Category: Grade: B

Blink 182 – Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Blink-182 220px-Blink-182_-_Greatest_Hits_cover

TITLE: Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  #6 US, #6 UK

SINGLES: Top 20: Dammit (#11 Alternative), What’s My Age Again (#58 US, #2 Alternative, #17 UK), All the Small Things (#6 US, #1 Alternative, #2 UK), Adam’s Song (#101 US, #2 Alternative), Man Overboard (#117 US, #2 Alternative), The Rock Show (#71 US, #2 Alternative, #14 UK), First Date (#106 US, #6 Alternative, #31 UK), Feeling This (#102 US, #2 Alternative, #15 UK), Stay Together for the Kids (#116 US, #7 Alternative, #117 UK), I Miss You (#42 US, #1 Alternative, #8 UK), Down (#10 Alternative, #24 UK), Not Now (#18 Alternative, #30 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you knew more, you wouldn’t need a comp

LINEUP: Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker. Scott Raynor drummed on their first two albums and you can tell why they 86’d him.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Power pop punk was a hit making machine for a few years in the early 2000’s, but in retrospect were just a bit derivative and vapid.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: One notable thing about this collection is that it doesn’t ignore their two pre-hit albums. You hear right away the germination of their sound, and why they had to get rid of their original drummer.

But that sound, a power-pop crossed with punk hybrid with lyrics about early 20’s angst, was only good when they had hooky choruses that almost made you forget that some of the lyrics were hackneyed. As they grew more ambitious, and branched for a few chords and a hook, they got less interesting. When they stayed in their lane, it seemed like they were constrained and just repeated themselves. Their limitations boxed them in.

Yet it’s not without its charms. Blink-182 had a lot of charisma and fun in them and on occasion they satisfy. But over a long collection, their flaws become more apparent.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was released after their first breakup. Since rock never dies, they’ve been reunited a couple of times.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: This is one of two collections. The later stuff isn’t compiled, yet, and it doesn’t seem it would enhance anything. There are bonus UK and Japanese tracks for this, though.

 GRADE B: A collection like this is probably your safest bet for the Blink-182 experience overall. Still, it feels like you’re hearing either the same song over and over, or a different band that doesn’t know how to vary from a sound.

Sly & the Family Stone – Dance to the Music

ARTIST: Sly & the Family Stone  220px-Slyfamstone-dance

TITLE: Dance to the Music

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION:  #142

SINGLES: Dance to the Music (#8 US, #9 R&B, #7 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Higher (the original version, not the hit)

LINEUP: Sly Stone, Freddie Stone, Larry Graham, Rose Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, Gregg Errico. The group Little Sister did some backing vocals as well.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Hits, we need hits!” While they weren’t a fan of it at first, they found a formula that combined their egalitarian vocal arrangements, the upbeat politics, and their funky grooves and it struck gold. 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: First, you keep the peace and love lyrics, but then add each member getting a solo turn on vocals and / or their instrument, and keep the funky beat while making the record swing and radio ready. “Dance to the Music” was the result of their first experiment with that, and it was a smash success.

While there were some kinks to work out (the material wasn’t consistent and the medley at the end of side one kind of is a filler riffing on the single for the most part), the joyous nature of the songs and arrangement shine through.

It’s still not the place to start with this important band, but you can’t get the entire experience by compilations. Their albums from here until the mid-70’s were important culturally, as they reflected the optimism and the reality of the times.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Sister Rose Stone joined the band, and everyone joined in on ‘vocal improvisations’.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, some B-sides and stuff left on the cutting room floor.

GRADE B+: Yeah, there’s some filler here, but there’s some funky joy here and it points them toward their creative peaks.

Strawbs – Halcyon Days

ARTIST: Strawbs  Halcyon_days_uk

TITLE: Halcyon Days

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Charting: Lay Down (#12 UK), Part of the Union (#2 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Their albums charted here but really it was a select crowd.

LINEUP: Dave Cousins was the constant. Tony Hooper was his foil until 1973 or so. Dave Lambert, Ron Chesterman, John Ford, Chas Cronk, Richard Hudson, Ron Coombes, Rick Wakeman (yup!), Blue Weaver, and  John Hawken all appeared at some point.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Fantastic, if not overwhelming, collection from a UK band that straddled folk, psychedelic, prog, and glam (a bit). Leader Dave Cousins had a knack for melody and lyrics that allowed for various instrumentations and arrangements.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Strawbs started in 1964, but it wasn’t until 1969 that they got their first record deal and immediately gained a foothold in the UK in the folky / psychedelic / prog lane, near the Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, and some of the earlier Yes records. But they weren’t easy to pin down, as their sound evolved with the various band members coming through the group.

