Author: Scott Fendley

Green River – Dry As a Bone / Rehab Doll

ARTIST: Green River 

TITLE: Dry As a Bone / Rehab Doll

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Swallow My Pride is probably the most well known one..

LINEUP: Mark Arm, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Bruce Fairweather, Alex Vincent

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A collection of the 1986-88 recordings by the seminal grunge band that shows a band always on the verge of imploding.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: They were doomed to be short lived. Shoehorning indie ride-or-dies with hard rock / metalheads set on a major label recording contract could only go on so long. Green River stuck around from 1984 through the end of 1987, finishing their last recordings after they technically split up. This collection takes their last two releases as a combo and adds in outtakes

 

Dry As a Bone was recorded in 1986, but not released for another year, and it is the more cohesive of the two records. Mark Arm’s more in charge and the songs seem more Mudhoney-like. By Rehab Doll, the guitarists and bassists won out in terms of song construction and style, and the safer aspects of their tastes dilute the end product. Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Bruce Fairweather then went on to form Mother Love Bone, and the former two later schemed up Pearl Jam.

While this is a good document for the evolution of Seattle, it’s not anything special not vital. The parts were greater than the sum.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They released an EP before this one that’s a bit edgier since Steve Turner (future Mudhoney) was in the group. Edgier, not better.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: C+: For historical use only, really.

The Impressions – People Get Ready: The Best of Curtis Mayfield’s Impressions

ARTIST: The Impressions

TITLE: People Get Ready: The Best of Curtis Mayfield’s Impressions

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Top 20: Gypsy Woman (#20 US, #2 R&B), It’s All Right (#4 US, #1 R&B), I’m So Proud (#14 US, #14 R&B), Keep On Pushing (#10 US), You Must Believe Me (#15 US), Amen (#7 US), People Get Ready (#14 US, #3 R&B), Woman’s Got Soul (#29 US, #9 R&B), Meeting Over Yonder (#48 US, #12 R&B), Can’t Satisfy (#65 US, #12 R&B). You Always Hurt Me (#96 US, #20 R&B), We’re a Winner (#14 US, #1 R&B), We’re Rolling On (#59 US, #17 R&B), I Loved and I Lost (#61 US, #9 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really. It’s packed with B-sides and deep cuts too.

LINEUP: Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden, Fred Cash. Session musicians. Richard and Arthur Brooks sang with them early in their ABC career.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A great and deep collection of the ABC / Paramount years for the Impressions, when Curtis Mayfield masterminded the sound and style.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Surviving the loss of lead singer Jerry Butler and moving to Chicago to record for ABC / Paramount, Curtis Mayfield guided the Impressions through the 60’s.

Mayfield was the songwriter for the Impressions and also wrote solo hits for Butler, and using his songs and production by Johnny Pate the vocal trio (they lost the Brooks brothers after 1962) went from standard R&B towards more socially conscious and uplifting songs, and a more contemporary soul sound, Everyone now knows “People Get Ready”, but from the original “Gypsy Woman” through “We’re a Winner” the group evolved without losing quality.

This collection scoops up 40 tracks recorded for ABC / Paramount before they left for Mayfield’s own record company. Mostly a singles act until 1967, this is the best way to experience the Impressions mid 60’s era. It’s full of great songs you know and gems hidden away.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Mayfield started to focus on albums with a message starting with We’re a Winner. The title of the album was also the motto for Curtom Records, Mayfield’s label

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: A: One of the keystone soul acts of the 60’s gets the collection they deserve.

Loudness – Crazy Nights

ARTIST: Loudness

TITLE: Crazy Nights

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Crazy Night, Let It Go, So Lonely, This Lonely Heart, You Shook Me

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Committed 80’s metal heads may know more

LINEUP: Minou Niihara, Akira Takasaki, Masayoki Yamashita, Munetaka Higuchi. Michael Vescera replaced Niihara in an effort to gain a US audience. Didn’t work.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Japanese heavy metal pioneers’ English major label output is compiled here. It’s better than a lot of their contemporaries.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: They came, they saw, they tried, they didn’t quite make it. Armed with riffs, a decent guitarist in Akira Takasaki, and a knowledge of the contemporary heavy metal scene, Loudness signed with Atco Records and make a try at stateside success.

