Tag: 1973

Lou Reed – Berlin

ARTIST: Lou Reed                      220px-Berlinloureed

TITLE:  Berlin

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #98 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: How Do You Think It Feels, Caroline Says

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Berlin, Men of Good Fortune, Lady Day

LINEUP: Lou Reed, Bob Ezrin, Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner, Jack Bruce, Aynsley Dunbar, Steve Winwood with help from Michael and Randy Brecker, Tony Levin, BJ Wilson, Gene Martynec, John Pierson, Allan Macmillan, and Blue Weaver.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Hey, let’s follow up our hit album with a song cycle about a couple living in Berlin who are hooked on smack and doomed in this life! That’ll keep the cash registers humming!”

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Wow. The themes and motif of this album should have about a billion trigger alerts for survivors of addiction, domestic violence, and suicide attempts. It’s Lou Reed telling a story of Caroline and Jim, two characters from a track on his debut album. And it’s not pretty.

The music and arrangements are outstanding, and there’s some great work by Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner on guitar. But the bleakness that Reed describes really hits home in the second half of the album – Side 2 for you vinylists. I don’t know if I can play it again it’s so dark and depressing, and Reed’s montone becomes creepier as the songs go along.

The most gut wrenching song is “The Kids” where Reed and producer Bob Ezrin put actual sounds from kids screaming for their mother in the background. I couldn’t deal with it.

It’s art and not pop, and I can see what Reed was aiming for, but it really stopped his career cold for a while as his audience couldn’t relate to the decay and desperation. It wouldn’t be the first time he did that.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bob Ezrin and Reed had planned a stage adaptation, but 86’d it due to sales. That would’ve been a laugh riot. Or not…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: This is a split decision. The second side is so bleak and dark I’m exiling ¾ of it. As a song cycle, and in artistic terms, it works. But as for enjoyment, oh man. No.

Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

ARTIST: Black Sabbath                            220px-Black_Sabbath_SbS

TITLE:  Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #11 US, #4 UK

SINGLES: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A National Acrobat, Spiral Architect

LINEUP: Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward. Rick Wakeman (!) plays on a track.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Continuing their trend of experimenting with other motifs, Sabbath breaks out the synths, a prog musician, and strings.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The beginning riff, and the outro, is Sabbath gold. Tony Iommi broke out of his writers block with those riffs, and today they inspire guitarists everywhere.

And a few of the following seven tracks, such as “A National Acrobat” and “Spiral Architect” are heavy and worthy as well. Though “Spiral Architect” really could have been a Moody Blues song if it wasn’t so riffy. “Sabbra Cadabra” has a swing that’s not usually found with the group and the use of Rick Wakeman on synths and piano add a lot to it.

But…not everything works. Ozzy’s synth doodlings aren’t clever or revealing. Iommi’s acoustic piece feels like it’s repeating the others he’s done, and they just don’t seem that into some of the songs. The production seems a bit unheavy as well – it’s missing something.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Cardigans (!) covered “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: It’s a record with “A” material and “C” material (or “C-“ to be honest).

Neil Young – Time Fades Away

ARTIST: Neil Young                   Timefadesaway.jpeg

TITLE: Time Fades Away

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #22 US, #20 UK

SINGLES: Time Fades Away

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Don’t Be Denied, Journey Through the Past

LINEUP: Neil Young, Ben Keith, Jack Nitzsche, Tim Drummond, John Barbada. David Crosby and Graham Nash show up a couple of times.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Live album of new songs is fantastic, but hated by Young because of the memories of the tour.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After Harvest, and the success of Harvest, Neil Young took everyone on a huge veer to the left. First, he released the soundtrack to his movie Journey Through the Past, which isn’t streaming, has never been on CD, and is…well…not worth reviewing anyway or complaining about the fact it’s missing. (In a word, it’d be my first F if I decided to review it). Then he went on tour with a group he called the Stray Gators, full of session whizzes, and played a bunch of new songs, loudly.

The tour was a mess. Everything that went wrong, from band members getting fired, to Young getting a sore throat, to animosity throughout the band, to heavy drug and alcohol use, to indifferent receptions to some great new songs, soured Young on this whole era. The album that resulted, though, shows these songs are among Neil’s best.

The star cut, in my ears, is “Don’t Be Denied”, though all eight songs are fantastic. Young’s ballads are heartfelt and intimate even if he’s playing in arenas. The rockers are raucous, and even if Young’s voice is a bit shaggy it still carries emotion.

After many, many, years in the wilderness due to Young’s bad feelings about the entire tour and experience (and personally, an MP3 I procured via a torrent of a vinyl copy), it’s now out there, warts and all. A must have.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Crosby and Nash came along at the end of the tour because of Neil’s sore throat.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A: I’m probably upping this a notch high because I’m so glad it’s out there, but it’s excellent despite the raggedness.

