo album from George assembles songs he had written since 1966 forward, and it’s a stunning, stunning album.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: George Harrison’s contributions to the Beatles as a songwriter was limited (though after 1966 the others did acknowledge his improvement) and as a result he had a backlog of songs just waiting to be worked out and released. When the Beatles broke up, he had that chance.

Playing the demos for Phil Spector, the two set about finding the songs that they would begin for this project. It was an immense session, with Spector bringing in huge lineups of musicians and recorded them live, like he did in the old days. Then over time, overdubs and orchestration were added (it took a while due to various issues, such as Spector breaking his arm and being plastered on cherry brandy. Still, with time and patience, the album came together and was released to the world in late 1970.

And what a record it was! Four sides of music, including a co-write with Dylan and a Dylan song he heard during a recording session he was attending. The songs combine so many influences: gospel, ragas, blues, rock, soul to name a few. The lyrics are mostly spiritual (as fitting Harrison) yet not so preachy as to be a harangue, though some are lighter (“Apple Scruffs, “The Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)”) and a track about the Beatles’ situation in 1969 (“Wah Wah”). Even with the Wall of Sound that Spector put on the songs, you can’t mistake Harrison’s guitar work and his vocals are not lost, either.

The 18 tracks on the main album fit together flawlessly and are a testament to Harrison’s songwriting ability at the time. There is a third LP of jams that were recorded during the sessions, and while ‘interesting’ they’re superfluous and Harrison made sure they were packaged separately in the set. (Basically, he didn’t want to lose them but didn’t want them part of the main albuim).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: When re-released in 2001, Harrison added some new artwork to the booklet, created a web site, and sequenced the jam LP as he originally intended.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with new mixes and single versions.

GRADE A+: The jam LP aside, this is one of the most perfect albums released.

The Icicle Works – The Icicle Works

ARTIST: The Icicle Works The_Icicle_Works_Debut_Album_Cover

TITLE: The Icicle Works

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: #40 US, #24 UK

SINGLES: Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream) (#37 US, #18 Mainstream, #53 UK, #2 UK Indie), Love Is a Wonderful Colour (#15 UK),

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really

LINEUP: Ian McNabb, Chris Layhe, Chris Sharrock

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album from the arty-and-jangly UK band that delivered hits on both sides of the Atlantic.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Here in the States, the first few ringing lines of “Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)” (yes, Arista retitled it) evokes memories of MTV and how it was possible for something so obscure and so…British could hit the Top 40.

The album, which also included their bigger UK hit “Love Is a Wonderful Colour”, has some of those jangly elements, but also a richer, fuller sound with more production elements filling out the sound. The Icicle Works was more of an arty band upon revelation, instead of a jangle pop band.

While Ian McNabb’s songs can sometimes be ponderous, brooding, and overly serious, the entire record has a whole is somewhat satisfying, as the promise of their early singles comes to fruition at times. 220px-The_Icicle_Works_Debut_Album_Cover-_USA_Version

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Yes, Arista changed the name of the band (to just Icicle Works), altered the single’s title (swapping the parens around), and edited out a portion of their US hit. For the album, they swapped out a song, and changed the cover. And it’s not streaming, probably because of Arista.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with rarities and remixes

 GRADE B: They may have had a better chance in the US had the company followed up with a second single, or at least some support. Anyway, this is better than I thought, though a bit too pretentious at times.

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

ARTIST: Joy Division Unknown_Pleasures_Joy_Division_LP_sleeve

TITLE: Unknown Pleasures

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #5 UK, #1 UK Indie (on rerelease)

SINGLES: None, “Transmission” was released about this same time.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Disorder, She’s Lost Control, Shadowplay

LINEUP: Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Iconic debut album from post-punk trailblazer.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is an iconic release in many ways. It’s the debut LP from a band that launched 1,000,000 goth and post punk kids (many of which will say they’ve always been into Joy Division even though they were born 10-20 years after this was released). It established Martin Hannett as a producer that takes risks and pushes the sonic envelope with his artists. And third, the front cover has launched another 1,000,000 Hot Topic T-shirts.

The album itself features a powerful, almost angry, Ian Curtis’ brooding, at times monotone baritone over a band that was sparse and open in their arrangements, which belied a sophistication of approach (especially in Peter Hook’s bass work, check the work in “She’s Lost Control”). Hannett added a lot of effects and interesting recording approaches to add depth to the songs, but the main sound is the three musicians backing Curtis.

At first, this album didn’t break the bank, though that may be to Factory pressing up only 10,000 and selling out of 5,000 within a fortnight. After Curtis’ suicide, it raced up the charts.

While some may find the record too dour and moody, and at times repetitive or monotonous, for the most part it’s brilliant, with tracks such as “She’s Lost Control” (not the more familiar 12” version, but a spare and haunting track), “Disorder” and “Shadowplay” put it among the best post-punk ever had to offer.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They originally were named Warsaw, and their first release was titles “An Idea for Living”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with a live show appended.

