Category: Reviews: S-V

20/20 – Look Out!

ARTIST: 20/20                                      R-2470935-1285873847.jpeg

TITLE: Look Out!

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

 

CHART ACTION: #127

SINGLES: Strange Side of Love,

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only if you adore power pop

LINEUP: Steve Allen, Ron Flynt, Joel Turrisi, Chris Silagyi.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from relocated Midwestern power-pop quartet is hooky and melodic

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Power pop was either a hit or miss (usually a miss) on the charts, since it fell in between radio-friendly rock, pop, and adult contemporary and only the catchiest tracks could catch on with the radio.

Which means a band like 20/20, who had catchy hooks, harmonies, and interesting songs and melodies, didn’t catch a break in the era when the Top 40 was transitioning away from disco and into new wave and arena rock.

This second foray by the band covers a lot of the same ground as their debut. Some of the tracks near the end didn’t work as well in reality as in concept, and at times it felt like a slight re-write of the first one. Still, there was enough here that it could have done better on the charts had radio taken a flyer on it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They added a new drummer, and after the album only Allen and Flynt remained.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Two extra tracks.

 GRADE: B+: A few duds near the end, otherwise another good representation of power pop.

Suede – The Best of Suede

ARTIST: Suede                                          BestofSuede

TITLE: The Best of Suede

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #31 UK

SINGLES: Top 10: Metal Mickey (#7 US Modern, #17 UK), Animal Nitrate (#7 U), Stay Together (#3 UK), Trash (#3 UK), Beautiful Ones (#8 UK), Saturday Night (#6 UK), Lazy (#9 UK), Filmstar (#9 UK), Electricity (#5 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Brit-pop fans know the B-sides and album tracks here

LINEUP: Brett Anderson, Mat Osman, Bernard Butler, Simon Gilbert. Richard Oakes replaced Butler halfway through their hit tenure. Neil Codling joinde on keyboards later.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the original Brit Pop bands (taking the UK over from the Madchester scene), Suede’s singles were at times rock, pop, and bombastic prog all rolled into one.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A combination of sex, drugs, and glammy rock-and-roll, Suede’s influence and popularity in the UK is greater than we’ll ever know here in the US. Yet, the band was a tinderbox due to tensions through recording and touring. and the drug use of singer Brett Anderson.

Britpop didn’t make much of a ripple over hear (Oasis and the odd Blur track notwithstanding), and while the themes of Suede’s music had an audience here. At times Suede were too bombastic and really worshiping at the altar of Bowie and Marc Bolan. When Bernard Butler left, Anderson didn’t quite have the musical partner he needed.

This is a good introduction for most of the curious in the US, as it covers most all of their A-sides from their classic period, and has a few B-sides and album tracks. That second disc does drag a bit and lowers the grade, as some songs are definitely exile-worthy..

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Here, we have to officiallycall them the London Suede, but I’m not going to.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The first disc is the hits. The second are Brett Anderson’s favorites.

 GRADE: B : Had it been the first disc, it’s definitely an A-. The second disc has some duds.

The Statler Brothers – Flowers on the Wall: Essential Statler Brothers / Gold

ARTIST: The Statler Brothers

TITLE: Flowers on the Wall: Essential Statler Brothers 1964-69 / Gold essential statler

YEAR RELEASED: Compilations

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 10: Flowers on the Wall (#4, #2 Country), Ruthless (#10 Country), You Can’t Have Your Cake and Edith Too (#10 Country), Bed of Roses (#58, #9 Country), Do You Remember These (#105, #2 Country), The Class of ’57 (#6 Country), I’ll go To My Grave Loving You (#93, #3 Country), Thank God I’ve Got You (#10 Country), Do You Know You Are My Sunshine (#1 Country), Who Am I To Say (#3 Country), The Official Historian on Shirley Jean Berrell (#5 Country), Nothing as Original as You (#10 Country), (I’ll Even Love You) Better Than I Did (#8 Country), Charlotte’s Web (#5 Country)…and more.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Susan When She Tried

LINEUP: Harold Reid, Lew DeWitt, Don Reid, Phil Balsley. Jimmy Fortune came in for Lew DeWitt later.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Two comps for classic country vocal group allows you to make one good one but with two omissions you need to grab. statler gold

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Statler’s got their breaks with “Flowers on the Wall” and then opening for Johnny Cash for about a decade. They were singers in the gospel quartet tradition and they also had a sense of humor and parody. The harmonies they sang were impeccable, and notable for Harold Reid’s booming bass.

They had a huge collection of hits, and gained steam after leaving cash thanks to some great TV marketing and appearances. Their hits collection was advertised on independent stations everywhere. Anyone of a certain age knows at least snippets of their biggest hits.

Yet despite the riches here, Gold focuses too much on later material and omits two tracks almost everyone knows: “What Ever Happened to Randolph Scott” and “The Movies”. That downgrades that collection. The earlier collection doesn’t have as many hits, but has some nice material that would have fit nicely with Cash on stage.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Not brothers, but named after a Kleenex box they found in a hotel room.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There are other compilations, but with split record companies it’s hard to get the early stuff and later stuff together, and they don’t solve the issue of “Randolph Scott” missing.

