Category: Grade: B

Misfits – Misfits

ARTIST: Misfits 220px-Misfits_-_Misfits_(Collection_I)_cover

TITLE: Misfits (a/k/a Collection 1)

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Bullet, Horror Business, Night of the Living Dead, Die Die My Darling

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Where Eagles Dare

LINEUP: Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only. The majority of tracks were with Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein or Bobby Steele on guitar, and Arthur Googy on drums.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Probably the best place to start for the Misfits.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Thank goodness cooler heads prevailed, and the Misfits early catalog is available now. This is probably the best collection of that material – as it chose the strongest material and most seminal work.

The Misfits legal docket and personnel problems are probably longer and more complex than about any other band from that era. That caused their catalog to be intermittently available, albums to be unreleased, and tracks re-recorded with other musicians in some instances.

This is the Misfits in their more punk rock / horror punk phase than anything they did later, and while the tunes are a bit same-same as you move along, there’s some essential stuff like “Bullet” and “Die Die My Darling” that was so influential to bands that followed.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There are two other collections, Legacy of Brutality and Collection II, which have other early Misfits material, though they have more of the re-recorded material when Danzig was trying to keep the royalties to himself.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but there was a box set available with all of the early Misfits tracks.

GRADE B. Not always recorded in the best fidelity, and sometimes they repeat themselves, but for those wanting to know what the deal was about the Misfits, here is the stuff you need to hear.

Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods

ARTIST: Silversun Pickups 220px-Silversun_Pickups_neckofthewoods

TITLE: Neck of the Woods

YEAR RELEASED: 2012

CHART ACTION: #6 US, #1 US Indy, #86 UK

SINGLES: Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings) (#7 Alternatve, #16 Mainstream), The Pit (#3 Alternative, #31 Mainstream), Dots and Dashes (Enough Already) (#30 Alternative)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Brian Aubert, Nikki Monninger, Christopher Guanlao, Joe Lester

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: More atmospheric alternative rock with all kinds of sonic tricks in the mix, and a few tracks change up their normal mode.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Silversun Pickups are still moody, atmospheric, and have a to-die-for guitar sound. But as they mature, their songs are getting more complex. On this, their third album, they don’t rely on their same song structures as they have in the past.

Now, tracks have definite discrete sections, tone and tempo changes, and production that evolves during the track to emphasize the mood and feel of the song. And while there are stretches that could put you into torpor, the changing tones snap you out of it.

The Pickups never sound stale, but they do have a tendency to elongate their songs on occasion. Here, nothing is shorter than 4:39 and one stretches to almost seven minutes. That’s the one drawback here – sometimes they seem like their filling time with their intros and outros. Still, this record moves them forward.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: MTV streamed the album in full online.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE B+. Some tracks linger on too long, but overall this record is still quality.

Yoko Ono – Yoko Ono / Plastic Ono Band

ARTIST: Yoko Ono  220px-Yoko_Ono_POB

TITLE: Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #182

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Why

LINEUP: Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Klaus Voorman, Ringo Starr. One one track (recorded in concert) Ornette Coleman, Charlie Haden, David Izenzon, and Ed Blackwell appear.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Recorded in one day, Yoko’s solo debut is powerful, but realistically not for everyone.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: John Lennon, Klaus Voorman, and Ringo Starr back Yoko on six of the seven cuts, and they’re a fantastic group to create a base for Yoko’s vocalizations. And what vocalizations they are!

Combining Primal Scream with a Kabuki theatre technique called hetai, Yoko’s screams and wails get to you in the gut. You can really feel it in “Why”, the opener, and in “Greenfield Morning I Pushed an Empty Baby Carriage All Over the City” (which is about her miscarriage). She also treamed up with Ornette Coleman and other musicians in 1968 for a track called “AOS”.

Yet, to be honest and fair, Yoko’s vocals aren’t for everyone, and after a while they can become irritating. So listening to the entire album at once is a chore, but in bits and pieces, it’s a great piece of avant-garde work.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Not on the album, but recorded the same day, was “Open Your Box”, which was the B-side to John’s “Power to the People” in the UK. Capitol Records refused to put it on the B-side. Scandalous, I guess.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with the long version of “Open Your Box” and a long version of “Why” where John complains about his amp.

 GRADE B+: Much better than you think, especially if you can get / understand what Yoko was getting at with her vocals.

