Category: Reviews: S-V

Velocity Girl – Copacetic

ARTIST: Velocity Girl  220px-Copacetic_(Velocity_Girl_album_-_cover_art)

TITLE: Copacetic

YEAR RELEASED: 1993

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Crazy Town, Audrey’s Eyes

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Archie Moore, Brian Nelson, Kelly Riles, Sarah Shannon, Jim Spellman

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A shoe-gazey alternative rock band from DC that found its way through the grunge madness, even while on Sub Pop, the home of grunge (sorta).

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After releasing singles and touring the East Coast, Velocity Girl was signed to Sub Pop and released their debut, a shoegaze-like record featuring hazy, distorted guitars and a vocalist (Sarah Shannon) whose bright voice was covered up in the crackly guitars.

That made Shannon’s vocals even more effective, as the listener had to focus on the songs as a whole to get the entire essence of the track. It revealed a band that wasn’t in step with the other Sub Pop bands, but found a niche in the market. The vocal melodies were enticing enough for radio, and the guitars and arrangements kept them firmly in the alternative camp.

The album has some missteps and clunks. For every great song like title track and the singles, there’s a song that goes on too long, or is an experiment that doesn’t quite work. In other words, a debut record.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Drummer Jim Spellman was a CNN reporter and is now a reporter on a DC based station.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B+: Some tracks went awry, but this is solid, solid shoegaze stuff.

Sepultura – Schizophrenia

ARTIST: Sepultura 220px-Schizophrenia_album

TITLE: Schizophrenia

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None unless you were a death metal head in the 80’s

LINEUP: Max Cavalera, Igor Vacalera, Paulo Jr. , Andreas Kisser

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A lineup change, better songs, and a better studio coalesces the band into a tight, taught unit.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Andreas Kisser joined Sepultura as the new lead guitarist, and almost immediately the results showed. The change moved them into more of a traditional thrash metal, which suited them greatly. The songs became tighter and more controlled. The vocals also were more suited to this style. It was a change for the better.

This record was recorded in a better studio than the previous record, and that also helped the band form its sound and vision far beyond their debut. It’s a great leap forward.

There are still some issues, though, with the songs sometimes blending together and the ideas outreaching their execution, but this album showed that path forward for Sepultura.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Kisser’s parents were European (Slovene and German), though he is a Brazilian native.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A few bonus cuts and demos

GRADE B: Much better, more focused, and the groundwork for the band going forward.

 

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”…

Suzanne Vega – Solitude Standing

ARTIST: Suzanne Vega 220px-Pongnan21-1-

TITLE: Solitude Standing

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION: #11 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: Gypsy (#77 UK), Luka (#3 US, #23 UK), Tom’s Diner (#58 UK), Solitude Standing (#94 US, #79 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Calypso

LINEUP: Suzanne Vega, Marc Shulman, Anton Sanko, Michael Visceglia, Stephen Ferrera. Help from Shawn Colvin, Mitch Easter, and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The breakthrough record contained the hit, the novelty which later became a signature, and solid folk rock.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The tracks on this, the second Suzanne Vega full-length, were written during the 80’s and polished in the studio by the backing band. The musicians added a great deal of depth and adventure to the tracks, which helped this albums overall mood.

Vega’s warm alto is mixed well with the backing, and the lyrics and melody work for the songs and arrangements. Foremost is the title track, with its twists and key changes, and the big hit “Luka” which is a big-sounding song that is intimate as well.

“Tom’s Diner” was the out of left field hit – an acapella version became the basis of remixes and another album entirely. But here, it fits in well as an opener and as an instrumental coda to one of the best folk albums of the 80’s

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They tried to figure out the day Vega wrote it or was referencing, and the best guess is most of it was November 18, 1981.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A: An interesting folk album deeper than the hits and novelty.

Tad – Inhaler

ARTIST: Tad 220px-Tad_Inhaler

TITLE: Inhaler

YEAR RELEASED: 1993

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Leafy Incline

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Grease Box

LINEUP: Tad Doyle, Kurt Danielson, Gary Thorstensen, Josh Sinder

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: This may be the ultimate heavy grunge record. Hooks and heft. It didn’t sell. Damnit.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Long regarded as the heaviest band in the grunge scene (Tad Doyle’s weight notwithstanding – he as a big boy), Tad’s major label debut was a record that should have propelled them into the territory of Helmet in terms of recognition and sales.

It wasn’t meant to be.

While their previous record was an A+ due to attitude and spirit, this album rates as highly.  The material is consistent, there are actually hooks, huge riffage, more actual singing (not that I don’t mind Tad’s yowl), and plenty of material that could have been on some radio station’s playlist (it’s 1993, a lot of stuff got on there) or on Headbanger’s Ball (“Luminol” anyone?)

J. Mascis’ production reins in the sound a bit, and focuses the band into a consistent sonic palette. It’s still heavy and fun, though, and catchy. Just didn’t make it. Damn it all.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Grease Box” was used during the credits of an Edward Furlong movie.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A+: This isn’t a ‘homer’ call. It’s bonafide one of the best 90’s records, and one of the heaviest and riffiest.