 GRADE A: While a couple of tracks linger on a bit long, there’s an argument that can be made this is the pinnacle post-punk album

The Bobby Fuller Four – Never to Be Forgotten: The Mustang Years

ARTIST: The Bobby Fuller Four

fuller

TITLE: Never to Be Forgotten: The Mustang Years

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Wolfman, Take My Word, Let Her Dance (#133), Never to Be Forgotten, I Fought the Law (#9), Love’s Made a Fool of You (#26), The Magic Touch (#117), It’s Love, Come What May

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably Not.

LINEUP: Bobby Fuller, Randy Fuller, Jim Reese, DeWayne Quirico. A few tracks had Dalton Powell or John Barbata drumming in place of Quirico.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Collection from a beloved garage band with surprisingly small chart history.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Bobby Fuller and his group would still be known for their version of “I Fought the Law” had he not been murdered (Suicide? Nope) in mysterious circumstances in 1966. But that death has given Fuller and The Bobby Fuller Four a name beyond their chart history.

They deserved more of a chart presence than one Top 10 and another Top 30. “Let Her Dance” made waves in LA, but not nationally, and “Never to be Forgotten” is probably their best track (and one of the great hidden gems of the 60’s). And unlike other groups of the 60’s, they rarely covered tracks – even on both of their albums. It just so happened that “I Fought the Law” was a cover that their original producer in El Paso thought would be a good fit for them. (“I Fought the Law” was originally by the Crickets, who kept playing after Buddy Holly passed.)

This collection is their Mustang Records recordings, after they moved to LA and made the scene there. It covers their entire catalog (singles and albums) and includes a live set that was going to be released but was withdrawn (and really, it’s just not so great – though they were a fun live band). While there is some filler (their first album was partly a drag racing album due to a radio station’s wishes), many of the cuts are decent enough and with the strong singles it’s a good collection for 60’s rock fans.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After Bobby died, his brother Randy tried to keep the band going as the Randy Fuller Four.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B+: There’s a lot here, and that may be too much for some, but they’re surprisingly deep for a band with a couple of albums.

The Embarassment – Heyday 1979-83

ARTIST: The Embarassment heyday

TITLE: Heyday 1979-83

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: Hahahahah, you’re joking right?

SINGLES: Sex Drive

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, those who know, know.

LINEUP: John Nichols, Ronnie Klaus, Brent Giessmann, Bill Goffrier

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Obscure Wichita (yep, Wichita) band recorded some great, literate, witty new wave-ish songs that trickled out enough that they developed a cult following.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A bunch of nerdy looking college kids from Wichita formed a band, wrote smart / smart ass lyrics and developed a small yet lovingly rabid following. They released material on singles and sent them to compilations (including two very early Sub Pop cassettes) that found its way to some influential critics and taste makers who loved their take on jangly guitar rock and bent lyrics.

Examples? “Sex Drive” – about guys that you knew in high school that cruised for chicks in their Trans Ams; “Patio Set” – a love song to lawn furniture; “Celebrity Art Party” – where Art Carney attended the ‘narcissistic party’; “Berliner’s Night Out” – which describers a German guy getting ready for a date; and “Lifespan”- giving a mathematical equation to living and saying “if you drive, don’t drive” then going somewhere else.

Not to say that everything is top-class or first-rate. This collects nearly everything they did in those years, and there were some songs that weren’t as well developed or documented for the sake of documentation, and not release. But for those “Hip and Well Read”, this is a nice treasure that still brings smiles to faces.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They recorded an album in 1989 (also recording some of this material again), and have reunited periodically.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A-: It’s a big compilation that may be much for those who just want to dip their toes into them, but it’s well worth spinning at least once.

Phoebe Snow – Phoebe Snow

ARTIST: Phoebe Snow Phoebe_Snow_-_Phoebe_Snow

TITLE: Phoebe Snow

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #4

SINGLES: Poetry Man (#5), Harpo’s Blues

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Where Eagles Dare

LINEUP: Phoebe Snow and many sessioneers

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut for jazz-pop-folk singer is her career highlight.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: In 1974, things were looking up for Phoebe Snow. Her acoustic based jazzy and folk inspired songs gained critical acclaim and a deserved hit for “Poetry Man”.

Her voice was unique; she had range and dynamics. The production and arrangements by Dino Airali and Phil Ramone complemented her songs and her voice well, staying out of the way of the songs yet enhancing them. Eight of the ten tracks were originals, and she showed promise as a songwriter.

For various reasons (most notably being a parent of a special needs child that she refused to institutionalize), her career never materialized into long lasting success. So this is probably the best thing to pick up if you heard “Poetry Man” and were intrigued.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She had record company issues as well (Shelter Records reared its head again – like it did for Dwight Twilley and Tom Petty). There are compilations that have bits and pieces of her other albums streaming, but this material is only streaming on the original album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with demos and B-sides.

