Category: Grade: C

Modern English – Mesh and Lace

ARTIST: Modern English 220px-Mesh_&_Lace_cover

TITLE: Mesh and Lace

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #5 UK Indie

SINGLES: None on the album, but they’re bonus tracks.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not on this one

LINEUP: Robbie Grey, Gary McDowell, Michael Conroy, Richard Brown, Stephen Walker

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Post-punk band is Joy Division-lite, all mood and atmosphere with only a few compelling tracks.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Forming in 1979, signed by 4AD in 1980, and releasing this in 1981, Modern English were fast-tracked into the post-punk world and the Joy Division sector of that world. Their debut album contains none of their singles (I never understand this), and only a few album cuts rise to the occasion.

Atmosphere and mood are the keywords here. Everything is moody and stark and while some melodies and other parts escape, most of the time they’re hidden in the mood, whether it’s a slow or fast tempo. Also, the intros to the songs are long and tedious at times. You know, setting the mood for art and all.

If you missed this, don’t worry. Nothing here reminds me of their MTV hit. If you’re into the moody pre-goth post-punk era, indulge at your whim.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They used to be The Lepers, but changed that quickly. Also, the title cut was a B-side that didn’t make the album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with singles and B-sides. Weirdly, one of the singles (“Gathering Dust” (#36 UK Indie)) starts the deluxe CD. The other singles added were “Swans on Glass” (#46 UK Indie) and “Smiles and Laughter” (#16 UK Indie).

GRADE C+: All depends on your love for moody gothy post-punk. The bonus cuts make the package much more palatable.

The Rascals – Collection

ARTIST: The (Young) Rascals 220px-Young_Rascals_Collections

TITLE: Collections

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #14

SINGLES: Come on Up (#43), I’ve Been Lonely Too Long (#16)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover a few tracks you know – the best known by them is Too Many Fish in the Sea

LINEUP: Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati, Gene Cornish, Dino Danelli

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: For their second album, the (Young) Rascals write more of their songs, with mixed results – mostly from the covers.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Recorded over seven months in 1966 (in between tour dates), the Rascals (still Young Rascals at this time) moved on from garage rock towards a more soulful blend of tracks. They’re dominated by the organ of Felix Cavaliere, who also wrote the strongest tracks by the band.

Because the sessions were spread out (two singles released in 1966 – one of those actually appearing on the next album), the sound of the album doesn’t flow well. A couple tracks (“No Love to Give, a song written by guitarist Gene Cornish) were downright regrettable. Their cover of “Mickey’s Monkey” is fun, but the real gem is “Come On Up”, a raving rocker that’s their last gasp as a true garage band,

There are tracks in here that are going to be exiled, but the best are good to fantastic. Such is the album game in the 60’s.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The single “You Better Run” was released in May of 1966, but wasn’t on this album though the B-side (“Love Is a Beautiful Thing”) is.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE C+: This has some real clunkers, so pick the good ones and exile the rest.

Steppenwolf – At Your Birthday Party

ARTIST: Steppenwolf  220px-SteppenwolfAtYourBirthdayParty

TITLE: At Your Birthday Party

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: #7

SINGLES: Rock Me (#10), It’s Never Too Late (#51)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Jupiter’s Child

LINEUP: John Kay, Michael Monarch, Goldy McJohn, Nick St. Nicholas, Jerry Edmonton

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The gas had run out of the Steppenwolf engine at this time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “Rock Me”, an all-time classic, was released on the Candy soundtrack, and became a big hit with a great B-side in “Jupiter’s Child”. But when it came time to create a new album, John Kay was almost tapped out of tunes. Kay only wrote or co-wrote two other tracks (which are the best of the rest) and the others came from producer Gabriel Mekler and other band members.

Kay didn’t even sing on some of the tracks. Bassist Nick St. Nicholas and guitarist Michael Monarch had their turns at the mic, and, well, Kay was much missed. There were a couple of throw away short trackss, a country spoof, a couple of horrible ballads, and basic tomfoolery in the studio.

The band regrouped a bit the next year, with a great single and a good protest record, but this killed the momentum of the band for the most part. It was half-crap and the fans knew it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Monarch left the band a few months after this came out.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE C-: Had “Rock Me” and “Jupiter’s Child” not been here, it definitely would have been a “D”…

Stone Temple Pilots – Core

ARTIST: Stone Temple Pilots 220px-Stonetemplepilotscore

TITLE: Core

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: #3 US, #27 UK

SINGLES: Sex Type Thing (#23 Mainstream, #55 UK), Dead & Bloated, Crackerman, Plush (#9 Alternative, #1 Mainstream, #23 UK), Creep (#12 Alternative, #2 Mainstream)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Wicked Garden

LINEUP: Scott Weiland, Dean DeLeo, Robert DeLeo, Eric Kretz

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Hard rock (not really grunge, fight me) debut is rather clunky and meatheaded.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The debut record from the Stone Temple Pilots was more hard rock than most 1992 releases – it was more in the vein of a turgid Guns ‘n” Roses – but it really wasn’t grunge in that there wasn’t a lot of punk influence.