Sublime – Playlist Your Way

ARTIST: Sublime     R-5261319-1388976697-2044.jpeg

TITLE: Playlist Your Way

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Date Rape, What I Got (#1 Modern, #11 Mainstream, #71 UK), Santeria (#3 Modern), Wrong Way (#3 Modern), Doin’ Time (#87 US, #11 Modern)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Caress Me Down

LINEUP: Brad Nowell, Eric Wilson, Bud Gaugh. Marshall Goodman played on early tracks.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the best distillations of Sublime.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sublime had moments of goodness and greatness surrounded by puerile and immature tracks, skits, and what not. They didn’t really have a purge button, yet. So this may be the best collection for the novice.

This has all of the hits and best songs from Sublime and 40 oz. to Freedom (skipping Robbin’ the Hood for some reason, but that’s not much of a loss except for one track). It’s their high points in one package, where Brad Nowell’s songs are tight and propulsive and the band is focused and cooks.

Missing “Saw Red” (with Gwen Stefani), it’s not a perfect collection, but it’s better than the others around (which are sparse or too huge with rarities, etc.) It shows a band maturing into their own, ready to take the leap, which sadly didn’t happen.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers produced a great chunk of their last album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A-: Just think of the potential after these songs, and realize that heroin sucks.

 

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.

Talking Heads – Remain in Light

ARTIST: Talking Heads 220px-TalkingHeadsRemaininLight

TITLE: Remain in Light

YEAR RELEASED: 1980

CHART ACTION: #19 US, #21 UK

SINGLES: Once in a Lifetime (#103 US, #14 UK), Houses in Motion (#50 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On), Crosseyed and Painless

LINEUP: David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth, Chris Franz, Brian Eno, Nona Hendryx, Adrian Belew, Robert Palmer, session percussion and horns.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Never standing still, Talking Heads move into a groove-based rhythmic sound with plenty of room for experimentation and production tricks.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Crafting the songs from jams, adding crucial elements like Nona Hendryx’ backing vocals and Adrian Belew’s out-there guitar, Talking Heads overcame David Byrne’s writers block and created a forward-thinking album that is still far beyond what many bands have done.

Using African music and rhythm as an inspiration, the Heads dove in to create an outwardly rhythmic and inwardly introspective album. Many songs feature element upon element of sound, yet the rhythm is always forward. There also couldn’t be two different grooves and sounds than “Crosseyed and Painless” and “The Overload” (a homage to Joy Division, even though no one in the band had heard them before), and they exist here on the same record by the same band.

The last part of the album seems to run out of steam, probably thanks to the joyous first part, yet it’s a crucial album in music because of its emphasis and inspiration.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There were plenty of disputes between Byrne and the band, and Eno and some of the band related to credits and production.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A few outtakes.

GRADE A: Bona-fide classics and lots of grooves to get lost in.

Stellastarr* – Harmonies for the Haunted

ARTIST: Stellastarr*

TITLE: Harmonies for the Haunted

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: #12 Heatseeker

SINGLES: Sweet Troubled Soul (#37 Dance)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Arthur Kremer, Shawn Christensen, Amanda Tannen, Michael Jurin

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from NY band finds them in a more dance-oriented mood rhythmically, but still has a foot into the alt-rock scene.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Perhaps taking a nod from the trends in NYC happening at the time (with Interpol and the Rapture), Stellastarr moved themselves toward a dance-oriented rhythm, while still blasting guitars out to the fore, and singer Shawn Christensen still over-singing a bit. His enunciation on the pre-chorus to “The Diver” is cringe-worthy for sure.

What this album has is “Sweet Troubled Soul”, an all-timer of a track and head-and-shoulders above everything on this record. The other tracks are OK, but without that track the album would just be a trend-hopping exercise by a band that never really knew what it wanted to be anyway.

Still, “Sweet Troubled Soul” is worthwhile and the other tracks are decent enough to keep. So, one track saves the day.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This album was first issued with the blasted Media Max software that kept legit buyers from ripping a copy for their iPod.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but the copies streaming now don’t have the hidden track. So an anti-deluxe?

GRADE B+: It’s really a regression with one track pumping the grade up two notches.

Scorpions – Tokyo Tapes

ARTIST: The Scorpions

TITLE: Tokyo Tapes

YEAR RELEASED: 1978

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: All Night Long

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe, if you’re a fan of early Scorps

LINEUP: Klaus Meine, Uli Jon Roth, Rudolf Schenker, Francis Buchholz, Herman Raraebell

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Capping the Uli Jon Roth album with a double live in front of an adoring fan base in Japan, the Scorps play their hits, and indulge in double-live album excesses. It was the 70’s.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The double live album. What would rock fans in the 70’s do without it? This one is perfect to check out the various Scorpions’ 70’s tracks that are scattered over several compilations.

The Scorpions iteration with Uli Jon Roth was a little more arty as Roth liked to extend songs with guitar solos. The bad news is that Roth also sang a few tracks, and he’s no Klaus Meine. Not even close. His vocals kill “Polar Nights”, but dang he can play.

There are some indulgences (of course), including two covers of old rock songs and an old Japanese song, along with a lot of soloing (including a drum solo in “Top of the Bill”). Still, this is a prime collection of 70’s Scorpions.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The first re-issue of the CD left off “Polar Nights” since they wanted it on one disc.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, they restored “Polar Nights” and added more live tracks, including the Japanese anthem and four repeat tracks from another show.

 GRADE B: It’s a 70’s live double, so it is long and indulgent. But it’s still a good overview and the playing is great.