Category: Grade: B

Soul Coughing – Irresistible Bliss

ARTIST: Soul Coughing                    220px-Irresistiblebliss

TITLE: Irresistible Bliss

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #136

SINGLES: Soundtrack to Mary (#37 Alternative), Super Bon Bon (#27 Alternative), Soft Serve

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Disseminated….

LINEUP: M. Doughty, Sebastian Steinberg, Mark de Gil Antoni, Yuval Gabay

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album is a bit tighter in arrangements and production, which caused some band discord and left some fans disappointed.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The much anticipated second album by Soul Coughing changed up their winning formula a bit. No longer did they throw the kitchen sink out there in samples and arrangements. This time, M. Doughty wanted a tighter record – even as they still combined all sorts of genres into one stew.

“Super Bon Bon” was the song on this record that has left a legacy, and it does harken back to their debut, though it is a bit slicker and polished. As the record moves along, the sense of wonderment and excitement from discovering new sounds didn’t seem to be there. It’s almost as if they were telegraphing their production and sampling tricks.

I wouldn’t call this a ‘slump’ or a bad record by any means. It’s just not as magical as the first one.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Doughty didn’t want to wait on Tchad Blake to produce, and enlisted David Kahne to produce most of the record. That didn’t go over well with anyone except Doughty, and bassist Steinberg quit for a few days.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. An EP with live cuts…in Japan (of course).

 GRADE B: By making the record tighter and less random, it takes away some of the more interesting aspects of the band.

Swans – Filth

ARTIST: Swans                                     

TITLE: Filth

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: Are you serious?

SINGLES: None, but the EP Swans is appended.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Um….

LINEUP: Michael Gira, Jonathan Kane, Roli Mosimann, Norman Westberg, Harry Crosby

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pummeling your senses into oblivion.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I’ve had issues in adding some really out there and art damaged records to my catalog (See Throbbing Gristle, Einstruzende Neubauten, Foetus, etc. on Ugggh!) but Swans makes the cut, even though it is also grimly difficult and damaged.

Michael Gira and his band of noise terrorists do have song structures, and even songs that you can move a bit too. What they also have is a holy clatter and noise made by two drummers, two bassists, and a guitarist interested in making sheets of noise. Gira sings, er, shouts his tales of degradation and real-life horror. The effect is heightened by the use of repetition in both music and lyrics.

This is not for everyone – probably not for most people. But if you get it (and it may take a while) it’s worth a ride. 

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Michael Gira said he wanted the music to obliterate, just because it felt good. Mission accomplished.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Several different packages, and some have their debut EP along with this album

 GRADE B+: I get this, not that I’m going to put it on to cook dinner (unless I have to tenderize something with a mallet).

The Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery and Imagination

ARTIST: The Alan Parsons Project      220px-TAPP-TalesOfImagination

TITLE: Tales of Mystery and Imagination

YEAR RELEASED: 1976

CHART ACTION: #38 US, #56 UK

SINGLES: The Raven (#80 US), (The System of) Dr. Tarr & Professor Fether (#37 US), To One in Paradise (#108 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, no

LINEUP: Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson with work from a whole punch of people from Pilot and Ambrosia, vocals from Arthur Brown, Jack Harris, Leonard Whiting, and Terry Sylvester, and narration from Orson Welles (!).

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut record from the proggy standbys somehow got a top 40 single (and not even the poppiest cut) with an album revolving around stories from Edgar Allan Poe. TalesofMystery-_LP_alternate

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson combined talents in 1974 as engineer and manager, and then decided to record tracks that fit their personal musical tastes and direction. The result was a very proggy, highly engineered and produced, album that utilized stories from Edgar Allan Poe as inspiration.

Gathering musicians and actors, they put together the tracks meticulously. It was crafted and polished, and at times seemingly rote and mechanical (especially if you know the APP’s later work).

Somehow, somehow, there was a Top 40 hit in all of this heavy prog, but it was the 70’s. It’s a decent enough record that skimps on the Poe in place of pretty heavy progressive elements. But at least most of the tracks move along at a pace.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Orson Welles isn’t in the original mix, but in the 1987 remix by Parsons utilized narration that Welles recorded and sent to Parsons after the original album. Also, the drum sounds were updated.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Demos and guide vocals, and both the ’76 and ’87 mixes are in a package.

 GRADE B-: It’s bloated and bombastic, but it’s not terrible, and it is interesting in some places.

 

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown – The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

ARTIST: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown   220px-ArthurBrownTheCrazyWorldofArthurBrown

TITLE: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: #7 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: Fire (#2 US, #1 UK), Nightmare

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They do cover I Put a Spell on You

LINEUP: Arthur Brown, Vincent Crane, Nick Greenwood, Drachen Theaker. John Marshall drummed on two songs.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Wild, out-of-nowhere hit by jazz-psychedelic-proggy group led by one of the most unique individuals in rock music.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There are so many rock and metal musicians that owe a debt to Arthur Brown, thanks to the makeup, the costume changes, the flaming helmet, and his heavy, spooky sound. Listening to the debut, they also learned a few things outside of trying to match “Fire”, too.