Turgid is the name. “Dead and Bloated” was the lead track, and it’s apt. Except for a few select tracks, they live in the mid-tempo sludge with angsty and / or sexist lyrics. “Sex Type Thing” was defended to the hilt as Scott Weiland playing a character, but…it’s too personal and close to home to be an effective character piece.

“Creep”, while a big hit, is the worst offender. It doesn’t GO anywhere. I always flipped it off the radio back in the day, and it hasn’t improved with age.

STP wasn’t really part of the grunge scene, and this album isn’t exciting or subversive at all. Yawn.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They opened for Henry Rollins at their first gig in San Diego.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Demos and live cuts in a huge package.

 GRADE C: The 90’s ‘revolution’ ran aground right as it began when it embraced this record.

The Human League – Reproduction

ARTIST: The Human League 220px-Human-League-Reproduction

TITLE: Reproduction

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #34 UK

SINGLES: Empire State Human (#62)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover You Lost That Loving Feeling

LINEUP: Maryn Ware, Ian Craig Marsh, Philip Oakey.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Electropop synth group releases tentative album featuring their synthy doodling.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After a couple of years of noodling around as The Future, The Human League changed their name, recorded a single and then their first record as a trio. The goal was to expand electronic pop to the charts while remaining experimental.

Sure, Jan.

While “Empire State Human” was kind of successful, the rest of the record seemed lacking in hooks, or excitement, or really any experimentation that wasn’t already out there in the world. The lyrics are also daft and too arty.

Blah in the first degree except for a couple of high notes on a few tracks.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They released a single before this (“Being Boiled / Circus of Death”) and re-recorded the latter for this album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. The first single, a B-side, and a quite boring instrumental EP.

GRADE C: If you’re into non-poppy electropop, be my guest.

Deep Purple – Shades of Deep Purple

ARTIST: Deep Purple 

TITLE: Shades of Deep Purple

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: #24

SINGLES: Hush (#4 US, #58 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Help and Hey Joe

LINEUP: Rod Evans, Jon Lord, Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Paice, Nick Simper

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album from heavy psychedelic band features lots o’noodlin’.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After a short time together, Deep Purple entered the studio and put down the tracks for their debut record, and hit the jackpot in the US with their cover of the Joe South song “Hush”. But a telling sign was that half of the eight songs were covers, and “Mandrake Root” stole a lot from Jimi Hendrix.

Rod Evans was the singer at this point, and while he did OK he didn’t seem to mesh very well with the style at times, especially when the band slowed down and jammed. And did they jam. With just a few songs in their repertoire they made sure they filled the time, mostly by noodling from Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore.

Their version of “Help” is almost a dirge and mostly pointless, “Hey Joe” had been done to death by now, and the ballads are flat. There’s just a few tracks worth saving here, but it’s worth at least a listen to the rest of it aside from “Hush”.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band a rocky beginning with the former Searchers drummer Chris Curtis coming up with the genesis of the band, but falling disinterested as the band then searched for a singer, drummer, and bassist.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, an outtake and other incidentals.

 GRADE C-: “Hush” is great. About half the album is worth saving.

Big Brother and the Holding Company – Big Brother and the Holding Company Featuring Janis Joplin

ARTIST: Big Brother and the Holding Company   

TITLE: Big Brother and the Holding Company Featuring Janis Joplin

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #60, #28 R&B

SINGLES: Bye Bye Baby (#118), Down on Me (#43), Blindman (#110), Coo Coo (#84)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Doubtful that you have, really.

LINEUP: Janis Joplin, Peter Albin, Sam Andrew, David Getz, James Gurley

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A rushed debut recorded before they (and Janis Joplin) hit it big at Monterrey. Eh.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Say what you want about Janis Joplin (me, I think she’s overrated, but that’s just me again), she deserved better than this band and this album.

There are flashes on goodness here. “Intruder” is first rate, and “Down on Me” would become a staple for her in her career. But the band here falters in both material (the originals, and even Joplin’s originals are meh), and performance (they really should have just picked songs that highlighted Janis). It’s also very skimpy – 23 minutes on first release.

