Category: Grade: B

Velocity Girl – Copacetic

ARTIST: Velocity Girl  220px-Copacetic_(Velocity_Girl_album_-_cover_art)

TITLE: Copacetic

YEAR RELEASED: 1993

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Crazy Town, Audrey’s Eyes

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Archie Moore, Brian Nelson, Kelly Riles, Sarah Shannon, Jim Spellman

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A shoe-gazey alternative rock band from DC that found its way through the grunge madness, even while on Sub Pop, the home of grunge (sorta).

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After releasing singles and touring the East Coast, Velocity Girl was signed to Sub Pop and released their debut, a shoegaze-like record featuring hazy, distorted guitars and a vocalist (Sarah Shannon) whose bright voice was covered up in the crackly guitars.

That made Shannon’s vocals even more effective, as the listener had to focus on the songs as a whole to get the entire essence of the track. It revealed a band that wasn’t in step with the other Sub Pop bands, but found a niche in the market. The vocal melodies were enticing enough for radio, and the guitars and arrangements kept them firmly in the alternative camp.

The album has some missteps and clunks. For every great song like title track and the singles, there’s a song that goes on too long, or is an experiment that doesn’t quite work. In other words, a debut record.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Drummer Jim Spellman was a CNN reporter and is now a reporter on a DC based station.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B+: Some tracks went awry, but this is solid, solid shoegaze stuff.

Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose – The Story of Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose

ARTIST: Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose R-3057605-1313699122.jpeg

TITLE: The Story of Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Treat Her Like a Lady (#3, #20 R&B), Too Late to Turn Back Now (#2, #5 R&B), I’m Never Gonna Be Alone Anymore (#37, #43 R&B), Don’t Ever Be Lonely (#23, #28 R&B), Let Me Down Easy (#96), I Just Can’t Stop Loving You (#104, #79 R&B), Big Time Lover (#88 R&B), Since I Found My Baby (#59 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Carter Cornelius, Eddie Cornelius, Rose Cornelius. Billie Jo Cornelius joined in 1972. Session musicians did the playing.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Classic vocal-pop style soul that specialized in family vocal harmonies and softer songs (except for their first hit).

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Stomping out of the gate with 1971’s “Treat Her Like a Lady”, Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose (soon to add another sister), this Miami-based family band of singers had a nice chart run until 1973, and unlike their first hit they were smooth, mellow, and backed with copious strings and horns.

The songs and the arrangements were winners, though. Eddie Cornelius wrote the songs and Rose arranged the vocals. Yet their second album stiffed, and they quietly went away and broke up in 1976 when brother Carter joined a black Hebrew sect.

Unlike a lot of flash-in-the-pan groups with one or two hits, this record is solid from beginning to end. Sure some of the songs are derivative of each other, but there’s something there that elevates the lesser tracks away from filler status. For a brief time, this family was the sound of soul vocal pop.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Sister Rose was part of the Gospel Jazz Singers and went on Ed Sullivan.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B+: A solid album for fans of “Too Late to Turn Back Now

Sepultura – Schizophrenia

ARTIST: Sepultura 220px-Schizophrenia_album

TITLE: Schizophrenia

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None unless you were a death metal head in the 80’s

LINEUP: Max Cavalera, Igor Vacalera, Paulo Jr. , Andreas Kisser

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A lineup change, better songs, and a better studio coalesces the band into a tight, taught unit.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Andreas Kisser joined Sepultura as the new lead guitarist, and almost immediately the results showed. The change moved them into more of a traditional thrash metal, which suited them greatly. The songs became tighter and more controlled. The vocals also were more suited to this style. It was a change for the better.

This record was recorded in a better studio than the previous record, and that also helped the band form its sound and vision far beyond their debut. It’s a great leap forward.

There are still some issues, though, with the songs sometimes blending together and the ideas outreaching their execution, but this album showed that path forward for Sepultura.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Kisser’s parents were European (Slovene and German), though he is a Brazilian native.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A few bonus cuts and demos

GRADE B: Much better, more focused, and the groundwork for the band going forward.

 

No Doubt – No Doubt

ARTIST: No Doubt  220px-NoDoubtCover

TITLE: No Doubt

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Trapped in a Box

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: There are none

LINEUP: Gwen Stefani, Eric Stefani, Tom Dumont, Tony Kanal, Adrian Young, Eric Carpenter, Don Hammerstedt, Alex Henderson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A for-the-most-part pure ska record that was ignored by almost everyone, even in the ska community.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: When this album crept out in 1992, a ska revival wasn’t mainstream, and angry young dudes dominated radio. So this record featuring mostly ska with pop and punk influences was released, no one except diehard fans bought it.

