Category: Grade: B

The Mamas & The Papas – Deliver

ARTIST: The Mamas & The Papas Deliver

TITLE: Deliver

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #2 US, #4 UK

SINGLES: Look Through My Window (#24 US), Dedicated to the One I Love (#2 US, #2 UK), Creeque Alley (#5 US, #9 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Covers of My Girl and Twist and Shout

LINEUP: Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, John Phillips, Michelle Phillips. The Wrecking Crew provided the backing.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Let’s Put On A Show!”

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Mamas & The Papas were still big business in 1967, with hit singles, album sales, TV appearances, and spearheading the Monterey Pop Festival. What happened was that when this album was put together, instead of seminal sunshine pop, it was time for show-biz! At least for side one.

Cover songs of well known songs and show tunes (though “Dedicated to the One I Love” is breathtaking), accompanying a kinda novelty that re-tells their story (“Creeque Alley” – charming in its own way). They exploit Cass Elliot’s natural charisma to propel the songs into something fitting for a variety show.

Which is kind of disappointing, really. Side two is much more in vogue with their other records – a combo of folk and sunshine pop with great harmonies, except for an instrumental (this was a vocal group, really, right?) Still, kind of a downer given the first two releases.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title is a sly reference to Elliot’s pregnancy and delivery of a baby in 1967.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 

GRADE B-: Could have been better. Some is great and some cringeworthy.

Firehose – Fromohio

ARTIST: Firehose 220px-FROMOHIO

TITLE: Fromohio

YEAR RELEASED: 1989

CHART ACTION: None.

SINGLES: Time With You

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: What Gets Heard

LINEUP: Ed Crawford, Mike Watt, George Hurley. Kira Roessler played and sung too.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A record much like their previous, except a couple of solo spots for George Hurley.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Unlike If’n, Fromohio (taken from Ed Crawford’s sometime nom-de-band – Ed Fromohio) isn’t a leap forward, more like a retrenchment towards what worked previously. That’s OK, and some of the songs were pretty good (“What Gets Heard”, “Time With You”), but others seemed just repeated themes from their previous records.

They also had two drummer showcases, and a guitar exercise. Those would be OK had not the other material been as strong as the previous album – but it really wasn’t.

All in all, it seemed like Firehose was marking time here. A better record than most of their contemporaries, but still marking time.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Watt started calling his bass “Thunder Broom”. Plus, the title track from the previous album is on this one.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B: I didn’t think it was as good as any of their other SST records.

Firehose – Ragin’ Full-On

ARTIST: Firehose 220px-Ragin',fullon

TITLE: Ragin’ Full-On

YEAR RELEASED: 1986

CHART ACTION: None.

SINGLES: Nope

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Brave Captain

LINEUP: Ed Crawford, Mike Watt, George Hurley

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Surprise! Watt and Hurley, grieving after D. Boon’s death and the loss of the Minutemen because of it, regroup with Minutemen fan Ed Crawford and form Firehose.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: NOTE: NOT FIREHOUSE.

From seemingly out of nowhere (at least to those not plugged into the West Coast punk scene) came Firehose, which gathered Mike Watt and George Hurley along with Minuteman fan-boy / guitarist Ed Crawford (from Ohio).

This, their first effort, sounds a bit tentative since the trio was just learning to work together. Watt and Hurley knew each other, but had to figure out how to play with Crawford, who was a bit more conventional than D. Boon, though he tried to be a bit outside.

That was one of the issues – Crawford tried too much to be in the spirit of D. Boon’s guitar work and that was not his strength. He did work well on some tracks, especially his tracks like “Brave Captain”, “The Candle and the Flame”, and “Choose Any Memory”.  The ones that Watt wrote (or-cowrote with his wife Kira Roessler) he struggled a bit with.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: THIS ISN’T FIREHOUSE.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B: For a band just coming together after a tragedy, it’s surprisingly good, but there was room for improvement.

Au Pairs – Stepping Out of Line: The Anthology

ARTIST: Au Pairs Steppingoutofline

TITLE: Stepping Out of Line: The Anthology

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None. Their original albums did chart in the UK

SINGLES: You, It’s Obvious, Inconvenience

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: We’re So Cool, Come Again

LINEUP: Jane Munro, Lesley Woods, Paul Foad, Peter Hammond

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Mined from the same vein as the Gang of Four, the Au Pairs jagged punk funk was focused mostly on feminism and sexuality.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The guitars are sharp and pointed, dishing out short small riffs, while the bass and drums keep up a funk rhythm. The vocals are strident, sometimes more commanding than singing (especially later), and no, this isn’t the Gang of Four – it’s Au Pairs. 220px-Playingwithadifferentsex

Lesley Woods spouts rails against sexism and advocates for feminists, with a touch of politics, while other guitarist Paul Foad tries to answer the best he can. Meanwhile, the stars are bassist Jane Munro and drummer Peter Hammond, who keep the grove going and the dance floor hopping.