The translated lyrics into English with some help, added some keyboards on occasion (from guys like Greg Giuffria) and the the results was pretty decent mainstream metal. The vocals didn’t really have any more accent than the Scorpions or other European metal bands, and they got a cult following by touring relentlessly.

Alas, in 1989 they made a play for the big time here, and got an US singer to front them. Well, it didn’t change their sound really, and didn’t break them. What’s worse, they alienated many Japanese fans. So…not good. They then lost their US contract and US singer bailed on them mid-tour to sing with..Yngwie Malmsteen. Welp.

You could do a lot worse than Loudness for your 80’s metal fix. Really, they’re a perfectly decent band that could fit right in with your Priest, Maiden, and Def Leppard.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: In 2001, they got the original band back together (OK, bass player Yamashita replaced the original original within a few weeks) until drummer Higuchi died of liver cancer in 2008. They regrouped and are still going strong. Their Wikipedia page is definitely translated from Japanese.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: They were decent enough that they should have had hits instead of some of the hair bands.

The Spinners – The Very Best of the Spinners, Vol. 2

ARTIST: The Spinners 

TITLE: The Very Best of the Spinners, Vol. 2

YEAR RELEASED: Compliation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Top 20:  Love or Leave (#36 US, #8 R&B), Wake Up Susan (#56 US, #11 R&B, #29 UK), You’re Throwing a Good Love Away (#43 US, #5 R&B), If You Wanna Do a Dance (#49 US, #17 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not

LINEUP: Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson, Billy Henderson, Bobby Smith. Most of the hits were with Philippe Wynne, and later hits with John Edwards. MFSB did the backing, and the Sigma Sweethearts did backing vocals too.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A second collection from the Spinners in the Thom Bell area picks up the leftover hits and deeper cuts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It could be expected that the Spinners’ second volume of hits would be a bit of a downslide from the greatness of their first collection. And yes, this isn’t as packed full of goodness as Volume 1.

But there’s still a lot to like and admire here. The vocals are spot on, and the arrangements by Thom Bell and MFSB are tight. Just listening to them will give you a groove. The Spinners had better deep cuts than most every other vocal group (especially the Stylistics and Four Tops) of the era and they showed their versatility.

While this isn’t a must have, nor will you play it every day, it’s still a good supplemental collection to have for your 70’s R&B needs.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: In the UK they still had to be listed as the Detroit Spinners due to a group over there that had the name.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: Good collection of secondary tracks.

The Spinners – The Very Best of the Spinners

ARTIST: The Spinners

TITLE: The Very Best of the Spinners

YEAR RELEASED: Compliation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: The whole album is packed with hits!

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The whole album is packed with hits!

LINEUP: Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson, Billy Henderson, Bobby Smith. Most of the hits were with Philippe Wynne, and later hits with John Edwards. MFSB did the backing, and the Sigma Sweethearts did backing vocals too.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Spinners were the kings of Thom Bell’s production line, and they had an impeccable chart run in the 70’s.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Spinners had 16 Top 10 R&B hits between 1972 and 1980 and this collects 14 of them. (One track, the original A-side to “I’ll Be Around” charted at a measly #14). Backed by MFSB, they could do no wrong for about five years, and then made a comeback as the decade turned.

Their first album on Atlantic (which I reviewed) was excellent, but as time went on they went toward more hit-oriented records (and you really can’t out-do five excellent singles out of ten tracks), so this compilation seems more the way to go for the rest of the tracks.

While newcomer Philippe Wynne handled many of the lead vocals, they were spread around based on the song, and that kept the sound fresh and allowed Thom Bell to give them tracks that were varied since each singer could handle a lead.

No 70’s R&B or soul collection would be complete without some Spinners in it, and this is the best intro to that fantastic band.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There was some controversy on “They Just Can’t Stop It (The Games People Play) as some said that Sigma Sweetheart Evette Benton did the high solo parts, while others say it was Henry Fambrough sped up a bit.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: A: These songs hold up today as examples of the funky fresh 70’s.

