Category: Reviews: S-V

Phoebe Snow – Phoebe Snow

ARTIST: Phoebe Snow Phoebe_Snow_-_Phoebe_Snow

TITLE: Phoebe Snow

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #4

SINGLES: Poetry Man (#5), Harpo’s Blues

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Where Eagles Dare

LINEUP: Phoebe Snow and many sessioneers

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut for jazz-pop-folk singer is her career highlight.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: In 1974, things were looking up for Phoebe Snow. Her acoustic based jazzy and folk inspired songs gained critical acclaim and a deserved hit for “Poetry Man”.

Her voice was unique; she had range and dynamics. The production and arrangements by Dino Airali and Phil Ramone complemented her songs and her voice well, staying out of the way of the songs yet enhancing them. Eight of the ten tracks were originals, and she showed promise as a songwriter.

For various reasons (most notably being a parent of a special needs child that she refused to institutionalize), her career never materialized into long lasting success. So this is probably the best thing to pick up if you heard “Poetry Man” and were intrigued.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She had record company issues as well (Shelter Records reared its head again – like it did for Dwight Twilley and Tom Petty). There are compilations that have bits and pieces of her other albums streaming, but this material is only streaming on the original album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with demos and B-sides.

 GRADE A: A very pleasant record. Her songs are well written and evocative, and the arrangements fit them well.

Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods

ARTIST: Silversun Pickups 220px-Silversun_Pickups_neckofthewoods

TITLE: Neck of the Woods

YEAR RELEASED: 2012

CHART ACTION: #6 US, #1 US Indy, #86 UK

SINGLES: Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings) (#7 Alternatve, #16 Mainstream), The Pit (#3 Alternative, #31 Mainstream), Dots and Dashes (Enough Already) (#30 Alternative)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Brian Aubert, Nikki Monninger, Christopher Guanlao, Joe Lester

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: More atmospheric alternative rock with all kinds of sonic tricks in the mix, and a few tracks change up their normal mode.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Silversun Pickups are still moody, atmospheric, and have a to-die-for guitar sound. But as they mature, their songs are getting more complex. On this, their third album, they don’t rely on their same song structures as they have in the past.

Now, tracks have definite discrete sections, tone and tempo changes, and production that evolves during the track to emphasize the mood and feel of the song. And while there are stretches that could put you into torpor, the changing tones snap you out of it.

The Pickups never sound stale, but they do have a tendency to elongate their songs on occasion. Here, nothing is shorter than 4:39 and one stretches to almost seven minutes. That’s the one drawback here – sometimes they seem like their filling time with their intros and outros. Still, this record moves them forward.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: MTV streamed the album in full online.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE B+. Some tracks linger on too long, but overall this record is still quality.

Silversun Pickups – Swoon

ARTIST: Silversun Pickups SilversunpickupsSWOON

TITLE: Swoon

YEAR RELEASED: 2009

CHART ACTION: #7 US, #1 US Indy, #107 UK

SINGLES: Panic Switch (#92 US, #1 Alternative, #4 Mainstream), Substitution (#17 Alternative, #26 Mainstream), The Royal We (#5 Alternative, #21 Mainstream)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Brian Aubert, Nikki Monninger, Chris Guanlao, Joe Lester

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A more atmospheric album than their debut, adding layers of textures and sonic ephemera to build the songs.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Not contend to reproduce their debut, the Silverun Pickups went into the studio with a collection of more mature songs that they then built into layered, moody tracks that enhanced their basic sound.

Brian Aubert’s voice is perfectly suited for this – his whispery, gentle tenor lies above the texture yet not overpowering it. His guitar work is still solid – using the Billy Corgan setting many times on his axe. The rest of the band settles in and knows their place, though the studio musicians, strings, and other production sometimes limits their effectiveness.

