Incubus – The Essential Incubus

ARTIST: Incubus                 incubus

TITLE: The Essential Incubus

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting Top 10: Pardon Me (#102 US, #3 Alternative, #7 Mainstream, #61 UK), Stellar (#107 US, #2 Alternative, #17 Mainstream), Drive (#9 US, #1 Alternative, #8 Mainstream, #40 UK), Wish You Were Here (#60 US, #2 Alternative, #4 Mainstream, #27 UK), Nice to Know You (#105 US, #9 Alternative, #9 Mainstream), Warning (#104 US, #3 Alternative, #27 UK), Megalomaniac (#55 US, #1 Alternative, #2 Mainstream, #23 UK), Talk Shows on Mute (#116 US, #3 Alternative, #18 Mainstream, #43 UK), Anna-Molly (#66 US, #1 Alternative, #4 Mainstream, #109 UK), Dig (#94 US, #4 Alternative, #17 UK), Oil and Water (#8 Alternative, #38 Mainstream), Love Hurts (#113 US, #1 Alternative, #40 Mainstream), Black Heart Inertia (#7 Alternative, #34 Mainstream), Adolescents (#3 Alternative, #28 Mainstram)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you know more, you really don’t need this collection

LINEUP: Brandon Boyd, Mike Einziger, Jose Pasillas II. Alex Katunich was replaced by Ben Kenney in 2003. Gavin Koppell was replaced by Chris Kilmore in 1998

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: What are they? Nu Metal? Hard Rock? Funk Metal? Alternative? This long standing band falls into the cracks, which may explain their longevity and their decline as well.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Incubus was signed as part of the stampede to sign nu-metal bands after Korn hit it big, but unlike some of their genre bretheren, they have a more expansive sound and sometimes defy pigeonholing.

They’ve had a scratching / hip-hop element from very early in their career, used funk bass lines, and after being mostly a nu-metal band they branched into a bit of a softer version of themselves with acoustic elements (“Drive” got to the Top 10 thanks to this). That seemed to be the key to success on the radio, with play by alternative and rock stations. But as time went on, they didn’t change and pop radio did, as did rock radio. So they’re getting less and less airplay.

Incubus seems to be a mile wide and an inch deep at times. Their tracks don’t stick in your ear, and many seem to be variations on the same musical motif that had been established earlier in their career. Basically, they’re good at what they do, and after all this time they haven’t really changed up much of their routine. You know what you’re getting.

 

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Their original turntablist (Gavin Koppell) has a restraining order against him from being near their current DJ (Chris Kilmore). Drama

 

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 

GRADE B: This is more than enough Incubus, but it’s good to have a comprehensive look instead of a small, shoddy collection.

 

Ike & Tina Turner – River Deep – Mountain High

ARTIST: Ike & Tina Turner River.deep.mountain.high

TITLE: River Deep – Mountain High

YEAR RELEASED: 1966 (1969)

CHART ACTION: #102 US, #27 UK

SINGLES: River Deep – Mountain High (#88 US, #3 UK), I’ll Never Need More Than This (#114 US, #64 UK), A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knocking Everyday) (#16 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A Fool in Love, It’s Gonna Work Out Fine (both remakes of the original), Save the Last Dance for Me

LINEUP: Ike Turner, Tina Turner, Claudia Lennear, Bonnie Bramlett, Session musicians like Carol Kaye, Glenn Campbell, Leon Russell, Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel, Jim Gordon, and many more

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The hyped (and flawless) single busted in the US, so this LP was only released in UK until 1969, when A&M put it out.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is it – the project that drove Phil Spector totally over the edge. When the US rejected the single “River Deep-Mountain High” (there are many theories as to why), Spector pulled this album from production, but released it in the UK and Europe where the single did well.

What the US missed until 1969 was one of the best soul albums of the decade. While re-recording songs seems shaky, Ike & Tina’s re-recordings of their early hits with an updated sound make sense (they’d do that a lot as time went on) as it allowed everything to fit together. Phil Spector produced half of the tracks, with Ike producing the rest. The sound is Spector through and through – big, bold, and loud.

