Category: Grade: B

The Cave Singers – Invitation Songs

ARTIST: The Cave Singers                    220px-CaveSingers-InvitationSongs

TITLE: Invitation Songs

YEAR RELEASED: 2007

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Seeds of Night, Dancing on Our Graves

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Pete Quirk, Derek Fudesco, Marty Lund

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Seattle post-punkers in search of a band come together and make a folky type album, since that seemed to the rage during that time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Never mind the grunge, the Pacific Northwest in the 2000’s were the home of the indie folk movement. The Cave Singers were part of this trend (like Blitzen Trapper, the Head and the Heart, and Fleet Foxes) and while it didn’t take the world by storm, it still was an interesting movement for the area.

This debut by the Cave Singers takes some time to process. Pete Quirk’s vocals are high and a bit reedy and the group (at this stage) doesn’t have a bassist. Acoustic guitars are to the fore, but sometimes they’ll throw in horns or synths.

There was a lot of buzz at the time about this album, and while it’s not as good as some of the hype, it’s solid enough especially if you dug their compatriot bands.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The members of this band came from Hint Hint, Cobra High, and Pretty Girls Make Graves.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: You’ll need a few spins for this to break through to you.

Off! – The First Four EP’s

ARTIST: Off!                                    220px-Offfirstfourepalbum

TITLE: First Four EP’s

YEAR RELEASED: 2010

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: These were four EP’s, as the title says.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Dimitri Coats, Steven Shane McDonald, Keith Morris, Mario Rubalcaba

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Old punk (Morris) gathers up a band and makes a throwback punk rock record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Off! is a nostalgia trip for those of us who were around (or kind of around) during the first wave of punk rock in the States, especially the LA / Orange County variety.

Here we have 16 tracks in 18 minutes, with no song lasting longer than 1:33. Keith Morris, formerly of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks is the vocalist and his voice is unmistakable.

However, to my ears, the tracks sounded a bit perfunctory and rote at times. Sure, it’s great to hear some real-life punk rock in the vein of the early Circle Jerks (“Black Thoughts” brings you right back to 1979) and “Jeffrey Lee Pierce” is a nice eulogy for the former Gun Club leader. But it’s not going to replace your original SST record collection. I don’t think it was supposed to though.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Circle Jerks went on hiatus right before this material was recorded. It was done in two days – one in January and one in August.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Two extra tracks on various platforms.

 GRADE: B: I like it enough to keep it, and it’s real punk rock.

20/20 – Look Out!

ARTIST: 20/20                                      R-2470935-1285873847.jpeg

TITLE: Look Out!

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

 

CHART ACTION: #127

SINGLES: Strange Side of Love,

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only if you adore power pop

LINEUP: Steve Allen, Ron Flynt, Joel Turrisi, Chris Silagyi.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from relocated Midwestern power-pop quartet is hooky and melodic

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Power pop was either a hit or miss (usually a miss) on the charts, since it fell in between radio-friendly rock, pop, and adult contemporary and only the catchiest tracks could catch on with the radio.

Which means a band like 20/20, who had catchy hooks, harmonies, and interesting songs and melodies, didn’t catch a break in the era when the Top 40 was transitioning away from disco and into new wave and arena rock.

This second foray by the band covers a lot of the same ground as their debut. Some of the tracks near the end didn’t work as well in reality as in concept, and at times it felt like a slight re-write of the first one. Still, there was enough here that it could have done better on the charts had radio taken a flyer on it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They added a new drummer, and after the album only Allen and Flynt remained.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Two extra tracks.

 GRADE: B+: A few duds near the end, otherwise another good representation of power pop.

Suede – The Best of Suede

ARTIST: Suede                                          BestofSuede

TITLE: The Best of Suede

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #31 UK

SINGLES: Top 10: Metal Mickey (#7 US Modern, #17 UK), Animal Nitrate (#7 U), Stay Together (#3 UK), Trash (#3 UK), Beautiful Ones (#8 UK), Saturday Night (#6 UK), Lazy (#9 UK), Filmstar (#9 UK), Electricity (#5 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Brit-pop fans know the B-sides and album tracks here

LINEUP: Brett Anderson, Mat Osman, Bernard Butler, Simon Gilbert. Richard Oakes replaced Butler halfway through their hit tenure. Neil Codling joinde on keyboards later.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the original Brit Pop bands (taking the UK over from the Madchester scene), Suede’s singles were at times rock, pop, and bombastic prog all rolled into one.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A combination of sex, drugs, and glammy rock-and-roll, Suede’s influence and popularity in the UK is greater than we’ll ever know here in the US. Yet, the band was a tinderbox due to tensions through recording and touring. and the drug use of singer Brett Anderson.

Britpop didn’t make much of a ripple over hear (Oasis and the odd Blur track notwithstanding), and while the themes of Suede’s music had an audience here. At times Suede were too bombastic and really worshiping at the altar of Bowie and Marc Bolan. When Bernard Butler left, Anderson didn’t quite have the musical partner he needed.

