Green Day – 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours

ARTIST: Green Day 220px-Green_Day_-_1,039-Smoothed_Out_Slappy_Hours_cover

TITLE: 1039 / Smoothed Out Slappy Hours

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Two releases here are EPs

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only if you were into that scene, or are a Green Day completist.

LINEUP: Billy Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, John Kiffmeyer. 220px-Green_Day_-_1,000_Hours_cover

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Compilation of the first album and two Eps from Green Day, released before their breakthrough (so it isn’t a cash in, really). 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: From the start of their recording career, Green Day had their vision in mind. A power-pop punk sound that combined some of the speed (but not a breakneck speed) and simple structures of punk, but with melodies that allow for singing instead of shouting. The structures also were deceptively simple with some interesting changes in some tracks. The difference is the execution, as these records are from the time when the band was finding its footing.

This release combines their first two EPs (1,000 Hours and Slappy) and their full length released in 1990 (39/Smooth). At first, they sounded tentative, but as things rolled along their sound fleshed out (Dirnt’s bass becomes a bit louder in the mix, and Kiffmeyer’s drums are more expressive). The songs, as usual penned lyrically by Billy Joe Armstrong, are a bit more intelligent than some of their punk brethren at the time. Green_Day_-_Slappy_cover

This collection shows the growth of the band, but they weren’t quite at their peak yet. It would take the next release to coalesce and set the stage for their dominance of the punk matketplace in the 90’s. It’s worthy to see where they were before the big stage of a major label, and why some fans glommed onto them early on.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Drummer John Kiffmeyer was billed as Al Sobrante at times. He started to study at Humboldt State, and the band picked up drummer Tre Cool to take his place. The rest is history (though the split was seeming amicable).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The last release omits a track that was used on a soundtrack.220px-Green_Day_-_39-Smooth_cover

 GRADE B: I have a soft spot for power punk pop, and while they would get better and more expansive there’s something charming about these tracks.

Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear

ARTIST: Sia  220px-Sia_-_1000_Forms_of_Fear_(Official_Album_Cover)

TITLE: 1000 Forms of Fear

YEAR RELEASED: 2014

CHART ACTION:  #1 US, #5 UK

SINGLES: Chandelier (#8 US, #6 UK), Big Girls Cry (#103 US, #77 UK), Elastic Heart (#17 US, #10 UK), Fire Meets Gasoline (#193 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Burn the Pages, Cellophane.

LINEUP: Sia and Greg Kurstin. Jessie Shatkin and Nick Valensi helped on a track each.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After taking a break (or retiring) from performing because of mental health issues, a surprise hit led her back to the studio after a while and she released her most focused album yet.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After writing “Titanium” with hopes of it landing with Alicia Keys, and finding it released by David Guetta with her demo vocals on it, Sia became more famous than she had been, especially in the US. So having stepped back from recording to write songs, she found herself in the studio again with Greg Kurstin and delivered this set of passionate, bombastic pop songs.

While over the top at times, the production fits Sia’s intent on the tracks, especially on the smash “Chandelier”. Yet the album touches on a lot of subjects and touches on them well. Sia’s songs are personal, and at times heart-rendering, as she was fighting demons upon demons in her life, which led to her original retirement.

The deep cuts, like “Hostage” and “Straight to the Knife”, are where the meat of the album lives. She poured everything into all of the songs, telling a story and not just gunning for hits or radio play. But with her natural ability for hooks and melody, she got them. This is a much better record than her earlier efforts, and improves with multiple listens.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It was at this time where Sia decided to cover her face, and let her art speak for herself.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, acoustic piano cuts and other mixes.

 GRADE A-: This is a modern pop album that grows on you.

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

ARTIST: Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings  220px-Dapdip

TITLE: Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

YEAR RELEASED: 2002

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Got a Thing on My Mind, What Have You Done for Me Lately, Make It Good to Me, Got to Be the Way It Is

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: It’s a shame you don’t.

LINEUP: Sharon Jones, Bosco Mann, Leon Michels, Jack Zapata, Binky Griptite, Fernando Velez, Earl Maxton, Homer Steinweiss, Anda Szilyagi

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut album featuring a powerhouse retro-soul singers and the house bands for the defunct Desco Records burns fire on turntables, CD players, and MP3s.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This record is an old-fashioned soul revue, from the introduction from hype-man and guitarist Binky Griptite, to new dances “The Dap Dip”, to scorching covers (Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done for Me Lately” done 60’s style), to an absolute burner in “Got a Thing on My Mind”, this debut is absolutely dynamite.