The Gin Blossoms – New Miserable Experience

ARTIST: The Gin Blossoms 

TITLE: New Miserable Experience

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: #30 US, #1 Heatseekers, #53 UK

SINGLES: Mrs. Rita (#36 Mainstream), Hey Jealousy (#25, #4 Mainstream, #24), Until I Fall Away (#40 Mainstream, #13 Modern), Found Out About You (#25, #5 Mainstream, #1 Modern, #40 UK), Allison Road (#20 Mainstream, #39 Modern)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: You may have this, and remember other songs. It sold a boatload.

LINEUP: Robin Wilson, Doug Hopkins, Jesse Valenzuela, Bill Leen, Phillip Rhoads.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A pleasant sounding jangly, kinda power-poppy, rock record lumped into Alternative Rock because of the times. It sold a boatload.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Back in the 90’s, I got sick of the Gin Blossoms and sold this record back. I think I got 50 cents or something (the market was flooded). On re-listen I discovered that the main reason I got sick of them, besides constant radio airplay for two years, was that singer Robin Wilson sounds the same in every song. I mean, THE SAME.

The melodies may be slightly different, but his inflection and range are in a very set band. The songs are very similar in many aspects, but Wilson’s voice doesn’t help anything. They do add some flourishes outside of the norm (“Cajun Song” for one, and “Hands Are Tied” has more oomph), but still the songs sound nearly the same in terms of melody and feel.

This record took about a year to break, thanks to A&M finally deciding to jump on board the alternative rock game. It did sound somewhat fresh on the radio, and after a long period of not hearing it I was reminded of its pleasant, if limited, charms. 

NOTES & MINUTIAE: You may know that guitarist Doug Hopkins, who wrote half of the songs, including the two everyone knows, was kicked out due to alcoholism and later committed suicide. What you may not know is that the band forced him to give up his band royalties and half of his songwriting royalties as well. He also wasn’t credited on the albuim.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a whole bunch of tracks from earlier records (their first independent record isn’t streaming). A&M also changed the cover when this started to break.

 GRADE B-: Some of the deeper cuts are better (or at least unique), like “Hands Are Tied”, but this album is basically built on its singles.

Poco – The Essential Poco

ARTIST: Poco  The_Essential_Poco

TITLE:  The Essential Poco

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: You Better Think Twice (#72), C’Mon (#69), Just for Me and You (#110), Crazy Love (#17), Heart of the Night (#20), Shoot for the Moon (#50), Call It Love (#18), Nothing to Hide (#39)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  Pickin’ Up the Pieces, Kind Woman

LINEUP:  Originally: Richie Furay, Rusty Young, Jim Messina, George Grantham, Randy Meisner. Timothy B. Schmit replaced Meisner. Paul Cotton replaced Messina. Cotton and Young were around with Charlie Harrison, Steve Chapman, and Kim Bullard when they had their first two Top 40 hits. The original band came back for their last two hits. Rock never dies.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the original country-rock bands (taking cues from the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers) was mega-hyped thanks to their Buffalo Springfield connections, but never found the sweet spot the Eagles did.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Trouble began early for Poco, when Randy Meisner quit the band right after the sessions for the first album were done and a dog was airbrushed into the album cover. The band never really recovered, though they keep plugging along.

Richie Furay and Jim Messina were supposed to be the meal tickets, thanks to their involvement with Buffalo Springfield, but it turned out Rusty Young and Messina’s replacement Paul Cotton kept the band going and more or less shaped their sound which became more country as time went on. Soon the band became more middle-of-the-road than anything else, a big disappointment from what was expected in 1969.

Poco’s work never found the niche where country-rock would work, and they either jammed too long or took the edge off too much. Only a few tracks rose above the rest, and this collection hits the high marks for the most part.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The original group got back together (if Little Feat could do it without their most important member, why not an intact Poco?)  and got their second-biggest hit out of it.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B:  It’s a solid collection from a band that was called “the most overrated underrated band” by Robert Christgau. That hits home.

Be Bop Deluxe – Air Age Anthology

ARTIST: Be Bop Deluxe bebop

TITLE:  Air Age Anthology

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Their only charting single was Ships in the Night (#23 UK).

