Category: Grade: C

Coven – Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls

ARTIST: Coven                                                                                                                                                                                                     

TITLE: Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls           

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: Nope

SINGLES: Wicked Woman

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Black Sabbath (oh, wait, this is a different one)

LINEUP: Jinx Dawson, Greg ‘Oz’ Osbourne, Jim Donelson, Rick Durrett, Steve Ross

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The first really Satanic-themed record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Forever known as the purveyors of “One Tin Soldier”, and known by some as the band that threw up the “Devil Horns” first, Coven was, well, a band composing of followers of the occult.


Singer Jinx Dawson is the star. She can belt out these devilish tunes with great fervor. But there’s some cringe-worthy moments (the chanting in some songs is almost funny, really) and when Jim Donelson sings (a hired gun by Dunhill Records) he’s so wimpy compared to Dawson, especially when he sings “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”.

Dawson herself saves a lot of the material, which is rather much warmed-over organ-driven psychedelic rock instead of proto-metal (though there’s some tasty guitar here and there, especially on “Choke, Thirst, Die”). But thanks to bad press due to Manson, Mercury pulled this record before the publicity could help sales.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Despite them being actual members of a coven, the core group (Dawson, Osbourne, Ross) didn’t write much of their first album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE C: I exiled some of this, and it’s really more of a curio than anything.

Matchbox Twenty – Exile on Mainstream

ARTIST: Matchbox Twenty  Exile_on_Mainstream

TITLE: Exile on Mainstream

YEAR RELEASED: 2007 (it’s half new, half comp)

CHART ACTION: #3 US, #1 Alternative, #53 UK

SINGLES: New songs; How Far We’ve Come (#11 US, #157 UK), All Your Reasons, These Hard Times; Charting comp songs: Push (#38 UK), 3AM (#64 UK), Real World (#38 US, #92 UK), Back 2 Good (#24 US), Bent (#1 US), If You’re Gone (#5 US), Mad Season (#48 US, #76 UK), Disease (#29 US, #50 UK), Unwell (#5 US, #83 UK), Bright Lights (#23 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Long Day

LINEUP: Rob Thomas, Brian Yale, Paul Doucette, Kyle Cook, Adam Gaynor. Ryan MacMillan played drums on the new cuts, as Gaynor left and Doucette went to guitar from drums.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Six new songs, 11 old ones. They’re pretty indistinguishable from each other.

 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: You look up at the singles, and you notice that “3 AM”, and “Push” aren’t charting on the Billboard chart. Well, they were just radio promo singles here. And did they get airplay! Matchbox Twenty were a safe rock alternative from all of the detuned downer mopers. Safe is the word.

Somehow labeled as “Alternative”, Matchbox Twenty is about as straightforward of mainstream rock as you got in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. They are what they are – crafted for airplay among many radio formats with the loud / soft dynamic, the acoustic to electric, the semi-acappela parts, and enough hooks to fill a fishing supply company.

It was interesting that the six new songs were appended to a greatest hits release. I didn’t say it was a good decision, since about half of those new songs are just…there.

 

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After this album, they took five years to release another. In fact, they released 4 ½ records in 16 years.

 

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 

GRADE C+: It’s Matchbox Twenty. It’s mostly nostalgia now, and it’s oh, so safe.

Throwing Muses – House Tornado

ARTIST: Throwing Muses              220px-HouseTornadoUSA

TITLE: House Tornado

YEAR RELEASED: 1988

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Saving Grace, The River

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Kristin Hersh, Tanya Donnelly, Leslie Langston, David Narcizo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second 4AD release by the band is fuzzy and unfocused, and suffers from ‘songs sound the same’ syndrome..

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After a fairly acclaimed debut (not streaming) and two EPs (also not streaming), the second release by Throwing Muses seems to suffer from several maladies. 220px-HouseTornado

There doesn’t seem to be energy, the songs sound the same, the production is muddy, and the songs don’t have pops or energy. Maybe it’s just me, but I tried and tried but couldn’t get into it. It just seems like it’s there, and doesn’t spur one to keep listening.

Of the entire TM catalog, this may be one to skip.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was the first record on Sire (it was on 4AD elsewhere).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The 4AD version has an EP appended. 

GRADE C: It’s just boring, and alt-rock at that time shouldn’t be boring. The production probably has something to do with this, too. EXILED.

The Mars Volta – Frances the Mute

ARTIST: The Mars Volta                   220px-Frances_the_Mute

TITLE: Frances the Mute

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: #4 US, #23 UK

SINGLES: The Widow (#95 US, #7 Alternative, #25 Mainstream), L’Via L’Viaquez (#53 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you bought it only…

LINEUP: Omar Rodriguez Lopez, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Jonb Theodore, Ikey Owens, Jaun Aldrete de la Pena, Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez. Also Lenny Castro, Flea, John Frusciante, Larry Harlow and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Impressive, yet ultimately overwhelming, concept album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The second record by the Mars Volta is a concept supposedly finding one’s birth parents, but it’s not as straight forward as you think. The story gets a bit lost as you listen to the staggeringly complex tracks.

