Month: February 2021

Haim – Women in Music, Part III

ARTIST: Haim 

TITLE: Women in Music, Pt. III

YEAR RELEASED: 2020

CHART ACTION:  #13 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Now I’m in It (#9 Rock), Hallelujiah (#38 Rock), The Steps (#24 Rock), I Know Along (#29 Rock), Don’t Wanna (#26)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: You don’t but you should. And see the Deluxe Version below.

LINEUP: Danielle Haim, Alana Haim, Este Haim. Ariel Rechtshaid and Rostam Batmanglij were their main collaborators again and Tommy King added some keyboards as well.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A breakthrough, written and recorded despite travails all around them. They produced one of 2020’s classic works.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sometimes personal tragedy brings great art. Each sister of Haim had struggles and tribulations with death, cancer, and diabetes. Also, they had enough of gender roles and attitudes by the music machine.

So, they got to the studio, and expanded their sound greatly, and had songs inspired by many genres and artists. The sound palette put form by the sisters and their producers fits each song on the button. While there is still a bit of their breezy, summery pop in there, Haim is head on addressing a lot of issues and does so with tremendous aplomb.

This is my favorite album from 2020 thus far, and it is deserving of the accolades.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They were nominated from Grammys for Album of the Year and the song “The Steps” for Best Rock Performance.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yeah, oh yeah. Deluxe issues have  a new version of“3 AM” with Thundercat collaborating. The single “Summer Girl” (#27 Rock) was appended as well, and the most recent addition is “Gasoline” with Taylor Swift.

 GRADE A+: It’s an incredible work and definitely speaks to the misogyny of the record industry and press, along with working through their various personal hurdles.

Haim – Something to Tell You

ARTIST: Haim 

TITLE: Something to Tell You

YEAR RELEASED: 2017

CHART ACTION:  #7 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: Want You Back (#10 Rock, #56 UK), Little of Your Love (#24 Rock), Nothing’s Wrong

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not much else got out in the zeitgeist.

LINEUP: Danielle Haim, Alana Haim, Este Haim. Ariel Rechtshaid and Rostam Batmanglij were their main collaborators.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A similar record to their debut, with some darker corners shading their work.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Haim didn’t rest on their laurels from their debut. Sure, some tracks on their second album continued the guitar-based glow with sisterly harmonies. But there were some elements of sadness and want adding to the mix on the album, which diversified their sound enough to make the work not just a rote followup.

The album has hooks, and gloss, but also adds a grit due to the guitar sounds. Seemingly worshiping at the altar of Fleetwood Mac at times, Haim harks back to those days while keeping the sound modern-ish.

The production now added effects and found sounds that fit the tracks. It’s good to hear a band that wants to grow and change while maintaining their sound and ideals.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Lizzo opened up for them on the tour for this album

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Just one track in Japan.

 GRADE B+: A worthy follow up with some definite pop-rock appeal.

Haim – Days Are Gone

ARTIST: Haim 

TITLE: Days Are Gone

YEAR RELEASED: 2013

CHART ACTION:  #6 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Forever (#24 Rock, #75 UK), Don’t Save Me (#32 UK), Falling (#30 UK), The Wire (#25 Rock, #16 UK), If I Could Change Your Mind (#42 Rock, #27 UK), My Song 5 (#110 US, #183 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: That’s more than half the record! .

LINEUP: Danielle Haim, Alana Haim, Este Haim. Ariel Rechtshaid produced and added a lot. Others on it were Will Canzoneri, James Ford, Greg Leisz, and Jamie Muhoberac.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: So Cal sisters work hard, release Eps, then get this full length out to acclaim.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Haim paid their dues – playing live as much as they could and worked on songs in their studio. Danielle had toured with several musicians, and Este got a degree as well. After the tours and the degree is when they really got serious about their sisterly band.

Starting out with Eps, they soon folded some of those tracks into their debut, which features a nice mix of pop, rock, and R&B without landing too much into one genre. The songs are bright and catchy for the most part, without sound same/same or labored. And the sisterly harmonies are spot on.

The singles are all decent enough, and the album tracks support them well. While it’s not an absolute must-have, it’s a very nice representation of their potential.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Danielle and Este were in a group called the Valli Girls in 2005 that got a deal with Sony. They were lucky to ditch that quickly.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Several. In Japan (of course) and the UK and a US deluxe issue.

 GRADE B+: There’s nothing wrong with any of the tracks – it’s all pleasant pop / rock for the 2010’s

The Dynamic Superiors – The Dynamic Superiors

ARTIST: The Dynamic Superiors

TITLE: The Dynamic Superiors

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION:  #36 R&B Albums

SINGLES: Shoe Shoe Shine (#68, #16 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh…no.

