Category: Grade: B

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.

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.

Dead Confederate – Wrecking Ball

ARTIST: Dead Confederate 

TITLE: Wrecking Ball

YEAR RELEASED: 2008

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: The Rat (#39 Alternative), Start Me Laughing

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Heavy Petting

LINEUP: Hardy Morris, Bradley Senn, Walter Howle, John Watkins, Jason Scarboro

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut album from a grungier southern alt-country-rock band.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After stints as a jam band that played long long songs, Dead Confederate regrouped themselves as an alt-rock band with a country tinge and some grungy influences from My Morning Jacket and other southerny rock bands.

The songs are split between guitarist Hardy Morris and bassist Bradley Senn, with Senn having the more melodic voice and more hookish tracks. (He wrote “The Rat” which was a minor radio hit). They still linger on songs for a bit too long – can’t take the jam band out of the band I guess.

Because of their tendency to meander on a track, the album rather much stands still at times. Some tracks are worthy, and the moody sound can entrance you, kind of a Southern Gothic. It’s a decent debut that’s worth a spin.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They used to be called Redbelly or The Redbelly Band. Ick.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A bonus track on iTunes. Remember when that was a thig?

 GRADE: B: Some tracks go on a bit long, but it’s a decent listen.

Saxon – Wheels of Steel

ARTIST: Saxon

TITLE: Wheels of Steel

YEAR RELEASED: 1980

CHART ACTION:  #5 UK

SINGLES: Wheels of Steel (#20 UK), 747 (Strangers in the Night) (#13 UK), Suzie Hold On

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not around these parts

LINEUP: Biff Byford, Graham Oliver, Paul Quinn, Steve Dawson, Pete Gill

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from UK band becomes a NWOBHM classic and showed the commercial potential of that genre in the UK.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Saxon’s second album was a revelation to the UK music business. It hit #5 and spun off two singles, showing that the New Wave of British Heavy Metal could be a commercial force.

The album is full of riffs, guitar interplay, melodic solos, driving tempos – you know, the usual NWOBHM menu. Not only do they have riffs and guitars all over the place (the title track riff – my goodness), they also can write hooks on occasion.

A lot of the record is at a quick tempo, but I think the detriment of singer Biff Byford. His high-pitched vocals don’t have a lot of power when he’s got to sing ultra fast. When he slows down a bit, his vocals really work, and that’s why “747 (Strangers in the Night)” is such an effective track.

I can see why this was a hit in the UK – the US music industry didn’t have the machine to bring this out to the general public, so it became a underground metal community gem.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “747 (Strangers in the Night)” was written about the Northeast Blackout in 1965 and how a Scandanavian airliner had to land in the dark.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, demos and live cuts and a b-side

GRADE: B+: One of the hard-to-get albums (in the US) that kick started the tape-trading era of metal, which then developed into a full-out metal scene.

ZZ Top – Tejas

ARTIST: ZZ Top 

TITLE: Tejas

YEAR RELEASED: 1976

CHART ACTION:  #17

SINGLES: It’s Only Love (#44), Arrested for Driving While Blind (#91), Enjoy and Get It On (#105)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not

LINEUP: Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A mediocre record from a tired-sounding band.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: ZZ Top had been touring basically non stop since their founding, and seemingly lost its mojo when they went into the studio to record their fourth (and a half) studio album.

The album is more country and blues based than much of their previous efforts, and utilized a shuffle rhythm more than anything. The songs seem less adventurous and lascivious, repeating many of the same things. Only some interesting wordplay saves some of the tracks (“I’ve gotten good at missing her / I practice all the time” from “Pan Am Highway Blues”) and Gibbons uses his deeper growl for “El Diablo”. The tracks also seem padded out a bit with extended outros on some tracks.

It’s not to say that it’s a horrible album, it’s just flat and uninspired for the most part. After this album and another tour, the band took a 90-day-into-two-year break and came back with a revitalized crowd pleasing album.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: On the abomination that was the Six Pack (remixed versions of six of their first seven albums with ‘updated’ Eliminator-like drums and mixes – avoid!), the geniuses cut out the first line to “Arrested for Driving While Blind”. Get the real version.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE: B-: They were worn out here.

Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

ARTIST: Genesis 

TITLE: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION:  #41 US, #10 UK

SINGLES: Counting Out Time (#53 UK), The Carpet Crawlers (#54 UK),

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

LINEUP: Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett, Phil Collins

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Expansive rock-opera with a hard-to-follow and confusing storyline, and some ingenious music that expanded Genesis’ musical palette.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Despite the renown of this album, this is not the place to start to explore Peter Gabriel-era Genesis.

The album shows Genesis at its most experimental, with some soundscapes, effects, and interesting noise. Working with the libretto and lyrics that Gabriel came up with was a challenge, and the band pulled together and made the record as concise and listenable as possible.

Yet, the story…my goodness gracious. The mid-70’s gave us a lot of impenetrable rock operas and storylines, and this one was right there with them. It’s not a story that you can get right away, or even after a few listens. It’s dense, and sometimes makes no sense. I don’t know what the hell Gabriel was trying to say. But he said it anyway. It probably could have been pared down a bit, especially on the back half. A good story editor could have done that.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They toured this by just doing the entire album plus encores of a couple of their past epic songs. It lost money due to the production. Also, Brian Eno helped with production adding effects.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: The music is good, but it’s too long and dense.

Genesis – Selling England by the Pound

ARTIST: Genesis

TITLE: Selling England by the Pound

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION:  #70 US, #3 UK

SINGLES: I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) (#21 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Dancing with the Moonlight Knight

LINEUP: Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett, Phil Collins

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pop chart breakthrough for Genesis doesn’t mean they’ve gone pop.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After staging successful tours for Foxtrot in both the US and UK, and improved record sales, Genesis was ready to take the next step commercially. After a few months of working some ideas to death, they settled on the tracks and created this album, which contained longer suites with an actual honest-to-goodness pop song (well, proggy pop song).

“I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” was destined to be a hit in 1974, and it was deserving. It had enough progressive elements to keep fans from crying sellout, but had hooks enough for chart success. “Dancing with the Moonlight Knight” and “Firth of Fifth” are also strong instrumentally.

The star of this record to my ears is guitarist Steve Hackett, whose inventive use of distortion and tapping added some fire to the somewhat placid epics and his instrumental piece is top notch. Tony Banks’ keyboards overwhelm some of the songs at times, and the two longer songs on the second side are just overly complicated lyrically.

Overall, except for the pop success, this doesn’t break new ground. Good enough for prog fans.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Phil Collins sang “More Fool Me”, which hearkens to the softness of his solo career a decade later.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B+: A great first three tracks, and some interesting bits and pieces later on.

Love – Da Capo

ARTIST: Love 

TITLE: Da Capo

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION:  #80

SINGLES: 7 and 7 Is (#33), She Comes in Colors, Que Vida

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Orange Skies

LINEUP: Arthur Lee, Brian MacLean, Johnny Echols, Ken Forssi, Snoopy Pfisterer, Tjay Cantrelli, Michael Stuart

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from LA scensters reveals a lot about themselves and their eclecticism.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The second album from Love shows a band that was confident in many motifs. The big single (“7 and 7 Is”) was hard rock for 1966, “Que Vida” was an amalgam of styles, and “Orange Skies” and “She Comes in Colors” were brilliant sunshine pop.

The first side was a brilliant 1967 psychedelic pop-rock record. I’d maybe resequence it, but that’s a quibble. Then there’s the second side.

“Revelations” was the only cut on side two. Dylan and Zappa had done in 1966, but those were on double albums. Here, Love devoted an entire side to a rambling, long, jam that started out with Bach, and then incorporated Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker. It had everything a 60’s psychedelic band threw at their audiences – drum solos, woodwind excursions, harmonicas, guitar solos, meandering jams. The works.

After such a brilliant side one, it was such a come down to flip the record over. That wouldn’t be a problem on their next album.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Snoopy Pfisterer moved to harpsichord and keyboards for this album from drums, instruments he was much more comfortable in playing.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A reissue with mono and stereo mixes.

GRADE: B: Six fantastic tracks on side one (even if the sequencing is a bit off for me), then that jam on side two.