Only one of the five tracks is under 10 minutes (“The Widow” at 5:50) and “Cassandra Gemini” is 32 ½ minutes long! Now, long songs don’t necessarily mean something is boring, pretentious, or indulgent, yet these tracks seem to verge upon being too much for anyone to take all at once, even with the great sounds and riffs. frances mute single

There’s also sound effect and found sounds through the record that disturb the flow (at least to may ears) and while they may be necessary for the ‘story’ I could do without.

I love the sound and idea of the story, it’s just way way too indulgent.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title track was left off the album for time, so it was released as a B-side and streams separately.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE C+: Maybe I need to spend more time with it, but it’s such a slog that the great parts are obfuscated by the breadth of the tracks.

 

Built to Spill – The Normal Years

ARTIST: Built to Spill                  The_Normal_Years

TITLE: The Normal Years

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Most of them were singles

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not

LINEUP: Doug Martsch on all cuts. Andy Capps, Brett Netson, Brett Nelson, Ned Evett, and others appear on these cuts.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: K Records took all of the leftovers from Built to Spill and put this out before they hopped to a major label. It smacks of odds-and-sods.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Singles, B-sides, compilation tracks, etc. etc. It’s the usual compilation for an indie band who moves record companies. There’s good stuff, and…other stuff.

The opening cut “So & So & So & So from Wherever Wherever” starts out the collection in a promising way, with some heavily distorted and de-tuned guitars adding a crunch. A couple tracks are early versions of songs that found their way on their early albums.

You go in not expect much, and it’s just fine. There are some little gems here for the casual fans. The converted has this, no doubt, but it’s not high on their BTS rotation.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There is a cover of a song by K Records won Daniel Johnson.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE C+: It’s not bad, really, for what it is. It’s not where you start, though.

Armageddon – Armageddon

ARTIST: Armageddon             Armageddon_(Armageddon_album)

TITLE: Armageddon

YEAR RELEASED: 1977

CHART ACTION: #151

SINGLES: None

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

LINEUP: Keith Relf, Martin Pugh, Bobby Caldwell, Louis Cennamo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Keith Relf’s post-Reinassance band veered him pretty solidly into prog. It was disappointing on all fronts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Combining Keith Relf, two blokes from Steamhammer and drummer Bobby Caldwell, Armageddon took flight and promptly crashed.

Relf’s harmonica skills seem a bit out of place, and some tracks just meander along on a repetitive riff, and others meander along with jammy proggy excess. Only a couple of tracks rise to the occasion on the dividing line between exile and a catalog slot.

This is a shame, as Relf, though he was not-at-all-well, still had some vocal prowess (though emphysema due to asthma soon took care of that), and Martin Pugh had done yeoman’s work as a studio player. But it didn’t cohere, and didn’t ring the cash register, either.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They only played two live gigs, and couldn’t tour as Relf got sicker and couldn’t sing for an extended show.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE C+: “Buzzard” keeps me from chucking it all.

Great White – Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Great White              GreatWhiteGreatestHits

TITLE: Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 40: Rock Me (#60 US, #9 Rock), Save Your Love (#57 US, #9 Rock), Mista Bone (#27 Rock), One Bitten, Twice Shy (#5 US, #6 Rock, #83 UK), The Angel Song (#30 US, #18 Rock), Call It Rock & Roll (#53 US, #4 Rock, #67 UK), Big Goodbye (#20 Rock), Old Rose Motel (#23 Rock)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Live versions of two hits; House of Broken Love and Desert Moon

LINEUP: Jack Russell, Mark Kendall, Audie Desbrow. Other guys, like Tony Montana, Lorne Black, Dave Spitz, and Michael Lardie all showed up at one point or another.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Derivative Zep / Ratt band hit it huge with a glam cover after four albums, and faded away after their fifth went splat.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The career trajectory of Great White was pointing towards a slog as a second rate metal band – openers on arena tours, and possibly headlining clubs and small halls. Then, they covered Ian Hunter, and, well, that escalated quickly.

Early on, they did sound like Ratt sometimes, and Zep others, with icky power ballads thrown in for the masses. “Once Bitten, Twice Shy”, more intelligent and subtle than you’d think (because Hunter, you know), propelled them into the mega-star complex. It wasn’t really metal, but they had been metal and had hair, so, there you go.

