Category: Grade: B

Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

ARTIST: Mayhem 

TITLE: De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, probably now thanks to documentaries and books and such

LINEUP: Atilla Csihar, Euronymous, Count Grisnackh, Hellhammer

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Infamous Norwegian black metal album featuring a murderer and his victim.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Mayhem caused same in Norway in the 90’s, with a suicide (a photo of the aftermath later became an album cover), a link to church burnings, and well, murder. Count Grisnackh (Varg Vikiernes) stabbed bassist Euronymous (Oystein Aarseth) during a dispute. They put the album out that they recorded anyway, because, metal.

As for the music, it’s an influential black metal album with creepy distorted vocals from Atilla Csihar (formerly of Tormentor), and sheets and sheets of riffs from Euronymous. Hellhammer (Jan Axel Blomberg) drums in the usual double-kick fashion. The drawback is that the songs are long, and don’t go much of anywhere.

I can see why this is influential despite the notoriety – the riffs are mega-normous and the basswork from Vikiernes is stellar. But, it seems like it’s all one song.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The original singer of the band, who went by Dead, killed himself. Along with the photo, Euronymous took pieces of his skull and made necklaces for the members of the scene. That’s metal, man.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B: Individually, the songs work, but they just bend together. I EXILED it because it’s just too too same same.

Roger Miller – All Time Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Roger Miller 

TITLE: All Time Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 10: Dang Me (#7 US, #1 Country), Chug-A-Lug (#9 US, #3 Country), King of the Road (#4 US, #1 Country, #1 UK), Engine Engine #9 (#7 US, #2 Country, #33 UK), One Dyin’ and a Buryin’ (#10 Country, #34 US), Kansas City Star (#31 US, #7 Country, #48 UK), England Swings (#8 US, #3 Country, #13 UK), Husbands and Wives (#26 US, #5 Country), Walkin’ in the Sunshine (#37 US, #7 Country), Little Green Apples (#39 US, #6 Country)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd, My Unlce Used to Love Me but She Died, Do Wacka Do

LINEUP: Roger Miller, Buddy Harman, Bob Moore, Ray Edenton and others

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Collection of the memorable hits from the country songwriter and funnyman.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Roger Miller not only was a major country personality, he was a songwriter that penned most of his own tracks and established a legacy with “King of the Road”.

In the mid-to-late 60’s, his songs were all over the radio, and he was a major television personality on variety and game shows, which led to acting roles and even work in Broadway later in life. For all that, he’s most remembered for his hits in 1964 and 1965.

He wanted to be a serious songwriter along with his funny stuff, but aside from “King of the Road” they weren’t as successful. Miller’s legacy is the funny stuff that kids loved, and a song about hobos.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: His original session lasted two days in 1964 and resulted in 1 ½ albums of material.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but there are other collections.

 GRADE B: You picks and chooses, but the funny stuff is his best.

 

Ozzy Osbourne – Diary of a Madman

ARTIST: Ozzy Osbourne

TITLE: Diary of a Madman

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #16 US, #14 UK

SINGLES: Tonight, Flying High Again (#2 Mainstream), Over the Mountain (#38 Mainstream)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads, Bob Daisley, Lee Kerslake, Johnny Cook on keyboards.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Ozzy’s second album as a solo artist utilizes the strengths of his band and shows his creative juices weren’t spent after his first solo album.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Showing that the Blizzard of Ozz wasn’t a fluke, Diary of a Madman continues his creative roll. Utilizing the talents of Randy Rhoads’ flashy guitar, Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake as lyricists and songwriting foils, and his ability to get convincingly deep inside his Ozzy character, Osbourne creates another record worthy of his legacy.

Rhoads comes into his own here, propelling many of the songs with his guitar and his sound. Even potentially trite ballads like “You Can’t Kill Rock & Roll” shine with his drive and sound.

The downfall of this album is that the songs, while good to great, go on too long. There were only eight of ‘em, and I know you gotta fill an album, but why not write a ninth to cut down on some of the length so it doesn’t sound too bloated?

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Again, Sharon Osborne reared her head, withholding credits and firing Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake after this album was in the can. On the original releases, the only people credited properly were Ozzy and Randy

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: As with his debut, the 2002 remaster replaces Daisley and Kerslake out of spite. Avoid.

 GRADE B+: Had the songs been tighter, it would have been an easy A-.

