Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II

ARTIST: Led Zeppelin              220px-Led_Zeppelin_-_Led_Zeppelin_II (1)

TITLE:  Led Zeppelin II

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Whole Lotta Love (#4 US), Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman (#65 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The whole damn thing, unless you’ve been in the Marianas Trench.

LINEUP: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The album that made Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A simple three note riff concocted by Jimmy Page for a song directly stolen from Willie Dixon created the beast known as Led Zeppelin. Had “Whole Lotta Love” been absent from this Earth, what would classic rock stations build their playlists around?

This album had the blues (another one was stolen – from Leadbelly in “The Lemon Song”), ROCK (see above, along with “Living Loving Maid”), Robert Plant being all lovey dovey, and space form Jimmy Page and John Bonham to jizz all over the control board. Rock and roll man. Rock and roll.

As a teenager, this was the record by them I played the most. (My girlfriend at the time cringed when I sang along to “The Lemon Song”.Blame her?) Now, it’s one I play the least. It’s the most predictable, the most cliché ridden, and some tracks are skipped with regularity. I mean, it’s GOOD, but not great except for a couple tracks, and they stole one of them.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They got nabbed for plagiarism, and now the credits for “Whole Lotta Love” and “The Lemon Song” have put right that thievery.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. A bonus disc with backing tracks and rough mixes, with one unheard intro/outro that is very unique.

GRADE: B+: A couple tracks are boring, a couple tracks are just exercises in overplaying, and there are a few gems. But it’s the Zep I turn to the least, despite the highlights.

Lou Reed – Berlin

ARTIST: Lou Reed                      220px-Berlinloureed

TITLE:  Berlin

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #98 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: How Do You Think It Feels, Caroline Says

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Berlin, Men of Good Fortune, Lady Day

LINEUP: Lou Reed, Bob Ezrin, Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner, Jack Bruce, Aynsley Dunbar, Steve Winwood with help from Michael and Randy Brecker, Tony Levin, BJ Wilson, Gene Martynec, John Pierson, Allan Macmillan, and Blue Weaver.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Hey, let’s follow up our hit album with a song cycle about a couple living in Berlin who are hooked on smack and doomed in this life! That’ll keep the cash registers humming!”

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Wow. The themes and motif of this album should have about a billion trigger alerts for survivors of addiction, domestic violence, and suicide attempts. It’s Lou Reed telling a story of Caroline and Jim, two characters from a track on his debut album. And it’s not pretty.

The music and arrangements are outstanding, and there’s some great work by Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner on guitar. But the bleakness that Reed describes really hits home in the second half of the album – Side 2 for you vinylists. I don’t know if I can play it again it’s so dark and depressing, and Reed’s montone becomes creepier as the songs go along.

The most gut wrenching song is “The Kids” where Reed and producer Bob Ezrin put actual sounds from kids screaming for their mother in the background. I couldn’t deal with it.

It’s art and not pop, and I can see what Reed was aiming for, but it really stopped his career cold for a while as his audience couldn’t relate to the decay and desperation. It wouldn’t be the first time he did that.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bob Ezrin and Reed had planned a stage adaptation, but 86’d it due to sales. That would’ve been a laugh riot. Or not…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: This is a split decision. The second side is so bleak and dark I’m exiling ¾ of it. As a song cycle, and in artistic terms, it works. But as for enjoyment, oh man. No.

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.

The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic

ARTIST: The New Pornographers             220px-Mass_romantic (1)

TITLE:  Mass Romantic

YEAR RELEASED: 2000

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Letter from an Occupant (#139 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Mass Romantic

LINEUP: Dan Bejar, Neko Case, John Collins, Kurt Dahle, Carl Newman, Fisher Rose, Blaine Thurier

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Alternative pop / rock ‘supergroup’ of sorts coalesces together for a first album full of fun twists and turns.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Grafting together members from Zumpano, Destroyer, Limblifer, and the Eavporators, along with Neko Case and filmmaker Blaine Thurier, The New Pornographers were a definite power-pop / indie rock Canadian supergroup.

Unlike other supergroups, the band members didn’t just give the band leftovers. From the beginning they collaborated and constructed a unique sound that identifies them even if you’ve heard the voices on other records. Their guitars and synths, and intros and rhythms are fairly unique to the band.

AC “Carl” Newman is the ringleader of this bunch, and he organized the production of the record over three long years. But this is worth the wait – the New Pornographers’ debut established them as truly greater than the sum of their parts (even with Neko Case along!)

The album also sounds fun. Even if it took a while the band sounds like they’re enjoying themselves and love playing with each other. This kicked off their career and they’re now an important part of the indie rock landscape.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band knew each other from the Vancouver music scene.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A Japanese version with two extra songs.

