Loggins & Messina – The Best: Sittin’ In Again

ARTIST: Loggins & Messina 

TITLE: The Best: Sittin’ In Again

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Vahevala (#84), Nobody but You (#86), You’re Mama Don’t Dance (#4), Watching the River Run (#71), Changes (#84)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: House at Pooh Corner, Danny’s Song, Long Tail Cat

LINEUP: Kenny Loggins, Jim Messina, session pros.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pop and folk rock duo compilation is released to support their 2005 tour.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Jim Messina, formerly of Poco and Buffalo Springfield, mentored youngster Kenny Loggins and they formed a duo that sold a lot of records and mellowed out a lot of people in the mid 70’s. You know them, and you may know their big songs.

Yet, for the fond memories of a few, most everything they did was mellow to the point of boredom, complete with cringy or way-too sentimental lyrics (“Danny’s Song”, oy!). Sometimes they extend a song way past it’s sell-by date (jammin’ man). Their mix of rock and country was interesting at times, but had all of the rough edges sanded off to the point of slickness.

For as much publicity and fond remembrance of the duo, the honest truth is that they were meh that fit into the too-laid-back 70’s scene that was addled a bit by substances. That’s my story, at least.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The duo also released two live albums, and one isn’t streaming. Neither is their final studio album. This collection also left off a few of Top 100 singles that weren’t going to be performed at their reunion shows.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE C: I exiled about half. I was generous, too.

Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs

ARTIST: Syd Barrett                    Sydbarrett-madcaplaughs

TITLE: The Madcap Laughs

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #40 UK

SINGLES: Octopus (#11 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Terrapin, Dark Globe

LINEUP: Syd Barrett, David Gilmour, Jerry Shirley, Willie Wilson, Robert Wyatt, Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After being excused from Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett records his first solo album in fits and starts, and it’s kind of shambolic, and charming.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Syd Barrett’s story, in fact, the recording of this album, takes a volume or two. So, in short, Barrett took about 18 months to record this, sessions here and there, and finally it took an effort from former bandmates Roger Waters and David Gilmour to get the thing done.

As you can imagine, the albums a bit chaotic. Sometimes, members of the Soft Machine overdubbed onto the tracks. Sometimes it was Gilmour and Jerry Shirley from Humble Pie. Sometimes, it was just Syd.

His voice is shaky at times, the songs seem to be on the verge of breaking apart, and one track shouldn’t have been included at all due to false starts and the like. Still, the songs are charming and playful at times – or at least they sound like it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Gilmour / Waters sessions had to be fit around their Pink Floyd obligations for touring and recording, so that was some of the delay.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, some alternate takes.

GRADE B: Syd’s solo stuff is probably an acquired taste, though there’s quality here.

Jim Steinman – Bad for Good

ARTIST: Jim Steinman          JSteinman_Bad

TITLE: Bad For Good

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #63 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: Rock and Roll Dreams Come True (#32, #14 Mainstream, #52 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Meatloaf did cover a lot of these songs on later albums, and so did other artists.

LINEUP: Jim Steinman, Rory Dodd, Karla DeVito, Todd Rundgren, Davey Johnston, Kasim Sulton, Max Weinberg, Roy Bittan, Roger Powell, Ellen Foley, Larry Fast, and many more.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Meatloaf’s songwriter recorded the planned followup on his own after Mr. Loaf lost his voice. He’s no Meat, that’s for sure.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Jim Steinman was the lunatic that came up with Bat Out of Hell for Meatloaf, and when it came time for the followup Meatloaf was out of commission due to voice issues and drugs. So, not wanting to wait, Steinman gathered musicians and producers and did the damn thing himself.

He should have waited for Meatloaf. Steinman’s vocal limitations are noticeable from the jump, and even with Rory Dodd helping his voice was still a liability. The structure of the record is almost the sing – spoken word pieces, a duet with a hot girl – long winded pieces – a storyline. This one was ostensibly about Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Yeah, whatever.

It’s bombastic, and would have been a decent Meatloaf vehicle. But here, it’s just bombast without redemption. Only a couple tracks are worthy of keeping, really.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The irony is that later in 1981, Meatloaf’s followup, with Steinman songs, came out. He needed these songs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Not really, but the single “Rock and Roll Dreams Come True” came packaged as an EP with the original vinyl. The single and B-side are the last two tracks on the CD.

GRADE C-: The importance of a vocalist has never been more apparent than here.

