Pat Benatar – Ultimate Collection

ARTIST: Pat Benatar 220px-Pat_Benatar_Ultimate_Collection

TITLE: Ultimate Collection

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 40: Heartbreaker (#23 US), We Live for Love (#27 US), Hit Me With Your Best Shot (#9 US), Treat Me Right (#18 US), Fire and Ice (#17 US), Promises in the Dark (#38 US), Shadows in the Night (#13 US, #50 UK), Little Too Late (#20 US), Looking for a Stranger (#39 US), Love Is a Battlefield (#5 US, #17 UK), We Belong (#5 US, #22 UK), Ooh Ooh Song (#36 US), Invincible (#10 US, #53 UK), Sex as a Weapon (#28 US, #67 UK), All Fired Up (#19 US, #19 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hell Is for Children, I Need a Lover, Precious Time, Anxiety (Get Nervous), Le Bel Age

LINEUP: Pat Benatar, Neil Giraldo. Mostly Roger Capps, and Myron Grombacher, Scott St. Clair Sheets’ guitar gave way to Charlie Giordano’s keyboards in 1982 or so. Others filtered in after 1985 or so.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Rock ‘n’ roll singer with a tough exterior is a hit machine from 1979 to about 1987 or so.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Three top 10 singles, and three top 10 albums say one thing, but 9 top 40 albums and 15 top 40 singles say another. And the latter say more about Benatar’s influence and popularity than anything else.

She was a rocker without apology, and that may have hurt on pop radio a bit, but MTV came along at the right time for her, and she, along with husband Neil Giraldo, made that transition to videos work for her, using her sexuality and personality to great effect. She also has an ear for covers, tackling songs by the Rascals and Paul Revere & the Raiders.

This collection collects her singles and some important album cuts as well. As time went on, her material softened a bit, moving to pop and she was less interesting. She then tried genre experiments as well (four cuts from her jump blues album seems a bit much) before fading away. But for the fan, or even the casual fan, this is the best collection and mostly shows her strength.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She was a singing waitress early in her career.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE A-: There’s a bit too much time spent on her later stuff, but all of her important work is here.

Jefferson Starship – Gold / Playlist: The Very Best of Jefferson Starship

ARTIST: Jefferson Starship Gold_Jefferson_Starship

TITLE: Gold / Playlist: The Very Best of Jefferson Starship

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation (s)

CHART ACTION: #20 US (Gold)

SINGLES: Top 40: Miracles (#3 US), With Your Love (#12 US), Count on Me (#8 US), Runaway (#12 US), Jane (#14 US, #13 UK), Find Your Way Back (#29 US, #29 UK), Be My Lady (#28 US), Winds of Change (#38 US), No Way Out (#23 US, #59 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Stranger, Layin’ it on the Line

LINEUP: Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Pete Sears, David Freiberg, Craig Chaquico. Marty Balin sang on their first four records. Mickey Thomas on the others (Slick missed one). Papa John Creach and John Barbata were also on the first four records, and Aynsley Dunbar and Donnie “Slugger” Baldwin on the later ones.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Let’s make a lot of money!”

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: At first, it wasn’t a total sell-out crash grab, as Marty Balin and Grace Slick wrote some interesting songs on their first two albums (“Caroline”, “Miracles”, “Fast Buck Freddy”, “Play on Love”). Then “Miracles” hit, and by gosh they loved that money. 71J8ovqYusL._SX522_

So they did the easy thing, releasing commercial album after commercial album, and after Marty Balin left, and Grace Slick took a sabbatical, they became just another rock band with a couple of great songs (“Jane” of course). Even with Slick back in the fold, they became more and more bland, and soon morphed into the vile thing called Starship.

The Gold compilation has 12 tracks (in its streaming form, on vinyl it was 10 with a single), and The Very Best of Jefferson Starship repeats some and adds tracks from their Mickey Thomas records, and avoids Starship entirely.

When you listen to classic Airplane, then stuff like “With Your Love”, you gotta shake your head, and admire the audacity of the sellout.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Balin left due to the aftermath of Grace Slick’s infamous drunken incident in Germany. But first, he sang “Light the Sky on Fire” (#66 US), which was used in the Star Wars Holiday Special. Yep.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. I myself had to make the Playlist stuff myself since that’s not streaming, and I added a couple of other tracks.

 GRADE B-: Baby boomer selling out for cash. Hmmm….

Jefferson Airplane – After Bathing at Baxter’s

ARTIST: Jefferson Airplane 220px-After_bathing_at_baxters

TITLE: After Bathing at Baxter’s

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #17

SINGLES: The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil (#42), Watch Her Ride (#61)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Martha, Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon

LINEUP: Marty Balin, Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Airplane decided to go full-tilt psychedelic, and the album has a lot of trippy elements to it, man.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I don’t think this was Marty Balin’s group anymore, but he had to have gone along with it. His voice, as harmony singer mostly, is all over the place, and his “Young Girl Sunday Blues” is one of the highlights.