LINEUP: Tony Washington, George Spann, George Peterback Jr., Michael McCalpin, Maurice Washington. Session guys did the music.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A throwback Motown vocal group produced by Ashford & Simpson has some highlights, and an interesting story that wasn’t really told then.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Having kicked around since 1969, and being signed to Motown since 1972, the vocal group the Dynamic Superiors finally got an album released thanks to Ashford & Simpson in 1975, and it deserved better.

Lead singer Tony Washington had a soaring falsetto and George Spann was an excellent first tenor backing him up. Plus, the ballad “Shoe Shoe Shine” showcased the vocal strength of the group.

Washington, though, used to perform in drag. He was out and proud, which in 1975 was rare for anyone in the R&B world. It didn’t seem to hold them back, and in fact, Motown was quite progressive in signing and promoting gay performers at the time.

As for the music, it’s better than average and better than what some of the more established R&B vocal groups were turning out at the time.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They were signed at a DJ convention in 1972.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: It was released as a double CD with their second album, which wasn’t as solid.

 GRADE B+: It’s historical, and a good old-school vocal group record.

Pink Floyd – A Momentary Lapse of Reason

ARTIST: Pink Floyd 

TITLE: A Momentary Lapse of Reason

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION:  #3 US, #3 UK

SINGLES: Learning to Fly (#70 US, #1 Mainstream), On the Turning Away (#81 US, #1 Mainstream, #55 UK), One Slip (#5 Mainstream, #50 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah,

LINEUP: Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason. Richard Wright played some. There were lots of people helping like Bob Ezrin, Tony Levin, Jim Keltner, Bill Payne, Carmine Appice and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Roger Waters left the band, and amidst lawsuits and whatnot, David Gilmour and Nick Mason decide to be Pink Floyd again.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: You know, there was as much hype about this album as there was for The Final Cut, and for the most part people weren’t disappointed or sad about the result.

David Gilmour turned a third solo album into a Pink Floyd album by bringing along Nick Mason – somewhat to assuage the CBS suits and somewhat to stick a finger in Roger Waters’ eye. And the reconstituted group does…OK.

Gilmour’s guitar playing is exceptional, and some of the musical ideas catch your ear. Gilmour’s voice isn’t the same as it was in the 70’s. It’s a litter gruffer and tired, which could be expected.

But it’s not essential when all is said and done. There are nice moments like “Learning to Fly” and some that make you scratch your head as they’re heavy handed or meandering or <<shudder>> lapsing into Adult Contemporary land.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Rick Wright’s wife asked Gilmour if he could record some tracks, and he said, “Sure”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Nah

 GRADE B-: That grade is for Gilmour’s guitar work, really.

Pink Floyd – The Final Cut

ARTIST: Pink Floyd

TITLE: The Final Cut (A Requiem for a Post War Dream by Roger Waters)

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION:  #6 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Not Now John (#7 US Mainstream, #30 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Doubtful unless you just play Pink Floyd on repeat.

LINEUP: Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters. Michael Kamen and Andy Bown played most of the keyboards. Others were here and there.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Falkland Island War inspires Waters to re-visit his father’s death and war in general.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is the Roger Waters Experience, for the most part. Taking some leftover songs from The Wall (yes, there were leftovers), enhancing the story, and then turning to the current (then) state of the world, Waters leads a stripped down Pink Floyd (really Gilmour with Mason on the record here and there) into the depths of melancholy.

This was highly anticipated, and for most people, it was a deeply depressing disappointment. Yes, there are some interesting musical ideas, but Waters arrangements and production re-treads most of the old Pink Floyd tricks of echo and sound effects.

It’s just…too much.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Gilmour really didn’t like the themes of this record and really didn’t want the leftover songs to be used. But he really didn’t have a lot of ideas, he admitted later.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, in a sense. “When the Tigers Broke Free” (#39 UK) was a single that was part of The Wall movie soundtrack, and it was added into the record as track four in the 2000’s.

GRADE C: I really can’t take this unrelenting bleakness. EXILED all but “Not Now John”

Pink Floyd – The Wall

ARTIST: Pink Floyd   

TITLE: The Wall

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION:  #1 US, #3 UK

SINGLES: Another Brick in the Wall (Pt. 2) (#1 US, #1 UK), Run Like Hell (#53 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably all of them, in order.

LINEUP: Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Richard Wright (though he’s not credited). They had a boatload of help, from Toni Tennille, to Bruce Johnson, to Jeff Porcaro, to Bob Ezrin, etc.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the most famous rock operas of all time, both brilliant, and pretentious.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Roger Waters’ story of a rock star with abandonment issues and subsequent mental breakdown has been a double album, a concert extravaganza, a major motion picture, and a stage show. It’s a brilliant conceit, and in the right mood, a work that demands attention.

It’s also overlong, and some of the tracks don’t hold up that well in retrospect. Some tracks could use an editor for sure. Not to say it would work as a single album, but this is so densely packed (in fact they had to trim a couple of tracks to make it fit on a double LP) that the songs don’t breathe.