Spector and Ike Turner pulled together the best of the best in terms of songs and personnel, and Tina Turner and Ikettes really put on one of their best vocal performances. It should have been a big hit – but it was not for whatever reason. Pity.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Spector claimed he loved the acclaim the record received in Europe, but basically disappeared for almost three years and his record company stopped releasing new records.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but between 1966 and 1969 they swapped out a track for the second single “I’ll Never Need More Than This”.

GRADE A+: There’s no real filler, here. Everything is just cooking.

The Gin Blossoms – Congratulations, I’m Sorry

ARTIST: The Gin Blossoms Gin_Blossoms_-_Congratulations...I'm_Sorry

TITLE: Congratulations, I’m Sorry

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #10 US, #42 UK

SINGLES: Follow You Down (#9 US, #6 Mainstream, #8 Modern, #30 UK), Day Job (#29 Mainstream,, #31 Modern), As Long As It Matters (#75 US), Not Only Numb

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not on the normal version. See below.

LINEUP: Robin Wilson, Scott Johnson, Jesse Valenzuela, Bill Leen, Phillip Rhoads.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Followup to their surprise breakout sees them mining the same territory, but without their best songwriter the tracks didn’t have the same impact.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Gin Blossoms second major label album did change up their sound on a few tracks, but mostly mined the same slight power-jangle pop sound. The issue was the songwriting – without the late Doug Hopkins the rest of the band had to pick up the songwriting slack, and except for a couple of tracks (“Day Job”) they seemed like lesser takes on their first album.

“Follow You Down” was really the only track that stands out amongst the rest of the tracks and it was the song that sounded like it really could have been on the first album. Really, much of the album sounded like that. They were really gunning for a second big smash, but by 1996, people seemed to be over the simple sounds of the band.

A major reason for the disappointment could have been a decision by their record company. A&M decided that their single for the 1995 Empire Records movie, “’Til I Hear It From You” (#11 US, #4 Mainstream, #5 Modern, #39 UK) should be left off of the new album even though the soundtrack was also released by A&M. That cut some sales and interest in the album, and forced the band to fill the void.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title comes from the phone calls the band got for their success, and the loss of Doug Hopkins.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, they finally tacked on the 1995 single. It really could have made the album just a bit better.

 GRADE C+: It really was the same kind of album as before, but with fewer memorable tracks.

The Gin Blossoms – New Miserable Experience

ARTIST: The Gin Blossoms 

TITLE: New Miserable Experience

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: #30 US, #1 Heatseekers, #53 UK

SINGLES: Mrs. Rita (#36 Mainstream), Hey Jealousy (#25, #4 Mainstream, #24), Until I Fall Away (#40 Mainstream, #13 Modern), Found Out About You (#25, #5 Mainstream, #1 Modern, #40 UK), Allison Road (#20 Mainstream, #39 Modern)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: You may have this, and remember other songs. It sold a boatload.

LINEUP: Robin Wilson, Doug Hopkins, Jesse Valenzuela, Bill Leen, Phillip Rhoads.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A pleasant sounding jangly, kinda power-poppy, rock record lumped into Alternative Rock because of the times. It sold a boatload.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Back in the 90’s, I got sick of the Gin Blossoms and sold this record back. I think I got 50 cents or something (the market was flooded). On re-listen I discovered that the main reason I got sick of them, besides constant radio airplay for two years, was that singer Robin Wilson sounds the same in every song. I mean, THE SAME.

The melodies may be slightly different, but his inflection and range are in a very set band. The songs are very similar in many aspects, but Wilson’s voice doesn’t help anything. They do add some flourishes outside of the norm (“Cajun Song” for one, and “Hands Are Tied” has more oomph), but still the songs sound nearly the same in terms of melody and feel.

This record took about a year to break, thanks to A&M finally deciding to jump on board the alternative rock game. It did sound somewhat fresh on the radio, and after a long period of not hearing it I was reminded of its pleasant, if limited, charms. 

