Category: Grade: B

Molly Hatchet – Molly Hatchet

ARTIST: Molly Hatchet                220px-Molly_Hatchet_-_Molly_Hatchet

TITLE: Molly Hatchet

YEAR RELEASED: 1978

CHART ACTION: #64

SINGLES: Dreams I’ll Never See

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Bounty Hunter, Gator Country

LINEUP: Danny Joe Brown, Dave Hlubek, Steve Holland, Duane Roaldn, Banner Thomas, Bruce Crump. Jai Winding played keyboards

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut album takes the torch from Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers, though not as successfully.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Florida’s Molly Hatchet was the next group up for Southern Rock fans, after the demise of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the meander to irrelevance of the Allman Brothers. This debut, in fact, covers “Dreams” by the Allman brothers, albeit with a new title and a different arrangement.

The three guitar lineup for Molly Hatchet was tight, without a lot of overplaying and or showing off. Some tracks really work (“Gator Country” and “Dreams I’ll Never See”) and some just seem perfunctory. The main difference for the band is the distinctive voice of Danny Joe Brown. That voice was a signature element of Molly Hatchet during their hitmaking years.

All in all, this is decently decent. There’s nothing that makes your head hurt, nor anything that makes you really want to play this 250 times in a row.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The cover paining is by Frank Frazetta, titled “The Death Dealer”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B: Not their best, far from their worst.

Cat Stevens – Matthew & Son

ARTIST: Cat Stevens                         220px-Matthew_and_Son_cover

TITLE: Matthew & Son

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #173 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: I Love My Dog (#118 US, #28 UK), Matthew & Son (#115 US, #2 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Here Comes My Baby

LINEUP: Cat Stevens, John Paul Jones, Nicky Hopkins, other session players

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A young singer and songwriter releases and album with a surprise hit or two in the UK.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is more of a pop oriented album than his more famous work, but that doesn’t mean its  just trifly throwaways.

Cat Stevens was just 18 when he started to record this album with some sessions that became singles and slowly worked on the album as time allowed. When it was released, it was better than you’d expect. The original for “Here Comes My Baby” is surprisingly strong with interesting percussion and the two hits are definitely keepers.

His voice is pretty unmistakable, even in his teenage years. The downfall is some of the tracks are a bit over-orchestrated and Stevens struggles to find his voice in the midst of the orchestrations. Still it’s pretty darn decent as these things go.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: In the US, they cut it from 14 tracks to 12, of course.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes a later single “I’m Gonna Get Me a Gun” (#6 UK)

 GRADE B: A baroque-pop album with little filler but a tad too much orchestration at times.

AC / DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

ARTIST: AC / DC                                                                220px-Dirty_Deeds_Done_Dirt_Cheap_(ACDC_album_-_cover_art0

TITLE: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

YEAR RELEASED: 1976 (except for the US, where it was 1981)

CHART ACTION: #3 (finally, in 1981). Top 5 in Australia!

SINGLES: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (#4 Mainstream, #47 UK), Love at First Feel, Ride On. Jailbreak was on the Aussie album and hit #10 there.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Big Balls, Problem Child

LINEUP: Bon Scott, Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Mark Evans, Phil Rudd

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Now a classic piece of wax, this was passed over by their US record company until AC/DC became too big to ignore.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Somehow, the geniuses at Atlantic Records thought an album “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and “Problem Child” wasn’t worth releasing. Well, that wasn’t too bright was it? 220px-ACDC_Dirty_Deeds_Done_Dirt_Cheap_Aus_Front

Sure, some of the filler is definitely filler, and “Big Balls” is fine for 12-year olds everywhere, but there’s enough good stuff here to forgive some of the puerile stuff. Most of the tracks rock despite the cringe on your face, and it’s all in good fun, innit?

The Australian version and the International / US Version had some big differences, and really the latter version flows better but loses two good tracks and adds just one.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The International Version added “Love at First Feel” (a plus) and “Rocker” (meh) and loses “RIP (Rock In Peace)” and “Jailbreak” (both minuses).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No unless you count the two versions.

 GRADE B: Any record with “Problem Child” gets an upgrade!

Robert Palmer – The Very Best of the Island Years

ARTIST: Robert Palmer            palmer

TITLE: The Very Best of the Island Years

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #45 US, #10 UK

SINGLES: Top 40: Every Kinda People (#16 US, #53 UK), Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor) (#14 US, #61 UK), Looking for Clues (#105 US, #33 UK), Some Guys Have All the Luck (#59 Mainstream, #16 UK), Addicted to Love (#1 US, #1 Mainstream, #5 UK), Hyperactive (#33 US, #21 Mainstream), I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On (#2 US, #3 Mainstream, #9 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Man Smart Woman Smarter, Johnny and Mary. Simply Irresistible is here as a live track.