The record does have tracks that seem to run out of steam, and with all tracks between 4:40 and 5:54 in length there’s a tendency for them to run together. But this record shows the band moving forward, enhancing their sound without falling into formula.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had a song on The Vampire Diaries soundtrack and released a three-son outtakes EP in 2010.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE A-. This build on their success and enhanced their sound with little problem

The Temptations – Psychedelic Soul

ARTIST: The Temptations psychedelic soul

TITLE: Psychedelic Soul

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Cloud Nine (#6 US, #2 R&B), Runaway Child, Running Wild (#6 US, #1 R&B), Don’t Let the Jones Get You Down (#20 US, #2 R&B), I Can’t Get Next to You (#1 US, #1 R&B, #13 UK), Psychedelic Shack (#7 US, #2 R&B, #33 UK), Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today) (#3 US, #2 R&B, #7 UK), Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite the World) (#33 US, #8 R&B), Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) (#1 US, #1 R&B, #8 UK), Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Ar) (#18 US, #8 R&B, #32 UK), Papa Was a Rolling Stone (#1 US, #5 R&B, #14 UK), Masterpiece (#7 US, #1 R&B), Plastic Man (#40 US, #8 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They did versions of War, Friendship Train and Smiling Faces Sometimes

LINEUP: Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendrick and David Edwards were the ‘classic five’. Richard Street replaced Paul Williams in 1970.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Norman Whitfield era of the Temptations features multi-lead vocals, and funky, funky grooves from the Funk Brothers, who were allowed to jam on the album cuts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The music world was changing, while the Motown Sound was stagnant. The Temptations were one of the first Motown acts to ‘modernize’, as they chose producer Norman Whitfield, who along with Barrett Strong wrote some great socially conscious songs, and Whitfield used the Funk Brothers to jam like crazy as well.

This collection grabs the album cuts, which can range up to over 12 minutes long (that’s one way to fill out an album side!), and while it is jamming it’s the Funk Brothers, so it’s not pointless noodling. They also did a few tracks made famous by other Motown artists to put the Psychedelic Soul spin on them. (“Friendship Train” just cooks.)

This era of the Temptations did have a few ballads (“Just My Imagination”) but most of it was funky, funky music. Those tracks allowed each of the Temps to shine as soloists in songs, and gave them a unique sound in soul and funk.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Temps revolted a bit in 1973 due to the long, long tracks that Whitfield kept recording. He was let go, and starting in 1974 they went back to shorter tracks.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE A+ Even with the long tracks, there’s no filler. Can you dig it?

The Temptations – Gold

ARTIST: The Temptations R-980461-1422001297-1914.jpeg

TITLE: Gold (Originally Released as My Girl: The Very Best of the Temptations)

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #167

SINGLES: Top 10 Pop: My Girl (#1 US, #1 R&B, #43 UK), Beauty Is Only Skin Deep (#3 US, #1 R&B, #18 UK), (I Know) I’m Losing You (#8 US, #1 R&B, #19 UK), All I Need (#8 US, #2 R&B), You’re My Everything (#6 US, #3 R&B). I Wish It Would Rain (#4 US, #1 R&B, #45 UK), Cloud Nine (#6 US, #2 R&B), I’m Gonna Make You Love Me (#2 US, #2 R&B, #3 UK), Runaway Child, Running Wild (#6 US, #1 R&B), I Can’t Get Next to You (#1 US, #1 R&B, #13 UK), Psychedelic Shack (#7 US, #2 R&B, #33 UK), Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today) (#3 US, #2 R&B, #7 UK), Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) (#1 US, #1 R&B, #8 UK), Papa Was a Rolling Stone (#1 US, #5 R&B, #14 UK), Masterpiece (#7 US, #1 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Way You Do The Things You Do, Get Ready, Ain’t Too Proud to Beg

LINEUP: Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendrick and David Ruffin were the ‘classic five’. Al Bryant was in the group very early on. Dennis Edwards replaced Ruffin. Richard Street replaced Paul Williams. Damon Harris replaced Kendrick. Others filtered in and out. Otis Williams is the only consistent member.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The commercial gold standard of Motown vocal groups rolled with changes in producers and styles (sometimes not too quietly) and dominated charts for over a decade.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s not the songs you know and hear all of the time. It’s tracks like “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep”, “Get Ready”, “Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are”), and “Shakey Ground” that makes the Temptations one of the most popular vocal groups of all time.

Going from a typical Motown sound towards the “Psychedelic Soul” era without a hitch (except internally) showed their versatility. They took the losses of personnel without much of an issue. The backing of the Motown session musicians also was top notch, and the songs were memorable. You know this, no doubt, but the deeper cuts are where you realize that behind the Miracles, the Temptations ruled the Motown era (no dis to the Four Tops…or anyone else).