GRADE: B / B-  Gold needed a better selection and pacing.

Squirrel Bait – Squirrel Bait

ARTIST: Squirrel Bait                                    220px-Squirrel_Bait_Squirrel_Bait_EP_

TITLE:  Squirrel Bait

YEAR RELEASED: 1985

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Technically an EP

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, maybe if you followed the family tree of Slint.

LINEUP: David Grubbs, Clark Johnson, Brian McMahan, Peter Searcy, Ben Daughtry. Britt Walford drummed on two tracks taken from their demo.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Punky band from Louisville document themselves after opening  for several prominent bands who were touring in the midwest.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: These were kids who were inspired by the punk scene and not radio. Just out of high school, they toured with Husker Du and Black Flag, among others, and got enough buzz to get in a bidding war of sorts between punk labels before settling with Homestead.

The sound is definitely an evolution of the original punk scene, with melodies and textural changes that complement the punk, and doesn’t sound like it was grafted onto it unwillingly. “Sun God” may be the beginning of the emo movement with Peter Searcy’s pleading over a simple guitar line, then a mild cacophony. It’s like Die Kreuzen with better production and a better lead singer.

There’s still a lot of hardfastrules here, but the variety in sounds is something that differentiated the band from other youngsters trodding the punk rock boards in the 80’s

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Steve Albini designed the cover. .

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B+: Pretty good EP that was influential for the right people.

Sylvester – Mighty Real (Greatest Dance Hits)

ARTIST: Sylvester                                         R-5480744-1394461410-3536.jpeg

TITLE:  Mighty Real (Greatest Dance Hits)

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Over and Over (#18 Dance), Dance (Disco Heat) (#19 US, #4 R&B, #1 Dance), You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) (#36 US, #20 R&B, #1 Dance, #8 UK), Body Strong (#4 Dance), Stars (#4 Dance, #47 UK), Can’t Stop Dancing (#43 R&B, #2 Dance), I Need You / Sell My Soul (#6 Dance)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Sylvester, the Weather Girls, Disco sessioneers

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Disco, Disco, Disco!

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sylvester James had a San Francisco glammy type band, but they broke up after two records. He sound found the Weather Girls who became his backup singers and close friends, and went to the disco genre and became the gay undergrounds disco star in the late 70’s, particulary for “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)”.

The late 70’s were his time – especially on the dance charts. He was a star in the disco realm, but tried to change up in early 1980 to more of a soul and gospel groove, and bombed out. He sued his producer for unpaid royalties and released a few more albums before his death due to AIDS in the late 80’s.

This collection is a good throwback to that carefree disco era of the 70’s.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He played on the Late Show with Joan Rivers, and corrected her when she referred to him as a drag queen.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B-: Good disco tracks with some high points, but as most disco albums the cuts are long and repetitive – good for dancing grooves, not much of intense listening.

U2 – War

ARTIST: U2                           220px-U2_War_album_cover (1)

TITLE:  War

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: #12 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: New Year’s Day (#53 US, #2 Mainstream, #10 UK), Sunday Bloody Sunday (#7 Mainstream), Two Hearts Beat As One (#12 Mainstream, #18 UK), Surrender (#27 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Seconds, “40”

LINEUP: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen with a little help from Kenny Fradley, Steve Wickham, and the Coconuts

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: U2 coalesces all of its strengths into one unifying force, creating an album that put them on the map all over the world and MTV too.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Beginning with a martial snare drum, and ending with a plaintive Psalm, U2 recovered from the uneven October with a classic that focused their sound, their lyrics, and their attitude.

Each member of U2 plays with a fire and passion befitting the songs, especially Larry Mullen on drums. He varies his sounds and attack to suit each track, but never interferes with the other elements. Bassist Adam Clayton’s work with Mullen creates a very solid rhythm section, allowing the Edge’s guitar (and e-piano) space to color and shape the tracks. “New Year’s Day” is one of THE tracks of the rock era.

Bono gets a little heavy handed and preachy in a couple songs (it IS Bono) which makes a couple songs less than stellar, but most every track is worthy of heavy play. This is where to start – it’s the bedrock of U2 for years to come.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Edge sings the first two stanzas of “Seconds”. I…I did not know that. Also, the Coconuts (from King Creole’s band) sing backup in three tracks

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

 GRADE: A: Had Bono reigned himself a skosh on a couple tracks, it would have been an A+

Sloan – Navy Blues

ARTIST: Sloan

220px-Sloan_Navy_Blues

 

TITLE:  Navy Blues

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION: #5 in Canada

SINGLES: Money City Maniacs (#7 Canada, #4 Canada Alternative), See Says What She Means (#21 Canada Alternative), Keep on Thinkin’ (#85 Canada)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not here, eh?