LINEUP: Robert Palmer. Early on he had help from the Meters and Little Feat then played with all kinds of session musicians

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A pretty complete overview of the best tracks from the UK singer that goes through all of his twists and turns.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting out as a blue-eyed soul with a tinge of reggae singer (the first three tracks here are the first three from his debut album and show off all of the styles), then moving towards pop, album rock, new wave, and finally the huge arena rock sound, Robert Palmer was definitely a chameleon.

Palmer’s career was up-and-down for the longest time until he formed the Power Station with refugees from Duran Duran and Chic. That success catapulted him into stardom, and his Riptide album, with “Addicted to Love” cashed in big time.

Still, Palmer’s albums were inconsistent, and hearing “Man Smart Woman Smarter”, you can’t really think it’s the same guy who sang “Bad Case of Loving You”, or “Johnny and Mary”. But he is.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: A lot of the other compilations are ‘remixed’ and those remixes were…not good. And after Riptide, his stuff declined.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE B+: There’s some great stuff here, but it feels like product for the most part. Good product, but product just the same.

Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel 2: Scratch

ARTIST: Peter Gabriel                        220px-Peter_Gabriel_(self-titled_album,_1978_-_cover_art)

TITLE: Peter Gabriel : Scratch

YEAR RELEASED: 1978

CHART ACTION: #45 US, #10 UK

SINGLES: DIY

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: On the Air

LINEUP: Peter Gabriel, Robert Fripp, Tony Levin, Roy Bittan, Larry Fast, Jerry Marotta, Sid McGinnis, Todd Cochran, George Marge, Tim Cappello

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second solo album from Gabriel is a collaboration with Robert Fripp in terms of sound and structure.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Peter Gabriel and Robert Fripp made an interesting combo. Fripp at the time, as both a producer and performer, was heavily into sequences and his “Frippertronics”, while Gabriel’s penchant for arty rock was allowed free reign with Fripp. The result is an intriguing album, more progressive than pop, and not one to convert the masses to either Fripp or Gabriel.

“On the Air” and “DIY” are relatively straight forward, with “DIY” being a tribute to the punk scene that threatened Gabriel and his progressive rock movement. After that, Gabriel and Fripp move away towards various styles and mostly hearkens back to the some of the deep cuts in Genesis.

While worthy, it doesn’t stand up as well as other Gabriel solo albums in his early phase, and is usually regarded as the lesser one, though it was the most ambitious.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Allegedly, this album was part of a trilogy with albums by Fripp and Daryl Hall. The shelving of Hall’s Fripp-produced album put paid to that idea.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE B: It just leaves one cold a bit, and the production seems a bit flat for all of the experimentation.

Heart – Little Queen

ARTIST: Heart                                              Little_Queen_Heart

TITLE: Little Queen

YEAR RELEASED: 1977

CHART ACTION: #9 US, #34 UK

SINGLES: Barracuda (#11), Little Queen (#62), Kick it Out (#79), Love Alive

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not unless you had this

LINEUP: Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson, Roger Fisher, Howard Leese, Steve Fossen, Michael DeRosier

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Wilson sisters and band rush released this album to capitalize on their monster hit, and it’s a diverse mix of rock, folk, and prog.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Though Magazine was to be their official second album, Ann and Nancy Wilson were rightfully angry at their record company for some shenanigans, resulting in the song “Barracuda”, a change in record company, and the old company releasing Magazine as a half-done, half-baked album.

A longer story ensues, needless to say this is the proper second album and I’m skipping Magazine for good reason.

Though most of their radio hits were hard rockin’, this second album picks up a lot of folk elements from their first, and even extends them into prog territory thanks to multi-everything Howard Leese. The diversity is impressive and instrumentally, they can pull it off.

Yet, showing some strain and some rushed out tracks, not everything works well. The second side especially shows some dreaded filler. It’s still a good record, but could have been better had they had time.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They won a court order that allowed this album to be released, and they re-mixed Magazine as best they could.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a version with a demo version and a live cut from 1976.

GRADE B+: Some interesting arrangements and good rock-and-roll, but some filler drags it down.

Hall & Oates – Abandoned Luncheonette

ARTIST: Hall & Oates       Hall_and_Oates,_Abandoned_Luncheonette_(1973)

TITLE: Abandoned Luncheonette

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #33 US

SINGLES: She’s Gone (#60 US on first release; #7 US, #42 UK on re-release)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Ooh…maybe Lady Rain??

LINEUP: Daryl Hall, John Oates and session hotshots like Chris Bond, Hugh McCracken, Jerry Marotta, Steve Gelfand, Bernard Purdie, and more…

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album by the duo finds their sweet spot in an updated blue-eyed soul sound, with a couple of tracks not working this time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Daryl Hall & John Oates moved from their hometown of Philly to New York to take in that scene and work with Arif Mardin on their album. Together, they crafted a sound that was the start of the classic Hall & Oates sound.

This collection is fine for the most part, with a couple of highlights like “Lady Rain”, and the all-timer “She’s Gone”. Oates had more tracks on this record than the usual release, and his tracks aren’t the weaker ones.