 GRADE A: A very pleasant record. Her songs are well written and evocative, and the arrangements fit them well.

Misfits – Misfits

ARTIST: Misfits 220px-Misfits_-_Misfits_(Collection_I)_cover

TITLE: Misfits (a/k/a Collection 1)

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Bullet, Horror Business, Night of the Living Dead, Die Die My Darling

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Where Eagles Dare

LINEUP: Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only. The majority of tracks were with Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein or Bobby Steele on guitar, and Arthur Googy on drums.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Probably the best place to start for the Misfits.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Thank goodness cooler heads prevailed, and the Misfits early catalog is available now. This is probably the best collection of that material – as it chose the strongest material and most seminal work.

The Misfits legal docket and personnel problems are probably longer and more complex than about any other band from that era. That caused their catalog to be intermittently available, albums to be unreleased, and tracks re-recorded with other musicians in some instances.

This is the Misfits in their more punk rock / horror punk phase than anything they did later, and while the tunes are a bit same-same as you move along, there’s some essential stuff like “Bullet” and “Die Die My Darling” that was so influential to bands that followed.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There are two other collections, Legacy of Brutality and Collection II, which have other early Misfits material, though they have more of the re-recorded material when Danzig was trying to keep the royalties to himself.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but there was a box set available with all of the early Misfits tracks.

GRADE B. Not always recorded in the best fidelity, and sometimes they repeat themselves, but for those wanting to know what the deal was about the Misfits, here is the stuff you need to hear.

Rare Earth – The Very Best of Rare Earth

ARTIST: Rare Earth  very best of rare earth

TITLE: The Very Best of Rare Earth

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 40: Get Ready (#4), (I Know) I’m Losing You (#7), Born to Wander (#17), I Just Want to Celebrate (#7), Hey Big Brother (#19), Warm Ride (#39)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Gil Bridges, Eddie Guzman, Peter Hoorelbeke, Ray Monette, Kenny James, John Persh. Then Mark Olson and Mike Urso joined, and then it became a chore to keep track of who’s who.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The first hit-making white band on Motown released some catchy tracks (mostly written by others) but really went crazy on the LONG album versions like they were Iron Butterfly or something.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Rare Earth was not the first white Motown artist, but they were the first to have a hit. They were a Detroit band that was signed after a failed album on Verve (which also had a version of “Get Ready”).

“Get Ready”, a hit for the Temptations and written by Smokey Robinson, was their first Motown single and became a bigger hit for them. The album version was over 21 minutes long! (Holy padding out the record, Batman) And it was just a lot of noodling and jamming for no reason except the tape was rolling. That was a shame, because they had a chance to be tight and funky, but they rambled on and on…

“I Just Want to Celebrate” is their best known track, and it wasn’t an overly long version on the album (just in concert, because why not…)earth tones

That was the story for their early career. Cover a Motown song, and jam forever (so it seems), and profit (?). When they decided to record their own material in 1972, they still jammed for way too long. Oh, but when they did their own stuff, the hits dried up (until 1978 and they got one scraped in at #39). There’s a reason for that.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Drummer Peter Hoorelbeke (Pete Rivera back in the day) was the lead singer for the most part. 20th century rare earth

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: You can get collections with the LONG versions. Be my guest.

GRADE C. At their best, they were tight and funky with catchy tunes. That happened so rarely, as it were.

Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods

ARTIST: Silversun Pickups 220px-Silversun_Pickups_neckofthewoods

TITLE: Neck of the Woods

YEAR RELEASED: 2012

CHART ACTION: #6 US, #1 US Indy, #86 UK

SINGLES: Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings) (#7 Alternatve, #16 Mainstream), The Pit (#3 Alternative, #31 Mainstream), Dots and Dashes (Enough Already) (#30 Alternative)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Brian Aubert, Nikki Monninger, Christopher Guanlao, Joe Lester

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: More atmospheric alternative rock with all kinds of sonic tricks in the mix, and a few tracks change up their normal mode.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Silversun Pickups are still moody, atmospheric, and have a to-die-for guitar sound. But as they mature, their songs are getting more complex. On this, their third album, they don’t rely on their same song structures as they have in the past.

Now, tracks have definite discrete sections, tone and tempo changes, and production that evolves during the track to emphasize the mood and feel of the song. And while there are stretches that could put you into torpor, the changing tones snap you out of it.

The Pickups never sound stale, but they do have a tendency to elongate their songs on occasion. Here, nothing is shorter than 4:39 and one stretches to almost seven minutes. That’s the one drawback here – sometimes they seem like their filling time with their intros and outros. Still, this record moves them forward.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: MTV streamed the album in full online.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE B+. Some tracks linger on too long, but overall this record is still quality.