Jones and her band are lock step, tight, and funky. The group, made up of members of the Soul Providers and Mighty Imperials, know their funk and soul inside-and-out, while Jones’ voice is the dream of every soul and R&B fan. She’s a powerful dynamo that demands attention.

Daptone Records (formed by Desco’s Bosco Mann to release this material) started a neo-soul and funk empire with these tasty sides. While it’s a debut, it sounds so well formed and tight that you’d think they’d have been at this for 20 years.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Jones was a prison guard. No, really, she was.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE A: It’s smoking hot. My headphones are on fire now.

The Long Ryders – Two Fisted Tales

ARTIST: The Long Ryders  220px-Two-FistedTales1987

TITLE: Two Fisted Tales

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Gunslinger Man, I Want You Bad

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really.

LINEUP: Sid Griffin, Steven McCarthy, Tom Stevens, Greg Sowders. David Hidalgo, Debbie Peterson, and Vicki Peterson helped out a bit.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second major label album find them trying for a more rock-oriented sound on many tracks, and the record stalled because of record-label issues.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After praise and momentum following their last release, the Long Ryders prepared Two Fisted Tales, with an eye on radio play for the rock cuts, while maintaining a country and folk tinge on others. Ed Stasium was brought on board to produce, and his production really enhances and plays up their rock sound.  220px-Two-FistedTales1996

There are some fine cuts here, such as their cover of NRBQ’s “I Want You Bad”, and Sid Griffin’s “Baby’s in Toyland” and “Spectacular Fall”. “Gunslinger Man” was really aiming for the fences, with a driving riff and a bigger drum sound than they used to have.

Some of the tracks seem a little bit rote, as in they had a formula for tracks they needed to follow, and thus some of the surprise and intrigue weren’t there as they were in earlier releases. It’s unfortunate that Island changed over A&R folks and left them high and drive, because this record, despite its flaws, could have been one that broke them on AOR radio. Alas.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The record company really messed up their touring. They had a chance to tour with U2 but the album was delayed, and then a European tour left the band broke thanks to waning support. They broke up by the end of 1987. 220px-TwoFistedTales18

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Demos, unreleased cuts, and a 1987 California show are there on the latest re-issue.

 GRADE B+: It’s a fine record, but has a few lesser cuts. It shouldn’t have been the end of the band; they had more in them.

Big Star – Third (a/k/a Sister Lovers)

ARTIST: Big Star Big_Star-3rd

TITLE: Third (a/k/a Sister Lovers)

YEAR RELEASED: 1978

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Jesus Christ, Kizza Me

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: There are a few covers. For You may have been the best known otherwise.

LINEUP: Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens. Lesa Aldridge (Alex’ girlfriend) sings on this, and many Memphis session players are on it somewhere. Maybe. 220px-BigStarThird

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Dark, haunting, shambling third album by the seminal band seems to be the sound of breaking apart – mentally, physically, and as a band. 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Probably the most famous ‘lost album besides the Beach Boys’ Smile, Big Star’s Third (also known as Sister Lovers, though that could have been the name of the band, maybe) is a haunting stroll from power pop oddness to absolute bleakness. From the off kilter but fun “Kizza Me” to the haunting and devastating “Holocaust” is just one half of the album, yet it feels so complete.

Listening to this closely (the only way to really hear it), you find production effects and sounds all over. Cellos creeping from the back. Piano played low and soft. Guitars in and out. Mysterious crackles. Time signatures steady or wavering. Vocals either ebullient or tragic. By the end of the first half, the hope seems gone, and Chilton and Jody Stephens are left wandering around in the devastation. “Kanga Roo” begins side two with a totally obtuse lyric, and slowly they pull themselves out of it, somehow, with Stephens’ “For You” being absolutely romantic and lovely.

All through Third, you get the feeling that this was a record that needed to be made, but not necessarily released, though test pressings were done in 1975. A release in 1978 came out, but by then Chilton and Stephens moved on. In 1992, producer Jim Dickson released a version he claimed was the true running order plus bonus tracks. We don’t know, but that 1992 release was clear, clean, and you were able to hear the madness, the gentleness, and the heart and mind of the band.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There are so many notes here that I need to direct you to the various articles about the album, and books on Big Star and Alex Chilton. Basically, he purposely self-destructed some tracks to get back at…someone. complete third

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The 1992 Rykodisc release had five bonus cuts (all covers but the bonkers “Downs”) and there’s a box set with pert near every demo and finished take. 