Stellastarr* – Harmonies for the Haunted

ARTIST: Stellastarr*

TITLE: Harmonies for the Haunted

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: #12 Heatseeker

SINGLES: Sweet Troubled Soul (#37 Dance)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Arthur Kremer, Shawn Christensen, Amanda Tannen, Michael Jurin

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from NY band finds them in a more dance-oriented mood rhythmically, but still has a foot into the alt-rock scene.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Perhaps taking a nod from the trends in NYC happening at the time (with Interpol and the Rapture), Stellastarr moved themselves toward a dance-oriented rhythm, while still blasting guitars out to the fore, and singer Shawn Christensen still over-singing a bit. His enunciation on the pre-chorus to “The Diver” is cringe-worthy for sure.

What this album has is “Sweet Troubled Soul”, an all-timer of a track and head-and-shoulders above everything on this record. The other tracks are OK, but without that track the album would just be a trend-hopping exercise by a band that never really knew what it wanted to be anyway.

Still, “Sweet Troubled Soul” is worthwhile and the other tracks are decent enough to keep. So, one track saves the day.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This album was first issued with the blasted Media Max software that kept legit buyers from ripping a copy for their iPod.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but the copies streaming now don’t have the hidden track. So an anti-deluxe?

GRADE B+: It’s really a regression with one track pumping the grade up two notches.

Brave Belt – Brave Belt

ARTIST: Brave Belt  R-6067485-1410234025-6141.jpeg

TITLE: Brave Belt

YEAR RELEASED: 1971

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Rock and Roll Band, Crazy Arms Crazy Eyes

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not unless you were in Canada in 1971 or so

LINEUP: Randy Bachman, Chad Allan, Rob Bachman. C. F. Turner, not a member yet, sings backup a couple of times.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After leaving the Guess Who, Randy Bachman joins with former Guess Who singer Chad Allan and his brother Rob to form a country-tinged band based in Winnipeg.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Fans still shocked about Randy Bachman leaving the Guess Who were also surprised when he formed Brave Belt with his brother as the drummer and the former lead singer of the Guess Who, Chad Allan.

More shock came to fans when the band was more of a country-rock flavored outfit than the harder edged Guess Who.

There are some rockers here for sure. But Allan was turning more toward a country-folk sound with his songs. Randy Bachman was also singing in his gentle falsetto. This was a transitional band, as Bachman was finding his bearings after leaving the hit machine of the Guess Who. It’s not that exciting, but it’s interesting as a minor point of rock history.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: C. F. Turner joined as the bass player after the basic tracks (Randy Bachman played the bass) but did sing backup on a few tracks.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B-: Most of the songs are OK. They are well played, of course, thanks to Randy Bachman’s virtuosity. But you can take this or leave it.

Scorpions – Tokyo Tapes

ARTIST: The Scorpions

TITLE: Tokyo Tapes

YEAR RELEASED: 1978

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: All Night Long

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe, if you’re a fan of early Scorps

LINEUP: Klaus Meine, Uli Jon Roth, Rudolf Schenker, Francis Buchholz, Herman Raraebell

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Capping the Uli Jon Roth album with a double live in front of an adoring fan base in Japan, the Scorps play their hits, and indulge in double-live album excesses. It was the 70’s.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The double live album. What would rock fans in the 70’s do without it? This one is perfect to check out the various Scorpions’ 70’s tracks that are scattered over several compilations.

The Scorpions iteration with Uli Jon Roth was a little more arty as Roth liked to extend songs with guitar solos. The bad news is that Roth also sang a few tracks, and he’s no Klaus Meine. Not even close. His vocals kill “Polar Nights”, but dang he can play.

There are some indulgences (of course), including two covers of old rock songs and an old Japanese song, along with a lot of soloing (including a drum solo in “Top of the Bill”). Still, this is a prime collection of 70’s Scorpions.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The first re-issue of the CD left off “Polar Nights” since they wanted it on one disc.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, they restored “Polar Nights” and added more live tracks, including the Japanese anthem and four repeat tracks from another show.

 GRADE B: It’s a 70’s live double, so it is long and indulgent. But it’s still a good overview and the playing is great.

 

Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs

ARTIST: Syd Barrett                    Sydbarrett-madcaplaughs

TITLE: The Madcap Laughs

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #40 UK

SINGLES: Octopus (#11 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Terrapin, Dark Globe

LINEUP: Syd Barrett, David Gilmour, Jerry Shirley, Willie Wilson, Robert Wyatt, Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After being excused from Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett records his first solo album in fits and starts, and it’s kind of shambolic, and charming.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Syd Barrett’s story, in fact, the recording of this album, takes a volume or two. So, in short, Barrett took about 18 months to record this, sessions here and there, and finally it took an effort from former bandmates Roger Waters and David Gilmour to get the thing done.

As you can imagine, the albums a bit chaotic. Sometimes, members of the Soft Machine overdubbed onto the tracks. Sometimes it was Gilmour and Jerry Shirley from Humble Pie. Sometimes, it was just Syd.

