Category: Grade: A

The Mamas & The Papas – The Papas & the Mamas

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

TITLE: The Papas & The Mamas



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.


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 – The Mamas & The Papas

ARTIST: The Mamas & The Papas 220px-MamasPapas

TITLE: The Mamas & The Papas



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.


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

Firehose – If’n

ARTIST: Firehose 220px-Ifn_Firehose_Album_cover




SINGLES: Sometimes


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.


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

The Exploding Hearts – Guitar Romantic

ARTIST: The Exploding Hearts 220px-Guitar_Romantic

TITLE: Guitar Romantic



SINGLES: Modern Kicks, I’m a Pretender


LINEUP: Matt Fitzgerald, Adam Cox, Jeremy Gage, Terry Six. King Louie Bankston helped on keyboards.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Hearkening back to the late 70’s UK, The Exploding Hearts had a lo-fi UK punk sound and were poised to break out, until tragedy struck.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sounding like a lost record from 1978 UK, full of hooks and attitude, The Exploding Hearts burned up Oregon and the West Coast with their sound and style.

They were definitely punk, but in the mode of Buzzcocks crossed with the Rubinoos. The production of the record was a bit raw, but it fit perfectly. The songs stuck with you as they were full of hooks and verve.

Sadly, they never got their deserved breakout due to tragedy. On their way back from a show in San Francisco, they were about 100 miles way from Portland when their van had an accident, causing the death of three members, leaving just guitarist Terry Six behind.

They had a lot of potential, and it snuffed out just like that. We still have this record to remember them by, though. ehearts

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Singles, compilation songs and alternate mixes are captured on Shattered, which includes a few songs destined for their next album.


 GRADE A: It’s a damn shame they’re gone as this record is top-notch.


Deep Purple – Deep Purple in Rock

ARTIST: Deep Purple Deep_Purple_in_Rock

TITLE: Deep Purple in Rock



SINGLES: Speed King


LINEUP: Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ian Paice, Jon Lord

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After changing their lineup, and indulging Jon Lord’s symphonic jones, Deep Purple’s classic combo records their first album and, well, it’s good.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Seeing their fortunes dwindle, and their US record company go belly up, Deep Purple jettisoned their singer and bass player – adding Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. The classic lineup was born, and the first thing they did was….the symphonic record (covered in quickie form on the site).

Cranking out of the gate with “Speed King”, and moving through seven tracks that are mostly driving rock with progressive flourishes (especially the epic “Child of Time” – where Jon Lord gets his money’s worth), Deep Purple in Rock established the band once and for all in the UK. Later, the band toured the world and set the stage for their later success, wiping away their former status as the UK’s answer to Vanilla Fudge.

Tracks like “Flight of the Rat” and “Bloodsucker” are prime examples of Deep Purple, and are a developmental step in the music that soon became heavy metal. This record definitely shows that a band can re-invent itself to play off its strengths mid-career, and not have a ponderous pretentious record stall them out.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Black Night” was released as a single apart from the album and was a smash in the UK (#2) and a minor US hit (#66)

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A version with “Black Night” plus outtakes.

GRADE A-: Welcome, Deep Purple! We’ll mostly forget your earlier stuff.

Tame Impala – InnerSpeaker

ARTIST: Tame Impala  220px-Tame_Impala_-_Innerspeaker

TITLE: InnerSpeaker


CHART ACTION: Heatseekers #28, UK #144

SINGLES: Solitude Is Bless, Lucidiy, Expectation, Why Don’t You Make Up Your Mind

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Desire Be Desire Go was the lead track on their (his) EP

LINEUP: Kevin Parker, Dom Simper, Jay Watson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Australian multi-everything channels the acid and psychedelic rock of the 60’s to near perfection.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After an EP and a single set some tastemakers aback with the back-to-the 60’s psychedelic vibe, Tame Impala (really Australian Kevin Parker and some friends helping here and there) released their debut album. It really channels the psychedelic era with fuzzed out guitars, echoey vocals that sound like their through a Leslie, and just a fabulous sound all together.

Sounding like John Lennon singing in a canyon, Parker’s vocals hearken back to the 60’s, as does his instrumentation. But there’s something modern sounding as well. The production is excellent, and the use of a breadth of sounds and studio effects make this a homage instead of a straight copy.

While the album loses steam a bit at the end, it’s still a fabulous record, and reminds one of a psychedelic Todd Rundgren since he did almost everything himself.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The self titled EP and the “Sundown Syndrome” single are streaming. There was also a 2008 EP with three songs and three remixes, though two carried over. The streaming of the 2009 EP just has four of the six tracks, since one is on this album and the other was cut.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: There is an EP with B-sides streaming separately.

 GRADE A-: A great tribute / homage to the psychedelic sound from a modern studio hound.

Pat Benatar – Ultimate Collection

ARTIST: Pat Benatar 220px-Pat_Benatar_Ultimate_Collection

TITLE: Ultimate Collection

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation


SINGLES: Top 40: Heartbreaker (#23 US), We Live for Love (#27 US), Hit Me With Your Best Shot (#9 US), Treat Me Right (#18 US), Fire and Ice (#17 US), Promises in the Dark (#38 US), Shadows in the Night (#13 US, #50 UK), Little Too Late (#20 US), Looking for a Stranger (#39 US), Love Is a Battlefield (#5 US, #17 UK), We Belong (#5 US, #22 UK), Ooh Ooh Song (#36 US), Invincible (#10 US, #53 UK), Sex as a Weapon (#28 US, #67 UK), All Fired Up (#19 US, #19 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hell Is for Children, I Need a Lover, Precious Time, Anxiety (Get Nervous), Le Bel Age

LINEUP: Pat Benatar, Neil Giraldo. Mostly Roger Capps, and Myron Grombacher, Scott St. Clair Sheets’ guitar gave way to Charlie Giordano’s keyboards in 1982 or so. Others filtered in after 1985 or so.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Rock ‘n’ roll singer with a tough exterior is a hit machine from 1979 to about 1987 or so.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Three top 10 singles, and three top 10 albums say one thing, but 9 top 40 albums and 15 top 40 singles say another. And the latter say more about Benatar’s influence and popularity than anything else.