Gwen Stefani’s brother Eric is the main musical engine behind the early No Doubt. He wrote or co-wrote all of the songs and was the arranger and musical mind. The record is rather all over the place, and even in some songs there are dramatic shifts in style and tone.

It’s not really remarkable, except for Gwen’s vocals. Even without the best material, or arrangements, she stands out from the rest of the group. But her strong presence can’t really overcome some of the mediocrity. However, songs like “Big City Train” and “Let’s Get Back” show the real potential of the band.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This record sold 30,000, and Interscope didn’t pay for a video or a tour.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B-: Some good moments, and some meh moments. If you slept on them in 1992, don’t worry – they really didn’t warrant attention.

 

Coldplay – X & Y

ARTIST: Coldplay 220px-Coldplay_X&Y.svg

TITLE: X&Y

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Speed of Sound (#8 US, #2 UK), Fix You (#59 US, #4 UK), Talk (#86 US, #10 UK), The Hardest Part

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman, Will Champion

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A grandiose album that has a lot of boring parts, which makes it seem less of a grandiose statement.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Coldplay was a really big deal by the time they released this record. This was a universal hit everywhere and it seemed most every country had this album at the top of the charts. (Damn Hungary and Japan had it at #13 and #103 (!) respectively.

The sound is big, huge, electronic, layered, and…mopey. A few tracks, despite the huge sound, are lifeless and just sit there. They did a good job in picking the songs for singles that would work on the radio for sure as the deep cuts are the ones that are inert.

The record does reveal more charms on further listens, but the issue still is that it’s dull at times, and Coldplay’s reputation as dull and mopey begins to form now.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This album sold 737,000 copies in its first week of release. Over six times their previous albums first-week sales.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: In Japan, and there was a tour edition too.

GRADE B-: It’s got some good parts and some charm, but man it’s just dull at times.

Eminem – The Slim Shady LP

ARTIST: Eminem 220px-Eminem_-_The_Slim_Shady_LP_CD_cover

TITLE: The Slim Shady LP

YEAR RELEASED: 1999

CHART ACTION: #2 US, #10 UK

SINGLES: My Name Is (#36 US, #18 R&B, #37 Alternative, #10 Rap, #2 UK), Role Model (#111 Rap),  Guilty Conscience (#56 R&B, #5 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: 97 Bonnie & Clyde

LINEUP: Eminem, Dr. Dre, Bass Brothers, Mel-Man

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Eminem’s major debut establishes his Slim Shady persona to the masses.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Eminem had released an album and an EP to crickets (or worse) in Detroit, but thanks to participating in a battle in LA, his EP found his way to Interscope records, and to Dr. Dre. The rest…history.

This record is uncompromising, raw, brutal at times, and like nothing in the hip-hop world. Instead of glorifying his lifestyle, Eminem tells another tale – tells it how it is living in trailer park squalor working low wage jobs and just trying to scrape by and exaggerating it at times.

While Slim Shady is a character, inhabiting a cartoony world of outrageousness. There’s definitely some lyrics and themes that haven’t aged well (and didn’t go over well then), and “97 Bonnie & Clyde” is just chilling. But his flow is superb and the beats are on point. Despite the lyrics, it’s a great sounding record – just overly long.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There were several lawsuits about this album, including his mother and a school bully.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Two bonus editions with different versions and mixes.

 GRADE B+: Just a bit long, and a bit over the top.

Billy Joel – Piano Man

ARTIST: Billy Joel Billy_Joel_-_Piano_Man

TITLE: Piano Man

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #27 US, #98 UK

SINGLES: Piano Man (#25 US, #136 UK), Worse Comes to Worst (#80 US), Travelin’ Prayer (#77 US), The Ballad of Billy the Kid

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Captain Jack

LINEUP: Billy Joel and the cream of the LA session crop at the time (Ron Tutt, Wilton Felder, Larry Carlton, etc.)

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After his disaster of a first album (in Quick Hitters), Joel catches a few breaks and gets a new deal, and hits on his first try.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It was a long couple of years for Billy Joel after his first album. Legal issues, tours, and a six month stint in LA grinding as a nightclub entertainer. But an appearance on WMMR, and at Mar Y Sol, got CBS interested and this album was the result after a couple of years of grinding it out.

The title track became the hit, and a few songs became standards, especially “Captain Jack”. After a rousing “Travelin’ Prayer”, and the hit, the album stalls out a bit, though the arrangements are varied. But the songs aren’t 100% all there until the end and “Captain Jack”.

Joel has a better backing band and production. Nothing is in the sad piano motif (for the most part), and it does what it meant to do – introduce Billy Joel to the public.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Joel played a set on WMMR that included the as-then-unrecorded “Captain Jack”, and that became a sensation in Philly, then New York, and then CBS got him.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, including the entire WMMR broadcast.

 

GRADE B: Joel throws a lot out there, stylistically, and some sticks.

