Category: Grade: A

Margo Guryan – Take a Picture

ARTIST: Margo Guryan 220px-Margo_Guryan_-_Take_a_Picture

TITLE: Take a Picture

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Only promos

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Sunday Morning (a hit for Spanky & Our Gang)

LINEUP: Margo Guryan, Kirk Hamilton, Buddy Saltzman, John Hill, Paul Griffin, Phil Bodner

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A lost sunshine pop classic, released and then buried because she refused to tour.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Margo Guryan’s child-like voice was perfect for sunshine pop, and her songs also fit that genre well. She had been a songwriter with songs placed with Spanky & Our Gang, Jackie DeShannon, Juilie London, and Bobby Sherman, and signed a solo deal with Bell Records.

Originally in the jazz scene, she moved over to pop after hearing “Gold Only Knows” and then began her pop songwriting career. Her demos got her signed to Bell, and this album came to fruition. Full of wistful melodies and lyrics, and sophisticated arrangements befitting her jazz roots, this album was a beautiful example of the potential of sunshine pop.

Yet Guryan did not want to tour, since her marriage to a jazz musician fell apart earlier and she didn’t want to be “owned” by others. So Bell said “FINE” and stopped promoting the album, letting it basically die on the vine.

That’s a shame, since this could have been a sunshine pop staple and had a couple of potential singles. Guryan still wrote and helped produce, but she never again recorded an album.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Demo recordings were released in the 2000’s

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A few bonus cuts

GRADE A: At least this is in print. It still sounds fantastic.

 

Liquid Liquid – Slip In and Out of Phenomenon

ARTIST: Liquid Liquid R-1389990-1272761207.jpeg

TITLE: Slip In and Out of Phenomenom

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: Nooooooo

SINGLES: All tracks were singles or EPs

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Cavern was used in a sample

LINEUP: Salvatore Principato, Dennis Young, Richard McGuire, Scott Hartley

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A no-wave funk, dub, and dance outfit inspired later dance rock bands and one track was the basis for one of the best known early hip-hop tracks R-63186-1178240397.jpeg 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: They were name checked by the Rapture and LCD Soundsystem, and were mentioned in the same breath as ESG, A Certain Ratio, and Konk, Liquid Liquid’s sparse, percussion heavy funk was part of the no-wave scene as well as a burgeoning underground dance scene in New York.

The sparseness of the tracks (mostly bass, drums, and percussion with some other instruments and vocals as another instrument) allows you to focus on the grooves, and the grooves were intense. R-7635628-1562536341-5762.jpeg

If you love the groove and the sparse funk of early 80’s underground dance, this is revelatory.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “White Lines” By Grandmaster Flash used “Cavern” as a basis for the track. This also includes almost everything they recorded except for a 1984 single.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No R-95988-1389150472-1382.jpeg

GRADE A-: This may be too sparse for some, but it’s the basic building blocks of the 2000’s dance rock scene in NYC.

Suzanne Vega – Solitude Standing

ARTIST: Suzanne Vega 220px-Pongnan21-1-

TITLE: Solitude Standing

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION: #11 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: Gypsy (#77 UK), Luka (#3 US, #23 UK), Tom’s Diner (#58 UK), Solitude Standing (#94 US, #79 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Calypso

LINEUP: Suzanne Vega, Marc Shulman, Anton Sanko, Michael Visceglia, Stephen Ferrera. Help from Shawn Colvin, Mitch Easter, and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The breakthrough record contained the hit, the novelty which later became a signature, and solid folk rock.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The tracks on this, the second Suzanne Vega full-length, were written during the 80’s and polished in the studio by the backing band. The musicians added a great deal of depth and adventure to the tracks, which helped this albums overall mood.

Vega’s warm alto is mixed well with the backing, and the lyrics and melody work for the songs and arrangements. Foremost is the title track, with its twists and key changes, and the big hit “Luka” which is a big-sounding song that is intimate as well.

“Tom’s Diner” was the out of left field hit – an acapella version became the basis of remixes and another album entirely. But here, it fits in well as an opener and as an instrumental coda to one of the best folk albums of the 80’s

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They tried to figure out the day Vega wrote it or was referencing, and the best guess is most of it was November 18, 1981.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A: An interesting folk album deeper than the hits and novelty.

Tad – Inhaler

ARTIST: Tad 220px-Tad_Inhaler

TITLE: Inhaler

YEAR RELEASED: 1993

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Leafy Incline

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Grease Box

LINEUP: Tad Doyle, Kurt Danielson, Gary Thorstensen, Josh Sinder

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: This may be the ultimate heavy grunge record. Hooks and heft. It didn’t sell. Damnit.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Long regarded as the heaviest band in the grunge scene (Tad Doyle’s weight notwithstanding – he as a big boy), Tad’s major label debut was a record that should have propelled them into the territory of Helmet in terms of recognition and sales.