LINEUP: Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland, Jay Ferguson, Andrew Scott

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A bit more hard rocking record from the Canadians, as if they inhaled the faster late-period Beatles songs and re-arranged them in their own way.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Thanks to a pizza commercial, some fine power poppin’, and bass line inspired by AC/DC, Sloan hit a commercial peak in Canada with “Money City Maniacs”, a quintessential power pop song if there was ever one. Yet that’s not the only fine, inspired track here.

Cut after cut showcases the bands gifts of melody, arrangement, and harmony. Most of the time, the band hits the mark, but “Chester the Molester” is cringe worthy lyrically even if it’s done lightheartedly (that may make it worse).

Skip that track, and enjoy the rest, especially reveling in how the album starts off with “She Says What She Means”.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The opening track, “She Says What She Means’ was the last track recorded  and only written by Chris Murphy as an answer to the other rockin’ songs penned by Patrick Pentland.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: In Japan

 GRADE: A-: Downgrading for “Chester the Molester”, but otherwise a fantastic power pop record.

Son Volt – Straightaways

ARTIST: Son Volt                               220px-Straightaways

TITLE:  Straightaways

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: #44

SINGLES: Back into Your World, Caryatid Easy

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Way Down Watson

LINEUP: Jay Farrar, Dave Boquist, Eric Heywood, Jim Boquist, Mike Heidorn

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second Son Volt album seems unfocused and a bit of a letdown after such a strong debut.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Jay Farrar and crew’s second album starts off sort of strong with “Caryatid Easy”, a straightforward rocker with a country tinge. It gives one hope that their second album would be as good as their first, or close to it.

But that’s not the case. As the album rolls along, the songs become more laborious and ponderous. The last half of the album especially gets a bit languid (mostly thanks to Farrar’s vocals on the slower ballads), and the lyrics more and more obtuse. It’s not that there’s not good material here, but it comes down to pacing. “Caryatid Easy” could have / should have been in the middle somewhere and “Cemetery Savior” or another mid-tempo track could have been the opener.

The lack of a really memorable track also makes this record a bit disappointing. There’s not one that I could really recall without listening to it again (unlike other songs that I sing or hum in my head all of the time). It’s just falls short.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Eric Heywood is credited as a full band member on this album, though he was also the touring guitar tech.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: Good songs, not great songs, and the pacing and sequencing isn’t the best.

Son Volt – Trace

ARTIST: Son Volt                Son_Volt-Trace_(album_cover)

TITLE:  Trace

YEAR RELEASED: 1995

CHART ACTION: #166

SINGLES: Drown (#10 Mainstream, #25 Alternative)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Windfall, Live Free

LINEUP: Jay Farrar, Dave Boquist, Jim Boquist, Mike Heidorn. Eric Heywood added pedal steel.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After the acrimonious breakup of Uncle Tupelo, Jay Farrar forms his own band (like Jeff Tweedy) and releases probably the best record of his career.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Uncle Tupelo legacy battle was originally won by Jay Farrar, forming Son Volt with Uncle Tupelo founding drummer Mike Heidorn and the Boquist brothers. This first album is packed with tracks that may not have been out of place on any Uncle Tupelo record, except for the upgrade in the recording budget.

Farrar’s voice is weary and melancholy, which fits all of this material perfectly. The opener, “Windfall”, may be the best example of Alt-Country going, and as the album goes on, from ballad to rocker, Farrar and the band play with purpose and feeling.

As a document of where Alt Country was in 1995, this is it. It perfectly encapsulates the genre and why it was so important for the music scene.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Uncle Tupelo split in 1994 with Wilco and Son Volt forming soon after. Wilco got the Sire contract left over from Uncle Tupelo, while Son Volt signed with Warner Brothers

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. 

GRADE: A+: I wore this thing out in 1995, which is hard to do with a CD.

Steinski – What Does It All Mean? 1983-2006 Retrospective

ARTIST: Steinski

TITLE:  What Does It All Mean? 1983-2006 Retrospective steinski

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Payoff Mix

LINEUP: Steve Stein (Steinski), Doug DiFranco (Double Dee)

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the greatest mixers and samplers in hip-hop has his collection of sample collages and mixes.compiled in one place.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting with a contest entry for Tommy Boy Records (“Lesson 1 – The Payoff Mix”), and continuing through the 90’s and 00’s, Steve “Steinski” Stein (along with his early partner Doug “Double Dee” DiFranco) was the mix and sample master of early hip-hop.

Their first three lessons took the community by storm, even if they were basically uncleared samples, and after the sampling controversy the releases of these Lessons were very hard to find. Steinski kept going, though, creating mixes and mashups that were just as clever as the original mixes, and inspiring so many DJs and producers on what turntables, a record collection, and a studio could go.

The technical wizardry is impressive, and the mixes have a natural flow. For anyone wondering about hip-hop mix and remix culture, here’s one of the pioneers that needs to be checked out. rough mix

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The track that got them their start (“Lesson 1 – The Payoff Mix”) was based around “Play That Beat, Mr. DJ” by G.L.O.B.E and Whiz Kid.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A-: It can be overwhelming, but it’s so stunning and groundbreaking.