The record kind of goes off the rails at the end – with “Laughing Boy” kind of a messy solo performance by Hall (though he loved to play it in concert) and the final track which goes from blue-eyed soul to a…hoedown…for some reason. Well, just stop it after “Lady Rain” then.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This is supposedly the duo’s favorite record that they did.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B+: Wow, those last two tracks derailed it. The first seven cuts were good to great to all-timer, and then…

Kim Mitchell – Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Kim Mitchell                    kimmitchell

TITLE: Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Most all of these songs were in Canada. He had two charting ones here: Go For Soda (#86, #12 Rock) and Patio Lanterns (#36 Rock)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not in this country, but Canadians of an age would know most of these.

LINEUP: Kim Mitchell, Pye Dubois, and a couple of different groups of musicians depending on when.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Earnest Canadian rocker’s solo career (after a stint leading Max Webster) produced some enjoyable, but not essential, 80’s rock.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Either the Trailer Park Boys or Canadian radio stations would be the only points of entry to the world of Kim Mitchell. Perhaps, like me, you remembered “Go For Soda”, which is an enjoyable piece of rock that stood out in the 80’s because of what it wasn’t – hair metal, new wave, or new romantic.

Mitchell led Max Webster, a Canadian FM radio staple in the 70’s, before starting his solo career. This collection serves as a good overview of his peak period, and while at times he can fall into Foreigner territory (especially in the ballads – ick), his straight ahead rock songs are decent enough that won’t make you skip over the tracks.

Mitchell never got a foothold in the US, as only one LP charted here, but just go north of the border and they can remember his career fondly.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: His highest charting Canadian track was “America”, which hit #3 in 1992.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B-: I don’t have strong nostalgia for him (except “Go For Soda”), but I can see why he’s still remembered up in Canada and on their version of Classic Rock radio.

James Taylor – James Taylor

ARTIST: James Taylor     James_Taylor,_James_Taylor_(1968)

TITLE: James Taylor

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: #62

SINGLES: Carolina On My Mind (#118), Knocking ‘Round the Zoo, Something’s Wrong

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Something In The Way She Moves

LINEUP: James Taylor, Mick Wayne, Louie Cennamo, Freddie Redd, Don Shinn, Bishop O’Brien. Paul McCartney and George Harrison guested on one track. Richard Hewson arranged all the strings so you can blame him for those.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut album on Apple Records didn’t sell and wasn’t promoted well. But it had a few lasting tracks, and others almost ruined by string interludes and syrup.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After failing to hit the big time with his band (called The Flying Machine – no, not that one), Taylor was signed as a solo artist on Apple Records after auditioning for Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Harrison nicked the first line of “Something” from a Taylor track.

When Taylor plays along with the studio musicians, and without the orchestra, it’s a perfectly nice folk-rock record. A track like “Taking It In” shows some liveliness and uses a harpsichord along with a nice bassline and acoustic guitar, while Mick Wayne’s lead in the opener “Don’t Talk Now” is strong.

BUT – dang it – Peter Asher and Richard Hewson added string interludes and a lot of syrup on tracks and in between tracks as interludes. Those wreck the continuity and detract from the intimacy of the record. Ack!

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Knockin’ Round the Zoo” references Taylor’s old bandmate Danny Kortchmar.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A few demos and a B-side were appended.

GRADE  B-: I can rescue a few tracks from this, if I can somehow zap the string interludes.

David Gray – Greatest Hits

ARTIST: David Gray                  David_Gray_Greatest_hits_Album_Cover (1)

TITLE: Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #96 US, #11 UK

SINGLES: Top 40: This Year’s Love (#20 UK), Babylon (#57 US, #5 UK), Please Forgive Me (#18 UK), Sail Away (#26 UK), The Other Side (#35 UK), Be Mine (#23 UK), The One I Love (#8 UK), Hospital Food (#34 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Shine (though this is live, another collection has a 25th anniversary version, which isn’t the original either. That’s on yet ANOTHER collection)

LINEUP: David Gray, Craig McClune, and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: This collection captures his hit making era, mostly, and it’s a decent introduction to the singer-songwriter.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After struggling for years to make it in a more acoustic manner, producing some unheard songs for his cult, Gray moved into an electric and electronic milieu, combining electronica and lush production with his songs.

Commercially, in the UK, it was a hit. Here in the states, he’s still a cult artist. These things happen.

Gray’s got a touch for melody and sings from the heart, but while the sheen of his production may have gotten him on the radio, in my ears it sounds a bit busy and over-produced.

There’s another, later, collection which has a later version of the song that introduced him (“Shine”), and a collection of his folkier stuff (which I like “Late Night Radio”) but this is as good as you’ll get for the most part.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The British press dubbed him ‘folktronica’, though only a few songs really fit that, and that’s because it has electronic drums.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE B: The cult has all of his records, but for me, this is about all I need.