It wasn’t meant to be.

While their previous record was an A+ due to attitude and spirit, this album rates as highly.  The material is consistent, there are actually hooks, huge riffage, more actual singing (not that I don’t mind Tad’s yowl), and plenty of material that could have been on some radio station’s playlist (it’s 1993, a lot of stuff got on there) or on Headbanger’s Ball (“Luminol” anyone?)

J. Mascis’ production reins in the sound a bit, and focuses the band into a consistent sonic palette. It’s still heavy and fun, though, and catchy. Just didn’t make it. Damn it all.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Grease Box” was used during the credits of an Edward Furlong movie.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A+: This isn’t a ‘homer’ call. It’s bonafide one of the best 90’s records, and one of the heaviest and riffiest.

Sublime – Playlist Your Way

ARTIST: Sublime     R-5261319-1388976697-2044.jpeg

TITLE: Playlist Your Way

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Date Rape, What I Got (#1 Modern, #11 Mainstream, #71 UK), Santeria (#3 Modern), Wrong Way (#3 Modern), Doin’ Time (#87 US, #11 Modern)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Caress Me Down

LINEUP: Brad Nowell, Eric Wilson, Bud Gaugh. Marshall Goodman played on early tracks.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the best distillations of Sublime.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sublime had moments of goodness and greatness surrounded by puerile and immature tracks, skits, and what not. They didn’t really have a purge button, yet. So this may be the best collection for the novice.

This has all of the hits and best songs from Sublime and 40 oz. to Freedom (skipping Robbin’ the Hood for some reason, but that’s not much of a loss except for one track). It’s their high points in one package, where Brad Nowell’s songs are tight and propulsive and the band is focused and cooks.

Missing “Saw Red” (with Gwen Stefani), it’s not a perfect collection, but it’s better than the others around (which are sparse or too huge with rarities, etc.) It shows a band maturing into their own, ready to take the leap, which sadly didn’t happen.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers produced a great chunk of their last album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A-: Just think of the potential after these songs, and realize that heroin sucks.

 

Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels – Rev Up: The Best of Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels

ARTIST: Mitch Ryder  ryder

TITLE: Rev Up: the Best of Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Jenny Take a Ride (#10 US, #33 UK), Little Latin Lupe Lu (#17 US), Break Out (#62 US), Takin’ All I Can Get (#100 US), Devil with a Blue Dress On (#4 US), Sock It To Me Baby (#6 US), Too Many Fish in the Sea (#24 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Shake a Tail Feather

LINEUP: Mitch Ryder, John Badanjek, Mark Manko, Joe Kubert, Jim McCarty, Jim McAllister. For one track, the Wheels were actually Booker T. & the MGs.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Fun!

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This compilation grabs 18 classic Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels tracks (and two from the later incarnation as just Detroit, which I’ll review at a later date), and there’s a party in every track. Whether it’s a deeper cut, or a known single, Ryder puts everything into his vocals, and the band cooks.

In less than three years, Ryder and the Wheels cemented their place in rock and soul’s pantheon, taking cues from the soul music emanating from Detroit and adding some gravelly rock and roll to it. It swings, it parties, it’s fun.

And isn’t fun the whole point?

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The ride ended when Ryder went solo on the advice of Bob Crewe (of Four Seasons fame) and saddled him with goopy stuff to sing.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A: FUN!

Talking Heads – Remain in Light

ARTIST: Talking Heads 220px-TalkingHeadsRemaininLight

TITLE: Remain in Light

YEAR RELEASED: 1980

CHART ACTION: #19 US, #21 UK

SINGLES: Once in a Lifetime (#103 US, #14 UK), Houses in Motion (#50 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On), Crosseyed and Painless

LINEUP: David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth, Chris Franz, Brian Eno, Nona Hendryx, Adrian Belew, Robert Palmer, session percussion and horns.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Never standing still, Talking Heads move into a groove-based rhythmic sound with plenty of room for experimentation and production tricks.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Crafting the songs from jams, adding crucial elements like Nona Hendryx’ backing vocals and Adrian Belew’s out-there guitar, Talking Heads overcame David Byrne’s writers block and created a forward-thinking album that is still far beyond what many bands have done.

Using African music and rhythm as an inspiration, the Heads dove in to create an outwardly rhythmic and inwardly introspective album. Many songs feature element upon element of sound, yet the rhythm is always forward. There also couldn’t be two different grooves and sounds than “Crosseyed and Painless” and “The Overload” (a homage to Joy Division, even though no one in the band had heard them before), and they exist here on the same record by the same band.