But their next album, right as grunge was gurgling, stiffed, for a good reason. Ian Hunter wasn’t there to hand them another hit, and their brand of Zeppy-lite metal was nowhere near vogue. Alas, that leads to a breakup, reformations, and club dates in Rhode Island…

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Jack Russell, the singer, formed the band originally, but went away to prison for an armed robbery where he injured a maid.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE C: It ain’t bad, really, but there’s goopy ballads and needless live and acoustic cuts. There’s another straight compilation out there, too. Actually, several.

The Styrenes – Essential Styrenes Vol. 1 (1975-1979)

ARTIST: The Styrenes

TITLE: Essential Styrenes Vol. 1 (1975-1979)                    r-4432280-1364729490-3484.jpeg

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Drano in Your Veins, I Saw You

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

LINEUP: George Klimek, Paul Marotta, Anton Fier, Mike Antle, Jim Jones, other various drummers and bassists

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Arising out of the ashes of the early avant-garde Cleveland scene, the Styrenes were born, and wallowed in serious obscurity until people started to pay attention to Pere Ubu. Then they were just obscure.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Cleveland in the early 70’s produced some dark avant-garde rock, and after the first wave of bands came and went (including Mirrors and the infamous Electric Eels), the Styrenes formed.

Their first single (“Drano in Your Veins”) rather much captured it all. They weren’t loud and destructive – at least on record – they were subversive in other ways. The lyrics were just weird, art damaged maybe (early on), and the arrangements were a bit odd and off-putting. Later, they added saxes, shed members (many, like Anton Fier, joined Pere Ubu or other Cleveland bands) and Paul Marotta’s piano took more prominence. They were still weird.

This compilation covers their Cleveland years, containing the best two singles and album highlights. This was released originally as two 7” records, which was probably the perfect format for them.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They moved to New York, recorded an album, waited about eight years, recorded another one, and somehow Marotta have kept a version going.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE C+: Google the lyrics to “Drano in Your Veins”. If you can dig it, you can dig this. It’s just inconsistent weirdness.

 

Black Oak Arkansas – Definitive Rock: Black Oak Arkansas

ARTIST: Black Oak Arkansas                    boa definitive rock

TITLE: Definitive Rock : Black Oak Arkansas

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Jim Dandy (#25)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I’m sure someone’s heard other stuff by them. The question begs, why?

LINEUP: Jim Dandy Mangrum, Rickie Lee Reynolds, Harvey Jett, Pat Daugherty, Stanley Knight, Wayne Evans, Tommy Aldridge. Probably others. I ain’t lookin’ at each albums credits.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The stoopedest swamp-rock of the 70’s.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: They had three guitars, but really didn’t need ‘em. (Unlike Skynyrd, who really made three guitars work in space). They had energy, yes, and a “sense” of humor, and probably put on a good show, but also they sported inane lyrics mostly ineptly sung by Jim Dandy.

Then why have I kept over half of this record, then? Well, when Jim Dandy doesn’t do his ‘wacky character’ voice, he’s kind of engaging, like a primordial David Lee Roth. They could rock out when their asinine ideas, gimmicks, or jokes didn’t stand in the way. And, everyone needs some 8-track tape tunes in their life.

After 1974, their career slowly faded away like the business end of a Marlboro Red. You gotta pick and choose very carefully. I mean carefully. They covered “Taxman” and “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”. You wanna go THERE?

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Formed in 1963 or so as The Knowbody Else, they’ve had 70 members or so, including their present touring band. You probably know Tommy Aldridge from his work with Ozzy and Whitesnake. Other members have played with Johnny Winter, Cinderella, Gene Simmons, Krokus, REO Speedwagon, Winger, and the Bluesbreakers.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE C: They catered to the shirtless heathens of the 70’s – those who stood on the hood of their ’73 Chevy Impala, barefoot, sun baked, in the grass parking lot of the festival, drinking Stroh’s and smoking heaters with an occasional hit of grass or a snort of cheap wine or whiskey.

Tsunami – The Heart’s Tremolo

ARTIST: Tsunami                       Tsunami-The_Heart's_Tremolo

TITLE: The Heart’s Tremolo

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Be Like That

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Jenny Toomey, Kristin Thomson, John Palmer, Andrew Webster

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: DC area band and record label owners second full length runs into a rut of same-same and bad production.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I guess I DON’T have to follow the hipster crowd on some things. One of these is this Tsunami record.

Critics loved this band, but they must have seen them live, because on record they sound flat, have same-same songs, and have mixing and production issues. I can her fits and starts of songs that sound good, but when they get to the chorus it blurs together, at least in my ears.

Tsumani has a great DIY and independent legacy, and I don’t mean to belittle that. It’s just…I don’t get this record. It’s probably on me.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After this, they took a hiatus as Andrew Webster finished his degree.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE C: It’s probably a cop-out review but I’ll exile this and see if my ears perk up for their final album.