NOTES & MINUTIAE: You may know that guitarist Doug Hopkins, who wrote half of the songs, including the two everyone knows, was kicked out due to alcoholism and later committed suicide. What you may not know is that the band forced him to give up his band royalties and half of his songwriting royalties as well. He also wasn’t credited on the albuim.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a whole bunch of tracks from earlier records (their first independent record isn’t streaming). A&M also changed the cover when this started to break.

 GRADE B-: Some of the deeper cuts are better (or at least unique), like “Hands Are Tied”, but this album is basically built on its singles.

Poco – The Essential Poco

ARTIST: Poco  The_Essential_Poco

TITLE:  The Essential Poco

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: You Better Think Twice (#72), C’Mon (#69), Just for Me and You (#110), Crazy Love (#17), Heart of the Night (#20), Shoot for the Moon (#50), Call It Love (#18), Nothing to Hide (#39)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  Pickin’ Up the Pieces, Kind Woman

LINEUP:  Originally: Richie Furay, Rusty Young, Jim Messina, George Grantham, Randy Meisner. Timothy B. Schmit replaced Meisner. Paul Cotton replaced Messina. Cotton and Young were around with Charlie Harrison, Steve Chapman, and Kim Bullard when they had their first two Top 40 hits. The original band came back for their last two hits. Rock never dies.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the original country-rock bands (taking cues from the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers) was mega-hyped thanks to their Buffalo Springfield connections, but never found the sweet spot the Eagles did.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Trouble began early for Poco, when Randy Meisner quit the band right after the sessions for the first album were done and a dog was airbrushed into the album cover. The band never really recovered, though they keep plugging along.

Richie Furay and Jim Messina were supposed to be the meal tickets, thanks to their involvement with Buffalo Springfield, but it turned out Rusty Young and Messina’s replacement Paul Cotton kept the band going and more or less shaped their sound which became more country as time went on. Soon the band became more middle-of-the-road than anything else, a big disappointment from what was expected in 1969.

Poco’s work never found the niche where country-rock would work, and they either jammed too long or took the edge off too much. Only a few tracks rose above the rest, and this collection hits the high marks for the most part.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The original group got back together (if Little Feat could do it without their most important member, why not an intact Poco?)  and got their second-biggest hit out of it.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B:  It’s a solid collection from a band that was called “the most overrated underrated band” by Robert Christgau. That hits home.

Be Bop Deluxe – Air Age Anthology

ARTIST: Be Bop Deluxe bebop

TITLE:  Air Age Anthology

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Their only charting single was Ships in the Night (#23 UK).

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  Not here, maybe if you were in the UK in the 70’s

LINEUP:  Bill Nelson. Charlie Tumahai, Simon Fox, and Andrew Clarke were on almost all of their albums. Robert Bryan, Nicholas Chatterton-Drew, and Ian Parkin were on the first album.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Glam-to-progressive rock band led by Bill Nelson, a guitar legend for many UK new-wavers.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Be Bop Deluxe isn’t well known here, and mostly forgotten in the UK. Initially more glam rock than anything (their first album could be called Be Bop Deluxe Are the Spiders from Mars), Nelson broke up the entire band when it was noted they were really aping Bowie more than anything. He was then determined to create a more progressive and experimental band.

He never quite moved out of being labeled a Bowie sound-alike, as his sound was very much in line with the glam-era Bowie, but the next band he put together really tried to balance progressive rock with pop sensibilities. It’s tough, and only on a few cuts do they truly succeed in writing a song balanced between the pop chart and art rock.

But this is a band with serious chops (Nelson is an ace guitar player) and the ability to carry out Nelson’s musical ideas. He was (and still is) a chameleon in terms of style and influence, and always tried to stay ahead of the game. This is definitely worth a listen or three for progressive rock fans who also liked glam.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They gained a following in the UK, with four UK Top 25 albums (including a live album at #10).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There are smaller comps but this band needs a more grandiose overview.