The Idle Race – Back to the Story

ARTIST: The Idle Race                                             

TITLE: Back to the Story

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: No

SINGLES: Imposters of Life’s Magazine, Here We Go ‘Round the Lemon Tree, The End of the Road, The Skeleton and the Roundabout, Come with Me, Days of Broken Arrow, Neanderthal Man, In the Summertime

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only UK pop-psychedelic and ELO zealots, and I mean zealots.

LINEUP: Jeff Lynne, Greg Masters, Dave Pritchard, Roger Spencer. Mike Hopkins and Dave Walker later replaced Lynne.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Jeff Lynne’s band before the Move, and then ELO, shows him mining the exact same ground, but without a production budget.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The production’s not the best (bands that don’t sell singles have to make do with what they got then), and there’s a bit too much music hall (their first album, especially), but when you listen, you can hear Jeff Lynne through and through. The baroque touches, the evocation of the Beatles’ psychedelic era, the melodic sense – it’s Jeff Lynne all the way through.

This collection is a true compendium of the Idle Race. It’s everything they recorded for them, even the album that they put together after Lynne decamped for the Move in 1970. Now for non-zealots, you may want to skip around, and hit the part of the collection with their singles before diving in (the start of CD2), but for those curious in the development of ELO (and to marvel how long Lynne has been doing this – A LONG TIME!) this is good to pick up.

What’s sketchy is that third album, the one after Lynne left. The record company wanted them to release contemporary covers as singles, and they complied, and then gave them another album, but it’s far away from Lynne’s material.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Idle Race developed from the Nightriders, a popular Birmingham (UK) club band that Lynne joined and soon took over and moved them toward the pop-psychedelic side.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: At first, two Nightriders tracks were on the compilation, but they disappeared when it was reissued.

 GRADE B: It’s got some charms, but you can easily compress it down to a collection of your liking.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive – Bachman-Turner Overdrive

ARTIST: Bachman-Turner Overdrive

TITLE: Bachman-Turner Overdrive

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #70

SINGLES: Gimme Your Money Please, Little Gandy Dancer, Blue Collar (#68)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nope

LINEUP: Randy Bachman, Tim Bachman, C.F. Turner, Robbie Bachman

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Brave Belt becomes BTO

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After leaving the Guess Who, and then forming Brave Belt with his brother Robbie and former Guess Who singer Chad Allan, Randy Bachman lost a record deal, and got another one as he simplified (or dumbified) his sound and added another brother and C. F. Turner.

The result was a simple rock album that didn’t show any of the inventiveness or lyrical bite of Randy Bachman’s work with the Guess Who. It was basic rock, and this debut didn’t even have some of the hooks or riffs that highlight their later work.

There’s a really bad song from Tim Bachman (ooof), a weird pre-chorus in “Don’t Get Yourself in Trouble”, and leaden songs throughout, except for “Blue Collar”, and that lasts about two minutes too long. This one is a slog even at 35 minutes and half of the eight songs exiled.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The demo tape was labelled Brave Belt III.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 

GRADE C-: They’d do worse, but that’s not praise.

Alacrán – Alacrán

ARTIST: Alacrán 

TITLE: Alacrán

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Sticky

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, hell to the no

LINEUP: Ignacio Egana, Fernando Arbex, Oscar Lasprilla

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Spanish group records a psychedelic blues album ala Santana.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Well, well, well. Listening to obscure compilations helps. This record was kind of big in Brazil, and the single did well in Spain, but it wasn’t released anywhere else and the band soon ended when Lasprilla left to go to London.

What we have here is enjoyable bluesy, psychedelic rock, sung in English, that wouldn’t have been out of place in the playlists of 1970 FM radio here in the US. The single “Sticky” definitely has the certain catchiness that could have been a radio staple.

For crate diggers or compilation weirdos (like me), finding something like this is impressive. This is only six tracks, and it’s not the best thing ever. It’s good enough and entertaining enough that I’m keeping it in the catalog.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Arbex and Egana formed Barrabas, which had some hits in Europe with a revolving lineup and a US record deal.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE B: Not a bad find.

The Fiery Furnaces – EP

ARTIST: Fiery Furnaces                                 

TITLE: EP

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Single Again, Tropical Ice-Land

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Matthew Friedberger, Eleanor Friedberger with others on drums

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A stop gap release with singles and b-sides

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The UK wanted something to play on the radio, so the Fiery Furnaces recorded “Single Again”, a modern take on folk songs (which was chilling and gave me a lot of pause), then released this full of B-sides and new tracks. It’s called EP, but it’s really 41 minutes, so that’s a misnomer.

Always challenging and inventive, the songs aren’t just tossed off B-sides and extras, but well-crafted and musically challenging songs, with the siblings working together and Matthew even singing a few cuts as well.

