Category: Grade: C

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.

Joe Jackson – Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive

ARTIST: Joe Jackson

TITLE: Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive  220px-Jumpinjive

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #42 US, #12 UK

SINGLES: Jumpin’ Jive (#43 UK), Jack You’re Dead

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: All of these are swing-era hit songs

LINEUP: Joe Jackson, Pete Thomas, Raul D’Oliveira, Nick Weldon, Dave Bitelli, Graham Maby, Larry Tolfree.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After he broke up his angry-young-man band, Jackson goes swing (!?!) It was probably a fun record to make.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The swing music era always has affectionados, and revivals every now and then pop up in space and time. Joe Jackson loved the jump blues and swing, so why not put out an album of covers of his favorite songs.

Featuring songs made famous by Louis Jordan, Glenn Miller, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, and others, Jackson leads a competent swing band through the paces in what sounds like a fun time.

Yet after a couple of plays, what you want to do is find the originals (which is now much, much easier in the streaming world) than listen to Jackson’s versions. (His voice isn’t always built for these songs). So a fun concept, the tour was probably a hoot, but these aren’t the originals and that’s what you really want.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After this tour, Jackson changed directions again, keeping Graham Maby as the only continuum between his first band and 1982.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE: C+: It’s fun, but it doesn’t have staying power since the originals are the ones you need to seek out.

The Dirtbombs – Horndog Fest

ARTIST: The Dirtbombs                    220px-Horndogfest

TITLE:  Horndog Fest

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Can’t Stop Thinking About It

LINEUP: Mick Collins, Tom Lynch, Eric Wheeler, Chris Handyside, Joe Greenwald

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Retro garage and soul band, record an album after a bunch of singles. It’s hit or miss in a big way.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After releasing a bunch of singles, and before they found their groove in the early 2000’s, the Dirtbombs mastermind Mick Collins accepted an offer to record an album and treated it like a single, except there was a lot more B-side material than A-side stuff.

“I Can’t Stop Thinking About It” is one of those coulda shoulda songs that really should be rescued (it was in a TV commercial, though). There are a couple of other tracks that deserve to hang around, but most of the rest is a bit puerile or obtuse, or way way overcome by noise. Though I dig Joe Greenwald’s guitar settings.

They’d get their mojo around the turn of the decade, but this one is a pass except for a couple of tracks.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had released five singles by the time this was put out, and had an EP come out in 1999 as well.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: C-: A couple tracks save it from total ignominy

Rick Derringer – Playlist: The Very Best of Rick Derringer

ARTIST: Rick Derringer                     71++RgMezdL._SX425_

TITLE:  Playlist: The Very Best of Rick Derringer

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Hang on Sloopy (#1 US, #5 UK), Rock and Roll, Hootchie Koo (#23 US), Teenage Love Affair (#80 US), Let Me In (#86)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Still Alive and Well

LINEUP: Rick Derringer and various session people, plus his own group called Derringer, which existed in the mid-70’s

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Guitarist and vocalist for the McCoys, Johnny Winter, and Edgar Winter’s solo career is compiled in a single disc that illustrates the problems he had sustaining a solo career.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s no doubt Rick Derringer’s a good wingman, as his worth with both Winter brothers and Weird Al show. He’s also got a good rock-and-roll voice. But as a songwriter, he’s got few highlights outside of “Rock and Roll, Hootchie Koo”.

“Still Alive and Well” works well, and various dribs and drabs from his group Derringer are decent enough. But his 70’s solo albums found him straddling glam and hard rock, with no real purpose, and some of his tracks are just cringeworthy (who the hell thought “If I Weren’t So Romantic, I’d Shoot You” was a song title that would be both a single AND the title of an album???)

I was quite disappointed here – but it illustrates why you’ve not heard much besides his big solo hit.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He recorded a version of “Real American” for Alex Jones’ show. I don’t need to say more.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: C: Many tracks exiled. Just not great