This collection storms through the big singles from 1962 through their last Motown hits in the 90’s, including a memorable side with Rick James. But their last singles aren’t as memorable, as the 90’s production doesn’t suit them. That’s the only blip here.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There’s another Temptations compilation that has the long (and I mean long) cuts from their Psychedelic Soul era, and I’m going to review that one too.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There’s been larger comps, but this pretty much hits everything.

GRADE A: A few of the later cuts are disposable, but most of this stuff is essential.

Carly Simon – Anthology

ARTIST: Carly Simon 220px-CarlySimonAnthologyAlbum

TITLE: Anthology

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 20: That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be (#10 US), Anticipation (#13 US), You’re So Vain (#1 US, #3 UK), The Right Thing to Do (#17 US, #17 UK), Mockingbird (#5 US, #34 UK), Haven’t Got Time for the Pain (#14 US), Nobody Does It Better (#2 US, #7 UK), You Belong to Me (#6 US), Jesse (#11 US), Coming Around Again (318 US, #10 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah, unless you are a big fan.

LINEUP: Carly Simon and session players, sometimes she sang with her ex-husband James Taylor.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pretty complete overview of the highlights of Simon’s career.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: She came out of privilege in New York (Simon & Schuster? Yeah, Simon’s her dad), yet she connected easily with audiences since she sang about love, loss, and family (functional and dysfunctional).

Musically, her songs have twists and turns, changing from minor to major keys with ease. Her voice is well-matched for her material and great for show tunes and standards. The one downgrade is that after the 70’s, she seemed to chase trends in production on her mainstream albums, and her genre-themed albums didn’t quite have the song selection or originality she once exhibited.

This collection hits all of the 70’s high points and does a pretty decent job of picking through her 80’s and 90’s material, and for non-rabid fans it’s well worth the streams.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This isn’t streaming but you can put it together, since the other compilations miss some key tracks. Though three soundtrack cuts aren’t streaming on any platform. She also suffers from stage fright – so much so she pre-taped her one SNL performance.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A-: Listening this made me realize the depth of her career and how much more she was to pop culture than “You’re So Vain”.

Ike & Tina Turner – River Deep – Mountain High

ARTIST: Ike & Tina Turner River.deep.mountain.high

TITLE: River Deep – Mountain High

YEAR RELEASED: 1966 (1969)

CHART ACTION: #102 US, #27 UK

SINGLES: River Deep – Mountain High (#88 US, #3 UK), I’ll Never Need More Than This (#114 US, #64 UK), A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knocking Everyday) (#16 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A Fool in Love, It’s Gonna Work Out Fine (both remakes of the original), Save the Last Dance for Me

LINEUP: Ike Turner, Tina Turner, Claudia Lennear, Bonnie Bramlett, Session musicians like Carol Kaye, Glenn Campbell, Leon Russell, Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel, Jim Gordon, and many more

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The hyped (and flawless) single busted in the US, so this LP was only released in UK until 1969, when A&M put it out.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is it – the project that drove Phil Spector totally over the edge. When the US rejected the single “River Deep-Mountain High” (there are many theories as to why), Spector pulled this album from production, but released it in the UK and Europe where the single did well.

What the US missed until 1969 was one of the best soul albums of the decade. While re-recording songs seems shaky, Ike & Tina’s re-recordings of their early hits with an updated sound make sense (they’d do that a lot as time went on) as it allowed everything to fit together. Phil Spector produced half of the tracks, with Ike producing the rest. The sound is Spector through and through – big, bold, and loud.

Spector and Ike Turner pulled together the best of the best in terms of songs and personnel, and Tina Turner and Ikettes really put on one of their best vocal performances. It should have been a big hit – but it was not for whatever reason. Pity.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Spector claimed he loved the acclaim the record received in Europe, but basically disappeared for almost three years and his record company stopped releasing new records.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but between 1966 and 1969 they swapped out a track for the second single “I’ll Never Need More Than This”.

GRADE A+: There’s no real filler, here. Everything is just cooking.