The last part of the album seems to run out of steam, probably thanks to the joyous first part, yet it’s a crucial album in music because of its emphasis and inspiration.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There were plenty of disputes between Byrne and the band, and Eno and some of the band related to credits and production.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A few outtakes.

GRADE A: Bona-fide classics and lots of grooves to get lost in.

AC/DC – Let There Be Rock

ARTIST: AC / DC  220px-ACDC-LetThereBeRock

TITLE: Let There Be Rock

YEAR RELEASED: 1977

CHART ACTION: #154 US, #17 UK

SINGLES: Dog Eat Dog, Let There Be Rock, Whole Lotta Rosie (#68 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Go Down, Problem Child, Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be

LINEUP: Bon Scott, Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Mark Evans, Phil Rudd

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: AC / DC’s best early album gives them a UK fan base.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After Atlantic refused to release Dirty Deeds, AC/DC went back to the studio, determined to give the world an album that no one could resist, without compromise. They succeeded.

From the opening notes “Go Down” to the end of “Whole Lotta Rosie”, the boys cranked out a loud and fierce record that illustrated all of the high points of the band. Bon Scott’s leering vocals are on point, Malcolm and Angus Young burn out riffs and guitar magic, and Phil Rudd’s drums give everyone a unwavering platform. In the midst of the beginnings of punk, the rise of disco, and the decline of glam and prog, AC/DC delivered uncompromising, ugly rock-and-roll. Let_There_Be_Rock

Of the eight tracks, nearly every single one is recognizable as an AC/DC staple. For a band that’s gone on as long as they have, that’s praise indeed.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Soon after the release, Cliff Williams replaced Mark Evans as bassist.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Kinda – Atlantic replaced “Crabsody in Blue” with “Problem Child” from Dirty Deeds. That’s an A+ replacement.

 GRADE A: An essential Bon Scott AC/DC recording. Play loud, of course.

Lene Lovich – Lucky Number (The Best Of)

ARTIST: Lene Lovich

TITLE: Lucky Number (The Best Of)

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Lucky Number (#3 UK), Say When (#19 UK), Bird Song (#39 UK), What Will I Do Without You  (#58 UK), New Toy (#19 Dance, #53 UK), It’s You, Only You (Mein Schmerz) (#25 Dance, #68 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Think We’re Alone Now, Home, Be Stiff

LINEUP: Lene Lovich, Les Chappell. Justin Hildreth, Nick Plytas, Jeff Smith, and Mark Hayward-Chapman helped on most of the songs.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Quirky Stiff Records “star” used her quirky voice and look to make an impression.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: By the time MTV came along, “Lucky Number” was three years old, and Lovich was prepping a new album (her third). But then “Lucky Number” got a lot of play, and introduced her to the US. It also stopped her momentum (that and buffoonery at Stiff). Alas.

This compilation compiles tracks from her Stiff Records era, which are all examples of New Wave, with dance rhythms, keyboards galore, dramatic arrangements and Lovich’s vocal quirks.

Surprisingly, there’s not really a down spot of the compilation even though it’s 22 tracks long (!) because Lovich and her partner / producer Les Chappell kept things varied and lively.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Born in Detroit as Lilli-Marlene Premilovich.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A-: Great and varied collection of a new wave touchstone.

 

Candlemass – Nightfall

ARTIST: Candlemass

TITLE: Nightfall

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Samarthin, At the Gallows End

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Bewitched, The Well of Souls

LINEUP: Messiah Marcolin, Lars Johansson, Mats Bjorkman, Leif Edling, Jan Lindh. Mike Wead helped as well.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Finding their vocalist, Candlemass releases a classic Swedish doom metal record.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It didn’t take long for Messiah Marcolin to make his mark with Candlemass. The first verse of “Well of Souls” showed his power, range, and dramatics. Coupled with classic doom metal riffs, the stage was set for a doom metal classic.

Bassist Leif Edling’s songs improved from their first record as well, and the tight playing of the band, veering from pure doomy sludge to taut thrash. “The Well of Souls” was an instant classic (though not a single, for whatever reason).

The rest of the songs suffer a bit by comparison to the outstanding beginning, and there are some instrumentals to set the mood between songs (which is fine, really). The whole album coheres and it’s great for anyone who wants some dramatic doom in their life. And who doesn’t?

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Guitarist Lars Johansson broke his arm and was replaced for a few tracks by Mike Wead. Wead joined Candlemass in the 90’s.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Demos and live tracks.

 GRADE A-: Just listen to the glory of “The Well of Souls”