 GRADE: A-: A witty power pop record that started the band and its members on their ride.

Dada – Puzzle

ARTIST: Dada                                         220px-DPuzzle

TITLE:  Puzzle

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: #111, #2 Heatskeers

SINGLES: Dizz Knee Land (#5 Alternative, #27 Mainstream), Dim (#24 Alternative), Dog, Dorina, Here Today – Gone Tomorrow

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: That was probably all that was released to radio unless you had a deep deep cut station around.

LINEUP: Michael Gurley, Joie Calio, Phil Leavitt

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album for jammy alternative rock trip scored a video and radio hit, and the album is deeper and varied than that song.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Dada’s vocal style is based around harmonic duets between Michael Gurley and Joie Calio. At times, their harmonies emulate the style and structure of the Beach Boys (though not as deep and rich with only two – the influence is there though). Musically, the trio is definitely into jam band territory at times with Gurley’s excursions, riffs, and solos.

This album is varied, and shows the versatility and inventiveness of the band, along with some humor as in “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”. They can also tell a sad story like “Timothy”. But the hit “Dizz Knee Land” followed them in the 90’s thanks to MTV and radio.

There aren’t many missteps here, and it’s well worth your while to dig past the hit and dive in.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They opened for Sting, Crowded House, and …Izzy Stradlin.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A version with some B-sides

 GRADE: A: This was a better record than I remember. Well worth your effort to stream.

Mott the Hoople – Mott the Hoople

ARTIST: Mott the Hoople            220px-Mottthehoople1969

TITLE:  Mott the Hoople

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: #66 UK, #185 US

SINGLES: Rock and Roll Queen

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover the Kinks, Doug Sahm, and Sonny Bono

LINEUP: Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs, Verden Allen, Overend Watts, Dale Griffin

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut for Mott the Hoople is a bit unfocused and fussy, thanks mainly to producer Guy Stevens.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Well, the first three tracks of their debut are covers, including an instrumental of “You Really Got Me”. That raises red flags. Yet their originality hit with the single “Rock and Roll Queen” (a title oft-used later by many other bands) it demonstrated their smarts and chops. But Guy Stevens, the manager and producer, made some creative choices that obscured their originals in favor of those covers.

Ian Hunter was a late addition to the band, showing up right before this recording, and Hunter was going through a lot of Dylan affectations at the time. But the power of the band with Mick Ralphs and Overend Watts made rockers notice, and while they didn’t buy their records they were big on the live circuit.

They did the late 60’s, early 70’s thing of jamming a bit too long, and Hunter’s Dylan impersonation doesn’t grow on you. But they got their foot in the door here even if it took a while form them to burst through it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Just an FYI, record company issues make it so a comprehensive compilation isn’t quite possible now, at least streming.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a couple of B-sides..

 GRADE: B-: I waver between liking this, or exiling it. I’ll keep it thanks to Ralphs and Watts.

Family – History

ARTIST: Family                                                     MI0003672214

TITLE:  History

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: No Mules Fool (#29 UK), The Weaver’s Answer (#11 UK), In My Own Time (#4 UK), Burlesque (#13 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not here, not at all

LINEUP: Roger Chapman, Rob Townsend, John Palmer, Charlie Whitney were constants from 1969-72. Others included Jim Cregan, Jim King, Ric Grech, John Weider, John Wetton and Tony Ashton.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Popular in the UK in the early 70’s, this collection hits their proggy and rock highlights.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The first thing you notice about Family is that vocalist. Roger Chapman bleats and yowls with a heavy vibrato, which could be a deal breaker for some folks. The band, though, despite their various incarnations of drummers and multi-instrumentalists, were solid and swung between pure prog and a definite prog and rock hybrid (especially when John Wetton was on board)

They do tend to extend themselves and their tracks, psychedelic at first, then jazzy later on, and that wears you down after a while. They had good ides but didn’t have much of an edit function on tracks.

Obscure in the US, except for a loving cult, Family’s albums charted well in the UK (three Top 10’s and two others at 14 and 15). But because of Chapman’s vocals, you probably want to stick to this compilation to start until you’re sure about them.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They reformed  the 1972 lineup of Chapman, Thownsend, Palmer and Creagan and are out on the boards in the UK and Europe.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 

GRADE: B: I can’t say you won’t be turned off by Chapman’s vocals. They’re probably much better with live records than on studio.