This is a good introduction for most of the curious in the US, as it covers most all of their A-sides from their classic period, and has a few B-sides and album tracks. That second disc does drag a bit and lowers the grade, as some songs are definitely exile-worthy..

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Here, we have to officiallycall them the London Suede, but I’m not going to.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The first disc is the hits. The second are Brett Anderson’s favorites.

 GRADE: B : Had it been the first disc, it’s definitely an A-. The second disc has some duds.

The Statler Brothers – Flowers on the Wall: Essential Statler Brothers / Gold

ARTIST: The Statler Brothers

TITLE: Flowers on the Wall: Essential Statler Brothers 1964-69 / Gold essential statler

YEAR RELEASED: Compilations

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 10: Flowers on the Wall (#4, #2 Country), Ruthless (#10 Country), You Can’t Have Your Cake and Edith Too (#10 Country), Bed of Roses (#58, #9 Country), Do You Remember These (#105, #2 Country), The Class of ’57 (#6 Country), I’ll go To My Grave Loving You (#93, #3 Country), Thank God I’ve Got You (#10 Country), Do You Know You Are My Sunshine (#1 Country), Who Am I To Say (#3 Country), The Official Historian on Shirley Jean Berrell (#5 Country), Nothing as Original as You (#10 Country), (I’ll Even Love You) Better Than I Did (#8 Country), Charlotte’s Web (#5 Country)…and more.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Susan When She Tried

LINEUP: Harold Reid, Lew DeWitt, Don Reid, Phil Balsley. Jimmy Fortune came in for Lew DeWitt later.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Two comps for classic country vocal group allows you to make one good one but with two omissions you need to grab. statler gold

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Statler’s got their breaks with “Flowers on the Wall” and then opening for Johnny Cash for about a decade. They were singers in the gospel quartet tradition and they also had a sense of humor and parody. The harmonies they sang were impeccable, and notable for Harold Reid’s booming bass.

They had a huge collection of hits, and gained steam after leaving cash thanks to some great TV marketing and appearances. Their hits collection was advertised on independent stations everywhere. Anyone of a certain age knows at least snippets of their biggest hits.

Yet despite the riches here, Gold focuses too much on later material and omits two tracks almost everyone knows: “What Ever Happened to Randolph Scott” and “The Movies”. That downgrades that collection. The earlier collection doesn’t have as many hits, but has some nice material that would have fit nicely with Cash on stage.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Not brothers, but named after a Kleenex box they found in a hotel room.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There are other compilations, but with split record companies it’s hard to get the early stuff and later stuff together, and they don’t solve the issue of “Randolph Scott” missing.

GRADE: B / B-  Gold needed a better selection and pacing.

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II

ARTIST: Led Zeppelin              220px-Led_Zeppelin_-_Led_Zeppelin_II (1)

TITLE:  Led Zeppelin II

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Whole Lotta Love (#4 US), Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman (#65 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The whole damn thing, unless you’ve been in the Marianas Trench.

LINEUP: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The album that made Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A simple three note riff concocted by Jimmy Page for a song directly stolen from Willie Dixon created the beast known as Led Zeppelin. Had “Whole Lotta Love” been absent from this Earth, what would classic rock stations build their playlists around?

This album had the blues (another one was stolen – from Leadbelly in “The Lemon Song”), ROCK (see above, along with “Living Loving Maid”), Robert Plant being all lovey dovey, and space form Jimmy Page and John Bonham to jizz all over the control board. Rock and roll man. Rock and roll.

As a teenager, this was the record by them I played the most. (My girlfriend at the time cringed when I sang along to “The Lemon Song”.Blame her?) Now, it’s one I play the least. It’s the most predictable, the most cliché ridden, and some tracks are skipped with regularity. I mean, it’s GOOD, but not great except for a couple tracks, and they stole one of them.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They got nabbed for plagiarism, and now the credits for “Whole Lotta Love” and “The Lemon Song” have put right that thievery.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. A bonus disc with backing tracks and rough mixes, with one unheard intro/outro that is very unique.

GRADE: B+: A couple tracks are boring, a couple tracks are just exercises in overplaying, and there are a few gems. But it’s the Zep I turn to the least, despite the highlights.

Lou Reed – Berlin

ARTIST: Lou Reed                      220px-Berlinloureed

TITLE:  Berlin

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #98 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: How Do You Think It Feels, Caroline Says

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Berlin, Men of Good Fortune, Lady Day

LINEUP: Lou Reed, Bob Ezrin, Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner, Jack Bruce, Aynsley Dunbar, Steve Winwood with help from Michael and Randy Brecker, Tony Levin, BJ Wilson, Gene Martynec, John Pierson, Allan Macmillan, and Blue Weaver.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Hey, let’s follow up our hit album with a song cycle about a couple living in Berlin who are hooked on smack and doomed in this life! That’ll keep the cash registers humming!”

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Wow. The themes and motif of this album should have about a billion trigger alerts for survivors of addiction, domestic violence, and suicide attempts. It’s Lou Reed telling a story of Caroline and Jim, two characters from a track on his debut album. And it’s not pretty.