The highlights have David Gilmour’s hand all over the songs, whether he’s co-writer or not. And Richard Wright, maligned for his work and lack of creative input (and then fired), adds some nice keyboard touches and atmospheres. But Waters has stretched himself by being the lead vocalist on most of the songs (Gilmour and Wright have much better voices, to be honest) and he doesn’t come across as sympathetic in some of the tracks, thanks to his natural sneer in his voice.

All-in-all, it’s about mid-pack for me in the Pink Floyd pantheon, and an album I don’t put on that much anymore to be frank.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There are so many stories about this album that one blurb won’t do justice. Suffice to say there are chapters of books about it.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE B+: Some of this doesn’t work that well, and some tracks are problematic. Yet the highlights are definitely part of the rock pantheon.

Pink Floyd – Animals

ARTIST: Pink Floyd                 
TITLE: Animals
YEAR RELEASED: 1977
CHART ACTION: #3 US, #2 UK
SINGLES: None
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not many people know this one, really, since it’s basically three LONG songs.
LINEUP: Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Richard Wright..
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: An ALLEGORY, just like George Orwell’s Animal Farm!

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Dogs, pigs, and sheep. Roger Waters has some thoughts about the human race, and they involve those animals and how people are just like them (well, everyone is one of them).

Yes, it’s an allegory! And before you think that Waters was totally ripping off Orwell, the criticism was over capitalism this time, and not Stalinism. The same capitalism that gave Waters, et. al. boatloads of money (and lost them boatloads too due to bad investments).

Now, before you roll your eyes, the music this time is more energetic and urgent than Wish You Were Here, and adds some heft to the proceedings. And while this is Waters’ baby, (only Gilmour has a co-writing credit, and just one), the band seems a bit more into it. Even though it’s just three long songs (and two little tidbits bookending the allegory), it’s not as ponderous.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: David Gilmour again complained about Waters splitting up a song, but this time it was suspected that “Pigs on the Wing” was split in two for royalties and not for artistic purposes. Some anti-capitalist.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE A-: They’ve got some energy that keeps the allegory from overwhelming the music.

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

ARTIST: Pink Floyd

TITLE: Wish You Were Here   

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION:  #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Have a Cigar

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The title track, Shine On You Crazy Diamond

LINEUP: Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Richard Wright. Dick Parry played sax. Roy Harper sang Have a Cigar. Venatta Fields and Carlena Williams added vocals.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A meditation on the loss of a friend and the music industry, which are intertwined.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Many love this album, even more than other Pink Floyd records. The playing is still impeccable, the sound engineering is top notch, and the concept one that can resonate (at least the concept about the lost friend – Syd Barrett).

Yet, to me, this is when Pink Floyd gets ponderous. Roger Waters starts exerting his influence over the group, being more of the first among equals instead of a collaborator. He shot down the idea of keeping “Shine On Your Crazy Diamond” as a whole piece, and while Rick Wright received some writing credit, his creative input was lessened.

The one track that really gets me going is “Have a Cigar”, where Roy Harper sings this diatribe against the music industry. This one has spunk and fire, where the other tracks (except for parts of “Wish You Were Here”) just seem to be there – they don’t compel you to listen.

It’s still a good to great album but it seemed flat

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Harper was in the same studio block at EMI recording an album and that’s why he was grabbed. No one else really nailed the vocal like him.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE B+: Production and playing are great. But it’s kind of tedious at times.

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

ARTIST: Pink Floyd                             

TITLE: Dark Side of the Moon               

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION:  #1 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: Money (#13 US), Us & Them (#101)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: What DON’T you know?

LINEUP: Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Richard Wright. Claire Torrey did the vocals on The Great Gig in the Sky. Dick Parry played sax. Doris Troy, Lesley Duncan, Lisa Strike, and Barry St. John did backing vocals. Various around the studio contributed voice overs.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A pinnacle album for production, progressive rock, the 70’s, you name it.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Can I say anything about Dark Side of the Moon that hasn’t been said? Well, I’ll try to be somewhat original, I guess.

The production and engineering are stellar, probably the best sounding record I’ve heard (thanks to Alan Parsons even if some of the band won’t say it). The record was a pioneer on using sequencers to great effect, and the sound effects the band used were stellar and added so much to the recording.

But none of that would matter without the songs and the playing. This may be the last true record as a band where they all collaborated instead of one member rather much dictating what was to be played. The songs grew out of concerts they played in 1972 and 1973 where they workshopped the songs and got them just right. Every band member was on top of their game.

It deserves all of the accolades it received, and listening to it with fresh ears (with earbuds or headphones) will bring you delight. Oh, and it’s been on the charts for 957 weeks total in the US. So…yeah.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Parsons made the standard 35-pound sum as engineer for this record. And Claire Torrey received credit for “The Great Gig in the Sky” since she just ad-libbed those vocals.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. Why should there be?

GRADE A+: The apex of prog rock and Pink Floyd.