GRADE A+: Not for everyone, but dang it’s compelling.

The Beautiful South – Choke

ARTIST: The Beautiful South         Choke_(The_Beautiful_South_album_-_cover_art)

TITLE: Choke

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION:  #2 UK

SINGLES: A Little Time (#1 UK), My Book (#43 UK), Let Love Speak Up Itself (#51 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not in the US.

LINEUP: Paul Heaton, Dave Hemingway, Briana Corrigan, Dave Rotheray, Sean Welch, Dave Stead. Gary Barnacle, Kevin Brown, Pete Wingfield, Tony Robinson, and Damon Butcher added horns and keyboards all over the record.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album by the elegant and cynical pop group may have been to clever for regular punters in the UK, but it’s still a fine album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Listening to the first few tracks of their second album, you get the sense that the Beautiful South is coming into their own – not that their first album wasn’t fully formed. But Briana Corrigan is now a full member, and Dave Hemingway’s vocal contributions are more noticeable.

The second track. “My Book”, while not a successful single, was clever and brilliant, sounding like an older pop track with modern embellishment and with clever lyrics that seem to skewer the narrator and society at the same time. Then, for some reason, the ballad “Let Love Speak Up Itself” didn’t hit, either, probably since the lyrics were twisted, which on the heels of “A Little Time”, a ballad Hemingway and Corrigan shine, was a disappointment.

Through the album, though, the production and arrangements are adult sounding and sophisticated, yet playful and inventive. The band wasn’t trying to make singles, it seems, and that was just fine, as the album plays well as a whole.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The video for “A Little Time’ won the 1991 Brit Award.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but the final track (a cover of “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” by the Dramatics, was left off the first pressings by accident.

GRADE A-: A clever, almost too clever, pop album.

The Greenhornes – Gun for You

ARTIST: The Greenhornes 220px-Gun_For_You

TITLE: The Greenhornes

YEAR RELEASED: 1999

CHART ACTION:  No

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not by them

LINEUP: Craig Fox, Patrick Keefer, Jack Lawrence, Brian Olive, Jared McKinney

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Cincy-area garage band’s debut is a homage to the 60’s garage era, but it’s a flat celebration.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Greenhorne’s first record sounded like they were the cousins of the Detroit area garage revival. The sound is dominated by Jared McKinney’s organ and Craig Fox’s garage-era front-man swagger. Yet it seems more like a copy than a truly inspired original.

They definitely know the sound and the motif. But what’s missing is some spark. The production doesn’t do them any favors, either. It sounds flat, and it’s possible they were rushed in recording and mixing.

They’d sort it all out soon enough, but this is one to pass up unless you need to complete your collection.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: One cover is “Wake Me, Shake Me” by the Blues Project

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE C: It’s just a flat record (and not the shape). They’d do better work soon enough. EXILED

The Dismemberment Plan – The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified

ARTIST: The Dismemberment Plan  220px-TheDismembermentPlanisTerrified

TITLE: The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION:  No

SINGLES: The Ice of Boston

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really

LINEUP: Eric Axelson, Jason Caddell, Joe Easley, Travis Morrison

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from post-punk post-hardcore band adds different color and motifs to their angular, guitar driven sound.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: You still have Travis Morrison speak-singing (and doing actual spoken word during “The Ice of Boston). You still have angular guitars like the Gang of Four and Pylon. But this time, the Dismemberment Plan adds some funk, swing, some layered production, and actual singing (and maybe harmonies even) to their mix. The result is a fascinating album that created a big underground buzz.

“The Ice of Boston”, later released by major label Interscope, turned heads in the alternative scene with its wry and bitter observations about a DC transplant living in Boston during New Year’s Eve. Many of their audience could relate – those that moved away from home or college to chase something, and not ending up with it.

Tracks like “One Too Many Blows to the Head”, with is swinging beat, trumpets, and catchy chorus, breaks the group out of their usual motif. Not that the usual wasn’t fine, but the band really has its moments as players here, and thus this is a leap forward. The tracks are also varied, and sequenced so the listener doesn’t get stuck in a rut. All in all, an improvement.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Joe Easley stepped into the drum chair, and the band’s lineup would be solid for the rest of their career.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Japanese tracks, of course.