The music and arrangements are outstanding, and there’s some great work by Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner on guitar. But the bleakness that Reed describes really hits home in the second half of the album – Side 2 for you vinylists. I don’t know if I can play it again it’s so dark and depressing, and Reed’s montone becomes creepier as the songs go along.

The most gut wrenching song is “The Kids” where Reed and producer Bob Ezrin put actual sounds from kids screaming for their mother in the background. I couldn’t deal with it.

It’s art and not pop, and I can see what Reed was aiming for, but it really stopped his career cold for a while as his audience couldn’t relate to the decay and desperation. It wouldn’t be the first time he did that.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bob Ezrin and Reed had planned a stage adaptation, but 86’d it due to sales. That would’ve been a laugh riot. Or not…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: This is a split decision. The second side is so bleak and dark I’m exiling ¾ of it. As a song cycle, and in artistic terms, it works. But as for enjoyment, oh man. No.

Squirrel Bait – Squirrel Bait

ARTIST: Squirrel Bait                                    220px-Squirrel_Bait_Squirrel_Bait_EP_

TITLE:  Squirrel Bait

YEAR RELEASED: 1985

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Technically an EP

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, maybe if you followed the family tree of Slint.

LINEUP: David Grubbs, Clark Johnson, Brian McMahan, Peter Searcy, Ben Daughtry. Britt Walford drummed on two tracks taken from their demo.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Punky band from Louisville document themselves after opening  for several prominent bands who were touring in the midwest.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: These were kids who were inspired by the punk scene and not radio. Just out of high school, they toured with Husker Du and Black Flag, among others, and got enough buzz to get in a bidding war of sorts between punk labels before settling with Homestead.

The sound is definitely an evolution of the original punk scene, with melodies and textural changes that complement the punk, and doesn’t sound like it was grafted onto it unwillingly. “Sun God” may be the beginning of the emo movement with Peter Searcy’s pleading over a simple guitar line, then a mild cacophony. It’s like Die Kreuzen with better production and a better lead singer.

There’s still a lot of hardfastrules here, but the variety in sounds is something that differentiated the band from other youngsters trodding the punk rock boards in the 80’s

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Steve Albini designed the cover. .

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B+: Pretty good EP that was influential for the right people.

Mott the Hoople – Mott the Hoople

ARTIST: Mott the Hoople            220px-Mottthehoople1969

TITLE:  Mott the Hoople

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: #66 UK, #185 US

SINGLES: Rock and Roll Queen

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover the Kinks, Doug Sahm, and Sonny Bono

LINEUP: Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs, Verden Allen, Overend Watts, Dale Griffin

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut for Mott the Hoople is a bit unfocused and fussy, thanks mainly to producer Guy Stevens.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Well, the first three tracks of their debut are covers, including an instrumental of “You Really Got Me”. That raises red flags. Yet their originality hit with the single “Rock and Roll Queen” (a title oft-used later by many other bands) it demonstrated their smarts and chops. But Guy Stevens, the manager and producer, made some creative choices that obscured their originals in favor of those covers.

Ian Hunter was a late addition to the band, showing up right before this recording, and Hunter was going through a lot of Dylan affectations at the time. But the power of the band with Mick Ralphs and Overend Watts made rockers notice, and while they didn’t buy their records they were big on the live circuit.

They did the late 60’s, early 70’s thing of jamming a bit too long, and Hunter’s Dylan impersonation doesn’t grow on you. But they got their foot in the door here even if it took a while form them to burst through it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Just an FYI, record company issues make it so a comprehensive compilation isn’t quite possible now, at least streming.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a couple of B-sides..

 GRADE: B-: I waver between liking this, or exiling it. I’ll keep it thanks to Ralphs and Watts.

Family – History

ARTIST: Family                                                     MI0003672214

TITLE:  History

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: No Mules Fool (#29 UK), The Weaver’s Answer (#11 UK), In My Own Time (#4 UK), Burlesque (#13 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not here, not at all

LINEUP: Roger Chapman, Rob Townsend, John Palmer, Charlie Whitney were constants from 1969-72. Others included Jim Cregan, Jim King, Ric Grech, John Weider, John Wetton and Tony Ashton.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Popular in the UK in the early 70’s, this collection hits their proggy and rock highlights.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The first thing you notice about Family is that vocalist. Roger Chapman bleats and yowls with a heavy vibrato, which could be a deal breaker for some folks. The band, though, despite their various incarnations of drummers and multi-instrumentalists, were solid and swung between pure prog and a definite prog and rock hybrid (especially when John Wetton was on board)

They do tend to extend themselves and their tracks, psychedelic at first, then jazzy later on, and that wears you down after a while. They had good ides but didn’t have much of an edit function on tracks.

Obscure in the US, except for a loving cult, Family’s albums charted well in the UK (three Top 10’s and two others at 14 and 15). But because of Chapman’s vocals, you probably want to stick to this compilation to start until you’re sure about them.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They reformed  the 1972 lineup of Chapman, Thownsend, Palmer and Creagan and are out on the boards in the UK and Europe.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 

GRADE: B: I can’t say you won’t be turned off by Chapman’s vocals. They’re probably much better with live records than on studio.