The constant was Dave Cousins, who had serious songwriting gifts. His songs were complex and led themselves to various arrangements. Sometimes they were long and pastoral meditations, some were suites in line with the progressive bands of the time (like King Crimson in the early 70’s) and then sometimes they were in step with the synth / mellotron / guitar progressive rock of the mid-70’s.

For those not knowing about them, it is a bit much to bite off at once, especially if you don’t think you’re totally on board. But just a few tracks (like the opener “The Man Who Called Himself Jesus”) should make you a believer on some level.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Sandy Dennis was in the band for a bit in 1967, and Rick Wakeman was on three albums before he decamped to Yes.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: There are two versions, as the band differentiated between US and UK markets with their promotion The US version has tracks in chronological order, and this approach makes sense. The UK version is scattered, and has several different tracks (and three not streaming – probably due to issues with Rick Wakeman’s contract). They also have solo work from Cousins and the UK version has tracks from spin off group Hudson Ford.

 GRADE B+: There’s some impressive stuff here that everyone should like, but most of it is probably great for prog fans and not so much for those who don’t dig that scene.

Shoes – Black Vinyl Shoes

ARTIST: Shoes  R-4444570-1365064987-9145.jpeg

TITLE: Black Vinyl Shoes

YEAR RELEASED: 1977

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Power pop mavens only

LINEUP: John Murphy, Jeff Murphy, Gary Klebe, Skip Murphy

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Indie before indie. Three friends from Zion, IL decided to form a band, and after three years released this on their own label selling it via mail order. It was then picked up by an established indie label, and the buzz started! R-5062814-1383492565-7635.jpeg

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: If you weren’t punk rock, you didn’t do what the Shoes did. They decided to form a band, went away for a year to learn instruments, brought in a drummer, recorded two acetates, then after 3 ½ years released this collection on their own label. They recorded in their own studio and did everything themselves, until PVC / Jem picked them up.

What do we have then? Polished power pop, with hooks and great choruses. The three principals (the Murphy brothers and Klebe) all sing in a similar airy, breathy way and harmonize well. For 1977 / 1978, the music press was gushing about this record, as an alternative to staid corporate rock and toward the promise of what Big Star and the Raspberries held a few years before.

And yes, there’s some resemblance to the Cars. But the Cars were local in Boston at this point without a record deal. The mined the same lode for their sounds, that’s all.

As a listener now, you get a sense that the band was almost ready to escape Zion, IL and go national. They crammed 15 tracks onto two sides of vinyl, and while this isn’t as consistently good as their major label records that would follow, it’s fairly amazing that kids from a Chicago suburb (almost Wisconsin) could do this all themselves without any help in the 70’s. R-2886208-1406157665-3279.jpeg

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They recorded two other albums before this – an acetate for the four of them, and a 300 count pressing that occurred when Klebe was in France.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE B+: You can sometimes tell this is in a home studio, if you really want to pick nits, but it’s pretty impressive record and got them noticed.

The Ohio Express – The Best of the Ohio Express

ARTIST: The Ohio Express R-3041990-1313008318.jpeg

TITLE: The Best of the Ohio Express

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Yummy Yummy Yummy (#4 US, #6 UK), Down at Lulu’s (#33 US), Chewy Chewy (#15 US), Sweeter than Sugar (#96 US), Mercy (#30 US), Pinch Me (Baby Convince Me) (#99 US), Sausalito (Is the Place to Go) (#86 US), Cowboy Convention (#101 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, I doubt it.

LINEUP: Joey Levine is the vocalist you know on their hits. 10cc stood in later (yep). There was a ‘real’ band that was featured on a few cuts their first album (second album?), sent off to tour, and were never seen again in the studio.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of best known Kasenetz–Katz ‘bands’ had a real band going around touring, but they didn’t play on any of their hit singles, which were radio gold..

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Kasenetz-Katz production empire was nothing if not efficient. The Ohio Express, the 1910 Fruitgum Company, the Music Explosion, and others relied on session musicians, shared backing tracks, and even the same songs released on the others B-sides. R-3556232-1335122443.jpeg (1)

Despite “Yummy Yummy Yummy” and “Chewy Chewy”, their other singles were better than the usual bubblegum fare. They had hooks galore and crack session players and the unique Joey Levine voice. When Levine left the production company due to a dispute (it’s always about the money) they drafted others in, like the masterminds behind 10cc, to keep up the groups appearance until the bubblegum fad faded.