His voice is shaky at times, the songs seem to be on the verge of breaking apart, and one track shouldn’t have been included at all due to false starts and the like. Still, the songs are charming and playful at times – or at least they sound like it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Gilmour / Waters sessions had to be fit around their Pink Floyd obligations for touring and recording, so that was some of the delay.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, some alternate takes.

GRADE B: Syd’s solo stuff is probably an acquired taste, though there’s quality here.

The Idle Race – Back to the Story

ARTIST: The Idle Race                                             

TITLE: Back to the Story

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: No

SINGLES: Imposters of Life’s Magazine, Here We Go ‘Round the Lemon Tree, The End of the Road, The Skeleton and the Roundabout, Come with Me, Days of Broken Arrow, Neanderthal Man, In the Summertime

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only UK pop-psychedelic and ELO zealots, and I mean zealots.

LINEUP: Jeff Lynne, Greg Masters, Dave Pritchard, Roger Spencer. Mike Hopkins and Dave Walker later replaced Lynne.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Jeff Lynne’s band before the Move, and then ELO, shows him mining the exact same ground, but without a production budget.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The production’s not the best (bands that don’t sell singles have to make do with what they got then), and there’s a bit too much music hall (their first album, especially), but when you listen, you can hear Jeff Lynne through and through. The baroque touches, the evocation of the Beatles’ psychedelic era, the melodic sense – it’s Jeff Lynne all the way through.

This collection is a true compendium of the Idle Race. It’s everything they recorded for them, even the album that they put together after Lynne decamped for the Move in 1970. Now for non-zealots, you may want to skip around, and hit the part of the collection with their singles before diving in (the start of CD2), but for those curious in the development of ELO (and to marvel how long Lynne has been doing this – A LONG TIME!) this is good to pick up.

What’s sketchy is that third album, the one after Lynne left. The record company wanted them to release contemporary covers as singles, and they complied, and then gave them another album, but it’s far away from Lynne’s material.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Idle Race developed from the Nightriders, a popular Birmingham (UK) club band that Lynne joined and soon took over and moved them toward the pop-psychedelic side.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: At first, two Nightriders tracks were on the compilation, but they disappeared when it was reissued.

 GRADE B: It’s got some charms, but you can easily compress it down to a collection of your liking.

Alacrán – Alacrán

ARTIST: Alacrán 

TITLE: Alacrán

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Sticky

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, hell to the no

LINEUP: Ignacio Egana, Fernando Arbex, Oscar Lasprilla

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Spanish group records a psychedelic blues album ala Santana.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Well, well, well. Listening to obscure compilations helps. This record was kind of big in Brazil, and the single did well in Spain, but it wasn’t released anywhere else and the band soon ended when Lasprilla left to go to London.

What we have here is enjoyable bluesy, psychedelic rock, sung in English, that wouldn’t have been out of place in the playlists of 1970 FM radio here in the US. The single “Sticky” definitely has the certain catchiness that could have been a radio staple.

For crate diggers or compilation weirdos (like me), finding something like this is impressive. This is only six tracks, and it’s not the best thing ever. It’s good enough and entertaining enough that I’m keeping it in the catalog.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Arbex and Egana formed Barrabas, which had some hits in Europe with a revolving lineup and a US record deal.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE B: Not a bad find.

REO Speedwagon – R.E.O.

ARTIST: REO Speedwagon      220px-R.E.O.

TITLE: R.E.O.

YEAR RELEASED: 1976

CHART ACTION: #159

SINGLES: Keep Pushin’

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Flying Turkey Trot, (I Believe) Our Time Is Gonna Come

LINEUP: Kevin Cronin, Gary Richrath, Neil Doughty, Gregg Philbin, Alan Gratzer

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After an exile, Kevin Cronin returns to REO, thankfully.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: For their sixth studio album, REO Speedwagon welcomes back Kevin Cronin, who wrote their best-known (to that date) song, yet was forced out (or quit) before it was released and the vocals re-recorded.,

The band had released half-hearted records, but the addition of Cronin gave Gary Richrath some songwriting competition and allowed the material to improve. It still was just mediocre Midwestern rock, but it was an improvement.

“Keep Pushin’”, the lead cut, was the best track since “Ridin’ the Storm Out”, and “(I Believe) Our Time Is Gonna Come” is a pre-cursor to their huge 1980 hits. So, this is an improvement, and not an album you’ll throw out as soon as you hear it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band approached Greg Volz to be the new singer, but he became a Born-Again Christian (and later formed Stryper), thus the return of Cronin.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B-: It’s not horrible, just a bit blah.