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.

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.

Eminem – The Slim Shady LP

ARTIST: Eminem 220px-Eminem_-_The_Slim_Shady_LP_CD_cover

TITLE: The Slim Shady LP

YEAR RELEASED: 1999

CHART ACTION: #2 US, #10 UK

SINGLES: My Name Is (#36 US, #18 R&B, #37 Alternative, #10 Rap, #2 UK), Role Model (#111 Rap),  Guilty Conscience (#56 R&B, #5 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: 97 Bonnie & Clyde

LINEUP: Eminem, Dr. Dre, Bass Brothers, Mel-Man

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Eminem’s major debut establishes his Slim Shady persona to the masses.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Eminem had released an album and an EP to crickets (or worse) in Detroit, but thanks to participating in a battle in LA, his EP found his way to Interscope records, and to Dr. Dre. The rest…history.

This record is uncompromising, raw, brutal at times, and like nothing in the hip-hop world. Instead of glorifying his lifestyle, Eminem tells another tale – tells it how it is living in trailer park squalor working low wage jobs and just trying to scrape by and exaggerating it at times.

While Slim Shady is a character, inhabiting a cartoony world of outrageousness. There’s definitely some lyrics and themes that haven’t aged well (and didn’t go over well then), and “97 Bonnie & Clyde” is just chilling. But his flow is superb and the beats are on point. Despite the lyrics, it’s a great sounding record – just overly long.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There were several lawsuits about this album, including his mother and a school bully.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Two bonus editions with different versions and mixes.

 GRADE B+: Just a bit long, and a bit over the top.

AC/DC – Let There Be Rock

ARTIST: AC / DC  220px-ACDC-LetThereBeRock

TITLE: Let There Be Rock

YEAR RELEASED: 1977

CHART ACTION: #154 US, #17 UK

SINGLES: Dog Eat Dog, Let There Be Rock, Whole Lotta Rosie (#68 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Go Down, Problem Child, Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be

LINEUP: Bon Scott, Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Mark Evans, Phil Rudd

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: AC / DC’s best early album gives them a UK fan base.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After Atlantic refused to release Dirty Deeds, AC/DC went back to the studio, determined to give the world an album that no one could resist, without compromise. They succeeded.

From the opening notes “Go Down” to the end of “Whole Lotta Rosie”, the boys cranked out a loud and fierce record that illustrated all of the high points of the band. Bon Scott’s leering vocals are on point, Malcolm and Angus Young burn out riffs and guitar magic, and Phil Rudd’s drums give everyone a unwavering platform. In the midst of the beginnings of punk, the rise of disco, and the decline of glam and prog, AC/DC delivered uncompromising, ugly rock-and-roll. Let_There_Be_Rock

Of the eight tracks, nearly every single one is recognizable as an AC/DC staple. For a band that’s gone on as long as they have, that’s praise indeed.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Soon after the release, Cliff Williams replaced Mark Evans as bassist.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Kinda – Atlantic replaced “Crabsody in Blue” with “Problem Child” from Dirty Deeds. That’s an A+ replacement.

 GRADE A: An essential Bon Scott AC/DC recording. Play loud, of course.

Billy Joel – Piano Man

ARTIST: Billy Joel Billy_Joel_-_Piano_Man

TITLE: Piano Man

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #27 US, #98 UK

SINGLES: Piano Man (#25 US, #136 UK), Worse Comes to Worst (#80 US), Travelin’ Prayer (#77 US), The Ballad of Billy the Kid

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Captain Jack

LINEUP: Billy Joel and the cream of the LA session crop at the time (Ron Tutt, Wilton Felder, Larry Carlton, etc.)

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After his disaster of a first album (in Quick Hitters), Joel catches a few breaks and gets a new deal, and hits on his first try.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It was a long couple of years for Billy Joel after his first album. Legal issues, tours, and a six month stint in LA grinding as a nightclub entertainer. But an appearance on WMMR, and at Mar Y Sol, got CBS interested and this album was the result after a couple of years of grinding it out.

The title track became the hit, and a few songs became standards, especially “Captain Jack”. After a rousing “Travelin’ Prayer”, and the hit, the album stalls out a bit, though the arrangements are varied. But the songs aren’t 100% all there until the end and “Captain Jack”.

Joel has a better backing band and production. Nothing is in the sad piano motif (for the most part), and it does what it meant to do – introduce Billy Joel to the public.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Joel played a set on WMMR that included the as-then-unrecorded “Captain Jack”, and that became a sensation in Philly, then New York, and then CBS got him.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, including the entire WMMR broadcast.

 

GRADE B: Joel throws a lot out there, stylistically, and some sticks.

Montrose – The Very Best of Montrose

ARTIST: Montrose montrose

TITLE: The Very Best Of Montrose

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Rock Candy, Bad Motor Scooter, I Got the Fire, Rock the Nation, Space Station #5. Music Man, Jump On It

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, I doubt it

LINEUP: Ronnie Montrose. First album had Sammy Hagar, Denny Carmisi, and Bill Church. Alan Fitzgerald replaced Church. Bob James replaced Hagar and Jim Alcivar added keyboards. Montrose regrouped a band in the 80s with guys from Gamma and Buster Brown

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Former Edgar Winter guitarist forms his own band, rocks out, gets bored, and what was promising dies on the vine.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Ronnie Montrose could sling an axe, as he proved for Edgar Winter, Van Morrison and others. Leaving Winter, he formed Montrose and released a debut album which gained some fans in the hard rock world, but had no sales to speak of.