GRADE: B:  For fans of progressive and glam guitarists. Docked a plus due to nutty sequencing.

Ringo Starr – Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo Starr

ARTIST: Ringo Starr Photograph_-_The_Very_Best_of_Ringo_Starr_cover_art

TITLE:  Photograph: The Very Best of

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #130 US, #26 UK

SINGLES: Top 10: It Don’t Come Easy (#4 US, #4 UK), Back off Boogaloo (#9 US, #2 UK), Photograph (#1 US, #8 UK), You’re Sixteen (#1 US, #4 UK), Oh My My (#5 US), Only You (And You Alone) (#6 US, #28 UK), No No Song / Snookeroo (#3 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  I’m the Greatest, (It’s All Down to) Goodnight Vienna

LINEUP:  Ringo! Along with John, Paul, George, The Band, Klaus Voorman, Billy Preston, Steve Cropper, Jim Keltner (!), Martha Reeves, Merry Clayton, Peter Frampton, Dr. John, Nicky Hopkins, Melissa Manchester, Eric Clapton, Harry Nillson, and many many more. Everyone wanted to help Ringo.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Comprehensive comp of Ringo hits all of his high spots of his 70’s solo work (putting his other 70’s and 80’s work in the dustbin for the most part) and a few tracks from his career comeback.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Ringo, of all people, wrote and recorded three of the best post-breakup Beatles songs (“It Don’t Come Easy”, “Back Off Boogaloo”, and “Photograph” – the first and third co-written with George), and the most sentimental track of the breakup (“Early 1970”). He recorded a couple of fun, if top-heavy records, a country album (which I reviewed), and an album for his mum. Then, he careened off of a cliff – both personally and musically.

From 1975 to today, only “Wrack My Brain” hit the Top 40, and that may have been the best track from 1974-1991. Now, he’s recording some OK records and touring a lot with his All-Starr Band (basically whoever wants to have fun on stage with him for a while) and reveling in being Ringo. That’s perfectly OK – he’s got nothing to prove to anyone.

This is the best distillation of Starr’s recorded output for casual fans. Ringo devotees can check out his albums in full – but not many of the records on Polydor and Boardwalk are streaming, and one wasn’t even domestically released. There are good reasons for that.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The streaming and download version skipped the tracks from Ringo’s Rotogravure and one later track, replacing it with three tracks from his best two records. That’s just fine and dandy.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B+:  Ringo’s always fun.

Sham 69 – If the Kids Are United: The Best of

ARTIST: Sham 69 71z+dS6P9kL._SS500_

TITLE:  If the Kids Are United – the Best Of

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Angels with Dirty Faces (#19 UK), If the Kids Are United (#9 UK), Hurry Up Harry (#10 UK), Tell the Children (#45 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  Borstal Breakout

LINEUP:  Jimmy Pursey, Dave Parsons, Dave Tregunna, Mark Cain. A few tracks had other people.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Working class punks capture the populism of the unemployed class in late 70’s UK.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Dave Pursey found the right combo of backing musicians to make timeless late 70’s punk rock, and that quartet sped through some of the most poignant of hits for the underclass youth in the UK as they were leading to Thatcher-ism.

“Borstal Breakout” and “If the Kids Are United” are their classics, but they also had other solid tracks and brought the energy of the football pitch to their music. The issue, though, was that their message to the unemployed and the frustrations of youth led to an unwanted fandom – the National Front and their skinhead legions. They stopped playing live due to this and that slowed their career way down.

They’ve broken up, and reformed a couple times, and have put out some decent songs here and there since the late 70’s (a couple are included here), but they’ll be known for their late 70’s punk anthems. 517sEKDqBpL

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Due to licensing (no doubt) there are some live tracks replacing some of their singles. Those can be found on another compilation The Very Best of the Hersham Boys

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B:  Only because it’s not really complete with the live tracks as a sub. Putting those two comps together would make it an A- for sure.