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  Not here, maybe if you were in the UK in the 70’s

LINEUP:  Bill Nelson. Charlie Tumahai, Simon Fox, and Andrew Clarke were on almost all of their albums. Robert Bryan, Nicholas Chatterton-Drew, and Ian Parkin were on the first album.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Glam-to-progressive rock band led by Bill Nelson, a guitar legend for many UK new-wavers.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Be Bop Deluxe isn’t well known here, and mostly forgotten in the UK. Initially more glam rock than anything (their first album could be called Be Bop Deluxe Are the Spiders from Mars), Nelson broke up the entire band when it was noted they were really aping Bowie more than anything. He was then determined to create a more progressive and experimental band.

He never quite moved out of being labeled a Bowie sound-alike, as his sound was very much in line with the glam-era Bowie, but the next band he put together really tried to balance progressive rock with pop sensibilities. It’s tough, and only on a few cuts do they truly succeed in writing a song balanced between the pop chart and art rock.

But this is a band with serious chops (Nelson is an ace guitar player) and the ability to carry out Nelson’s musical ideas. He was (and still is) a chameleon in terms of style and influence, and always tried to stay ahead of the game. This is definitely worth a listen or three for progressive rock fans who also liked glam.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They gained a following in the UK, with four UK Top 25 albums (including a live album at #10).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There are smaller comps but this band needs a more grandiose overview.

GRADE: B:  For fans of progressive and glam guitarists. Docked a plus due to nutty sequencing.

The Dramatics – Millenium Collection – 20th Century Masters

ARTIST: The Dramatics 71BZX23Ho-L._SX522_

TITLE:  Millennium Collection – 20th Century Masters

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 10: Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get (#9, #3 R&B), In the Rain (#5, #1 R&B), Hey You, Get Off My Mountain (#43, #5 R&B), Me & Mrs. Jones (#47, #4 R&B), You’re Fooling You (#87, #10 R&B), Be My Girl (#53, #3 R&B), I Can’t Get Over You (#101, #9 R&B), Shake It Well (#76, #4 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  No, not really.

LINEUP:  Ron Banks, William Howard, Elbert Wilkins, Willie Ford, Larry Demps. LJ Reynolds and Larry Mayes replaced Howard and Wilkins when they went rogue.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Long standing R&B vocal group had some essential early 70’s hits, and some good R&B radio songs until the disco era.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After logging serious time in the Detroit circuit with just a few singles, the Dramatics hit it big in 1971 with “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get”. Then “In the Rain” hit and the Dramatics legacy was pretty much cemented with those two tracks.

As the decade went on, the Dramatics and their producers added a bit more funk, then disco, into their songs, but their vocal blend was still pretty tasty. The only misstep early on was a cover of “Me & Mrs. Jones”, which hit big but really added nothing to the original.

These 12 tracks show the Dramatics as a group that tried to survive as long as they could as R&B moved to funk and then disco. They put out some classic numbers and deserve not to be forgotten.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The group played a big role in the 1967 incident at the Algeirs Hotel that sparked the Detroit riots. Their valet was killed in the ensuing violence.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but there are longer comps.

GRADE: B:  It’s not 100% essential but the early tracks need to be in a basic catalog.

 

The Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed

ARTIST: The Moody Blues 220px-TheMoodyBlues-album-daysoffuturepassed

TITLE: Days of Future Passed

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #3 US, #27 UK

SINGLES: Nights in White Satin (#103 US, #19 UK originally, #2 US, #9 UK on 1972 release), Tuesday Afternoon (#24 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really, but you could surprise me

LINEUP: Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Mike Pinder, Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A last chance record, aimed to help Decca incorporate stereo in pop music by demonstrating its classical stereo technique, turns into a defining record for the 60’s.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Moody Blues changed personnel, and released a few singles with their new group to no notice. They had one last chance with Decca – make a record demonstrating their classical music “Deramic Sound” for their Deram imprint.

The group had worked up a song cycle about the day and night of an everyman, and it was this cycle that they recorded and allowed Peter Knight and his orchestra to add the classical pieces. Graeme Edge wrote two poems to begin and end the cycle (recited by Mike Pinder) and the album was complete and released. Surprisingly, it took off on FM radio in the States and became a constant seller even with the original single not doing that well.