GRADE A: A true post-punk post-hardcore album (one that emulates the 80’s post-punk and is evolved from DC hardcore), and one of the best DC records of the late 90’s.

Supertramp – Retrospectacle: An Anthology

ARTIST: Supertramp 220px-Supertramp_-_Retrospectacle

TITLE: Retrospectacle – The Supertramp Anthology

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  #9 UK

SINGLES: Charting: Dreamer (#13 UK), Bloody Well Right (#35 US), Give a Little Bit (#15 US, #29 UK), The Logical Song (#6 US, #7 UK), Breakfast in America (#62 US, #9 UK), Goodbye Stranger (#15 US, #57 UK), Take the Long Way Home (#10 US), It’s Raining Again (#11 US, #26 UK), My Kind of Lady (#31 US), Cannonball (#28 US), Free As a Bird (#95 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Crime of the Century, Gone Hollywood

LINEUP: Rick Davies, Roger Hodgson, John Anthony Helliwell, Dougie Thompson, Bob Siebenberg were the main quintet. Early band members were Richard Palmer, Robert Millar, Kevin Currie, Davie Winthrop, and Frank Farrell. When Hodgson left, they added session players until their 1997 album. Thompson had left by then. Mark Hart, Cliff Hugo, Tom Walsh, Jessie Siebenberg, and Lee Thornburg were official members then.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Good size retrospective of long time prog rock band that became quite popular in the late 70s and early 80s.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Before 1974, Supertramp were a footnote, noted only because a Dutch tycoon backed them. After 1979, they were prime examples of the merging of prog and mainstream rock. This compilation focuses a lot from 1974 through 1997, though it does give you a taste of their early days.

Supertramp were of two minds it seems, proggy songs that rambled on, and hooky rock songs that had prog elements. They also had two songwriters and singers who brought different perspectives and ideas to the band, which helped round out the band, but also led to its ultimate demise.

I reviewed their two best albums, and plenty of cuts here are on those. The other cuts are from their lesser works, where they were struggling to repeat success (or gain success), and post-blockbuster where the band was (and did) splinter apart. Later on, they released two albums before calling their recording career quits, though the fire was out by then.

Some tracks here are better off here without lesser tracks clogging them, but tracks from Crime of the Century and Breakfast in America are best served there. And some tracks will appeal only to true fans here anyway, and the live cuts don’t add much to the program. It’s their best comp, though, so if you’re curious, spin it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They’re still an ongoing concern, but Davies had health problems that forced them to cancel a 2015 tour.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE B: When they were great, they were great. When they weren’t, you can definitely tell the difference here.

Supertramp – Breakfast in America

ARTIST: Supertramp 220px-Supertramp_-_Breakfast_in_America

TITLE: Breakfast in America

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION:  #1 US, #3 UK

SINGLES: The Logical Song (#6 US, #7 UK), Breakfast in America (#62 US, #9 UK), Goodbye Stranger (#15 US, #57 UK), Take the Long Way Home (#10 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Gone Hollywood

LINEUP: Rick Davies, Roger Hodgson, John Anthony Helliwell, Dougie Thompson, Bob Siebenberg

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After two sub-par albums following their breakthrough (to be covered in the compilation I will cover), Supertramp hit it out of the proverbial park.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Since their breakout in 1974, Supertramp had released two albums that didn’t light the world on fire, critically or commercially. While it wasn’t desperation as it was for Crime of the Century, it was possible that they were going to fade away if they didn’t release another successful record.

Well, consider this a success.

With four singles that are still played on rock stations, and well known by most everyone over 40 (maybe 30?), and deep cuts that are memorable without being ponderous or pretentious (for the most part), Breakfast in America is the album they needed, and probably their all-time legacy in music history.

Three of the four hits were anchored by Roger Hodgson’s falsetto voice, but the instrument that comes to fore is the electric piano of Rick Davies. The two also collaborate on vocals more (even though every song is credited to one or the other solely), making it seem like a true band effort. The rest of the group also add color and chops to the proceeding.

They didn’t throw away their prog tendencies (which does make some cuts linger a bit too long), and after their last two albums this was a welcome comeback to form where hooks and chops co-mingled.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Originally, the record was conceived as a discussion between Hodgson and Davies, but that was scrapped very early on.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with a live set.

GRADE A: It’s really an enduring album with just a few tracks that seem to linger a bit long, but it wouldn’t be proggy if it didn’t have those, would it?