Don’t try out their albums, since they really focused on singles, and the few cuts that the actual bad played on are gunky. They focused on the A-sides so much the B-sides were instrumentals, or songs run backwards.

This is damn fine pop candy for those inclined. Or, gum, I guess. Bubble Yum?

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The origins of the name and band Ohio Express are wild. Basically the ‘first’ album was patched together after the Kasenetz-Katz team bought a few songs and rebranded them Ohio Express from the Rare Breed, and then had others record stuff to fill it out, then found another group to become the Ohio Express for album two.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but there are other comps with different tracks. Beware of re-recordings. And seek out the original “Cowboy Convention” on comps that are not streaming.

 GRADE B-: I mean, it’s pop fluff, but it’s tasty. I can’t help it.

Pink Floyd – Obscured by Clouds

ARTIST: Pink Floyd 220px-Pink_Floyd_-_Obscured_by_Clouds

TITLE: Obscured By Clouds

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION:  #46 US, #6 UK

SINGLES: Free Four

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: You’re getting into deep deep cut Floyd here

LINEUP: David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Richard Wright

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pink Floyd interrupts some sessions to complete this soundtrack to a French art-house movie. It hangs together pretty well despite it all.

 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The director of More, Barbet Schroeder, had asked Pink Floyd to record the soundtrack for his next project. When he was ready for that, the band had moved on to start sessions for what became Dark Side of the Moon, but they stopped work in order to record some tracks for the movie La Vallee.

The result was an album that cohered much better than their other soundtrack work, and was made-up of rather concise songs that worked well for the film, but also was an album that worked as a separate piece (unlike their other soundtracks). While not as sonically adventurous or groundbreaking as their past work and work to come, they did use some new toys like a VCS3 synthesizer

It was a rush job from concept to completion, but only a couple of tracks are filler or just bland, and a few tracks, like the instrumental 1-2 to begin the record and “The Gold It’s in The…”, “Childhood’s End”, and “Wot’s…Uh the Deal?” need more recognition as songs in the upper echelon of their canon.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Childhood’s End” is the last song with lyrics by someone other than Roger Waters until the band splintered in the 80’s

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B: It has its charms and it’s good to just put on and chill for the most part.

Cliff Richard – 40 Golden Greats

ARTIST: Cliff Richard  40-Golden-Greats-Cliff-Richard

TITLE: 40 Golden Greats

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  #1 UK

SINGLES: All of ‘em, and most all were huge in the UK

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, only three tracks here were Top 40 hits in the US. You tell me.

LINEUP: Cliff Richard and the Shadows and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Without Cliff Richard, the UK rock scene would be a totally different world.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Cliff Richard could rock, croon, swing, sing country, and do almost anything he was asked to do in the 50’s and 60’s, and his success in the UK and then Europe was incredible. He had 34 Top 10 UK hits in the 60’s and almost as many in Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway.

His backing band, the Shadows, was almost as famous, and for an early rock-and-roll combo they’re one of the best. But they didn’t always use them, as many of tracks (such as his second US hit “It’s All in the Game”) used an orchestra instead of rock.

The fact that he never made real inroads in the US until the mid-70’s is a mystery, but that’s what happened. As the 60’s moved on, he fell behind the times, and went more into a vocal pop direction (and recorded Eurovision songs). So this 40 track extravaganza (ending in 1977) may be a bit much for casual fans, but any rock fan can find several nuggets for your collection

 NOTES & MINUTIAE: This collection doesn’t have a few of his bigger late 70’s and early 80’s hits, and those are found on their respective albums.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Isn’t 40 enough?

GRADE B: It’s a lot to bite off, and there’s schmaltz and treacle, but he’s an important and historical rock figure.

Del Shannon – Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Del Shannon R-3844037-1363413923-3560.jpeg

TITLE: Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Top 20: Runaway (#1 US, #1 UK), Hats Off to Larry (#5 US, #6 UK), So Long Baby (#28 US, #10 UK), Hey! Little Girl (#38 US, #2 UK), The Swiss Maid (#62 US, #2 UK), Little Town Flirt (#12 US, #4 UK), Two Kinds of Teardrops (#50 US, #5 UK), Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow the Sun) (##9 US, #3 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Stranger in Town, Handy Man, Do You Wanna Dance

LINEUP: Del Shannon and session players. Max Crook was the inventor and player of the Musitron, which gave Shannon’s records that neat keyboard sound.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: An unlikely pop star for the early 60’s, as he was almost 27 and wrote his own songs, Shannon deserved more accolades for his entire work, but Runaway is still an all-timer.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Del Shannon met Max Crook in 1959, and together the two changed rock music for good in 1961 when they struck gold with “Runaway” featuring Crook’s Musitron as a lead instrument. The Musitron was arguably a synthesizer and that keyboard sound helped widen the sound of music besides simple piano or organ.