Starting with the outstanding yet challenging “The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil” and ending with Kantner’s statement “Won’t You Try / Saturday Afternoon”, the Airplane moves the listener through a truly acid-drenched trip, complete with experimental sounds, anti-war statements, hippie imagery, and general electrical tom-foolery.

Their status, after one successful album, was such that they got to do what they wanted, and how they wanted. While the freedom was welcome by the band (after RCA put the screws to them on their first album), it’s lack of direction meant fewer sales and less radio play on AM stations.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The album title was code for “tripping on acid”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Alternate cuts and mixes.

 GRADE B+: The weird for weird-sake cuts drag it down.

Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow

ARTIST: Jefferson Airplane

TITLE: Surrealistic Pillow220px-Jeffair

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #3

SINGLES: My Best Friend (#103), Somebody to Love (#5), White Rabbit (#8)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Today, Plastic Fantastic Lover

LINEUP: Marty Balin, Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Changing drummers (a big plus) and female singers (who brought a couple of songs from her old band that you may have heard of), the Airplane make a psychedelic folkie LP that puts them on the map.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This was still mostly Marty Balin’s group. His folkie instincts came through on some of the cuts (especially at the end of side 1), but it’s not all in his voice, nor his songs. Former drummer Skip Spence has a track, as well as mysterious ‘friend’ Tom Mastin. Kantner and Kaukonen each have a solo credit, and then there’s the two songs the new singer Grace Slick brought them. I think you know them.

“Somebody to Love”, written by Slick’s brother in law, and “White Rabbit” were songs that Slick’s former band, the Great Society, had in their repertoire, to very minor success. The Airplane versions were turned up and turned on, and along with tracks like “She Has Funny Cars”, “3/5 of a Mile in 10 Second” and “Plastic Fantastic Lover”, the Airplane really took off.

The really slow ballad and a couple of the folkie tracks detract from the psychedelic onslaught, somewhat to the album’s detriment. But it’s still a good snapshot of a group ascending to its apex, quickly.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Jerry Garcia played on this album, unless he didn’t, and he arranged many of the tracks, unless he was just a ‘sage counsel’. I think people were too stoned to really remember.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. B-sides and cuts left off for…reasons I guess.

 GRADE A-: They flew pretty high here, and became the ‘voice’ of hippies and San Francisco.

Jefferson Airplane – Jefferson Airplane Takes Off

ARTIST: Jefferson Airplane 220px-Jefferson_airplane_takes_off

TITLE: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off

YEAR RELEASED: 1966

CHART ACTION: #128

SINGLES: It’s No Secret, Come Up the Years, Bringing Me Down

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Blues from an Airplane

LINEUP: Marty Balin, Signe Anderson, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Skip Spence

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pre-Grace Slick and pre-hippie Jefferson Airplane release a rote folk rock album with a few highlights.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This was definitely Marty Balin’s group. He formed it, and shaped the sound of the album with his folk-rock songs. Sometimes co-written by Paul Kantner, and assisted vocally by Signe Anderson, Balin has some good hands helping him, but it’s definitely his show.

Bassist Jack Casady makes his impact felt right away with some melodic and powerful bass lines, while the guitars lack the usual fireworks of later years (though Jorma Kaukonen’s playing is elegant and precise). That musicianship helps elevate the slightly above average songs.

Balin’s material is augmented by three covers, which are the weakest tracks (they just sound off), and “Come Up the Years” is beautiful but skeevy. (It seems very much a Lolita tale). All in all, a record that wouldn’t make a ripple outside of folk-rock zealots, but then they changed Balin’s vocal assistance.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Skip Spence left soon after to form Moby Grape, and Signe Anderson left to form a family. They grabbed this singer named Grace to replace her…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. B-sides and cuts left off because RCA didn’t like the very mild sexual references.

 GRADE B: An OK folk rock record, but they’d turn into something else soon enough.

Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm

ARTIST: Waxahatchee 220px-Out_in_the_Storm_Waxahatchee

TITLE: Out in the Storm

YEAR RELEASED: 2017

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Silver

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: This should have been on several adult alternative stations.

LINEUP: Katie Crutchfield, Katie Harkin, Katherine Simonetti, Alison Crutchfield, Ashley Anwine

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Katie Crutchfield forms a strong band and lets her rock instincts take over. The result is a fabulous record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Storming out of the gate with “Never Been Wrong”, Katie Crutchfield and Waxahatchee add a big sound to her songs, while retaining their personal nature and introspection.

It’s loud at times, and while it’s not polished it’s got a big sound that carries out through the speakers. When she gets quiet with acoustic guitars, it’s still raw and powerful. The record definitely has a 90’s – early 00’s rock vibe with fuzzy guitars, hooks, and harmony vocals but it sounds immediate and rich, not tinny and dated.

The band she put together includes her sister, former bandmates, and fellow female alt-rock travelers, and they’re very sympathetic to her material. One can’t wait for Crutchfield and Waxahatchee’s next full statement.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The album was recorded live for the most part with some overdubs for harmonies and solos.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Demos.