The Chi-Lites – 20 Greatest Hits

ARTIST: The Chi-Lites                        612mBXog7mL._SX355_

TITLE:  20 Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 10: Give It Away (#88 US, #10 R&B), Are You My Woman (Tell Me So) (#72 US, #8 R&B), (For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People (#26 US, #4 R&B, #32 UK), Have You Seen Her (#3 US, #1 R&B, #3 UK), Oh Girl (#1 US, #1 R&B, #14 UK), The Coldest Days of My Life (#47 US, #8 R&B), A Letter to Myself (#33 US, #3 R&B), Stoned Out of My Mind (#30 US, #2 R&B), Homely Girl (#54 US, #3 R&B, #5 UK), There Will Never Be Any Peace (Until God Is at the Conference Table) (#63 US, #8 R&B), Too Good to Be Forgotten (#10 UK), Toby / That’s How Long (#78 US, #7 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: That’s about everything right there.

LINEUP: Marshall Thompson, Robert ‘Squirrell’ Lester, Eugene Record, Creadel ‘Red’ Jones.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Outstanding early 70’s soul vocal group was almost equal to the Temptations of the time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While each hit by the Chi-Lites falls into pretty distinct categories (funky, pleading, socially aware) and each category has a similar sound (especially when “Have You Seen Her” and “Oh Girl” hit it big), the Chi-Lites Brunswick singles catalog is deep and mighty.

Eugene Record was the mastermind behind most of the hits – writing and producing the tracks sometimes with help by Barbara Acklin. The sound was great with Red Jones with the bass lines, and Record with the soaring tenor and funky backing musicians from Chicago. During their heyday they were snappy dressers with matching suits and afros. They had it all – for a while.

Their later hits featured some missteps, and thankfully this ends after they started to shed members due to Brunswick’s trouble. This is a good collection for those who dig the early 70’s soul sounds.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Marshall Thompson still has a version of the group going.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE: A-: A couple of meh tracks, but when they were on top of their game they were great.

Millie Jackson – 21 of the Best 1971-83

ARTIST: Millie Jackson                     51LC+gKr17L._SX355_

TITLE:  21 of the Best 1971-83

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 20: Ask Me What You Want (#27, #4 R&B), My Man A Sweet Man (#42, #7 R&B), Breakaway (#16 R&B), Hurts So Good (#24, #3 R&B), I Miss You Baby (#95, #22 R&B), How Do You Feel the Morning After (#77, #11 R&B), Leftovers (#87, #17 R&B), If You’re Not Back in Love By Monday (#43, #5 R&B), All the Way Lover (#12 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If Loving You Is Wrong I Don’t Want to Be Right (#42, #42 R&B)

LINEUP: Millie Jackson, session players including the Muscle Shoals players

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Hits collection by a consistent 70’s soul singer who was somewhat overshadowed by her 80’s album covers and her notorious live shows.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Millie Jackson’s shows were uncensored and her raps about sex and men were notorious. Her album covers in the 80’s are often showed on ‘bad album cover’ sites. However, as a singer, she had a distinct sound and her style fit in well on R&B radio of the 70’s

Her pop chart success was limited, but she garnered Grammy nominations for her version of “If Loving You Is Wrong I Don’t Want to Be Right” and she sold quite a few albums and headlined in the US and the UK with great regularity.

Jackson’s legacy may be as an unbridled foul mouth on stage, but she’s got chops, humor, and is a great entertainer.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She’s not related to the Jackson family. You know, that one.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE: B: Good collection for a shouldn’t be but is forgotten soul singer.

Mason Proffit – Come & Gone

ARTIST: Mason Proffit R-7850770-1450137577-4685.jpeg

TITLE:  Come & Gone

YEAR RELEASED: 1973 – rerelease of Wanted (1969) and Movin’ Toward Happiness (1971)

CHART ACTION: #203, Movin’ Toward Happiness charted at #177

SINGLES: Two Hangmen

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Terry Talbot, John Michael Talbot, Tim Ayers, Ron Schuetter, Art Nash

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Country rock quintet released two albums before singing with Warner’s. This is a re-release of those two records. R-7483761-1442442370-6840.jpeg

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Led by the Talbot brothers, Mason Proffit had a well-received five year career that was marked by incessant touring and limited sales. The main reason that their blend of country, rock, and politics was a niche that didn’t fit on radio at the time.

 

They were too country and bluegrass for rock, too rock for country, and their politics were in support of the Native Americans and brotherhood was more subtle than some of the bombastic political statements of the time. They also added some subtle Christian elements to their songs.

Musically, they were excellent. John Michael Talbot is an ace banjo player, and they definitely have the right sounding mix of all of their elements. There’s not really a bad cut here, and songs like “Hard Luck Woman” or “Sweet Lady Love” could have been hits on some chart at a different time. R-5956623-1407368731-6919.jpeg

NOTES & MINUTIAE: John Michael Talbot founded the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, a Catholic monastic community.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. These individual albums aren’t streaming, so this is a value.

 GRADE: A-: Sometimes a bit too earnest, but they make a nice country-rock noise. Both albums would get this grade separately. This is a good find for those who like country rock and influences of bands like the Eagles.