Joe Simon – (The) Best of Joe Simon, Greatest Hits: The Spring Years

ARTIST: Joe Simon

TITLE: (The) Best of Joe Simon / Greatest Hits: The Spring Years

YEAR RELEASED: Compliation(s)

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Top 10: My Adorable One (#102 US, #8 R&B), The Chokin’ Kind (#13 US, #1 R&B), Farther on Down the Road (#57 US, #7 R&B), Yours Love (#78 US, #10 R&B), Your Time to Cry (#40 US, #3 R&B), Power of Love (#11 US, #1 R&B), Trouble in My Home (#50 US, #5 R&B), Step By Step (#37 US, #6 R&B, #14 UK), Theme from Cleopatra Jones (#18 US, #3 R&B), River (#62 US, #6 R&B), Get Down Get Down (Get on the Floor) (#8 US, #1 R&B), Music in My Bones (#92 US< #7 R&B), I Need You You Need Me (#5 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: He covered some soul classics through his career that you’d know.

LINEUP: Joe Simon + sessioneers – in Nashville early and then with Gamble & Huff

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Long time chart mainstay has two (three) collections that neatly summarize his career – first in Nashville then in Philly.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Joe Simon was a Louisiana native that went from gospel to secular R&B in the early 60’s,and kicked around before hooking up with the Monument Records group in Nashville in 1966. He and his producers developed a sound that definitely had a country influence in the R&B world. (“The Chokin’ Kind was written by Harlan Howard and originally cut by Waylon Jennings).

Sensing a trend, his DJ friend steered him to Philly and Gamble & Huff and had a chart run from 1972 through 1975 that constantly had him in the pop and R&B charts.

These collections cover three eras: His pre-Nashville era (mostly generic R&B pleaders), the Nashville era on Monument and the Philly era on Spring. His unique voice which could cover both a tenor and a bass / baritone was well suited for mid-tempo soul and harder-edged ballads that gave him a niche in the market.

The main issue with the earlier comps is that they’re not complete (that’s why you need two) and not in chronological order. The Spring Records comp is more complete for that company, but it misses a lot, of course. It’s a shame that there are licensing loggerheads that one well-picked compilation won’t do, but you can have both and groove with an artist that should be more well known.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He stopped recording secular music in 1980 and returned to the church to become a pastor.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B+: Together these comps (with some pruning) would be an A, but that’s not the world we live in right now.

No Doubt – The Beacon Street Collection

ARTIST: No Doubt 

TITLE: The Beacon Street Collection

YEAR RELEASED: 1995

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Squeal, Doghouse

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only if you were a superfan.

LINEUP: Gwen Stefani, Tom Dumont, Tony Kanal, Adrian Young. Eric Stefani wrote a lot of the record and was on it off and on. Brad Nowell of Sublime chipped in, and a horn section was around too.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Feeling screwed and stifled by Interscope, No Doubt recorded this on their own and sold it at shows and at local record stores. It was snapped up by fans, and it caused Interscope to change their attitude on the band.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: With their first album stiffing, and grunge being the flavor of the month, Interscope Records rejected a lot of stuff from their second album and forced them to record with old pro Matthew Wilder (of “Break My Stride” fame). Frustrated, Eric Stefani, the main songwriter and creative czar, left the band, but not before recording a couple of singles with them and writing the bulk of this album.

What is this and how did it come out? It was a middle finger to Interscope, who did everything they could to bury the band, it seemed. Many of the tracks were recorded in a garage that was converted to a studio over a long weekend. It was sold at shows, and at local record stores.

The music is an evolution from their first album, and has a more coherent style. The songs were influenced by the punk movement as well as ska, and there seem to be no genre hops out of nowhere. It’s safe to say this set the table for their huge success, even if the songs weren’t hits.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The album sold out quickly, which opened Interscope’s eyes and allowed them to finish their next record. Which was historic.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B+: It’s got a charm to it. It definitely is an evolution. There’s not a sure-fire hit but it’s quality stuff.