This collection grabs everything they recorded, including BBC sessions. For the most part, there’s quality and distinction here, but the material tails off in both performance and quality during their second album (Woods sounds hoarse.) They broke up before their third album sessions in 1983, and that may have been for the best since their first statements were their best. 220px-SenseAndSensuality

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They delivered a rousing “Come Again” during Urgh! A Music War.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B+: A sadly forgotten band except for post-punk scholars and die-hards. It brought feminism and discussions of sexual freedom to the scene.

Jefferson Starship – Gold / Playlist: The Very Best of Jefferson Starship

ARTIST: Jefferson Starship Gold_Jefferson_Starship

TITLE: Gold / Playlist: The Very Best of Jefferson Starship

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation (s)

CHART ACTION: #20 US (Gold)

SINGLES: Top 40: Miracles (#3 US), With Your Love (#12 US), Count on Me (#8 US), Runaway (#12 US), Jane (#14 US, #13 UK), Find Your Way Back (#29 US, #29 UK), Be My Lady (#28 US), Winds of Change (#38 US), No Way Out (#23 US, #59 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Stranger, Layin’ it on the Line

LINEUP: Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Pete Sears, David Freiberg, Craig Chaquico. Marty Balin sang on their first four records. Mickey Thomas on the others (Slick missed one). Papa John Creach and John Barbata were also on the first four records, and Aynsley Dunbar and Donnie “Slugger” Baldwin on the later ones.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Let’s make a lot of money!”

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: At first, it wasn’t a total sell-out crash grab, as Marty Balin and Grace Slick wrote some interesting songs on their first two albums (“Caroline”, “Miracles”, “Fast Buck Freddy”, “Play on Love”). Then “Miracles” hit, and by gosh they loved that money. 71J8ovqYusL._SX522_

So they did the easy thing, releasing commercial album after commercial album, and after Marty Balin left, and Grace Slick took a sabbatical, they became just another rock band with a couple of great songs (“Jane” of course). Even with Slick back in the fold, they became more and more bland, and soon morphed into the vile thing called Starship.

The Gold compilation has 12 tracks (in its streaming form, on vinyl it was 10 with a single), and The Very Best of Jefferson Starship repeats some and adds tracks from their Mickey Thomas records, and avoids Starship entirely.

When you listen to classic Airplane, then stuff like “With Your Love”, you gotta shake your head, and admire the audacity of the sellout.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Balin left due to the aftermath of Grace Slick’s infamous drunken incident in Germany. But first, he sang “Light the Sky on Fire” (#66 US), which was used in the Star Wars Holiday Special. Yep.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. I myself had to make the Playlist stuff myself since that’s not streaming, and I added a couple of other tracks.

 GRADE B-: Baby boomer selling out for cash. Hmmm….

Jefferson Airplane – After Bathing at Baxter’s

ARTIST: Jefferson Airplane 220px-After_bathing_at_baxters

TITLE: After Bathing at Baxter’s

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #17

SINGLES: The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil (#42), Watch Her Ride (#61)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Martha, Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon

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

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Airplane decided to go full-tilt psychedelic, and the album has a lot of trippy elements to it, man.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I don’t think this was Marty Balin’s group anymore, but he had to have gone along with it. His voice, as harmony singer mostly, is all over the place, and his “Young Girl Sunday Blues” is one of the highlights.

Starting with the outstanding yet challenging “The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil” and ending with Kantner’s statement “Won’t You Try / Saturday Afternoon”, the Airplane moves the listener through a truly acid-drenched trip, complete with experimental sounds, anti-war statements, hippie imagery, and general electrical tom-foolery.

Their status, after one successful album, was such that they got to do what they wanted, and how they wanted. While the freedom was welcome by the band (after RCA put the screws to them on their first album), it’s lack of direction meant fewer sales and less radio play on AM stations.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The album title was code for “tripping on acid”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Alternate cuts and mixes.

 GRADE B+: The weird for weird-sake cuts drag it down.