GRADE A+: It’s a powerful rock album and shows that not all confessional and breakup albums have to be overly self-indulgent.

Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

ARTIST: Waxahatchee 220px-Waxahatchee_-_Ivy_Tripp

TITLE: Ivy Tripp

YEAR RELEASED: 2015

CHART ACTION: #153

SINGLES: The Dirt, Air, Under a Rock, La Loose

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I bet you heard some on some indie radio stations.

LINEUP: Katie Crutchfield, Keith Spencer, Kyle Gilbride

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Katie Crutchfield leaps forward, taking her songs into almost a full-rock band sound, without sacrificing quality nor vulnerability.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Moving to Merge Records and recording over a period of time in Long Island with her two collaborators (who are also in her sister’s band), Katie Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee project moves toward a full band experience. The hooks are still there, but the sound is definitely a bit more layered. Waxahatchee is more experimental here, adding in sonic elements not found on the simpler recordings.

The subject matter is about a transition between feelings of love and feelings of loss, like most of adulthood. And while the sound is fuller, the songs are just as rich and personal as her lo-fi recordings.

Crutchfield’s progress toward a recording artist working with a full band but when she’s on her own at guitar or piano, she’s as powerful and out front. Still a hidden gem, Crutchfield is asecending slowly and surely.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Ivy Tripp is a term she made up about the directionless folks living today.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A: This is solidly written, arranged, and produced. What more do you want?

Waxahatchee – Cerulian Salt

ARTIST: Waxahatchee 220px-Waxahatchee_cerulean_salt_cover

TITLE: Cerulian Salt

YEAR RELEASED: 2013

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe a few tracks on NPR

LINEUP: Katie Crutchfield, Keith Spencer, Kyle Gilbride, Alison Crutchfield, Sam Cook-Parrott

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Katie Crutchfield goes from a lo-fi solo artist using the name Waxahatchee to a (for the most part) full band recording, keeping her songwriting chops intact.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Katie Crutchfield’s lo-fi debut got som accolades around the biz, but this, the first full band non-lo-fi recording brings out the Crutchfield’s songs in a way the hazy lo-fi sounds couldn’t.

Here, the hooks in the album come out, and the lyrical focus is sharper since the words aren’t buried in clatter. The songs are still mining the same vein (it’s not a pretty world and these aren’t pretty songs) – and some still are solo works with her guitar.

While the band recordings may take away some of the intensity, this is a good album that’s more accessible without pandering, and allows Crutchfield to get her work out to a more general audience beside the lo-fi fans.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Most of the backing band was from Swearin’, her sister’s band.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 

GRADE A-: A great spinner of personal tales.

 

The Replacements – Let It Be

ARTIST: The Replacements 220px-The_Replacements_-_Let_It_Be_cover (1)

TITLE: Let It Be

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: I Will Dare

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Unsatisfied

LINEUP: Paul Westerberg, Bob Stinson, Tommy Stinson, Chris Mars. Peter Buck guests on I Will Dare.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Replacements pull it together. Their silliness has some grit, and Paul Westerberg has really found his voice and range in his writing.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sure, there’s the Kiss cover (done reverently), and songs called “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” and “Gary’s Got a Boner”. Yet this time, the Replacements don’t descend into madness – they keep it together and those songs actually make salient points.

Again, Paul Westerberg has written a couple more absolute all-timers in “I Will Dare” and “Unsatisfied”. The rage in “We’re Coming Out” that shifts into a lesser volume and tempo is impressive. His diatribe against MTV is spot on, and the quieter moments also work as well, even if they marginalize Bob Stinson and his roughneck guitar.

It’s raucous, loud, fun, irreverent, hooky, serious, and profound. It’s the Replacements at their best.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” was actually about Tommy Stinson getting his tonsils taken out, and morphs into a diatribe against doctors.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few outtakes and demos

GRADE A+: It sounds a bit sloppy, maybe, and at a glance the tracks seem less than silly. But, they give it their all here.

The Replacements – Hootenanny

ARTIST: The Replacements 220px-The_Replacements_-_Hootenanny_cover

TITLE: Hootenanny

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Color Me Impressed, Within Your Reach

LINEUP: Paul Westerberg, Bob Stinson, Tommy Stinson, Chris Mars

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A shambolic record that epitomizes the Replacements at the time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s some growth and maturity by The Replacements here. Tracks like “Color Me Impressed”, “Within Your Reach” and “Willpower” expand their sonic horizons and sharpen their wit.

Then there’s the messes of “Treatment Bound” and the title track, “Hootenanny” where the band switches instruments for the heck of it. (They did that during their shows sometimes). And the outright stealing of some melodies during “Mr. Whirly”, also for a gag probably.

Is it entertaining? Yeah. Is it consistent? Nah. But “Within Your Reach” and “Color Me Impressed” are definitely all-timers for the group, and rock in general.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Lovelines” featured actual classified ads from the Minneapolis City pages.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few outtakes and alternate vocals.

GRADE B: Fun, but really messy and erratic.