The songs mostly link together, which is good, but a little frustrating for mix-tape or playlist makers. But as a stop-gap, this works well, and allowed the Furnaces to create challenging works later.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: I’m counting this as a 2005 release since the singles were new enough and the album cohered enough to be a contemporary release.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE A-: “Single Again” gives me chills. The rest are good examples of the tuneful oddness of the Furnaces.

Meryn Caddell – Angel Food for Thought

ARTIST: Meryn Caddell                              

TITLE: Angel Food for Thought

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: The Sweater, Barbie

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, no.

LINEUP: Meryn Caddell with contributions from Tim Vesely, John Gzowski, Dave Clark, Jim Creeggan, Stepehn Taub, Curtis Wehfritz, Bruce Evans and Tom Third

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Avant garde spoken word album got some airplay, somehow, thanks to its inventiveness.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Meryn Caddell, a Canadian performance artist, released this work in the early 90’s with 20 tracks of poetry and prose. Somehow “The Sweater” got to the Canadian Top 40 and was on college radio in the US, and inspired Rivers Cuomo to write “Undone (The Sweater Song)”. That’s quite true.

The sounds behind the poems and prose is inventive – and some are just solo recitations. Cadell used to perform in a heating duct for reverb, so the sounds were something already in mind. There are a couple of ‘traditional’ songs but they fit the atmosphere. This may not be a ‘put on every day’ record, but it’s a good listen if you need some performance art poetry.

Cadell is now a professor of song lyrics and libretto writing at the University of Bristish Columbia, which is pert near perfect.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: KROQ used to play “The Sweater” and “Undone” by Weezer back-to-back.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A couple of bonus tracks now.

 GRADE A-: Despite my reservations, this is a good listen, poignant and entertaining.

Death Cult – Death Cult

ARTIST: Death Cult (The Cult)  Death-Cult-EP

TITLE: Death Cult

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: No

SINGLES: It started as a 4-track EP, and added tracks in 1988 and 1996

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Horse Nation was on their debut LP

LINEUP: Ian Astbury, Billy Duffy, Jamie Stewart. Ray Mondo played drums in the first sessions, then Nigel Preston played on the later cuts.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Tentative start by the future Cult find them feeling their way around their early sound.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The guitars aren’t as big, the production is simple, and the songs aren’t that great, but still, when Ian Astbury opens his mouth, you know it’s The Cult, albeit way early in their career when they were known as Death Cult.

Migrating from a couple of other bands (one being Southern Death Cult), the band soon to be known as The Cult recorded a four track EP that at least got them a little notice. Later they recorded a single “God’s Zoo”, which was a marked improvement. That lead to their debut record, where they repurposed a song here and cast the rest into history.

There are some high points here, but the flat production, meandering tracks, and the lack of redeeming kitsch makes this EP disposable to all except the curious. Death_Cult_(EP)

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The lead track of the EP proper, “Brothers Grimm”, was written by Duffy and Steve Abbot from UK Decay when they both were unemployed from their previous bands.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Originally it was a 4-track EP, then they added the “God’s Zoo” single, and then a BBC session that led up to their Dreamtime album as the Cult.

GRADE C-: For the curious only, except for “God’s Zoo” and maybe “Brothers Grimm” if I’m generous.

Brinsley Schwarz – Surrender to the Rhythm

ARTIST: Brinsley Schwarz            R-3385050-1345775303-3534.jpeg

TITLE: Surrender to the Rhythm

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Country Girl, I Like It Like That, Silver Pistol, Happy Doing What We’re Doing, (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Trying to Live My Live Without You

LINEUP: Nick Lowe, Brinsley Schwarz, Ian Gomm, Bob Andrews, Billy Rankin

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pub-rockers collection shows why they’re a historical footnote.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Students of the UK New Wave scene know that Brinsley Schwarz, the band, connects to Rockpile, Elvis Costello, and Graham Parker and the Rumour. Nick Lowe, the bassist and main songwriter / singer, got popular on his own as a performer and producer.

The band was one of the leaders of ‘pub rock’ movement, which was a live alternative to prog and glam played in small venues. While they spawned a lot of compatriots and evolved into the the UK New Wave movement, the music by Brinsley Schwarz is…bland.

They’re competent, they play well, and they’re mellow. Too mellow at times. There’s not a lot of energy, and the cover versions seem lazy. They’re more useful as a reference point than something to put on.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Yes, the band is named after their guitarist. They also had a disaster of a gig at the Fillmore in 1970 that’s legendary.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 

GRADE C: Disappointing to hear a historical band be this…blah.