Roxy Music – Stranded

ARTIST: Roxy Music                        Roxy_Music-Stranded

TITLE: Stranded

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #186 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Street Life (#9 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Mother of Pearl, A Song for Europe

LINEUP: Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera, Eddie Jobson, Paul Thompson, John Gustafson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Rebounding quickly after Brian Eno left, Roxy Music moved toward a more streamlined, glamorous sound.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While Brian Eno’s synthesizer swoops and swirls added unpredictability to Roxy Music, the core of the band was always the cool, calculated, European sound. New keyboardist, the just 18-year old Eddie Jobson, adds more of a classical feel to his piano and organ, and also adds violin to certain songs, giving the group even more of an elegant flair.

Bryan Ferry’s vocal croon with his vibrato were very unique in rock music at this time. This adds another layer to the cool, sound. Phil Manzanera’s guitar and Paul Thompson’s drums anchor things in rock, though. Manzanera’s solo in “Serenade” reminds you that this is a rock band.

The Euro-centric sound and style would mean Roxy Music wouldn’t become mainstream over here in the 70’s, but they were very influential for many musicians in this era, even punk rockers.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The cover was the UK Playmate of the Year Marilyn Cole.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: They took the Eno years and built on them, becoming more song and pop oriented while maintaining their uniqueness.

Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure

ARTIST: Roxy Music                       Roxy_Music_-_For_Your_Pleasure

TITLE:  For Your Pleasure

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #193 US, #4 UK

SINGLES: Do the Strand

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Editions of You, In Every Dream Home a Heartache

LINEUP: Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno, Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera, Paul Thompson, John Porter.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Roxy Music’s second album is an improvement in both songwriting and production.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Roxy Music’s second album became a touchstone for glam, new wave, and even punk rockers with its arty style, dedication to their craft, and the ability to cross through to many audiences. It’s also weird.

Brian Eno’s very involved here, with solos and effects blaring out of his VC3. Andy Mackay’s saxophone is untamed at times, blaring over the songs with abandon. Yet, Bryan Ferry remains calm and cool as usual, crooning over the mayhem but lifting his voice when it calls for (like in the choruses of “Do the Strand”). Ferry’s vocals during the mayhem of the title cut, and the outlandishness of “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” also warrent mention. Paul Thompson’s strong drumming also anchors the tunes.

The issue in the US is that glam was just a fad, and Eno’s and MacKay’s wanderings weren’t received well. Yet it was our loss. The album may not have been able to break the airwaves, but it’s combo of art and glam make for an exciting listen, even during some of the artier sections.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: As usual in the UK, the lead single “Pyjamarama” wasn’t on the album. That hit #10 on the charts over there.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A:  There’s some arty bo-ho stuff that makes my head wander, but this is a solid album for glam and new wavers.

ZZ Top – Tres Hombres

ARTIST: ZZ Top                               220px-ZZ_Top_-_Tres_Hombres

TITLE:  Tres Hombres

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #8

SINGLES: La Grange (#41), Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Waiting for the Bus, Jesus Just Left Chicago

LINEUP: Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Putting it all together, ZZ Top records their commercial breakthrough.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After slowly gaining in popularity (regionally, for the most part), ZZ Top’s blend of blues and boogie found its audience when this stormed out of speakers in 1973.

At first, “La Grange” was the cut of choice, and it still causes a commotion whenever it’s on the radio. Yet, the album is full of glorious blues and rock-and-roll. The opening tracks (“Waiting for the Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago”) have been fan favorites for years, and many of the deep tracks are just as solid as the hits (especially “Precious and Grace” – that one should be cranked up as high as possible).

Gibbons’ guitar work is versatile as usual, with great slide, blues and boogie riffs sprayed all over the place and Frank Beard’s drumming has strengthened and he adds more flair to his work.

There isn’t a track that I’d leave off, but the side closers aren’t as strong as the rest of the tracks (they’re still not that great at slowing down). That’s a quibble – you gotta have this in your rock collection.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Everyone knows that “Waiting for the Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago” blend together on album, but it wasn’t planned. An engineer spliced the songs too close so they went together as they were a medley.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, three live tracks.

GRADE: A:  This may be the pinnacle of ZZ Top, especially early Top.

Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy

ARTIST: Steely Dan                                       Steely_Dan-Countdown_to_Ecstacy

TITLE:  Countdown to Ecstasy

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #35

SINGLES: Showbiz Kids (#61), My Old School (#63)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Bohdisattva

LINEUP: Donald Fagan, Walter Becker, Skunk Baxter, Denny Dias, Jim Hodder with Victor Feldman, Ben Benay, Ray Brown, Rick Derringer and session saxophones and backing vocals

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Fantastic second album explores Steely Dan’s jazz leanings without sacrificing rock-and-roll.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: With this, their second album, Steely Dan has become a product of the studio. Sure, at this time they still toured, but their sound, scope and style were all dictated by the confines of the studio.