Britney Spears – The Essential Britney Spears

ARTIST: Britney Spears  81svo0iDQJL._SX522_

TITLE:  The Essential Britney Spears

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #185

SINGLES: Top 10: …Baby One More Time (#1 US, #1 UK), Sometimes (#21 US, #3 UK), (You Drive Me) Crazy (#10 US, #5 UK), Oops! I Did It Again (#9 US, #1 UK), Lucky (#23 US, #5 UK), Stronger (#11 US, #7 UK), I’m a Slave 4 U (#27 US, #4 UK), Overprotected (#86 US, #4 UK), I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman (#102 US, #2 UK), Boys (#122 US, #7 UK), Me Against the Music (#35 US, #2 UK), Toxic (#9 US, #1 UK), Everytime (#15 US, #1 UK), My Prerogative (#101 US, #3 UK), Do Somethin (#100 US, #6 UK), Gimme More (#3 US, #3 UK), Piece of Me (#1 US, #3 UK), Circus (#3 US, #13 UK), 3 (#1 US, #7 UK), Hold It Against Me (#1 US, #6 UK), ‘Til the World Ends (#3 US, #21 UK), I Wanna Go (#7 US, #111 UK), Scream and Shout (#3 US, #1 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  Oh, probably…

LINEUP:  Britney Spears, producers, song doctors, session musicians, the pop machine.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A fairly complete overview of the first 13 or so years of the pop phenomenon known as Britney Spears.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Beginning with “…Baby One More Time”, and rolling through her singles as of 2012, this collection of Ms. Spears hits shows her changing with the pop winds – moving from Lolita to Succubus along the way.

Ear candy to the nth degree, Spears was fed some outstanding pop tracks for her first releases, and then succumbed to formula (the second sugar rush isn’t as good as the first) for a while. She never did become an innovator, but broke out of the teen pop when that didn’t prove to be a long term prospect (in the US, the UK kept buying her stuff anyway).

Spears isn’t the best singer, and the ballads really expose her weaknesses (along with the lack of creativity in the songwriting), but she’s a perfect vehicle for semi-randy pop nuggets.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There are a few hits that came after this collection, the last being in 2016.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+:  Maybe too much for casual fans, and probably best for nostalgia, but a few songs are all-timers in the pop realm.

They Might Be Giants – Miscellaneous T

ARTIST: They Might Be Giants 220px-Misc_t

TITLE: Miscellaneous T

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: These were single B-sides or remixes for singles

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Kiss Me Son of God, The World’s Address, (She Was a) Hotel Detective, Don’t Let’s Start – all of these in their singles remixes

LINEUP: John Flansburgh, John Linnell, and others

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: B-sides and a new track released as a good-bye to their independent label.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is a compilation of all of the B-sides recorded and (mostly) released for their Restless Records singles.

It shows the group as profilic, and as always, a good imitator of genres on all kinds of instruments. (“The Famous Polka” for one). As with any odds-and-sods collection, there are highs and lows, and they’re no different. However, for the most part these are enjoyable trifles and novelties. But there are definitely highlights – songs that could have been released on their own (at least I think so).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: In the UK, there was an earlier version that included all of the songs except “Hello Radio”. Also there’s a track of an answering machine conversation left on the bands Dial-A-Song.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B+: “For Science”, “We’re the Replacements’, “It’s Not My Birthday”, “Birds Fly” are just examples of the tossed-off weirdness and wonder.

They Might Be Giants – Flood

ARTIST: They Might Be Giants 220px-Flood_album_cover

TITLE: Flood

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: #75 US, #14 UK

SINGLES: Birdhouse in Your Soul (#3 Alternative, #6 UK), Twisting (#22 Alternative), Istanbul (Not Constantinople) (#61 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Particle Man, They Might Be Giants

LINEUP: John Flansburgh, John Linnell, and a lot of people helping here and there with vocals and other instruments.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The major label debut by TMBG may be their peak in their original style and sound.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Songs? Arrangements? Clever and insightful lyrics? All here!

Hooks? Yeppers.

Fun? Satire? Tributes? Reinventions of classic songs? Oh, yes. 220px-TMBG-Flood-Vinyl

Any album that goes from the eclectic new wavish pop of “Birdhouse in Your Soul”, to the social commentary (serious) of “Your Racist Friend”, to the all-time mid-temp polka (I guess) “Particle Man”, and then later to the perfect western of “Minimum Wage”, is well worth the listen. Then all of the other tracks will open themselves up to you. Even with the oom-pahs, and boings, and other sounds. They’re all brilliantly arranged and inserted.

They probably peaked here. That’s OK. This is a definitive statement of…They Might Be Giants.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: UK producers Winstanley and Langer helped produce. 2/3 of the albums budget was used on four tracks.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A live bonus disc,

GRADE A+: “Hang on, hang on tightly…”