She was a rocker without apology, and that may have hurt on pop radio a bit, but MTV came along at the right time for her, and she, along with husband Neil Giraldo, made that transition to videos work for her, using her sexuality and personality to great effect. She also has an ear for covers, tackling songs by the Rascals and Paul Revere & the Raiders.

This collection collects her singles and some important album cuts as well. As time went on, her material softened a bit, moving to pop and she was less interesting. She then tried genre experiments as well (four cuts from her jump blues album seems a bit much) before fading away. But for the fan, or even the casual fan, this is the best collection and mostly shows her strength.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She was a singing waitress early in her career.


GRADE A-: There’s a bit too much time spent on her later stuff, but all of her important work is here.

Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow

ARTIST: Jefferson Airplane

TITLE: Surrealistic Pillow220px-Jeffair



SINGLES: My Best Friend (#103), Somebody to Love (#5), White Rabbit (#8)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Today, Plastic Fantastic Lover

LINEUP: Marty Balin, Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Changing drummers (a big plus) and female singers (who brought a couple of songs from her old band that you may have heard of), the Airplane make a psychedelic folkie LP that puts them on the map.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This was still mostly Marty Balin’s group. His folkie instincts came through on some of the cuts (especially at the end of side 1), but it’s not all in his voice, nor his songs. Former drummer Skip Spence has a track, as well as mysterious ‘friend’ Tom Mastin. Kantner and Kaukonen each have a solo credit, and then there’s the two songs the new singer Grace Slick brought them. I think you know them.

“Somebody to Love”, written by Slick’s brother in law, and “White Rabbit” were songs that Slick’s former band, the Great Society, had in their repertoire, to very minor success. The Airplane versions were turned up and turned on, and along with tracks like “She Has Funny Cars”, “3/5 of a Mile in 10 Second” and “Plastic Fantastic Lover”, the Airplane really took off.

The really slow ballad and a couple of the folkie tracks detract from the psychedelic onslaught, somewhat to the album’s detriment. But it’s still a good snapshot of a group ascending to its apex, quickly.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Jerry Garcia played on this album, unless he didn’t, and he arranged many of the tracks, unless he was just a ‘sage counsel’. I think people were too stoned to really remember.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. B-sides and cuts left off for…reasons I guess.

 GRADE A-: They flew pretty high here, and became the ‘voice’ of hippies and San Francisco.

Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm

ARTIST: Waxahatchee 220px-Out_in_the_Storm_Waxahatchee

TITLE: Out in the Storm




OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: This should have been on several adult alternative stations.

LINEUP: Katie Crutchfield, Katie Harkin, Katherine Simonetti, Alison Crutchfield, Ashley Anwine

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Katie Crutchfield forms a strong band and lets her rock instincts take over. The result is a fabulous record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Storming out of the gate with “Never Been Wrong”, Katie Crutchfield and Waxahatchee add a big sound to her songs, while retaining their personal nature and introspection.

It’s loud at times, and while it’s not polished it’s got a big sound that carries out through the speakers. When she gets quiet with acoustic guitars, it’s still raw and powerful. The record definitely has a 90’s – early 00’s rock vibe with fuzzy guitars, hooks, and harmony vocals but it sounds immediate and rich, not tinny and dated.

The band she put together includes her sister, former bandmates, and fellow female alt-rock travelers, and they’re very sympathetic to her material. One can’t wait for Crutchfield and Waxahatchee’s next full statement.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The album was recorded live for the most part with some overdubs for harmonies and solos.


GRADE A+: It’s a powerful rock album and shows that not all confessional and breakup albums have to be overly self-indulgent.

Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

ARTIST: Waxahatchee 220px-Waxahatchee_-_Ivy_Tripp

TITLE: Ivy Tripp



SINGLES: The Dirt, Air, Under a Rock, La Loose

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I bet you heard some on some indie radio stations.

LINEUP: Katie Crutchfield, Keith Spencer, Kyle Gilbride

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Katie Crutchfield leaps forward, taking her songs into almost a full-rock band sound, without sacrificing quality nor vulnerability.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Moving to Merge Records and recording over a period of time in Long Island with her two collaborators (who are also in her sister’s band), Katie Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee project moves toward a full band experience. The hooks are still there, but the sound is definitely a bit more layered. Waxahatchee is more experimental here, adding in sonic elements not found on the simpler recordings.

The subject matter is about a transition between feelings of love and feelings of loss, like most of adulthood. And while the sound is fuller, the songs are just as rich and personal as her lo-fi recordings.

Crutchfield’s progress toward a recording artist working with a full band but when she’s on her own at guitar or piano, she’s as powerful and out front. Still a hidden gem, Crutchfield is asecending slowly and surely.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Ivy Tripp is a term she made up about the directionless folks living today.


GRADE A: This is solidly written, arranged, and produced. What more do you want?