Brown and his band were a definite must see for a few years thanks to his dramatics, and the album definitely ups the drama as well. There’s spoken word pieces, insane cackles, Brown’s multi-octave voice, and the screams. All that in front of a mostly competent keyboard-based kinda-jazzy group led by Vincent Crane. (Crane was definitely competent, drummer Drachen Theaker was always on the chopping block to be replaced.)

This record is definitely a period piece (how could it not be) yet it’s an enjoyable trip back to the time where somehow this was a hit.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This group was a favored opening act for many bands in the UK and the US. However, in 1969, Carl Palmer was on drums because of Theaker’s fear of flying. Palmer and Crane soon left after the tour to form Atomic Rooster, which led to Palmer being poached by Keith Emerson to form…well..you know.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. There’s the mono mix appended, and a few early singles (which are more hippy-dippy than anything).

 GRADE B: Oh, there’s pretention here and head scratching things, but it’s fun and Brown’s voice is pretty unique.

Karla Bonoff – The Best of Karla Bonoff: All My Life

ARTIST: Karla Bonoff                   512D5ZEjtjL._SX425_

TITLE: The Best of Karla Bonoff

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: No

SINGLES: I Can’t Hold On (#76), Baby Don’t Go (#69), Personally (#19)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not by her. Several artists covered her stuff.

LINEUP: Karla Bonoff and some of the best session players in LA

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Singer songwriter really had the songs, but somehow didn’t quite make it big – unlike her compatriot Linda Ronstadt.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: More known as a songwriter, unless you have “Personally” stuck in your head, Karla Bonoff’s recording career was beset by bad luck or bad timing or something. From the start of her career (with a band featuring Andrew Gold, Kenny Edwards, and Wendy Waldman) to the end, it just didn’t happen for her as it should.

It’s definitely an LA singer/songwriter album, with Bonoff leading a group of the best session players at the time through their paces. A lot of the songs have a tinge of melancholy and heartache – some resignation and loss also sneak in there. But her sense of melody and her voice is strong and the arrangements are spot on.

“Personally” is the one you probably knpw, but most of this is quite decent. If you’re into the LA scene of the late 70’s, you could do worse. And you probably did.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: In one of the biggest ironies in music, “Personally” wasn’t written by her. A performer more known for songwriting had her only success with a song she didn’t write. Hmmm.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B: There are a few things I exiled, and the whole thing isn’t streaming as a unit (but you can put it together if you wish).

The Dave Clark Five – American Tour

ARTIST: The Dave Clark Five                  220px-American_Tour_(_Epic_1964_)

TITLE: American Tour

YEAR RELEASED: 1964

CHART ACTION: #11

SINGLES: Because (#3)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, no, because Dave Clark kept everything under wraps (and still does)

LINEUP: Dave Clark, Mike Smith, Lenny Davidson, Rick Huxley, Dennis Payton

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A better than usual hit + filler thanks to some strong songwriting.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: At first glance, this may be “Because” plus 11 other tracks. Not so fast.

Yeah, there are some instrumentals, but the band gets into them with great vigor. And “Come on Over” is a blatant rip of “Glad All Over”, but still stomping fun. But what makes the deep cuts special is the booming bass of Rick Huxley. His deep bass lines, unusual for the UK scene, make his sound distinctive and adds a sonic character to the tracks that the usual UK 60’s bands didn’t have. Add in Dave Clark’s booming drums.

Sure, it’s short and sometimes slight, and probably best for DC5 or beat group fanatics, but they’ll love it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Dave Clark has allowed some whole albums to stream. Of course, there was such a disparity between US and UK albums (the band didn’t release many UK albums until 1968, but cranked out 13 between 1964 and 1967, including four each in 1965 and 1966.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B: My sister left me this album and I played it quite a bit as a kid, because it’s right in a kid’s wheelhouse. It’s got charm and stompability.

Solange – Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams

ARTIST: Solange                                 220px-Solange_-_Sol-Angel_And_The_Hadley_St._Dreams

TITLE: Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams

YEAR RELEASED: 2008

CHART ACTION: #9 US, #180 UK

SINGLES: Charting: Sandcastle Disco (#1 Dance, #149 UK), T.O.N.Y. (#62 R&B, #1 Dance), Would’ve Been the One (#3 Dance), Fuck the Industry (#6 Dance), I Told You So (#5 Dance)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really

LINEUP: Solange Knowles, Sean Hurley, John Broussard, Manny Patino, Phillip Todd, Noel Langley, Neil Sidwell

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Beyonce’s sister makes a non-teen-pop album and impresses for the most part.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It was six years after her debut (a forgettable teen dance-pop record) and Solange Knowles came out with a varied album with lots of references to 60’s soul and 70’s funk coupled with a modern production.

Sure it could have done with a little trimming (it’s almost an hour long wwith a couple of six minute tracks that could have shunk a bit) but it was a fine effort and established her as an artist in her own right.