Montrose’s records were mainly spotty with some bursts of innovation and fire, and then low spots with second-rate material. (Sammy Hagar wrote perhaps their best song, “Bad Motor Scooter”, not Montrose).  Sure, there are moments, but when Bob James took over for Hagar, it was all over for the most part. Then there was a 80’s glammy band. No thanks.

For the most part, this collection is all you need, and even then you have to be judicious. Montrose could have been a classic band, but it was not meant to be.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Montrose expected sobriety from his band members, after he had a near-lethal overdose.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE B-: With good material, they were great. But the good material diminished as time went on.

Lene Lovich – Lucky Number (The Best Of)

ARTIST: Lene Lovich

TITLE: Lucky Number (The Best Of)

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Lucky Number (#3 UK), Say When (#19 UK), Bird Song (#39 UK), What Will I Do Without You  (#58 UK), New Toy (#19 Dance, #53 UK), It’s You, Only You (Mein Schmerz) (#25 Dance, #68 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Think We’re Alone Now, Home, Be Stiff

LINEUP: Lene Lovich, Les Chappell. Justin Hildreth, Nick Plytas, Jeff Smith, and Mark Hayward-Chapman helped on most of the songs.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Quirky Stiff Records “star” used her quirky voice and look to make an impression.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: By the time MTV came along, “Lucky Number” was three years old, and Lovich was prepping a new album (her third). But then “Lucky Number” got a lot of play, and introduced her to the US. It also stopped her momentum (that and buffoonery at Stiff). Alas.

This compilation compiles tracks from her Stiff Records era, which are all examples of New Wave, with dance rhythms, keyboards galore, dramatic arrangements and Lovich’s vocal quirks.

Surprisingly, there’s not really a down spot of the compilation even though it’s 22 tracks long (!) because Lovich and her partner / producer Les Chappell kept things varied and lively.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Born in Detroit as Lilli-Marlene Premilovich.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A-: Great and varied collection of a new wave touchstone.

 

Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Welcome to the Pleasuredome

ARTIST: Frankie Goes to Hollywood 220px-Welcome_To_The_Pleasuredome

TITLE: Welcome to the Pleasuredome

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: #33 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Relax (#10 US, #1 UK), Two Tribes (#43 US, #1 UK), The Power of Love (#1 UK), Welcome to the Pleasuredome (#48 US, #2 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Born to Run, Do You Know the Way to San Jose, and Ferry Cross the Mercy

LINEUP: Holly Johnson, Paul Rutherford, Brian Nash, Mark O’Toole, Peter Gill. Trevor Horn, the producer, brought in a lot of session players and may have played a lot of the record himself.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Hyped to the billionth degree record is a UK sensation but kind of fizzled here in the US despite MTV and the single Relax being played every 10 seconds it seems.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Notoriety and hype are the two words that come to mind with Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The BBC banned “Relax” and they and MTV banned the first cut of the “Relax” video, which of course made the public want it even more.  220px-Welcome_to_the_Pleasuredome_2

“Relax” and “Two Tribes” were big #1 hits already, remixed quite a bit, and when included on the album along with several covers, some were disappointed. The US market was skeptical, as usual, and the overtly gay overtones of the band’s look and lyrics went over the head of many listeners (because sometimes we’re not too swift on the uptick, ya know). But there’s no real sub-text to a song like “Krisco Kisses”. It just is.

The production is incredible as the band and its songs were perfect palettes for Trevor Horn and the Art of Noise production crew. But as for the songs, some are overly long (the title track takes up the entire first side of the LP for all intents and purposes), and the band seems lost in the production, with the songs secondary to the sounds thrown out there. (The cover of “War” is a great example of this).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There was a fake band that toured the US in 1998 that was quickly put out of action by swift action since one of the band members lived in Florida and saw an ad for the faux band.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with several remixes. The original CD was a sliced up version of the double album.

 GRADE B-: There’s a happy medium between the hype and the backlash, and 35 years after the fact you can separate the good, the bad, and the way too long.

Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

ARTIST: Mayhem 

TITLE: De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, probably now thanks to documentaries and books and such

LINEUP: Atilla Csihar, Euronymous, Count Grisnackh, Hellhammer

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Infamous Norwegian black metal album featuring a murderer and his victim.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Mayhem caused same in Norway in the 90’s, with a suicide (a photo of the aftermath later became an album cover), a link to church burnings, and well, murder. Count Grisnackh (Varg Vikiernes) stabbed bassist Euronymous (Oystein Aarseth) during a dispute. They put the album out that they recorded anyway, because, metal.

As for the music, it’s an influential black metal album with creepy distorted vocals from Atilla Csihar (formerly of Tormentor), and sheets and sheets of riffs from Euronymous. Hellhammer (Jan Axel Blomberg) drums in the usual double-kick fashion. The drawback is that the songs are long, and don’t go much of anywhere.

I can see why this is influential despite the notoriety – the riffs are mega-normous and the basswork from Vikiernes is stellar. But, it seems like it’s all one song.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The original singer of the band, who went by Dead, killed himself. Along with the photo, Euronymous took pieces of his skull and made necklaces for the members of the scene. That’s metal, man.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B: Individually, the songs work, but they just bend together. I EXILED it because it’s just too too same same.