Category: Grade: C

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.

Death Cult – Death Cult

ARTIST: Death Cult (The Cult)  Death-Cult-EP

TITLE: Death Cult

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: No

SINGLES: It started as a 4-track EP, and added tracks in 1988 and 1996

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Horse Nation was on their debut LP

LINEUP: Ian Astbury, Billy Duffy, Jamie Stewart. Ray Mondo played drums in the first sessions, then Nigel Preston played on the later cuts.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Tentative start by the future Cult find them feeling their way around their early sound.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The guitars aren’t as big, the production is simple, and the songs aren’t that great, but still, when Ian Astbury opens his mouth, you know it’s The Cult, albeit way early in their career when they were known as Death Cult.

Migrating from a couple of other bands (one being Southern Death Cult), the band soon to be known as The Cult recorded a four track EP that at least got them a little notice. Later they recorded a single “God’s Zoo”, which was a marked improvement. That lead to their debut record, where they repurposed a song here and cast the rest into history.

There are some high points here, but the flat production, meandering tracks, and the lack of redeeming kitsch makes this EP disposable to all except the curious. Death_Cult_(EP)

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The lead track of the EP proper, “Brothers Grimm”, was written by Duffy and Steve Abbot from UK Decay when they both were unemployed from their previous bands.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Originally it was a 4-track EP, then they added the “God’s Zoo” single, and then a BBC session that led up to their Dreamtime album as the Cult.

GRADE C-: For the curious only, except for “God’s Zoo” and maybe “Brothers Grimm” if I’m generous.

Brinsley Schwarz – Surrender to the Rhythm

ARTIST: Brinsley Schwarz            R-3385050-1345775303-3534.jpeg

TITLE: Surrender to the Rhythm

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Country Girl, I Like It Like That, Silver Pistol, Happy Doing What We’re Doing, (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Trying to Live My Live Without You

LINEUP: Nick Lowe, Brinsley Schwarz, Ian Gomm, Bob Andrews, Billy Rankin

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pub-rockers collection shows why they’re a historical footnote.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Students of the UK New Wave scene know that Brinsley Schwarz, the band, connects to Rockpile, Elvis Costello, and Graham Parker and the Rumour. Nick Lowe, the bassist and main songwriter / singer, got popular on his own as a performer and producer.

The band was one of the leaders of ‘pub rock’ movement, which was a live alternative to prog and glam played in small venues. While they spawned a lot of compatriots and evolved into the the UK New Wave movement, the music by Brinsley Schwarz is…bland.

They’re competent, they play well, and they’re mellow. Too mellow at times. There’s not a lot of energy, and the cover versions seem lazy. They’re more useful as a reference point than something to put on.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Yes, the band is named after their guitarist. They also had a disaster of a gig at the Fillmore in 1970 that’s legendary.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 

GRADE C: Disappointing to hear a historical band be this…blah.

Blur – Leisure

ARTIST: Blur                                      220px-LeisureUK

TITLE: Leisure

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: #7 UK

SINGLES: She’s So High (#48 UK), There’s No Other Way (#82 US, #5 Alternative, #8 UK), Bang (#24 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Sing

LINEUP: Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James, Dave Rowntree

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A dour shoegaze album which didn’t win a lot of hearts and minds outside the singles.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Bands don’t always start off well. Blur is a great example of that.

Despite charting well and having a couple of hit singles, most of the record was turgid and boring. Yeah, Blur was boring – and they really sounded like any other shoegaze band except for a few moments of inspiration, and sometimes a boring track would have a minute where it seemed OK but then went right back to minor-chord turgidness. When they did wake up, they sounded like the Stone Roses’ little brothers.

This is about the last thing you need from Blur if you’re in an exploratory mode. Yeah, a few songs are OK but as the record goes on, you want to escape the minor key mud.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Sing” was on the Trainspotting soundtrack.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Some different running orders in the US and Japan.

 GRADE C: They got a hit, but they knew they needed a re-think.

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.