Category: Grade: C

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.

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.