Montrose – The Very Best of Montrose

ARTIST: Montrose montrose

TITLE: The Very Best Of Montrose

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Rock Candy, Bad Motor Scooter, I Got the Fire, Rock the Nation, Space Station #5. Music Man, Jump On It

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, I doubt it

LINEUP: Ronnie Montrose. First album had Sammy Hagar, Denny Carmisi, and Bill Church. Alan Fitzgerald replaced Church. Bob James replaced Hagar and Jim Alcivar added keyboards. Montrose regrouped a band in the 80s with guys from Gamma and Buster Brown

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Former Edgar Winter guitarist forms his own band, rocks out, gets bored, and what was promising dies on the vine.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Ronnie Montrose could sling an axe, as he proved for Edgar Winter, Van Morrison and others. Leaving Winter, he formed Montrose and released a debut album which gained some fans in the hard rock world, but had no sales to speak of.

Montrose’s records were mainly spotty with some bursts of innovation and fire, and then low spots with second-rate material. (Sammy Hagar wrote perhaps their best song, “Bad Motor Scooter”, not Montrose).  Sure, there are moments, but when Bob James took over for Hagar, it was all over for the most part. Then there was a 80’s glammy band. No thanks.

For the most part, this collection is all you need, and even then you have to be judicious. Montrose could have been a classic band, but it was not meant to be.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Montrose expected sobriety from his band members, after he had a near-lethal overdose.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE B-: With good material, they were great. But the good material diminished as time went on.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Welcome to the Pleasuredome

ARTIST: Frankie Goes to Hollywood 220px-Welcome_To_The_Pleasuredome

TITLE: Welcome to the Pleasuredome

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: #33 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Relax (#10 US, #1 UK), Two Tribes (#43 US, #1 UK), The Power of Love (#1 UK), Welcome to the Pleasuredome (#48 US, #2 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Born to Run, Do You Know the Way to San Jose, and Ferry Cross the Mercy

LINEUP: Holly Johnson, Paul Rutherford, Brian Nash, Mark O’Toole, Peter Gill. Trevor Horn, the producer, brought in a lot of session players and may have played a lot of the record himself.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Hyped to the billionth degree record is a UK sensation but kind of fizzled here in the US despite MTV and the single Relax being played every 10 seconds it seems.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Notoriety and hype are the two words that come to mind with Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The BBC banned “Relax” and they and MTV banned the first cut of the “Relax” video, which of course made the public want it even more.  220px-Welcome_to_the_Pleasuredome_2

“Relax” and “Two Tribes” were big #1 hits already, remixed quite a bit, and when included on the album along with several covers, some were disappointed. The US market was skeptical, as usual, and the overtly gay overtones of the band’s look and lyrics went over the head of many listeners (because sometimes we’re not too swift on the uptick, ya know). But there’s no real sub-text to a song like “Krisco Kisses”. It just is.

The production is incredible as the band and its songs were perfect palettes for Trevor Horn and the Art of Noise production crew. But as for the songs, some are overly long (the title track takes up the entire first side of the LP for all intents and purposes), and the band seems lost in the production, with the songs secondary to the sounds thrown out there. (The cover of “War” is a great example of this).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There was a fake band that toured the US in 1998 that was quickly put out of action by swift action since one of the band members lived in Florida and saw an ad for the faux band.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with several remixes. The original CD was a sliced up version of the double album.

 GRADE B-: There’s a happy medium between the hype and the backlash, and 35 years after the fact you can separate the good, the bad, and the way too long.

Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

ARTIST: Mayhem 

TITLE: De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, probably now thanks to documentaries and books and such

LINEUP: Atilla Csihar, Euronymous, Count Grisnackh, Hellhammer

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Infamous Norwegian black metal album featuring a murderer and his victim.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Mayhem caused same in Norway in the 90’s, with a suicide (a photo of the aftermath later became an album cover), a link to church burnings, and well, murder. Count Grisnackh (Varg Vikiernes) stabbed bassist Euronymous (Oystein Aarseth) during a dispute. They put the album out that they recorded anyway, because, metal.

As for the music, it’s an influential black metal album with creepy distorted vocals from Atilla Csihar (formerly of Tormentor), and sheets and sheets of riffs from Euronymous. Hellhammer (Jan Axel Blomberg) drums in the usual double-kick fashion. The drawback is that the songs are long, and don’t go much of anywhere.

I can see why this is influential despite the notoriety – the riffs are mega-normous and the basswork from Vikiernes is stellar. But, it seems like it’s all one song.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The original singer of the band, who went by Dead, killed himself. Along with the photo, Euronymous took pieces of his skull and made necklaces for the members of the scene. That’s metal, man.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B: Individually, the songs work, but they just bend together. I EXILED it because it’s just too too same same.