Jefferson Airplane – Jefferson Airplane Takes Off

ARTIST: Jefferson Airplane 220px-Jefferson_airplane_takes_off

TITLE: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off

YEAR RELEASED: 1966

CHART ACTION: #128

SINGLES: It’s No Secret, Come Up the Years, Bringing Me Down

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Blues from an Airplane

LINEUP: Marty Balin, Signe Anderson, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Skip Spence

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pre-Grace Slick and pre-hippie Jefferson Airplane release a rote folk rock album with a few highlights.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This was definitely Marty Balin’s group. He formed it, and shaped the sound of the album with his folk-rock songs. Sometimes co-written by Paul Kantner, and assisted vocally by Signe Anderson, Balin has some good hands helping him, but it’s definitely his show.

Bassist Jack Casady makes his impact felt right away with some melodic and powerful bass lines, while the guitars lack the usual fireworks of later years (though Jorma Kaukonen’s playing is elegant and precise). That musicianship helps elevate the slightly above average songs.

Balin’s material is augmented by three covers, which are the weakest tracks (they just sound off), and “Come Up the Years” is beautiful but skeevy. (It seems very much a Lolita tale). All in all, a record that wouldn’t make a ripple outside of folk-rock zealots, but then they changed Balin’s vocal assistance.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Skip Spence left soon after to form Moby Grape, and Signe Anderson left to form a family. They grabbed this singer named Grace to replace her…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. B-sides and cuts left off because RCA didn’t like the very mild sexual references.

 GRADE B: An OK folk rock record, but they’d turn into something else soon enough.

The Replacements – Hootenanny

ARTIST: The Replacements 220px-The_Replacements_-_Hootenanny_cover

TITLE: Hootenanny

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Color Me Impressed, Within Your Reach

LINEUP: Paul Westerberg, Bob Stinson, Tommy Stinson, Chris Mars

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A shambolic record that epitomizes the Replacements at the time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s some growth and maturity by The Replacements here. Tracks like “Color Me Impressed”, “Within Your Reach” and “Willpower” expand their sonic horizons and sharpen their wit.

Then there’s the messes of “Treatment Bound” and the title track, “Hootenanny” where the band switches instruments for the heck of it. (They did that during their shows sometimes). And the outright stealing of some melodies during “Mr. Whirly”, also for a gag probably.

Is it entertaining? Yeah. Is it consistent? Nah. But “Within Your Reach” and “Color Me Impressed” are definitely all-timers for the group, and rock in general.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Lovelines” featured actual classified ads from the Minneapolis City pages.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few outtakes and alternate vocals.

GRADE B: Fun, but really messy and erratic.

The Replacements – Stink

ARTIST: The Replacements 220px-The_Replacements_-_The_Replacements_Stink_cover

TITLE: Stink

YEAR RELEASED: 1982

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: It was an EP. The lead track was Kids Don’t Follow

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Pretty much everything is Replacements canon

LINEUP: Paul Westerberg, Bob Stinson, Tommy Stinson, Christopher Mars

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Recorded to make sure that Kids Don’t Follow was on record, this EP is a holding pattern.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Paul Westerburg had a habit of discarding some songs after he was sick of them. Peter Jesperson, their manager, wanted to make sure that “Kids Don’t Follow” wasn’t in the discard pile, so he arranged this one day session to record this and other songs they had added to their set.

Most everything is hard fast, snotty, and arrogant, but there’s some real poignancy is songs like “Go”, realism in “God Damn Job”, and anthems in “Kids Don’t Follow” and “Gimme Noise”

This will take 15 minutes of your time and there are worse ways to spend it. It doesn’t propel the group forward though.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The opening bit is an honest-to-God Minneapolis police raid.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few outtakes

 GRADE B+: A couple of all timers, but nothing else is special.

Modern English – Ricochet Days

ARTIST: Modern English 220px-RicochetDays

TITLE: Ricochet Days

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: #93 US, #5 UK Indie

SINGLES: Chapter 12 (#15 UK Indie), Hands Across the Sea (#91 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Robbie Grey, Gary McDowell, Michael Conroy, Richard Brown, Stephen Walker

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After “THE HIT”, they surprisingly don’t try to really replicate it, instead to sticking what they’ve done otherwise.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: You make a big hit record, they (the industry) expect everything else to be the same or similar to the hit. Modern English didn’t do that.

Sure, they added a bit more sheen and polish, and maybe in “Hands Across the Sea” a hook or three, but stuck to their atmospheric post-punk for the most part. That’s kind of refreshing in of itself.

It’s a decent enough record, with some of their old fashioned gothy moody post punk. It won’t make you jump out of your chair, but it’ll do.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After this, they moved from 4AD, got glossier, broke up, got back together, broke up, reunited again, and kind of soldiered on.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, different mixes and B-sides, of course

 GRADE B-: Better than their debut but doesn’t have a standout track.