If she didn’t wow the audiences wherever they played live, and then had a cult build around her, this would be a forgotten footnote.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They recorded two tracks in Chicago, then ten others in three days in LA. It sounds rushed for sure.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Originally 10 tracks on Mainstream – when Columbia picked it up they added two sides of a single and ramped the running time to 28:03! Score!

GRADE C-: For diehards. For the diehards of the diehards.

Loggins & Messina – The Best: Sittin’ In Again

ARTIST: Loggins & Messina 

TITLE: The Best: Sittin’ In Again

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Vahevala (#84), Nobody but You (#86), You’re Mama Don’t Dance (#4), Watching the River Run (#71), Changes (#84)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: House at Pooh Corner, Danny’s Song, Long Tail Cat

LINEUP: Kenny Loggins, Jim Messina, session pros.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pop and folk rock duo compilation is released to support their 2005 tour.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Jim Messina, formerly of Poco and Buffalo Springfield, mentored youngster Kenny Loggins and they formed a duo that sold a lot of records and mellowed out a lot of people in the mid 70’s. You know them, and you may know their big songs.

Yet, for the fond memories of a few, most everything they did was mellow to the point of boredom, complete with cringy or way-too sentimental lyrics (“Danny’s Song”, oy!). Sometimes they extend a song way past it’s sell-by date (jammin’ man). Their mix of rock and country was interesting at times, but had all of the rough edges sanded off to the point of slickness.

For as much publicity and fond remembrance of the duo, the honest truth is that they were meh that fit into the too-laid-back 70’s scene that was addled a bit by substances. That’s my story, at least.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The duo also released two live albums, and one isn’t streaming. Neither is their final studio album. This collection also left off a few of Top 100 singles that weren’t going to be performed at their reunion shows.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE C: I exiled about half. I was generous, too.

Jim Steinman – Bad for Good

ARTIST: Jim Steinman          JSteinman_Bad

TITLE: Bad For Good

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #63 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: Rock and Roll Dreams Come True (#32, #14 Mainstream, #52 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Meatloaf did cover a lot of these songs on later albums, and so did other artists.

LINEUP: Jim Steinman, Rory Dodd, Karla DeVito, Todd Rundgren, Davey Johnston, Kasim Sulton, Max Weinberg, Roy Bittan, Roger Powell, Ellen Foley, Larry Fast, and many more.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Meatloaf’s songwriter recorded the planned followup on his own after Mr. Loaf lost his voice. He’s no Meat, that’s for sure.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Jim Steinman was the lunatic that came up with Bat Out of Hell for Meatloaf, and when it came time for the followup Meatloaf was out of commission due to voice issues and drugs. So, not wanting to wait, Steinman gathered musicians and producers and did the damn thing himself.

He should have waited for Meatloaf. Steinman’s vocal limitations are noticeable from the jump, and even with Rory Dodd helping his voice was still a liability. The structure of the record is almost the sing – spoken word pieces, a duet with a hot girl – long winded pieces – a storyline. This one was ostensibly about Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Yeah, whatever.

It’s bombastic, and would have been a decent Meatloaf vehicle. But here, it’s just bombast without redemption. Only a couple tracks are worthy of keeping, really.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The irony is that later in 1981, Meatloaf’s followup, with Steinman songs, came out. He needed these songs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Not really, but the single “Rock and Roll Dreams Come True” came packaged as an EP with the original vinyl. The single and B-side are the last two tracks on the CD.

GRADE C-: The importance of a vocalist has never been more apparent than here.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive – Bachman-Turner Overdrive

ARTIST: Bachman-Turner Overdrive

TITLE: Bachman-Turner Overdrive

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #70

SINGLES: Gimme Your Money Please, Little Gandy Dancer, Blue Collar (#68)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nope

LINEUP: Randy Bachman, Tim Bachman, C.F. Turner, Robbie Bachman

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Brave Belt becomes BTO

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After leaving the Guess Who, and then forming Brave Belt with his brother Robbie and former Guess Who singer Chad Allan, Randy Bachman lost a record deal, and got another one as he simplified (or dumbified) his sound and added another brother and C. F. Turner.

The result was a simple rock album that didn’t show any of the inventiveness or lyrical bite of Randy Bachman’s work with the Guess Who. It was basic rock, and this debut didn’t even have some of the hooks or riffs that highlight their later work.

There’s a really bad song from Tim Bachman (ooof), a weird pre-chorus in “Don’t Get Yourself in Trouble”, and leaden songs throughout, except for “Blue Collar”, and that lasts about two minutes too long. This one is a slog even at 35 minutes and half of the eight songs exiled.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The demo tape was labelled Brave Belt III.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 

GRADE C-: They’d do worse, but that’s not praise.