Hanson – Middle of Everywhere: The Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Hanson

TITLE: Middle of Everywhere: The Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Charting: MMMBop (#1 US, #1 UK), Where’s the Love (#27 Airplay, #4 UK), I Will Come to You (#9 US, #5 UK), Weird (#19 UK), Thinking of You (#23 UK), This Time Around (#20 US), If Only (#15 UK), Penny & Me (#10 UK), Lost Without Each Other (#39 UK), Go (#44 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Thinkin’ Bout Something

LINEUP: Taylor Hanson, Isaac Hanson, Zack Hanson. Session musicians also helped but usually just on bass as time went on (and various percussion and horns).

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Sometimes early success is good, since Hanson could eschew the hits and work on their own music thanks to their early hits and the bank that they made.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Hanson used to be a joke, since “MMMBop” was a goddamn ear worm (and it still brings a smile to my face), and they were so young. It was thought they were going to burn out and fade quickly as soon as the hits stopped coming.

Well, the hits stopped coming, but they went their own way. Starting with their third album, they set up their own record company, and moving away from the pop-music machine, they made well-crafted songs, while pop in nature, expressed their own musical ideas and maturity. Having wrote their songs for their entire career helped, and also having the security of tours and royalties also helped them in their musical independence.

Their music from 2003 onward is smart, full of hooks, and appeals to a broader audience than their hit phase. Instead of trying to re-capture the past, Hanson moves forward, does what they want, and has become a better band for it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Well, not everything they do is great. Being from Oklahoma, they’ve no doubt had a lot of conservative influence in their political views. And sure enough, at least two members have stepped in social media controversies around Covid and BLM, and they had concerts in January 2021 despite Covid.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but songs from their first two records aren’t streaming on this collection, but you can add them separately.

 GRADE: A-: Yeah, their artistic evolution warrants this grade. Frankly, they’ve always been pretty good at the pop music thing.

The Jesus Lizard – Liar

ARTIST: The Jesus Lizard 

TITLE: Liar

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Puss (#12 UK, #2 UK Indie), Gladiator

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Boilermaker

LINEUP: David Dow, Duane Denison, David Wm Sims, Mac McNeilly

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Continuing their hot streak, Jesus Lizard creates another unholy racket and is helped by a split single with Nirvana.

 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Liar has probably the best known song in their catalog, mainly because it was the A-side of a split single with Nirvana. “Puss” was released with “Oh, the Guilt” by that other band as the B-side and the UK pushed it up the charts, and they got to play Reading thanks to it. Groovy!

This is rather much a continuation of the themes from Goat, except that the songs are moodier and creepier. “Zachariah” is a howling dirge that’s unsettling, “Boilermaker” jumps right in as the lead cut of the record with perhaps a veiled reference to heroin (“Dancing Naked Ladies” may be too, and “Gladiator” is just a loud festival of all that’s good about the Jesus Lizard.

Liar and Goat seem to be part of a set to my ears, with this one just a tad bit lesser. Still, it’s got some of their best work and you need to absolutely crank it (as usual).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Puss” was about a guy David Yow wanted to beat the crap out of because he was violent and actually did throw a woman down the stairs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a add on single and demos

 GRADE: A-: Not everything in the alternative land that was great in 1992 was grunge. This still raises one’s blood pressure.

The Jesus Lizard – Goat

ARTIST: The Jesus Lizard 

TITLE: Goat

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Mouthbreather

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Then Comes Dudley, Nub

LINEUP: David Dow, Duane Denison, David Wm Sims, Mac McNeilly

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Texans transplanted to Chicago collaborate with Steve Albini on a loud and noisy magnum opus.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Careening out of the gate with the menacing “Then Comes Dudley” (whatever that’s about), the intricate “Mouthbreather” (about a friend of Albini’s who housesit), and the slide guitar opus “Nub” (about someone who lost an appendage while hanging out of the window of a car), Jesus Lizard’s second album is frenetic, loud, dark and brilliant.

Those three songs start the commotion, as it were. And it just goes from there: songs about prison love, a take on the Aristocrats, being locked up, and whatever the hell “Monkey Trick” is about (David Yow doesn’t know and he wrote the lyrics).

This album’s not for everyone. It’s not for many people, really. But If you can unlock it, you’ll dig it. Crank it!

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The house-sitting friend from “Mouthbreather” was Brett Walford, the drummer for Slint and the original drummer for the Breeders.

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

 GRADE: A: A tremendous record from 1991, showing that not all great alternative records were grungy.