Donald Fagan’s vocals are anything but straightforward; he’s always sounding like he’s up to something, even on the ballad “Pearl of the Quarter”. Meanwhile, his electric piano and keyboards lead the charge into jazz territory, allowing Skunk Baxter and Denny Dias to color each songs with the perfect guitar fills and solos. The songs are immaculately constructed and produced (you can always hear new things in “Your Gold Teeth), and always leave you wanting to hear them again.

There’s not a weak cut, per se. I could take or leave “Showbiz Kids” but I can see even that’s of quality and distinction. Nothing is wasted here, except your time if you want to try to figure out the lyrics. I’d just go with them.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Vocalist David Palmer left the band as Donald Fagan became more comfortable as a singer.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A+:  This may not have any hit singles, but dang this cooks, especially the deep cuts like “Razor Boy” and “Your Gold Teeth”. See how they roll.

 

 

REO Speedwagon – Ridin’ the Storm Out

ARTIST: REO Speedwagon             220px-ridinthestormout

TITLE:  Ridin’ the Storm Out

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #171

SINGLES: Ridin’ the Storm Out

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Son of a Poor Man

LINEUP: Mike Murphy, Gary Richrath, Neal Doughty, Gregg Philbin, Alan Gratzer. Joe Walsh slides in for a few tracks (!)

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Three albums, three singers and only a couple of tracks worth your ears – but there’s one classic here.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: REO Speedwagon’s vocalist instability reared its head again. Kevin Cronin was booted out (or left on his own) during the recording of this album. He contributed a couple of songs and laid down a couple of vocals before he was ousted, but the band had Mike Murphy come in and re-do those vocals and finish the record.

The result is weird. Murphy’s voice isn’t really suited to a lot of the material, and the material itself isn’t that strong – most tracks are a downgrade from their second album.

The title track though is one of the classics of rock ‘n’ roll, yet with Murphy’s voice it doesn’t reach the heights as it did with Cronin’s live version.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Creative differences”. I think Cronin and Gary Richrath butted heads.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, the original Cronin vocal for the title track.

GRADE: C+:  Bland, but big upgrade due to the title track. Exiled a lot of it, though.

Tom Waits – Closing Time

ARTIST: Tom Waits                               tom_waits_-_closing_time

TITLE:  Closing Time

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Ol’ 55

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Martha, I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You

LINEUP: Tom Waits, Delbert Bennett, Shep Cooke, Peter Klimes, Bill Plummer, John Seiter

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album by the iconoclastic songwriter sticks close to a late-night jazz / piano bar vibe with a folk essence.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Tom Waits’ first album shows off his better songs that he had written to date and perfected in his LA club dates. The music and styles are a bit varied, yet all have the same general vibe. A smoky, jazzy vibe.

Waits’ voice isn’t as distinct as it would be here – it’s smooth for the most part, especially compared to his later work. It’s still unique, though, kind of a growl at times.

This was a good showcase for his songs, which got him some cover versions by artists. It was a good way for Waits to start introducing himself to the world, even if it was a bit safe.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: His first break into the mainstream was the Eagles covering “Ol’ 55” on their On the Border album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B+:  It’s safe compared to some of Waits’ later work, but still a good late night vibe record.

Peter Frampton – Frampton’s Camel

ARTIST: Peter Frampton                           framptons_camel_album

TITLE:  Frampton’s Camel

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #110

SINGLES: All Night Long, Which Way the Wind Blows

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Lines on My Face, Do You Feel Like We Do

LINEUP: Peter Frampton, Mick Gallagher, Rick Wills, John Siomos

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second solo record from the former Humble Pie guitarist is blander and safer than his first, and was ignored just the same, especially in his native England.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Listening to the second Peter Frampton record (which he really wanted it to be a ‘group’, kind of like Joe Walsh and Barnstorm), you get the sense that he wanted to be a star, and to do that he wanted to play music that wouldn’t ruffle any feathers yet at the same time showcase some of his guitar playing.

Well, some of the guitar licks are nice, though a lot of the songs are keyboard based at their core, and his pleasant voice and demeanor won’t get anyone really upset. Yet, this is mostly a dull affair, except for the closing cut “Do You Feel Like We Do”, which actually may just because everyone knows that one from his hit.

I can’t really exile anything, because it’s just good enough, but I’m not throwing up any lighters or anything like that for this one. Safe, generic, FM rock for those mellow times.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Frampton wanted Frampton’s Camel to be a real group, but he played drums and keyboards on this album as well as his bandmates. Soon, the idea of a band would fall away.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+: Wake me up in time for the last cut, please.