The Dramatics – Millenium Collection – 20th Century Masters

ARTIST: The Dramatics 71BZX23Ho-L._SX522_

TITLE:  Millennium Collection – 20th Century Masters

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 10: Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get (#9, #3 R&B), In the Rain (#5, #1 R&B), Hey You, Get Off My Mountain (#43, #5 R&B), Me & Mrs. Jones (#47, #4 R&B), You’re Fooling You (#87, #10 R&B), Be My Girl (#53, #3 R&B), I Can’t Get Over You (#101, #9 R&B), Shake It Well (#76, #4 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  No, not really.

LINEUP:  Ron Banks, William Howard, Elbert Wilkins, Willie Ford, Larry Demps. LJ Reynolds and Larry Mayes replaced Howard and Wilkins when they went rogue.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Long standing R&B vocal group had some essential early 70’s hits, and some good R&B radio songs until the disco era.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After logging serious time in the Detroit circuit with just a few singles, the Dramatics hit it big in 1971 with “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get”. Then “In the Rain” hit and the Dramatics legacy was pretty much cemented with those two tracks.

As the decade went on, the Dramatics and their producers added a bit more funk, then disco, into their songs, but their vocal blend was still pretty tasty. The only misstep early on was a cover of “Me & Mrs. Jones”, which hit big but really added nothing to the original.

These 12 tracks show the Dramatics as a group that tried to survive as long as they could as R&B moved to funk and then disco. They put out some classic numbers and deserve not to be forgotten.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The group played a big role in the 1967 incident at the Algeirs Hotel that sparked the Detroit riots. Their valet was killed in the ensuing violence.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but there are longer comps.

GRADE: B:  It’s not 100% essential but the early tracks need to be in a basic catalog.

 

Britney Spears – The Essential Britney Spears

ARTIST: Britney Spears  81svo0iDQJL._SX522_

TITLE:  The Essential Britney Spears

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #185

SINGLES: Top 10: …Baby One More Time (#1 US, #1 UK), Sometimes (#21 US, #3 UK), (You Drive Me) Crazy (#10 US, #5 UK), Oops! I Did It Again (#9 US, #1 UK), Lucky (#23 US, #5 UK), Stronger (#11 US, #7 UK), I’m a Slave 4 U (#27 US, #4 UK), Overprotected (#86 US, #4 UK), I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman (#102 US, #2 UK), Boys (#122 US, #7 UK), Me Against the Music (#35 US, #2 UK), Toxic (#9 US, #1 UK), Everytime (#15 US, #1 UK), My Prerogative (#101 US, #3 UK), Do Somethin (#100 US, #6 UK), Gimme More (#3 US, #3 UK), Piece of Me (#1 US, #3 UK), Circus (#3 US, #13 UK), 3 (#1 US, #7 UK), Hold It Against Me (#1 US, #6 UK), ‘Til the World Ends (#3 US, #21 UK), I Wanna Go (#7 US, #111 UK), Scream and Shout (#3 US, #1 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  Oh, probably…

LINEUP:  Britney Spears, producers, song doctors, session musicians, the pop machine.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A fairly complete overview of the first 13 or so years of the pop phenomenon known as Britney Spears.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Beginning with “…Baby One More Time”, and rolling through her singles as of 2012, this collection of Ms. Spears hits shows her changing with the pop winds – moving from Lolita to Succubus along the way.

Ear candy to the nth degree, Spears was fed some outstanding pop tracks for her first releases, and then succumbed to formula (the second sugar rush isn’t as good as the first) for a while. She never did become an innovator, but broke out of the teen pop when that didn’t prove to be a long term prospect (in the US, the UK kept buying her stuff anyway).

Spears isn’t the best singer, and the ballads really expose her weaknesses (along with the lack of creativity in the songwriting), but she’s a perfect vehicle for semi-randy pop nuggets.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There are a few hits that came after this collection, the last being in 2016.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+:  Maybe too much for casual fans, and probably best for nostalgia, but a few songs are all-timers in the pop realm.