Besides “Runaway”, Shannon had a decent pre-Beatlemania career in the US, and a longer stretch of hits in the UK (where the Beatles were big fans). But as time went along, Shannon fell out of favor despite embracing psychedelic pop for a couple of fine late 60’s records.

This collection has all of the early 60’s high points and shows that Shannon’s songwriting had some depth (even if the Musitron solos all were similar in his early stuff), with the only nit to pick was the anonymous and very white female backup singers. He later had alcohol and depression issues, and took his life in his mid 50’s even as he was being considered to replace Roy Orbison in the Traveling Wilburys.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He was the first US artist to cover the Beatles, as his version of “From Me to You” which hit #77 in the US (and was the flip to a hit in the UK).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The Rhino version isn’t streaming, but there is one streaming that adds on three later songs instead of the final three tracks. You take what you can get.

 GRADE B+: “Runaway” is an all-timer, and some of his other hits are must have for your collection.

Blackfoot – Strikes

ARTIST: Blackfoot 220px-Blackfoot_-_Strikes

TITLE: Strikes

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #42

SINGLES: Highway Song (#26), Train Train (#38)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover songs by Spirit, Blues Image and Free

LINEUP: Rickey Medlocke, Charlie Hargrett, Greg T. Walker, Jason Spires. Pat McCaffrey plays keyboards. Donna Davis, Pamela Vincent, and Cynthia Douglas sing backup Shorty Medlocke and Cub Koda play harmonica.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After many years and two failed albums, Southern rockers finally get some success.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Before this album came out, Blackfoot had been together off-and-on since the early 70’s, and had recorded two basically unheard albums in the mid-70’s. Leader Ricky Medlocke’s grandfather wrote “Train Train” and added the harmonica beginning which became the touchstone track for the band.

With only one other hit single to their credit (“Highway Song”), you’d be surprised that this album isn’t…bad at all. They cover three tracks that fit their style and the other originals aren’t slap-dash either.  What is odd that the two hits are the last two tracks on the album, with “Highway Song’ extended to 7 ½ minutes (the 70’s man). But you know, whatever. The production and the embellishments with the female backing vocals and some keyboards keep this away from strict guitar boogie.

Southern rock was waning, and Blackfoot was one of the last ones that carried the banner of that genre (along with .38 Special). While this isn’t award winning, for those who like that Southern rock type of boogie, you could do worse.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The last name of Rickey and Shorty was actually Medlock, but Shorty added the “e” and his grandson followed.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B: For a band that’s kind of an afterthought (and looked down upon at times), this is decent enough to keep around.

Barry Goudreau – Barry Goudreau

ARTIST: Barry Goudreau

TITLE: Barry Goudreau

YEAR RELEASED: 1980220px-Barry_goudreau

CHART ACTION: #88

SINGLES: Dreams (#103)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Barry Goudreau, Sib Hashian, and Brad Delp or Fran Cosmo signing lead.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: When Tom Scholz put Boston on hiatus, he encouraged other band mates to do other projects. Ta da!

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Barry Goudreau was the ‘other’ guitarist in Boston (basically learned Scholz’ stuff for the stage for the most part), and when Boston went on hiatus while Tom Scholz fought the record company, he grabbed drummer Sib Hashian, and singer Brad Delp to record some tracks that Scholz rejected for Boston albums.

Kind of “Boston” light, in a way, and that’s how it was promoted.

It kinda had the Boston sound thanks to Delp being on vocals on 2/3 of the record (Fran Cosmo sang on the other 1/3 – and in the mid-90’s Cosmo became Boston’s studio vocalist – go figure) but it didn’t have the meticulous Boston sound (airtight and oh-so clean), and the songs didn’t quite have the same impact or power. Only in a few instances do you get that Boston guitar sound, and it’s not exactly right either.

But I really was expecting worse, for some reason. This is a passably decent rock-and-roll record, and if it wasn’t related to Boston it may not have had the high expectations that some put on it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: By 1983, Goudreau and Cosmo had formed Orion the Hunter, and later Goudreau and Delp formed RTZ

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B-: There’s some Boston-esque sounds here, and some decent rock-and-roll tracks. So if you’re into that, it doesn’t hurt to give this a whirl.