But, as she became a bigger thing (perhaps due to the elevator video with Jay-Z?), in 2015 they released a deluxe version which grabbed some single B-sides and club mixes and made it a 17 track monster. It included a cover of “The Thrill Is Gone” done with BB King, and excluded “Sandcastle Disco” the first single from the album. You can’t stream that song now, anywhere, which is a very curious thing.

There already was at least four other bonus editions done, and three of the five added tracks were on those versions. “Fuck the Industry” was also it’s own single released in 2010. So not only to re-release another ‘deluxe’ edition, and then removing the first single from it? Hmmm, very curious decision suits.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “T.O.N.Y.” was the only original not co-written by Solange. It was a Cee-Lo Green / Jack Splash joint.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, as I yelled about above.

GRADE B: Pleasant soul / R&B record with homages to the old days, but needed some trimming and fewer record company shenanigans.

Gary Clark, Jr. – Black and Blu

ARTIST: Gary Clark, Jr.                               220px-Blak_and_Blu

TITLE: Black and Blu

YEAR RELEASED: 2012

CHART ACTION: #6 US, #44 UK

SINGLES: Bright Lights (#29 Adult Alternative), Ain’t Messin’ Around (#10 Adult Alternative)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Third Stone from the Sun

LINEUP: Gary Clark, Jr., Mike Elizondo, Zac Rae, JJ Johnson, Scott Nelson, and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Guitar wonderkind releases his first major solo album that straddles many genres.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Gary Clark, Jr. made his name as a guitarist. As time went on, and reputation grew, he started a solo career (he had two very small albums released early on in his career that really have vanished, probably for good reason) and put together a sound which encapsulates many other genres, such as blues, rock, soul, R&B, and hip-hop.

This album covers the whole gamut of those styles and indluences, and also shows off his guitar work (especially on his cover of “Third Stone from the Sun”).  It’s remarkable how wide a range he covers in these tracks.

But there’s an antiseptic feeling here – and a feeling that he needed to cut down some of his showman-like solos in the studio. So it’s not perfect, but it’s a good start for an artist that will be a force for a long time as he improves songwriting and tightens up his jammy excesses.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He also released a mix-tape of version and remixes in 2014..

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, two extra tracks on the Deluxe version, and those tracks are pretty decent.

GRADE B: Impressive, but flawed in a way. Still, worth hearing.

Buddy Miles – Expressway to Your Skull

ARTIST: Buddy Miles                        R-2329881-1349028879-9692.jpeg

TITLE: Expressway to Your Skull

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Train, Spot on the Wall

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Wrap It Up

LINEUP: Buddy Miles, Herbie Rich, Bill Rich, Jim McCarty, Bill McPherson, Marcus Doubleday, Virgil Gonsalves, Terrence Clements, Ron Woods

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Horn based blues, rock, and soul filling the void when the Electric Flag went kaput.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Electric Flag, who paved the way for Blood, Sweat, and Tears and Chicago, had a very short life and fissioned apart quickly due to drug issues and creative scuffles. Buddy Mikes, he of the drumming chops and huge afro, became the leading voice of the Flag as time went on, and when they split he formed his own combo, the Buddy Miles Express.

They immediately got gigs, and recorded this album pretty quickly in late 1968. It was pretty standard blues rock and soul with horns. Miles really wanted Jim McCarty from the Detroit Wheels and Herb and Bill Rich, and filled in the horn section with others he knew.

While the album wasn’t a success, and was rather generic with some interesting parts, the band opened for Jimi Hendrix and Hendrix did some production work for them, and Miles joined the Band of Gypsies as well, while maintaining this band (a revolving membership to be sure).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The followup, Electric Church, charted, but isn’t streaming. WHY? You can get the tracks on a playlist on You Tube.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE B: Got some soul, rock,and blues if you need a fix.

Chumbawumba – Never Mind the Ballots

ARTIST: Chumbawumba                      Chumbaballots

TITLE: Never Mind the Ballots

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION: #2 UK Indie

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hahahahah, um…no.

LINEUP: Lou Watts, Harry Hamer, Mavis Dillon, Alice Nutter, Danbert Nobacon, Boff Whalley, Dustan Bruce, Simon Lanzon, Neil Ferguson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Politics and elections!

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A musical play or anarchist agit-prop opera or whatever you want to call it – Chumbawumba’s second album is all about electoral politics featuring two candidates, the public, and how the two supposedly opposite sided candidates seem to want the same thing in the end

Funny how that’s appropriate now as well.

Musically, this is a much better and more commercial (sounding, commercial sounding, people) record. The band really can play well, and the arrangements are complementary to the lyrics and messages.

The messages, themes, and motifs are radical commentary on the UK’s issues in the late 80’s, but the political messages rather much fit to any political system. Candidates will be about one thing, mainly. That’s power. No matter what they say, that’s what they want.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had promo T-shirts in English and French that said “THE VOTE CHANGES NOTHING! THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES!”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. This isn’t streaming, but it’s available on You Tube.

 GRADE B+: You probably need to somewhat agree with their politics to really enjoy it, but it’s good.