As important as the album is (the first real progressive rock album many say), as a piece, it seems both short and bloated. The orchestral pieces fluff out the songs, sometimes to the detriment of the actual songs themselves. (Some would say the orchestral pieces are mainly fluff themselves). Meanwhile, there are only eight tracks of songs (many are combined into suites on side two) and at times those are shortchanged. Yet the quality of many of the tracks is high, especially “Forever Afternoon (Tuesday)” (listed as “Tuesday Afternoon” on the single), “(Evening) Time to Get Away”, and “Twilight Time”.

The band left their beat group roots behind (only “Lunch Break: Peak Hour” has any traces of their past), and became a leader in the progressive / psychedelic genre. This is an album to have for what it is, though as a record it’s overrated a tad.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: By 1972, when they wanted to re-release “Nights in White Satin”, it was found the masters for the record were in bad shape, so they remixed the album for use (altering it a bit) and only could restore the original mix in 2017 (by recording a pristine copy of the LP digitially).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, several. One has the singles that the new version of the group recorded before this album released. They weren’t hits for a good reason.

GRADE B+: Fluffy strings, poems, and some pretension somewhat mar a decent cycle of songs.

Blue Cheer – Outsideinside

ARTIST: Blue Cheer

TITLE: Outsideinside220px-Blue_cheer_outsideinside

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: #90

SINGLES: Just a Little Bit (#92), Feathers From Your Tree, The Hunter

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Satisfaction

LINEUP: Dickie Peterson, Leigh Stephens, Paul Whaley. Ralph Kellogg added the keyboards.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Toning down the volume but not the drugs, the follow-up by Blue Cheer is surprisingly nuanced, especially in contrast to their bludgeon of a debut.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sure, there are a couple of songs that are loud just to be loud, but Blue Cheer’s second album is more than an excuse for deafness.

Starting out with the nuanced “Feathers From Your Tree” and the relatively mellow “Sun Cycle”, Blue Cheer is more in the psychedelic camp this time around. And even with some of the songs being loud, tracks like “Gypsy Ball” and “The Hunter” are more than just amp-cranking exercises.

They do stumble with a cover of “Satisfaction” which kind of sounds half-hearted, and “Come and Get It” is something that just thuds along with no remorse, but this is an overall better record that is more varied without alienating the fans of volume.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It’s called Outsideinside since they recorded some tracks at Muir Beach in California and Pier 57 in NYC, along with using four actual studios.. Also soundman Peter Wagner is credited for co-writing three songs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A remaster with one outtake, again. They didn’t waste much.

 GRADE B: There are a couple of stumbles here, but the good tracks are better. It’s also loud as heck at times, again.

Blue Cheer – Vincebus Eruptum

ARTIST: Blue Cheer 220px-BlueCheerVincebusEruptum

TITLE: Vincebus Erputum

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: #11

SINGLES: Summertime Blues (#14)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Parchment Farm

LINEUP: Dickie Peterson, Leigh Stephens, Paul Whaley

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Loud, stoned band records loud album to listen to when stoned. Surprisingly it becomes a hit.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A loud, feral version of “Summertime Blues” (the Eddie Cochran song) somehow becomes a #14 hit. This was the next step up from garage band music and the electric blues and bands like Blue Cheer, Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly and Steppenwolf were exploring (along with some elements of the Who, Cream and others in the UK). Volume was the key.

And volume they gave. The blues were the basis, but volume was the main driver to the band. Guitarist Leigh Stephens used his amplification and distortion like a cudgel, hitting the listener over the head with pure force. Backed by bassist Dickie Peterson and drummer Paul Whaley, Stephens cranked it up. The other two weren’t shy in the sound department either.

Peterson was the ringleader, the singer, and the main lover of the blues (and of LSD and other substances). His vocals (more of shouts kinda following a melody of sorts) added to the noise equation.

Songs? Well, covering BB King, Eddie Cochran, and Mose Allison (no matter the volume and lack of finesse) shows good taste, and the originals are also loud and lumpen (though I kinda dig “Out of Focus” as it’s somewhat concise). This is more an artifact of proto-metal than anything, and most of us aren’t stoned enough to make sense of anything but the loudness.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was already the third (!) lineup of blue cheer, as they started as a trio, changed drummers, then beefed up to a six-piece before shedding the three that just came on board within months (including Peterson’s brother Jerre).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A remaster with one outtake.

 GRADE B: It’s loud, and not horrible, and deserves a place in rock history for being the first to be so loud and popular (beating Steppenwolf and Iron Butterfly by a few months…)